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August 2007 Archives

August 5, 2007

Batch 8 writeup, Batch 9 and writeup, Batch 10a and Batch 10b

I'm really not good about keeping this thing up to date, but I was kicked out of bed at 5:30am on Sunday (today) with a baby who wouldn't go back to sleep in bed, but almost immediately slept in the Bjorn, so I've suddenly found myself with some time to post to my Root Beer blog.

Anyway. I made a new batch yesterday. But, before I get to that, let me catch up.

Batch 8 Writeup:
Batch 8 was quite tasty. It ended up tasting more like a root-mead than a root-beer. The sassafras didn't really come through the honey flavor. It was quite tasty, but just not very root-beery. I think it was the grain bag that prevented water flow around the sassafras root. I've gotta find either a much bigger bag, or a way to steep without the confines of the bag. I think I've come up with something, but I'll cover that in Batch 10b

Batch 9:
I made Batch 9 specifically for a party at work. Here's the recipe:

3gal filtered water (1gal as ice)
3c orange blossom honey
2 vanilla beans
2tbsp anise seed
2.5oz sassafras root
1tbsp lactic acid

Standard procedure. Boil 1gal water, dissolve lactic acid and honey, cut and scrape vanilla beans and throw in the pot. Put all anise seed and sassafras root in the water (no grain bag) and steep for about 5 or 10 minutes. Add ice to cool down. Ladle mixture into keg via a good old-fashion (clean/new) nylon pantie-hose. Top off with remaining water. Pressurize, burp, store in kegerator for a week, bring to party.

Batch 9 write-up:
This one didn't come out _ANYTHING_ like I wanted. I think the anise seed I got for this batch was _MUCH_ more potent than previous anise seeds I've gotten. These were fresh. The resulting brew was _WAY_ over powered with anise to the point that I was unable to enjoy it.

It was also kinda sour. I think I use too much lactic acid too. Though, this could have been because of the anise; not really sure. I also cut-back on the sassafras, which I think was a mistake.

Lessons learned: _MUCH_ less anise seed, back to previous quantities of lactic acid too.

Batch(es) 10:
My wife was taking issue with all the sugar I've been consuming via root beer, so I took a few weeks break. But, just yesterday, I felt the urge to make some more, so I did. This is what I came up with.

Batch 10a:
I attempted a small batch of birch beer using some birch bark I purchased a few months ago (but have kept in an air tight jar; I assure you, it's still quite fresh.) I also decided to try using malted barley as the sugar instead of honey. Anyway, here's what I did:

1.25L RO water (just got an RO installed)
.25tsp lactic acid
1/3c malted barley syrup from a brew shop
.5oz sassafras root
.5oz birch bark
.25tsp anise seed
.5tsp vanilla extract

Standard procedure. Boil water, add lactic acid and malted barley. All all sassafras, birch bark, anise seed and vanilla. Let steep for 5(ish) minutes, then pour mixture into a bowl and colander, then remove the colander also removing all the solid bits. Put this bowl into a larger bowl with ice in it to attempt to cool the mixture.

Batch 10a writeup:
This is the point that I tasted it. Oy. To say it was repellent wouldn't do justice to my response. It literally triggered my gag reflex. It tasted like I had just thrown up in my mouth a little bit. Obviously, I must have gotten a little chunk of something nasty that fell on the spoon so I tried it again. Nope. Still disgusting. I didn't bother trying to carbonate this, I just poured it out straight away.

I experimented with a lot of things in this batch. I really shouldn't do so much at one time. I tried: 1) using barley as a sugar, 2) adding birch bark, 3) a much higher concentration of lactic acid, 4) RO water instead of just filtered. In addition to this, this is the same concentration of anise seed as the previous batch, which I concluded was far too much.

Lessons learned: Don't change so many things at once. Birch bark adds a nasty flavor. I may attempt one more birch bark batch, but it will be much simpler. Lower the acid level (raise the pH). Use much less anise seed.

Batch 10b:
Immediately upon pouring batch 10a down the drain, I got a lot more conservative and made a "normal" batch (I just want some tasty root beer, after all.)

3gal RO water (some as ice (I didn't have a whole lot))
.25tsp lactic acid
4c buckwheat honey
2 vanilla beans, cut, scraped, etc
4oz sassafras root
.5tsp anise seed

Standard procedure, with a bit of a twist: Boil 1gal water, dissolve honey and lactic acid. (Here's the twist) Put a colander in the pot, trying to get as much of it below the water line as possible. Then add ingredients to the water, in the colander. Steep for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful not to push the bits into the colander lest you break them up and they fall through. After the 10 minutes, pull the colander out, taking most of the bits with it. There will be some floaters left, stuff you couldn't prevent from going through the colander. Scoop them up with a small (2 or 3 inch) colander on a stick (what are these called?) Ladle mixture into cleaned and sanitized keg, pressurize, burp, stash in the kegerator for a week and change.

Things I did differently: I gave the ingredients more room to move around, but still had a convenient way to get most of it out. This added room will hopefully pull more flavor out of the bark. I used a lot less acid and anise seed. (Though, from initial tests, I fear it may still be too much anise.)

But, I went back to 4oz of sassafras, and went back to buckwheat honey which made what I think was the best-to-date batch (see Batch 5).

We shall see how this turns out. I'm optimistic.

My kegging system hasn't changed, but I did pick up a carbonator cap, a little plastic do-hickey that mates to a standard 2L bottle and gives you a ball-lock valve so you can pressurize (or re-pressurize) the bottle from a standard CO2 tank. In short, it lets me make small batches of things. (This is what I was attempting with batch 10a.) I tried it once, but it didn't seem to hold pressure. I've since figured out that it probably did hold pressure, but I only filled it with CO2 once, maybe twice. I think a heck of a lot more than that will need to be put in it. After making batch 10b, I decided to try carbonating a bottle of just water to test the hardware. I took the 1.25L bottle to the CO2 tank, filled it once and shook the hell out of it. While shaking it, I could feel the pressure drop very quickly to the point that the bottle was imploding some. I filled it again, shook it again, filled it again, shook it again, etc.etc. Until it didn't start imploding upon vigorous shaking. THEN I stowed it in the fridge. Once the temp drops, it'll absorb more CO2 and I'll probably have to do the same thing again.

Anyway, the lesson to learn here is that my carbonator cap is probably doing the right thing, but it either needs to be connected to the CO2 tank full time while in the fridge, or you'll need to refill it a bunch of times over the period of a week or so (standard carbing time.)

That's it for now. I'll post again when I get results from this batch and the carbonator cap experiment.

About August 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Mark's Blog in August 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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