Coffee, and coffee-infused beverages, are the backbone of our society. We’ve devised increasingly creative ways to consume coffee, including flavoring coffee beans.
You can soak coffee beans in syrup, oil, spices, and alcohol to give them a one-of-a-kind flavor. The most common alcohol used to flavor beans is whiskey, but others like rum and bourbon produce a delicious, full-bodied taste.
This article will explore how we came to combine everyone’s favorite bean with bourbon and whiskey and how this process works and has developed over time.
Soaking Coffee Beans in Liquor
Soaking coffee beans is a fun and fascinating way to incorporate various flavors into your coffee-drinking experience.
Infusing coffee beans is surprisingly simple and doesn’t require a brewery or roastery to accomplish. Have a look at the steps below to soak your coffee beans in liqueur:
- Find a jar or container with a seal. Ensure that this seal is in good condition so the mixture isn’t exposed to air.
- Fill the jar with coffee beans, and add the liquor. You should add at least one tablespoon of bourbon or whiskey to every cup of beans.
- Stir the mixture for a few minutes. This will allow the beans to get an even coating of liquor.
- Store the sealed mixture in a cool, dry place for 24 hours. This will give the beans enough time to absorb the bourbon or whiskey fully and develop a full flavor.
- Drain and dry the beans. Once this mixture has been infused for 24 hours, drain any leftover liquor and pat the beans down with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess liquid. Allow the beans to dry completely before grinding.
Some prefer to roast the beans and pour them, still hot, into bourbon or whiskey. This can somewhat reduce the bitterness that potentially comes from the coffee-alcohol combination, but the method you prefer is up to your personal taste.
It’s recommended to split a bag of coffee beans into multiple jars or containers and experiment with different measurements and infusion times. This way, you have a plethora of results to choose from without dedicating all of your ingredients to one recipe at a time.
You can also experiment with different levels of sweeteners in your coffee and even combine multiple different flavors into one roast.
Flavor combinations that work well together are:
- Chocolate and coconut.
- Hazelnut and caramel.
- Vanilla and nuts.
- Cinnamon and spice.
You can achieve these flavors with different kinds of whiskey and bourbon in combination with particular types of coffee.
What Happens to Coffee Beans Soaked in Whiskey or Bourbon?
To fully appreciate the effects of an alcohol-infused coffee bean, we need to fully understand the chemical reactions that occur during and after the infusion process.
First off, you can’t mix any coffee with any kind of alcohol. You have to take note of the scents and flavors of both the coffee (in this case, whiskey or bourbon) and determine how well they go together.
The final product will taste muddied and unappealing if the flavors are strongly contrasted or mismatched.
Some flavor profiles to consider include:
For instance, a smooth coffee with earthy, oaky tones would work best with whiskey or bourbon with the same flavor profiles. It would pair terribly with a light, fragrant, fruity liquor.
Pairing the same or similar flavor profiles augments the existing tastes and heightens them; they essentially bring out the best in each other.
The exact process and chemical reactions are straightforward:
- The coffee and alcohol are combined, and the beans absorb the alcohol, acting like sponges until every bean is at capacity. The beans retain their natural shape and consistency.
- Once the beans have soaked up what they can, they’re removed, drained, and dried. By this stage, the alcohol has been absorbed into the bean to the point where it’s changed the flavor.
- The beans are roasted, which burns the alcohol away. The beans retain the flavor instilled in them by the liquor, and the beans no longer contain any alcohol content.
Drinking large quantities of a combined mixture of alcohol and caffeine can lead to serious health problems, especially if it becomes a habit. Burning away the alcohol and leaving only flavor is much healthier and safer for consumption.
Read more about the health effects of consuming caffeine and alcohol together at Healthline.
The beans themselves undergo significant physical changes. They become more porous, soluble, and rubbery. The bean’s natural oils migrate from the center to the surface, affecting the flavor of the final roasted bean.
The longer a bean is roasted, the more oils migrate outwards, and the more the flavor is altered by these oils.
