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Handcrafted Coffee With A Whiskey Spirit

Cooper’s Cask Coffee out of Rhode Island combines single-origin beans with the unbeatable aromas of whiskey. Credit: Cooper’s Cask Coffee

Cooper’s Cask Coffee out of Rhode Island combines single-origin beans with the unbeatable aromas of whiskey. Credit: Cooper’s Cask Coffee

When Trish Rothgeb of the Coffee Quality Institute christened artisanal brews “third wave” coffee in 2002, quality, expertise, sustainability, individuality and a complex, even quirky taste experience began to define the coffeehouse cup of morning joe.

Handcrafted coffee achieved the status of fine wine, craft beer and artisanal bread.

Now, imagine something more.

Cooper’s Cask Coffee out of Rhode Island gives artisanal coffee a whiskey twist. The small new company is named for coopers, the craftsmen who for centuries have built wooden, barrel-shaped casks. Rooted in New England history, casks are also the key to Cooper’s special brew. Master roasters combine the carefully selected, single-origin coffee beans that typify third wave coffee with the unbeatable aromas of award-winning whiskeys.

Making and tasting whiskey-aged coffee beans

Cooper’s Cask Coffee beans are aged in Sons of Liberty whiskey barrels. Credit: Courtesy of Sons of Liberty

Cooper’s Cask Coffee beans are aged in Sons of Liberty whiskey barrels. Credit: Courtesy of Sons of Liberty

At Cooper’s Cask Coffee, unroasted beans are aged in barrels previously used for producing Sons of Liberty whiskey, which has won dozens of accolades including gold at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards. Beans are then roasted in batches so small that they are marked on each package by hand, noting the roast date and the signature of the master roaster. Those signatures belong to Jason Maranhao and John Speights, who also serve as master matchmakers. They skillfully pair the tasting notes of the beans with those of the whiskey. The barrels impart their aroma, producing a boon for the senses with coffees that are vibrant, intricate and thought provoking.

For example, the tasting notes of the Sumatra beans are described as woody and earthy, with a touch of sweet tobacco and a hint of ripe tropical fruits. The sweet vanilla and caramel notes of Sons of Liberty’s stout style American whiskey further enhance the bean’s flavor, creating a memorable cup of joe.

Cooper’s Ethiopian beans boast their own sought-after accents of peaches, strawberries, honey and chocolate. Once aged in the charred barrels from Sons of Liberty’s Battle Cry rye based whiskey, an intense and layered sensory experience emerges. Snappy spice intermingles with sweetness as a touch of floral brightness shines through. In a third offering, Rwanda beans find their soul mate in Thomas Tew Rum, yielding rich molasses, caramelized sugar and toasted notes.

Finding a passion for coffee

Engineers John Speights, left, and Jason Maranhao turned their passion for coffee into Cooper’s Cask Coffee. Credit: Courtesy of Cooper’s Cask Coffee

Engineers John Speights, left, and Jason Maranhao turned their passion for coffee into Cooper’s Cask Coffee. Credit: Courtesy of Cooper’s Cask Coffee

Launched in 2015, Cooper’s Cask Coffee began years earlier as a personal passion for Jason and John when they met while working as engineers in the computer technology industry. They weren’t always coffee aficionados. “In the beginning, I would drink the office ‘stink’ pot of coffee,” Maranhao says. “I’d throw in the cream and sugar to make it palatable.”

But then, he found his coffee passion with a strong DIY streak. “I first started roasting beans on a frying pan on the stove, sending the house smoke detectors into a frenzy,” he recalls. “Then I modified a hot air popcorn popper, and now a commercial roaster. As an engineer, I always enjoy creating new things and crafting coffee is just an extension of that creativity.”

While Maranhao and Speights still work their day jobs, they have high hopes for the future of Cooper’s Cask Coffee. “We want to bring to the world a revolution of craft coffee like how craft beer has turned big breweries on their head,” Maranhao says. They also encourage coffee drinkers, “Give yourself a small escape into happiness,” a mantra printed on each package. Coffee might be mindless morning fuel for some, but the idea behind Cooper’s Cask is to start the day, or reboot the afternoon, with an indulgent coffee experience that is daring, sensual and truly awakening.

Main photo: Cooper’s Cask Coffee out of Rhode Island combines single-origin beans with the unbeatable aromas of whiskey. Credit: Courtesy of Cooper’s Cask Coffee



Zester Daily contributor Emily Contois, born in Australia and raised in the Big Sky Country of Montana, spent a bit over a decade training in classical ballet before turning her attention to the study of food, health and culture. A doctoral student in American Studies at Brown University, Contois has an MLA in gastronomy from Boston University, where she was a three-time recipient of the Julia Child Award. Her work has been published in CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures, Fat Studies, the Graduate Journal of Food Studies, Inside Higher Ed and The Inquisitive Eater.

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