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I want to experiment a bit by adding spices - I'm thinking cinnamon and vanilla - to my beer, but wonder at which step is considered the best time to add it. Personal experience is very welcome.

I assume adding it during mashing is out... I guess the obvious time would be during the boil (in "tea"-bags?) - but early or late? Or is it better to do it after the boil - during "mixing" - just to let the spices soak? (I guess it's a bad idea to leave spices in during (1st) fermentation...) Or is it best to wait until 2nd fermentation, using the step pretty much just to add the spices? Or should I perhaps make an extract or tea with warm/boiling water, or an infusion in alcohol (vodka)... if so, how - and when should I add this extract?

Will one extract more "taste" and the other more aroma (smell)? Will one be stronger and the other subtler? Will one be more "in your face" and the other more mellowed/aged?

I'm thinking about using cinnamon-bark and vanilla-"sticks" (dried fruits). I'll probably add some honey (during the boil(?)) too...

PS: Should I leave the vanilla-"stick" whole, or do what one often do in cooking - split it lengthwise and scrape out the seeds inside, before putting it all (seeds and split "stick") into what I want to set taste too? The seeds are tiny black "dots" - and it probably won't be that many of them in the whole batch - but still, it's perhaps nothing you want to see in your beer (looks just delicious in hot chocolate though ;-)...

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I've used cinnamon in mead, and boiled the must with it. I find the flavour is much fainter (but it's still there!) after fermentation, though I have not yet tried adding cinnamon after the primary fermentation. I've been told the flavour chemicals in vanilla are very heat-sensitive so you probably don't want to boil those if you want a strong flavour. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 13 '13 at 17:28
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The main flavor compounds in vanilla and cinnamon are both phenolic compounds that will boil off if added to early in the boil. I have always seen them added either 10 minutes or later in the boil. Added to the fermenter in secondary. Or soak cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans in vodka and add that to the bottling bucket. If you take that latter approach you can titrate how much you add. –  Chris Plaisier May 14 '13 at 3:30
    
@Chris Plaisier: So I can actually add extracts (done in vodka) as late as at the bottling stage?! I suppose that would even make it possible to tasting yourself to the right combination... No need to even let essence "soak" for while - just mix it in? –  Baard Kopperud May 14 '13 at 15:11
    
@Baard Kopperud: Yeah it is especially nice when you want to titrate how much you add. If you do bottle conditioning the beer will sit with active yeast and condition for while mixing all the flavors together. Whether you would get a different flavor by using a different method I can't say. But using extracts is pretty commonly done. –  Chris Plaisier May 14 '13 at 16:05

2 Answers 2

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Treat them like other additives (cardamom, rosehips,etc).

You can do either. I will add things at the end of the boil to impart more subtle flavor or if I want it to be more noticeable during the fermentation (similar to when people add oak).

I had good success adding a couple of cinnamon stocks during the fermentation. I would treat vanilla bean in almost the same manner.

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I use cinnamon sticks for a week in secondary fermentation to great effect. Lightly boil for 10 minutes in minimal water and add if you're worried about contamination. In a 5 gallon batch one stick adds a nice hint in an average ale but will be strong in anything light. Two sticks is for Christmas beer IMO.

Vanilla I've used in late boil and during secondary. Both are fine but for that nice smooth flavor I prefer to let them soak rather than boil them. Don't forget to cut the pod open so it will release that flavor.

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"I prefer to let (vanilla) soak rather than boil them"... Soak when? Right after the boil, while it's still hot... when it's cooled down... or later, during (2nd?) fermentation? Soak for how long? –  Baard Kopperud May 14 '13 at 15:06
    
I think he means he let it soak in secondary fermentation. –  Cleber Goncalves May 23 '13 at 13:33

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