Toilet Brews: Let’s Make a Coffee Stout

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A step-by-step guide to making a blackened brew.

I should preface this instructional guide by stating that I am by no means an expert on beer making, but I have made five beers at varying levels above “drinkable”, so I have that going for me. If you follow these steps, you will make a beer. The process can always be changed, improved, or done differently. It’s a hobby, have some fun with it! 

  1. This is the most important step. Put on a shirt that matches the spirit of the beer you want to make. For this brew, I went with Dischordia since I want it dark but with a little progressive bump from the caffeine and maybe a little surprise (flute). 
  2. Get your equipment: 
    • 3 to 5 gal pot with lid (sorry for the freedom units)
    • 1 gal fermenter with airlock and a bottling spigot
    • Brew cleaner and sanitizer 
    • Grain bag
    • Thermometer 
    • Big Spoon
    • Colander that fits over the pot
    • A bunch of ice (a small 7 lb. bag usually works, might need more)
    • Bottling sugar (I use dextrose tablets, but I hear maple syrup works nice)
    • Bottle capper and caps
    • Bottles (Ten 12 oz, or equivalent. Take the labels off beers you drink and use those, no need to buy new!)
    • (Optional) Hydrometer to measure ABV.
  3. Get your ingredients:
    • Build a grain bill! This is the most fun part for me. A little art, a little science. Without getting too much into the methodology, here’s what I picked:
      • 2.7 lb Maris Otter Pale (a standard stout base malt that brings little a flavor but most of the sugar and therefore booze)
      • 0.4 lb Flaked Oats (thick creamy body)
      • 0.3 lb Caramel / Crystal 60 (complexity/flavor)
      • 0.1 lb Chocolate Malt (complexity/flavor/color)
      • 0.2 lb Black Malt (complexity/flavor/color)
      • 0.1 lb Roasted Barly (complexity/flavor/color)
    • Hops! In a stout, the choice here matters less. I have Willamette, but have used Fuggle, and have seen Challenger and Magnum used in stouts. 
    • Yeast! I love liquid yeasts since I don’t have to make a starter. Most English Ale yeasts will be fine. 
    • Good Water! Tap is fine unless your water sucks. My tap water is pretty good so I just run it through a normal charcoal filter to get some of the chlorine out. 
    • (Optional) Lactose if you wanna milk it up, coffee, other spices. 
  4. Use the brew cleaner on everything that might touch the liquid at some point. Cleaning sucks. 
  5. Get 7 quarts of water up to 160 °F and cut the heat. 
  6. Dump all your milled grains in the grain bag and lower it into the hot water. The water should drop to near 155 °F, an optimal sugar extracting temperature. 

Steps 1, 2, and 6

  1. Put your Big Spoon in the grain bag and stir it up (gently) and cover the pot with the lid. Set a timer for an hour and stir (gently) every 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature and turn the heat back on for a minute if it drops below 150 °F. 
  2. Eat some leftover pizza and force yourself to drink the last mediocre beer you made. Taste the mistakes and fix them next time. 
  3. After an hour, raise the temp to 170 °F, pull the grains out, and set them on the colander over the pot. 
  4. There’s still a lot of sugary goodness in there, so let it drip for a bit and help it out with a sparge, which means taking another quart or two of water, heating it to 170 °F, and pouring it over the grains. 

Steps 7, 8, and 10

  1. You have wort! Get it up to a (gentle) rolling boil. 
  2. Add your first addition of hops. The quantity depends on the bitterness of the hop. 0.3 oz works for Willamette. 
  3. Let that boil for 30 minutes then add some more hops. 0.3 oz again. 
  4. Let that boil for 15 minutes, then optionally add lactose and/or other spices. I remembered the person I am brewing this for is lactose intolerant, so I instead went with a 3 tbsp of some weird thing I found at a spice shop that is a chocolate sugar infused with cinnamon and vanilla. 
  5. Let that boil for 15 more (so an hour total) and cut the heat. During this step, do the next two steps.
  6. Sanitize everything that will touch the liquid after it is boiled. Most importantly, sanitize the fermenter and all of its parts. After running some diluted sanitizer solution through the whole fermenter, I double down and have a spray bottle with the solution that I hit all the walls with. Dump, but don’t rinse. 
  7. Right before the end of the boil, prepare an ice bath in your sink. 
  8. Drop (gently) the pot of wort into the water. 
  9. This part sucks. You need to get that 212 °F down to 72 °F. It helps to circulate the wort with a sanitized Big Spoon, and circulate the ice water too. If the ice bath warms and stops doing work, you’ll need to take out the pot and make a new bath. 
  10. Pour most of the yeast into the fermenter. Since the pack is probably for a 5 gal batch, you don’t need to add all of it, but it’s hard to add too much yeast, so don’t worry about measuring. 
  11. Seal it all up and put it in a place where it can stay at constant room temperature and can safely explode without causing too much damage. A few of my higher ABV beers have shot the airlock off and made a yeasty mess. 

Steps 12, 19, and 21

  1. (Optional) With some leftover wort, measure the gravity with your hydrometer. This will give you the density (aka, how much sugar is in there for the yeast to eat) and give you the potential ABV. You’ll need to use a calculator that subtracts the leftover sugar (the measurement you get after fermentation) to get the actual ABV. At 1.060, and expecting a little leftover sweetness, I’d guess this will be a sessionable 5.5% beer when done. 

  1. Usually, within the first 24 hours, you’ll see the airlock going crazy. What tempo is this, nerds? The fermentation will usually stop after 2 to 4 days. 

via GIPHY

  1. After 10 days total in the fermenter, add some adjuncts. I’m adding a 1/2 cup of cold-brewed coffee from Chicago-staple Dark Matter, as well as some crushed beans in a mesh bag for some extra coffee complexity. 
  2. After 14 days total, it’s time to bottle. For stouts, I drop 6 tablets in each SANITIZED 500ml bottle. Get your second hydrometer reading now, if you care. Also, taste it! It’ll be flat and warm, but it’ll give you a good idea of how it will end up.  
  3. Use the spigot to fill the bottles to a normal level then cap those suckers. 
  4. Wait for another brutal 14 days before chilling and consuming. 

It’s a lot of steps, but a shockingly simple process. After just 2 brews, I could basically recite these steps from memory, which opens you up to try new and fun things almost immediately. There are plenty of resources out there for learning how to craft just about any style, and tons of different methods for getting different things out of your brew. Brewers Friend is a great recipe calculator that helps you figure out how much of each grain will give you your desired ABV and color, and how many hops at what point in the boil will give you the desired IBU. 

I’ll post an addendum in three weeks to let you know how it turns out. You may want to wait until then to give this exact recipe a shot since I have a hunch it’ll be a little over-roasted. 

ADDENDUM!

It’s good! Give it a shot and let me know if you have any questions. Tag me or reply to something else I said so I remember to come back and respond.

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