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May 11, 2007 3:35 PM   Subscribe

How do I add caffeine to beer?

This idea sprung up after an afternoon of drinking. As a homebrewer, at what stage in the brewing process would one add caffeine to the beer? If you add it to the wort, will the yeast act differently because of it? Would it be better to add it in secondary or directly to the bottle?

Somewhat related, where can I find pure caffeine? I also seem to hazily remember a news story recently about a brewing company doing exactly this... does this ring a bell?
posted by backseatpilot to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you have a well-equipped head shop near you, you should be able to purchase caffeine powder which could be added to the drink of your choice.
posted by sanko at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2007


A few microbreweries have produced coffee beers--the long-defunct Red Hook Double Black Stout is probably the most famous. And Anheuser-Busch produced something called B-to-the-E (or something like that), that, if memory serves, featured added caffeine. And caffeinated beer was a major plot element on The Drew Carey Show.
posted by box at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2007


Anheiser Bush is getting in trouble for their new caffeinated "malt beverage". I read about it in the paper today. Maybe thats what you're thinking of.
posted by teishu at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2007


Since so many bars have banned smoking, I wonder how a beer which replaced some of the hops with uncured tobacco leaves would go over.

But if you are determined to have caffeine rather than nicotine, you could try Yerba Mate leaves.
posted by jamjam at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2007


Just fyi, all the caffeine powders I've encountered (like this) were extremely bitter. Any drink I added caffeine powder to had a very unpleasant taste underneath it. I imagine that, somewhere out there, there's a caffeine additive that doesn't taste terrible-- it would be worth your time to track it down.
posted by chickletworks at 4:03 PM on May 11, 2007


Since so many bars have banned smoking, I wonder how a beer which replaced some of the hops with uncured tobacco leaves would go over.

Unfortunately, this would probably kill some people. There is enough nicotine to kill you in a surprisingly small number of cigarettes (3 I believe). You survive when you smoke them because only a tiny fraction of the nicotine is vaporized into the smoke. When you ingest it orally, all bets are off.

As for the caffeine, it probably won't have any effect on the yeast, but you never know. You'd be best off dissolving it in distilled water along with the bottling sugar. The cheapest place I've ever seen pure caffeine offered is Ebay
posted by TungstenChef at 4:06 PM on May 11, 2007


I second the mate' recommendation
posted by hortense at 4:08 PM on May 11, 2007


That's a good idea, throw some yerba mate or kola nut in there.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2007


Bells makes a delicious Java Stout. No clue what they use, though.
posted by MsMolly at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2007


I go to a coffee shop that drops an espresso shot in a pint of Young's Double Chocolate and calls it a double-barrelled shotgun. Hell of a buzz.
posted by adamrice at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2007


Bells makes a delicious Java Stout. No clue what they use, though.

Ah yes, that reminds me, it's possible to brew a delicious espresso stout, the coffee flavors go well with the chocolatey dark malt. You can find some promising recipes here and here.
posted by TungstenChef at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2007


It's not beery, more like a Zimaish drink, but oh holy shit do I loves me some Sparks. I am pretty sure that caffeine + nice beery beer will be a bitter hoppy mess, and that to hide the bitterness of caffeine, the fruity coverup is best.
posted by mckenney at 4:19 PM on May 11, 2007


Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe makes the Pressure Drop: Guinness and a shot of espresso. Pretty good, better in the morning than a Bloody Mary IMO. Their Shakin' Jesse (Guinness, Chocolate Ice Cream,
and Espresso Milkshake) is also quite good.

Re-reading my post I think all I've really said is I like Guinness.
posted by cftarnas at 4:29 PM on May 11, 2007


I second the Sparks recommendation. Although after one or two you will feel like an orange tree punched you in the mouth.
posted by pwally at 4:31 PM on May 11, 2007


Check out the Stir Stick Stout by a local brewery in my city.

The label tells me that they add Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans. This beer is amazing. Tastes like coffee with a bit of chocolate. It is very heavy and frothy and extremely dark.

The perfect breakfast beer.

Given that this is possible, I encourage you attempt a caffeinated beer.

I don't know if this stuff is available outside of Winnipeg, but if can be done legally I would be glad to send over a sample. The label reads "Keep Refridgerated", though the liquor store just keeps them on the shelf, so I also don't know whether or not they would survive the shipping. Email is in profile.
posted by utsutsu at 4:38 PM on May 11, 2007


Ack, the link should have pointed to the "What's Brewing?" page of the site, but it is Friday after work after all.
posted by utsutsu at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2007


I'm going to go out on a limb and say caffeinated beer doesn't sound like a good idea. The few times I've mixed stimulants with depressants (i.e. vodka & soda) it's made me feel like crap... wired + tipsy = nauseous.
posted by rolypolyman at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2007


chickletworks writes "I imagine that, somewhere out there, there's a caffeine additive that doesn't taste terrible-- it would be worth your time to track it down."

