August 03, 2022

Can you age coffee beans in bourbon barrels too long? Simply answering your question, yes you can. However, there is a little more that goes into it. I will be discussing things to consider when aging coffee beans in bourbon or whiskey barrels at home. 


How Fresh is Your Barrel?

The Most important influence on aging your coffee beans is how fresh is your barrel.

A fresh barrel will have liquid showing on the inside of the barrel. Even if you don't have liquid showing on the inside you can be sure you have a fresh barrel if the rings on the outside are tight, and the staves (wood) are swollen as if it could hold water without leaking.

bourbon barrel

A Dried-out barrel will be the opposite. The rings on the outside are sliding around and the staves (wood) have a gap between them.

old whiskey barrel


Advantages/Disadvantages: With a fresh barrel you will be able to age your coffee beans quicker than with a dried-out barrel. the fresh barrel will have more of a whiskey aroma and alcohol taste after the aging process.

With the fresh barrel you can age the beans to long. If you age your coffee beans to long in your bourbon barrel, they will be swollen, white, and brittle. You will be able to break the beans apart with your fingers. beans that look white and are soft can bring unwanted flavors to your coffee. The beans typically have a good flavor but will have an unpleasant spoiled aroma. 

5-gallon whiskey barrel

With a dried-out barrel you are less likely to spoil your coffee beans. The coffee will be absorbing less liquid than a fresh barrel, so you have less to worry about with beans spoiling. The dried-out whiskey or bourbon barrel will take longer to age your coffee beans and will have more of the oak wood flavor.


Where to Store Coffee While Aging 

If you are aging in a fresh barrel, store coffee beans in a temperature-controlled room. Having consistent temperatures will allow less liquid to come from the wood to the surface. We believe this is the best method for a wet barrel to protect your coffee beans from spoil.

Bourbon Barrel Storage Rack

If you are aging in a dried-out barrel, store outside, in garage, or barn. When using a dry whiskey or bourbon barrel you want those big temperature swings. When the barrel experiences temperature changes the wood swells and contracts. When the wood swells and contracts the liquid from the wood will come towards the inside of the barrel and help the coffee aging process.

outside bourbon storage rack

Turning Barrels

So now you understand what barrel you have and the temperatures it will be aging in. The next step is to turn your barrel. Here at Whiskey Morning Coffee, we like to rotate out barrel daily. Not everyone has the time for that, so with a wet barrel we recommend at least turning your barrels 1/4 turn every 2-3 days. If you are using a dried-out barrel you can get away turning it every two weeks. Either way, you can't turn them too much. By turning your barrels periodically you're ensuring that the beans get an even distribution of liquid and wood contact in the bourbon barrel. 


How to Know When Coffee is Done Aging

For a wet barrel age the coffee beans 4-6 weeks.

For a dried-out barrel age 4-5 months.

When checking on your coffee while its aging, check to see if the green coffee beans have grown at all, and if they have become any softer. The moment we see a color change when the green coffee turns lighter is when we pull it and roast it. After pulling the coffee you want to roast immediately. 


You can always order a bag of our coffee to get an idea of the flavor we aim for: 

Shop: Shop Barrel Aged Coffee


Note: We didn't put any pictures of what the beans look like when we pull them because it is a trade secret. The flavor will change based off when it gets pulled. this article will get you started though and learning where your ideal pull point is for your coffee profile. Cheers

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