New Brew: Cherry Chocolate Stout

Probably not of interest to anyone who isn’t a brewer too, but I haven’t yet gone into the system to segment this category away from the front page of the blog. Bear with me, folks, the days are all too short. But I figure it’s a good idea I start tracking my brewing. My friend Charles showed me his bread-baking diary, where he records all his recipes and trials and so on, and it struck me as a great idea for brewing. If I ever want to replicate something, this will be the place to look. And those who are interested can see, too.

And now, for those interested in my latest brewing project…

The new brew is a retry with a kind of complex twist. It’s an extract brew — I found out that if I did a partial mash with quick oats, there wouldn’t be the enzymes needed. (You need to do a mash with some sort of malted barley if you want to get that goodness going on, so I’m saving the quick oats. Next month, I’ll definitely be going to partial mash or all grain. Just a few things I need to get done around here before I do.)

So anyway, what did I use?

  • one can of  ESB Irish Velvet liquid malt
  • the crappy yeast that came with the can
  • 500g light DME (wanted to use wheat but didn’t have any)
  • 500 gr medium DME
  • some Irish moss, 15 min before end of boil
  • 100g cocoa powder, 15 min before end of boil
  • ~10g Hallertauer hops at 30 min
  • ~8g Hallertaeur hops at 15 min
  • final volume 20L
  • boil ~1 hr.

IG: 1.036 (the cocoa is definitely playing a role in that)

FG: Who the hell knows?

My plan is to split this beer when the primary fermentation has finished. Half of it I will referment with several cans of Oregon sweet Bing cherries — it’ll need to be maybe 3 or 4 cans, as I’ve heard that bing cherries don’t really lend much to the beer in smaller concentrations.

To the other half I will add a part of a bottle of cacao liqueur. This contains sugar, which will also restart fermentation.

After a week or so let the secondary (restarted) fermentations settle, I will somehow figure out a way to re-rack both beers. I may have to pick up a third carboy, which I was thinking of doing anyway. Then I will let them both clear, try them individually, and blend them in whatever proportions seem most likely to bring together the best of both worlds. Which, yes, means I’ll also probably end up with a ferw bottles of pure cherry stout and a few of pure chocolate stout. Which ain’t so bad.

The wort is, right now, sweet but also rich. It doesn’t taste particularly chocolatey, though. I’m thinking I may need to add more cocoa to the secondary, when I add the cacao liqueur. Which is fine. I can mix it into the liqueur and then add it. Must be careful adding the liqueur, as too much alcohol could stop the fermentation, and the remaining sugar could end up in the bottles, causing explosions and all kinds of bad stuff. Will leave time (and experiment a bit) to make sure fermentation has run its course with the beer — maybe the blend could stand to be left together, or maybe I should get the third carboy and blend in there, for an extended secondary? Or I could just bottle some of the one, some of the other, rack the remainder of the cherry into the chocolate, wash out the cherry carboy, and then (the next day?) re-rack the whole into the newly clean cherry carboy.

Ugh, too much to think about. Maybe I’ll just bottle it all on the same day, in three stages. (Cherry, blend, and chocolate.)

Next up is either a small batch of experimental mead, or else a pilsner I’ve been thinking of doing with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and — for half the batch — some dried hot pepper. I was thinking I’d have to buy some hot peppers and dry them myself, but I haven’t seen really interesting hot peppers here before anyway. However, I realized I have some very interesting little dried hot peppers from Italy, which I’m sure I can add to the secondary (as long as they don’t have preservatives). For the mead, I got some acacia honey. It’s better to use fresh honey, of course, but till sometime later in spring that’s impracticable, and this is just a test run anyway. I’m actually hoping to make a melomel — a mead with fruit juice in it — and found some bokbunja (wild raspberry) juice, but I can’t figure out from the bottle whether it has preservatives. (Don’t want to kill fermentation.) Will have to search the juice manufacturer’s website, I suppose. Again, I’ll prefer to use real wild raspberries in the melomel — it’ll work better in the fermentation and be more authentic, I think — but for now, it’s alright for a test run.

Also, it’s about time I picked up some cornelius kegs and went to a kegging system, to eliminate some of the bother of all this bottling… so it’s time to check out the thread on Homebrew Korea on getting and using kegs, I guess. Which means also figuring out refrigeration, I guess. (I don’t have the handyman-fu to adapt a fridge myself, don’t have the tools, and would rather just buy a proper unit to be honest… unless they’re insanely expensive. But there must be a way to buy one, since bars with draft beer are a dime a dozen here!

Oh, also? I’m culturing the yeast from a bottle of Paulaner Hefeweizen. Just because I can.. or, well, to see whether I can, actually!

