I’ve been wanting to brew a Chocolate Coffee Stout for awhile now, but especially since getting my hands on some amazing coffee. Late last year, my fiance found some incredible coffee from a shop called Old Bisbee Roasters. This guy doesn’t roast the coffee until you buy it, and since Bisbee is only a few hours from Phoenix, we get the coffee the next day. Anyway, he occasionally gets this one variety, Bali Blue Krishna, and let me tell you, it’s like heaven on earth. I had to brew a beer with it.
I personally find beers with flavor adjuncts to be tough to brew. You can’t just dump some coffee and chocolate into a stout and expect it to be good. There has to be balance between the adjuncts and the base beer; it still has to taste like a stout. I’ve had too many coffee stouts that just taste like coffee. It’s a really fine line between ‘I taste zero coffee in this’ and ‘Sweet Jesus, I didn’t order an espresso’. And that to me is the difficulty of brewing any beer with non-traditional flavors.
So I grabbed my french press, and cold-brewed a batch of coffee overnight (1oz in 6oz water). Then I took a bottle of my American Stout left over from the Holidays, and divided four ounces between three glasses. I then carefully dosed each glass with a measured amount of the coffee. 10ml of coffee proved to be my favorite, which roughly equated to 2oz of coffee in 12 oz of water. The coffee was noticeable, but no where near overbearing.
Figuring out how much chocolate to use was harder. Most homebrew recipes called for 6-8oz of Cacao Nibs added in the secondary. I decided that might be a bit too much, so I erred on the side of caution, and used 4oz. So with all that settled, I brewed this up. 60min mash, followed by a 60min boil. No real surprises. I re-pitched 150ml of WLP090 slurry from my Amber Ale I had recently brewed. I set my fermenter fridge at 17C, and let it go to work. I’m noticing that WLP090 seems to take off quicker, and ferment to FG faster after each re-pitch. This was the 3rd generation, and I hit terminal gravity after only 72 hours.
1lb Chocolate Malt
8oz Carafa III Special
8oz Roasted Barley
8oz English Crystal
.5oz Coffee – mashed
Mash @ 153
1oz Apollo @ 60
1oz Belma @ 20
WLP090 – Super San Diego
4oz Cacao Nibs – Secondary
2oz Cold Steeped Coffee – Secondary
After four days, I racked the beer to secondary onto 4oz of cacao nibs. Additionally, I cold brewed 2oz of coffee in 12oz of water the night before. That got tossed into the secondary as well. I let that hang out for close to two weeks, then crashed the beer to 50F to drop the cacao nibs to the bottom, and racked to keg.
It’s been on tap for roughly two weeks now, and it’s finally coming together. The color is perfect, black as night, with a rich tan head that lasts for days. The aroma smells like pure mocha. Rich coffee and chocolate, with the coffee coming through more so. There’s some roasted malt in there as well, but it’s tough to pick out against the coffee. The flavor is rich, smooth chocolate and coffee. There’s a firm maltiness that reminds you it’s a beer in the middle, then it finishes clean on the palate. Mouthfeel is medium-full.
Overall, I’m really pleased with this beer. I think it will definitely continue to improve with a little age, as the coffee notes tone down, and the flavors come together a little more. If I had to change anything, I would probably dial up the cacao nibs, rather than dial back the coffee. I’d probably say 6-8oz. They impart a very subtle flavor, which is nice, but subtle. The coffee doesn’t come across as too strong, rather it’s nice for the base beer, but the chocolate could be more pronounced. Nevertheless, it’s a fine beer, and it’s excellent with dessert. Cheers!