A little throwback to the first article featuring our barrel aging program. While we never claimed to invent the process, we have definitely perfected the art of barrel aging coffee. This is only possible because of the support that all of you have provided us over the past three years. Without it, we wouldn't be able to push forward, exploring and creating exciting coffees. THANK YOU!!
BY HEATHER SPERLING 8/19/13
"This isn't innovative," insists Jesse Diaz, as he stands amidst coffee-filled bourbon barrels at Dark Matter Coffee's Ukrainian Village headquarters. "This is Old World." In an age when booze barrels are regularly repurposed to age vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, cocktails and tea, Diaz claims that the inspiration for his newest line of coffee isn't trend. It's the Dutch East India Company's historic, 17th-century method of shipping green (unroasted) coffee: in barrels, often those previously used for pickles or salt. Dark Matter's current batch of green beans is spending a week in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Once roasted and brewed, the time in oak manifests as mellowed acidity, heightened vanilla and caramel notes, and a burst of grape soda on the nose. The coffee is sold by the bag ($25 for 12 oz.) or brewed and bottled ($9 for 250 ml). Served over ice, the bourbon scent is especially apparent. The flavor of the bottle we brought home--from natural-processed Mexican beans, dried with the coffee cherry intact--was pure vanilla, caramel and banana, but the nose was all whiskey. More barrels are on the way: absinthe barrels from Letherbee (to be filled with Ethiopian beans), whiskey barrels from Koval, and a bourbon barrel that recently held Virtue cider. Now this is a morning cocktail we can get behind.
We have been experimenting with nitrogenated coffee, which provides a creamier body and a visible head for an extended period with a cascading effect similar to a Guinness pour.
This barrel started out with the glorious tasting Heaven Hill bourbon, then went to Pipeworks Brewing to age the first of two beers, Imperial Jones Dog, for 10 months. This imperial milk stout brewed with cacao nibs and vanilla beans came out of the barrel with wonderful notes of oak, vanilla, coconut, dark fruits and dark chocolate, winning the FOBAB Gold Medal in 2015.
To make things even more delicious, the barrel was then used to age their Elijah's Revival Wheat Wine Ale, an orange, citrus hops and spiced wheat ale. Finally, this flavorful barrel made its way to Dark Matter Coffee, where we placed our Ethiopian Reko inside at the tail end of winter to hibernate peacefully until spring.
Our Ethiopian Reko is a mixed cultivar, natural processed coffee with notes of lemon candy, pineapple and cocoa. When combined with the flavor-packed barrel, new sweet and fruity tastes emerged. These flavors instantly reminded us of spring but also gives flashbacks to childhood summer flavors - cherry lime-aid, passion fruit and vanilla bean.