Caffeine itself is incredibly bitter. You might be able to get away with it if you cut way back on hops, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:18 PM on May 11, 2007


Interesting question! Every caffeinated beer I've seen was prepared by adding coffee at the end, or in the case of the caffeinated Bud, it probably got a dose of pure caffeine at the end.

According to this paper, your normal S. cerevisiae wild-type won't grow properly at over 10 mM caffeine (and even right at 10, it has a visible growth defect). 10 mM caffeine is about 20 mg/L, and for the drinker to feel a buzz, he'd need to consume >30 mg. Since the drinker is unlikely to consume 1.5 L of beer in a short time, adding your caffeine source prior to fermentation seems unfeasible.

So... as close to the end as possible, and if you're intending to bottle-condition, expect that adding a lot of caffeine might have an effect on that.

Of course, if you could get a good-for-beer yeast strain that has elevated caffeine resistance, then that would be another story.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:32 PM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Backseatpilot, add it after fermentation's over. It dissolves easily in water. Because it's a purine, I wouldn't be surprised if the yeast could metabolize it.

You wouldn't want to add more than 25-50 mg per bottle, so calculate accordingly. Food grade USP caffeine isn't particularly cheap, but it's not particularly hard to find either. Don't settle for something that's not food grade; it might contain trace impurities of things you really wouldn't want to eat.

As others have recommended, I'd only put caffeine in beers that take a large amount of bittering hops; and you'll want to cut back on same, because caffeine is quite bitter.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:37 PM on May 11, 2007


Just buy caffeine pills. That's the cheapest retail source for USP grade caffeine. Already comes premeasured for dose too. Perfect.

Grind them up, mix with a small amount of hot water so that you don't add the insoluble filler fines to the beer. Work out how much volume you need to add per bottle and add to your beverage of choice. Easy.
posted by bonehead at 6:43 PM on May 11, 2007


I can't see wasting money on a special caffeine powder when you could buy NoDoz and grind it up with a mortar and pestle, and then dissolve the powder into some water.

I would think that the time to add it would be at the end of the primary ferment. I don't see any reason why it would affect the yeast in any way.

As to the flavor, caffeine has a distinct taste. And that's why decaffeinated coffee will never taste exactly the same as regular coffee; the caffeine is actually part of the flavor of coffee. It's likely to affect the flavor of the beer, too, but as mentioned above it's more likely to work better with a dark beer than a light one.

Nonetheless, this sounds like a really screwy idea.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:16 PM on May 11, 2007


Coffee porter/stout is probably the most popular route. The last time I made one, I added about half a pound of freshly ground (coarse, french-press-ish) coffee beans to the wort with the aroma hops, after I took it off the boil. After a few minutes of steeping, I strained it all out as usual. (Also, I gave a few bottles to the coffeeshop owner who roasted the beans. That went over well.)

I've read about a chemistry experiment to extract (relatively) pure caffeine from cheap tea leaves. That might not be a bad way to get some, but unless you hate the taste of coffee, steeping coffee beans in your wort is certainly the easiest route. Or, grinding up caffeine pills, as bonehead suggests. But, be careful with pure caffeine powder -- I read on the MSDS that it can be absorbed through your skin, making an unanticipated overdose quite easy.
posted by trouserbat at 7:52 PM on May 11, 2007


Oh, and it had a noticeable amount of caffeine. It seemed to me that two 12 oz. bottles was on par with an average cup of french pressed coffee. And for what it's worth, I used a light roast (slightly greater caffeine). Not strong enough to get one wired as hell, but it's there. I was mostly going for flavor, though.
posted by trouserbat at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2007


Just buy caffeine pills. That's the cheapest retail source for USP grade caffeine. Already comes premeasured for dose too. Perfect.

I can't see wasting money on a special caffeine powder when you could buy NoDoz and grind it up with a mortar and pestle, and then dissolve the powder into some water.

According to the Internet, off-brand wake-up pills costs $0.83/gram of caffeine, while pure, food-grade caffeine can be purchased for $0.45/gram and less (depending on how much you want).
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:04 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Get caffeine syrup and add it to the brew. I can't think of a easier/cleaner way. Don't grind up nodoz, that's just gross.
posted by special-k at 9:15 PM on May 11, 2007


I agree with adding pure caffeine instead of grinding up pills. The pills have binders in them that could have undesirable effects, like clouding your beer or forming a scum.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:04 PM on May 11, 2007


If the brewer doesn't desire the coffee flavor or the potential bitterness from pure caffeine in the end product, perhaps a bunch of tea leaves added after the boil or at the start of secondary fermentation would be a good option. I'm tempted to try this myself!
posted by sublivious at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2007


I buy (off-brand) caffeine at my local Target for about $3.00 for 90 200 mg pills, which seems to come out to $0.16 per gram. For what it's worth, I prefer water to soda but still like caffeine.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:23 PM on January 4, 2008


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