Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coconut-Vanilla Milk Stout Recipe

Shredded coconut before toasting.My favorite bourbon-barrel-aged stouts aren't the ones that taste like beer with a shot of bourbon dropped in, instead the chocolatey roasted malts are offset by sweet vanilla, toasted coconut, and a touch or boozy heat. Why not try a shortcut then (avoiding the time, effort, and risk of acquiring a used barrel to age stout in), by adding real vanilla and coconut from the supermarket?

The base beer I brewed is an inky oatmeal stout, at a sessionable 4.9% ABV. I added three roasted malts and two crystal malts to give it the malty intensity of a stronger beer. I dry hopped the other half of the 10 gallon batch with three ounces of Simcoe (inspired by Goose Island Night Stalker). As a result I settled on 30 IBUs, a little higher on the bitterness than I would have if I had brewed the sweet portion alone.

Coconut at the end of toasting.For the coconut I purchased one pound of unsweetened shredded coconut from the bulk bins (hopefully fresher than the bagged stuff). It had a mellow sweet-floral flavor as is, but I wanted something darker and more intense to jive with the roasted grains. I placed all of the coconut in a large skillet set to medium-low heat. After 20 minutes of constantly stirring the coconut took on a golden brown color and exuded an enticing toasted coconut aroma. It is helpful to do this in a pan with good heat conductivity to avoid hot spots (I used my 12-inch tri-ply Tramontina skillet – I’ve been satisfied with it so far and a set of their pots is the same price as a single All-Clad saucier).

I watched Alex Tweet use this process for a coconut cocoa-nib variant of Black House while I was at Modern Times summer of 2013 (Alex has since moved on to be head brewer at Fieldwork Brewing Co.). After the coconut achieved the desired level of color in a keggle he blotted the oily shreds with paper towels to wick-away much of the head-destroying oil. So I did the same, rolling up the coconut in a few layers and letting it drain. There is no practical way to remove all of the oil, but hopefully most of what makes it through is left behind in the fermentor or floats to the top in the keg. I lowered a weighted bag of coconut into the primary fermentor then dropped in two vanilla beans split lengthwise.

Toasted coconut, really closeup.A sample pulled at five days indicated it had reached the level of character I was hoping for. Fermentation had dried the beer out to 1.018, so I did a few measured blends and settled on adding half a pound of lactose (briefly boiled in a pint of water) to the keg – technically transforming this into a milk stout. No reason to add lactose or maltodextrin any earlier than packaging. It is a little more work than adding it to the boil, but waiting and tasting avoids the risk of an overly-sweet result!

To add another layer of velvety decadence I bought a beer-gas tank and a stout tap (treat yo self 2014!). If the oils from the coconut destroy the head retention, I'll be really disappointed! I’ll have more on how that goes when I post the tasting notes in a couple weeks. The addition will be part of my upgraded kegerator build; my original is third-hand and starting to look pretty sorry considering the rust spots. It was time for a couple more real taps anyway!

Coconut-Vanilla and Dry-Hopped Oatmeal Stout

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 28.50
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 37.6
Anticipated IBU: 30.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 65 Minutes

70.2% - 20.00 lbs. Maris Otter
14.0% - 4.00 lbs. Quaker Quick Oats
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Simpsons Crystal 55L
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Briess Crystal 80L
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Crisp Roasted Barley
3.5% - 1.00 lbs. Weyermann Chocolate Wheat 
1.8% - 0.50 lbs. Franco Belges KilnCoffee

2.25 oz. Palisade (Whole 8.00% AA) @ 60 min.
3.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop

Bagged coconut, tied up to stay submerged.Extras
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min. 
1 lbs. Toasted Coconut @ Fermentor
2.00 Vanilla Beans @ Fermentor
.5 lb Lactose @ Keg

White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 70 min  @ 152F

11/20/14 3 L starter on the stir-plate.

11/22/14 Crash chilled starter.

11/23/14 17 gallons mash water, no-sparge.

w/o treatment 5.9 pH at room temperature - close enough.

Temp fell more than expected, turned on heat while recirculating to get back up to 160F before sending to kettle.

