It is an age-old tradition to combine coffee and the essence of certain liquors in one delightful drink. But, as it turns out, this mouth-watering beverage has grown in popularity during the last couple of years. In fact, barrel aged coffee has become all the rage with coffee drinkers lately.
Nowadays, bartenders and baristas all around the world are experimenting with this potent drink. If you are a newcomer or just want to learn more about coffee aged in ex-liquor barrels, then you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with answers to the following questions:
- What is barrel-aged and aged coffee?
- Where does aged coffee come from?
- How is aged coffee made?
- Which one is better in terms of flavor, aged coffee from a barrel or fresh coffee?
In addition, we’ve included a simple yet outstandingly delicious coffee recipe in this guide.
What Is Aged and Barrel Aged Coffee?
Barrel aging is a new trend of placing fresh coffee in barrels formerly used to manufacture wine, rum, whiskey, or another type of liquor.
Authentic aged coffee is aged for a minimum of six months to around three years. It is regularly checked, and the coffee beans are rotated to balance out the aging process and distribute moisture. As a result, there is no decay or mold.
In essence, this process helps the green beans soak up the fragrances and the flavor of the barrel. After that, the coffee beans are roasted. In the end, you get a delicious coffee with subtle aromas of alcohol, such as bourbon barrel aged coffee.
Despite the process, this type of coffee does not typically have any alcohol content.
Coffee beans aged in barrels can be consumed cold or hot, and they can be used to create new drinks.
To find out the origins of barrel aged coffee, let’s travel back in time together to the 1500s. Namely, the port of Mocha, Yemen, which was once part of the Ottoman Empire, used to be the source of a large portion of all coffee drank by Europeans.
But, were you aware that all coffee back then was aged coffee? Since traveling to Europe took a long time, coffee beans typically spent months sitting in the warehouses of ports, drying out in the scorching desert conditions.
Remember, ships had to journey all the way around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.
So, these soon-to-be barrel aged coffee beans were exposed to excessively humid conditions over a long sea cruise after being carried onto the ships.
Before arriving in Europe, the coffee beans would have gone through a lot of changes. For instance, due to the salty air, the coffee would develop a peculiar flavor. These changes were especially prominent in beans from Dutch Indonesia and India, which supplied the bulk of Europe’s coffee at the time.
Believe it or not, Europeans started to prefer the taste of aged coffee over that of freshly ground coffee beans.
So what eventually happened with aged coffee beans? Well, as time passed, people developed faster and better ships.
This meant that not only was fresh coffee readily available everywhere but, thanks to the improved vessels, the amount of aged coffee was reduced to the point that it was almost entirely discontinued.
Nevertheless, in recent times, the practice of aging coffee on purpose has become increasingly popular all around Europe, Taiwan, America, and other parts of the world.
Types of Coffee That Age Well
Let’s take a quick break from barrel aged coffee and see which types of coffee beans are good candidates for the aging process. To find this out, we consulted expert coffee brewers for some valuable advice.
Typically, the best coffee beans for aging are low in acidity and high in body. However, this is not always true, and there are certain exceptions that professionals know about.
Low-acid coffees mostly come from Asia, with Indonesia and India having the best beans. In particular, semi-dry-processed Sulawesi and aged Sumatra coffee beans are excellent candidates for the maturing process.
Namely, as they mature, these Sumatra beans can take on a rich, peppery flavor. So, if you want to experiment with spicy aromas, definitely go with aged coffee from Sumatra.
Also, to answer one of your questions, yes, good aged coffee beans also come from South America. However, Sulawesi and Sumatra regions start maturing their coffee beans just before shipping. Latin American wet-processed coffees age well since they tend to mellow with time, but the flavor is definitely different.
Barrel Aged Coffee Process
Aged coffee and old, stale coffee are not the same thing at all. As mentioned, authentic aged coffee is carefully matured over a period lasting from six months to three years. The aging process is complex and very carefully monitored, but we’ve simplified it to the basics, which all coffee-aging experts employ.
To start, the experts choose the coffee beans and the barrels in which the coffee beans will be aged. So, for example, if a barrel contains whiskey residue, you’ll eventually get whiskey barrel aged coffee.
The coffee’s parchment skin is left on during this process for extra flavor, but is removed after the drying and hulling processes, just before the beans are exported. After an aging process that takes three weeks, the green coffee is ready to start being transformed into a rich and boozy brew.
Typically, during the maturing process, the experts taste the coffee multiple times a year to check whether it has achieved its complete flavor profile. Then, after the barrel-aged coffee beans have matured, they are ready to be roasted.
