Homebrew Recipe: Coffee Vanilla Porter

Alright, I’ve been meaning to get around to this for some time, and well, I just never got around to it. I’d love to share some of my homebrew recipes with readers here, and there’s no time like the present to start.

First, let’s jump back to when I started homebrewing. In the summer of 2012, I bought a one gallon homebrew kit for something like $40, just to see how I would like it. It included most of what was needed, including the ingredients. It was an extract kit designed to brew on the stovetop in kitchen pots already on hand. It was an IPA, and of course I ended up adding more hops than the recipe was designed for, because, well, you can’t have too many hops. The beer turned out pretty nice for a first effort. From there, I did about 4 more of those one gallon recipe kits, tweaking each recipe with something different, like adding pumpkin spices to an amber ale and basil to a wheat ale.

That fall, I decided I liked brewing enough to go ahead and start doing 5 gallon batches. I was still doing extract recipes in the kitchen, just on a larger scale. I did a peanut butter chocolate stout first, which turned out to be pretty damn good. The second one was a double IPA that was basically a Pliny the Elder clone, which is the beer that got me kicked out of the house. Well, my kitchen brewing days were over after I made the house smell like glorious hops for an evening (I still don’t see what the problem is with that).

After those two batches, and the associated total pain in the ass of bottling them, I jumped into kegging after being gifted a spare refrigerator from a neighbor who was moving out of town. I turned that fridge into a two tap kegerator, and got all the equipment needed to keg and serve my homebrews. The first beer I kegged was a pecan strong ale that was perfect for the holiday season, and a beer I hope to revisit soon. I continued with the extract brews for another year before finally making the leap to all grain brewing on January 1st, 2014. I brewed my first all grain beer on that New Years Day, right after LSU defeated Iowa in the Outback Bowl. That first all grain beer really opened my eyes to how much better homebrew can be, and despite the trepidation of jumping into all grain brain brewing from extract, it really wasn’t that much more difficult than extract brewing. That beer, a coffee vanilla porter that I dubbed The Mighty Quinn, is still probably the best beer I make, and its iterations have won numerous homebrew awards. So, without further ado, I present to you the recipe for The Mighty Quinn coffee vanilla porter:

Everyone’s homebrew system is different. I brew batches to end up with 5 gallons of beer in the keg. I batch sparge rather than fly sparge, because frankly, that’s just easier and less time consuming. I’ve brewed this recipe enough times now that I know what I’m going to end up with, and the only differences between batches are due to what kind of coffee I use. Here are the ingredients for the base beer, and I always purchase them from my local homebrew shop, LA Homebrew:
  • 11 pounds Maris Otter malt
  • 1 pound brown malt
  • 1 pound chocolate malt
  • 1 pound flaked oats
  • 12 ounces Crystal 60 malt
  • 8 ounces black patent malt
  • 2 ounces Northern Brewer hops added for 60 minutes
  • London ESB ale yeast (Wyeast 1968)

This beer is designed to be a 1.072 OG and should finish somewhere around 1.020 FG, making the ABV somewhere around 6.9-7.0%. IBUs are calculated to be 47, but it is definitely not a bitter beer. It’s a very dark beer, actually darker than the style guidelines indicate at almost 41 SRM.

Our Baton Rouge water is actually pretty perfect for dark beers, so I use it without any adjustments. I mash at 156° for 60 minutes, which allows for a fuller mouthfeel, as this is a beer that you don’t want to be too dry. After sparging with 168° water and collecting about 7 gallons of wort, I boil for 60 minutes adding the Northern Brewer hops as it comes to a boil. I then chill, transfer to my fermentor, and pitch the yeast starter that I made previously.

The real star of this beer is the coffee and the vanilla. The first couple times I made this beer, I made a batch of cold brewed coffee with 5 ounces of coarsely ground beans to go with nearly a quart of water. After sitting in the fridge for a day, I filtered it and added the cold brew directly to the keg before racking the beer on top of it. These days, I simply add 12 to 16 ounces of whole beans (just depends on what size bag I use) directly to the fermentor for 24 hours before I keg the beer. That method is simple, it allows for really easy cleanup, and the coffee flavor and aroma imparted on the beer is fantastic.

For the vanilla, instead of splitting and scraping whole Madagascar vanilla beans, I use a product called vanilla puree from Red Stick Spice Company (see image below). It’s sold in 4 ounce bottles, and I find that 2 ounces is perfect for a 5 gallon batch. It adds a rich and creamy flavor that softens the coffee flavors and rounds the whole beer into shape. The end product is basically adult coffee. It’s smooth and rich, never bitter.

This is the beer that advanced to the finals of the National Homebrew Competition in 2015, won the Specialty Beer category at the 2015 Dixie Cup, and I’ve picked up several other homebrew awards in various other local homebrew competitions.

I’ve also done some spinoffs of this recipe, such as upping the Maris Otter malt by 6 pounds and aging the base beer in a whiskey barrel to create an imperial barrel aged version. Also, a few weeks ago I brewed it with Jay D’s single origin coffee roasted by Cafeciteaux and put in a pumpkin spice blend from Red Stick Spice to make a virtual pumpkin spice latte beer for our annual Halloween party.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions about this recipe, or homebrewing in general. I’ll certainly do my best to answer them. Cheers!