May 5, 2013: Braggot, Take 2

This evening, I began the process of putting together another braggot. I’d love to say everything went as planned, but no.

I started by throwing 2.5G of water into a primary fermentation bucket (having first sanitized with my saved solution of potassium metabisulfite) and putting it in the freezer to quickly cool down. I then set two pans of water on the stove to heat. To the first I added 4.5 quarts of water, and I brought it to 170°F. The second received only a gallon, and it was destined to reach a not-quite-boiling 185°F.

To the 4.5 quarts of water, I added the mesh bag full of the grains. I used 4 pounds of crushed pale malt and 0.5 pounds of caramel malt. Last time I used crystal malt per the recipe, but this time I went with the caramel, which should cut the sweetness a little bit, adding complexity of flavor in place of the bitterness the hops provided in the last batch. The temperature of the mash, as expected, dropped into the range of of 145-155 and I held it there for 30 minutes. Then I began the sparging process, made much simpler this time by the use of the bag, which fit nicely in a colander allowing me to pour water over top.

Okay – that last paragraph was the intention, at the very least. I did get the water going, but then I added the grain early, distracted and losing order of operations as I made the kids some tapioca pudding simultaneously. No problem, the temp didn’t take too long to get to its expected 170°F, then I reduced the heat and let it settle down to the 150-ish point. But in retrospect – and I questioned this last time as well – I think that the 30 minutes would be better done off the burner altogether. For thirty minutes a kept a vigilant eye, as the temperature would not seem to stay constant, sitting for a moment at 150°F, then jumping into the 160’s.

But 30 minutes eventually elapsed, and so I went to begin sparging. That was when I discovered that the bag had burned to the bottom of the pan. Ugh. Now, I honestly dislike this pan. I’m not sure what is with it – maybe it’s just too thin. I always seem to have problems keeping the contents from sticking to the bottom. But I didn’t expect such an issue with the mash. It’s my biggest pot, my next two reasonably sized pans being 1) on loan to friends and 2) used to heat the other gallon. So I threw out the bag, and moved the mash to a new bag.

Now at this point I did have a decision. I could just make a semi-sweet mead and discard the mash. It is a lot of honey to waste. But the mash didn’t smell worse for the wear. It was slightly darker than the last time, but only slightly, and this could just as easily be the effect of the caramel rather than the crystal malt. So I went ahead and sparged, and everything turned out fine as far as I can tell. Very little of the barley was stuck to the bottom – looks like mostly just the bag itself crisped. Sparging was uneventful, and definitely easier than last time when I did not use a bag to contain the soaked barley.

Having finished sparging, I ran and got the water out of the freezer. Not frozen. Whew! I added all the honey I could get out of the jars to the fermentation bucket, then used the sparged mash (still quite a bit hot) to rinse out the honey jars so I got all the honey. The recipe called for 10 pounds of honey, so I used four 2.5 lb honey jars. I then added the rest of the sparged liquid and stirred up the must to evenly distribute the honey. That was followed by 2 tsp each of yeast energizer and yeast nutrient, and then a little more stirring.

Finally, I rehydrated the yeast. The recipe called for 10 grams of Lalvin D-47, i.e. two packets. Before adding the yeast (while it waited the direct 15 minutes), I checked the gravity of my must (a respectable 1.101). The time complete, I tossed the yeast in, and then stirred some more to mix and incorporate oxygen.

So, not my best work. I think everything still looks very hopeful, but I’d just as soon not burn the bag to the pan it is cooking in next time. The must itself is darker, if only in my imagination. I’ll definitely be able to compare final results with the last batch. The major difference this time is the lack of hops (and I also didn’t boil the sparged liquid another hour, but I believe this is specifically for introducing the hops). Hopefully the burnt bag doesn’t make the comparison to the hopped braggot meaningless.



About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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