There were already plans to purchase the bourbon barrels when we received green coffee samples from Ally Coffee and we knew that choosing a coffee for this was going to have to be careful and well thought out. Along with our head roaster David, Brian settled on El Cieba: a lot from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala named after the National Tree of Guatemala. With a chosen coffee purchased and received, next was getting the beans from burlap to barrel.
Brian sourced two used bourbon barrels: the first from Jack Daniels Distillery out of Tennessee and the other from Buffalo Trace Distillery from bourbon’s home state of Kentucky. It was a fun little surprise to find the Jack Daniels barrel still had some whisky at the bottom so we had the feeling it was a rather fresh barrel they recently finished using. Not knowing just how popular this release was going to be, we started with just the one barrel; filling it with 80 pounds of the Ceiba and leaving it on it’s side to be turned and agitated every day.
After it’s sealed off and left to age for a week or so, what happens inside the barrel? Green coffee beans are very porous and are made of soft organic compounds. When the green coffee is left in any environment, the porousness of the bean allows it to “breath” and take on the characteristics of said environment. When left in the charred darkness of the barrel, the hope was that the coffee would “breath in” the sweet bourbon aroma from the barrel.
While roasting, David has been having a great time fine tuning this one. Distinct flavors are usually developed in the roaster as David determines how long a particular coffee should be roasted and what each phase of roasting does to it. This coffee, however, is already going into the roaster with a pronounced characteristic and, as David says, “adds a whole other variable.”
Now we won’t sit here and pretend that we are the first to try this. Modern Times was one of the first companies to condition their coffee in bourbon barrels and found that the process was a great way to upsell and communicate with customers about something original and different. What we can say is that it was new for us and definitely never something we tried before. Since we’ve released it, however, Harvest Moonshine has been praised as one of our best coffees from some of our regulars.
While it won’t be in the lineup for long, we are excited to continue offering this coffee as long as it lasts. We have reason to believe that this will be a new Borealis fall special that everyone can look forward to coming back again next year. In the meantime, curl up by the fire or sit outside and enjoy the foliage while you sip on surprisingly comforting Bourbon Barrel aged coffee from us to you. Happy Autumn everyone.
by Zack Carey
22 October 2020