Learning to Toast

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Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 05, 2017 7:19 pm

I've had trouble getting consistent results from toasting. I decided to spend some time this weekend doing experiments to help me learn more and get to know how my equipment operates so that I can make what I want, when I want it, without wasting so damn much wood.

I'm no expert. I humbly submit my knowledge to the universe. Here is a summary of what I learned this weekend.

#1 - Record Your Process
To repeat a process for consistent results, you need to log details of what you do and the results. Basics for this we're temp, time, wood dimension, wood grade, plus other observation and the results.

#2 - Use a Convection Oven
A convection oven is less work and provides more consistent results. I started using both my conventional home oven and a toaster/Convection oven. A convection oven has an air circulating fan in it. With convection I had to move my wood much less, and the heat was much more consistent (less hot spots.) I have less capacity with this oven but with the improved yield, it is plenty big enough for my needs.

I kept 1/4" of air space between each stick and cross stacked them two rows high.

Each oven is different. It's easier to get consistent results by working with the same oven each time. Here is my little fella.
IMG_4671.JPG
My little Convection Oven


#3 - Use the same size sticks
To get consistent results you should use the same sized pieces. I am going with 3/4" x 3/4" x 6". For my tests I used the box on the left which was half American White Oak and half Cherry.
IMG_4634.JPG
Box-o-sticks


#4 - Grade Your Wood
Inconsistent wood means inconsistent results. It took me a few batches before I could predict which oak sticks would give good results verses those that did not. I first noticed that half the sticks I toasted swelled up and split and/or otherwise turned very dark very fast compared to the others. I figured out that sticks with variegated coloring (light/dark) and sticks with knots and stressed grains would not toast consistent. I tested/confirmed my theory by stamping each stick, before toasting, that I thought would swell, split, or prematurely darken. I successfully graded later batches and had a much better yield.

Here is how I figured this out. The pic below shows sticks from one batch organized by time toasted. I offset two columns: left column are solid sticks, right column are swollen, split, knotted sticks. When you remove all the swollen, split and knotted sticks, the smooth progression of toast color over time is easy to see. Bingo!
IMG_4635.JPG
Grading after toasting


FYI. All my wood was very dry. So dry, I don't believe my moisture meter that said they contained around 4-5% moisture. I assume that wetter wood will behave differently.

#5 - The Toasting Process
I cross stacked two layers of sticks with 1/4" spacing between them. Spacing is necessary to let hot air circulate around all surfaces of the stick.

I turned my sticks at 20 minutes intervals, top to bottom and center to edge. The Top to Bottom turning was necessary to ensure each stick was toasted evenly. I didn't notice the Center to Edge turn have much of an impact on toasting evenness.

My early experiments in the conventional oven (no fan) required a lot more turning, and there were definitely hot spots to deal with. This is why I switched solely to my small convection oven.

#6 - Consistent Results
I realize that I can't simply do the above again at the same temp for the specified time and get perfect sticks, but these tests have helped me determine a standard process with a dialed in temp/time estimates. In the end, it is color and smell that determine the toasting "cut".

Because you can't write down color/scent, I have created myself a few indexed sets of toast levels by temp/time (in my oven) For future toasting, these will help give me a good ball park of the temp time I need to target, and a color/scent match to know when it's time to pull sticks.

Here are my sample sets from today's toasting of cherry and American white oak done at 325 deg F and 375 deg F.
IMG_4667.JPG
375 deg F, Oak and Cherry Toast Index Set

Toast Index Sets - 375 deg F. Cherry from 25 to 50 minutes. Oak from 25 to 70 minutes.

IMG_4668.JPG
325 deg F, American White Oak Toast Index Set

Toast Index Sets - 325 deg F. Oak from 30 to 100 minutes.

