Slow Life with Real Food

Eating and living mindfully by the beach

Brewing Chicha de Jora for 28 de Julio

28 de Julio is coming up, and Mariana and I are having a Peru independence day party here here at LocalHarvest headquarters in Santa Cruz to celebrate. We'll be making anticuchos, tamales, yuquitas, and pisco sours, but the main "course" will be a nice strong 4 gallon batch of Chicha de Jora (Peruvian Corn beer).

I've planned this chicha to be not so much like the "commercial" chichas that are found in the small grocery stores up in the Andes, but more like the nourishing "gruel/booze" that the patron gives the farm workers during their "jornada" out in the fields, and as part of the standard work deal. The "standard fare" can be up to about 10 quarts per worker per day. Chichas like these are cloudy tan, somewhat sour, and mildly carbonated due to the fact that they are still fermenting in your glass while you drink them.

BTW: Chicha should be made by women, and never by men, which risks offending the Apus (mountain gods) and Mamasara, the corn goddess. I made some offerings to Mamasara that will hopefully buy me a pass.

Chris Giedt and Sra. Maxima enjoy a good glass of chicha in Maras, near Cuzco, back in 1994.


Choosing the Corn

The jora should be made with yellow corn, but Tom Broz of Live Earth Farm contributed 10 lbs. of Mexican white corn to the project. That is the same one used for making tortillas and posole. Probably not what a Peruvian chichera would use, but we'll give it a try.


Soaking the Kernels

The Kernels are placed to soak in water for a day or two before they are spread out to germinate.


Aereation

Normally, the soak water should be changed about twice a day to maintain the kernels fresh. Bad odors can develop from "funny" bacteria if the corn is kept soaking in stagnant water. I recruited an aquarium pump to do the job of keeping the water well oxygenated, which made it possible to only change the water once over a 2 day soak.


Ready to Sprout

The nice plump kernels are poured over a strainer. The starch has been hydrated and the germ has awakened. I obtained about a 70% germination rate with this corn. Not great, not bad either.


Germination Bucket

Back in the Andes, the soaked kernels are spread out in "tubs", or even over banana leaves, at about 3 or 4 inches deep. The corn is then covered with wet straw or burlap sacks. Here in California, with space, banana leaves, and burlap sacks being at a premium, I chose a 6 gallon plastic bucket with a bottom spigot, through which an aquarium pump provided enough air for the kernels to breathe while germinating. I placed a stainles steel steamer basket at the bottom of the bucket, to allow the air to circulate evenly.


Wating for Kernels to Germinate

The corn took 3 days to germinate. During day 3, the process generated a lot of heat, which made me flush the corn with cold water every few hours. I chose to do that based on my knowledge of barley malting, where the grain should be kept under 20 degrees celsius at all times. This is because above that temperature the barley acrospyres "shoot", consuming a lot of the starch and creating bitter flavors. Later I learned that this heating is actually expected and wanted for jora making. Andean brewers like it when the corn gets so warm that it is uncomfortable to place your hand inside the germinating pile.


El Pachucho

Pachucho is the name of the germinating corn. The photo to the right was taken during day 2. The end result had much longer acrospires. (the little yallow/green shoots coming out of the kernel). Ideally the length of the acrospires should be twice the length of the kernel. Experience shows that that's when the enzymes are at their peak, and not much of the starch has been lost yet.


Sun Dried

We were lucky to have 2 very hot and sunny days at about 20% humidity. That's rare here in Santa Cruz at about one block from the beach, where summer mornings are usually cold, foggy, and damp. The jora dried very nicely in just 2 days. Boris helped as the guard dog, keeping the chickens at bay.


Finished Jora

The dried jora. Ready to use. You can see the dried up rootlets. The acrospires have been mostly discarded by rubbing the kernels. I did that to avoid the bitterness present in the little plants.


Preparing the "Chichera"

Basic piece of equipment: a real clay "chomba" to use as the "chichera": a wide mouthed clay jar to use for the fermentation. I could not find anything like a peruvian chomba here in Santa Cruz, but Pottery Planet had some beautiful antique turkish jugs, one of which had the perfect size for a 4 gallon batch of chicha.

Not knowing anything about this chichera, cleaning it up was a serious job. First I scrubed it well with lots of soap, then I soaked it in hot water with a tablespoon of BPW (brewery wash) for 4 days, using an electric heating element inside to keep the water warm, then soaked it in an alcohol/water mix for a day, and finished with a one day soak in a solution of Star-San, a brewery sanitizer that should have killed any bug that was still in there.


