Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

The Ultimate Hophead treat……Hop Extract from Vodka (Lupulin Extraction)Adding Hop Character to an underhopped beer.

Making a hop martini is one of the many things you can do with elixir!

Calling all hopheads out there! Have you ever craved the Ultimate hophead experience? Well, I have it here for you. I have made a hop infused vodka with my homegrown glacier hops that you can spruce up almost anything to fit your hophead needs….even a full on hop martini. The process is simple, and the possibilities are endless.

The process is very simple, you just take hops and place them in a vessel, say a mason jar. Then fill it 1/2 full (or more. I did about 3/4 full) then let it sit for 4 days or more (I did four days). The hops will absorb some vodka, so you may need to add vodka throughout the process if you used a lot of hops. What I also did, was every day I gently shook the jar to help bring out more hop goodness. I don’t have any scientific evidence on if it dissolves more lupulin, but hey, it worked for me. What you see in the picture was 4 days of infusing glacier hops in the Vodka. From there, I strained off the vodka and placed the hops in a strainer. I gently squeezed the hops to extract more liquid, but I did not wring them out. I wanted mostly lupulin and not so much of the leafy matter that I would get if I abused the cones too much. I took it to my homebrew club for evaluation, and we all agree, there is a ton of hop flavor and aroma dissolved in that Vodka. For me, the first two swallows are bit harsh, but after that, its smooth sailing.

Some will say the type of vodka you choose really doesn’t make a difference, but I disagree. If you use a cheap vodka that you have to mix with something to taste good, you probably will still end up with vodka infusion you really are not happy with. My favorite vodka by far is Tito’s Handmade Vodka. It is relatively inexpensive ($16.95 for 750ml here where I live), fairly easy to find, and is a top-notch vodka you can easily drink straight. To me, it’s the perfect vodka for this task. But you can use whatever you want.

So what can you do with it? Well, obviously you can have a hoptini of any type, you can use this either straight like I did or find something sweet to mix it with. You could serve some hop shots with this for some hophead fun. But you can also use this to hop flavor to marinades, or other aspects of cooking. You can also make small batches to test the characteristics of different hops compared to each other. This would be an excellent tool for training your palate for judging. The last think I am going to mention is adding hop character to an underhopped beer. Let’s say you brewed a beer that just seems a bit bland to you. You can add this homemade hop extract to not only add a bit of bitterness, but mostly hop flavor and aroma to your brew. I have tested this with beer poured into a glass and adding a small amount of this hop extract to it. It works. I don’t know exactly how to measure up for a 5 gallon batch, but it could be done. The amount of alcohol you are adding is minimal. You have to think that Vodka is only 40% abv, so just under half of whatever you add is contributing to the alcohol content of the brew. As a side note, I have taken an American Pale Ale and added a teaspoon of  hopped vodka to it and entered in in Competition. The one beer I entered like this did end up taking a 1st place in the IPA category. So it is a viable way to pop a bit more hop character into a beer.

Mmmmm, hops.


Chocolatizing Your Beer

Like many other aspects of brewing, there is more than one method to achieve a specific end result. You have the Extract vs. All Grain methods (and those in between), dry yeast vs. liquid cultures, fly sparging or batch sparging (or even now sparge methods), and so on. So when it comes to adding chocolate flavor to beer, it should come as no surprise that brewers use various methods to impart chocolate character to  their beers. In this posting I will discuss my favorite method, which I have been using for years with great success, using roasted cacao nibs.

To add a distinct chocolate character to beer, brewers use roasted malts, cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, bar chocolate like dark chocolate,  cacao nibs, chocolate flavoring, or a combination of these. I have had beers that used all of these methods and some are better than others in my opinion. Out of these, the worst is the use of bar chocolate and Baker’s Chocolate. To make the chocolate into a bar, the manufacturer uses cocoa butter or other fats to bind the chocolate. You do not want these fats and oils in your beer, not only does it affect head retention, but fats go rancid fairly quickly. Chocolate flavoring can be OK, but many times it does not give you the chocolate character that goes well with beer. Most chocolate flavoring gives you a sweeter milk chocolate or chocolate candy flavor (maybe you remember Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager from Miller Brewing Co).  The use of Cocoa Powder is pretty popular, but in all honesty still tastes like cocoa powder in the beer, but it can work. The use of malts to impart chocolate is probably the best, but can sometimes be tricky to really get that chocolate character you may be looking for. For, me the use of Cacao Nibs gives you the distinct natural bitter-sweet chocolate flavor and aroma, non of the fats, and does not give you that cocoa powder flavor.

Cacao Nibs are chocolate at is roots. They are the roasted and broken up pieces of the cacao bean. You do need to find the roasted nibs, and not raw. There is a difference. There are several vendors that sell Nibs, and I prefer these.

