After what seemed like forever – and dealing with natural disasters, scheduling conflicts and a little planning – we finally brewed the porter variations and it was well worth the wait.
Our current brewing set up is limited to 10 gallon batches, so to ensure consistency between the variations we were looking to do, we asked Carton Brewing from Atlantic Highlands for some help. They have a “Tippy System” which is a pilot system that they use to test their own beers and develop new recipes. Their Tippy System allows the ability to brew 20 gallons at a time and is exactly what we were looking for. It’s very easy to use and is pretty much a home brewers dream machine. Although we understand the brewing process, we’ve never used the Tippy. So Jeremy Watts, Carton Brewing’s Assistant Brewer, was giving us a hand that afternoon.
Things went very smoothly throughout the course of the brew session and the Tippy allowed us to pretty much sit back and concentrate on other things (such as drink some beers). There weren’t any bumps in the road until we decided to add our organic dehydrated pumpkin powder for our final variation (pumpkin, vanilla with other spices). It was decided that the best time to add the powder to the wort was after flame out because we wanted to allow the beer to catch the flavor but without affecting the rest of the batch. If we added it at the beginning of the boil, then the entire 20 gallon batch would have the flavoring in it.
Although we tested the powder in water before adding it to the beer, we didn’t anticipate what would happen when using it in a large quantity. After running 15 gallons of the batch through the plate chiller, we added the pound of dehydrated pumpkin to the last 5 gallons and stirred it in the wort until it desolved. It was at that point where something went wrong. When the pumpkin powder was added, the particles started to absorb some of wort, expanding and causing the plate chiller to become clogged. Since the plate chiller was pretty much useless for what we were doing, it was decided to just transfer it into the bucket we were fermenting in, still hot, and to cool it off in the fridge before pitching the yeast.
After a couple weeks at 68 degrees, everything was ready to be kegged and carbed aside from the pumpkin batch. There was still a bit of pumpkin floating around in it which needed to be cleared out. We decided to drop the temperature, transfer it into another container and continue kegging the rest of beer, fully prepared to consider that batch a loss. It still had bits of the pumpkin floating around in it, so it needed to be settled before anything else could be done with it. It’s still resting in the carboy and we’re hoping for the best, but prepared to dump it if necessary.
Now that at least 15 gallons of porter was kegged, it was time to start doing a little bit of flavoring. It’s always nice to keep things local, so we used a quarter pound of medium roast coffee from Booskerdoo Coffee Roasters in Monmouth Beach NJ. The coffee was added in cheese cloth to the keg and removed after a week. It resulted in a nice tasting coffee porter where the coffee complimented the roasted malt flavors without overpowering them.
A week before adding coffee, we performed some testing to determine how much coffee to use. Since we were making a Founders porter clone, we figured it would be appropriate to perform coffee testing using that beer. We calculated the amount of coffee by scale that we would need to add to 12oz bottles of Founders Porter in order to mimic quarter pound, half pound and full pound additions in the keg. After taste testing them all, it was determined to use a quarter pound. It’s important to make these determinations before the additions to prevent spoiling an entire batch due to bad miscalculations or judgments.
I guess what I’m getting at with this entire post is that when adding coffee or other flavorings to a beer, it’s important to give it a test run. It would be a shame to add anything to a batch and have undesired results. Although we were able to accurately calculate an appropriate amount of coffee to add to one of our batches, we grossly miscalculated what would happen with the pumpkin. Having 15 gallons of porter still isn’t a problem by any means, but it certainly would be better to have 20 gallons.