Coffee lovers can all agree that there’s nothing like a fresh brew to ease the troubles of a hard day’s work. But, sometimes, the craving needs something more special to be fulfilled. So, what is barrel-aged coffee, and will you like it?
Barrel-aged coffee is the result of aging fresh, green coffee beans in a barrel that was used to create liquor. Using these barrels allows the deposit of unique flavor notes found in alcohol, and the coffee beans’ pairing with specific liquors is vital in creating a distinct taste and aroma.
Even if you love coffee, the taste and aroma of barrel-aged coffee differ drastically from the average profile of instant or brewed coffee. Stick around to find out about barrel-aged coffee and what kind of flavors to expect, as you may discover a brand new favorite drink to enthuse your taste buds.
What is barrel-aged coffee?
Barrel-aged coffee combines coffee beans and unique flavorful or aromatic notes left in barrels used to create various liquors. The process involves aging fresh green coffee beans in a barrel previously used to create liquor, with the most popular alcohol variants including gin, whiskey, wine, or rum.
For experienced and skillful professionals, creating barrel-aged coffee typically takes about a week when done by hand. In some instances, it can take a few weeks, depending on various factors. In addition to the scarcity of suitable barrels, the creation process is a particular reason why barrel-aged coffee drinks are pricier than many other drinks, whether used as an entire beverage or as an ingredient.
The drink was inspired by barrel-aged beer types or out of interest and convenience for coffee roasters, and the concept was refined through the experimentations of Jacob McKean, Amy Krone, and other esteemed experts. Many enthusiasts, professionals, and curious individuals have worked at finding new blends and discoveries over the years, with some leading to minor debacles and others resulting in iconic drinks.
Barrel-aged coffee is one of the newest trends concerning caffeine drinks, and the addition of alcohol notes elevates the traditional process of preparing coffee beans. The combination of coffee and alcohol notes has become increasingly popular in recent years, and barrel-aged coffee is enjoyed as a complete beverage or included as a flavorful ingredient in various cocktails and drinks.
Is there alcohol in barrel-aged coffee?
Technically speaking, there is no alcohol in barrel-aged coffee, at least not in its typical form. The process does not involve adding alcohol to the coffee beans but rather the notes and aromas that liquors leave behind after their creation. However, there is still plenty of mystery and room for discovery concerning methods and how the process affects the coffee beans.
Alcohol typically evaporates when it is heated, but the degree to which it dissipates is unknown. Thus, there may still be alcoholic compounds left within the barrel, which would be absorbed by the fresh green coffee beans, meaning that barrel-aged coffee may or may not contain minor quantities of alcohol.
How do you make barrel-aged coffee?
After the barrel has deposited the comprised flavor notes and aromas to alcohol, most creators choose to switch to a fresh barrel for the next batch. For those making barrel-aged coffee, these barrels are popular and ideal for the process since they are fully enriched with unique aromatic compounds and tastes.
Fresh green coffee beans are incredibly absorbent, and they can soak up even the most subtle flavors held in these barrels. The barrel’s wood holds plenty of potential for the deposit of unique aromas and taste compounds. Many companies have teamed up to allow these barrels to be accessed and used by barrel-aged coffee makers in recent years.
However, there are plenty of specifics regarding the kind of coffee bean used and which types of liquor these beans would pair with best. Some coffee beans are not well-suited to the process and do not turn out very well after barrel aging, with an aroma that resembles turpentine instead of the perfectly balanced notes to be expected.
The coffee beans’ texture is considered in the process since it can cause issues, as the coffee beans should be roasted and turned into palatable drinks after the process. Coffee beans that are high in body and low in acidity are generally more suitable for barrel-aged blends, as they retain rich and distinct flavors topped with a suitable texture as they age.
Who is barrel-aged coffee for?
Barrel-aged coffee may be enjoyable for anyone who loves coffee and enjoys the alcohol variant it has been paired with or the notes that alcohol type contains. The aroma given off by barrel-aged coffee can be startling at first, as it may smell strongly of the liquor its barrel previously held. In many cases, this aroma is described as woody and roasted, with additional notes depending on the selection of coffee beans and liquor barrels.
If you enjoy subtle and sweet notes, suitable barrel-aged coffee options include those made in barrels used for wines and rum. On the other hand, those who appreciate more robust notes may enjoy barrel-aged coffee made in barrels used for making whiskey and bourbon, leading to a woody taste with hints of caramel, vanilla, or chocolate.
There are many factors to consider when assuming expectations concerning your barrel-aged coffee experience. The variety of coffee beans and their ability to absorb flavor notes, the compatibility of liquor concerning its capacity to enhance the coffee instead of overwhelming it, and the unpredictable nature of the wood barrels used for the process all contribute to the final outcome.
The experience can range from sweet, smoky, subtly fragrant or sharp. Many people find the sweet, earthy, warm flavor and aroma incredibly alluring, unlike anything else one could select from a café menu. In many cases, no batch of barrel-aged coffee can be replicated 100%. But, these factors will undoubtedly reward you with a unique experience, whether you’d like to try it again or not.
While the concept of barrel-aged coffee is undoubtedly innovative and unique, there is an abundance of brews, blends, and varieties to select from, with more being created as time progresses through inspiration and experimentation. Depending on your preferences, the type of barrel-aged coffee chosen will provide a matchless and memorable experience or lead to discovering a brand new favorite drink.