Roast Review: Adventures in Bourbon-Infused Coffee

“I wonder what it would take to do a whisky-infused coffee?”

By Steve Grunwell

I recently started roasting my own coffee at home. I decided to use my lunch break yesterday to roast up a fresh batch for the weekend, but as soon as I was done cleaning up the wheels in my head started turning. “I wonder what it would take to do a whisky-infused coffee?”, I thought to myself as I sat down for the second-half of my day.

After a conversation with Michael Phillips, another engineer at 10up, we came to the conclusion that soaking and drying the green, un-roasted coffee in bourbon before roasting may cause the absorbed bourbon to turn bitter (which isn’t exactly the flavor you’d expect when drinking “Bourbon-infused” coffee), so I settled on stirring the freshly-roasted beans (right out of the roaster) with bourbon.

I chose Brazil Dry-Process Carmo de Minas as the green coffee (it’s the one I’ve roasted the most and thus am most familiar with), and Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2004 as the bourbon.

I did a half-cup batch of coffee (about as much as my popcorn-maker/roaster can handle), targeting a City+ to Full-City roast (I’m not great at measuring this yet, to be honest). As soon as I turned off the roaster (right at the 5min mark for this particular roast), I poured the hot coffee beans into a metal mixing bowl and added 1Tbs of the bourbon (which sizzled nicely and smelled amazing). Stir for three minutes, then spread out on a cookie sheet to cool.

Since writing this, I’ve upped the recipe to 2 tablespoons (30mL) of Bourbon for a 1/2 cup batch. I’ve also reduced stirring time from three to two minutes, though more stirring wouldn’t hurt.

Like with most coffees, it didn’t smell as amazing as I had hoped straight out of the roaster—heavy on the bourbon with a bit of a burnt aroma. After 15 minutes or so, I moved the beans (which were cool to the touch) into my coffee tin with a de-gas valve (where I’ve been storing the freshest-roasted coffee before moving it into mason jars) and left the lid off. Throughout the rest of the evening, the beans in the tin started smelling more and more like the delicious roast I had planned.

This morning, I prepared a pour-over with my bourbon-infused coffee, and it turned out quite nicely. It has an earthier flavor than the other Brazilian beans I’ve roasted and is a bit bitter on the tongue, but finishes smooth and smells great. I might even bump up the bourbon content next time, as the whisky flavoring is very subtle. I can’t wait to see how the flavor evolves over the next few days!

Originally published by Steve Grunwell, 02.20.2015, open source.



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