Mesquite Chocolate Rye Porter Recipe & Brewday - Brain Sparging on Brewing


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February 27, 2021

Mesquite Chocolate Rye Porter Recipe & Brewday

I've been thinking about this beer for about eight years--not because it has taken me five years to shape the recipe but because like a lot of homebrewers I have more ideas than time to brew. Back in 2012 I acquired a pile of mesquite pods and set out to brew with them. The result was a decent porter using a syrup made from toasted mesquite pods. Of the handful of people who tasted this beer almost everybody remarked that the beer was crying out for a chocolate addition. I agreed and put it on the ever growing list of beers I intended to brew some day. While shopping in my local Asian grocery store I came across some cacao pods and figured this might be a good time to see how difficult it is to create my own cocoa nibs. Turns out it is fairly easy but let's talk a little more about this beer first.

Crafting the porter recipe

The original recipe was constructed for a pal as a hazelnut porter that I repurposed as this mesquite pod porter. The recipe was fine and did the job but was nothing special. Rather than reuse the original porter recipe I started over fresh with a new recipe and a new idea. The porter should support the chocolate and mesquite pods while filling in a complete flavor profile so the beer adds complexity underneath the two adjuncts. The cocoa nibs add rich chocolate flavor with undertones of fruit, roast and earthiness. The mesquite pods bring more roast, caramel and earthiness like many Central American coffees. There is some of that mesquite flavor but for the most part it is more like a coffee substitute akin to chicory. The cocoa nibs should add the missing richness to the mesquite pods while the mesquite pods will add complimentary coffee-like flavor. 

The base porter should then fill in and amply that flavor combination. I want the specialty malts to add fruitiness, caramel, roastiness and a little spice to reign in too much sweetness. I also want to beef up the body because thin-bodied chocolate-forward beers always seem weird like hot chocolate made with too much water. This gets me a grist of maris otter, rye malt, oats, chocolate wheat, black patent and crystal 80. The porter lacks typical ingredient chocolate malt because the cocoa nibs and mesquite pods will add the roastiness that grain usually provides. Instead I opted for smooth chocolate wheat too add the dark malt flavors without too much roast flavor. 

Making cocoa nibs out of cacao

I found a couple cocoa pods at my local Asian supermarket and figured I ferment everything else I get my hands on, I might as well try making cocoa nibs from these pods. I had originally bought cocoa nibs for this beer but those will have to make their way into a different beer.

Roasting cocoa nibs was surprisingly easy--at least for a rudimentary home process. The basic steps are:

  • Open the cacao pods and separate the white fleshy lobes containing the cacao beans
  • Spread them out and let them ferment for several days
  • Remove the white flesh from the beans
  • Roast
  • Dehull the beans
  • Enjoy cocoa nibs
I am not going to pretend to have any real expertise here but here are a couple resources that better explain the process. (here, here) Obviously like brewing a decent first attempt should be considered a victory but there is undoubtedly a lot of technique I lacked to make high quality cocoa nibs. Despite my minimal knowledge and rudimentary technique I was surprised by how good the final product is. The hardest part of the process is removing the shells from the beans after roasting which is a time consuming task. I didn't do a perfect job removing the shells as I would for consumption; however, just to extract the flavor a little shell won't be a problem. 

I was also surprised by the taste of the fresh cacao fruit. I had no idea what to expect but it is sweet and tropical like coconut and pineapple with undertones of chocolate and flowers. The caffeine content is supposed to be quite high which makes sitting down and eating an entire delicious pod probably a bad idea. 

To ensure the cocoa nibs were sanitary I soaked them for a day in approximately an ounce of rum which will dive into the beer along with the cocoa nibs.

Making mesquite syrup

This adjunct ingredient was even easier to make than the cocoa nibs. I had actually bought two pounds of mesquite pods back in 2012 from somebody on homebrewtalk and made the first batch of a mesquite porter with one pound and this second pound tumbled around in my brewing storage for the next eight years awaiting use. I was concerned that the mesquite pods might not taste especially great after a long slumber but they turned out to be just fine. I posted a long explanation of how to make molasses syrup in this very old post. Because I had roasted these pods when I first brewed them I jumped right into the wet part of processing the pods. A very simple process to make the molasses syrup. I just broke up the pods to access the sugars on the interior and boiled one pound to a little over a gallon of water for about two hours and then strained out the pods and continued to boil another three hours to get down to approximately three cups of a thin syrup. I opted not to boil down any thicker to avoid making a sticky mess I couldn't extract from the pot and to avoid developing burnt flavors.

