Everything to Know About Coffee Beers

As a seasoned beer enthusiast, there are few things I enjoy more than exploring the myriad flavor profiles that the world of craft beer offers. One of my favorite beer styles that blends two of my most beloved beverages – coffee and beer – is the intriguing Coffee Beers.

If you, like me, relish both of these drinks, let me walk you through the fascinating fusion that coffee beers bring to the table.

Understanding Coffee Beers

A fusion of the rich, aromatic world of coffee and the refreshing, dynamic sphere of beer, coffee beers are a distinct subcategory within the larger domain of craft beers. This unique blend of flavors caters to the palates of both ardent beer lovers and coffee enthusiasts alike.

The term “coffee beer” generally refers to any beer style that incorporates coffee into its recipe, either directly or indirectly. Brewers achieve this by adding coffee beans at different stages of the brewing process, or by carefully selecting and manipulating other ingredients such as malts and hops, which can impart coffee-like flavors to the beer.

Direct addition of coffee is the most common technique and can be done in several ways. Some brewers add whole coffee beans to the beer, while others prefer to use ground coffee. Another popular method is to brew coffee separately and then blend it with the beer. The timing of the coffee addition during the brewing process can also significantly influence the final taste of the beer. Typically, coffee is added after the boiling stage, during or after fermentation, to preserve its delicate flavors and aromas.

Indirect methods of creating coffee flavors involve the skillful use of dark, roasted malts. These malts, when brewed, naturally exude coffee-like characteristics, adding a depth and complexity to the beer. The malt’s roasting level can be adjusted to fine-tune the intensity of these flavors.

The fascinating aspect about coffee beers is that they can be derived from virtually any style of beer, from light and crisp blondes to robust and hearty stouts. This allows for a plethora of variations and interpretations, ensuring that there is a coffee beer to suit every taste.

Though coffee stouts and porters are the most well-known and widely available coffee beers, there’s a growing trend of experimenting with lighter styles like lagers, pale ales, and even IPAs. These coffee-infused variants offer a new perspective, breaking the stereotype that coffee beers have to be dark and heavy.

In essence, coffee beers represent the innovation and creativity that is the hallmark of the craft beer industry. By uniting the bold flavors of coffee with the traditional elements of beer, they offer an experience that is both familiar and novel, catering to a broad spectrum of taste preferences.

The Brewing Process

Coffee beers present a unique challenge in the brewing process, as it requires careful balance and experimentation to harmonize the distinct flavors of coffee and beer. Let’s explore the standard brewing process adapted to create coffee beers.


As with any beer, the process begins with malting. This involves soaking the barley in water, allowing it to germinate, and then drying it in a kiln. The germination process develops the enzymes needed for converting the grain’s starches into fermentable sugars. The roasting level during malting can influence the beer’s color and flavor.


The malted grains are then mixed with hot water in a process known as mashing. This activates the enzymes, which convert the remaining starches into sugars. This sweet liquid, called the wort, is then drained off from the grains.


The wort is boiled and hops are added for bitterness, flavor, and aroma. This stage is crucial for sterilization, halting enzymatic activity, and concentrating the wort.

Coffee Addition:

The incorporation of coffee happens after boiling to prevent the volatile coffee aromas from being boiled off. Brewers may use whole coffee beans, ground coffee, or brewed coffee. Sometimes, they might steep the coffee grounds in the wort as it cools, or add cold-brewed coffee into the fermentation vessel. The choice of coffee and its roast profile can dramatically impact the flavor profile of the beer.


The wort, now infused with coffee, is transferred to a fermentation vessel, and yeast is added. The yeast consumes the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various flavor compounds. The type of yeast and fermentation temperature can also affect the beer’s flavor and character.

Conditioning and Carbonation:

After fermentation is complete, the beer is conditioned or aged for several weeks to allow any remaining yeast and sediment to settle. It’s also during this stage that the beer’s flavors mature and develop. The beer may also be carbonated at this stage if necessary.


The final beer is then filtered, carbonated if it hasn’t been already, and packaged into kegs, bottles, or cans ready for distribution.

Each brewer has their preferred method and timing for adding coffee to the beer, and these choices greatly influence the final product. By experimenting with different coffee varieties, roasts, and brewing techniques, brewers can create a wide range of coffee beers, each with its unique taste and aroma profile.

Types of Coffee Beers

Coffee beers come in various styles, each offering a unique interplay of flavors and aromas. Below, I delve into the different types of coffee beers that you might come across in your explorations:

Coffee Stout/Porter:

Arguably the most common style of coffee beer, the coffee stout, and its close cousin, the coffee porter, use dark roasted malts, which naturally impart coffee-like flavors. When combined with actual coffee, these beers can be intensely flavorful, boasting notes of chocolate, caramel, and of course, coffee. Examples include Founders Brewing Co.’s Breakfast Stout and AleSmith’s Speedway Stout.

