Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill via getty, Illustration by Lauren Kolm

Leave wine-infusing to the professionals, or at least invest in better ingredients

Matthew Kassel
March 03, 2017

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.

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