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What's the best way to caramelize honey for a brochet?

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honey11badger

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First time attempting a brochet, and I'm going to be boiling the honey tomorrow. I realized that I have 15 lbs of honey to boil, and dont have a kettle big enough. So, I've decided to use my crock pot... Has anyone ever tried this/ do you think the temperature will get high enough to do the job?
Any insight is appreciated
 

TheBrewingMedic

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the crockpot might be able to achieve the temps needed to reach a low boil which is what you will want, the thing you have to remember is honey expands as it boils, a lot.

Figure 1 quart (~3 pounds) of cold honey takes up about a 3/4-1 gallon of space with molten hot lavalike honey when boiling, even at the lowest possible temp on the stove, just high enough to keep the boil going it at LEAST is double in volume.

So if you can fit over a gallon of honey in your crock pot cold, as it warms it's not so bad but the second it converts from high simmer to the boil, it's like a switch being turned on it becomes alive and grows QUICKLY, and you will have a honey lava flow all over that can't be touches until it cools and clean up will be....yeah not good

I litterally stand over mine and as soon as the rolling bubbles start I start stirring quick and turning the heat down to keep it under control until I get the flames adjusted to where it keeps it safely in the pot and I don't have to do a constant vigorous stir for an hour or more.

While it may be more time consuming it you don't have access to a 16-20 quart pot, do it in batches, use your largest pot, only fill with honey 1/4 or less full and when you reach your desired caramelization, add equal amount of water (very very carefully) pour it in your fermenter, making note of the temp and time so you do each batch as close to the same as possible. if you don't add water at the end of the boil and let the honey cool on its own it will become a nice caramel honey hard candy pretty quick. makes mixing it a b!#@h.
 

TheBrewingMedic

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Haha I've gotten so used to reading typos here and especially in text messages that knowing what the subject was I didn't even notice the R in it....kind of a sad sign of current society, so much autocorrect errors and abbreviations that mispellings don't get noticed as much.
 

biochemedic

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What BrewingMedic says is very true, but perhaps you don't have to necessarily boil the honey... The concept is very interesting, and I'd think some of the caramelization reactions would occur at lower temps over a longer time. I'd still keep a very close watch on it until you have a solid handle on how honey will react to the temps you'll be reaching and holding.
 

TheBrewingMedic

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Biochemedic brings up an interesting point, we boil to attain the desired level of caramelization as quickly as we can without scorching or burning it, peaked my interest to see if a new method for future projects could be used. I looked into what temps the sugars in honey readily start to caramelize.

The Fructose is the lowest at 230*F
The Glucose and Sucrose are both at 320*F
The Maltose is most heat resistant starting at 356*F

plus there are a bunch of other di and trisacharides and a comple complex sugars I didn't find exact data on. but based on those numbers lets say we need it to hit at least 356*F to caramelize everything, but do we have to? will it change the flavor that much if the Maltose slips through if we only let it get to 320*F?

But here is where that idea hit a snag unfortunately, the boiling point of honey... 160*F

So for now it looks like there is no way around boiling to get caramelization, which is a pyrolitic reaction.

UNLESS..... We can mimick the color and flavor of caramelization by figuring out what amino acids and enzymes that may be needed to cause a Malliard type effect at lower temps. Like in the cooking down of maple syrup and a source for getting them in the mix.

But that would require someone with much higher understanding and knowledge base of chemistry than I have. ;}
 
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honey11badger

honey11badger

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Interesting, I'll go ahead on the crock pot, but just keep a close eye on it...

While I've got the attention of some knowledgeable individuals such as yourselves I have a second question: on a chemical level, what's going on to my honey when it boils? I think intuitively that a heavy boil is breaking down the sugars into less complex forms, but it also makes sense that heating a viscous liquid like honey could also provide an environment that allows sugar to get more complex.

Obviously I'm no chemist, but I find anything to do with brewing fascinating!

Anyway thanks for the all the valuable insights!
 

Taise

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Please let us know how it works in the crock pot. I'm thinking about doing a bochet as my next test batch and I'm curious how the low/slow approach works against higher/faster.
 
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honey11badger

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Taise said:
Please let us know how it works in the crock pot. I'm thinking about doing a bochet as my next test batch and I'm curious how the low/slow approach works against higher/faster.
No problem, I've never boiled honey before, so I won't have any reference points to fast burning, but I will let you know what I see today. (hoping for swarms of bees to hang outside my window all jealous like!)
 

biochemedic

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Interesting, I'll go ahead on the crock pot, but just keep a close eye on it...
Please keep us posted!

...on a chemical level, what's going on to my honey when it boils? I think intuitively that a heavy boil is breaking down the sugars into less complex forms, but it also makes sense that heating a viscous liquid like honey could also provide an environment that allows sugar to get more complex.
I think it's a combination of both. Entropy always increases, and you are indeed breaking down some sugars into simpler forms, but you are also introducing energy into the system (heat), which allows some other things to occur.

As Brewing Medic mentioned, the temps for caramelization are quite high (indeed higher than I realized/remembered) so you probably won't get much true caramelization. However, you should get some other forms of non-enzymatic browning; ie Maillard reaction products that should introduce some really nice flavors (toasty, bread-like flavors) and a darkening of the color to the honey. These reactions will indeed happen at lower temps... I could almost picture the resultant honey as the equivalent of biscuit malt, amber malt, or perhaps Vienna malt.

I think this idea has potential to produce a really unique mead!
 

