Coffee Culture Around the World: Coffee and Beer!
Coffee Culture Around the World is our series on the ways coffee impacts people and industries all over the planet!
Similar vision, similar audience
Coffee and beer have a lot more in common than you might think, even without the growing popularity of coffee notes in craft beer. Similar to micro-roasters, craft brewers are constantly taking on massive, global brewers that dwarf them in market share and production. Also like roasting, people are incredibly passionate about the beer they drink and the people that produce it. Additionally, while brewing and roasting may differ greatly in process, brewers and roasters share another commonality: Distance from farmers. It's rare that a brewer has access to the hop farmers that provide the basic ingredients to their products. Roasters have a similar difficulty, being unable to see beans from planting through processing. Finally, stouts and porters tend to have notes of coffee in them even without the addition of grounds. This is due to the longer roasting time of the grains present in beer.
It makes sense then, that craft breweries and micro roasters might be able to work together so easily.
Combining bean and brew
The first consideration a brewer must make when setting out to make a coffee beer is selecting a roast. While single origins may be delicious, typically brewers need something produceable on a larger scale. On top of this, variations in the flavor of the roast can impact the balancing act of notes in the beer, so consistency is key. This is why brewers tend to go for roasts that are produced in larger quantity, and that are available year-round. Since the coffee is going direct from bag to brew, they will usually purchase it ground as well.
To add coffee to beer most brewers use a cold brewing method. Often, water is combined with the coffee in a traditional cold brew to extract the flavor from the grounds. In other cases, grounds are added directly to the beer early in the brewing process, then cold-pressed out. Occasionally, whole beans are even used instead of grounds. These infusion methods change the intensity and aroma of the beer considerably, so brewers tend to tweak methods of adding grounds extensively before settling. On top of this, every roaster has to adapt to changing economic conditions of their suppliers, so roasts tend to change over time as well. This leads to constant tweaking in the brew, making coffee based beers one of the most complex to keep consistent.
The perfect pair
As you can see, a lot more goes into brewing a great coffee beer than dumping some mass produced grounds into the tank. Brewers and roasters work closely to combine their products, and the results are even more tasty and complex than each beverage on their own.