So as planned I am doing some experiments to determine how to best add the desired amounts of chili and cocoa/cacao flavors to my Mayan Imperial Stout. This past weekend I did my first trial. It is as scientific as I get folks...
So I set out my tools and my first two flavoring agents along with a "sample" beer. I grabbed a 6 pack of Saranac Imperial Stout for my sample beer. It is a fairly decent Imperial Stout and yet economical for my purposes... Usually I have been underwhelmed by Saranac in the past but this one is pretty nice. It will stand in adequately for my base beer. The idea behind this first trial was to make infusions of the flavors by soaking them in vodka. Then determine the amount necessary to add of the vodka infusion on a small scale and then scale it up for the finished amount of beer.
What we have here: The two half pint mason jars have from left to right cocoa and an ancho chili pepper that have been infused in cheap vodka for about a week and a half. Measuring spoons to dole out 1 oz. (2 TBS.) at a time of the base beer. A medicine syringe grabbed for free at the local chain pharmacy. My handy kitchen calculator. A small snifter glass for sampling. A glass of the base beer to serve as the "control beer" and lastly my hand notebook for scrawling down gibberish I will hopefully be able to decipher later!
I started with the ancho. Thinking on it now the cocoa probably would have been the better one to start with... My procedure for all the tasting was to measure out 1 oz. of beer into the snifter and then add measured amounts of the infused vodka from the syringe. Stir. Taste and make notes. Start over with an fresh ounce of beer and additional amounts of the flavoring until I reached a point I thought good.
The results. 1 ml of the Ancho infusion in 1 ounce of beer provided a perceptible flavor of the chili. Nice dark fruitiness, not much heat. I am still considering chili combinations. 1.5 ml gave good flavor as well though the vodka was starting to be noticeable.
The cocoa took a bit more to have an effect. It did not register until 3 ml and then some flavor and a bit of aroma were there, though the vodka was asserting itself as well. At 4 ml it was beginning to taste like I added creme de cacao (think Young's Double Chocolate Stout) and the vodka was certainly noticeable.
My conclusions. I think this helped me to get a little better grasp on what I am going to do. I liked the notion of using spirits (vodka) to make my own flavor infusions or extracts as it were. It seemed to be a good method of controlling the amount of flavoring without as much element of chance. However I have concluded that I do not like the idea of adding vodka into the beer. It is perceptible to me even if it would be a small amount. I want this to bee about the beer. I think there should be enough alcohol in the beer itself to extract the flavors I want. It may take more amount wise and time wise but I do not like the idea of "fortifying" my beer with cheap liquor. I have had beers flavored with extracts/liqueurs and could tell they were there. I think this is a good way to play with flavorings though and it will help me to get closer to deciding what amounts to add. I believe I will infuse some more things in the manner and do similar taste trials. The other thought that occurs to me is to infuse small amounts in some of the Saranac IS in a jar. It will be flat after sitting but it will give me a better idea of how soaking the ingredients in actual beer will play out.