Cacao Brunch Milk Stout
If you know me, you know how methodical I am. There is a method to do everything and everything has a method. When I went to brew a milk stout back on December 4th with chocolate and coffee, well it was anything but methodical. It started with the base recipe for Terrapin Beer Company‘s Wake n Bake Imperial Coffee Stout. I listened to this on the podcast show Can You Brew It. I think it got a vote of 1-3 for not cloned. I then decided that I’d add some lactose, which is milk sugar and is non-fermentable, meaning it leaves behind sweetness to the final beer. I wanted to add some chocolate also. I’ve done cocoa powder in the past and while it didn’t give any problems, it didn’t lend much flavor either. So I found an 8oz bag of organic cacao nibs at Earthfare here in Athens. My last worry was how to add the coffee. Well the last worry I had when I was building the recipe.
So going into brewing you have to make a starter. Which is basically brewing a 1L – 2L batch of beer using DME (dry malt extract), and allowing the yeast cells to multiple off the easy sugars. I’ve only had trouble out of one yeast starter before and that was a dead smack pack that never inflated, meaning dead yeast cells. So I make the starter and pitch the yeast and wake-up the next day expecting some head in the flask or some action in the airlock. I have nothing though. In true form, I’m too excited to brew just because of dead yeast. But I was lucky the first time. I brewed, ran to the LHBS (local home brew store) and pitched on fresh wort after two days with no problems. This time I did the same getting a replacement from a new LHBS after explaining it appeared the yeast were dead. So I return home and pour the vial directly into the primary and wait. The next day there is still no activity, hmm? So I pull out both vials and read the labels. Yeah, you’d think I’d done that first. The first vial was outdated by a month past the recommended date. Now this shouldn’t matter, because I’m making a starter to liven up those cells. The second vial was newer though not fresh. The vial I used this past weekend I would consider fresh, it was a few weeks old. You generally count back four months from the recommended date to determine the production date. The other important piece of information on the vial was the temperature range, 70°-75°. Well its Georgia’s beginning on the now almost defunct pseudo winter, so the house is a nice 64°. Turns out, them cells were just napping and snuggling to keep warm. I poured about 6 gallons of near 80° water into a plastic container with the primary sitting in it. Once the temperature strip on the primary neared 70°, they woke up. Every other day or so I’d auto siphon out half the water and get it near boiling and pour it back in to keep them going. I checked the gravity after a couple of weeks and it was close to where I wanted the FG. So it ended up taking a month to fully ferment. What I did learn from this (besides to read) was that if you rush fermentation, or rack off yeast before its fermented, it gives off flavors. I think some people stick to the two week rule regardless of gravity and it will almost ruin the beer. I believe I did this while trying to brew a stout last year.
The other worries
How do I brew with cacao nibs? One thing I learned while playing golf is that once you learn the basics, ignore the tips in magazines. One magazine says to practice putting with three balls to learn speed, line, etc. The next magazine will say only practice putting with one ball you don’t get additional tries on the course, so put pressure on yourself to make them all. Both are valid. So for nibs I’m going to do ignore all the posts I read on HBT that show pictures of chunky stout full of nibs. I throw my 6oz of nibs straight into the boil. I’m thinking its chocolate, that’s 200° wort, it has to melt. Next in goes my wort chiller to fully sanitize it and WTF, where’s my boil? There was so much flaked oat and barley I had a longer than normal mash plus I’m going 90 min boil, I shat my propane tank. Stop laughing! I threw the lid on it and started counting in my head for the last 15 minutes. Well, no, I set my phone for 15 minutes, but every other piece of civilization was spent, so why use it. It took near an hour to pour and filter the wort into primary. Some of the nibs had melted, obviously not all of them. Then along came the coffee crisis. It’s post Christmas now so I’m stocked on coffee. Sarah, the in-laws, myself included, usually gift whole bean coffee. What I did get was Starbucks Christmas blend, which I enjoy. What I didn’t get was Jittery Joes or Caribou, which I salivate over. So a quick stop by the local Jittery Joes to get probably Wake n Bake over Depth Charge. Sarah has a hard time enjoy the darkness of Depth Charge as coffee, plus it is WnB base recipe. But with lactose and chocolate plus Depth Charge, there is potential to be a Depth Charge clone. Ha! What coffee? The only bean they had was JJ decaf, Two Stories decaf and the bicycle blend, which I’m sure is roasted to try and eliminate mid morning ride poop urges with the banana seat riding deep. Really? The…THE local coffee company is out of coffee? Christmas blend it is. So today is the day to add the remaining nibs and coffee. I read up on coffee (going against my belief already, I know) and find most people on HBT cold brew. Well cold brew takes 12-24 hours, screw it, I’m chunking grinds! After carefully filling a hop sack with nibs and grinds I bang out some coffee bean dust and dunk it in.
Finally I’m ready to bottle. All goes smooth and out comes 48 bottles of hopeful to be great morning coffee. I fully blame Foothills Brewing on my new found addiction of brunch coffee. See the ORF post here. I asked people on Facebook to name this homebrew and one of my favorites was Shockalatte. But since a latte doesn’t consist of chocolate but mocha does, I just went with Cacao Brunch Milk Stout. I popped the first bottle this weekend with brunch and hello chocolate. The Starbucks went #failblog on me, but it may show up along with the carbonation. It’s only been in the bottle a week, so carbonation isn’t there yet. Next week it should start coming through and hopefully brings the coffee with it. If not, I’m happy with cacao milk and 8.5% abv in a beer glass.
As I mentioned early I brewed this past weekend. It was the fourth time I’ve brewed my original recipe American pale ale that I dry hop each time. This is the fourth tweak to the recipe. Tweak two and three each earned fourth place finishes in separate competitions. Hopefully this will earn gold.