Food & Drink

Perfecting Coffee Home-brew

by Nick Brennan June 14, 2018
ReadPerfecting Coffee Home-brew

To get us through the lion’s share of March, we’ve been craving a heartier beer. So when Chicago-based beer maker and writer Nick Brennan suggested making a bespoke stout from scratch, adding the extra kick of Dave’s Coffee Syrup into the mix, we were all for it. Here’s what he came up with, so you can make a batch at home.


The Plan

I wanted to experiment with a Foreign Extra Stout recipe based loosely off a Great American Beer Festival 2011 medal winner called Malpais Stout, from La Cumbre Brewing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The style is essentially a more alcoholic, more complex version of an Irish Dry Stout, like a Guinness (think: deep roastiness and notes of bittersweet chocolate and coffee).

To incorporate three different Dave’s Coffee syrups into the mix, I broke the batch up after primary fermentation. While in this stage of the brewing process, the yeast convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. After that, you can siphon the beer into five one-gallon jugs, three of which will get Dave’s Coffee syrups, for secondary fermentation. This gives the yeast a chance to finish converting any remaining sugars into alcohol in a “cleaner” environment, and allows the brewer to add a few more ingredients to the beer. In this case, Dave’s coffee syrups, using a ratio of 4 ounces to one gallon.

Following a month of secondary fermentation, your brew is ready to bottle. First, siphon the beer into a bottle bucket, which has a special nozzle and hose used to fill individual bottles, and add a sugar solution. This acts as food for the remaining yeast in the beer once the bottle is sealed, producing an extra bit of alcohol and carbon dioxide. Two weeks after bottling day, the beers will have fully carbonated and are ready to drink.

The Ingredients

1 lb. Crystal II Malt
1 lb. Flaked Barley
½ lb. Chocolate Malt
½ lb. Roasted Barley
½ lb. Coffee Malt
3.3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light Malt Extract
3.3. lbs. Munton’s Light Malt Extract
1 lb. Munton’s Extra Light Dried Malt Extract
2 oz. Target Hops
1 packet Wyeast America Ale yeast 

The Process

1. Fill five-gallon brew kettle with three gallons of water and add Campden conditioning tablets to take chlorine out of the water. Bring water to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, pour grains into muslin sock and steep grains for 30 minutes while maintaining temperature. Steeping the various grains will add color, mouthfeel and fermentable sugars to the wort (the solution of sugar, hops and water before yeast is added). After just five minutes, the wort will have changed color dramatically. After the full 30-minute steep, the wort will be close to black in color.

2. Remove the grain bag from the wort and discard. Turn the gas burner all of the way up to get the wort to a rolling boil. Add the malt extract to the wort. The dry and wet malt extracts are responsible for the bulk of fermentable sugars in the wort. These sugars will be turned into alcohol by the yeast. Once the malt extract has been fully stirred into the wort, add 2 oz. of the hops and start a 90-minute timer. A standard boil lasts for 60 minutes, but this particular recipe calls for a longer boil to bring more flavor out of the malts and hops. During the boil, sanitize the carboy (glass vessel) that will be used to contain the five-gallon batch as it ferments using an acid sanitizer.

3. Once the wort has been boiling for 90 minutes, pull it off the burner and cool it down as quickly as possible. To do this, try a copper wort chiller. (Cold water running through the copper tubing quickly pulls heat out of the wort.) After the wort has cooled down to roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit, pour it into the fermenting vessel (aka carboy) using a sanitized funnel. Add additional water that has been boiled and conditioned to the wort to bring the total volume of liquid up to five gallons. At this point, the yeast should be added to the wort. Then the solution can officially be called beer.

4. Use a hydrometer to measure how much sugar is in the solution. This number should be measured again at the end of fermentation. The difference between the two will be used in a formula to determine how much sugar the yeast have consumed, which tells us how much alcohol they’ve given off into the beer. Aerate the beer by swirling the contents of the fermenter around vigorously, so that the yeast have a healthy supply of oxygen to utilize during fermentation.

5. Allow primary fermentation to take place in the six-gallon carboy for 10-14 days. Then siphon the beer into five one-gallon jugs that have been sanitized. Add 4 oz. of the appropriate Dave’s Coffee syrup to each batch and allow secondary fermentation to take place for 30 days. At the 30-day mark, siphon the beer into a bottling bucket and add a sugar priming solution. Utilize a bottling wand to fill bottles and allow them to condition for 14 days once capped.


Serve your home-brew with items from our Bar Category. 

Do you have any home-brew recipes to share? 


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