Coffee Blonde Ale:

A blonde ale is a light, crisp beer that’s often seen as the polar opposite of a stout. However, when infused with coffee, a blonde ale can become a refreshing beverage that combines the lightness of the ale with the complexity of the coffee. It can be a delightful surprise to taste coffee in a beer that’s light in color. An example is the Daybreak Blonde Ale from Martin House Brewing Company.

Coffee IPA:

This is a rather unusual blend as IPAs are renowned for their hoppy bitterness. Adding coffee into the mix creates a complex interplay between the floral or citrusy hop flavors and the earthy, bitter coffee notes. It’s not a combination for everyone, but when done right, it can result in an exciting and unique beer.

Coffee Lager:

Lagers are typically smooth, crisp, and clean-tasting beers. The addition of coffee can transform a lager, adding depth and richness while maintaining the beer’s refreshing qualities. Dark lagers and dunkels can particularly benefit from a touch of coffee.

Coffee Brown Ale:

Brown ales, with their nutty and toasty flavors, are another natural fit for coffee. The coffee’s bitterness can balance out the beer’s malty sweetness, creating a balanced and flavorful brew.

Barrel-Aged Coffee Beers:

These are coffee beers that have been aged in spirits barrels. The beer can take on some of the spirit’s flavors, resulting in complex, often stronger beers. The choice of the barrel (whiskey, bourbon, rum, etc.) and the aging duration can significantly influence the final product.

It’s important to note that these are not the only types of coffee beers available. Brewers continuously experiment with different beer styles and coffee types, resulting in an ever-evolving range of coffee-infused beers. If you’re a fan of both coffee and beer, you’re sure to find a coffee beer that perfectly suits your taste.

The Taste Profile of Coffee Beers

When it comes to the taste profile of coffee beers, there is a delightful universe of flavors waiting to be explored. However, navigating through the sensory complexities of these brews can be a little daunting if you don’t know what to expect. So, let’s break down the flavor components that create the unique taste profile of coffee beers.


Of course, the predominant flavor in coffee beers is, well, coffee. But coffee in itself is a multifaceted flavor component. Depending on the type of coffee used, its roast level, and how it’s incorporated into the brewing process, the taste can range from a gentle, subtly roasted note to an intense, espresso-like flavor. You might pick up hints of sweetness, bitterness, or even acidity, reflecting the many dimensions of coffee.

Roasty Malt:

Many coffee beers, especially stouts and porters, are brewed with dark malts that contribute a roasted, toasty flavor. This element enhances the coffee’s natural roasted taste, adding layers of complexity.


Depending on the style of the beer and the brewing process, coffee beers can exhibit varying levels of sweetness. The sweetness helps balance the coffee’s inherent bitterness and can bring out flavors reminiscent of chocolate, caramel, or toffee.


Bitterness in coffee beers can come from two sources: the coffee itself and the hops used in brewing. While these beers are not typically hop-forward, the hop bitterness can interplay interestingly with the coffee bitterness, creating a well-rounded taste profile.


In higher ABV coffee beers, especially barrel-aged versions, the taste of alcohol can be quite pronounced. It might contribute flavors such as vanilla, oak, or even bourbon, if the beer has been aged in bourbon barrels.

Body and Mouthfeel:

Coffee beers often have a robust, full-bodied mouthfeel, especially in the case of stouts and porters. Some might even exhibit a creamy or velvety texture, which further enhances the tasting experience.

Additional Flavors:

Some coffee beers may also feature other ingredients such as vanilla, cocoa, lactose, or even fruit, introducing additional flavor elements into the mix.

In essence, the taste profile of coffee beers is all about harmony – a well-crafted coffee beer should exhibit a balanced blend of flavors, where the coffee enhances the beer, and vice versa. Each sip should take you on a journey of taste, from the initial burst of coffee and malt flavors to a satisfying, lingering finish. After all, that’s the magic of coffee beers.

Benefits of Coffee Beers

Now that we’ve talked about the fantastic taste profile of coffee beers, let’s delve into some benefits of enjoying these complex and satisfying brews. Before we go any further, it’s important to note that while beer does have some health benefits, it should always be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced lifestyle. Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to your health. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the potential benefits of coffee beers.