There are forest fires burning across the west and it's a bit smoky outside where I live. It smoky inside my home too, but the smell in here is more pleasant. ;-)

Enjoy! Otis :-).
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:16 am

Great post. And great pics.
In my experience it is difficult to find the perfect toast. The perfect toast for 6 months aging is perhaps not the best one for 12 months aging. I still always try something new. I started with 380F 1.5h, did many experiments and currently I try 520F (the maximum of my convection oven) between 7 and 15min. IMO either do a long not too hot toast (for example 380F), which is almost invisible or do a hot and short toast, which will be visible, but doesn't go through the whole wood. A medium or dark toast through the whole wood in combination with a char never worked for me.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby Bushman » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:30 am

That is well written. My wife doesn't like me smelling up the house so I have sticks cut and ready and when I am BBQing I just wrap some sticks in aluminum foil and add them on the side. When the sticks start to smoke I check them. As for der wo's comment on how long to age everytime it is different for me with many factors including abv of alcohol thus I do check every few weeks after the first 2-3 months.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby Single Malt Yinzer » Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:49 am

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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:11 pm

Today I toasted up Cherry at 320 F. To get the two nice graduated toast sets I did have to pull three sticks from each temp range and select the two to keep. There are always a few oddball sticks that don't toast uniformly. :-)

I want to do oak at 400 next, but I'm out of oak so it will be a few days.
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Cherry toasted at 320 F Convection
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:28 pm

Bushman wrote:That is well written. My wife doesn't like me smelling up the house so I have sticks cut and ready and when I am BBQing I just wrap some sticks in aluminum foil and add them on the side. When the sticks start to smoke I check them. As for der wo's comment on how long to age everytime it is different for me with many factors including abv of alcohol thus I do check every few weeks after the first 2-3 months.


Thanks Bushman. I've tried the foil wrap method but was not happy with the results. The smell of creosote was way to strong for me. I may be too sensitive to the smell from 20 years of wood heat. ;-)
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby Oldvine Zin » Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:28 pm

Great write up OtisT. :thumbup:
+1 one the convection oven - I found that every stick that I have toasted behaved differently than the one next to it, like cuts I just go by smell.


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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:26 am

Oldvine Zin wrote:Great write up OtisT. :thumbup:
+1 one the convection oven - I found that every stick that I have toasted behaved differently than the one next to it, like cuts I just go by smell.


OVZ


Thanks OVZ. You are way better than me at this, because I can't tell the difference in smell while toasting. Maybe it's too much smell in the air that it overwhelmes my senses. More than likely, I just don't know what I am smelling for (yet). ;-)

Yesterday I picked up more oak to finish my 400deg index set, and I also picked up a board of sugar maple to add this wood to my adventures in toasting. I'm doing this experiment to try and learn how to identify/select toast by desired scent, and not just color. When I have my other sets done I'll sit down with them all in a place with fresh air and see if I can tell them apart.

I have read that different esters are created at different temps, so I'm hoping to prove this out and be able to recreate the effect. I'll keep posting to this thread as I move forward.

Enjoy! Otis
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:32 am

OtisT wrote:I have read that different esters are created at different temps, so I'm hoping to prove this out and be able to recreate the effect.

This is not correct.
1. The aroma products you get when you heat oak aren't esters.
2. Not the temperature decides, what aroma you get, but the degradation of the wood caused by heat and time. You cannot make the "vanilla-stick" with X°C and the "caramel-stick" with Y°C. Generally you can replace a bit heat with a bit more time, or otherwise. The aroma compounds are not created parallel, but more successively. Vanilla is not created directly from the oak, there are different intermediates, which also have a nice aroma and are part of every oak aged spirit. But the reactions demand a specific minimum temp. And this minimum is differs. Vanilla for example needs a relatively high temp. Toasting at only 150F -> not much vanilla, regardless how long you toast.

Here a great study. Real-Time Mass Spectrometry Monitoring of Oak Wood Toasting:
https://www.nature.com/articles/srep17334

Edit: And we should not forget, that also the abv has a huge influence, if you get for example more vanilla or more caramel. The higher the abv the more vanilla and less caramel.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:20 pm

der wo wrote:Great post. And great pics.
In my experience it is difficult to find the perfect toast. The perfect toast for 6 months aging is perhaps not the best one for 12 months aging. I still always try something new. I started with 380F 1.5h, did many experiments and currently I try 520F (the maximum of my convection oven) between 7 and 15min. IMO either do a long not too hot toast (for example 380F), which is almost invisible or do a hot and short toast, which will be visible, but doesn't go through the whole wood. A medium or dark toast through the whole wood in combination with a char never worked for me.


