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The Buzz on Coffee Stouts

Beer and coffee may not seem like a natural pairing, but both are brewed! And brewers are going to brew!

Craft breweries started experimenting with the combination in the 1990s. Brewers would steep the coffee beans in either water or beer to introduce a java flavor. As with any beer, the addition of an ingredient can have a major effect on the flavor – striking a balance is key.

If there is too much coffee or if it sits for too long, brewers risk astringency or bitterness. Too little coffee or time, and brewers won’t get enough flavor.

This may be why some brewers opt to roast various types of grain to replicate the slightly bitter, sweet notes of brewed coffee. While others bravely add coffee to the whort, the liquid containing simple sugars from the roasted wheat, during the mash or fermentation stages.

No matter the method, coffee stouts will have a jet black body and a creamy head. There will be aromas of ground coffee and dark fruits (typically plum, prune or black currant), with hints of spice, wood or earth. The flavors are typically roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, toast and caramel. The chocolatey taste comes from kilning the malt at high temperatures. Overall, stouts are full, creamy, smooth, rich and satisfying.

The best part? Coffee stouts actually feature a negligible amount of caffeine. In fact, few breweries even bother to measure their beers for an exact count. So with 4-5% alcohol and low level of caffeine, it can easily become your go-to beverage for unwinding after a long day. Pair it with a hearty steak-and-potatoes dinner or with sweet and spicy wings.