Professional roasters complete this same process, except they use barrels to soak the beans due to the much higher capacity of product they need to produce. This takes pounds of beans and liters of bourbon or whiskey.
The other difference is that some of these beans are left to soak for several days to several months, depending on the company and desired result, which shows true dedication and commitment to unique flavors and aromas.
Tray upon tray of these beans are roasted, then ground or packaged to sell.
Why Would You Want Alcohol-Infused Coffee Beans?
Coffee on its own comes in dozens of flavors, aromas, colors, and sizes. Some coffee beans are light and taste floral and refreshing; others are dark and unravel into flavors of cocoa and caramel in your mouth.
Additionally, coffee and certain spirits like whiskey have undeniable health benefits that make them an excellent duo.
Alcohol Enhances the Taste of Coffee
We often take the average coffee-drinking experience for granted because we do it so often. This is part of why we flavor coffee, the other part being that humans are pioneers and live for exploration.
Like hazelnut syrup and spiced oils, alcohol adds bursts of unique flavor to coffee beans that activate and enhances already-existing qualities of the coffee.
For example, bourbon and whiskey bring out the oaky, cocoa notes in some darker coffees and the naturally sweet caramel notes in lighter or medium roasts.
You Don’t Need To Use Sweeteners
Soaking coffee in bourbon or whiskey often removes the need for additional sweeteners like sugar or honey, as the naturally sweet tones in both the alcohol and coffee combine.
This is a sweet spot in an age where health and well-being are considered important. Finding a delicious beverage without needing to use any kind of sweeteners while also being genuinely enjoyable is an offer nobody can refuse.
Coffee and Whiskey Are Good for You
The sweetening qualities of whiskey are fascinating, considering whiskey is the healthiest alcohol, with a nearly zero percent sugar, carbohydrate, and fat content. It doesn’t increase your blood sugar levels, and it even kills off certain kinds of bacteria.
Paired with coffee (the largest dietary source of antioxidants), the health benefits make whiskey and coffee an ideal pairing.
Coffee and Alcohol Create a Bigger Buzz
Aside from the tantalizing taste and health benefits, the alcohol-caffeine combination is a match made in heaven for those who enjoy the rush of coffee. The alcohol content gives the coffee a little extra kick to keep you buzzing for longer.
This is also a fantastic choice because you can enjoy it hot or cold and at any time of day, so you never have to wait for that extra boost that doubles as a decadent treat.
Aside from whiskey-infused beans, Irish coffee is a tasty way to combine coffee and alcohol. Enjoy this simple yet stylish Irish Coffee recipe.
The History of Alcohol-Infused Coffee
Infusing whole coffee beans began in earnest in the 1970s, but the history of flavored coffee stretches back to the discovery of coffee itself.
It’s said that the first recorded use of coffee as a drink was in 850 AD, when monks in Ethiopia heard of a local man becoming energized by these beans and decided to crush them up and mix them with water.
By 1000 AD, people were making a hot mixture that more closely resembles modern coffee, and by this time, they were mixing this magic liquid with all sorts of aromatic herbs and spices that enhanced or altered its flavor.
The origin of coffee as a drink is highly contested, and nobody knows for sure where it began. All we know is that once we started, we couldn’t stop.
Take a peek into the past with this comprehensive YouTube video on coffee-making history, from the first harvest to the first trans-oceanic journey and beyond:
Man’s fascination with alcohol precedes that of coffee by centuries, so it’s only natural that they should intertwine at some point. The earliest known combination of the two is the fermented coffee-berry pulp concocted in roughly 800 AD in Africa – the first caffeinated wine.
Since then, we’ve used vanilla, hazelnut, whiskey, chocolate, and countless other spirits and syrups to spice up our coffee, even doing the reverse and using coffee to spice up our liquor.
We’ve been combining alcohol and coffee for centuries, and today we have countless flavors and methods of flavoring coffee. One popular way is soaking coffee beans in whiskey or bourbon.
Whiskey and bourbon enhance the flavors and natural sweetness of the coffee beans and make for a genuinely unique and delicious flavor experience.