Der Wo. I like your hot/short method for convenience. 20 minutes tending an oven is better than 90. :-)

Here are two sets of oak sticks at 520 F for 7-17 minutes.
IMG_4718.JPG
520 F Toast oak set 7 to 17 min

IMG_4722.JPG
Side grain view

IMG_4720.JPG
Set two, 520 F oak

The side grain pic shows what I call quarter sawn wood.

After air rack cooling I cut them in half. I've yet to identify a half toasted stick. I'll try later under a magnifier, but even the short duration sticks appear uniform in toast from edge to center. Maybe my sticks are too thin? Maybe my saw cut is obscuring. I'll also try carving off some wood by hand and rechecking.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby MichiganCornhusker » Wed Aug 09, 2017 4:15 pm

Great thread! Looking forward to your impressions after 6 months...
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:56 am

2x2cm thick American white oak (ex- JD barrel stave), 12min at the maximum of my convection oven (probably around 520 F), cut in the middle:
DSC07837.JPG

You see, it's relative dark on the surface, but in the middle of the stick it looks like untoasted. I think a bit lighter would be better, perhaps 10min. I am not sure. BTW my sticks normally get charred after toasting.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:18 am

der wo wrote:2x2cm thick American white oak (ex- JD barrel stave), 12min at the maximum of my convection oven (probably around 520 F), cut in the middle:
DSC07837.JPG

You see, it's relative dark on the surface, but in the middle of the stick it looks like untoasted. I think a bit lighter would be better, perhaps 10min. I am not sure. BTW my sticks normally get charred after toasting.


Der Wo. Thanks for sharing your pics to go with your temp/time. It really helps me, to compare what I am doing with others who know their stuff.

I have a question regarding your wood. I'm trying to resolve why I'm not seeing a layered toast. Was your wood wet at all, or otherwise have a high moisture content? Just trying to figure out why I'm not seeing a graduated toast, even on my high temp/short time toasts. My guess is that wet wood would split in the high heat, but that's just a guess so I thought I would check with you before trying.

I have read past posts where folks freeze toasted wood before charring, to keep the char shallow. (i don't subscribe to that process myself). I wonder if freezing my sticks over night before toasting at 520 would keep the center of the stick cool long enough to resist toasting the center. I will have to try this next if I don't come up with another solution.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:11 am

My sticks were dry.

But I think I found it: Sorry, my mistake. Like always I used the oven without convection for toasting oak.
And btw I didn't turn the wood. I let the oven closed all the time.

And looking at your oven, I find it's not very solid. Perhaps your temp was remarkably colder?

Is your oak seasoned? Oak for barrels should be seasoned. If I remember right, something about 2 years in the weather washes out many substances. And then dried the wood is relative lightweight, which perhaps insulates heat more?

Actually I see a gradient on your pics. At least at the darkest sticks. But less than on my pic. Did you cut up American white oak too? Perhaps here it looks better, because untoasted white oak generally looks lighter?


Edit: a good read. Unfortunately the member barrelcreator was not long here:
viewtopic.php?t=6597
Two quotes:

After manufacturing, the oak used to make premium oak alternatives is allowed to season naturally in the open air, exposed to nature’s elements for 30+ months and will benefit far greater than the past process known as kiln drying or oak seasoned naturally for only 1 to 2 years. The seasoning process helps to slowly remove harsh compounds and unwanted flavors from the oak. Seasoning in the open air and not in kilns also develops and releases micro flora bacteria’s that help extract higher levels of sweet and spice flavors during the toasting process. This extended seasoning also softens and refines the oaks tannins, eliminates astringency and increases the oaks overall complexity. Just as a good whiskey develops into a great whiskey after aging, giving the oak time to season naturally and not forcing the drying time in a kiln, the oak will develop into a product with greater benefits for the alcohol it’s being integrated into.

