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Adding Vanilla Beans to Porter

Hola Gents,

I’ve recently pitched the yeast into my 2nd brew. It’s a partial-mash vanilla porter. I’ve read that soaking the vanilla beans in bourbon for a couple of weeks can pull more flavor out of the beans and at the time of adding the beans (secondary fermentation), toss in beans, bourbon and all.

My question is, can I use ~ 1-2oz of vanilla vodka as opposed to bourbon to soak the beans? Any potential harm in going the vodka route?

I’d appreciate any advice or recommendations an experienced brewer could lend.

Salut!

William

[quote=“wwhite1969”]…My question is, can I use ~ 1-2oz of vanilla vodka as opposed to bourbon to soak the beans? Any potential harm in going the vodka route?
…[/quote]

No harm using vodka as opposed to bourbon. The ‘proof’ of the vodka will be pretty much the same as bourbon would be.

The only thing you’ll lose will be whatever oak character is contributed by the bourbon’s prolonged wood contact during it’s manufacture/aging.
But "harm’… I think not.

Technically, you don’t even need the booze soak…A brewer friend who worked in a pub brewery did his vanilla porter by adding the beans to secondary, where it did it’s work for several weeks.
(it was one of those rare brewpubs that had enough capacity to take some time to “do it right” and not be pressured to rush their beers out a week after fermentation).

I split, scrap and add to the fermenter. The flavor should be maxed out in 2-5 days.

I like just a hint of vanilla. Using 1 bean is enough for me. I find the commercial beers to be over powering.

Vodka is great for this sort of thing since its fairly flavor neutral.

Do NOT use vanilla flavored vodka though. If you’re adding real quality vanilla beans, you don’t want to taint it with artificially flavored crap vodka.

Which is exactly what I do. Between the alcohol content and low pH, I’ve never had an infected beer by doing that.

[quote=“Nate42”]Vodka is great for this sort of thing since its fairly flavor neutral.

Do NOT use vanilla flavored vodka though. If you’re adding real quality vanilla beans, you don’t want to taint it with artificially flavored crap vodka.[/quote]

I hate adding vodka tinctures. I can taste the “heat” from it.

[quote=“Denny”][quote=“Nate42”]Vodka is great for this sort of thing since its fairly flavor neutral.

Do NOT use vanilla flavored vodka though. If you’re adding real quality vanilla beans, you don’t want to taint it with artificially flavored crap vodka.[/quote]

I hate adding vodka tinctures. I can taste the “heat” from it.[/quote]

I hear ya, that’s why I use as little booze as possible, just enough to cover the beans. Of course usually if I’m adding vanilla I’m making your BVIP, in which case I just use bourbon since bourbon is going in there anyway. :slight_smile:

Makes me feel better to give them a booze soak to kill any nasties, but I’m sure you’re right that the risk of infection is small.

[quote=“Nate42”]Vodka is great for this sort of thing since its fairly flavor neutral.

Do NOT use vanilla flavored vodka though. If you’re adding real quality vanilla beans, you don’t want to taint it with artificially flavored crap vodka.[/quote]

Can’t agree enough with this. If you want more vanilla character, use more vanilla beans. Otherwise, you may as well just add a couple drops of artificial vanillin and save the effort.

Alright, thanks for the input and various opinions. I cut 5 vanilla beans into 1/2-3/4" pieces and did soak them in ~1.5oz of a quality vanilla vodka. There was only a subtle hint of vodka appreciable from the vodka soak and the color of the extract the soak produced was similar to coke or pepsi. This is only my 2nd attempt at brewing which was a partial mash. I’ll post my admittedly green review along to way for follow-up. Thanks again gents.

Cheers.

William

[quote=“wwhite1969”]Hola Gents,

I’ve recently pitched the yeast into my 2nd brew. It’s a partial-mash vanilla porter. I’ve read that soaking the vanilla beans in bourbon for a couple of weeks can pull more flavor out of the beans and at the time of adding the beans (secondary fermentation), toss in beans, bourbon and all.

My question is, can I use ~ 1-2oz of vanilla vodka as opposed to bourbon to soak the beans? Any potential harm in going the vodka route?

I’d appreciate any advice or recommendations an experienced brewer could lend.

Salut!

William[/quote]

You can also use rum.

Thank you again to all who responded to my questions regarding vanilla beans and the use of vodka, vanilla vodka, etc. My wife if a huge vanilla porter fan and when her face lit up at the first sip of my brew, it made by home brew pants fly all over the room. I will say that while we scored it a 4/5, the vanilla flavored vodka did give it a very mild, but noticeable confusion of flavor on the back end. Sorry but my untrained palate and lack of experience doesn’t know how to discern it more precisely.

I just kegged (2 days ago) a Caramel-vanilla Cream Ale and this time I soaked 5 beans in 2 oz of “Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve” for 8 days. It’s my favorite sipping whiskey, not only b/c of it’s silky smooth mouth feel but also b/c of the way it perfectly releases vanilla notes on the back side. This made a big difference for me, at least with this new brew. I can’t appreciate any of the whiskey and get a very mellow aftertaste of vanilla. From now on, FCDBR will be my “soaking agent” of choice for vanilla beans. It’s a little expensive to use for this purpose, but well worth having around while the beer matures. And if you elect to use it, I would advise the Double Barrel Reserve version, not the regular.

The tasting notes on the Forty Creek: “Forty Creek Double Barrel has a wonderful golden roasted aroma filled with deep vanilla notes and highlighted with toasted spice, pecan and walnuts. There is a caramelized creaminess to the flavor with a rich spice that lifts it off the tongue. The finish is very smooth, mellow and extra long.”

Also, a bit of advise to other newbies who might read this; make sure and splice the beans length-wise after cutting them into small (~ 0.5") segments. It’s a bit of a hassle but makes a huge difference if you’re wanting to pull as much vanilla as possible out of your beans.

Cheers and thanks again.

William

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