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April 2008 Archives

April 17, 2008

Batch 12 write-up, part 1: "Whoops."

Batch 12 has, so far, been the best batch so far. It's tree-licking root-beery good, sweet enough without being too sickly sweet, and has enough wintergreen and anise flavor to not be over poweringly "SASSAFRAS!!!!!"

There are a few things I would like to change, if I can:
- It still has that damn astringency. Though it does seem mellower.

- Probably a bit too much wintergreen extract. Next batch, I would probably back it off a bit to 2tsp for a 3 gallon batch.

- The anise gets lost in the wintergreen now. Maybe kick the anise seeds up a bit. doubling to 1/2tsp seems a bit risky, but maybe a "heaping 1/4tsp" next time.

Those are the bits that are flavor based. However, there is one thing that is procedure based (though it also has an affect on flavor) that needs to get fixed: There was no fizz, no carbonation. For some reason, the keggerator didn't get any bubbles into the stuff. For the life of me, I don't know why. My best bet is that it wasn't cold enough in there, so I cranked the fridge up to max...

...and proceeded to turn the keg into a solid block of ice... Whoops.

Probably not such a good idea. I've cranked down the cooling now, so hopefully it'll defrost soon. I hope the pressure build-up from freezing didn't crack the keg anywhere; that would get messy.

So, anyway. To sum up: the flavor is really good, but I gotta get some fizz into the stuff before I'll call this batch a success. More later, after defrosting.

*mumble*mumble*Gotta get a thermometer*mumble*mumble*

April 25, 2008

Batch 12 write-up, part 2: "Tasty!"

It didn't take much decrease in the temp of my fridge to defrost my latest batch of root beer, which makes me happy. I just got around to bottling it yesterday morning before work. I was smart and slowly dropped the pressure in the keg to about 10psi a day or two before bottling, and put the bottles in the freezer. These two kept the root beer from over-fizzing while being bottled which allowed me to actually fill up the neck in the bottle giving less head room for the CO2 to come out of suspension, thereby keeping more fizz in the root beer. All in all, a much better plan.

Over-all impression: Good, but there's some taste, some smell that hits me right up front that I'm _REALLY_ not liking. Having said that, it seems to be getting good reviews from others. Cindy said it was probably the batch she is most likely to drink (she likes store bought; don't hold it against her), my parents loved it and asked for another glass (which is the real test whether someone likes it), and my coworker Dave who got me into this mess in the first place gave me some really good notes on it and said that, over all, he really liked it.

People seem to really like the wintergreen. I think this is going to be a regular addition from now on out, though I may want to scale it back a bit like I said in the last writeup. Though, it was less strong after freezing and defrosting. I wonder if that was just because it was a week later, or if the freezing process did something to it. Dunno. I'll have to play around with next batch, preferably without freezing it at all.

The anise got kinda lost in the mix somewhere, I think. Either that, or it's part of the taste/smell up front that I'm not liking. I'm not sure yet. I may leave it out for now until I get some other things figured out then start adding it back in.

Speaking of that taste/smell up front... It's a very strong bitter smell, which might explain why it hits me stronger than it hits others. I have very high sensitivity to bitter (high pH) and sour (low pH). Due to some recent debacles with my fish tanks, I've discovered that something about our water is _INCREDIBLY_ basic (high pH). In previous batches, I added a bit of food grade lactic acid to the mix. I may do that next batch to try to bring the water down to a more neutral pH.

The other theory I had is that the brew is not getting filtered out very well and little particles of sassafras are staying in the root beer while in the keg. Like tea that has brewed too long, this can bring out nasty bitter tastes from the sassafras. I may need to run the brew through a much more fine filter than just a wire mesh colander. Dave from work also suggested some ways to let a lot of the particulate settle out of the brew before kegging, but I don't think it'll get the majority of the very fine stuff that stays in suspension.

So, my plans for the next batch are as follows:

  • Cut back on the wintergreen from 3 tsp to 2 tsp
  • Leave out the Anise until I get the bitterness figured out
  • Drop the pH of the water before brewing with some food grade lactic acid
  • Filter the heck out of the brew right after boil, before kegging to get as much of the particulate sassafras out of suspension. There are some other ways of doing this using some additives, but I'd rather start here and see how well it works.

Filtration. How? That's a very good question. I brainstormed some ideas today at lunch with some friends. Some ideas involved contacting laboratory supply houses and getting vials, stills, glass spiral tubes, etc.. I suggested that I get a Jacob's ladder to complete the effect.

So far, the solution I like the best is to get something like this, a large stock pot with a built-in faucet (or make one given that the ones with built-in faucets are in the $300+ range!), do the brew in that, put some sort of a large filter on the input to the faucet, then run a hose to a coffee filter on top of the keg and just let it drip through. Of course, I'd have to watch the faucet to make sure the coffee filter doesn't over flow, but I can do that.

This is going to involve a trip to the local restaurant supply store, me thinks. Road Trip!

April 26, 2008

Batch 12 write-up, part 3: Public opinion

I took a bunch of bottles of batch 12 to a party this weekend and it was very well received. Of course, the real test being whether people ask for more after getting their first taste, and many people did. A couple people kept coming back for more and more and couldn't get enough.

I now have a whopping two bottles left. Means its time for another batch! :)

A few people noticed the bitter taste I've been talking about, so I know I'm not going crazy. But it doesn't seem to bother most people, which is a good sign.

Next batch:
- Use buckwheat honey, if I can get my hands on it.
- Use 2tsp of wintergreen
- watch the pH and try to keep it neutral, or even a bit acidic.
- do a much better job of filtering before kegging.

I need to get my hands on some equipment. I've got the next week off from work, so I'll have some time to go shopping. I suspect there will be Batch 13 in the near future.

About April 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Mark's Blog in April 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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