Portland roastery and distillery team up on a coffee that tastes like whiskey


Photo by Will Pratt

The latest beans to hit the shelves at Tandem Coffee Roasters have a secret: They’ve been hanging out at a distillery.

For the past few months, Tandem’s Will Pratt has aged green, Columbian beans in wooden whiskey barrels at New England Distilling to see if the rich bouquet would take this batch to the next level.

“I thought it would be interesting,” said the Portland coffee company owner.

After hitting on the right recipe (four days in pungent oak), “it’s way better than interesting. It tastes great,” he said. 

The boozy beans, called Secret Stash, arrived today at Tandem’s two cafes — ditto New England Distilling’s tasting room and distillery on Industrial Way.

Distiller Tim Fisher, who recently worked with a local chocolatier on barrel-aged chocolate, approached Pratt about giving his artisan beans an edge.

“There is a lot of aroma left in these barrels. The beans absorb the flavor,” said Fisher. “We like it strong. We are all about the whiskey here.”

And since Tandem is all about nuanced coffee, there was a bit of a push and pull to arrive at desired results.

“They would put it in whiskey barrel for too long and it was a little too much,” said Pratt.

The result is coffee that is whiskey forward, sans the alcohol.

“There are fruit notes that come through, green apple, Concord grape,” said Pratt. “The whiskey comes through clearly. It’s a fireside coffee.”

There are only 45 bags of Secret Stash available in Portland. Drinkers, on your marks.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.