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Old 09-20-2010, 03:05 PM   #1
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Default Customizing Beer Flavors: When to Add the Spices/Herbs/etc.???

I guess the time is ripe for me to touch the monolith. I'm still relatively new to brewing but I think I'm prepared to start venturing out on my own, expanding my brewing horizons and moving beyond the confines of the four-corners of the brewing recipe.

Among other things I want to pursue are beers with exotic flavors, such as mint, basil, curry, cariibean jerk flavorings, eye of newt, etc. I'm sure some will taste horrible but hey, you never know. Only by expanding my horizons and trying something new can I hope to reclaim the water hole.

So here's my question . . .

To the extent there is a general consensus, when would you suggest would be the best time to add such flavors during the brewing process?

It seems to me from my own research on various beer recipes that the spices and other flavorings are added generally in the last 10 minutes of the boil. Does this make sense as a general rule? If so, why are such flavorings added in the end? It may be like comparing apples with oranges but in cooking, you generally add the spices in the begining and not the end (but then again, cooking and brewing are not really all that analogous).

Thanks for the replies . . . I've got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in this mission.

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Old 09-20-2010, 03:28 PM   #2
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Generally speaking you treat them sort of how I explained hops here.

Quote:
Each hop addition that we traditionally do in brewing serves roughly a different purpose...the longer additions (usually your 60-30 minute additions) provide bitterness. Not necessarily a 'taste" of bitterness but the release of certain chemicals (isomerized alpha acids and other things) which "cut" the intense sweetness of the wort (which is pretty much just sugar water) down to a more drinkable level. It's also in these chemicals is where the preservatives of the beer

The next range from approx. 30 to the last 15 is where you get your
"hop flavor" the actual really nice taste of the distincive hops impart (which if you're a hophead, and brew for awhile, you'll be able to start identifying the flavors of certain ones, if you are skillfull or have a good sense of taste, maybe all of them.)

And then there is the last 15 minutes of the typical boil, from the last 15 to what we call "flameout." This is where the aroma of the hops is usually imparted. And that also includes dryhopping in a primary or secondary, or added to a keg, or dispensed through a randall.

The chemicals for bittering, taste and aroma are very volitile, especially the last two, they boil away quite rapidly, that's why we pretty much will separate the flavor and the aroma additions, and get the aroma ones as late in the boil (or after) as possible, to trap those in.

If you shift them different things will happen...for example if you move the bittering addition further or closer to the end of the boil the amount of bitterness will change, the further out, will impart more bitterness, closer to the end- less. If you use a calculator like beersmith or even a free one like beercalculus you can see how the IBU's of a beer will change, this is sort of based on the amount of oils (alpha acids) the hops are rated at and the gravity (the sweetness) of your wort...

Some hops impart more bitterness than others (High alpha acids like warrior, magnum, and galena for example.)

This chart can kinda show you the interplay between hops and gravity. You can see how changing the amount of hops (or the level of bitterness imparted due to the timing of your additions) changes the flavor profile of your beers. Less hoppy, more hoppy, balanced, etc.
You treat spices similar because they too contain volitile oils. If you are trying for flavor, they would go in the last 1/2 hour of less of the boil. If you are going for aroma you want it really near the end, in the last 10 minutes or at flameout. Also a lot of stuff can be done in secondary. You can even steep them in hot water or even alcohol to extract the flavor/aroma and add it in secondary.

There are no hard and fast rules. You;ll want to look at different recipes to see how different additions are handled. Fir example, belgian wits use a lot of spices and dried citrus peel, so they will give you ideas. Some beers fruits are added to the boil....or to secondary.

One think to remember is it is a dry spice, you want to treat it like you would in the kitchen, you want to crack/crush seeds (like coriander), and crush in your hand dried greens (like oregano) to release the essential oils inside.
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