Now Coffee Roasters Are Barrel-Aging, Too

Introducing a coffee that's been aged in bourbon barrels: we can't wait

Dark Matters' new roast, aged in bourbon barrels, is creating a buzz in the Windy City.

As if we needed another reason to love our morning cup of coffee: Following the beer and spirits makers before them, a new wave of coffee roasters, like Dark Matter in Chicago, are experimenting with barrel-aged products. Bourbon + coffee = a slam dunk in our mug.

Dark Matters' new roast, aged in bourbon barrels, is creating a buzz in the Windy City. While the bourbon barrels give the roast an extra dose of vanilla and honey, the "Black Splash" doesn't retain any alcohol. (For that, you'll have to drink an Irish coffee.) The Huffington Post reports, "The process basically works the same way as an infusion: Green beans are aged for roughly three weeks in the barrels until they absorb the lingering moisture from the wood."

The coffee is selling out fast at the Dark Matters' coffee shop, the Star Lounge Café, and online; but HuffPo shares that a second shipment will be available to the public soon. Dark Matters isn't the first to experiment with bourbon and coffee; Maryland-based roaster Ceremony Coffee has made their own barrel-aged Ethiopian coffee. We wholeheartedly approve this message. (In the meantime, let's check out some more awesome coffee roasters.)

9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Brewing Coffee, According to Experts

Most Americans can't start their day without a cup of coffee. In fact, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA), the caffeinated beverage is only getting more popular from coast to coast.

A March 2020 NCA survey revealed that overall coffee consumption is up by 5% across the nation since 2015. Additionally, the data showed that 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, and most drink just over three cups per day. (If you're drinking more than that, you should probably familiarize yourself with these Ugly Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Coffee, According to Science.)

While millions of Americans typically get their caffeine fixes from Starbucks, Dunkin', and other coffee-focused chains, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many to brew at least some coffee at home.

With that in mind, we thought it would be useful to share the most common mistakes people make when brewing a cup of joe, according to baristas and experts. Making these mistakes may not completely ruin your cup of coffee or kill that much-needed caffeine buzz, but why settle for just a good cup of coffee when you can have a great one?

Keep reading to see the pros' advice, and for more on healthy eating, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

Whiskey-based coffees make morning the new happy hour

Tal Fishman, founder and owner of Denver-based Whiskey Barrel Coffee (formerly Espresso Smith), has always loved coffee and whiskey. But when he’d put the liquor in his coffee, the whiskey flavor would always overpower.

That’s where his knowledge of history kicked in: In sailing ships, traders put raw coffee beans in whatever barrel they had, whether a rum barrel or a pickle barrel. Raw coffee beans absorb whatever is around them, Fishman said, and the coffee of old often had wild flavors.

So, for a more subtle flavor, why not soak coffee beans in an empty whiskey barrel?

It became an obsession for Fishman and his crew. They invested in various barrels and coffees, but nothing could keep the whiskey flavor in check.

“We wanted something that could maintain the identity of the coffee with the bourbon,” Fishman said. “With everything we put in the barrel, the barrel took over.”

They realized the problem was the coffee &mdash a bigger bean was needed to preserve the coffee flavor.

Fishman remembered drinking a coffee made from rare, high-quality beans in Brazil. He persuaded a farmer in Brazil to filter out these rare beans, which are about 2 percent of the overall crop.

They named the beans “Vitoria Estate” &mdash the Portuguese word for “victory.”

The resulting beverage first tastes like coffee then transitions into a bourbon flavor, Fishman said.

Fishman said although the beans are the key, their formula does have two other crucial aspects: high-quality oak barrels (they cost $400 and require a broker to get them) and melding &mdash an old practice where the raw beans are mixed before roasting.

A high-quality barrel allows whiskey to permeate deeper into its wood, leaving more moisture and flavors to be absorbed into the beans later. Melding gives the roaster more control to roast beans that complement each other during the roasting process.

Since Whiskey Barrel Coffee began experimenting with barrel aging in 2011, a handful of other roasters have joined the trend, including Denver-based Corvus Coffee, which has its whiskey-based Barrel Series line.

In the early days of Corvus, founder and owner Phil Goodlaxson and his business partner and head roaster Travis Gilbert were the roasters, baristas, buyers and sellers. They spent much of their tip money on Scotch and whiskey.

Scotch-aided conversations led to ideas about barrel-aged coffee, and Jake Norris, head distiller at the upcoming Laws Whiskey House, suggested they try aging beans in a whiskey barrel. Norris supplied them with freshly used and empty bourbon barrels and they began.