Any oak that is at least 3/8" thick and toasted with fire or infared with a gradient to the toasting color. No convection toasting!!!
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby kiwi Bruce » Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:32 pm

This is a great post OtisT, very good info...thanks to everyone contributing...good job, all of you !
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:30 pm

der wo wrote:But I think I found it: Sorry, my mistake. Like always I used the oven without convection for toasting oak.
And btw I didn't turn the wood. I let the oven closed all the time.

And looking at your oven, I find it's not very solid. Perhaps your temp was remarkably colder?

Conventional vs convection explains why ours are different.

Yes, it is a small oven but it is a well made work horse. On full (Broil), with and w/o fan, it does get up to and maintain 520 F. It takes a good 20 to 30 minutes just to get to that temp, then I let it set at the desired temp another 20-30 just to make sure the temp holds. The temps on the dial are a good 80 to 100 degrees off of what I believe to be the true temp. I started using an internal pro grade oven thermometer to set my temps before toasting. I've followed this process for all of my recent toastings.

der wo wrote:Is your oak seasoned? Oak for barrels should be seasoned. If I remember right, something about 2 years in the weather washes out many substances. And then dried the wood is relative lightweight, which perhaps insulates heat more?


Unfortunately, I have only used kiln dried wood for my toasting. The next time I have an opportunity to get some raw oak, I will definitely have it milled and will let it age naturally.

der wo wrote:Actually I see a gradient on your pics. At least at the darkest sticks. But less than on my pic. Did you cut up American white oak too? Perhaps here it looks better, because untoasted white oak generally looks lighter?


Upon closer inspection, I do see a slight gradient in places. I took a chisel to the end of a few, but was still hard to see. This oak is on the dark side of American white oak. I have some better pics coming.

Yes confirming, I am using American white oak for all my oak toasting. Would love to get some Oregon Oak, but that is not commercially available. I'm also using Cherry and Maple in some of my toasting to date.

der wo wrote:Edit: a good read. Unfortunately the member barrelcreator was not long here:
viewtopic.php?t=6597
Two quotes:

After manufacturing, the oak used to make premium oak alternatives is allowed to season naturally in the open air, exposed to nature’s elements for 30+ months and will benefit far greater than the past process known as kiln drying or oak seasoned naturally for only 1 to 2 years. The seasoning process helps to slowly remove harsh compounds and unwanted flavors from the oak. Seasoning in the open air and not in kilns also develops and releases micro flora bacteria’s that help extract higher levels of sweet and spice flavors during the toasting process. This extended seasoning also softens and refines the oaks tannins, eliminates astringency and increases the oaks overall complexity. Just as a good whiskey develops into a great whiskey after aging, giving the oak time to season naturally and not forcing the drying time in a kiln, the oak will develop into a product with greater benefits for the alcohol it’s being integrated into.

Any oak that is at least 3/8" thick and toasted with fire or infared with a gradient to the toasting color. No convection toasting!!!


A lot to consider here. Will read that link soon.

Thanks for all your feedback and support of my current obsessive compulsive task. ;-)
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:40 pm

Der wo had some good feedback for me earlier and got me thinking about how well my oven was performing, especially with all my wood turning and opening the door to sample at various temps. I started using an internal thermometer a few days back and it has been a huge help.

Here are a few of my observations regarding toasting temperatures and my oven


Clean Windows
You can't read an internal thermometer or see the color of your wood with dirty glass on your oven. I gave my glass a fresh shaving with a razor scraper and can see great now. Collateral cleaning. ;-)


Thermal Mass
My toaster oven is big for a toaster oven, but does not have a lot of Thermal Mass. That means while it can hold a temperature well, it takes time to come up to temp. If I am going to get a good high temp toast, I will need to work at it. Here is why.

Every time you open the door, the internal temp drops. Open and close the door quickly, and your temp may drop a little. Leave it open long and the temp drop is significant.

Not a lot of thermal mass means I don't heat back up quickly.

The combination of those two facts mean that to get a good toast, I needed to minimize door openings and learn to get in/out of the oven fast.