UPDATE (13 April 2010): Fermentation started pretty quickly, and vigorously — maybe a little faster and more vigorously than usual, as in, the next morning it was bubbling like crazy. Maybe this is because I rehydrated the yeast before pitching it, something I’ve only done during the last couple of brews, and that seemed to help. It was just a single (sanitized) bowl of water, much smaller than some of the starters people use, but it worked fine. I may try out making a starter to see how it affects fermentation rate, but if so, in line with what I’ve read in the book on mead I’m working through, I’ll likely concentrate more on providing nutrients and only a little DME — I want a large-and-healthy-but-hungry population of yeast when I’m pitching into wort, to really get the fermentation going.

In other news, it is apparent that I really do need a new carboy, if I’m going to make a batch of mead, or even brew beer at the rate I’m wanting to brew. Also, I’ve decided I want more control of things at all leves, so… All-Grain Brewing, here I come! That means a little more gear is necessary, but for the moment, not too much. A picnic cooler to use as a mash tun, perhaps a filter contraption for use in the cooler, and a grain crusher.

Which reminds me of one concern that remains — despite (or because of) the false bottom on my brewpot, I’m still not getting all the wort out. There’s always some worty goodness left in the bottom of the pot after every brew, and extracting it means introducing into the fermentation bucket some of the hot break (the solids that form in the wort) as well as hops and other gunk that I’ve already filtered out with the pot’s false bottom.

One solution I’ve just realized as I write this is saving some of the cold water I use (since this is extract brewing) to boost and drain out at least some of that thick remaining wort. Since I’m almost always doing primary fermentation in a bucket, this is quite easy to do — I don’t need to worry about heat in the bucket like I would have to in a carboy. I suppose that if I were to add the cool water into the big pot, stir with my sanitized spoon, and let everything drain through the false bottom, I’d likely extract much more of the base wort, meaning less wastage in the end. The pot is big enough I can probably add all the water in one shot while draining the pot, as long as I’m careful not to splash and aerate it too much. (Maybe if I can elevate the water jug above the pot it’ll be easier? I can’t believe I never thought of that before!)

Also, I’m kind of needing a new fridge. My kitchen fridge is, well… it’s sort of on its last legs, and doing a good job after 4 years of use, but it’s not keeping veggies as well as it used to. Still, if I can find a place to put it — maybe upstairs, in the attic, where I found an outlet? — then I should be able to use it for storing beer stuff, as well as fermenting the odd lager should I wish to try that. It’s not great for kitchen stuff, but for refrigerating kegs, freezing wort, hops, fresh fruit and other ingredients, I think that it’ll be fine, and I can probably get a temperature regulator for cheap so that it’s more highly controllable than it is at present. But getting a new fridge (well, new to me: I’ll probably get another one used) will have to wait till I really want/need it, so it’s probably another month or two away.

The one thing about brewing in my home is that, well, while my home is spacious by the standards of your average single guy in Korea (a one-bedroom place with a big living room and passable kitchen, plus a balcony with two closets), I don’t have a lot of extra room to store stuff. And the storage spaces I do have besides the huge, dusty attic are (a) crammed with other junk and (b) not set up to accommodate something like a fridge. This is definitely going to become an issue as summer approaches, since I don’t want all my bottles of beer sitting out in the heat, or even indoors in the heat. I think I will be cleaning out the balcony closets, though, in the coming month, and will see if it’d be possible to stick a fridge out there (I doubt it’ll fit, much less that there will be an available outlet out there… though maybe an extension could be run through the same hole in the wall that the air conditioner’s power supply runs through); at the least, I should be able to organize some kind of storage system for bottles and kegs for the cooler months, and even carboys that are conditioning things like mead long-term. (Six months to a year is a long time for a carboy, however small, to sit inside your home, taking up one of the few dark, sanitary spaces that are appropriate for brewing. And it takes six months to a year to make things like barley wine and a good mead, as well as beers fermented with things other than regular brewer’s yeast…)

UPDATE (17 April 2010): Finally racked this bad boy to secondary, though I’ll need to put it through a tertiary to clear a little, I think. Added 7 cans (15 oz each) of Oregon Bing Cherries in syrup. Also added about 2/3rds of a bottle of Cacao liqueur, and some dried cocoa powder. This one is going to be quite sludgy for a while.

I decided against splitting and blending for two reasons: I didn’t manage to get myself a second carboy and didn’t want to bottle the IPA today, which I’d need to do in order to have two carboys to rack it into. Also, I didn’t want huge headspaces. I think I’ll try blending when I’ve gone to double batches, which I’ll be doing when I go to all-grain brewing (soon!), and when I have more hardware. Also, I couldn’t be bothered at this point, with so much else to do.

UPDATE (20 Apr. 2010): Fermentation slowed down over the last few days. Switched the blowoff hose for an airlock, and will let the beer sit for a couple of weeks as it is.

UPDATE (5 May 2010): Note to self. When people say bing cherries ferment clean, they mean holy crap there’s no flavor of cherries at all. Well, that’s wasted money. Or a lesson.

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