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Old 06-03-2010, 01:39 AM   #1
FiddleTilDeath
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Default How much / how long should vanilla bean(s) soak in how much oak chips in rye whiskey?

I am brewing a modified Northern Brewer Imperial Stout recipe.

to summarize their recipe:
12lbs Dark LME
0.5lbs each Roasted Barley, Black Malt, Chocolate - steeped
2oz Summit hops @ 60 min
2oz Cascade @ 2 min
Wyeast Scottish Ale and Irish Ale yeasts

I also added some french press brewed dark roast coffee at the beginning of the boil, not sure why at the beginning, but hey, already has happened..

When I transferred to secondary at 3 weeks, I had a small taste and the coffee was very prominent. This got me thinking about maybe making this a big big big brew with flavors from all over.

As I already had used:
Coffee from Sumatra
Irish AND Scottish Yeasts
American high alpha hops

I thought, why not add:
French oak chips soaked in rye whiskey with a vanilla bean

The whiskey is Jim Beam Rye - a tasty enough whiskey which I received as a birthday gift and do not have the finances to buy some top shelf stuff. Anyways, I think this will work just fine.

I have 4oz of French oak chips, medium toast. I want to maybe keep these flavors on the subtle side because there is already a lot going on. So I was thinking I'd use 1oz of oak chips.

I plan on dumping all the whiskey in with the chips, so probably will only use 4-6 oz or whatever it takes to keep the chips and vanilla soaking.

I have never used vanilla beans before in brewing - my inclination was to just use 1 in the whiskey oak soak. Should I soak the bean in the bourbon the entire time I am soaking the chips? Or should I wait a month and then add it?

I'll be pouring this mason jar concoction in 2 weeks before bottling. Should I let the vanilla bean pour out with the chips and whiskey?

I can always add more chips or vanilla later, but I am not really scientific with my brews; I tend to try stuff and see how it turns out without worrying because almost every brew after my first has come out way better than expectations. Is there any reason to think I need more chips or vanilla? I do have 2 beans, 4oz of chips, and more whiskey than I could possibly need.

Thanks in advance!

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Old 06-03-2010, 02:47 AM   #2
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Having experimented plenty with bourbon/vanilla/coffee in beers, I can help you out a little.

First off...you'll probably have a lot of bitterness from that coffee being added so early in the boil. I've never tried it though, so I can't say that for sure.

Second, with the amount of coffee flavor you have, it'll be hard to notice anything else in the beer. I've found that with a year+ of aging, the other flavors will finally start coming out, so save a few bottles and you'll be made you didn't save more.

As far as vanilla goes... I usually only go with one bean, but to cover up coffee, I would suggest both. Slice them in half and add them to your whiskey.

For the oak, again, go with all 4 oz. Oak is a pretty subtle flavor unless it sits in the beer for a month or more.

It usually takes me about 6-8oz. of whiskey to cover my chips, but it depends on what size container you're using. A mason jar may take a bit more. I wouldn't suggest adding the whiskey to your fermentor unless you REALLY love whiskey. I have a hard time believing the whiskey will show through over the coffee though, so it may not be an issue. I usually dry my chips out for a few hours, but you could also strain the whiskey and dump them right in with the vanilla beans.

Another thing I do with mine is I save the used whiskey and add it back to the orginal bottle. I use Maker's Mark or Johnny Walker depending on what I'm feeling at the time. I have two bottles that are strictly for beer. I'll soak the chips, and add the little bit back to the bottle so it melds with the rest of the whiskey. After a few batches, the whiskey starts to get real oakey and tastes great even if you just have a glass of it on the rocks..

Hope this helps.

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Old 06-03-2010, 04:02 AM   #3
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Mmm, thanks a lot for your thoughtful comments! Luckily what I added was actual coffee, not any ground beans themselves. The coffee wasn't overpowering in the sample I tried, but it definitely tasted like a coffee stout as opposed to a stout with coffee notes. (in a real world example, I found the coffee in Long Trail's Coffee Stout to be pretty excessive when I had it on tap at the brewery) Do you usually add coffee at the end of the boil? I have a feeling things are going to be more mellow by the time its been in secondary for a few months.

You are probably right about the patience - I am not really expecting to drink this until early 2011 at the earliest.
This beer will be called Five Nations Imperial Stout!

oh... and I DO really love whiskey

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Last edited by FiddleTilDeath; 06-03-2010 at 04:27 AM. Reason: edited for coherency
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Old 06-03-2010, 04:42 AM   #4
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Yes, I usually add coffee at the end of the boil. Sometimes if I'm looking for a little more coffee flavor I'll add cold brewed coffee or espresso to the secondary.

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