You Spin Me Right Round: Introducing The Spinbot
The spinbot is probably the piece of our brewery equipment that we reference most often, but have never formally introduced… until now. Read on to discover more about this hop-saturating, adjunct-spinning and flavour-maxing piece of engineering.
After our first Caribbean Chocolate Cake brew in 2014, we began thinking about where to go next. Although the beer had exceeded our expectations, we knew from drinking some of the Cigar City Brewing offerings at the time that more could be achieved with the ingredients that we were using. We also knew that our processes for the first recipe would put a big strain on the brewery if we ever wanted to scale it up, and weren’t entirely repeatable if we ever wanted to brew the beer on a consistent basis.
We were lucky to be able to pick the brains of Jay Lesher, who had developed the Spinbot 5000 at Cigar City Brewing, a converted 7-bbl grundy tank that incorporated multi-directional inlets. It was originally designed with safety in mind, as extracting from their bigger fermentation vessels was labour intensive. But from there came some big benefits to the beer. Jay had discovered that by using static contact, it would take on average between 7 and 11 days to pick up American oak. Recirculating infusions with their Spinbot 5000 achieved the same goal within 24-48 hours, but they also preferred the results.
Our interest was piqued! Our first full-time team brewer, Gordon, took on the challenge of commissioning something similar for Siren. The result is something like a hop cannon for adjuncts. We can hold ingredients within the vessel and circulate an entire tank through (FV > spinbot > FV) until we've extracted the flavours we want, this can be anywhere between 24-120 hours. The idea being to achieve contact time with all the liquid in FV, which would never otherwise be possible.
We run desktop trials of varying adjunct amounts before committing to the final number, this will only be an indication of what will actually happen flavour-wise, so brewers intuition is a must! We also keep in mind a piece of advice from Wayne Wambles - if you think it’s done - give it a little bit longer. This is because what we’re sampling from tank will inevitably be slightly more subdued by the time it reaches the end-drinker. We’re able to try the beer all the way through the process to see how it’s progressing.
We’re able to saturate large amounts of ingredients, such as wood spirals, berries, coffee, cacao nibs or husks, flowers and herbs… the possibilities are endless using this equipment.
You may also be surprised just how often the Spinbot is in action.
Project Barista is a prime example, where coffee has been used in so many different ways for this project, the Spinbot has kept us flexible and able to experiment. The Tickle Monster / The Digit Series, brewed in 2017, got some exceptional results from the use of Cedar Wood in the spinbot. American Oak Brown, brewed over Christmas 2016, was a brown ale with incredible vanilla wafer character and tannins from the oak used. Not to mention Spin Botany (geddit?), an experimental Gin & Tonic shaken up with the Spinbot.
Of course, nothing quite compares to Caribbean Chocolate Cake. You can read all about the 2019 renditions here.