Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beer Flavoured Coffee, 1st Attempt

I guess the title gives the punchline away. This first attempt at creating a beer flavoured coffee didn't go as planned but I learned quite a bit during the process. I guess the first question that I hear when mentioning this little experiment is WTF? What ever gave you that idea? (Note: not what an interesting idea or that's so cool).

Instead I'm left with explaining some convergent trends in my life of coffee, beer and food. Last winter, I made butter beer (butter, sugar, beer and spices warmed through) as part of a medieval feast. I have also had hot buttered rum and been hearing rumours of hot buttered coffee. There is a leap of logic that connects the noun of each of these clauses; whatever you do to rum or beer, you can do to coffee.

The second piece to the puzzling puzzle is coffee flavoured stouts and porters. I love Mill St. Coffee Porter. Some malts have a coffee like profile to them and I like it. I am planning on doing a brew with a medium brew in a pale ale at some time. That has got me to thinking. (For those of you who are still following along with the beer-rum-coffee (BRC) connection, barrel aged beers in rum casks exist - Innis and Gunn is one example.)

So, now that I have peaked down the rabbit hole, it may be time to get a little closer. How does one flavour coffee? There is rum flavoured coffee (There is that connection again.) but I am fairly sure that is an industrial process. I suppose I could brew coffee and add beer like one adds rum or maybe even brew coffee using beer! Okay, let's not get crazy, yet. There is a process called monsooning.

The easiest way to explain monsooning is to go with the romantic tale of coffee being transported during the rainy season from India to Europe and the loads got all wet and salty. The Europeans, not knowing any better, kept drinking it and preferred it to the regular beans that came after when shipping got better. I call bullshit on this story. If this was the case then I am sure that this coffee would be better known. Just throwing out a wild guess but there have been quite a few tastes from India that have taken root in England due to the colonial days. India has produced milder, less acidic coffees for quite some time and it maybe that some of the British brought back those tastes with them. Like all fermented and 'ruined' products, someone probably didn't want to throw out a ruined crop and decided to try it and liked it or at least didn't dislike or die from it. Anyways, Malabar coffee is worth checking out. Aravind on the Danforth has it as their house coffee.

So, the background is finished. In short, I decided to try and make a monsooned coffee. Tradition dictates that the coffee is exposed to the monsoon for a month or greater. I don't have the patience. My first thought was to use a humidifier with a rack and add a little salt to the place where you normally put the Vapo-rub. One thing, yeast is alive. When I put the beer (aged witbier - meaning starting to get to skunk) in the reservoir and turned it on, all I got was beer foam bubbles. It reminded me of bubble blowing machines in malls except with the added smell or yeast and no laughing kids.

Second attempt was to use a steamer. Bring up to steam. Turn off. Cool off. Repeat as many times as possible for one week. The beans did plump up and lose some of the dry looking characteristics. I used a Sumatra Takengon for the experiment. I took some of the monsooned beans and some of the not-monsooned beans and roasted them in my roaster for the same time and same heat. There was a noticeable difference on the roast. The engorged beans roasted darker and were slower moving around in the roaster. Could be due to the additional liquid causing the beans to be heavier and water does help with holding heat. Think of the many times you hear - It's not the heat but the humidity.

The flavour was subtly affected. There was no trace of salinity in either cups. The treated beans seemed to have a slight depth of flavour but I am not sure if it was due to the roast or whether the beer made some impact. I will try this experiment again when some homebrew is going off or the next time someone gifts me a six-pack of 'Premium' brew. Also, my burr grinder is busted and I have to find some small appliance shop to fix it. I know Beer World Problems.

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