The first batch was finished in the summer of 2013. Since they use seasonal coffees, each batch is slightly different. But the oak barrels have been the same, full of the sweet and spicy flavors leftover from Laws’ four-grain bourbon.

The aging process varies for each roaster. Corvus ages its raw beans for six to eight weeks.

For Whiskey Barrel, Fishman said it depends on the moisture in the barrel and the beans, plus a secret formula.

Despite hefty price tags &mdash $50 for a 250-gram bottle at Whiskey Barrel and $28 for a 12-ounce bag at Corvus for example &mdash both roasters said their barrel-aged coffees are hot items. Corvus sells out in-store within hours, and Whiskey Barrel sells worldwide, and he can’t keep up with the demand since they make only about 90 bottles per batch.

For Fishman, it’s about the full experience: the customized bottles, the labels and the rich, complex flavors. He’d rather make small batches and preserve the quality than run a big business.

“It’s the old fashioned way of doing things the right way, not skimming on anything, not cutting corners,” Fishman said.

Two Brothers

Two Brothers Coffee Roasters/Facebook

When Modern Times launched, the folks there believed they were the second brewery to start roasting behind Two Brothers Brewing in Chicago. Two Brothers Coffee Roasters sources its coffee from across the globe and roasts the beans in small batches and before selling it in retail locations around Chicago, as well as three cafes. The roasting operation has pumped out more than 100,000 pounds in 2018 and has doubled its production each year, to the point where the coffee is even in K-Cups.

Bites Rolls Out Barrel-Aged Coffee

The ever-popular local coffee and dessert bar Bites by Confectioneiress has been serving their delicious and creative concoctions for just over a year now. While maintaining a successful collaboration with local coffee roaster Julian Coffee Roasters and blending their own loose-leaf teas, Victor Gosnell, co-owner of Bites by Confectioneiress, is proud to introduce his latest endeavor, Cask Coffee Company.

Gosnell is well-known for his small batch coffees at Bites. With the introduction of Cask Coffee, he has taken pre-roasted or a “green” coffee bean, aged them in five types of barrels and has created his own brand of barrel-aged coffee beans. The coffee beans age in the barrels for two to four weeks, depending on the type of barrel and how fresh the barrel is. Gosnell first purchased a rum barrel earlier in the year and aged a single origin coffee in that barrel for a few weeks. He was pleased with the results of that trial, as were the customers who sampled the rum barrel-aged coffee. “We have also produced some bourbon barrel-aged coffee using Julian Coffee Roasters, so we were excited to test a rum barrel and compare the end product to the beans aged in a bourbon barrel,” Gosnell explained. “Soon after, we contacted a barrel broker that imports barrels from all over the world. We selected five different barrel types: bourbon, rum, tequila, red wine and white wine barrels. They come in freshly dumped, so that the insides of the barrels are still saturated and smell super intense.

“The tequila barrel is my favorite. It is an incredibly old barrel, aged with 100% Blue Agave tequila and aged tequila for decades. The wine barrels are new oak, un-charred. The bourbon barrel is new oak and charred. The rum and tequila barrels are generally used for aging something else before they are used for aging rum and tequila. For instance, my barrels were used to age bourbon. We’ve picked different single-origin coffees that we think will pair really well with each barrel type.

“I’ve aged a Sumatra with a bourbon barrel. It is a medium roast that is a little bit smoky and is complemented by the bourbon. We wanted to go with a South American approach for the rum barrel, and so we used an Ojo de Agua from a farm in Honduras. We’re aging a Papau New Guinea in the red wine barrel, and with the white wine, we wanted to something a little more mild. We’ve aged a nice bright Guatemala Ceylan estate in that barrel. Finally, in our tequila barrel, we’ve aged an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that boasts bright lime notes and hints of cherry. I am most excited about that one.”

Gosnell enjoys the art of mixology and likes to mimic classic cocktail recipes and flavors then transform them into a craft or specialty coffee. There are few coffee proprietors in the greater metropolitan area who are specializing in the barrel-aging trend, and those that exist may offer only one or two barrel types. Gosnell has launched Cask Coffee with the purpose to offer a greater variety of specialty coffees and is already working on future products and developing different concepts.

Available for purchase now, customers can enjoy Cask Coffee whole bean coffees and glass bottled brews in two sizes that are available at Bites by Confectioneiress. They will feature their brews on their brew bar and cold brew taps from time to time. Coffee aficionados can also find Cask Coffee at the Farmer’s Market at the Indiana State Museum and at Vine and Table in Carmel.

