Two dark beers in a row!?! I know, this isn’t my usual M.O., but tis the season for dark beers. Quite a few months ago I remember reading that Stone was going to release a Coffee Milk Stout, and thought, hrm that sounds pretty tasty. Since I couldn’t get my hands on a 6 pack of this, I just decided to brew something similar myself.
I didn’t particularly set out to clone Stone’s beer, but it definitely served as in inspiration of sorts. From a recipe standpoint, I borrowed pretty heavily from the Milk Chocolate Stout I brewed roughly a year ago. I’m using the same malts in this recipe, only tweaking the amounts since this is a much lower gravity beer. I’m amping up the amounts of crystal malt, and dropping the amount of roasted malt to account for that. Based on my recent experience with session IPAs and WLP090, I’m also cranking the mash temp up to 158* to retain as much mouthfeel as possible.
Another part of the motivation for brewing this beer was to get a pitch of yeast ready for a 10 gallon batch of Pumpkin Porter I planned to brew the following week. Whenever possible these days I’ve been trying to avoid making big starters, and rather make a smaller gravity batch of beer. With that said, despite the high FG of this beer, the OG is still into the territory where I’d feel more comfortable making a starter than not. A few days prior to brewing this I made a small 1L starter, which was then crashed and decanted before pitching.
This brew day went well despite the fact it was still blazing hot outside; it was 110+* pretty late into the summer this year. I try to wake up pretty early for summer brew-days, but sometimes I just can’t quite drag myself out of bed. Nonetheless, the mash went smooth, hitting all my numbers, and I counted down a 60 minute boil. The lactose went into the kettle with about 10 minutes left. Chilling the wort with ground water temp in the 90s isn’t super fun, but I’m sure the local ‘water and ice’ stores love me. 40lbs of ice later, and I was down to pitching temps in a pretty reasonable amount of time.
1lb English Medium Crystal
6oz Roasted Barley
6oz Carafa III Special
Mash @ 158*
16g Apollo @ 60
WLP090 – Super San Diego Yeast
2oz Cold-Steeped Sumatra coffee in primary
Fermentation started a within 18 hours, and this was completely fermented out by around day 5. Two days before, I started cold-steeping two ounces of coffee in roughly 12 ounces of water. I let that sit in the fridge for a full 48 hours before pressing out the grounds, and adding the coffee into the primary. Everything stayed like that for another two days before I went ahead and racked this beer to keg.
So enough of the details, let’s get down to how the beer turned out. Overall, really quite well. I might look into different methods of dosing the coffee, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The beer is a rich, pitch black hue, with a nice dark head that doesn’t hold quite as long as I wish it did. I guess I attribute that to the coffee oils. The aroma is definitely dominated by rich coffee notes, with some malty things going on behind that. The lactose is completely lost in the aroma, but that’s not to say it’s ever all that dominate in milk stouts. The beer does tastes more like a milk stout though. There’s a strong chocolate malty flavor with some lactose sweetness mixed in. The coffee hits hard in the finish, and while not unpleasant, it has a quality to it I don’t love. The mouthfeel is quite full thanks to the lactose and the high final gravity. Despite the coffee character I’m not in love with, this beer still turned out pretty great, and everyone who has tried it thus far has loved it.
While I don’t brew coffee-flavored beers all that often, this one definitely left me thinking about the best way to infuse coffee-flavor into a stout. I’m starting to think that cold-steeped coffee might not be the best approach. There’s a slightly sharp, maybe harsh, quality to the coffee flavor that became more apparent after the first couple weeks on tap. I think it has something to do with the carbonic acid and the coffee, although that’s pure speculation. I’ve heard some people have good success simply using whole coffee beans in the fermenter, so I might take that approach next time. Judging the amount of beans to use might be a little tricky, but I think it’s worth experimenting with. There’s always something to tinker with, right?