February 23, 2011 Nathan

Coffee beer review: Bought and DIY

I like coffee. I like beer. I’ve often thought there might be some sort of correlation between people who drink espresso and people who like stout (and I suspect people who enjoy dark chocolate). I don’t mind espresso – but I’m not a huge fan of beers at the stout end of the spectrum (they taste like vegemite). I like lightish beers. Though I’m increasingly deciding that I’m a pale ale fan. Even if it’s just for the assonance in the name.

When we were on our coffee crawl on Saturday we popped in to a little boutique beer retailer next door to Cup. And I couldn’t help but notice this in their fridge. I’d heard tell of such wonderous creations on the internet. But this was only the second time I had seen them in the flesh.

So I thought, in the name of science, I’d purchase one and put it through its paces.

I brought it home, and because I’m classy, I poured it into a glass.

This froth was unavoidable. I poured it as beers should be poured. And it just expanded – like one of those black pellets that turns into a snake (I haven’d played with one of those for ages, do they still make them?).

Here are some facts about this beer:

When it settled this looked weird. Instead of having head this beer had crema.

It tasted ok. It wasn’t the way I’d choose to drink my coffee. Or my beer. But it was an interesting experiment in bringing the two together. It probably made a beer at the darker end of the spectrum a little more accessible to my palate. You couldn’t really taste the coffee – or I couldn’t – unless the coffee was roasted really dark, at which point it just tastes like ashy bitterness. And it had that in spades.

There were a couple of things I thought might immediately improve this drop. The beer used Zaraffa beans. Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on this fine institute.

Well. Who am I kidding. Zaraffa is a bit rubbish. Comparatively rubbish, anyway. Aspersions cast. I roasted my own beans up. A nice little PNG Marawaka Estate bean grown using seeds from the famous blue mountains of Jamaica. I went for a fairly fresh from the roaster (two days), fairly light roast – and because I didn’t want the coffee to be too bitter, I ground it a little coarse and up-dosed. I wanted to err on the side of under extracting and I didn’t want too much body – because I didn’t want it completely overpowering the flavour of the beer. I pulled a double shot in a little under 25 seconds. If I was doing this experiment again I might go for my standard fine grind, long pour – because the volume of the shot posed problems for trying to keep the beer at drinkable temperature.

The second step I took was using a beer base that I know I enjoy. A Fat Yak. Fresh from the freezer. Chilled because hot coffee + cold beer = lukewarm coffee beer. An equation I wished to avoid.

The recipe for success:

The beer and coffee went a bit nuts when I mixed them. These bubbles were pretty oily.

Once they settled it wasn’t so bad. The head was very strongly coffee flavoured. With a beer undertone rather than overtone.

The beer itself was odd. The coffee came through. It cut through actually. It was quite obvious. The two flavours sat next to each other a little on the tongue. Rather than merging. But it was pretty easy to drink, and I didn’t gag at all. If I was happy to chill the shot before mixing them I reckon I might even do it again.

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About the Author

Nathan Nathan is a coffee lover, home roaster, amateur barista and coffee tinkerer. He's married, has two kids, one turtle, and for a day job works for Creek Road Presbyterian Church. He previously worked in PR. This blog is his attempt to make coffee tax deductible.

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