Chocolate Coconut Porter

Coconut and dark beers (porters and stouts) can interact in a harmonious marriage. My favorite coconut porter is Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery’s Three Hour Tour. I was lucky enough to try this beer years ago by a friend who smuggled a growler on a flight from Minnesota. I had a few homebrew versions with a nice interplay between the roasted malts and sweetness from coconut – this has been on my list of “must try” brews for a long time.

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A successful off-scale beer with weird ingredients should have a solid base beer and balance. For the base beer I decided to use my standard porter recipe which utilizes de-bittered carafa malt to keep the roast in check and a healthy dose of rye and oat malt to provide a full palate but dry finish. I increased the chocolate malt to get a heightened chocolate character and had a successful showing at a homebrew competition with my Chocolate Orange Cardamon Porter. For balance, I decided to take a wait and see approach – adding toasted coconut first to the hot wort as it cooled then adding more if needed. It turns out that while one pound of shredded coconut gave plenty of favor before pitching they yeast, fermentation completely scrubbed the beer of any sign of coconut. I then kegged the porter and dry-hopped with another pound of dried coconut shreds in a hop sack. The resulting beer was marvelous and one of my favorite beers I have ever made.

Recipe (5 gallons):

  • 12 pounds Pale Ale Malt (Briess)
  • 1 pound flaked oats
  • 1 pound of flaked rye
  • 1/2 pound of Carafa Special III (Weyermann)
  • 1/2 pound Chocolate Malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 1/2 pound of extra dark Crystal Malt (130L)

Mashed in with 1.3 qts of water per pound of grain 154F and went down to 151F over the course of 30 minutes. Second half of mash, the temps ranged from 154 to 152. Did not do a mash out, but my sparge temperature hit 170F. First runnings at 1.093 gravity and batch runnings at 1.030. Collected a total of 8.3 pre-boil wort at a gravity of 1.048. Boiled for 60 minutes:

  • 1 ounce of Warrior (16% AA) at 60 minutes
  • 1 pound of unsweetened coconut shreds, toasted at 350F for 15 minutes. Added this at flameout.

DSC_0233

Collected a total of 7 gallons of 1.059 wort (only 6 gallons went into the fermentor) and cooled to 66F. Pitched a re-fed two liter stepped starter of Wyeast 1056 and oxygenated for 2 minutes. Interestingly, krausen and active fermentation had started by 3 hours, with little to no lag time. It is possible that fat content from the coconut could have provided extra UFAs to the yeast which subsequently lowered lag time.

Victuals:

OG: 1.059

FG: 1.012

ABV: 6.2%

IBUs: ~42 (Tinseth)

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I brewed this beer almost three months ago and I have three bottles left. Below is a review of the beer:

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Appearance: Pours pitch black and quickly froths to a two finger head. The head drops back to a thin lace within a short time. Honestly, I was surprised at the head formation since coconut is high in fat content and assumed that this would destroy the foam on the beer. Although not a rocking pillow that refuses to budge, it leaves some respectable lacing.

Nose: Baker’s chocolate and freshly cracked coconut. The aroma is dominant and enticing at the same time. Although one-dimensional, this is what I was looking for.

Taste: When cold, the beer does not give much in the way of coconut but the other malts pull through. Toffee, chocolate, slight roast and some darkened caramel notes. Mixed in the back-end is the coconut, but it is subtle and not overpowering. Finishes clean and the coconut lingers in a mellow fashion. The taste is reminiscent of chocolate covered macaroons. The bitterness is there but very gentle, providing just enough to hold everything together. Thanks to the oats and rye, the silky palate is full-bodied but the beer finishes dry.

Overall: I could drink pint after pint. I suppose I have penchant for coconut, but I actually hate eating it – the texture is off-putting. Several people have tried it and while some praised the balance others were surprised at the coconut screaming in their faces. I’ll chalk this up to different taste buds and keep this beer year around rotation.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “Chocolate Coconut Porter

  1. I keep saying I am going to try fermenting a porter inside of a coconut one day. I’ve heard of people fermenting in pumpkins, so I have to imagine if that works then a coconut would work better. I’m not exactly sure how you might avoid wild bugs getting into to the beer- seems like one you’d have to carb up and drink quick. It would be interesting to see if you could manage to carb right in the coconut. I think if you drilled a small enough fill-hole you could let it ferment, prime it, and seal it up. As hard as those things are to get into, I’d bet they could take a fair bit of pressure.

  2. Just a heads up, it seems like your recipe is listed as being for 5 gallons.

  3. Chris

    Hi Jason,

    You have an impressive site here and I have been enjoying all the different aspects of your work in home brewing. This coconut porter recipe piqued my interest as I am looking for a “robust” porter recipe. My favorite brewery is Smuttynose and I really like their robust porter as well as their IPA and Shoals Pale Ale. Any thoughts on how I can make your recipe “robust”? I plan on brewing this soon. Also, since the coconut flavor was scrubbed out by the yeast prior to fermentation, is it better to just add one pound in the secondary?

    Keep up the good work!

    Chris
    PS So jealous of your Blichmann…

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the feedback! Yup, Smuttynose porter is a classic robust American porter.