You can add the nibs to the end of the boil for a small amount of chocolate flavor and aroma, or add them to either the end of the primary or in the secondary fermentor. The best way that I have found to impart the most the character from the nibs is to soak them in vodka for 24 to 72 hours prior to adding them. You use just enough to cover the nibs amount you want to use. For example, if you use 6oz for a batch of beer, the amount of vodka it takes to the cover the nibs in a small container is not enough to alter the ABV by anything you can detect by taste or smell. You do add the nibs and vodka to the beer. Just remember, only add enough to cover the nibs, no more than that.

So why the vodka you ask? Because there are volatile components to the chocolate that are not soluble in water. So for better extraction of the flavor and aroma qualities of the nibs, you need a medium like alcohol to draw them out. Vodka is neutral enough to do the job, while not affecting flavor or aroma in the small amount used for a 5 gallon batch of beer.  Another benefit is that the vodka is high enough in alcohol to sanitize the nibs prior to adding them to the primary or secondary fermentor.

So does it work? Yes, I have a special recipe I will share with you that I have done well with in competition. The extract version of the beer and the all grain version of this beer have both won awards. The all grain version also lost by only 4 votes in a “Best of the Fest” people’s choice award at a brewfest against 30 commercial brewers and one other homebrew club. The issue with this beer you can expect if you enter it in competition is that it is what I call a tweener beer. It is too dry to be a sweet stout, too sweet to be a dry stout, and does not fit in the oatmeal stout category well even though there is some oats in the recipe. But one fact remains, this is a very good people pleasing chocolate stout. Continue below for the recipe.


The 501st Vader’s Fist Chocolate Stout (All Grain Version)

Batch Size= 5 gallons

6.00 lb Pale Ale Malt 2-Row (Briess) (3.5 SRM)
2.00 lb Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM)
1.25 lb Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Caramel Malt – 60L (Briess) (60.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)
0.25 lb Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM)
1.50 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (30 min)
6.00 oz cacao beans (Secondary 7 days)
1 Pkgs US-05, Wyeast1056, or WLP001


Single infusion/Batch Sparge/Full Body
Mash in with 14.38 quarts of water at 174. Should equalize to 156 degrees. Mash at 156 for 60 minutes.

Batch Sparge twice with 2.5 gallons of water at 175 degrees.
Boil for 60 minutes using the hop schedule listed in the ingredients section.

Add Nibs to primary after fermentation has ended, do not rack beer to a secondary. Just add the nibs to the primary fermentor. 2-3 days before adding them, soak the nibs in just enough Vodka to cover the nibs. Then dump them in, vodka and all, let sit on the nibs for 7-10 days max, 3 to 4 days seems about right. Add Milk Sugar if preferred.

501st Vader’s Fist Chocolate Stout (Extract Version)

6.00 lb DME Dark Traditional (Briess) (8.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)
0.25 lb Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM)
1.25 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (25 min)
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
6.00 oz cacao beans (Secondary, 7 days)
1 PKG US-05, Wyeast 1056, or WLP001

Prepare 7 gallons of water for brewing. Bring 1.5 gallons of water to 158 degrees and place grains in pot, place cover on pot and allow to steep for 30 min. Remove Grains and allow to drain. Add remaining water for your system to achieve final volume of 5.5 gallons (adjust as needed for your system). Bring Water to boil and add 3LBs DME and Fuggle hops.  Add Fuggle Hops at 35 min in. Then Add Irish Moss and remaining 3LBS DME with 15 min left in boil. Cool and add top-up water to fermentor to reach 5.5 gallons if needed. Soak nibs in Vodka for 2 to 3 days and add nibs and vodka to primary after fermentation slows allow to sit on the nibs for 7-days. This recipe has been redesigned to accomodate full volume boils. Use Beersmith to tweak the recipe to fit your needs.


If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
MoreBeer! Absolutely Everything!

Home Roasting Your Malts (with Pictures):Updated

(Note: I have a part 2 to this post that is based on my first run at making Special B, I also have a part 3 which covers more on Melanoidens and other methods of roasting besides the oven (drum roasting, nut roasting, pan roasting, ect)

It’s here! Roasted: the Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain written by yours truly ( Click Here for the Amazon Kindle Version)! It’s available as an Ebook Download through Amazon for only $2.99. The book covers a lot of the information contained in my posts, but also has additional information on base malts, and reading a malt analysis sheet. It’s not the longest book, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of books that cover how to brew and brewing science. This book focuses solely on the art of home roasting grain for beer.

Roasting your own grains is an awesome way to add another personal touch to your homebrew.  I love roasting my own malts and even make my own crystal malt from time to time. It is so easy, and all you need is an oven and some time. Roasting your malts doesn’t take more than an hour at the most, except for crystal malt. Home roasting adds some awesome malt flavor to your beer. I have won awards with some of the beers that have home roasted malts in them. One of them is my highest scoring beer with a 43 out of 50. So great beer with home roasted malts is quite possible. Granted, you don’t have the consistency of professional malts, but you have added more home-made factor to your beer.  For more on this topic or how to do your own crystal/caramel malts I suggest buying Randy Mosher’s Book Radical Brewing, which is where I started to base my roasting methods off of. You can of course purchase my Ebook; Roasted: A Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain.