Quick Hands
To minimize heat loss I learned how to load the tray so it went in quickly, without messing with my stacks of wood. Practice cold if it's your first time. One tip is that I leave an open space front/center so I have a good grip and I don't knock around stacked sticks when I'm handling the rack with a big oven mitt. I made sure I left plenty of clearance on the sides for sliding the rack in/out.

With practice I got much quicker at pulling a few sticks quickly. Pre grading sticks made this much easier, as there was less need to be selective when reaching in to steal a few with tongs.

When I had to flip the sticks, I pulled the whole rack out quickly and closed the oven to save heat. Placed the rack down, flipped the sticks, and got that thing back in quick. I was using tongs at times, and at times I used my fingers to flip the sticks.


Pictures of my toast sets
The temps listed for my wood is the pre-heated oven temp prior to loading sticks.

I tracked the impact of opening the door on a few of my recent toasting. When I post those results I will include notes on internal temp during the toast.


Toasting a batch for similar results
When I toast a batch of sticks to be the same, or in a small range, I will be opening the oven less and thus reach an equivalent toast level more quickly than I did in my test runs.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:02 am

Toasting at 520 F (271 C)

I was attempting to get a gradient toast. Toasted on the outside, raw on the inside. I also wanted to see if I could replicate what der wo has been doing recently so my last toast was Conventional.

This first batch of 10 sticks started at 520 F (271C) Convection. This was my first batch leaving the thermometer in the oven while I toasted, and I was not so quick with the door openings. The temp dropped 50 deg when I filled it and started rising from its low of 450 by 7 minutes, when I pulled the first sticks. The oven recovered to 505 by the end of the run at 22 minutes. I did not do a good job loading, unloading and keeping things hot.
IMG_2804.JPG
520F, 271C convection toasted American white oak

IMG_2801.JPG
520F, 271C, end grain



I wanted to do a quick small batch, trying to keep things hot. Again, 520F (271C) Convection. I tossed in three sticks quickly. The temp dropped and bottomed out at 500 F 5 minutes in. Temp was back up to 510F by 13 minutes when I pulled the last stick.
IMG_2806.JPG
520F, 271C, convection

IMG_2805.JPG
520F, 271C, Convection end grain



I wanted to try a conventional toast (no fan) at 520 per my discussions with der wo previously. The temp slowly dropped from 520 to 480 when I placed the sticks. It bottomed out at 480 F from 3 to 6 minutes before beginning to recover. Was up to 500F by 10 minutes, and 508F by 13 minutes. The run ended at 510F.

The gradient from toast to raw is more evident in these sticks. :-)
IMG_2808.JPG
520F, 271C, conventional

IMG_2807.JPG
520F, 271C, Conventional end grain

The last sticks from this batch at 19 minutes were the first sticks to smell Burnt.

Enjoy! Otis
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:11 am

For me it looks like your oven is not as hot as mine. Probably because you loose so much heat during loading. Or perhaps mine is hotter than 520F. I don't have a thermometer for placing in an oven, sorry.
My 12min without convection stick looks like your 13min with convection and almost as dark as your 19min without convection.

Generally I am not sure what results you expect. I think the tastes after aging will be not so different. The dark toasts will taste bad at the beginning, but it will age out probably. After a year it will be very similar. So perhaps for you this experiment will be not so important after a year. But for us it is great to have the numbers and pics.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:10 am

der wo wrote:For me it looks like your oven is not as hot as mine. Probably because you loose so much heat during loading. Or perhaps mine is hotter than 520F. I don't have a thermometer for placing in an oven, sorry.
My 12min without convection stick looks like your 13min with convection and almost as dark as your 19min without convection.


I think you are right. Either your oven is heavier duty and recovers the target temp quicker, and/or you run a bit hotter. I got close, and think I could squeeze a few more degrees out of my rig when I need to. Learning about my oven's heat loss and practicing heat conservation while toasting will be useful to me in my future endeavors.

der wo wrote:Generally I am not sure what results you expect. I think the tastes after aging will be not so different. The dark toasts will taste bad at the beginning, but it will age out probably. After a year it will be very similar. So perhaps for you this experiment will be not so important after a year. But for us it is great to have the numbers and pics.