      If you wanted to make the recipe robust I would do a few things. (1) Increase the roasted malts a bit. This recipe really dials down the roastiness so the coconut flavor can come through. I would go so far as to say get rid of the debittered carafa and replace with a small amount of roasted barley. Personally, I don’t like black patent as it lends an “ash-like” flavor. (2) Increase crystal malts a bit. Not much, something like 1/2 pound of C60 in addition to the C120. (3) Increase the original gravity a bit. Nothing serious, but bump the OG to 1.065 to 1.070. (4) Increase bitterness to 60 IBUs. Also, I would add some late hop additions at flameout.

      Basically, a robust porter can be an amped up version of this recipe with some extra roast and hop character.

      J

  4. I am new to brewing and this one got my interest. =)

  5. Chris

    Thanks Jason!
    Btw, I’m an Upper West Sider- any interest or any news on a local home brew club/ gathering? Perhaps once a month? I am too busy to make it Burp Castle although I’m an AHA member and the ones in Brooklyn are too far for me to travel to on a weeknight.

    Also, where did you learn how to design recipes? I have Mosher, Daniels, Steele, and Calagione on my shelf- so I’ve done my home work :) but I guess what I’m asking is how does one avoid ruining (or risking rather) an entire 5 gal. batch? Small changes to clones over time?
    Or just jump in and follow your gut?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Chris

    • Oh how I miss UWS… Unfortunately, I now live in PA and although I occasionally make ti into NYC to meet up with friends, I miss out on the awesome homebrewing scene going on. I know time can be short, but the NYCHBG meetings are really worth it if you can find the time.

      As for designing recipes, it is actually quite hard to screw up a 5 gallon batch on recipe design. I mean, throwing 50% crystal malt into a batch will ruin it (maybe?). If you trying to peg down a style then it becomes much harder and the only way to find out is through experimentation. For example, when I first started all grain brewing I made a stout with lots of black patent and didn’t care for the acrid bitterness and ash coming from the malt. I adjusted my recipes accordingly.

      Its funny, because when doing experiments at work (vaccine research), changing variables one at time to evaluate differences in outcome is the norm (in addition to multivariate DOEs). When I brew, I often adopt the “just jump in” mantra as opposed to brewing different variations. I suppose that is why I brew an assortment of styles.

      Cheers,

      J

  6. Chris

    Well said…cheers!

    Chris

  7. This looks amazing…definitely trying it out soon. Do you think it would make a difference to transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter and dry-hop the coconut there as opposed to adding it to the keg? I’m considering trying that to keep the coconut flavor a little more subtle.

    • I don’t see why not. Actually, I wonder if you would extract more coconut flavor since it is at a higher temperature. I normally do not secondary as it introduces too much oxygen and accelerates staling for my taste.

      J

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  9. Kier

    Hello. I am brewing this tomorrow as my first all grain. Question I have is, do you recommend only using the coconut for dry hopping or for flame out and dry hopping? Thanks

    • Hi Kier,

      Honestly I didn’t notice any coconut flavor from the flameout. After fermentation was dine it tasted like a good porter base but no coconut. That is why I dryhopped it. I would do both just in case.

      Also the flameout had one good consequence. It provided some UFAs for a very vigorous fermentation. This helped in attenuation.

      J

  10. Hi Jason,
    My name is Jonny Aldrich and I’m a Plymouth University student studying graphic design, Plymouth UK that is. I am currently doing a fictitious beer brand project called C-LAB, its all about the appreciation of science behind brewing beer hence the name and the flavours being called Experiment No. (insert random number)
    With the brand being so experimental I found your website through research and thought your blog was perfect. The way you described the brewing process and having such experiential flavours.
    I have chosen 4 of your flavours to base my range off:
    Chocolate Coconut Porter
    Imperial Chipotle Amber Ale
    Orange Cardamom Chocolate Porter
    Pumpkin Ale II
    The idea for the brand is:
    Each flavour has a scientific breakdown explaining the exact measurements of the ingredients and how to brew them with precision to make for a perfect tasting beer. This invites the drinker to appreciate every aspect of the experience. The breakdown will intrigue and educate aboutthe science of brewing and hopefully inspire the drinker to further explore the rest of the range, tempting them into brewing their own beer at home.
    Knowing nothing about beer i wondered if you could please help me write a recipe guide for each flavour, the recipe needs to be easy to understand to general consumer. I personal cant really follow your recipe, it confuses me. I understand the ingredients list but after that its quite complicated.
    The recipe would go on the back of the label. It would begin in the same way as you do, listing the ingredients, i also love the way you put “at 15 minutes” that’s all great, but its the bits in between which are hard to follow, i wondered if there was a simpler way to write this that would still explain the process, it doesn’t have to be the exact science on how to brew it. just a summary that gives the drinker the gist of the process.
    I have read some of it and maybe its title PRE BOIL then list those ingredients, then the next bit, new title THE BREW list of ingredients, etc.
    Very sorry if i am totally understanding everything wrong here, hope im not offending your process, its an amazing blog and very inspiring, hence basing my fictitious beer brand of it.
    Any help would be much appreciated, thankyou.
    Also if you would prefer to contact through email this can be easily arranged, i can even show you the beer brand as i develop it.

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    I know how to help you, just search in google – k2 seo tips

  12. Hi Cam,

    No worries – I batch sparge with an equal volume of mash water.

    J

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