Collected 13 gallons of 1.053 runnings. Added 5 g of CaCl as it came to a boil

Bagged the hops.

Chilled to 65 F with plate chiller. Oxygenated for 60 seconds, then split the decanted and ambient temp yeast between the two fermentors. Left at 67F to start fermenting. Moved to the 60F basement after 18 hours.

11/26/14 Dry hopped half with 3 oz of bagged whole Simcoe. Upped to 67F to ensure fermentation is complete.

12/3/14 Added 1 lb of unsweetened shredded coconut (Whole Foods bulk) that I toasted for 20 minutes until crisp and brown. Plus two split vanilla beans, via Pete's eBay buy.

12/8/14 Down to 1.018. Kegged both versions. Added .5 lb of lactose to the coconut/vanilla half. Purged both with CO2, although that tank was running out. Hooked the coconut keg up to beer-gas the next day in the freezer set to 35F.

1/14/15 Tasting of the dry hopped portion. It expresses a nice mixture of dry hops and roasted grains. Not much I would change for a rebrew, except to back off the roasted barley slightly to remove the charred edge. pH is 4.30.

2/10/15 Tasting of the coconut-vanilla portion. Really delicious, nice balance of the extras and the base beer. A little sweet, but worth it for the silky body in a 5% ABV beer.


Incriminators said...

I imagine the head retention would be fine. I don't recall any issues with head retention when I brewed the bacon beer for the Brew Dogs show. I was left with the most disgusting keggle after that brew though. Blech.

NC Brewer

eulal said...

What are you using for a mash tun to fit 28 lbs of grain and 17 gallons of water?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I hope you're right about the head retention!

I recently upgraded my system to two 20 gallon Mega Pots (one for mashing, one for boiling). I'll write a post about them after I dial in my process.

Unknown said...

Are you concerned about sanitation when dropping vanilla pods into the secondary?

A friend acquired 10gal of excruciatingly sour stout after pitching a few vanilla pods, so I now soak anything like that in high-proof alcohol to be safe.

Anonymous said...

How do you think this would play in a white stout?

I ask because I was planning a nice creamy pale beer to serve on nitro. I had planned to use coffee beans and cocoa nibs while conditioning, but I could go 10 gallons and split it, with one half getting the coconut, vanilla and maybe cocoa nibs as well.

IcculusDC said...

I an wondering why you add CaCl in the boil instead of the mash / sparge water? Just recently started adjusting water with the past few beers, but I have added Gypsum / CaCl to mash and sparge water so far.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've never had a problem with vanilla. If I was aging/bottling, I might be a bit less cavalier. Five days after the vanilla went in, I kegged.

I haven't had a white stout, but I could certainly see the coconut and vanilla working well with chocolate and coffee. In a normal pale beer without any roast I think it could come off a bit one-dimensional.

I didn't need the mash pH to be any lower than it was, so no reason to add the salts any earlier. The boil is where I add salts when I don't need them in the mash.

Unknown said...

So your mash pH was 5.9 pH? Doesn't that seem a little high?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It likely would have dropped if I'd recirculated for a few more minutes before drawing a sample, it certainly got darker.

5.9 at room temperature is equivalent to 5.6 at mash temperature. I prefer a slightly higher mash pH for dark beers than the standard range. Too low of a final pH for a dark beer and the dark malts become acrid.

One nice thing about no-sparge is that I don't have to alkalize the mash and then acidify the sparge. There is enough mash water to buffer all that roasted grain.

ReformedBrewer said...

Im confused. Did you make two different beers here or did you blend them?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I made 10 gallons of generic oatmeal stout wort with 30 IBUs from a single hop addition. Five gallons into two separate fermentors. From there one was dry hopped with Simcoe, while the other was flavored with the toasted coconut, vanilla beans, and lactose. The result is two very different beers from a single brew day. With the big system I'll likely be doing more of this sort of thing. In most cases I don't need 10 gallons of the same beer!

Unknown said...

