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.

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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.

pure_vanilla_puree_grande
Red Stick Spice Pure Vanilla Puree

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.

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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.

mpq

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!

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21 thoughts on “Homebrew Recipe: Coffee Vanilla Porter

  1. Interesting to hear your evolution from brewing 1 gallon kits to progressing to all grain and kegging. It sounds pretty much the same route that I made when I first started brewing. Excited to try this recipe, I need a good dark beer now it’s getting colder here in the UK

  2. What a love affair we have with beer.

    I’m brewing this today, and wanted to know when to add the vanilla purée. I’m assuming at the time of kegging. How long do typically keep this in a secondary.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s what makes our community, and beer in general what it is. A drink for all of mankind.

    Todd

    1. Todd, yes the vanilla purée is added at kegging. It’s great because you can control how much vanilla flavor you want. If you find you need a bit more, just open up the keg and pour a little more in!

      1. This recipe was on the money. I nailed the 1.07OG, but did alter the hops to 1.5oz NB at boil, and .5oz Warrior for the last 15 minutes. Color is amazing. How long does this typically sit in the primary and secondary fermentation. Cheers

  3. Sounds like i have come to the riht person for advice. I brewed a 5.6% Honey Porter and to cut a long story short, i am a bit underwhelmed by it. It is drinkable but lacking the roasty, dark flavours i was expecting. It is quite dry and clean tasting, there is an aftertaste of coffee/roasty flavours but minimal. I don’t taste or feel any honey-i guess it has imparted the dryness. If it wasn’t for this then i could describe it as a dark lager, only a bit more bitter. It has been in the keg for 5-6 weeks now and i’m thinking of adding coffee and/or vanilla. I was thinking cold extract and a vanilla tincture (though i do have some dark rum i will never drink) steep the pod for few days and adding that. In this situation, what would you go for and what is achievable as it is already kegged and carbed? Any advice on quantities? Thanks.

    1. Tom,

      It’s perfectly fine to add some cold brewed coffee and vanilla to the keg now. I think you’re probably right that the honey just fermented out and dried the beer leaving little honey character. I would cold steep 8oz of ground coffee beans with a quart of water for 24 hours, then filter and add it straight to the keg. As far as the vanilla goes, my go to product is this pure vanilla puree from Red Stick Spice Co. It really works well, and you can control how much vanilla flavor you want. Start with an ounce added directly to the keg and add more if needed.

      https://www.redstickspice.com/products/pure-vanilla-paste-4-ounces

      Let me know how it turns out!

      1. Thanks for the tips. I’m in central Europe so i don’t know if we have a similar product. I do have a couple of Vanilla bean pods. For next Christmas i think i’ll have a go at your recipe and try to find the puree or get some shipped if possible. It sounds awesome in front of a fire. Not sure i can wait til Christmas though.

  4. If you have any local spice shops, they may have a similar product. You can also make your own vanilla extract by splitting and scraping the vanilla pods into some vodka and letting it sit for a few days. Then put all of it into the keg.

  5. Do you think this beer could be drinkable in 4 weeks? I’d like to brew it for an event, but I’m short on time.

    If not, how long do you find it takes to be ready?

    1. Absolutely. I’ve turned it around in as little as 2 weeks. 3 weeks is plenty of time to go from grain to glass, so 4 weeks won’t be a problem.

      I’m brewing today for an event in 4 weeks. Not this beer though.

  6. Results are in. This turned out amazing. One of the best beers I’ve made to date. As good, if not better than any local Seattle Porter I’ve tasted.

    Primary for 2 weeks, then scondary for three more with 12oz of Pete’s Espresso Forte. Racked directly to keg two weeks ago, adding 2oz of vanilla bean paste and let sit at 10psi without touching it until tonight. Head retention is thick and creamy. The mouthfeel is what really draws attention, as is evidence by how nicely it coats the glass. The coffee and vanilla are balanced perfectly, and linger through finish. You were right about the more coffee the better. The closer to room temp this gets the better it tastes. It’s like desert. Looking forward to pairing this with food.

    I brewed a Cherry Chocolate Porter along side this one, which I haven’t tapped yet. Already fearful that it’s not going to stand up to yours.

    Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.

    Cheers 🍺🍺

      1. I awoke at 6:30 this morning, and my first thoughts went to having a glass of Porter. It’s that good. There’s a lot of great beer among us, but this is exceptional. Your grain bill was spot on, with a nice balance of alcohol. My only alteration was using Imperial yeast – a local organic out of Portland. I believe it was Dark Side. They’re yeast has taken the PNW by storm, and if you get a chance definitely try it. It’s poured cold directly from the can. Double strength, no starter necessary.

        Last night friends all agreed this should be on tap locally. You’ve come up with the perfect porter.

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