Strong Brew: Parisi is conditioning coffee in bourbon barrels

Parisi's Pete Licata puts another batch of green coffee in whiskey barrels.

Parisi’s Pete Licata puts another batch of green coffee in whiskey barrels.

There’s nothing quite like a fine cup of barrel-aged coffee. Parisi is now serving iced and hot drinks with coffee that has been conditioned in bourbon barrels.

“I’ve heard of people doing it and I’ve had some, but it was just a subtle finish,” Parisi Quality Assurance Manager Pete Licata says. “This is much more prominent, but the coffee still keeps its integrity and character.”

Licata, the reigning World Barista Champion, is just back from the U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle (where The Roasterie’s Simeon Bricker won the U.S. Latte Art Championship). It’s been a busy year of appearances for Licata, who has spent the past few months finding the right green coffee for this project.

“African coffees worked really well because the stonefruit and floral nuances came through with the particular barrels we’re using. There’s this sweet, woody flavor from the Four Roses Bourbon barrel,” Licata says.

The green coffee is placed in burlap bags, so it can be suspended in the barrel without coming into direct contact with the wood. As Licata notes, “green coffee absorbs moisture and aromas. I wanted to put it in the environment of the bourbon barrel, but not have it touch the sides.” The coffee is conditioned for between four and seven days and then roasted.

“The roasting process seals [those flavors] in,” Licata says. “I’m really surprised by how much sweeter the coffee became. The body got more syrupy and picked up sweetness from the barrel.”

Right now, Licata is working on creating a series of classic style cocktails – they serve coffee-based cocktails with liquor in the Leawood café – utilizing the barrel-aged beans.  Hot and iced drinks are available in both cafes (30 W Pershing Road in Union Station and 5245 W 116th Place in Leawood’s Park Place). Parisi should have the beans in 12 oz. bags for sale by next week.

“The cold water dripper is really full-bodied. It’s absolutely fantastic, almost like drinking bourbon or liqueur,” Licata says. “The pour-over still has a lot of flavor, but it’s a bit more subdued.”

And while they’re still experimenting with the bourbon barrels, Licata could see this as the beginning of a conditioning program at Parisi.

“Other liquor barrels and wine barrels will lend a different flavor to coffee,” Licata says. “It’s got my imagination running about all the really cool and interesting thigns we could do.”

[Image via Parisi]

Jonathan Bender

Jonathan Bender is the founder of The Recommended Daily.

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