Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and coffee snob

Two coffees from Fire Department Coffee surrounding a coffee mug with a dripper

Reviewed: Spirit-Infused Coffees from Fire Department Coffee

A couple weeks ago, Madeline Hayes, the Community Manager for Rockford, IL-based Fire Department Coffee, reached out after stumbling upon my post on roasting bourbon-infused coffee.

As it turns out, Fire Department Coffee has a whole line of spirit-infused coffees, and she was gracious enough to send me a sample. Never one to say no to free coffee, I quickly replied and mere days later a package was on my doorstep containing two bags of Fire Department Coffee’s spirit-infused roasts.

More on those in a second, but first:

About Fire Department Coffee

Fire Department Coffee: Run by Firefighters Any time someone is gracious enough to reach out and offer me a sample of their product, I want to make sure I get a good understanding of their company and what it stands for before accepting anything. Madeline told me that Fire Department Coffee is a firefighter-run roaster (I hadn’t considered it before, but who knows more about how heat can affect chemical compounds than firefighters?), but also that FDC donates 10% of their net proceeds to help ill and injured firefighters.

That last bit really piqued my interest, and as it turns out the roaster also runs the Fire Dept. Coffee Foundation (a.k.a. “Coffee with a Cause”), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that aims to help firefighters and other first responders in-need all over the country. The website enables visitors to nominate individuals and organizations to receive financial assistance from the foundation; in 2020 alone, The Fire Dept. Coffee Foundation gave over $26,000 to more than 180 individuals, families, and special events.

Brewing the coffee

When the coffee arrived at my house, I had no idea what to expect. A single bag? Smaller 2oz samples? I was thrilled to find two bags of freshly-roasted, whole-bean coffee!

Canadian Maple Whisky infused coffee

When it came time to brew, I decided to start with the Canadian Maple Whisky infused coffee, as I assumed it would be the closest to my take on whisky-infused coffee, but what I found was a whole different beast.

A bag of Fire Department Coffee's Maple Whiskey infused coffee next to a pour-over being made

If you’ve read my earlier posts on spirit-infused coffees, you may recall that I chose to add the alcohol right at the end of the roast, while the beans were still hot and yet to settle down. This was partly to avoid contaminating my roaster, but mostly just an experiment in “hey, I wonder how this will taste?”

Fire Department Coffee infuses the green (e.g. unroasted) coffee with the spirits and then roasts.

Our Spirit-Infused Coffee goes through a process in which the green unroasted coffee is infused with the spirit. After the coffee is infused, we then roast the coffee. During this time, the alcohol roasts off (similar to cooking with alcohol), leaving a distinct aroma and flavor.

Fire Department Coffee FAQ

The result is an entirely different effect, with a much more prominent whisky flavor. It’s worth noting, however, that these coffees have the tastes of whisky but, like cooking with a wine or sherry, the alcohol itself is cooked off in the roasting process.

The coffee itself smells syrupy (in a good, maple-y way), with that unmistakable twinge of whisky. It was enough that I chose to keep my daughter (who normally loves to smell my coffee) away, lest she ask to smell our cocktails next.

The taste is smooth and sweet as the maple syrup comes through along with some subtle chocolatey notes, and a bit of hazelnut. I hate the word “mouthfeel”, but it’s worth noting that this coffee has a velvety feel in…err, the mouth.

As the coffee cools, the liquor flavors come out stronger, making you wonder if you might have snuck a flask into the office in anticipation of one hell of a Monday.

Overall, the coffee has a really nice flavor but you’re constantly reminded “hey, there’s some whiskey in here” which could be good or bad. When I was roasting more, I preferred a more subtle spirit flavor, but for a weekend brew — especially on vacation and/or a cold winter morning — this would be an excellent choice.

Coconut Rum infused coffee

When I first started browsing Fire Department Coffee’s website, the homepage featured a Coconut Rum-infused coffee, which I was secretly hoping (but not holding my breath) would be included among the samples. You can imagine my joy, then when the second bag in my delivery was that tropical concoction!

Two bags of coffee from Fire Department Coffee: Coconut Rum and Maple Whisky infused coffees

As it turns out, the Coconut Rum infused coffee was the July 2021 entry in the “Spirit Infused Coffee Club”, the roaster’s monthly, rotating offerings. At the time of this writing, the current monthly feature is a “Blueberry Bourbon” infused coffee which sounds absolutely incredible. Meanwhile, past entries include “Blood Orange Bourbon” and “Chocolate Cherry Bourbon” #ShutUpAndTakeMyMoney.

I could smell the coconut in this before I even opened the bag which, as someone who enjoys a good coconut treat, was exciting. Due to the coconut, I could think of nothing but the Girl Scouts’ Samoa cookies while waiting for my kettle to heat up.

After brewing the coffee, I took my first sip and was pleasantly surprised at how balanced the coconut flavor was: it’s definitely present, but far from overpowering. The tropical flavors meanwhile transported me back to my honeymoon, where our mornings were spent enjoying coffee and looking out upon the Caribbean.

Along with the coconut flavoring, this coffee has notes of cacao and just a touch of creamy sweetness.

Between the two, the Coconut Rum infused coffee would be my favorite, though it’s the kind of coffee that’s best reserved for bright and sunny, weekend mornings, not necessarily a daily-drinker. I imagine it would also pair really nicely with something sweet like a chocolate cake muffin or brewed as more of a “dessert” coffee (if you can pull that off without being up all night, that is).

I want to thank Madeline and all of the folks over at Fire Department Coffee for inviting me to try their coffee, and for all the work they do to support firefighters and other first responders.

If you’d like to try any of FDC’s roasts — spirit-infused or otherwise — you can find them all on firedeptcoffee.com. If you have any favorites, please feel free to share them in the comments!

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