I love a wide variety of beverages, from delicious tap water on up to distilled spirits, and most things in between. Most folks associate my work with wine (heck, it says ‘Wine Expert’ on the box!) but my first love has always been beer, right from that day in grade 9 when I made my very first batch . . .
Lately I’ve been back on a beer making kick. I find February is just about the perfect time to get six or eight batches underway, so that when spring weather hits I’ve got some beer on hand.
In the last two weeks I’ve mashed up an India Pale Ale, an India Session Ale, a Belgian Witbier, a Saison and, most wonderfully an Oatmeal Coffee stout.
The recipe is pretty simple (I tend to brew in a combination of American and Metric units. Weird of me, but that’s how I learned)
- 6.5 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
- 1 lb Flaked Oats
- 0.5 lb Roasted Barley
- 0.5 lb Chocolate Malt
- 0.5 lb Dark Crystal
If that sounds suspiciously like the recipe from Northern Brewer’s catalogue, there’d be a reason for that. Hi fellas!
I mashed in at 152F, did an hour, sparged to gather 25 litres of wort, boiled it for an hour with an ounce of Glacier hops, pumped it through my Shirron Plate Chiller (ever used one? If you have, you’ll never go back to immersion chillers. Amazing piece of kit) . I gathered up 19 litres at 1.042 and pitched a liquid British Ale yeast.
Ten days later I crash-chilled it and two days after that I racked it into a Cornelius keg, and deployed my secret weapon: the coffee. Stouts are already roasty and coffee-ish. Oatmeal adds a bunch of beta glucans, the sticky stuff that makes porridge gooey, and this is balanced beautifully when you add the bitterness and balanced astringency of coffee.
Just putting a pot of coffee into the boil, or a bunch of coffee beans into the mash doesn’t really do the job: coffee aromas are fragile and delicate, and easily driven off. You need to add them to the beer after all the violence of boiling and the roisterousness of fermentation is done. You could fire up Mr. Coffee and pour in a pot, but it’s much better to get a concentrated, robust source of coffee into the beer. In the past I’ve used espresso, but it really requires about 5% of the total volume to be made up of beer, and that’s nearly a litre. If you’ve ever used and espresso maker at home, it yields approximately two sips at a time, and it would take forever, and permanently damage most home units to pull a full litre.
My friend Rod (on my advice, mind) once conned a local coffee shop into making him a litre of espresso for just such a venture. The owner did it, but wound up giving it to him for free because, as he said, there wasn’t even any sane way to calculate the price of that many shots of espresso.
My newer, better dodge is to break out my own personal coffee alchemy, The Aeropress.
If you’ve never used one, they’re very simple. You place a filter in the bottom of a cylinder, add your ground coffee, pour in water at a very specific temperature, stir, put the plunger in the cylinder, wait a precise amount of time, push the plunger down, and voila!
It makes an espresso-grade burst of coffee, but you can use a significantly larger amount of coffee grounds at one time. Add water and you’ve got a very, very good cup of Americano-style coffee, add steamed milk and you’ve got a cappuccino, add a shot of grappa and you’ve got caffe corretto, add a pound of sugar, some phosphates a three thousand calories worth of syrup and some barista’s misspelling your name in Starbucks.
The first time I used my Aeropress to add coffee to my kegged stout, I discovered something wonderful: the Aeropress fits beautifully right on top of my keg.
One quick shot with the plunger, three more go-rounds for the press and boy howdy, have I got stout: rich, mouth filling, coffee-ish and quite low in alcohol, it’s beautiful.
How’s it taste?
Like I wish I could do breakfast all day.