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Behind Barrel-Conditioning Coffee

Since 2013, Parisi Coffee has been exploring the wild west that is barrel-aged coffee. And it’s been a delicious hit since launching the whiskey barrel-conditioned coffee series. The idea of barrel-aging has been around for a long time in the beverage industry. The earliest known reference of “casks of palm-wood filled with wine” dates back to 424 B.C.E. While barrels originally were a practical solution for food and beverage storage, aging whiskey for flavor most likely began around the 1800s.

Coffee conditioning has been in the spotlight for a shorter amount of time. Roasters began selling barrel-aged coffee in notable quantities around 2010 and earlier. Green coffee beans tend to absorb aromas from its environment. This makes them an ideal candidate to experiment with the strong aromatics from spirits. Green beans also lose moisture during transport and storage. Conditioning in a barrel helps the moisture levels to return to what they were before export.

The first part in barrel-aging is finding the barrel! We have featured several different bourbon-type whiskey barrels throughout the course of our program. Currently, we are using a 2004 Evan Williams Single Barrel. The barrel aroma is a heavy caramel with lingering sweetly spiced notes.

The second part is selecting the best micro-lot to pair with the bourbon flavors. African coffees tend to be a popular choice due to their reliable fruit notes, sweet acidity and clean tasting qualities. For the latest round, we selected the Rwanda Kabirizi. On its own the cup provides a brisk mouthfeel with sweet citrus acidity. By pairing the Rwanda with the bourbon, we are able to provide a smooth cup with complex aromatics and strong notes of caramel and butterscotch. In short, it’s quite delicious.

The last part is conditioning the coffee in the barrel itself. Each green coffee requires a different amount of time in the barrel. Some take a week while others could take two weeks or longer to fully develop. However, it is a delicate process that can go sour—literally. We ensure it stays delicious by monitoring the moisture level. Once it’s ready, it’s straight to roasting and sending to you!