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Stout Adjuncts: Coffee

Michael Donato, June 26, 2013 -   

Adjuncts in beer seem to be a growing trend, and some styles take to it better than others. The Stout is a style that sees it’s fair share of additions, often with impressive results. The roastier nature of the darker beer creates a great base to augment with additional ingredients. Last time we looked at vanilla, this time we’re going to look at coffee. The great thing about coffee is the roasting process for coffee beans is similar to the malting process of grains for beer. These two ingredients are begging to complement each other.

I continue to look at stouts as a whole to get an overall sense of how the added ingredients affect the style regardless of the different intricacies, and smaller samples, of the separate styles. Coffee is spread across styles, but the biggest representative is American Imperial / Double Stout with about 38% of the sample.

Coffee is a lot less straightforward than vanilla since sometimes it’s a coffee stout, sometime a mocha stout, and other buzz (haha) words like java, jittery, or espresso get mixed in there somewhere too. Breakfast stouts provide another wrinkle; Many of them are actually coffee stouts although they aren’t explicitly named that way. Currently we don’t have any way to group by ingredient, so we’ll have to pass on some tasty beers like Founders Breakfast Stout.

Using as many keywords as I could find I came up with 16,805 stouts with some form of coffee in the name. The overall rating was 3.9555 which is still better than the stouts without coffee, but not as big a difference as with the vanilla.

Beer Style

Rating

Coffee Rating

Difference

All Stouts

3.9151

3.9555

0.0404

American Imperial / Double Stout

4.1143

4.1513

0.037

Russian Imperial Stout

4.042

3.9407

-0.1013

Imperial Oatmeal Stout

4.0031

4.2009

0.1978

Milk / Sweet Stout

3.9106

3.8811

-0.0295

Irish Dry Stout

3.8803

3.6667

-0.2136

Cream Stout

3.6924

4.1176

0.4252

Oatmeal Stout

3.6764

3.6774

0.001

Stout

3.6727

3.809

0.1363

American Stout

3.6711

3.6849

0.0138

Foreign / Export Stout

3.658

3.6667

0.0087

Oyster Stout

3.6325

   

Again Cream should probably be mixed with Milk/Sweet which would effectively neutralize the difference in ratings when you add coffee and account for volume of checkins. Unlike vanilla, coffee really shines in only a couple of the types of stouts. Most of the coffee stouts fall into the American Imperial or Imperial Oatmeal category, which is why the overall rating remains a positive despite a couple of categories that don’t perform as well. Imperial Oatmeal seems to be the only category with a real significant improvement over regular stout. So far I remain relieved that no one’s putting vanilla or coffee into an Oyster Stout.

If you look at BeerGraphs’ wOBAR ratings, you’ll see that one of the most popular and highly rated American Imperial Stouts, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, is roughly .04 better than the non coffee version, which lines up with our overall stout numbers. The coffee version does has a lower BAR rating, but that’s due to overall volume, which affects BAR but not wOBAR. The coffee version itself the ninth-ranked beer overall, by BAR, at BeerGraphs.; only three places behind the non-coffee version.

A lot of the top rated beers in the sample, with a minimum of 10 ratings, are beers I’ve never heard of from more obscure breweries. Some of them are brewpubs, like the Tucson-based Barrio Brewing and their Mocha Java Milk Stout. Others are highly thought of local breweries like Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Company and the Coffee Stout Please they brew. AleSmith Brewing Company’s Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee) has 131 checkins and falls 6th on this list of ranked coffee stouts with a 4.48 rating and the use of Vietnamese coffee makes it sound like one I’d like to try if I get back out to San Diego.

Brewery

Beer

Style

Check-ins

Rating

Roto Brewers

Espresso Belgium Stout

Stout

16

5

Hydro Guys

Jittery Utters (Lone Wolf Series)

American Stout

14

5

New England Brewing Co.

Coffee Imperial Stout Trooper

American Imperial / Double Stout

38

4.894737

Goose Island Beer Co.

Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

American Imperial / Double Stout

1300

4.665769

Exit Six (6) Brewery

Hazelnut Irish Coffee Cask

Stout

13

4.615385

AleSmith Brewing Company

Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee)

American Imperial / Double Stout

131

4.480916

Barrio Brewing

Mocha Java Milk Stout

Milk / Sweet Stout

16

4.4375

Fifty West Brewing Company

Coffee Stout Please

Stout

12

4.416667

Three Creeks Brewing Co.

Big Bad Sisters Coffee Stout

Stout

15

4.4

Midwest Supplies

Peace Coffee Java Stout

Stout

18

4.388889

Another interesting entry on the list which speaks the the impact the quality of coffee is Midwest Supplies Peace Coffee Java Stout. It has 18 ratings for a 4.39 rating. This is a beer kit, made mostly by rookie homebrewers, and yet still manages to pick up a great rating. I know from experience that the feeling of tasting your own beer and it being delicious can lead to some rather euphoric feelings, but this still seems high. Perhaps the quality of the Peace Coffee really raises it to the next level.

Adding the right coffee to the right stout can have profound effects on the quality and taste of a good beer, but it’s not a catch-all ingredient and it should be added with care. When looking for a good coffee stout you’d be well off looking for a couple of signs. If it’s an Imperial Oatmeal Stout or even an American Imperial, you’re probably in luck, especially if the coffee is being added to an already impressive stout. Another thing to look at is the coffee itself; a quality coffee tends to make a quality beer.

Coffee didn’t have as big a blanket-positive effect on stouts as vanilla did, but it still provided some interesting beers. Next time we’ll see what effect barrel-aging beer has on stouts.

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