I was making a sweet/oatmeal stout with cocoa powder, cacao nib, and vanilla bean for a birthday party when you posted this right around brewing time. So I grabbed some coconut and toasted it and added it just like you did. The party finally happened over the weekend and out of the three beers on tap this stout was the favorite by a longshot. Thanks for the idea!

Matt Giles said...

Any other specific reasons for doing a no-sparge? I've heard comments about better flavor but haven't brewed the same beer back to back to confirm. I've had trouble getting my dark beers to be smooth and chocolately.

Unknown said...

Excellent and thought-provoking post, as usual! That brew looks immense.

I have two quick questions:

(1) What is your water profile like, especially in terms of residual alkalinity? My pals and I made a stout with Maris Otter, Munich, Midnight Wheat, and a touch of Crystal 60 (saving most of the 60, the Crystal 120, and roasted barley for a cold steep), and we ended up with room temp. first runnings pH of 5.3. With 200ppm bicarbonate and about 165ppm calculated RA, we are definitely puzzled!

(2) You mention adding CaCl2 post-mash, an idea I really like. What is your Ca level in the mash water? We did add some gypsum and CaCl2 to go from 30ppm to 50ppm Ca for mash water, since we've seen 50ppm be a minimum recommended value for mashing.

Thanks very much!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My new system is no-sparge, more for time/effort savings than for any flavor reasons. You might look at adjusting water chemisty. If the pH is dropping too low I find that pushes dark malts towards acrid.

You were suprised the pH was so low? With no-sparge I am likely using a much higher water-to-grain ratio than you. That usually means that the pH won't drop as much as it would with a lower ratio. DC's water is around 78 PPM carbonate and 40 PPM calcium. I'll often add some calcium to the mash, and probably could have here without issue.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the helpful response, Mike! To build on this topic, what is the effect of a calcium addition during the mash vs. during the boil on the acidity of the final product? That is, if calcium added to the mash brings down pH, and so does calcium added to the boil, would either type of addition contribute equally to potential acrid flavors in the beer? Thanks again!

billy.braga said...

I believe the acrid flavors of the dark malts are only extracted during the mash, so bringing down the pH at boil doesn't matter in terms of "acridness extraction".

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I don't think the timing of the salt additions has much bearing on the final pH of the beer. Although I've never seen that experiment done (I just can't come up with a reason why it would).

Acrid flavors aren't about mash pH in my experience, but the interplay of roast and acidity. When our first commercial batch of Black House came out too acrid, some baking soda in the bright tank to raise the pH did wonders.

billy.braga said...

Oh, cool to know!

Unknown said...

Mike- Just wondering, after you kegged this batch, did you continue to leave the coconut and vanilla in the keg, or did you pull the bag? Thanks

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I left the spent toasted coconut and vanilla behind in the fermentor. I never intentionally carry over solids from primary/secondary to the keg. What I do sometimes is to add fresh (dry hops, citrus zest etc.) to the keg if the flavor still needs a boost.

Anonymous said...

how did you sanitize the coconut?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The heat required to toast the coconut should be more than enough to sanitize it (especially considering it is going into fermented beer).

Nomadic Farmer said...

This looks fantastic. A local nanobrewery is doing a collab with homebrewers to make halloween candy inspired beer. I ws invited to participate and I was thinking of making a chocolate coconut porter (mounds bar), but I think I like this recipe even more maybe. A couple of questions, maybe you can help.

1) The brew day is 5 weeks before the party. You have several months before brew day and tasting. Do you think this will clear and mellow out in such a short time? I find dark brews take longer to clear and condition when I bottle condition at home.

2)What do you think about adding some cocoa powder late in the boil or nibs with the vanilla and coconut? Would it have more of a mounds character, or was it already going that way?

3)Any other ideas for a halloween candy themed beer that might be quicker?

Thanks for all you share with us :)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

1. No reason to wait as long as I did. I like to take my time with tasting notes. I get to know a beer by drinking it at different times and under different conditions. Plus I was still working on my new kegerator still... Five weeks should be plenty for a similar recipe, it didn't change much after it went on tap.

