Coffee Brown: An homage to roasting (Dave’s thoughts)
Roasting things. Grains. Beans. Sugar.
That’s what I was thinking about this morning as I prepared and then mashed in for a beer that will, if all goes well and according to plan, become a Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale. I figured the grist with a variety of different roasted malts, and weighing them out filled the brewhouse with the delicious aromas of fresh bread, caramel, chocolate and roasted nuts. Meanwhile, right down the hall NuJava was busy roasting coffee beans to a delicious darkness. The hallway between the brewery and the roastery was a meeting place of the delicious aromas we’re hoping to eventually mesh in this beer. I can’t think of too many better ways to start the day.
For the malty backbone of this beer, I started with Pale, Munich, Brown, Chocolate and Crystal Malts, giving a wide variety of different roasty aromas. Munich malt, for instance, is lightly roasted; a beer made with 100% Munich malt would have a deep amber color and a strong malty and toasty aroma profile. The aroma of the ground malt is reminiscent of fresh bread or toast, but malty. The brown malt and chocolate malt follow the same basic process – a kind of dry roasting – but to a deeper level and yield deeper notes of chocolate and coffee, or rich almost burnt toast.
Crystal Malts follow a different process, one that first transforms the starchy innards of the grains to sugars, and then adds heat to caramelize those sugars. This can result in a similar color, but a different flavor much more like caramel than toasted bread. Crystal malts, like their dry-roasted counterparts come in a spectrum of colors and flavors from pale to dark and give honey-like and malty flavors at the light end and deep caramel to raisiny towards the high end.
Coming back to this later on. The brewing went well; the wort ran a deep mahogany trailing to a beautiful amber and was a great sweetner to my morning coffee. Hopping was minimal; I’m looking for a balancing bitterness, but I’m expecting we will pick up a bit of bitterness from the coffee I’m going to drop into the fermenter when fermentation’s complete, so that’s factored into the hop rate. We’re fermenting with a fairly neutral ale strain to keep the emphasis for this beer where it belongs: on the malt, coffee and chocolate.
Even later: Some tasting notes. I agonized over the amount of coffee to add, and ultimately opted for a fairly light dose so to not overwhelm the other flavors. I added a few grams of cinnamon as well, just to give a very light hint. The result I like quite a bit. Prior to the coffee addition, the beer was a bit of a malt bomb, with the chocolate notes linger