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Treating the herbs before maceration

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I know a lot of herbs and vegetables only develop their characteristic flavors and aromas through enzymatic action once the tissue is disrupted (cut up). This allows the natural enzymes to act on the precursors and form the volatiles we love so... It occurred to me the other day that perhaps I should crush the herbs and allow them to sit in the tank a little while (minutes to a little over an hour) before adding the alcohol to allow time for the enzymes to do their work. I would cover the top to keep in as many volatiles as I could during the process (not allowing them to exit the tank)

I know high concentrations of alcohol will denature enzymes however I am unaware to whether this is important here. (also alcohol concentration of the maceration might affect this, perhaps certain enzymes can withstand some higher alc concentration but I truly don't know enough about this right now)

Do you all crush your herbs before additions and if so is it directly before or do you allow some time in between?

Is there anything else you do to treat your herbs before doing your maceration?

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  • 1 month later...

While I have no experience (yet) with herbs/botanicals and absinthe, I can tell you when I make my gin. I do crush my botanicals. I think it intensifies the flavor of my gin (versus not crushing it).

Regarding enzymes, yes alcohol will denature them. BUT generally only if the alcohol concentration is over 70%. So I guess it depends.

I feel an experiment or two are in order to really define if crushing makes a difference. In my mind, if these flavors are so volatile that opening the maceration to air is harmful, they probably wont make it out of the distillation process....

Good luck!

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not crushing, crushing, macerating, and time of maceration, and proof of maceration, and location of botanicals in pot versus basket or still head, ALL affect the flavor profile and intensity, and differently for each botanical. SO, there is no simple answer for which will give you the best result or one that you find best. You need to do the experiments, or roll the dice.

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  • 9 months later...

We use cold maceration to make our liqueurs and it really is a hit and miss process. I've been making them for about 5 years now and sometimes it's taken me upwards of a year to truly perfect a recipe. The one important thing is to ALWAYS dilute your NGS to below 60% ABV if you are going to do a long maceration (more than a day or two). I've found that it pretty much destroys any flavoring if left at 95% ABV during the maceration.

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Whether or not you crush or grind when you macerate (funny...I consider that word to be "when you put the botanical in the base," but it really means "crush," doesn't it?) depends on what you are using. For instance, I got very little flavor out of lemongrass until I hit it with a mortar and pestle first. Coriander seed makes WAY more flavor when run through a blender first, but it's a DIFFERENT flavor. I had better extraction with slicing Orris root than buying dried slices. And lime leaf is overpowering if you shred it first. Also makes way too much oil. When I ran my tests on each botanical, I ran 5 on each...macerate at 60 proof, 80 proof, 80 proof crushed or ground or sliced, 186 proof (it's what I had), and one in low Ph at 80 proof. I had some very interesting effects that were well worth the effort. I agree that with many botanicals hitting them with high proof destroys a lot of the flavor, and that distilling your experiments changes their character in unpredictable ways (chicory was delicious macerated, but the distilled version was horrific!) There are some that you will encounter that actually benefit from high proof, but these are mostly dried spices rather than fresh herbs. Mint is an exception. Rosemary, too. And some things like spruce tips get a different taste (but also welcome!) when macerated at high proof.

Bench still. Experiment. No replacement for direct experience!

Hey, aren't you located in a place that loves Spruce Beer? Huh....gears turning...

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