A few other coffee purveyors have been selling beans aged in barrels that previously held whiskey, bourbon or other alcohols in order to absorb their flavor. Now Starbucks is hopping on board.
There’s barrel-aged whiskey, beer, vinegar and syrup.
Is barrel-aged coffee the next big thing?
Barrel-aged coffee, in which green, unroasted coffee beans are placed in barrels that previously held whiskey, bourbon or other alcohols in order to absorb their flavor, has been catching on. Coffee purveyors including Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee, Portland’s Water Avenue Coffee Company, and Whiskey Barrel Coffee in Colorado have been selling such barrel-aged beans.
Now Starbucks is hopping on board, serving a couple of barrel-aged coffee drinks at its Roastery on Capitol Hill.
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For a limited time, and only at its Seattle Roastery, Starbucks is serving Whiskey Barrel Aged Sulawesi in drinks including the Barrel Aged Cold Brew and the hot Barrel Aged Con Crema. Both are served with vanilla syrup.
Duane Thompson, a member of Starbucks beverage research and development team, had started barrel aging coffee beans as a hobby in his garage four years ago, according to the company. More recently, Starbucks offered the use its small-lot Reserve Sulawesi beans for barrel aging.
The barrel-aged coffee is made by putting green Reserve Sulawesi beans into freshly emptied oak whiskey barrels from Woodinville Whiskey, Co., and letting them absorb the whiskey flavor for a few weeks. During that time, they’re hand-rotated frequently so all the coffee comes into contact with the oak barrel, the company said. The beans are then roasted, which burns off the alcohol although the aroma and flavor of whiskey still come through.
Prices for the Barrel-Aged Cold Brew and Con Crema are $10 each for an 8-ounce serving. The whole bean coffee is also available for purchase at $3.70 per ounce.
Introducing and experimenting with such higher-end coffee drinks at its Seattle Roastery is a path Starbucks is taking as it seeks to expand its business beyond its traditional core coffeeshops.