I have no expected toast results at this time. I.e. There is no specific toast or profile I am trying to replicate. Right now this is just a learning experience for me and I'm on lesson One, which is trying to learn how to get various types of toast levels on my equipment with some level of consistency. Through the process I am documenting toasts of different wood at various temps over time in the form of my index sets. At time time, the results are only about color to me.

Step two will be to spend some time with the sets to see if I can figure out anything to do with smell. Taking a fresh shave off of a toasted stick opens up a lot of the smell, which I plan to do with my index sets. I hear folks talk about pulling toasting sticks by scent, but I'll be damned if I can tell any difference in scent at this time. Of course I've been toasting frequently and everything smells toasted to me right now. My kitchen, home, my cloths, the cat; we all smell toasted. I am expecting that isolating and identifying specific scents in toasted wood will be like identifying scent in distillate, and that it will simply take repeated exposure and comparisons over time before it clicks.

Step three for me will be to take what I learn about smell and toasted wood in general and apply it to impact on my spirits. I'll find a few interesting toast level transitions to make a jar sets with, and I pick a few spirit bases (likely a whiskey and a rum). I'll be looking at flavor and smell impact in the jars over time.

One of my favorite sayings is " everything is relative", and I apply it to many things I do. When it comes to isolating and identifying smells/tastes, I have more success when I am comparing relative items (close, but not identical). If I smell one piece of toasted wood I just smell toast. When I smell two different pieces of toasted wood, I have a chance of detecting slight differences, and for me that is the first step to isolation and identification.

This will be a long process before I feel it is remotely complete (never done). This goes with another of my favorite sayings. "It is a wise man who plants a tree he knows he will never sit in the shade of." - unknown
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:54 am

I think you have the right attitude.
OtisT wrote:I hear folks talk about pulling toasting sticks by scent, but I'll be damned if I can tell any difference in scent at this time.

Perhaps with uncharred sticks. But if you want something like Bourbon you need the char layer for the typical taste. And charred sticks don't smell at all.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby Bushman » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:27 am

der wo wrote:I think you have the right attitude.
OtisT wrote:I hear folks talk about pulling toasting sticks by scent, but I'll be damned if I can tell any difference in scent at this time.

Perhaps with uncharred sticks. But if you want something like Bourbon you need the char layer for the typical taste. And charred sticks don't smell at all.

Kind of what I have concluded. This is a great thread for members, but as der wo mentioned everyone's ovens toast differently so we find out on our own. When I do mine on the BBQ it is usually when I am BBQ a fish so I don't get a lot of the flavor transfer. I wrap mine in tin foil pock a few small holes and when it begins to smoke it is done to my liking!
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 11:38 am

der wo wrote: But if you want something like Bourbon you need the char layer for the typical taste. And charred sticks don't smell at all.


Yes. I've charred a few of my own sticks and have some aging my HBB and some sugar head right now. I used a torch to give each side of sticks a quick and thin char, then I soaked in water for 24 hours and let dry. My HBB char sticks were on medium toast oak sticks, and the sugar head char sticks are a light toast oak. How well I did? Time will tell. I will say that unlike your sticks, my char sticks did smell. :-( I guess when I tire of toasting, I need to spend some time learning to char properly. :-)

I really appreciate your continued feedback. I'm having a blast playing with wood toasting. Thanks again.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:06 pm

Bushman wrote:This is a great thread for members, but as der wo mentioned everyone's ovens toast differently so we find out on our own. When I do mine on the BBQ it is usually when I am BBQ a fish so I don't get a lot of the flavor transfer. I wrap mine in tin foil pock a few small holes and when it begins to smoke it is done to my liking!


