I know I’m breaking some cardinal rule of homebrewing by using malt extract. However, I can’t give up the convenience factor. This is especially the case given the fact that I want to do a double-batch of a high ABV beer. And that’s just not possible with all grain because I lack the equipment.
Using Milk Sugar
This is my first experiment using milk sugar in a brew – to ultimately create a milk stout. Milk sugar can be either added at bottling or during the boil process. I elected for the latter, but may consider doing the latter in the future. (Edit: I’ll definitely be adding milk sugar at bottling going forward. This will leave more room in the primary fermenter for the wort.)
The inspiration for our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew came from the brainchild of yours truly – and the lack of available ingredients. I initially dreamed up a chocolate hazelnut beer – and Frank put the recipe together. By the time brew day came around, we had not yet sourced hazelnut extract – or any other medium for getting hazelnuts in there. But, I did find almond extract – which smells exactly like marzipan! In the future, we’ll be trying a hazelnut chocolate stout. But for this recipe, it’ll be chocolate and almonds.
If you’re looking for inspiration from a chocolate stout, might I suggest Boatswain Chocolate Stout. I think that the Boatswain beer is very well balanced, and that the chocolate flavor comes out quite well. Moreover, in a world of expensive craft brews, the price is extremely reasonable.
One fun thing about this recipe is the wide variety of grains used. The were light and dark roasted malts included, as well as oats. When photographed (below), the diversity of grains is apparent.
Fun fact from Brewmaster Frank: the difference between a sweet stout and your traditional stout is the choice of malts. And, what makes a milk stout is the addition of milk sugar to the brew. Since this brew is not a milk stout, we are not using milk sugar.
For our recipe, we used the Kroger (Vons private label) brand extract almond extract. The cacao nibs are from Navitas Naturals. Frank observed that they make a nice snack. They taste like dark chocolate on the end, although are very bitter.
One oz. of cacao nibs are put in the end of the boil. One oz. is also added to the secondary fermenter. Two oz. of almond extract went at the end of the boil. Adding raw, unsanitized ingredients to the secondary fermenter may have been the culprit of our fermentation issues – discussed in the gravity section.
The wort was simply overpowered by the almond extract. Frank suggested that the wort reminded him of Amaretto. How wort changed into beer over the course of the process was surprising. As for the color – it’s a stout: the wort was black as night.
Original Gravity & Final Gravity
Perhaps it was the heavily roasted malt – but for our homebrew session for the weekend, we missed the greatest mark on our stout. Our goal was 1.066, with an actual of 1.058, for a difference of 0.008. Maybe the dark roast was in impediment to squeezing the bag of grain. The lesson remains the same: squeeze the bag harder. Alternatively, we can twice mill the malt or sparge via pouring hot water over the grains after soaking in the mash tun.
The final gravity also fell short of our target. Fermentation was incomplete – because of either one or two reasons. Firstly, there is the dastardly temperature control. Secondly is any contamination from from the cacao nibs into the secondary. While the latter is possible, the former is more likely.
After the cacao nibs and almond extract danced with our dark brew for six weeks we had our results! The resultant product was a smooth delicious chocolatey stout. Unfortunately, the marzipan was nowhere to be seen. This was quite distinct from the wort – which was over powered by the almond extract. This would appear that just like the floral notes added by hops to a brew, the contribution made by almond extract is ephemeral; it fades over time – and relatively quickly at that.
Chocolate Marzipan Stout #2?
The only possible solution – or the only solution that I can think of – is putting more almond extract, or at a different time. Instead of adding the extract to the wort, it will be added just prior to bottling, alongside the priming sugar.
This is Frank’s second attempt at a mint chocolate stout. This version has a small tweak compared to his last attempt. What’s the tweak? It’s not more or less mint and cacao. It’s not a different ABV. It’s a modification to what’s called the “body” of the beer. You know you’re a beer geek when you’re using such articulate language to describe a beer. And onto the recipe!
As with all chocolate stouts, there is blend of lightly and darkly roasted malts. Check out the below. It is a prototype of what could arrive at your door for our all-grain mint chocolate stout homebrew recipe. Note the variety of grains used.
As with our other mint recipes, we’ll be using fresh mint (put in at the end of the boil), and mint extract (put into the secondary fermenter). There are contamination benefits of using an extract in the secondary – in that the extract is already pasteurized so there’s no risk of contamination from foreign organisms. For our own test, we used fresh mint in the secondary carboy as well. To stave off bacterial infection, I soaked the mint in iodophor before it went into the secondary.
To add a chocolate flavor to the brew, we’re using cacao nibs – which are delicious in beer as well as for a snack. To keep foreign germs at bay, the cacao can be added at the end of the boil instead of going straight into the primary fermenter.
The wort was rich and sweet – as is to be expected. The mint was there – noticeable, but not overpowering. In my experience, add-ins present in the wort can disappear over the six weeks it takes for wort to change into beer. This is why sampling the wort with add-ins can be misleading.
We off the mark a good deal withthis stout. Frank noticed a pattern on the short-comings for achieving original gravity: higher alcohol beers are the ones that come in most distant from the target. Perhaps this has to do with the smaller surface when the grain is in the pot. As we continue to brew, we’re refining our list of best practices. This will not only get us closer to our target ABV and final gravity, but allow us to share with you the best way to brew. (Yeah! That rhymes!)
Living in the micro brew capital of the world, our mutual friend Kyle Kiesel knows a thing or two about beer. He approves of our second iteration of the mint chocolate stout, noting:
It’s easy to drink.
