It's no secret that I love dark beers; I went through a phase of homebrewing when that was all I made as I tweaked old favourite recipes and experimented with varying degrees of success with ingredients such as toasted coconut, star anise, morello cherries and, of course, coffee.
The toasted coconut tasted great but had poor head retention due to the oiliness of the coconut, the morello cherries combined beautifully with the malt bill giving a tart edge to the silkiness provided by the oats and the carafa 3 and the less said about the star anise the better.
All of which leaves us with the coffee. I'm no stranger to the style having co-brewed Coffee In the Morning at Tap East with Jim Wilson and Phil Bird (the three of us met on a homebrew forum and used to meet near Phil's work to swap beers and chew the fat). Coffee in the Morning featured coffee in the mash but it could also go in the boil or post fermentation. When I brewed my own version I used the same grist I'd used for the beer that became Slow Black, our oatmeal stout, but brewed it stronger and used a different yeast strain. With the homebrew, I decided to go with whole beans steeped in a stocking for three days prior to packaging.
Fast forward two years to the first brew of our as yet unnamed Coffee Stout (the beer was later named Disgraceful Behaviour, after we delivered beer three minutes too late to a beer festival and they refused to put it on) and we decided to add coffee beans to the cask which worked well. By the time we brewed the second batch, last year, we'd graduated to using keykegs as well as casks so the beans in the cask method wasn't going to work for keg. We opted to use a coffee syrup which gave the beer a slightly sweeter but completely different flavour from the beans.
This year our assistant brewer George, a self confessed coffee head, suggested using cold brewed coffee as a method that could suit both methods of dispense. The method involves grinding and steeping 2.5kg of beans in 20L of cold water for 18-24 hours and then straining into the fermenter where the coffee will remain for five days before packaging.The coffee beans we used were the same (espresso) blend I originally used for my homebrew version which added a nice symmetry to the brew.
We'll be packaging the beer on Tuesday into a combination of casks and keykegs and it should be ready to drink in three to four weeks.