Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black House #3 - Coffee Oatmeal Stout Tasting

Many great coffee stouts are flavored with beans from local roasters; when it comes to fresh coffee flavor, the beans are at their peak within a day or two of roasting. When Modern Times brews Black House we’ll need 20-25 lbs of coffee beans for each 30 bbl batch. That’s too much to just show up and expect to buy on the spot, it would necessitate coordinating that enough of the variety/roast we wanted was produced a few days before we need it. Roasters also don’t usually work in beer-sanitary conditions, with a cold infusion that means added risk. While the beans are heated enough during roasting to kill any microbes on them, during cooling and packaging beer-spoilage organisms could be introduced.

Luckily for us, none of that will be an issue. A few weeks ago, Jacob invested in a small coffee roasting machine that we’ll be using at the brewery! That way we’ll be able to buy green coffee bean (which store well) in bulk, and roast on demand. It will also allow us to really figure out exactly what sort of coffee melds with the the grains of the recipe.

For a beer we were pretty happy with previously, we had a couple pretty radical alteration this time around. As the brewery will have a silo of American/Canadian pale malt, the Maris Otter used in the first two batches would mean a large outlay in both labor and cost. We'll also be fermenting our two year round hoppy beers with American ale yeast, so using an English yeast for this beer would mean having three house strains, a logistical hassle. I assumed that in such a complex beer with specialty malts and coffee, these two changes would go unnoticed, but it is surprising the impact the base malt and yeast switches had.

Mason Jar of Coffee Oatmeal Stout.Black House #3

Appearance – Solidly black body at first, but by the time I near the end of the glass it appears a perfectly clear brown. The head pours thick/dense/mocha, slowly sinking to a patchy covering.

Smell – Big fresh coffee grounds in the nose. Toasted bread, slight plum/prune, with a hint of smoke. Not as complex as I’d like, the roast lacks the depth of the last iteration.

Taste – Many similarities to the nose, lots of coffee and some fruit. Moderate sweetness, but the solid bitterness from roast and hops prevents it from tasting like a Starbucks Frappa-whatever. Missing the cocoa notes that the last batch displayed.

Mouthfeel – Milkshake body, rich and coating. Moderate carbonation, could even be slightly lower. Perfect for wintertime drinking, but at 1.025 it might be too thick for a year-round beer.

Drinkability & Notes – It lost a step with the conversion from English base malt and yeast to American, but I still really enjoy it. Jacob and Alex are brewing three iterations of this beer tomorrow. One will be essentially this recipe with some Munich subbed in for a portion of the pale and C60 for the CaraMunich (to replace the Melanoidins and reduce the fruitiness), the second will play with the roasted malts (swapping the chocolate out for pale chocolate and debittered black) and adding biscuit, and the third will be a bit of a combination of the other two with a few twists. Looking forward to trying all of them!


Unknown said...

Not having tasted or brewed any of the other versions of this, I agree with your thoughts. Its a very damn good beer tho! But with a few tweaks its gonna be pretty slammin.

I cold steeped my coffee addition and have enjoyed it more as the coffee has mellowed. Things seem a bit more balanced. I wonder with those few changes that will work itself out?

Can you please keep us advised on what they are up to on the left coast?

Everyone I served it loves it. Went thru two growlers during the Super Bowl!

Sorry for the babble, I did have a question in all of this! How will you store the beans from the time they are roasted till you use them to keep them sanitary?

Lee Morgan said...

The difference between an English and American ale yeast really does make a difference, even in a stout. In my experience, English ale yeasts really make dark beers come alive. (I like WLP007.) But I understand the logistical challenges. Hope you can make it work!

Nilium said...

Try it with the Saison yeast....

peterspoolboys said...

3711 works like crazy in 5 gallon batches but some breweries have had trouble with 3711 on a commercial scale :/

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Upright certainly had some issues with overly dry beers with 3711, but there are dozens of other breweries who have used it with great results. Only way to know for sure is to try it for ourselves (and not in this beer!)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'll certainly do a round up of their results/recipes (or maybe they'll post on on the Modern Times blog), and the eventually recipe will be available.

Haven't figured the storage of the roasted coffee beans yet, but moving the beans to a seal-able sanitary bucket once they are cool will probably be part of the answer. Not sure how important it is for the beans to breath for a day or two after roasting to allow the more volatile compounds escape (as it is for smoked malt for example).

Anonymous said...

My family is in the coffee business.
Roasted bean keep exhaling gases for about a day after they are roasted. If you seal them tight the container/bag will burst.

Lee Morgan said...

Just throw an airlock on the bucket. Conventional wisdom is to let the beans off-gas for at least 12-24 hours before using (longer for espresso).

The main difficulty will be sanitizing the container without leaving residual moisture behind, since you want to keep the coffee dry.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

We'll figure out a way to sanitize that leaves the bucket dry. Either letting a no-rinse sanitizer drip-dry with the bucket inverted, or using easy-to-evaporate high proof alcohol and a spray bottle.

Thanks for the note on the beans. I knew coffee bags are often fitted with small one-way valves, but I assumed it was a slower process that we wouldn't have to worry about for a day or two.