Mesquite syrup develops an interesting flavor that is a lot like a nutty and milk chocolate-y coffee heavily sweetened with piloncillo. Like many ingredients that never made it into widespread consumption the flavors are more earthy and less clean like many sugarcane-based products. Nevertheless this allows brewers to coax interesting flavors that taste less like those pastry stouts that aim to taste like brownie batter or cheap pastries.

Mesquite Chocolate Rye Porter Recipe

Batch Size: 3.1 gallons
Est. ABV: 5.6%
Est. IBU 35
Est. OG: 1.056
Est. FG: 1.014
Est. SRM: 31
Expected Efficiency: 72%
Grain BillPoundsOuncesSRMPct. Grist
Maris Otter48366.60%
Rye malt10514.80%
Flaked oats0817.40%
Chocolate wheat malt064005.60%
Crystal 8004803.70%
Black patent malt025001.90%
Water Profileppm
Bru'n Water Brown Malty
PH: 5.4
Water AdditionsMashSparge
Epsom Salt0.4g0.5g
Canning Salt
Baking Soda0.4g
Calcium Chloride1.1g1.1g
Pickling Lime
Lactic Acid
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.Step Time
Single Infusion Batch Sparge
Mash volume: 8.5qt
Sparge volume: 2.25 gal
Infuse 8.5qt at 167F15260
Sparge 0.25 gal180
Sparge 2 gal180
Boil ScheduleVolumeUnitTimeIBU
60 minute boil
Cascade [5.5%] hops1.05oz6035
Mesquite syrup1.05oz00
First Gold [5.5%] hops0.15oz00
Fermentation Schedule# DaysTemp.
Yeast: WY1318
Pitch at 64F1667
Add cocoa nibs1467
Cold crash 132
Keg to 2.2 vol

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 6.27.20.

First runnings: 1.097
Preboil gravity: 1.056
Preboil volume: 4 gal
Mash efficiency: 92%

Postboil gravity:
Postboil volume:

Had a rough go sparging this beer. With all the huskless grain in there the sparge stuck several times but eventually the mash gave up all those sweet runnings.

Really happy with the way the wort tastes. Strong coffee, caramel, chocolate, pepper notes but cut with a good amount of roast. This reminds me how much I like chocolate wheat as an ingredient. 

Mesquite Chocolate Rye Porter Tasting Notes

Appearance: The extremely dirty glass aside, the beer pours very dark brown, near black with a buff colored head that lingers almost to the end of the pour. It isn't as fluffy as it could be but it is durable and doesn't slide down the glass without a little fight.

Aroma: Baker's chocolate, Colombian coffee, vanilla, passion fruit, bourbon, pumpernickel bread, orange. Really complex aroma.

Flavor: Semisweet chocolate, Brazil nut, vanilla, gentle citrus, pumpernickel bread, mild Colombian coffee, white pepper, slight caramel in the finish. As the beer warms the gentle citrus becomes more present and distinctly orange. There is an acidity to it which is slightly off when cold but as the beer warms and the orange notes emerge the acidity seems to soften. As the beer warms the acid profile reminds me of natural processed Ethiopian coffee. The flavor is complex and not at all the usual chocolate/coffee/caramel found in beers called porters.

Mouthfeel: The body is moderate with an interested after effect. At first the acidity prickles but then it starts to feel heavy and round on the tongue. The after-swallow mouthfeel is almost heavier than the feel of the beer itself. Really unusual experience. It reminds me of drinking schwarzbier. 

Overall: This is a really interesting beer to drink. There is a lot going on and the beer changes in good ways as it warms. Although the acidity does interesting things with the flavors it's somewhat offputting and too aggressive for the beer. My expectation was for a lot less fruit flavor and none of the acidity but here we are. I am pretty sure the acidity came from imperfect fermentation of the cocoa nibs which imputed the acidity and fruit flavors. I think the beer would be better without this component. I'd definitely like to rebrew this beer, and maybe not take most of a decade to do it, and source cocoa nibs instead of fermenting them myself. Really fun experience making this beer though. 

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