What Is Barrel Aged Coffee?

Boozy coffee is nothing new. Ireland has been putting whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream in coffee since the 1940s, many Mexicans drink Licor 43 with espresso in a Carajillo, Guinness sells a Nitro Cold Brew Stout, and espresso martinis seem to be everywhere. For ages, it seems, people have hunted for the ideal balance between waking up and chilling out.

But sometimes, you want a little boozy flavor in your coffee without actually enjoying a pre-lunch tipple. May we present: barrel aged coffee.

Traditionally, barrel aging is a process reserved for liquor. Bourbon and whiskey are aged in wood casks after being distilled, and the wood lends an extra layer of flavor to the end product. Bourbon, specifically, is aged in new oak barrels that have been charred before use and must be discarded once a batch of bourbon is finished. But just because they can't be used to make more bourbon again doesn't mean these barrels need to be thrown away. In fact, it's common for distillers to age other products like wine, Scotch, rum, or tequila in old bourbon casks.

But where, you may be wondering, does coffee factor into this whole equation?

How is barrel aged coffee made?

According to Your Dream Coffee, barrel aged coffee is made by aging coffee beans in barrels that once contained liquor. The beans are stored while still fresh and green, only to be roasted later on, and they take on some of the flavors of the booze while aging. Typically, beans are stored for a few weeks. Though the beans may absorb small levels of alcohol, it is burned off once the beans are roasted, so you won't catch that kind of buzz from your morning cup of joe.

Barrel aged coffee differs from other flavored coffees in that the beans are infused prior to roasting, while common flavors of coffee like hazelnut or vanilla are added in the form of a syrup or chemical infusion after the beans are roasted. This results in a flavor that's purer and unadulterated by chemicals or artificial sweeteners.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that bourbon barrels are a popular choice for coffee infusion enthusiasts. The common bourbon tasting notes of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, and other spices pair well with coffee's bitter and acidic flavor. Other popular liquor choices for barrel aging coffee are rye whiskey and rum.

There are currently a few companies on the market that sell barrel aged coffee beans, such as Cooper's Cask Coffee, Oak & Bond, and Whiskey Barrel Coffee. But who knows? A few years from now, it could be the next big Starbucks flavor.