Making A Tincture
Tinctures are a method of extracting flavors from spices and other ingredients via spirits. They are a super simple way to add flavor to your beer, cider, or mead. You can even use them in that experimental chocolate stout cake recipe floating around in your head. Making a tincture can really elevate your next batch.
There’s a wide range of spirits you can use with each imparting different characteristics. The key is to stick to things with at least 80 proof (40% abv) and of decent quality. You don’t have to buy Grey Goose but you also don’t want to use the cheapest spirits. A bottle of Smirnoff is a good starting point if you mainly want flavors from the spices.
- Vodka – A neutral spirit produced from fermented grains, potatoes, and even rice. A good vodka really lets your spices shine by imparting no extra flavors.
- Whiskey – A spirit made from barley, corn, rye, and/or wheat that is aged charred oak barrels. They give off a wide variety of flavors including leather, vanilla, wood, malt, fruity, nuts, and tobacco.
- Bourbon – A barrel-aged spirit made primarily from corn. Expect flavors of caramel, vanilla, and oak. My suggestion is to save the bourbon for a special occasion.
- Rum – A spirit made from sugar cane juice or molasses. Rum comes in several versions from light to dark to even spiced. You’ll get flavors of vanilla, oak, or burnt caramel depending on the brand.
- Gin – A spirit distilled from grain. Gin is always infused with juniper berries but may also contain other spices. Expect to add “medicinal” qualities to your brew.
- Tequila – A spirit made from the blue agave plant’s juices. A standard tequila will add notes of pepper and citrus. Aged tequila will be more mellow with notes of vanilla and wood. Make sure to remove the worm before using it.
Stouts are heavy favorites for using tinctures but aren’t the only style that works well with them. Cream ales have a light hop and malt flavor leave room for a good tincture. Beyond styles, sweet oriented beers also pair well with a tincture. Last but not least barrel-aged beers can benefit from an extra layer of flavor.
The trick to maximizing flavors from a tincture is to layer flavors. Layering flavors is a two fold process in both the tincture itself and the whole brew. First use multiple spices in a tincture that pair with each other. Secondly incorporate your flavors in several steps of your brew. Flame out and your mash are both great times to add spices.
Spices & More Suggestions
- Vanilla Beans
- Cocoa Nibs
- Citrus Peel
How To Make Your Tincture:
- Crush or break open any spices you intend to extract flavors from. (Optional) Some spices will benefit from quick toasting them in the oven.
- Add to a clean Mason jar.
- Fill with your favorite spirit or whatever works well for the style you’re brewing. Make sure to completely cover the spices.
- Soak for a minimum of one week.
- Add the whole mason jar to your fermenter a few days before reaching final gravity or strain the liquid through a strainer or coffee filter into your keg or bottling bucket before racking your finished brew.
- Less is more if you’re trying something new. You can always add more but you can’t take flavor away.
- Search around for recipes that people have tried before. It will give you a starting point for how much spice to use.
- I already said it but don’t cheap out on your spirit.
Have you tried a tincture before? What did you brew and how did it turn out? Check out my Tropical Milk Stout recipe if you aren’t quite ready to brew a recipe of your own with a tincture.