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December 2006 Archives

December 4, 2006

Root Beer, Batch 4, Updated 2006/12/05

Made batch 4 tonight:

1.25oz Sassafras root bark
.25oz saspirilla root bark (just what was left in the bag)
2 star annises (bits, left in the bag)
2.5c Orange Blossom honey
1 vanilla bean, gutted
2qt boiling water
2qt(ish) ice
2qt(ish) water

The usual:
- Make sure the water is from a good, clean source.
- Gut the vanilla bean. Use the guts and the husk

Steep the roots, annis and vanilla bean in the boiling water for 15 minutes, stiring every so often. I didn't use a grain bag this time. I probably will next time. Stir in the honey. Boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add Ice to chill until ice stops melting on its own (about 2qt). Strain into a bowl. (This is the step I hope to remove by using the grain bag again.) Laddle into tap-a-draft, through cheese cloth in a funnel. Top off tap-a-draft with remaining water. Close up and pressurize (one CO2 and one N2O) and stow in the chill chest.

- 1.5oz of total flavoring, 50% more than batch 3, 200% more than batch 1. Responses from batch 3 were that it was still a little lacking on flavor, so I upped the stakes a bit. If this still doesn't help, then I'm barking up the wrong tree (if you'll pardon the pun) and will have to figure another way to get more flavor into the drink.
- I think I might have cracked the tap-a-draft screwing it onto the bottle. I really hope it doesn't start leaking. We put a towel under it just in case.
- I plan to bottle in less time this time around. The tap-a-draft has usually gone flat in about 3 days. I'll probably put another two cartridges in and bottle on the spot, rather than waiting the full 7 days I have in the past. I don't know that the extra 3 or 4 days is doing any good.
- This batch is destined for a Christmas party. Hope it doesn't suck! :)

UPDATE, 2006/12/05
Well, bugger. The crack has leaked all gas out of the tap-a-draft. It must have happened quickly because the bottle actually imploded some, which means the air bubble inside the bottle was still warm when the pressure equalized with the fridge. I now have a totally flat, but cold, batch of tasty rootbeer. I'm going to see what I can do. My thoughts:
- Fix the tap-a-draft. I'm not optimistic here, but I'm thinking a hose clamp or something to squeeze the plastic cap back together.
- Buy a new one. Another $35 down the tube (don't need the bottle, so its a little cheaper)
- Lie to Doc's Cellars about the crack, and say it's just not holding pressure, I don't know why! and see if I can get another one. Guilt would wrack me if I did this. I won't.
- Take this batch to my friend who has a full kegerator and ask him to carbonate and bottle it for me. Because this batch is for the Christmas party, I may do this.

Anyone want to buy me a kegging system? About $300 out the door, including a minifridge. *sigh*

December 5, 2006

Root Beer! Batch 4.5 (updated: 9:13pm)

So, yeah. The tap-a-draft is toast. It doesn't hold pressure at all. :(

However, my friend Dave Louw who got me into this hobby in the first place, has a spot open in his kegerator and has offered to carbonate this batch for me, since I a) already have it made and b) already have it commited to a Holiday party.

Since his gear is "real", it's 5 gallons. Batch 4 is a 1.5 gallon batch. So, I'm making more to add to batch 4. Hence, batch 4.5. The total is about 3 or 4 gallons

1oz Sassafras root bark
1oz saspirilla root bark
4 star anises
2 vanilla beans, scrape the guts
3c orange blossom honey
4qt boiling water
3qt(ish) ice (what was left over from the 8lb bag I got for batch 4)

The usual procedure:
put roots and anises in grain bag. scrape guts of beans, put guts and husks, and grain bag, in 4qt boiling water. steep for 20 minutes. add honey, boil for another 5. Add ice to cool down. pour batch 4 into sanitized keg. pour batch 4.5 into keg. Cap keg and take to Dave to carbonate.

- After adding the honey, I started smelling a burning smell. I can't tell if it came from the root beer, or from under the pot. The batch doesn't TASTE burnt, but I wasn't fully able to identify the source. Our stove isn't the cleanest its ever been, so this doesn't really worry me.
- I added ingredients for a 5 gal batch, and it was my intention to make a full 5 gallons. Tasting the batch once it made it to the keg, however, I decided to keep it at the roughly 3 gallons it was at. I figure its easier to add water to it later than it is to take it out.

I want to give Mad Propz to Dave Louw for saving my butt on this.

Seriously. Anyone want to buy me a mini-fridge, 5 gallon keg, 5lb CO2 tank, and assorted fittings, spouts, hoses and what-not to make me a _REAL_ carbonation system? It's about $300, assuming you can find a cheap ($100 or less) mini fridge.

December 25, 2006

Batch 4.5 Review, Broken Tap-a-draft, Christmas money

As I posted earlier, my Tap-a-Draft is broken. 'eh, I wasn't super pleased with it anyway; it didn't do a splediferous job of carbonating anything. It was nice to do small batches, however. This is why I haven't been posting much here. Luckily, my friend Dave was able to carbonate my last batch (4.5) for me.

Verdict: I quite like it. The extra carbonation helped a lot. Also, I noticed that it tastes much better in a glass than it does out of the bottle. This is because a glass exposes more of the aromatics to the nose. The flavor was good, but still a bit astringent. It was much stronger than any of the other "real" batches. It won over more "syrup preferred" people than any previous "real" batch. But there was still something that was just a bit off. I'll keep working on it when I can.

Emphasis on "when I can." I don't have any carbonating hardware right now. I suspect the next thing I would buy is a full real soda kegging system, complete with mini fridge and CO2 canister and tap and all. Expected price: $350 to $400.

Money received for Christmas: $185. I'm about half way there. Do I try to convince my wife to let me kick in the extra to get the whole system? Do I beg, borrow and/or steal the money from my birthday for the rest? Do I find something I can sell for about $200? Hmm.. Decisions. :)

Oh! In case anyone is reading this that doesn't know me through some other channel, my wife and I now have a baby girl: Zoe Katharine Hahn Smith, 4lb 8oz, 17.25", 12:04pm, Dec 12, 2006, 4 weeks and 1 day premature. Check out 's page for more details (once she gets them up.) Short version: severe preeclampsia caused an emergency C-Section. Mom and Baby are doing great. (Well, except that Baby is now crying at 1am).

If anyone wants to help me to my goal of getting a small keggerator at about $400 for all the bits, feel free to PayPal to mark@halibut.com. :)

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Mark's Blog in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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