The brew is indeed a crowd pleaser. The dark roast suggests a hint of coffee of the nose. The body is rich and thick – with the mint character adding yet another level to the beverage. And for that, I’m inclined to agree with old Kyle, the beer is good! I look forward to this beer being one of our first offerings.
Mint Chocolate Stout #3?
We may not necessarily need to do a third iteration of this beer. The only possible change is the amount of malt added. Otherwise, as a sweet, chocolaty, minty
The inspiration for this recipe came from leafing through the beer resource, “Designing Great Beers,” by Ray Daniels. In the stouts section, the book described the “Oyster Stout.” Traditionally, either the oyster meat, brine, or even the shell were added to the list of ingredients to create the final beer. That sounded like an interesting idea – so we decided to give it a go for our next homebrew recipe!
The goal here is for the oyster to impart its flavor to the beer – in all its salty goodness. Whole, fresh oysters were sourced from the local seafood market. The meat of the oyster was added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. The oysters were left in the primary fermenter. Going forward, the oyster may be taken out of the wort before going into the carboy.
Since the oysters were put into the wort with a whole fifteen minutes left to boil, any and all germs were killed off – with fifteen minutes of boiling being sufficient to kill anything, oyster germs included. If you’re reluctant to put oyster meat into your brew, there are alternatives. Consider the oyster shells themselves, oyster brine, or simply salt. Even a small amount of the latter should make the biggest impact.
For our brewing for the weekend, we milled the grains twice in an attempt to hit our target gravity. Our previous weekend of brewing landed us short of this mark. Running the grains through the mill a second time only takes a few more minutes but gets us closer to our target brew.
Our target original gravity for this recipe was 1.050. We struck 1.053. Naturally, milling the grain twice did the trick. Alternatively or additionally, the grains could be “sparged” by pouring additional boiling over the grains (when the grains are in a strainer atop the brew kettle).
When we sampled the wort it came across as a regular wort stout. The addition of the oysters were indistinguishable. Since fermentation had not yet begun, the wort was sweet. Were the oyster meat to make an impact to the beer, it would do so over the four weeks that the oyster meat was left to hang out in the fermentation vessel.
Six weeks from brew day, the oyster stout was ready to enjoy. And my only response is:
where’s my oyster at?
Unfortunately, this brew tastes just like any old stout. It’s a good stout – but there is nothing crazy about this one. There is most certainly nothing oyster-ery about it.
However, the lack of any oyster flavor seems to be the consensus among all the oyster stouts I’ve ever enjoyed. One example being “Marooned on Hog Island” by 21st Amendment Brewery. Like our own oyster stout attempt, the brew proudly states the use of oyster ingredients front and center (the label is above). Yet, any oyster flavor is indistinguishable.
Oyster Stout #2
Tweaking the amount of the oyster added – and how long it stays in there – would be the number one variable for this recipe. For the next recipe, we could add more oysters towards the end of the boil. Alternatively, we could take oyster meat out of the wort before putting everything into the primary fermenter. However, given the lack of any strong oyster flavor in the brew, this latter suggestion is less likely.
Another idea would be to add salt to the recipe. This could be done in addition to the oysters, or as an alternative to. Using salt alone would make the logistics of the recipe much simpler. Salt could also be added to the secondary fermenter – two weeks after fermentation has begun.
I can’t say definitely that any particular beer inspired this homebrew. However, this is one coconut beer in particular is absolutely fantastic: Oskar Blue Brewery “Death By Coconut.” It’s a very sweet, very smooth and all coconut.
For a dark beer, we used dark malt. The details are covered in the recipe section.
For coconut, we used unsweetened coconut flakes. For this particular batch, we selected a premium brand, which advertised the lack of sulfides. (Sulfur is commonly used as a preservative – in both food and beer. Some brewers even opine that sulfur added as a preservative in beer is what causes hangovers.) Whole coconut flakes, as opposed to a more finely minced bits of coconut, may impart less flavor to the ultimate brew because of less surface area.
100% cacao bar was used to impart the chocolate flavor. One disadvantage of this is that much of the cacao was left in the boil pot – never getting into the primary fermenter.
Both add-ins were put in at the end of the boil. Putting the add-ins into the boil gets rid of any contamination issues. An alternative could be putting the add-ins into the primary – but that risks contamination. The add-ins could be sanitized themselves, but is a cumbersome process. For example, I once soaked fresh mint leaves in iodaphor before adding them to the secondary fermenter.
I missed the boat on the OG for this recipe. However, it was a good learning experience. The lesson: pour some of the wort into your device for measuring original gravity first – and then into the fermentation vessel. If you go in the opposite order, you’ll be left with wort full of hops and/or other add-ins. In the case of this recipe, I was left with a batch of chocolate sludge.
The hops are immediately apparent. For a beer that’s centered around coconut and chocolate, the hops seem out of place. Six weeks of fermentation will change the balance of flavors. A lot of the cacao did not make it out of the boiling pot and into the primary. This is a function of using processed cacao and not nibs. Using nibs would be ideal – but are not always available (as was the case w/ this brew).
What happened!? On bottling day, the beer was all coconut. Two weeks, it was a regular chocolate stout. The coconut flavor died over the course of two weeks. What a bummer!
We’ve already created a second recipe. This second attempt will use twice the coconut. Maybe this change will convince the coconut to stick around. As a further alternative, there’s always coconut extract.