Coffee and beer are your favorite beverages. Combining things you love doesn’t always vibe well, but this is different. Java and beer blends are a match made in taste bud heaven. Why does it work so well? Well, the craft coffee and craft beer worlds have grown up together. In fact, some coffee drinks — like nitro cold brew — pull brewing methods and techniques from pint brewers. Plus, the flavors are incredibly compatible. Just imagine the rich chocolatey taste of a medium-roast coffee blended with the caramel hints of a stout.
Want to know more about coffee beer and why you have to try this drink today? Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know about coffee beer, from how it’s made to the best brands around.
What is Coffee Beer?
Alright, we get it. Coffee beer sounds kind of weird at first. Coffee is usually a morning beverage to kick start the day and beer is used by most consumers to relax and unwind. On a closer look though, java-based beer is the perfect pairing.
What is coffee beer? It’s a blend of coffee and beer in one drink. So yes, there is coffee in these drinks as well as alcohol content. The amount of coffee in each drink depends on how the beer is made. Some brewers take a finished beer and mix in brewed coffee — typically using cold brew instead of hot beverages for obvious temperature reasons. Cold-brew java is also more concentrated so there’s less water to throw off the beer taste and texture. Other brewers infuse their beers with coffee grounds during the fermentation process.
In general, java beer has more beer than coffee. For 30-gallons of beer, most brewers use about one pound of ground coffee. That means these beverages have the look and texture of the beer, but the added flavor of the coffee. Think of it more like a coffee-infused beer than a beer-infused coffee. The amount of caffeine is negligible due to processing methods — typically around a few sips to half a cup of regular coffee.
What Does Coffee Beer Taste Like?
Coffee beer tastes different depending on the ingredients used. Different types of coffee beans have different flavors. The flavor profile comes from the different types of coffee beans as well as where and how they are grown. The soil, climate, and roasting process all impart various flavors and tasting notes.
Some brewers use Ethiopian coffee beans or Costa Rica coffee to create citrus notes and a light finish. Others use beans that offer a caramel, nutty, or chocolate flavor to blend with creamy porters. The flavors are exceptionally varied. Today, you can find porters and stouts with rich coffee notes as well as sours, creamy ales, and wheat beers with citrus notes from blonde coffees.
The Best Coffee Beer: 11 Options You Have To Taste
Looking for the best coffee beer? You’re in luck. There are dozens of coffee beers to choose from — whether you like lagers and pale ales or rich stouts and porters. In fact, beer brewers have come up with some innovative and delicious flavors including IPA-based coffee beers you’ll die for. Here are some of the best coffee beers around.
1. Xocoveza from Stone Brewing
Xocoveza is an imperial stout that draws inspiration from Mexican hot chocolate. It’;s a mocha stout with an 8.1% ABV that’s usually available around the holidays and winter season. Cocoa and cinnamon are the main tasting notes, but there are also nuanced hints of nutmeg, vanilla, and coffee. It also features heat from pasilla peppers and a touch of fruitiness on the finish. The color is black and features a thick brown head with a full body.
2. Founders Breakfast Stout
The Founders Breakfast Stout is made using coffee beans from Sumatra and Kona from Ferris Coffee and Nut. It’s an imperial stout brewed with flaked oats, bitter chocolate, and two types of coffee. This java beer features a roasted java aroma and a cinnamon-colored head that adds a creamy and decadent texture. It’s malty, oaty, and chocolatey with a hint of bitter coffee notes. It’s a strong drink with an 8.3% ABV.
3. Mocha Merlin from Firestone Walker
The Mocha Merlin is a java and cocoa-infused oatmeal stout. It’s packed with vanilla, dark chocolate, and spiced notes that are perfect for fall and winter consumption. The coffee beer uses Colombia La Granadilla espresso and a touch of milk sugar to add a hint of sweetness. The brewery has stopped making this version so you’ll have to search a bit harder to get your hands on some. Their Nitro Merlin is the updated version of this coffee beer and is equally delightful.