2. I like the character I get from a cocoa powder paste post-fermentation for a beer like this. In the boil cocoa powder won't hold up to the coconut. Nibs during conditioning can be more high-grade dark chocolate, could be great, but less "candy bar." If you go that route, you may want to up the coconut too.

3. I think chocolate-coconut is a good option. Alternatively, you could play with peanut butter ;I've had some fun ones, but generally not anything I want five gallons of.

Best of luck!

Unknown said...

I have made this batch with exceptional reviews from my friends and family. I love what the coconut and vanilla do the darker malt favors. It does taste like an oak aged beer without the need for a barrel. Definitely will brew again.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Cheers, always nice to hear when things work out! Any tweaks you'll make next time around, or happy with it as is?

Unknown said...

I think I will adjust the lactose. I think I over did it and it was a little sweet. I think I will balance it out with slightly less lactose. I think my old scale got stuck and didn't get the measurement correct. Will use my new digital scale next time

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Always tricky! I'd also suggest adding it to taste, rather than following my (or anyone else's) recipe. Flavor perception can be wildly different person-to-person, better to proceed carefully with lactose, salt, acid etc.

You could always blend it to reduce the sweetness if it isn't bottled already!

Beer Blogger said...

This was an outstanding recipe! I have it aging in my bourbon barrel, I've fermented it without the lactose, vanilla or coconut and it tastes amazing, so much so that I'm thinking of splitting the 10 Gallons and leaving half plain and the other half with the vanilla and coconut. The only tweak I made was the hop achedule; I used .25 oz of Citra and 1.25 oz of colombus, simply because that's what I had on hand. Thanks again for this killer recipe!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Cheers! Just had a tasty cask version of Marvolo at Commonwealth with coconut, vanilla, and toasted marshmallows... might have to try that next time!

Agente Smith said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'm going to brew one similar and I have just a question: do you think are enough 2 vanilla beans or 3 could be better?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Vanilla is more powerful than coconut, so my concern would be overwhelming. Easy to start with two, see if it is enough for you, and add another if it needs a boost!

Unknown said...

Hey Mike! I've been trying to produce a milk stout that featured coconut for awhile now. I'm really aiming for expressive coconut character - something along the lines of Death by Coconut from Oskar Blues. I have tried mashing with toasted coconut and titrating tinctures that I made with coconut and grain alcohol, but I'm still not getting that expressive character. Would you say that adding the toasted coconut post-primary fermentation is the best way to go? And if so, did you do anything to sanitize the coconut before hand aside from toasting it in the pan? Thanks so much for your help!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The aroma of Death by Coconut comes off as artificial to me, more intense than real coconut ever is. Oscar Blues website links to the product they add for chocolate, it also contains coconut sugar (although I doubt that is where the coconut flavor comes from): http://www.cholaca.com/wholesale/

After toasting, the coconut will be completely microbe free (just make sure whatever you bag/weight it with is sanitized)! No harm in adding a few drops of coconut extract to taste to augment the real toasted coconut.

Anonymous said...

I've brewed plenty of chocolate porters by dropping nibs and beans in. Never an issue. Your friend probably had a sanitation issue

Unknown said...

I swear you have a detailed article about EVERY beer I am putting a recipe together for. Much appreciated! I learn so much from them. Quick (possibly mundane) question about your coconut usage. I am going to add a small amount at the end of boil, and then a larger addition near the end of primary fermentation. Did you toast the day you were adding the coconut? Just wondering if I could toast both additions at once and leave the second addition in the fridge until secondary time.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That'll happen after 11 years of blog posts!

I did toast and add at the same day. Seemed the best bet to avoid oxidation and unwanted microbes. If you have a vacuum-sealer, that wouldn't be a bad idea. What are you hoping to gain from the boil-addition?

Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Just a little bit of subtle coconut flavor. I'm going to taste after primary and decide how much I want to add. I bought the flakes in bulk and had to use them somewhere :)

Did you leave the beer sitting on your yeast for the duration of your coconut addition?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes. I'm more worried about oxidation than autolysis, and this one spent less than 3 weeks in primary. The hot-side addition is more likely to extract oils, and the flavor may be muddled by fermentation.