Homebrew Session: 2013 BetterBeerBlog Christmas Ale – Mocha Milk Stout

It’s Christmas Eve Day, and if you’ve been following along, I’ve missed several days worth of posts for the current 12 Beers of Christmas review series. I do have a good reason though; I came down with a cold that pretty much ruined my ability to taste well, or at least as well as I’m able. So instead of drinking while sick, and possibly providing a horrible description of what could be fantastic beers, I decided to take a few days off to get well. My younger self would’ve just powered through, but with age comes wisdom, or so I’ve been told.

The final packaged bottles. Hand drawn labels this year.

The final packaged bottles. Hand drawn labels this year.

Instead of a review, I will be sharing my recipe for my homebrewed Mocha Milk Stout. Every year, I brew up a milk stout. It’s a style I first fell in love with when I visited Left Hand Brewing Company during a trip to GABF. I traditionally brew this beer during late fall so that I can give bottles away as Christmas presents to friends and family. I design my own labels, print them out, and affix them to the bottles as a personal touch. I think it makes for a much more memorable gift than anything I can purchase at the store and it’s a way to share my love of beer with those I love.


Ingredients for my Mocha Milk Stout.

Ingredients for my Mocha Milk Stout.


  • 8 lbs – pale 2-row malt
  • 1 lbs – Bamburg Munich (5.1 – 6.9L)
  • 1 lbs – Simpson Crystal 80 (75 – 85L)
  • .5 lbs – Simpson Chocolate (375 – 450L)
  • .5 lbs – Simpson Roast (500 – 600L)
  • 1 lbs – Flaked Barley


  • 1 oz – Hallertau-Perle (6.8%)
  • 1 oz – Kent Golding (7.1%)


  • 1 vial – British Ale Yeast (WLP005)


  • 1 lbs – Lactose powder
  • 8 oz – Whole roasted coffee bean
  • 2 pods -Whole Madagascar vanilla beans
  • ~4 oz – Cacao nibs


Measuring out the cacao nibs.

Measuring out the cacao nibs.

  1. Heat up strike water to 160° F.
  2. Place all grains into mash tun.
  3. Once water reaches 160° F, mix in thoroughly with grains. Let mash for 60 minutes.
  4. While grains are mashing, heat sparge water to 170° F.
  5. After grains are all done mashing, vorloff wort until relatively clear.
  6. Collect 6 gallons of wort, use 170° F sparge water to rinse grains until desired amount is collected.
  7. Bring wort to a boil.
  8. Add in 1 oz of Hallertau-Perle and boil for 60 minutes.
  9. After 40 minutes of boiling, add wort chiller to the kettle to sterilize it.
  10. After 45 minutes of boiling, add in 1 lbs lactose powder.
  11. After 6o minutes of boiling, turn off the heat and add in 1 oz of Kent Golding hops.
  12. Chill work to ~5° F – 70° F.
  13. Pitch yeast, aerate, let ferment.
  14. After primary fermentation (8 days in my case), I carefully racked the beer into an empty keg.
  15. Add in 8 oz of whole bean roasted coffee to the keg and let the beer “cold steep” on the beans. I left the beer to cold steep for 7 days. (The coffee beans were from a good friend of mine who roasts his own coffee. He roasts his beans to a “city roast”, a little past the first crack.)
  16. Remove the coffee from the beer.
  17. Add in 2 whole Madagascar vanilla beans to the beer. (I purchased the vanilla beans from Whole Foods. I chopped them up into quarters, stuffed them into tea bags, and threw them into the keg.) Let the beans sit in the beer for 7 days.
  18. Remove the vanilla beans from the beer.
  19. Add in ~ 4 oz of cacao nibs to the beer. (It was a little over 4 oz actually. I used what was left over from a bag I had previously purchased, also from Whole Foods.) Let sit for 7 days.
  20. Remove the cacao nibs from the beer.
  21. Pour priming sugar solution into the bottling bucket. (I used 2/3 cup of table sugar dissolved into 2 cups of water.)
  22. Rack the finished beer into the bottle bucket onto the priming sugar solution.
  23. Fill up your bottles, cap them, let them sit for at least 2 weeks to carbonate.


  • Original Gravity – 1.060
  • Final Gravity – 1.022
  • Alcohol by Volume ~ 3.1%
  • Fermentation Temp ~ 74° F


Mocha Milk Stout goes well with gift wrapping duties.

Mocha Milk Stout goes well with gift wrapping duties.

Mocha Milk Stout pours out nearly black, with a tan colored head. The aroma is predominantly coffee, but there’s also hints of vanilla, chocolate, deep roasted malt, and a touch of caramel. The flavor has a dominating coffee character, with a blend of vanilla, chocolate, roast, and light caramel. The hop bitterness is low, while hop flavor is obscured by the malt and adjuncts. The body is medium-low, with light/medium-low carbonation.

In many ways, I am pleased with how this beer turned out. I had intended it to be a milk stout with strong cafe mocha character and that’s what I got. It’s velvety body and compelling aromas are matched by its robust flavors. I almost feel like I’m drinking a cafe mocha, if cafe mocha were a beer. So, if that’s what you’re in to, then you’re going to be really thrilled to get this from me as a present this year.

That said, I could easily say the adjuncts in the beer, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla, (especially the coffee) are almost too dominant and don’t let the base beer shine through. As the beer warms, the coffee flavors and aroma take hold and threaten not to let go. If I were to brew this beer again, I’d probably let the beer sit on the coffee beans for only 3-4 days. As it were, I got hella busy and forgot to take them out until it was too late. I would also add in more 2-row malt to up the final ABV to approximately 4.5% – 5% ABV. For all my criticisms go, it’s not a bad effort.

Last Call

It’s Christmas Eve. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you. I also implore you to put down your phone/iPad/computer and go spend time with those you care about. Let’s unplug from the interwebz, if even for a while, and enjoy each other’s company IRL.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

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