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May 2008 Archives

May 24, 2008

Batch 12 write-up, part 4: The Revenge, and finally, Batch 13

A few final observations on Batch 12:

- After a few weeks, the wintergreen really mellowed out. I almost feel like it could use more (which is good; see below.)

- I noticed that some bottles were _REALLY_ good and not very bitter, and others had the bitterness I really don't like. I further noticed that the bottles that came out really good a) had little to no sediment at the bottom, and/or b) I did a really good job of pouring such that little to no sediment came out into the glass. This, to me, is a smoking gun in the hands of the sediment. Solution: better filtration. Enter, the Spiffy Cheapo Filter-O-Matic(tm, pat pend)!

- Otherwise, Batch 12 is far and away the best so far. I think it had a lot to do with sticking to the basic ingredients and adding the wintergreen.

Given all the above observations, here's what I did for Batch 13:

3gal nice, clean, filtered water. (Mine is RO, including the ice.)
4oz Sassafras root bark, cut and sorted.
2 vanilla beans, cut and gutted. Husks and all go in.
1/2tsp anise seeds
4c apple blossom honey (what was available at farmer's market this week)
1c alfalfa honey (something I had in the cupboard)
2tbsp wintergreen extract (oops)

The usual procedure, with a twist this time. Boil about a gallon of water, stick a metal mesh colander in it, add the sassafras, vanilla beans (guts and husks; the whole thing) and anise seed. Let boil, stirring continuously for about 10 minutes. Pull the colander, and the ingredients with it. With the heat still on, mix in the honey, stirring the whole time so as to not let the honey burn at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat.

This is where the story takes a slight twist. This time, I wanted to make damn sure I filter the brew before putting in the keg (sanitized, natch.) See below for the construction details, but for now, I'll summarize and say, "Ladle mixture into the keg through the Spiffy Cheapo Filter-O-Matic(tm, pat pend)"

After everything is in the keg, add ice to bring the temp down so the wintergreen extract doesn't evaporate. Top off with the remaining water, then add the wintergreen extract, keg up, shake, pressurize, burp, and stow in the chill chest for a week or two.

- 2tbsp of wintergreen, 'eh? Last batch was only 1tbsp, and early notes suggested dropping that to 2tsp. Yeah, well, I remembered the "2" part right, just not the "tsp" part. This was an honest mistake on my part. I hope this doesn't come back to haunt me.

- 1/2tsp anise seed, up from 1/4tsp last batch. I couldn't taste the anise seed at all, so I decided to kick it up a bit.

- Apple blossom honey. Hoo doggy, if you can get your hands on some of this stuff, I highly recommend it. Its a mellow, fragrant honey that does taste slightly of apples. It's quite delicious. I considered pulling some honey out for use on toast before making the root beer, but my source (Stoltely's Bee Farms, Atascadero, CA) says he'll have it for a few more weeks, so I'll just go back and get more. He tells me he'll have buckwheat in a few more weeks; guess what I'm getting for my next batch. ;-)

- Spiffy Cheapo Filter-O-Matic(tm, pat pend). I've spent a fair bit of time over the last few weeks considering how to filter this stuff before kegging. I thought about using coffee filters, I thought about the good ol' standby: pantyhose, I've thought about industrial filtering mechanism... I ended up settling on a canning funnel (big wide opening at the bottom, fits a small mouth mason jar) with wire mesh from a colander hose-clamped to the bottom, and a coffee filter up top. The wire mesh is just there to keep the coffee filter from completely falling through. All parts are stainless steel or food grade high temp plastic and were washed thoroughly to remove oils and what-not.

I first tried siphoning the brew into the SCF-O-M(tm), which worked great for about the first pint at which point the flow stopped. I don't mean came to a trickle, I mean it stopped. Completely. Lifting up the edge of the filter made it go again, but only for a bit. The coffee filter had completely clogged up with sediment.

(Don't read this part, @blackmoondog) Rather than blowing through a few dozen coffee filters, I decided to sacrifice a tea towel to the cause and tucked a corner into the SCF-O-M(tm). It did the same thing as the coffee filter, but I was able to kinda scoot the cloth around so that it always had at least a little clean cloth to clog up (say that a few times fast...) After scooting it around the whole towel, it was completely clogged up with sassafras bits and needed to be washed. Three washings of the cloth later, I finally had the whole batch in the keg, properly filtered. It's dark in the keg so I don't have a good idea what it looks like in there, but given how much crap was caught by the SCF-O-M(tm), I'm pretty confident that I got most, if not all, of it.

So. The lessons learned this time around:
- Make damn sure you have a written copy of the recipe around so you don't mistake "tsp" for "tbsp" again. *sigh*

- I need to design the SCF-O-M(tm) v2. It needs a MUCH larger filter surface, one that's easily removable and washable. I haven't figured this one out yet. Any ideas, folks?

That's it for Batch 13. I'll be back in a week or two with a first sample report.

About May 2008

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

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