4. Arcade Brewery’s Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale
The Graveyard Shift Coffee Pale Ale is exactly why coffee and beer are such a great pair. It’s brewed using Dark Matter Coffee and features light roast El Eden coffee beans which are added after fermentation. The formula is changed up each year using different beans. The beverage has a surprisingly light color and rich coffee aroma. It’s refreshing and crisp — a clear departure from the coffee porters and roasted malts of most coffee beers.
5. Surly Brewing’s Coffee Bender
The Coffee Bender from Surly Brewing is designed for coffee addicts. This java brew smells and tastes more like coffee than it does an alcoholic brew. With the first sip, a pungent coffee aroma hits your nostrils and strong coffee notes dance on your tongue. Caramel and chocolate notes from the brown ale round out the tasting profile. The beer is brewed using Willamette and Columbus hops and it boasts a 5.5% ABV.
6. Left Hand Milk Stout
Left Hand’s Milk Stout is one of their award-winning beers. It blends chocolate malt, milk sugar, and coffee for a robust tasting profile and smooth finish. The sweetness keeps the bitter dark roast in check and it boasts a 6% ABV and 25 IBUs. It uses CTV and Golding hops plus rolled oats and roasted barley. The carbonation of this beer style blended with black coffee is a hit.
7. Java Cask from Victory Brewing Company
Victory Brewing crafts Java Cask by aging beer in bourbon barrels and then blending it with roasted coffee. It features hints of vanilla, bourbon, and oak with a strong ABV of 14.3%. The coffee flavors offer a full mouthfeel and rich aroma. It’s best enjoyed on a cold evening — preferably while enjoying the company of friends around a fire pit.
8. Guinness Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Stout
Guinness is known for their dark stouts and it’s no surprise they’ve worked coffee into their delicious lineup. They’ve been using nitrogen to infuse their beers for centuries. That makes a cold brew coffee ales a natural choice for the brewery. Their Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Stout has a coffee, caramel, and toffee nose with a creamy head. It’s smooth with bitter coffee notes and sweet caramel flavors.
9. Cold Brew IPA from Rogue Ales
The Cold Brew IPA from Rogue Ales nails the different flavors that you can get from coffee beer. Instead of chocolate-rich takes made using porters and stouts, this coffee beer blends the pine and hoppy flavors of an IPA with Stumptown Coffee Roasters cold brew. Your senses are first hit with a coffee aroma and then the hoppy punch targets your taste buds for a drinking experience you won’t find anywhere else. This little guy has a 7.5% ABV and all the bitter flavor IPA-lovers want.
10. Terrapin Wake-N-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout
The Wake-N-Bake coffee beer from Terrapin Beer Co. uses oatmeal to create a velvety feel when sipping this brew. It’s infused with freshly roasted coffee from Jittery Joe’s. Plus it has a 9.4% ABV and a mind-boggling 50 IBUs. The main tasting notes are chocolate and barley and it boasts a bitter coffee finish.
11. Ten FIDY by Oskar Blues
Colorado-based Oskar Blues serves up delicious coffee beer in the form of their Ten FIDY brew. Chocolate, caramel, and coffee are at the forefront here as well as 65 IBUs for a rocking bitter taste. It’s made with chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats, and two-row malt.
Get the Most Out of Your Coffee
When it comes to coffee beer, there are so many delicious options regardless of your taste preferences. Whether you want a light, citrusy pale ale coffee brew or a porter that’s packed with chocolate and toffee flavors, there’s something for you. Like each coffee cup, every pint has a different taste profile. With notes like maple syrup, spicy peppers, and sweet vanilla, coffee beer is a real treat.
Want to learn more about coffee? Head to Cup & Bean where you’ll find guides to everything coffee related. From the different beans that affect the flavor of coffee drinks to various recipes and styles, it’s your go-to source for learning more about the tasty world of coffee.