Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How To Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot, Part 1

For what it's worth, I've been giving this process quite some thought. For all intents and purposes this is a nice, "gimmick;" if you like, a simple way of demonstrating how to brew beer. But not an effective one for doing some brewing on a research vessel weeks at a time, out at sea.

And it's that last point I've been really stewing over... why would anyone in their right mind on a research ship with 20+ crew use a coffee maker to brew beer when they ought to have sufficient equipment on hand in the ship's galley.

I used to work for Ashton's Circus as a cook for a crew that varied between 8 and 20 people. We bought supplies daily, in many cases, as well as bulk items.

On a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel at sea for a month of Sundays or so, one would expect the larder and pantry to be very well stocked with a variety of bulk foods that store and travel well. But, highly unlikely to carry malted barley in bulk.

This is the first point: What do/can we use to make a passable beer on board?

The second point is if we use the available grains to make beer, what are the downstream effects on food availability for the duration of being at sea? In other words, if we make beer are we gonna starve before getting to drink it?

With these two questions uppermost, it is clear that anyone contemplating making beer would need to stock up the requisite grains, bittering agents and yeast prior to departure from port.

Clearly, in such a case, you'd just order the required malted barley, hops and yeast, or pack a few ready-made beer kits and save yourself the torment and hassle of trying to invent a new type of beer using ancient techniques that hark back several centuries to free range brewing of ale.

IMO the guy who proposed brewing in a coffee pot on a research ship, has either pursued the idea in a limited (very limited) manner but never produced any actual beer, or has never tried it out in the first place beyond it being a thought experiment.

To continue this as a thought experiment, typical grains that might be on hand on such a ship are: rice, rolled oats, perhaps cracked wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, polenta, and/or pearl barley.

For bittering agents the two most promising ones are: sage and juniper berries which are both age old ingredients used in making ales prior to the use of hops. Both have antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well.

For yeast, well: most likely there'll be baker's yeast (for making bread), and perhaps some generic brewer's yeast.

What about some malty flavour? Well it's bee suggested that Vegemite/Marmite/Cenovis might do the trick, but I think malted milk powder might be a better option.

Lastly, those all important enzymes for turning starch into digestible sugars: Bread Improver is the most likely candidate, or Koji Mold (if the research ship happens to contain a large contingent of Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese researchers - but then, Sake is more likely to be made than beer as we know it.

Let's wind this up shall we? Ok, how to brew beer in a coffee pot!

Grain Bill:
80-90% pearl barley
10-20% rice, polenta and/or other grain adjuncts
4-8 tbsn bread improver per kg of grain
1 cup malted milk powder per kg of grain (This is a flavour additive, nothing more)

Next:
1. Coarsely crush the grain listed above. If using rice steam cook it first.
2. Seive out the flour then
wash the crushed grains until the water runs clear.
3. Add bread improver and milk powder to grain and mix with 68 deg C hot water. Mix grain to water in a ratio of 1 part grain to 3 parts water.
4. Stir periodically and keep at 65 deg C for 1-2 hours or until a drop test, in a separate saucer, with iodine does not turn blue.
5. Place mash into a colander lined with kitchen paper towel and drain the liquid. Heat the liquid to 68 deg C and pass back over the grain bead until it''s reasonably clear. Wash the grain bed with clean 68 deg C water using approx. one quarter of the total volume.
5. Put the wort into a boiling pot, bear in mind the wort may be a little cloudy due to the milk solids and flour in the malted milk powder and bread improver.
6. Bring the wort to boil, add 1 tbsn of sage per liter of wort. after 45 min add 1 tbsn juniper berries per liter of wort. after 60 min, sample the wort and if desired, add a quarter of the initial amount either juniper berries or sage to the boil and continue for another 15 min.
7. Cover the pot and cool it in a tub of ice water to room temp.
8. At room temp, whisk the wort vigorously and add a tablespoon or two of dry yeast. Cover pot well with food grade plastic cling wrap, use a toothpick to spike one or two fine holes and then cover pot with a tea towel. Set the pot aside to ferment for 2-3 days.
9. Skim the crud of the top of the fermenting beer and transfer carefully to a clean pot. cover and set aside to continue fermenting for several more days.
10. Leaving behind the sediment, transfer the clear liquid to plastic bottles, cap and store.

Carbonation - if you want a bit of fizz, keep aside 5% - 8% of the cool unfermented wort and add it back in just before bottling.

I'm gonna give this a go, just for academic purposes, perhaps when it's all over and done, I might inflict the results on some of you, ;-)

Cheers.

TT

p.s at the time of writing, this is still only a "thought experiment" and I've not come across anyone actually having done this in a verified way.


p.p.s. there are far simpler ways of making passable booze on board, like fermenting juice and then distilling it - it is a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel isn't it, so it's gotta have a lab, doesn't it?

Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

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