Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blonde Ale on Coffee Beans Recipe

Modern Times Black House - Nitrogenated!There are many tropes in brewing. Ingredient and flavor combinations that brewers often select because of their reliability. Pale/dry/hoppy, sour/cherry, and maybe most prominently dark/coffee. I’d wager that 98% of coffee beers are located somewhere on the porter-stout continuum. There is nothing wrong with that; roasted malts and grains help to enhance the coffee character in the appearance, flavor, and aroma. Heck I helped design Black House for Modern Times (which I finally got to drink at the brewery on nitro last week, what a revelation!). There are a few breweries that have experimented with adding coffee to other beer styles; two I’ve enjoyed are Mikkeller Koppi IPA and Stone’s collaborative Dayman Coffee IPA. The combination of citrusy coffee with citrusy hops works surprisingly well in both!

I wanted to borrow that basic concept, with Cascade and Ceremony Thesis Blend in my case, but produce a beer where the hops accentuate the coffee (rather than the other way around). My goal was not to brew a “blonde stout” which I regard as a gimmick (although I'm told it can be a very tasty gimmick). The base beer for my batch is an American Blonde, with a touch of Golden Naked Oats for body, and a pinch of crystal 60 for caramel.

Over the weekend I coincidentally had the opportunity to try Hill Farmstead Walden for the first time (thanks to my friend and kickass homebrewer Sean Gugger). It was remarkable, like so many of their beers, especially that mouthfeel for a 3.9% ABV blonde ale (thanks in part to the 1.014 FG we measured).

Ceremony is a roaster in Annapolis, MD that does a variety of interesting coffees. Thesis Blend was a big help many weekend morning (and afternoons) as I churned away on American Sour Beers. Audrey is a big fan as well. They describe it as possessing: "Cocoa butter and raisin aromatics. Muscovado sugar and tobacco with clementine acidity in a balanced cup." I always suggest brewing with coffee you like to drink. For a similar recipe I’d opt for a light to medium roast, something with bright flavors to mesh with the grapefruity hops.

A very pale coffee bean, a quaker it appears.
As an interesting side note, apparently one often overlooked aspect of coffee quality is quakers. These underdeveloped beans are identified by their paler color post-roast and peanut-like flavor. Apparently "according to Steven Diaz, quality director at Expocafe S.A in Colombia, 'just one quaker bean among the beans that go into one cup can affect the flavor dramatically.'" I only spotted one for removal in the two ounces destined for the beer.

As with my usual process for coffee beers, I added whole beans loose to the fermentor (without sanitizing them). We pulled a sample after 28 hours, and it already had enough coffee to proceeded with kegging. It’s amazing how much character comes through thanks to the extraction by both alcohol and water. I also find that this technique produces a longer-lasting coffee aroma compared to cold brewing in water alone, although that likely won’t matter too much for this batch.

This coffee blonde has been on CO2 for a few days already, still waiting for a spot on tap to become available. I may add a small dry hop addition depending on how it tastes cold and carbonated.

Spent coffee beans after 24 hours soaking in beer.Blonde Coffee Blonde

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.75
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 5.3
Anticipated IBU: 27.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 64 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

46.2% - 4.50 lbs. Rahr Pilsener 
23.1% - 2.25 lbs. MFB Pale Ale Malt
23.1% - 2.25 lbs. Great Western Pale Malt
5.1% - 0.50 lbs. Golden Naked Oats
2.6% - 0.25 lbs. Briess Crystal 60L

1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 20 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 10 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 5 min.
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 6.20% AA) @ 0 min.

0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
2.00 oz Thesis Blend Coffee Beans - 1 day

SafAle S-04 English Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 155F

Brewed 8/3/14 with Audrey

2 g CaCl added to the mash and sparge. 1 tsp of phosphoric acid added to the mash. Batch sparge with 175F water with 1 tsp of phosphoric acid. Collected a total of 7 gallons of 1.038 runnings.

Adjusted hops alpha acid down from 7.3%, from Freshops 2013 harvest.

Let sit with 0 min hops for 10 minutes before chilling. Chilled to 65F with water then recirculated ice, topped off with 2/3 of a gallon of spring water, shook to aerate, sprinkled yeast on the surface, left at 65 F ambient to ferment.

8/17/14 Added 2 oz of whole bean Thesis Blend from Ceremony. Picked through to remove "quakers" and  small beans.

8/18/14 Kegged. Plenty of coffee flavor already. Put in kegerator on gas to carbonate while waiting for a tap to open up.

10/6/14 Tasting notes, nice blend of hops and coffee. Hop aroma could have been slightly more intense (from say one ounce of dry hops) and the malt bill could have been reduced to just Pils and wheat to get out of the way and ensure a paler color.


Jason Nelson said...

I doubt that you can get your hands on it, since it is only distributed in Michigan, but Odd Side Ales make a beer called Bean Flicker which is a coffee blonde. I might be able to send you one if interested.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I actually stopped by Odd Side while I was in Grand Rapids for NHC. They had Bean Flicker on tap, and because we had been thinking about this recipe I tried it. Enjoyed it, but I'm hoping for something a bit brighter. Excited to see if I succeeded!

tim cossel said...

Great brew and post. I like the coffee-beans-in-zero-gravity pic, too! For a few weeks now I've been tempted to brew the Black House recipe but wasn't really desiring a dark beer- the Season just isn't quite here for me yet. But, this is something that sounds what I've been looking for and I'm going to give this a try. Cheers!

