Coffee on its own is amazing.  
Beer on its own is amazing.  

And when both are combined with the proper brewing alchemy, then it is pure magic in the mouth! (try saying that with a straight face)

The process isn’t as simple as brewing both beverages and putting them in the same cup.

Brewing coffee and then pouring it into your beer sounds gross.

Like something someone should only drink on a dare, or to impress women**

** = doesn’t impress women at all.

Instead coffee combines with beer best when integrated during the beer brewing process itself.

Before we get into the specifics lets ask the important question::

Why do this?

All coffee has a unique flavor that actually cannot be replicated artificially, and when specific beans are used that have desired taste qualities… then the resulting beer will have a new flavor profile that will be more dynamic and tastier than it was on its own.  Similar to a chef adding coffee to chocolate, to cookies, and especially to molè sauce (so good!).  Most coffee beers are done with a resulting stout or porter, and those heavier beers have a weight that compliments the more complex qualities that coffee adds to beer.  Though Portola Coffee Lab aided in the creation of an unconventional Coffee Blonde using PCL’s Ethiopia.  It was developed with Tustin Brew Company‘s brewmaster John Porter.  That beer did a great job to show the dynamic range of coffee flavors and how they aren’t just heavy and dark.

Southern California is emerging as one of the premiere hubs of the craft beer industry.  Craft beer = any beer brewed in small batches with a goal of intentionally great flavor and quality. (not Bud Light**)  So it makes sense as to why Portola Coffee Lab has had such great relationships with local breweries on a quest to make a great coffee beer.

** = doesn’t impress women at all.

Breweries such as TAPS Brewery in Brea, Tustin Brew Company in Tustin, Pizza Port Brewing Company in Carlsbad, and The Bruery here in Orange County all are great examples of craft beer.  Tustin Brew Co, TAPS and Pizza Port have several great award-winning examples of beers that utilize Portola Coffee Lab Coffee in their brewing process for some outstanding beers. So let’s get educated:: (Most of this general information was originally gathered from the beeradvocate.com)

The Basics of Beer Brewing

Mashing

 
 Mixing the grain (usually barley in this case) and hot water to start breaking down the enzymes of the grain to get the sugars out. When the water in the mash reaches a particular temperature it activates enzymes that convert starch into sugars.The the grain is then filtered leaving a sugary liquid called the wort.  It is kinda like steeping a beer-like tea.

Boiling

Now the resulting wart is boiled t
to coagulate the proteins, so that they can be removed during the whirlpool.  It also ensures things are sterile so that the beer doesn’t end up compromised.  It is also during this process that hops are added to affect the flavor of the beer.What flavor does the hops add to the beer?  The answer is, it depends on when it is added to the boil.

 Fermentation

 Now it is time to turn these sugars to alcohol.  Enter the YEAST!  After the wart is done boiling, it is cooled quickly and then the yeast is added.  Yeast basically consumes the sugars and converts them to alcohol and has co2 as a byproduct.  Once this starts to happen, this liquid can now be called beer.

 Secondary Fermentation

‘(optional)

 
 The beer is transferred to a secondary tank so that it is no longer in contact with the dead yeast and the other stuff that has settled at the bottom of the first fermentation tank. You can sometimes conduct this secondary fermentation in beer bottles.

It is during the second fermentation, after the foundation of the beer has had a chance to develop, that coffee is added.

Some brewers add the coffee as a concentrate, but Evan the Brewmaster from TAPS suggests adding coffee to the beer post-fermentation, once it has reached 32F.  In doing so the coffee goes through a process of osmosis similar to when cold-brewed iced coffee is made.  And when the coffee is freshly roasted (like what Evan and Jeff Duggan use for their beers), then the grounds go through the natural settling process called degassing.

In that process, co2 is released from the coffee and that actually helps the beer.

Just like when an apple turns brown when introduced to oxygen, beer flavor is also negatively affected by this life-giving gas.  (
Oxygen does help the yeast grow prior to fermentation but after that… it will stale the flavor/aroma of beer post fermentation, and can give flavors of wet cardboard and in extreme cases soy sauce.)
… so the co2 escaping from the coffee helps flush the fermentation tank and keeps it oxygen free.

Coffee is a strong flavor, and it can be overpowering if added carelessly.  But beers like Coffee Monster from Pizza Port is a great example of an incredible beer with tons of flavor that has the “spine” to compliment the blend of El Salvador El Carrizal and coffee from the country of Java that were added to it.  When you taste the coffee in it, it isn’t all you taste.  And that is the kind of flavor relationship  we are going for.

When done right, Coffee Beer (or Coffeer if you like brevity) is a drink straight from caffeinated alcohol heaven.  And has become a pillar of The Great American Beer Festival.  Which is where Coffee Monster won 2nd place in the “coffee beer” category, and where both Coffee Monster and TAPS Imperial Balinese Stout plan on competing this year as well.

We are proud of the relationship coffee and beer have together, and  we think they go better together than any other caffeinated drink and alcohol, such as a diet red-bull vodka.**

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