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.
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
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.
More from Zester Daily:
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
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