One of the excellent things about the specialty coffee community is that the passion for all things delicious doesn’t stop with coffee. Exploring our way through wine, gin, craft beer, scotch, sherry and numerous other beverages is a common after hours past time. And as so many of these distillers and brewers are just as passionate about their craft as we are about coffee, a unique collaboration just made sense.
First off, I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of coffee beer. In the past, the majority of coffee beers tasted like bitter, burnt dark coffee or like a pot of drip from an American diner. The solution? Get the brewers to do what they do excellently – brew tasty beer – and have the coffee folk work on the coffee component. Here’s what went down…
Eating a cherry ripe bar after drinking coffee.
Thankfully this sounded just as delicious (although possibly a little obscure) to other Five Senses folk. Hence the cherry coffee porter!
After pitching the idea to gypsy brewers Old Wives Ales, they got on board straight away. As a smaller brewery who roam around Melbourne brewing at various locations, they were open to a one-off, 1000L brew. This sounds big, but it’s definitely on the small side of brewing.
Deciding on a cherry porter base, Shannon (one of the brewers) came to our Barista Academy with a small 9L keg of test batch cherry porter to experiment with ratios of cold brew to beer. Perks of the job 😉
The Challenge: finding the right balance of coffee to beer so that a) the drink was balanced b) it didn’t dilute the mouthfeel and c) it didn’t drop the ABV too much.
We nailed A … but after doing some quick calculations, we realised we’d have needed 250L of cold brew to continue down that path. That is more cold brew than we’d like to make without commercial equipment (way too many batches in a 10L Toddy). The beer tasted excellent. So the new challenge was to hold up our part – the coffee.
The Challenge: to reduce the total volume of brew while still delivering the same coffee intensity.
Leo was my partner in crime and this was his job. It was quite the task! He conducted many, many experiments to reduce the volume of cold brew including …
– Increasing dosage.
– Grinding the coffee finer.
– Increasing contact time.
– Brewing cold brew with batch brew instead of water.
– Brewing cold brew with cold brew instead of water.
Spoiler alert: none of the above methods resulted in a concentration that was strong enough without being over-extracted and bitter – which was exactly what we were determined to avoid!
The solution: sub-zero gravity conditioned coffee elixir.
The cold brew was frozen and then thawed out over a period of around four hours. As it thawed, we collected the melt. The initial brew underwent a process of separation when it froze. The water (which formed the majority of the cold brew) created large, stable ice crystals. Meanwhile the liquid, which contained a lot of the dissolved material, formed smaller and less stable ice crystals. Consequently when it thawed, the smaller ice crystals (containing the majority of our soluble material) melted first, giving us a concentrate without that over extracted bitterness. We got a big, tasty beer without watering it down.
At this stage, the porter had 50kgs of blitzed, vacuumed sealed and pasteurized sour Morello cherries (seven hours straight of blending by poor Shannon!) added to it at the end of fermentation and was ready for the cold brew concentrate. Armed with 80L of this concentrate and two ladders, we filled the adjourning tank with cold brew. This tank was then pressurised and flushed with carbon dioxide before being pumped across to the beer tank. Twenty minutes of carbonation later, it was ready to taste test!
Many Hands (and several beers) make light work
An Ode to Agent Cooper truly was a labour of love. Only a couple of kegs and 80 cases of this beer were made. It was an absolute pleasure working with people as passionate about deliciousness as we are!
90L test batch of cherry porter
+30 cold brew experiements
38kg of Ardi, Ethiopia
150L of cold brew
80L of cold brew distillate
50kg of sour Morello cherries, hand blended
1,000L of porter brewed
1,920 labels put on bottles
1,920 bottles filled
1,920 crowns pressed on
4 people bottling all day
4 people lending a hand when they could
We hope you enjoy this beer as much as we do.
And the name? Agent Cooper is the resident cherry pie and coffee lover from Twin Peaks.