FAQ: AKA The Umami Factor Elevator Pitch

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WHAT IS THE UMAMI FACTOR?

It’s two things. It’s the title of my new book, and it is the principle for making fermented beverages that provide a complex, mouth-filling, satisfying flavor sensation by balancing multiple aromas with the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

WHAT IS UMAMI?

Umami is the taste sensation of savory foods. The word is Japanese for “delicious” taste. It’s provided by receptors in your mouth, throat, esophagus, and even stomach that detect the presence of glutamates, which are derived from amino acids. The umami sensation is pleasant for the same reason that “sweet” is pleasant.

The body is cued to detect vital, high-engergy nutrients: carbohydrates with sweet taste, and proteins with umami taste. Natural, unfiltered fermented beverages are packed with umami-producing compounds from the fruits, grains, and yeast they are made of.

WHAT IS FULL SPECTRUM FERMENTATION?

Full-spectrum fermentation describes a process of techniques combined with intricate ingredient formulas that create complex flavor arrangements evoking the response “There’s so much going on there! How did you do that?”

Full-spectrum beverages are complex and improbable, but ultimately well-balanced drinks.

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WHY IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT?

It takes a full-spectrum look at beverages from soft drinks to hard liquor. It thoroughly discusses the components necessary for flavor balancing. It examines related spectra, such as the inebriation spectrum and the commitment spectrum. It has a textbook approach to data, with a multitude of tables for ingredients and supplies. It provides recipes and detailed instructions, but more importantly it is a call to chefdom for aspiring fermentation artists. Tally Ho!

Buy The Umami Factor now for a substantial pre-release discount here.

Announcing! UMAMI Factor–The Book!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

You’re about to be introduced to the UMAMI factor, the secret to sensational homemade beverages, including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks, kombucha, and more. Chances are you may not have heard of umami, the taste impression created by certain amino acids in a food or beverage. Now you know. Starting the novice off right with a thorough understanding of “full-spectrum” fermentation theory,the book dives into the various preparation techniques and shows how umami-producing ingredients create beverages with a sensation of balance and roundness on the palate, tongue, nose, and even throat. More than 75 recipes, including all the beverages here, plus sharp insight, and handy tips help the amateur fermentation chef conquer the next frontier in beverage science. Even the most experienced of fermentation aficionados will discover a philosophical yet practical approach to further exploration. Pre-order now from Amazon.com and save 21% over the cover price!

Malta Macho

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Malt-flavored soft drinks are popular in Latin America, where they go by the name Malta. The drink originated in Germany, where it was called malzbier. In that early version, the beverage was fermented to less than 2% ABV, then bottled and pasteurized, leaving considerable residual sugar. Modern commercial versions use corn syrup, malt extract and artificial carbonation.

This recipe calls for an all-malt approach with no fermentation, and adds a bit of herb tea to expand the flavor sensation. Easy to make, it is prepared as fully non-alcoholic syrup, and carbonated with club soda. The recipe is inexact with regard to herbs, so experiment with proportions to suit your taste.
The accompanying photo shows a malta made with two grams of whole Fuggle hops for every four liters of beverage. They have not been boiled with the malt, and so the flavor and aroma are prominent, but the bitterness is quite mild. The sweetness is there, but is subtly balanced by the hop addition.

To create a drink with even more complex flavor, with considerably more effort you can try an all-grain version. Mash base and specialty grains as you would for beer, collecting about 1.5 liters of liquid.

Heat water to 70 C, add cracked caramel malts in grain bag, steep 30 minutes and remove. Drain liquid from grains and add water to bring back to 1.2 L. Heat water to 100 C, remove from heat. Stir in malt extract and herbs. Cool one hour. Dispense 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing-top bottles.

Freeze syrup in bottles, top up with soda water, store in refrigerator. When the frozen syrup has thawed, gently agitate the bottles to suspend the ingredients. After 24 hours any grain flour or trub will again sink to the bottom, leaving the flavor and color components suspended. The liquid can be decanted off the sediment to serve a more clear drink.

Coachman’s Double Andover Stout

AndoverDstoutWIn 1973 an American with a taste for good beer and little money to buy expensive imports had few options. There were some widely scattered retail shops selling wine-making supplies. At that time brewing beer was illegal, but buying the makings was not. A look inside these shops revealed that they often sold the ingredients for beer too. In fact, since the ingredients were food items, there wasn’t even a tax on them.

Along with ingredients such as canned malt extract, and perhaps some crystal and black malt, there were dried ale yeasts by Edme, and Red Star. Vierka offered light and Munich dark lager yeast. There were also a couple of books available that were pretty simplistic by today’s standards, but were enough to get one started. With a bit of reading it was possible to brew a first batch that was excellent.

C.J.J. Berry’s Home Brewed Beers and Stouts was first published in 1963, shortly after the law changed in England making home brewing legal without a brewer’s licence or duty payment. This was the first book in modern times to deal with the process in sufficient detail to ensure a successful enterprise. An instant success, it sold more than 300,000 copies over four editions.

The recipe names in the book reflect the locale from which a beer example has been drawn. One of these is the town of Andover, Hampshire. A major stage coach stop on the Exeter-London road during the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s no surprise that Andover was known for its heavy, satisfying stout.
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In England, circa 1963, it was possible to find numerous bottle-conditioned beers containing yeast samples from their respective breweries. In that sphere at least, the home brewer was afforded a respectable range of possibilities, and Berry’s book suggests exploiting the situation. This recipe similarly takes advantage of the 21st Century’s availability of obscure English yeast strains by employing a Platinum English strain from White Labs’ yeast bank. East Midlands yeast, with its dry finish, low ester production and moderate alcolol tolerance, is comparable to the more familiar Nottingham strain.

