Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and electronics tinkerer

Freshly-roasted, bourbon-infused coffee on a cooling tray in front of a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon

Adventures in Home Roasting: Bourbon-infused Coffee

As you may recall, I recently started roasting my own coffee at home. I decided to use my lunch break yesterday to roast up a fresh batch for the weekend, but as soon as I was done cleaning up the wheels in my head started turning. “I wonder what it would take to do a whisky-infused coffee?”, I thought to myself as I sat down for the second-half of my day.

After a conversation with Michael Phillips, another engineer at 10up, we came to the conclusion that soaking and drying the green, un-roasted coffee in bourbon before roasting may cause the absorbed bourbon to turn bitter (which isn’t exactly the flavor you’d expect when drinking “Bourbon-infused” coffee), so I settled on stirring the freshly-roasted beans (right out of the roaster) with bourbon.

Home coffee roasting setup for making bourbon-infused coffee

I chose Brazil Dry-Process Carmo de Minas as the green coffee (it’s the one I’ve roasted the most and thus am most familiar with), and Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2004 as the bourbon.

I did a half-cup batch of coffee (about as much as my popcorn-maker/roaster can handle), targeting a City+ to Full-City roast (I’m not great at measuring this yet, to be honest). As soon as I turned off the roaster (right at the 5min mark for this particular roast), I poured the hot coffee beans into a metal mixing bowl and added 1Tbs of the bourbon (which sizzled nicely and smelled amazing). Stir for three minutes, then spread out on a cookie sheet to cool.

Since publishing this post, I’ve upped the recipe to 2 tablespoons (30mL) of Bourbon for a 1/2 cup batch. I’ve also reduced stirring time from three to two minutes, though more stirring wouldn’t hurt.

Freshly-roasted, bourbon-infused coffee on a cooling tray in front of a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon

Like with most coffees, it didn’t smell as amazing as I had hoped straight out of the roaster—heavy on the bourbon with a bit of a burnt aroma. After 15 minutes or so, I moved the beans (which were cool to the touch) into my coffee tin with a de-gas valve (where I’ve been storing the freshest-roasted coffee before moving it into mason jars) and left the lid off. Throughout the rest of the evening, the beans in the tin started smelling more and more like the delicious roast I had planned.

This morning, I prepared a pour-over with my bourbon-infused coffee, and it turned out quite nicely. It has an earthier flavor than the other Brazilian beans I’ve roasted and is a bit bitter on the tongue, but finishes smooth and smells great. I might even bump up the bourbon content next time, as the whisky flavoring is very subtle. I can’t wait to see how the flavor evolves over the next few days!


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…and then there were four


  1. Andrew Welsh

    Hi Steve,

    Before reading your thread here I’ve tried a roasted Lavazza coffee bean with American Honey. The American Honey tasted bloody awesome & so did the coffee.

    Food for thought.

    Cheers, Andrew

  2. Seán Ó Broin

    Hey Steve! New to the blog, but I love the idea of whiskey-infused coffee. I’m curious: would the infused coffee have ANY alcohol content? Or rather, would it have a slight (but negligible) alcohol content? I wonder if one could get done for drink-driving on their way to work after their morning coffee.

    • Hey Seán, thanks for reading!

      I’m not a lawyer (nor a food scientist), but the (updated) recipe calls for 30mL of Bourbon for the entire batch, or roughly one fluid ounce of alcohol (for reference, a standard “shot” in a bar would be 1.5 fluid ounces). Considering not all of the alcohol would be absorbed into the beans and the amount of dilution that would occur from brewing the coffee with water, I’d lean strongly on the “little-to-no alcohol” case.

      Great question!

  3. Isabel

    What a delicious idea!! Am going to try this out,, but can can I adapt this to store bought pre-roasted coffee beans?

    • You could try, but I think it’s really a matter of getting the bourbon onto the beans immediately after roasting (while they’re still hot). Adding it after the beans have cooled would be more akin to just pouring some bourbon in your coffee, but you do you 😉

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