+1 on finding our own. I'm hoping to learn enough to find my own things the way I like them, and to also have a reason for it. It may not be the reasons I expected but hell, they are reasons. I've been to dozens of distilleries and a few distillerie shows recently. I like to ask the distillers about their ingredients and process, and why they chose those things. Not many have been able to express any results related reasoning behind their decisions, and I find that boring for someone selling what they make. That's why I love HD. Folks share and come here to learn and build upon our skills, and we try stuff just to see what happens. We all have opinions and reasons for doing this and we love to politely discuss them. All this while others watch and critique along the way, which usually leads to something really good. HD is my kind of folk. Thank you Bushman for your feedback. :-)
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby SaltyStaves » Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:06 pm

The wood gases off when it is heated up. Mostly carbon dioxide, but also carbon monoxide. When you start getting into those darker toasts, in a closed oven, you will get undesirable cresols binding to the wood (but maybe some desirable ones too). For a while, I experimented with extinguishing my dominoes (after charring) in a sealed container). It would give an acrid, prickly taste to the wood.

Your closed convection oven will also contribute an even, monochromatic toast. You are doing it for education, so I understand the motivation. Going forward, you'll either want to be aging enough volume of spirits so that you can add a range of toasted dominoes. Otherwise you will be just making caramel, or vanilla or coconut etc tasting monochromatic drinks (that may be your thing).
I'm doing small volumes, so I like having gradients within the one domino.
I do this with a hooded BBQ with the hood left open by about an inch. This creates a temperature gradient and also allows air to pass through.

My best advice would be to get seasoned oak ASAP. Don't waste your good likker on kiln dried wood. I have and I'm thankful it was only small volumes.

Good job on the exploration so far. You'll be able to dial in any flavour profile you want once you know what all the possibilities are.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:44 pm

SaltyStaves wrote:....you'll want to be aging enough volume of spirits so that you can add a range of toasted dominoes.


That is exactly my plan. It's just going to take a while to get there because my stilling list is backed up.

Thanks for the advice. Getting some good wood is moving up on my priority list, though it won't help me for a few years yet. I had better get on that soon, because by 2019 I will definitely be doing bigger batches. :-)
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:35 am

Toasted Cherry, part 1.

Below are pics of my toasted Cherry tests done in my oven at 360, 410, 440. 520F Cherry will be in a subsequent post.

Cherry at 360 deg F, 182 deg C (Convection, with a Fan)
IMG_2826.JPG
Cherry, 360F, 182C

IMG_2825.JPG
Cherry 360F, 182C


Cherry at 410 deg F, 210 deg C (Convection, with a Fan)
IMG_2772.JPG
Cherry at 410F, 210C


Cherry at 440 deg F, 227 deg C (Convection, with a Fan)
IMG_2740.JPG
Cherry at 440F, 227C

IMG_2767.JPG
Cherry at 440F, 227C


Cherry at 520 deg F will be in the next post. (6 pic limit)

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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:58 am

Toasted Cherry, part 2.

Below are pics of my toasted Cherry tests done in my oven at 520F.

520 F is the max my oven will go so it's hard to get a true 520. I had to keep my batches small and work quickly to maintain a max temperature. Toasting at 520, the temp dropped to around 480F when I first loaded the oven, and my oven had only recovered up to 510F by the end of my toastings.

You can see from the end grain cuts that my hot/fast toastings are producing a progressive toast that some find desirable for quick aging.

Cherry at 520 deg F, 271 deg C (Convection, with a Fan)
IMG_2828.JPG
Cherry at 520F, 271C convection

IMG_2827.JPG
Cherry at 520F, 271C convection


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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby OtisT » Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:38 am

Can a jar of booze soaked with an overtoasted piece of oak be salvaged?

Three months back I did a set of test jars with oak toasted at various levels. The two pints at the toaster end of the scale smell down right nasty. It's the toast level, not too much oak, for sure.

Should I be worried about Putting this into my feints collection? I am saving up for a rum run, and I don't want to spoil that too. If it's a risk, I could always use it to clean parts or to start (controlled) fires.
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Re: Learning to Toast

Postby der wo » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:09 pm

Of course I don't know exactly how ugly it is. But normally acrid tastes of too dark toasted oak age out a bit. I would look how it tastes after a year. 3 months is generally a bad (too early) moment for judging the oaking.
You can always rerun it. Either to an all feints run or to something similar to the fermented wash or the low wines.
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