“We are focusing on going mainstream with our Cask Coffee brand, but it will remain locally produced,” Gosnell emphasized. “It is a niche brand, and we want to make it more affordable than some of the other barrel-aged coffees that are available in the market. However, we’re not looking to become a juggernaut coffee brand. We want to keep it local and keep a high quality level of production. Next year, we want to expand our barrel selection and increase our varieties.”

Gosnell is also working on a product line using repurposed barrels once they have been retired. He will offer creative, functional and artistic pieces from the barrels and lids.

These products will be available for sale at Bites along with the Cask Coffee products. Gosnell and his staff will be posting tasting events for their customers and anyone interested in trying out the barrel-aged coffees.

For more information about Bites, Cask Coffee and store events, please contact the store at 317-873-1001 or follow them on Facebook at Bites by Confectioneiress.

Small Barrel Aging 101

Renewed interest in small barrel aging has come up hand-in-hand with the micro-distilling boom, causing even big distilleries to get in on the act. Proponents of small barrel aging claim the use of smaller barrels allows them to create a superior product in a short space of time, an attractive proposition for a small start-up who would otherwise need to wait at least a few years before they could even begin to sell any product.

Yet critics claim small barrel aging accelerates only some of the benefits of oak barrel maturation, so the whiskey produced is left somewhat lacking. Even many whiskey-lovers do not really understand what happens inside an oak barrel over the months and years of primary and secondary maturation (or “finishing,” as the latter is often called), and therefore wonder what the advantages and disadvantages of using a 53-gallon barrel vs a 5- or 10-gallon barrel really are.

It’s All About Surface Area
Aging in a smaller barrel increases the proportion of interior barrel surface area to stored volume, putting more wood surface into contact with the whiskey within. It is a proven and demonstrable fact that this increased contact accelerates the rate at which the whiskey absorbs characteristics from the wood, such as color and an aged whiskey’s oaky and vanilla notes.

According to the American Distilling Institute, using a small barrel can turn out “an excellent product in only three to six months.” With such a quick turnaround time, it’s obvious why a new distillery might start with small barrel products, since it allows them to put something on the market in as little as half a year. The speedy maturation of small barrel aging is also a big plus for experiments, since it allows a distiller who is trying something new to see what the results might be much sooner.

What is true for micro-distillers and modern whiskey pioneers is doubly true of home distillers, for whom small barrel aging is usually the only practical choice. Few home distillers produce in the sheer quantity necessary to merit even one or two 53-gallon barrels, or have the patience necessary to wait many years to have a drinkable homemade whiskey.

The Downside
The key problem with small barrel aging is that it accelerates the absorption of everything else from the wood as well. A common misconception is that the longer a whiskey stays in the barrel, the better it gets. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Aging in oak is a delicate three-way dance between the climate, the whiskey and the wood. While the exact line is hard to determine with any specificity, aging a whiskey for too long imparts a nauseating astringency, especially if the wood in question is new oak.

This effect places a time limit on how long whiskey can sit in a barrel without “going bad,” and that limit comes much sooner for small barrels than big barrels. One or two years seems to be the most a whiskey can profit from being in a small barrel, and therein lies the problem. Many whiskey qualities come from esterification, or the reactions between wood acids, alcohol, oxygen, and various other chemicals, and those reactions take time. If you bottle your whiskey after 15 months, very little of that has happened, so critics of small barrel aging aren’t wrong when they say the processing choice “leaves something out.”

The decades-long aging periods that are a fixture of scotch-making produce such fine results in part because scotch-makers rely almost entirely on used bourbon, sherry and port casks for their primary maturation. Some of the oak’s less desirable qualities have already been used up during the first round of aging.

All bets are off for a small barrel finishing, as is the case for Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Finishing a whiskey in a second set of barrels is always meant to be a short term thing by its very nature, rarely lasting more than a year. For secondary aging, it’s hard to see what drawbacks small barrel use might have, if any.

Open Minds
Small barrel aging might not produce “traditional” whiskey, but what is traditional whiskey anyway? Even the products of a big, well-established label like Jack Daniel’s have changed periodically in ways that some found objectionable. Many whiskeys made today are quite different from what was being made a century or more ago, even for the big old names in scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskey that have been in continuous operation all that time.

Furthermore, more goes into an enjoyable bottle of whiskey that the oak its aged in. The size and nature of the barrel is just one factor, and while I can’t deny that small barrel aging leads directly to a more circumspect maturation period, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Some whiskeys clearly come out very well indeed after only several months in a small barrel, in much the same way that some come out very poorly after several years in a big barrel.

