Leave wine-infusing to the professionals, or at least invest in better ingredients
Italy has the caffè corretto—a shot of espresso fortified, usually, with grappa—and there's the not-quite-from-Ireland Irish coffee. Here in the United States, coffee isn't a default mixer for spirits, necessarily. But lately, some companies have been getting attention for mixing in the hard stuff. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Coffee, for instance, is flavored with—well, need I say more? And a Napa-based company called Molinari Caffe is now making wine-infused coffee, with the hifalutin' label of “Molinari Private reserve.” “The full-bodied coffee beans relax in a beautiful small-batch, artisan-crafted wine, absorbing its nose and history,” the company’s website says. “The coffee is then carefully dried and hand roasted in small batches.”
How hard could that be? Wine-infusing coffee is something you could try at home. At least, that's what I reasoned as I poured a quarter of a bottle of cheap Bordeaux over a handful of coffee beans last night. I was thinking I’d indulge in a little wine-infused coffee this morning and start my Friday off right. Things did not go as planned, though the coffee did have an intriguing smell when I removed the layer of cling wrap. It gave off a potent aroma, kind of like fruity, floral chocolate. Unfortunately, I don’t like fruity, floral chocolate, but I held out hope. I poured the beans from the bowl into a strainer lined with paper towels, so the wine might drain away. I probably should have let the beans drain longer, so they weren’t as moist when I scooped them into my grinder. They gave up a bit of a fight but ultimately were reduced to something resembling used coffee grounds.
I transferred the grounds to my French press, poured in the requisite amount of hot water, stirred, waited, plunged, and poured. How did it taste? Like wine-coffee, actually, which was surprising to me, since I figured the coffee’s flavor would overpower the wine, and that the overnight bean bath probably wouldn’t work all too well.
It did, which is why I found the drink somewhat repulsive. I was hoping for something along the lines of Molinari Caffe’s description: “The first thing you smell is the richness of the wine, then the taste of a blueberry note.” But no, the flavors transferred from the wine, in my concoction, were more of the bitter, tannic notes that coffee already contains, so I was stuck with an overly bitter drink that smelled somewhat like old wine. Next time, I’ll stick to coffee straight-up, or leave the wine infusing to the professionals.