Unknown said...

If anybody makes it to Seattle Reuban's Brews is in the same building as a small coffee roster. Their barrel ages breakfast stout is great if you can get it but they have also made some other great coffee infused beers. I really enjoyed the roggenbier with coffee which I think is well outside the realm of typical coffee beers.

Jason Nelson said...

That's good Michael that you got to try it. I saw you at NHC and went to your talk, but I was in another talk when I wanted to have you sign my book. I got a lot of information from your talk and am excited to dive into your book. I was a brewer at Saugatuck Brewery in Douglad Michigan and am a homebrewer and mead maker. I am currently trying to get some wild cultures started and isolated and make some meads from them.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...


I still have trouble brewing for the season. You could get a Black House recipe going now and it'll be ready to go when the fall finally arrives!

From the response to my Facebook post there are a surprising number of hoppy-coffee beers, glad to hear a few places are doing something different (coffee roggenbier)!

I picked up a bottle of Sour Mead from Golden Coast. I'm excited to try it (without having to brew it)!

Gerben Harteveld said...

Do the beans add a significant amount of color to the beer?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That little coffee doesn't add much color. I added enough coffee beans to brew about five cups of coffee into 80 cups of beer, so like adding one tablespoon of coffee to one cup of water!

Chris Detrick said...

Does it make a big difference if the coffee beans are ground or whole? Could you use less coffee if they were ground due to the increased surface area contact with the beer? Thanks.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Crushing the coffee affects the extraction speed more than amount of coffee aroma. Coarse crushing the beans is something I did for a long time, but you'll get enough extraction after just 12-24 hours. This can make timing the packaging a bit tricky. Whole beans buy you a bit more flexibility in the timing.

Chris Detrick said...

That makes sense. Thanks for the clarification.

Unknown said...

Hey Mike, I had a question about the coffee addition and temperature.

You wrote that you get good extraction of coffee flavour in 1 day. I assume this is at ambient temperature (~65F), like your fermentation.

I like to crash my beer for a few days to 32F before I keg. If I add the coffee 1 day before dropping the temperature, do you think the beer will extract too much coffee flavour in the 2 or 3 following days that I have it cold?

I'm wondering if it would be smarter to add the coffee at 65F 1 day before cooling to 32F, or at 32F, 1 day before kegging.

My hunch is that most of the extraction will happen when it's warm and the days at 32F won't matter. But I was curious what your thoughts were.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You'll still get extraction cold. Many people cold brew coffee in the fridge. It will be slower though. I'd probably add the coffee a few hours before crashing, it'll take the beer hours to drop all the way to the ambient temperature anyway. From there you can leave it a couple extra days if needed. Alternatively you could bag the coffee and pull it at the target flavor, then crash.

Unknown said...

Interesting! I'll give that a shot and report back. Thanks for the follow-up.

Nate P. said...

For an additional data point, I added 12g/gal of a whole bean medium roast to a 10% abv RIS and had great balanced coffee flavor and aroma after 24 hours at 33ºF.

Onkel said...

I had to bump this up as I had a bit of a revelation today as I bought a cup of coffee to go from a local coffee shop. They change what they have "on tap" as their "to-go"- coffee, you are always pleasantly surprised by new flavours and aromas. Anyways, I walked out with my cup in hand and was stopped on my tracks when I took the first sip: the "high notes" were uncannily like those of American hops' , Amarillo, Cascade.. I actually had to call back to the shop to ask which coffee they had been selling me! Turned out it was Nicaraguan Maracaturra, light, fruity, quite dry...
Anyways, I just knew that I'll have to try to make a beer to try out if I can create what I taste in my mind... and I ended up reading your posts about your Blonde Coffee Ale. You ended up thinking that you could have gone with only Pilsner and wheat; what would the percentages be there? Thanks!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I love drinking good beer, but I also try to go out of my way to try all sorts of other beverages to see if I get inspiration from a non-traditional source. Sounds like one of those moments (much better than the mint-cucumber-cantaloupe kvass I had last night that tasted like bad tzatziki sauce)!

You could go 90/10 or 50/50 on the Pilsner vs. wheat. With a bunch of hops and coffee it really won't matter much. I usually default to around 20% wheat when I don't have a real reason to go higher or lower.

Best of luck!

Onkel said...

Thanks for the tips! I drew a recipe on 80/20 pilsner/wheat, and upped the OG to 1.050. Got the coffee beans ready as well. After a week I'll dry hop it with two oz. of probably Centennial/Amarillo (that's what I have on hand). I have a good feeling about this one :)

Unknown said...

What do you mean by "MFP" pale malt in the recipe?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

MFB = Malteries Franco-Belges.

Any ~3 SRM pale malt you enjoy the flavor of would be a fine sub. It's just what I had on hand.

Joe D. said...

Brewed this recently with a 75% pils, 20% wheat and 5% golden naked oats grain bill and the same coffee you did. Have to say it was delicious and the keg went quick. Coffee aroma was strong, but coffee flavor was very mild. Next time I think I will give the coffee 2-3 days instead of 1. Thanks for sharing your recipes!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

For coffee flavor, you may want to dry a small addition on the hot-side. More beans or longer exposure to coffee on the cold side just tends to bring more aroma!

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