Rich in Antioxidants:

Both beer and coffee are rich in antioxidants, compounds that help protect your cells from damage by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. Some of the antioxidants found in beer and coffee include flavonoids, phenols, and melanoidins, which have been associated with various health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Enhanced Flavors:

The combination of coffee and beer brings about a uniquely enhanced flavor. This is a treat for your taste buds, and consuming foods and drinks that you enjoy can contribute to your overall sense of well-being.

Stimulating Effect:

While beer is known for its relaxing effect, coffee is a stimulant. Therefore, the caffeine present in coffee beers might help counteract some of the sedative effects of alcohol. However, it’s important to remember that caffeine won’t sober you up if you’ve had too much to drink.

Social Benefits:

Beer, including coffee beer, is often enjoyed in social settings. The social aspect of enjoying a beer with friends or family can contribute to a sense of belonging and happiness.


Beers like coffee stouts and porters, which are full-bodied and rich, can be quite filling. They could contribute to a feeling of fullness, possibly helping you to consume less and potentially aiding in weight management. However, it’s important to remember that beer is quite calorie-dense and should not be relied upon as a weight loss tool.

How to Best Enjoy Coffee Beers

Much like a fine wine, there are optimal ways to enjoy coffee beers. A clean, tulip-shaped glass can help accentuate the beer’s aroma. Additionally, coffee beers are best enjoyed fresh to fully experience the vibrant coffee notes. Here are some of the main tips when it comes to best enjoying this delicious beverage:

Right Serving Temperature:

While it might be tempting to serve coffee beers ice-cold, resist the urge. A lot of the flavors in these beers are more prominent at slightly warmer temperatures. Refrigerated coffee beers should be taken out 10-15 minutes before serving to let them warm slightly. It allows all the nuances of coffee and malt to shine.

Choose the Right Glassware:

Just as with wine, the right glassware can enhance your beer drinking experience. A tulip glass or a snifter is often the best choice for coffee beers. Their shape will allow you to fully appreciate the aroma of the beer.

Food Pairing:

Coffee beers pair incredibly well with a variety of foods. For lighter coffee beers, try pairing them with grilled meats or savory pastries. The more robust coffee stouts and porters go wonderfully with desserts, especially those featuring chocolate or coffee flavors.

Sip, Don’t Guzzle:

To truly appreciate all the complexities that coffee beers have to offer, take your time. Take small sips, let the beer sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. You’ll be amazed at how many different flavors you can pick up.

Try a Beer Tasting Session:

If you’re new to coffee beers or want to explore more varieties, consider setting up a beer tasting session. Gather a selection of different coffee beers, some tasting glasses, and a few friends for an enjoyable and enlightening experience.

Mind the Alcohol Content:

Some coffee beers, especially stouts and porters, can have quite high alcohol content. Keep this in mind as you’re enjoying them. Savor the flavors and drink responsibly.

Top 5 Coffee Beers to Try

1. AleSmith Speedway Stout

Renowned for its rich coffee flavor and smooth mouthfeel, this stout is an excellent choice for anyone looking to delve into coffee beers.

2. Founders Breakfast Stout

A fantastic blend of oats, chocolate, and coffee, this stout provides a satisfying complexity that is sure to intrigue your palate.

3. Ballast Point Victory at Sea

A well-balanced porter with just the right amount of roasted coffee flavor, it’s a must-try for coffee beer enthusiasts.

4. Stone Xocoveza

An interesting take on coffee beers, this brew brings in flavors of cocoa, coffee, and spices, reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate.

5. Surly Coffee Bender

Offering a unique twist, this coffee brown ale gives you a rich, malty base with a pronounced coffee finish.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, coffee beers present an exciting interplay of flavors that both coffee and beer enthusiasts will appreciate. They’re a testament to the limitless creativity within the craft beer world. So, whether you’re a seasoned beer drinker or a coffee lover looking to expand your horizons, give coffee beers a shot. You might just find your new favorite brew!

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to drink coffee beer? – While coffee beers can be enjoyed any time, they are particularly great for brunch or a late afternoon pick-me-up.

Can you taste the coffee in coffee beer? – Absolutely! Depending on the beer, the coffee flavor can range from subtle to very prominent.

Does coffee beer have caffeine? – Yes, coffee beers typically contain caffeine, although the amount can vary based on the amount and type of coffee used.

Can I make coffee beer at home? – Yes, if you’re into home brewing, you can experiment with adding coffee to your recipes.

Is coffee beer stronger than regular beer? – Not necessarily. The alcohol content of coffee beer depends on the base beer style and the brewing process.


beer your way

Michael Wilson

With over 15 years of experience in the beer industry, I love sharing both my own and other beer experts knowledge on everything beer related. I've always loved the fact that beer has brought cultures and people together for thousands of years and the tradition only continues to grow.

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