This adaptation of Andover Stout, while inspired by the C. J. J. Berry book, also pays homage to William Black’s Brown Stout of 1849, a recipe discovered by the Durden Park Beer Club. That brew featured amber and brown malts, along with the black malt.
Coachman’s adds a full-spectrum touch by taking advantage of the even wider variety of ingredients now available.

A double stout, coming down the highway at 7.8% ABV, this is a monumental beer. A coach and six taking you to the coast.

Barrel Body Winter Warmer

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I’m not a big fan of winter. In late October, scraping enough frost off the windshield to make a frozen Daiquiri, I’m dreading the ice to come. White Christmas is great. January skiing is fun. But as a California guy, by February I’m ready to go on a picnic.

That said, one thing that sustains me through the frigid season is Winter Warmer. A roaring fire, a good book, and a righteous, spicy ale make all the difference when the wind blows cold, the snowflakes fly, and the nights are long.

In the old days, folks could huddle around the barrel body of a pot-belly stove to keep warm. These days, even a gas log will do if there’s a fine winter warmer close at hand. Barrel Body Winter Warmer fills the bill.
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Barrel Body starts out as a pretty straightforward copper ale. A full grain bill augmented with lots of caramel and crystal malt is topped off with Melanoidin malt to boost the red color, and provide plenty of heavy mouthfeel. The recipe adds golden sugar and Belgian dark aromatic candi to raise the starting gravity and tweak the umami.

The baseline spiciness comes from cinnamon and nutmeg. To kick it up a notch, a hint of Voodoo Elixir in the secondary fermenter adds flavors of coffee, chicory, cubeb, gumbo, licorice, sassafras and sarsaparilla.

Safale US-05 ferments this one out full and dry. At about 7.9% ABV, Barrel Body Winter Warmer lives up to its name.

Hakkō Chairo Amazake

HardAmazakeWAmazake can be considered a “precursor” to sake. In sake fermentation, steamed rice starches are converted to sugar with the use of a catalyst named kome koji–fungus-infected rice; then the sugar is fermented using conventional saccaromycetes.

And as is with the unfermented barley-based soft drink Malta, there is a Japanese version using rice: amazake. Amazake is, theoretically, the sugary mash that is formed when the fungus A. oriazye saccarifies starches in the rice, but before yeast turns those sugars into alcohol. Amazake is refrigerated or consumed shortly after the conversion is comeplete.

However, if the mash is allowed to continue sitting at room temperature, it will start to bubble and fizz, as sugar is metabolized into alcohol and carbon dioxide. You get a mild sake anyway: hard, “Hakkō” amazake if you will.

If you make amazake out of brown (chairo) rice you get a drink that is much more flavorful than the traditional recipe that calls for glutinous white rice. Sweet glutinous white rice forms the key ingredient in the Japanese dessert “mochi.” This sweet rice is available in a brown version too, with all the more rounded umami flavor characteristics you would expect.

Because koji has fermented out all the sugar that is in a conventional amazake, this version adds back a bit of rice syrup solids to balance the tartness of the citric acid used to prevent wild yeast infection. The drink is back-sweetened, then pasteurized in bottles. Served slightly chilled, the flavor is a sweet-tart burst, balanced with umami flavors of toast, caramel and mushroom.

Scott’s Revenge BC Brown Ale

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British Columbian brewers have been trying hard to establish a unique style of beer, in the shadow, alas, of the huge brewing scenes of Washington and Oregon. Those two states, in turn, have led with their own brewing evolution, against the mega-hopped IPAs of Southern California.

The trend in all three Northern areas has been to less aggressively bitter, but no less flavorful beers, including Northwest Pale Ale, with the characteristically citrus-flavored hop varieties now emerging from the Oregon/Washington growing region.

In the 1940s B.C. grew more hops than any other region of the Commonwealth. The Molson Export recipe of that time specified only “B.C. Hops.” But since 1997 or so, there had been almost no commercial hops grown in British Columbia. Recently, however, that trend is reversing, as the demand from craft brewing again makes hop growing a viable industry in B.C.

What does not seem to be occurring though, is the expansion of flavor sensations accomplished by full-spectrum recipe formulations. B.C. beers, though tasty, frequently lack complexity. Scott Beauchamp, manager and buyer at Nelson Liquors in Nelson B.C. has tasted a lot of British Columbia beers, and he agrees. That’s why I brewed a full-spectrum beer using B.C. hops, with him in mind: Scott’s Revenge. The color is really more of a dark amber to copper, and the aroma is dominated by malty notes, with very light hoppiness.

Scott’s B.C. Brown has plenty of caramel flavors from five grades of crystal, plus CaraAroma and CaraMunich malts. Chocolate and Black Prinz malts provide deep roasty flavors.

The hops were grown in Nelson, B.C. and consist of a blend of Nugget, Willamette, Fuggle and Golding varieties. They were lightly air-dried for a week before going into the brew in three additions. Safale US-05 fermented it out nice and dry.

Next season I will likely get a bigger Golding crop, and I plan to try this recipe again with wet-hop and dry-hop additions. Then Scott’s revenge against bland B.C. ales will be complete.