Why it Works
The roasted grains you get from your homebrew shop, mostly start out exactly like the two or six you pale malt you are buying. The difference is how they are treating the grain afterwards. They have specific process that they follow each time and have exact temperatures and testing equipment to ensure a consistent and stable product. But in the end all they are doing with the malted grain is playing with the browning reaction called Malliard Reactions. Mainly this is an altering of the flavor and aroma of the grain by browning the starches and proteins inside the grain to a specific degree. The changes in color, again the browning of the starches and proteins  change the chemical properties of the grain my changing the melanoidins in the malt. It is reported that this melanoidin change also helps preserve the beer by slowing the oxidation process of the beer.

Before We Begin
There have been some questions on whether it is necessary to let your grains rest for 2 weeks prior to using them. I highly suggest doing so, but if you find you can’t wait, just make sure you are using the lighter roasts. The rest time allows for unwanted aromas that are produced during the browning of the starches in the grain to dissipate. From what I can find, this is mostly for the darker roasts, possibly deep amber and above. I have found that as a general rule, the professional maltsters allow their roasted/toasted grains to rest for 4-6 weeks. I personally have used some grains after a week without any noticeable off flavors or aromas, but then again none of those were the richer roasts.

The Process

  • For Gold Malt (est. 20 L) that is malty, caramelly and rich but not toasty roast your base malt for 25 minutes at 300 degrees F.
  • For Amber Malt (est. 35 L) that is Nutty, Malty, and lightly toasty roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • For Copper Malt (est. 100 L)that has a strong toasted flavor with some nutlike notes roast your base malt for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Brown Malt (est. 175 L) that has a strong roasted flavor, roast your base malt for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • For Chocolate Malt (est 200+ L depending on time and heat): You need more heat and control than what you can get in the oven. For Chocolate malt use a clean stainless steel  or cast iron fry pan on low heat, slowly bringing medium-high heat. You need to stir or shake the pan constantly and not let any kernels sit still or you will end up with scorching instead of dry roasting.
  • For Crystal/Caramel Malt soak 1-2 lbs of pale 2 row in just enough water to cover plus about an inch (make sure you use distilled, filtered tap, or spring water). Let soak for a few hours, but no less than 2 hours and no more than 24, I soak for 3-4 hours. Then Put grains into a pan and keep grains about 2″ deep then place into a preheated 180 degree oven (make sure you have a probe thermometer in the oven and not to let the temps inside the stewing grain to go above 160. If they do reduce your ovens temperature) for 1 1/2 hours. Then spread out grain into 2 separate pans and make sure the grains are no more than 1″ deep. Then increase temperature in over to 250 and let bake for 2 hours or until dry. Then if desired remove from oven for light crystal, or use the roasting guide above to create your own darker versions of crystal malt.
  • You can also do what I call Sudo-Caramel malts. To do these you just wet the grain a bit to change the flavor and aroma profile and add a bit of sweetness to the grain. You will not get as much sweetness as if you do a full caramel malt process above, but you will make a great grain for both all grain and steeping grain for extract. Generally what you are going to do is soak the grain for under an hour, I find a half hour works well to impart a bit of wetness to the grain. You can use the same temperatures above to produce similar grains but add a touch of sweetness.

In the end, everything is all up to you. Use these above processes as a guideline, but not as law. Have fun, try different temps and times. Play around with wet or dry roasts as well as caramel malt processes and develop your own specialty malts. There my friends, is a truly unique beer that will be difficult to reproduce. Just don’t fear roasting, your really can’t screw it up if you pay attention to temps and times. The Photos. (you will notice I line my pans with tin foil to avoid getting any oil or grease from previous uses of the pans. You could use dedicated jelly roll pans if you want. But you do not want any oil or fat getting onto your grains)

This is our control, this is straight from the sack 2 row, prior to roasting

This is Deep Amber Malt as described above halfway through the roasting process. I like to stir it halfway through to get a more even toast.

This is finished Deep Amber Malt as described above. This is probably my favorite roast to make.

Here is a side by side of some pale golden malt as I have described above and some unroasted pale 2 row. It is hard to tell the difference until you do a side by side, then it is obvious.

Golden Malt as I have described in the process at the top of the page.

Crystal Malt in Process.

I like to soak this way for three hours. Then I just pull up the colander, and pour out the water, then let the malt drip dry for a while. It helps reduce the excess water. Generally, I do a pound to pound and half max.

This grain is not roasted, but it is wet grain. I place it in a small mound then cook it as I have described above. Essentially, you are mashing in the husk.

This is the finished crystal malt. The drying time is the longest part, but once dry and you start the roast, it’s all up to you how to make your crystal/caramel malt. The one in the picture was roasted at 325 degrees for 30 minutes after drying.