TheBrewingMedic

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well first it gets real liquidy and thins down to more of a watery maple syrup consitency...

then some of the flavor and aroma components start to evaporate, the house will start smelling like honey then gradually like toasted marshmallow and some say toffee...

then some of the enzymes and good bacteria (the stuff that keeps honey from ever spoiling) are burnt off...

some of the sucrose will break down but not completely, heat will convert a portion of it into fructose and glucose...

caramelization and even the malliard effect on sugars, actually arent fully understood, it is basically known that they react either to heat or enzymes, change colors and flavor profiles and releases a boat load of chemical biproducts.

ketoses become aldoses and aldoses become ketoses (real simple sugars and monsacharides) through isomerization, basically trading bonds, where some break on a portion of molecules, they form on the rest of them.

volatile chemicals that are released produce the "caramelized" flavor (and reason behind the loss of honey flavors and aromas)...

condensation and dehydration occur as the water boils off leaving the thick consistency when it cools....


and probably a thousands other things I don't understand or have never heard of lol


short version, it goes in smelling and tasting like honey comes out dark caramelly flavor with honeyish undertones, smells more like real dark near burnt toasted marshmallows and becomes a deep dark red/amber color almost black looking (unless you burn it then it becomes carbon and is black.
 

TheBrewingMedic

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However, you should get some other forms of non-enzymatic browning; ie Maillard reaction products that should introduce some really nice flavors (toasty, bread-like flavors) and a darkening of the color to the honey. These reactions will indeed happen at lower temps... I could almost picture the resultant honey as the equivalent of biscuit malt, amber malt, or perhaps Vienna malt.

I think this idea has potential to produce a really unique mead!
This got me thinking, when making caramel with regular table sugar the reaction between the aldehydes in the sugar and the nitrogen part of the proteins in the cream is what causes the malliard effect. That results in the change in color and the malty, caramely flavor, how do we replicate that? like what could be added to provide the protein/nitrogen enzymes to facilitate the reaction?

If we can figure that out we potentially could be looking at a whole new breed of lower temp bochet or even a new category of mead.
 
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honey11badger

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That would be epic if you could add an enzyme into the primary that could allow caramelization w/I added heat... I wonder what would happen if you created a very acidic must, like a PH of 2, and then somewhat neutralized it before pitching the yeast ( or go alkaline then lower the PH)
 
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**update**
So, I wound up using 2 crock pots, and a stainless steel pot. ( I don't have any thermometers that go above 220F, so please bear with me)

Crock Pot A, 7 lbs honey: Cooked for 3 hours, got above 220F @ 2 hours. Never reached boil. Delicate notes of caramel and toffee, honey flavors still present, rich amber color. Fragrant Honey nose with hints of caramel and toffee.

Crock Pot B, 3 lbs honey: Cooked for 3 hours, got above 220F at 1.5 hours and reached a slight boil. Caramel and toffee dominate the flavor with notes of honey flavor still present. Marshomellowy caramel nose.

Steel Pot: 5 lbs honey. Within 45 minutes exceeded 220F, around 60 minutes boiled.
65 minutes it boiled over the top. Taken off of heat for 5 minutes, then placed on low for the following 60. Boiled heavily. Caramel and toffee flavor only. No taste of honey. Dark mahogany color. Toffee nose.

Mixed all together in must with yeast energizer and raisins(for nutrients, as my local homebrew outlet didn't have any in stock). The overall flavor is quite similar to butterscotch, and the must is already tasty~ with caramel, toffee, and honey scent. Dark Amber in color.
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Really impressed with crock pot's results... just wish it was much larger so I could put more honey in, and leave it to cook for 12 hours and see what the results are next time. Overall though, I think that utilizing several different methods of boiling will help add to complexity of the flavor...

Also for improvement next time: won't spill and 1/8 pound of honey on stovetop for me to clean later :/
 

TheBrewingMedic

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Crock Pot A, 7 lbs honey: Cooked for 3 hours, got above 220F @ 2 hours. Never reached boil. Delicate notes of caramel and toffee, honey flavors still present, rich amber color. Fragrant Honey nose with hints of caramel and toffee.

Crock Pot B, 3 lbs honey: Cooked for 3 hours, got above 220F at 1.5 hours and reached a slight boil. Caramel and toffee dominate the flavor with notes of honey flavor still present. Marshomellowy caramel nose.

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Also for improvement next time: won't spill and 1/8 pound of honey on stovetop for me to clean later :/
Very interesting, the low and slow retained some of the volatile compounds that make up the flavor and aroma, definitely could be onto something here...

better on your stovetop than on your hands or arms, cleaning may be a pain in the [email protected]# but better than the damage it could have done.
 

Taise

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Any updates on how this is coming along? I was thinking of giving it a try tomorrow.
 
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honey11badger

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Taise said:
Any updates on how this is coming along? I was thinking of giving it a try tomorrow.
It's coming along quite nicely. The yeast has devoured all of the sugar content and it already tastes great, even without any aging. I racked it to secondary just last week with 8 lbs sliced apple (not so much for flavor, but for some tannins), and added some French oak
Chips. Should be racking off of both of those in a few weeks and aging in a stainless steel keg.
 
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Was unable to resist the temptation any longer... Cracked it open and gave my mead its first taste since I removed the oak from it... It has a sipping whiskey-like flavor to it. Burns in the back of the throat but only slightly so on the palate. No residual sweetness at all, really quite dry. Once the the sip has been finished, and effervescent clove-like flavor lingers.

I haven't brewed too many meads, but this is definitely my best so far... I think if I put this under a light amount of carbonation in keggerizer, it will be utterly brilliant.
 
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