Dirk and Scott's First Go
Red Corn Chicha
Light Summer Chicha
Blue, Black, and Red Corn Chicha
Chicha de Yamor
On September 14, 1996, Dirk and I finally found enough common time to brew some chicha. This batch came out quite well. Eventually, it became very brilliantly clear and dry, the spicing faded completely away, and it got intensely sour. But I really liked it that way.
We 'mashed in' by adding our crushed jora to 2 gallons of 140F water. The water was still being heated at this point and there was no reason for chosing this temperature. The addition of the jora brought the temp of the mash down to some temperature we never knew because we didn't care because it didn't matter. We applied heat until the temperature rose to 160F. My 1/2bbl mash tun with manifold was used for this process.
The 160F rest was held for about an hour, but the mash ended up sitting for the better part of three hours while we attempted to break into a Sankey keg of Alehouse Rock (Huntington Beach, CA) Altbier which included a "quick" trip to the brewery.
Upon our return, we brought the mash up to nearly boiling and simply ran the liquor out of the mash tun into the kettle. The runoff behaved very strangely, at times slowing to a mere trickle, and others at full bore, all seemingly of its own volition. Stirring and/or heating had no effect. A lot of flour found its way into the kettle. When most of the liquor had run out of the tun, we added another 2 gallons of water, and brought the mash to a boil. These second runnings were run off into the kettle and then we repeated this step once more. The result was 5.25 gallons of wort at a specific gravity of 1.016.
At this point we split the wort into two ~2.5 gallon batches and boiled each separately.
A pound of sugar (!) in the form of piloncillo was added to each kettle once boiling was achieved. About 10 minutes from the end of the hour-long boil, we added ~1/2oz curacao orange peel and ~1tbs crushed coriander to one batch, and ~1tsp allspice and two sticks of cinammon to the other. Because of the small volumes involved, cooling was performed by immersion.
The OG was 1.055 (I think). Each batch went into a separate 5 gallon carboy (glass bottle) and a packet of Nottingham dry yeast was added to each.
Fermentation started within four hours and was quite vigorous. Even so, a sample drawn 24 hours later was (predictably) too sweet to enjoy. I did not get a chance to taste it 2 days later, but after 3 days Dirk and I both sampled. At this point, the chicha was still actively fermenting, but had become fairly dry. I suspect that there are very few big sugars to slow things down, and if my test batch was any indication, the stuff was almost fermented out at this point. I regret not measuring the SG.
I also purchased some strawberries to try some frutillada. I popped a dozen or so 'berries in the blender, added a little chicha, and whipped it into spooge. To about 16oz of chicha I added ~1/2 cup of the 'berry mush and stirred it in. I'm here to tell ya that frutillada is heaven! The fresh berries add a little body and sweetness and are a perfect complement to the corn. It was very difficult not to gulp this treat.
The verdict was that chicha is mighty fine stuff! I admit I enjoyed my initial schooner of chicha much more than I thought I would. Frankly, my expectations were low. While the chicha was thin-bodied, it had retained some sweetness, and the spices were luckily in good balance, though the curacao/coriander batch was a little too subtle. The piloncillo appears to have contributed surprisingly little taste-wise. Obviously, the predominant taste and aroma was that of corn. Also, the giggle-factor derived from witnessing active fermentation in the glass is not to be understated. Perhaps my initial impressions are colored by how much fun I thought this culmination of several months of preparation was, but then, chicha appears to be fun stuff.
After two weeks, the chicha had fermented completely out, and I combined the remainder of each carboy (about 2 gallons total) in a short Cornelius (soda) keg. At some time during the second week, both carboys had picked up a lactic infection. One carboy spent it's entire life covered with only aluminum foil ("I thought I had seven airlocks..."), but the other did have an airlock. The source of the infection must have been my method of sampling: I'd fill my glass by pouring directly from the carboy. This must have sucked something back in that took hold. Useful knowledge to have, but I hope I'm not doomed to make only sour beer from now on.
In any case, the resulting sour chicha is wonderful! When the chicha was young, I found additions of lactic acid in the glass not to my liking. But now that the chicha is dry, and perhaps because the lactic acid was the result of a natural infection, it is perfect. It has little body, but the corn aroma and flavor are still evident. The spices are very subtle and have almost completely faded. It's very much like a purple weirdo Wit. See the picture at the top of the page for a picture of this batch.
This batch was made with the red corn obtained from El Mercado.
The mash was a nice pink color, but final wort is beige in color. Color changed by boil and/or spices? There was a lot of fluffy stuff in kettle (break material?). Also, a lot of spooge in kettle after cooling. Added to fermenter anyways. Did not look like it would yield much, but after 24 hours, the trub seems to have settled considerably.
After two and a half days, the chicha is becoming more to my liking. It's not so sweet, and some sourness is just beginning to show through. The spices are very subtle, and the amounts could definitely stand to be increased. It still has some body and feels slightly syrupy in the mouth.
After fermentation was complete, the chicha has become not as sour as I'd like. The spices have faded completely, and there is a "dirty dish rag" odor. The latter does not show up in the flavor. I think perhaps I erred in pitching the dregs from a previous batch at the very start. Perhaps there was something in there that made its contribution before the yeast took over. Next time I will wait a week or so before adding my dregs, or, I'll use a pure culture lactobacillus.
By Wendy Aaronson and Bill Ridgely.
By Wendy Aaronson and Bill Ridgely.
My latest batch (Nov 16, 1997). This was a Modern/Barley Assisted batch, and while not traditional, I think this might be a step in the right direction. This was also a 3-rest mash. I added the barley and did the 3 rests because I was using some of the undermodified red corn (see Red Corn Chicha above) and wanted to avoid the break material that I had seen previously.
There was very little break material in the kettle. I wonder if my runoff wasn't a little too clear.
Fermentation did not start right away, in spite of an hour of aeration after pitching the yeast (which had been rehydrated). However, after 36 hours, this took off and actually blew off violently for another 36 hours. This even though there was only 5 gallons of liquid in a 7.5 gallon carboy.
The mash set up tight periodically and I had to keep an eye on the runoff to see when it had slowed to a trickle. When this happened, I just gently stirred up the top half of the mash and this got things running again. Only once did I have to reset the mash (stir completely and recirculate).
Two days after pitching I tasted the chicha. Wow! Best batch so far. Corny and sweet, but almost crisp at the same time. Spices very subtle. Very similar after 3 days. Light in body (none of the syrupyness seen in the Red Corn Chicha) and I am actually a little concerned that that body might be too light when fermented out. Time will tell if I overdid the first two rests.
Subsequent tastings seem to bear out that the mashing was over done. The chicha is very thin-bodied, though tasty. It is also not as sour as I'd like, but I believe this is due to a spell of cool weather not providing the lacto-bugs with the warmer temps they favor.
Next time, I will skip the beta rest (144F - while there may or may not be any beta amylase in jora, there certainly was some contributed by the barley malt) and spend only 10 minutes at the 130F rest.
Here's one I saw on the Discovery Channel's Traveler's show titled Chicha de Yamor. It calls for a high proportion of unmalted, toasted maize. I want to try this one sometime.
Here's a recipe for cebada, a chicha-like beverage that Felipe claims is primarily for children.
Here's a recipe for chicha facil. This recipe calls for sprouting the corn while soaking, but otherwise not malting or mashing it. It appears as if this version involves the spontaneous fermentation of brown sugar and water, with unfermentable corn starches added for flavor. I have no doubt that this is a common method of making chicha, but it seems abbreviated in the extreme and Mamasara cannot be pleased with the product this method yields.