Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beer/Mead Vinegar Experiment #2

So, before I get going on what happened this time around with trying to turn beer and mead into vinegar, there are the links below to check out.

What lead me to try it and the setup of first experiment
Update #1
What the hell went wrong?

For those that haven't bothered to read the above, a quick recap. I tried to make vinegar from three different pots of brew that I had laying around: mead, a high alcohol hoppy mix (DIPAs and other stuff) and a malty lower alcohol mix of stouts and other ales. The first time I tried with these same mixtures, I got mixed results that didn't quite work. The chief problem was that there was only teaspoons of the remnants at the end of the period.

In order to address the problems or learning opportunities that occurred in the first experiment, I changed a few things. Firstly, I started with a lot more liquid. Each container was filled with at least 250mL of beer or mead. I took @RamblinRoadBeer's question about location and temperature and ensured that I placed the containers in a warmer environment. I also added a bit of mother from Bragg's Cider Vinegar that I had left after using it all up.

After a few weeks of leaving the whole mess alone, there was a more decided sour flavour to the three brews. It was well on its way but I had a few drops of scum on the bottom of a whiskey vinegar that I decided to add. Then, I forgot about it. Not really, but close enough. It stood in the cupboard above the dishwasher for a while.

After a few weeks, the mead was still sweet with a slight sour undertone. The malty one was not really turning and the higher alcohol one had no alcohol left. It tasted and smelled like vinegar. A vinegar with a decidedly malty taste, so much so that my wife did not like it. Huzzah! So, why the hell did it take me so long to write this up? Well, I have been lazy at doing the research to see why this happened and what I could do different next time. A book I picked up to read called Ideas in Food had a section on vinegar and got me thinking that I should write this up.

So, it turns out that there is an optimum alcohol content for making vinegar. It is in the 9 to 12 percent range. Explains why the strong beer mix turned. Also gives me an idea on how to fix the other two. The malty brew needs to have some alcohol added to convert to vinegar. Adding a neutral spirit should do the trick. If I wanted to have some type of flavour added to the vinegar, I could add gin, rye or whatever. That would lead to a whole other set of experiments. It also means that if someone gives me a nasty bit of alcohol, I will water it down and turn it into vinegar.

The mead has a different problem, It has a lot of sugar that is locked up in honey which is a natural preservative. You do want a certain amount of sugar to turn to alcohol and further convert but honey requires a little help. This means that I may have to add some yeast to start the conversion process or continue to add liquid and hope for wild yeast to make its way into the soupy, and murky mead. Haven't decided what to do yet but I think I'll try to convert it.

I'm really glad that I tried to do these in a more haphazard way than trying to follow a recipe. I now have a feeling for how these critters grow and live. There is some clear factors that make them happy. It makes me think that maybe I should start some type of vinegar pot but we will see.

Just as a last aside before I leave this experiment on the positive note, Ideas in Food will be my second book purchase for this year. For those of you interested in the science and experimental process of food and cooking, this has some really neat points of view and suggestions for techniques that will get you going. Now, I have one pot of alegar, the correct term for vinegar made with ale, and two almost pots to try some more ongoing experiments. Can't wait to see if the next tweaks result in vinegar or not.

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