Usually, a dark roast is preferred because it balances out the flavor of the coffee.
Barrel-Aged vs Fresh Coffee Flavor
If you love the flavor of coffee but you don’t want to experiment, then we suggest sticking with the more widely available taste of fresh coffee. On the other hand, if you are interested in trying out more complex flavor profiles, aged coffee might just be the ticket.
As for our bolder readers, we recommend rum barrel aged coffee or any other boozy alternative we’ve talked about previously. The flavor is indeed much more intense, but believe us, it’s worth it, especially if you are a fan of stronger coffee flavors.
To get started, here’s a recipe that you’re sure to fall in love with. It takes the concept of barrel-aged beans and infuses it with even more alcohol goodness:
Barrel–Aged Irish Coffee Recipe
- 2 ounces of Irish whiskey
- 6 ounces of freshly brewed whiskey
- ½ ounce liquid sweetener
- barrel–aged coffee
Firstly, brew the coffee like you usually would. We highly recommend investing in a high-quality espresso machine, such as the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine. Next, add all the ingredients into a mug and mix thoroughly.
If you want to spice things up, top the coffee with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing the concoction up with a top-quality hand mixer.
Recommended Barrel Aged Coffees to Try
If you’re looking for the perfect mug of brewed coffee, then, fortunately, you can get it from a local shop or some of your favorite coffee spots. Here are our personal favorites when it comes to coffee that’s barrel–aged.
Dark Matter Barrel–Aged Coffee
Dark Matter Coffee offers a barrel–aged blend and coffee cold cans for under $30.
“Machete” is Dark Matter’s barrel-aged variety derived from El Salvador or Guatemala aged in a rum barrel. We’ve tried and tested it out, and it’s one of our all-time favorite caffeinated beverages.
Mister G Coffee Company Wine Barrel–Aged Coffee
For only $20, you can get your hands on exquisite aged coffee created in an oak barrel formerly used to age cabernet. We believe this coffee has a distinct yet mild aroma with a slight sweetness. If you love fine wine, then you’ll love this coffee.
Common Grounds Coffee House Bourbon Coffee
Our favorite bourbon barrel–aged coffee beans are from Common Grounds Coffee House in Lexington, Kentucky. If you want to try out the warm flavor notes of vanilla, caramel, and wood, then we highly recommend coffee beans aged in bourbon barrels.
Starbucks Whiskey Barrel-Aged Sulawesi
Believe it or not, the largest coffee brand in the US also offers coffee aged in a barrel. The unique flavor profile of the whiskey barrel-aged Sulawesi became an instant hit when Starbucks launched it for the first time in 2017.
This Roastery exclusive whiskey barrel–aged coffee is used to create the Barrel Aged Cold Brew and the Barrel Aged Con Crema, both delicious.
Once you try coffee aged in a barrel, you’ll never want to go back to ordinary coffee beans. Countless people say that coffee roasted in a barrel is a life changer in the world of boozy beverages.
Based on all the positive feedback, it’s no wonder this type of coffee is competing in popularity with another trend — CBD-infused coffee.
Hopefully, this guide was insightful and that it managed to answer all of your questions. Remember, good ideas begin with brainstorming, but outstanding ideas start with coffee.
Is bourbon barrel aged coffee good?
Yes, we think it’s excellent. Many people claim bourbon barrel coffee has hints of caramel, vanilla, and even rich chocolate. However, other people note that bourbon coffees have an overpowering aroma that not many coffee enthusiasts will enjoy.
So, test it out for yourself and see how you like it.
Is aged coffee better?
As mentioned, not all aged coffee is better than fresh coffee. For instance, you don’t want to consume coffee that’s over eight years old. However, according to many people, aged coffee has a richer, more distinct flavor profile than fresh coffee beans, making it more enjoyable.
How do you brew a coffee barrel–aged?
It’s simple; just brew it the way you brew your regular coffee. As for barrel aging, let’s break down the complex procedure into a few steps.
First, the green beans are sourced, put into barrels, and left there to age. Next, they are removed and manually roasted to either a dark, medium or light roast. That’s about it.
What is bourbon barrel coffee?
As mentioned before, this type of coffee is made from green coffee beans matured in barrels previously used for bourbon. The porous coffee beans will eventually soak up the delicious flavor and aroma of bourbon, producing a unique barrel–aged masterpiece.
Is there alcohol in barrel aged coffee?
No, it does not contain any alcohol. That is because when the green coffee beans are roasted, alcohol absorbed throughout the maturing process evaporates. As a result, you only get the unique aroma and the flavor of barrel aged coffee derived from the maturing procedure.