"The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it." ~ Winston Churchill
One of the hottest trends in coffee is the infusion of liquor aromas and flavors into the cup. Local roasters to Starbucks now offer variations on barrel-aged coffee to curious customers. The most common liquor used is whiskey (if you're Scottish or American) or whisky (if you're Irish) but can also be made from rum, tequila or other fine liquors. But you may be curious how it's made.
Barrel-aged coffee is simply green (unroasted) coffee that sits in DRY, used barrels for a period of time. It isn't soaking in the liquor - this is a dry process - and there is no alcohol present in the final roasted coffee bean. But the aroma and flavors impart those from both the coffee and the liquor for which the barrel was used. In our case, we use recently emptied Dad's Hat (Bristol, PA) barrels.
After the bourbon sits in the barrel for about a month, it's removed and left uncorked to dry. Once dry, we place the green coffee in the barrel for about 4 weeks. Some people leave the green coffee in barrels for up to a year, but we're not that patient. But I have found that only after a couple of weeks, the outcome is a nice balanced coffee that clearly shares the characteristics of the bourbon on the nose and in the flavor on the tongue.