Dark Matter's Barrel-Aged Coffee

Dark Matter's new barrel-aged coffee

"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.

Find Dark Matter's barrel-aged coffee at its roasting works (738 N. Chicago Ave.; 773-697-8472 or darkmattercoffee.com) or Star Lounge (2521 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-384-7827 or starloungecoffee.com), and occasionally online–sign up for Dark Matter's newsletter for first dibs, or follow Facebook and Twitter for availability.