Tentative Steps in Chichamaking

On our very first batch, Dirk and I together yielded only about 5 pounds of jora from our gardens. With only five pounds of jora in hand, room for experimentation was limited, but I decided to do a small test batch.

I started by attempting to crush 1/4 pound of jora with my Glatt Mill set on its widest setting. This was a miserable failure as the kernels were too big and slippery to get pulled into the rollers. Even pushing down hard on the jora in the hopper didn't help. I ended up crushing the jora in a small food processor. This had the effect of producing a lot of flour, and because of this, was probably a better choice than the Glatt Mill anyways.

I added the crushed jora to about a quart of cold tap water in a saucepan and heated it to 160F (corn converts at a higher temp than does barley). I tried to maintain this temperature for 45 minutes, but with so little fluid, the temperature quickly fell and was hard to hold steady. Biggus suggested that I should have oven-mashed this to hold the temp better. The mash developed a gorgeous purple color from the blue corn.

At "mash out", I added a quart of boiling water to the mash. This was stirred for a minute or two, and then transferred to the boiler (a large saucepan) by pouring through a colander lined with a hop bag. The corn debris caught by the hop bag were returned to the mash to which I then added another quart of boiling water. At this point, I brought the mash to a boil thinking that this would increase my extraction. After several minutes, this also was transferred to the boiler through the strainer.

The resulting ~3 quarts of purple liquid was boiled for about an hour. When the volume was down to an estimated one quart, I covered the pot and cooled in the sink. The jora broth was transferred to a growler, some dry Nottingham ale yeast was pitched, and an airlock, being strangely unavailable (!) was not affixed (instead, I covered the mouth of the growler with aluminum foil). The estimated OG of the chicha was somewhere around 1.025.

The chicha fermented out in two days. The resulting liquid had a very fruity smell to it, almost as if it contained some actual non-descript fruit. This may have been a function of the yeast, with which I have little experience, and the warm (80Fish) fermentation temps. Not surprisingly, it also reeked of corn. The chicha was obviously very thin-bodied, was fairly clear with a great purple color, and tasted like mildly corn-and-fruit-flavored iced tea. While it was pretty bland, it was also quite refreshing. Not good, and not bad.

Obviously, the OG needs to be upped. This experiment leads me to believe that we need about 2 pounds of jora per gallon of finished chicha. Because we have so precious little jora, I think we can get away with using less jora, say 1.5 pounds per gallon, and make up the rest of the OG to 1.050ish with brown sugar (piloncillo). It also seems that the sugar is not really all that optional and will add a necessary flavor component. Spices seem to be in order for the same reason: To add interest.

All in all, it appears that even though the jora I used had apparent 100% germination, I still got more or less the same extraction that Bill Ridgely did with 50% germinated jora. Also, the fact that my measurements were guesstimates, means that very little can be read into my extraction estimates. Perhaps the mash and/or the "sparge" was too short. Also, with future batches it will be interesting to see if we can discern any differences in efficiency that might be attributable to the malting.

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