The important thing to keep in mind about small barrel aging is that what matters is what you want from your whiskey. The proliferation of small barrel whiskey is a good thing in my book, because it means an experimentation boom in whiskey-making, and it’s great that American whiskey laws and organizations are liberal enough to permit such things. No one is telling Ranger Creek they can’t make mesquite-tinged bourbon in small barrels in the same way the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) told Compass Box they couldn’t make The Spice Tree with French Oak staves. Think about that the next time a whiskey-snob scoffs at small barrel aging on the basis of “tradition.”

If simply wiping away with a wet cloth doesn&apost do it, pour white vinegar over the stain, let sit to dissolve, and wipe away. Allow the surface to air dry. If your furniture has any special finishes, be sure to double check that vinegar&aposs acidity won&apost ruin its appearance.

Being that they&aposre actively filled with coffee again and again, your ceramic mugs and glasses are most subject to stains. To have them looking good as new, make a paste of baking soda and water and use it as an abrasive to scrub out the inside of the cup or mug. Rinse, wash, and they should look good as new.

Beer in the Boroughs

Save for Harry Houdini's grave, there aren't a lot of tourist attractions in Glendale, Queens.

Add to that short list Finback Brewery. The new spot crafting some of the city's most exciting beers in an enormous 13,000-square-foot warehouse a short walk from the M train.

"We initially wanted to be in Brooklyn," says Basil Lee, who founded Finback with head brewer Kevin Stafford, "but we wanted enough room to add tanks and do barrel aging and sours. Here we have the space to do what we want."

Stop by on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. for a free tour and you'll catch a glimpse of an imperial stout called the Brooklyn Queens Espresso, or BQE, aging in bourbon barrels. Block out plenty of time to spend in the tasting room, too there's already a wide variety of beers on tap and they'll be debuting at least one new brew per month.

For now, be sure to try the floral and spicy Double Sess(ion) witbier ($5), brewed with ginger, Sichuan peppercorns and chamomile, and the Coasted Toconut ($5), a lightened-up, summery milk stout with just the right amount of coconut-y nuttiness. Take home a growler of the Starchild ($20), a sour ale brewed with grapefruit peel.


Ready to get back outside?

Our Cascades Series celebrates the beautiful mountain range in view from the Dillanos headquarters in the Pacific Northwest.

We’ve got newly designed unisex t-shirts that are super soft and comfortable, plus a crop top for the ladies. Be trail-ready with our multi-pocket hip pack that easily converts to a cross-body pack too! And that trucker style hat with DCR patch is a must-have.

Hop over to our New Arrivals to get a look at the series, plus a few new coffee items that just hit the web store!

Starbucks' New Whiskey Barrel-Aged Coffee Is Only Available in Seattle

Folks who love the breakfast beverage and booze combination of whiskey and coffee, rejoice! You can now drink barrel-aged coffee at Starbucks, made by taking green coffee beans from Sulawesi, Indonesia, and scooping them into "freshly emptied American Oak Aged Whiskey Barrels from Woodinville Whiskey, Co." According to a press release sent to Extra Crispy, the green coffee beans are aged in the barrels for several weeks, during which time they, "absorbed the whiskey flavor, hand-rotated frequently to ensure all the coffee comes into contact with the oak barrel." Starbucks master roasters then roast the beans to perfection.

The Starbucks press release very clearly notes, in italics, no less, that, "there is no alcohol in this drink." But this isn&apost the first time Starbucks has dabbled in the art of mixing coffee and booze. Back in October 2016, the Seattle-based coffee company launched a beer cocktail called the Espresso Cloud IPA, made by pouring a cold beer over a hot shot of espresso. This was part of the company&aposs Starbucks Evenings program, which offered wine and beer in select stores. The Evenings program was originally launched in 2014 but folded earlier this year due to lack of customer interest.

So it&aposs exciting to see that Starbucks hasn&apost totally given up on the idea of mixing booze and coffee, even if this newest offering is technically nonalcoholic. Starbucks will also be offering two exclusive beverages with these whiskey-aged beans: a Barrel Aged Cold Brew, made with whiskey barrel-aged Sulawesi beans and lightly sweetened with barrel-aged vanilla syrup, and Barrel Aged Con Crema, served as a pour-over with the same barrel-aged vanilla syrup and a cascara sugar cold foam topping.

Watch the video: How to Make Barrel-Aged Coffee using New Oak Barrels (October 2021).