The Chicha Starter

Now, this one was a pain. The first thing was to find what kind of organisms are used in making chicha de jora. I found lots of research, which pointed all over the place. Of course, most of the Andean wild yeasts are not available here in gringolandia, so I had to do some creative brewing, and make a few starters with different combinations of things, until I found something that gave the right flavor.

The main goal was to end up with a starter of mainly a combination of Lactobacillus plantarum, and regular ale yeast: Saccharomices cervisiae. This also needed a few wild yeasts added in for a more "edgy" flavor. The mix that hit the jackpot was one packet of Nottingham yeast, a little squirt of saurekraut juice (for the L. plantarum), donated by Professor Warmuth, and a gob of sourdough starter, generously provided by Peter Beckmann. I used this mix to innoculate a 500 ml starter of malt extract and a bit of cane sugar.


Ready to Grind

8 lbs. of dried jora waiting in line for the trusty chinese-made cast iron Corona mill.


Huiñapu

The jora should be ground into thin flour, which makes it into "huiñapu". The output of my first few cranks was a little coarse, but I finally got it right.


Preparing the Mash

Ah.. well. The mash. This is the very tricky part. According to all the research I've done, and confirmed by a phone conversation I had with an old chichera from Cajamarca (Fanny's mom), when making chicha, modern chicheros apparently do not bother to make a mash! That is, you grind the jora and you boil it.

For the non-brewers: the "mash" is when you let the ground malt rest in warm water for a while (1/2 hour to 2 hours), to allow the amylase and other enzimes to "do their thing" on the starches, proteins, gums, etc, which converts the ground grains into fermentable sugar water.

Why no mash? No idea, but I have 3 theories:

Maybe the fire warms up the cold water and huiñapu mix in the "wirki" (clay pot) slow enough so that the blend does spend enough time at the 140 to 160 degrees F range that alpha and beta amylases like.

Maybe the combination of yeasts used for chicha is much better suited to break down polysacharides than the puny ale yeasts and other such bugs we mere mortals use in these northern latitudes.

Maybe the "jora making" malting process, with the 2 to 4 day "hot rest", converts much of the starch into fermentable sugars right there, without requiring a separate mash.

Of course, it could also be that all those researches documenting chicha-making knew little about brewing and did not even notice or bother to ask about the mash.

The Harvard Botanical Museum leaflet on Chicha, from 1947, is actually the best chicha making guide I've found, and the only one research that mentions a true mashing process. (of one hour at 75 degrees celsius). Since I'm not ready to brew a batch of anything without a mash, and since my germination rate was low, I did a 2 hour mash at 160 degrees F. The resulting upi (wort) was nice and sweet, and it felt that using just plain boiled huiñapu would have just made unfermentable starch water.


Straining the Upi

This is where I could have done better. I used just a strainer to separate the upi from the "hanchi", or "residue". This should be starined out though a cloth or even a towel. I've seen old drawings of andean women. holding the ends of a long blanket filled with boiled upi, and twisting it to extract the final wort. The strainer let too much chunks of starch get through. Well, we'll have a pretty heavy bodied and somwehat gritty chicha from this batch.

After the first upi runnings were collected, I gave the hanchi a second boil, to make sure we get most of the good stuff from it. The second runnings where then just added to the main batch.


Recycling the Hanchi

The chickens loved it! In the photo: Pipi, Prima, Pearl, Negrita, and Chleo all taking part of the feast.


Boiling the Upi

Different regions in the Andes traditionally boil the upi for very varied amounts of time. I've read form 1 hour boils to multiple-day bois. For this batch, I used a total of 4 gallons of upi, which I vigorously boiled for 3 hours, adding water every 1/2 hour to replace the water lost. I added 8 oz of "chancaca", or "piloncillo" (dried sugarcane juice) at the beginning of the boil. I also added 2 sticks of cinnamon about 30 minutes before the end of the boil.


No Patience

Traditionally, the upi is left to cool overnight, but having an immersion cooler handy and no extra doses of patience, mechanizing the process helped a lot. The upi was brought down to 70 degrees F.


Final Straining

OK! We're ready to go. Time to transfer the upi into the wirki. Made sure to splash it around quite a bit to get the upi well oxygenated, a necessary step for the yeast to healthily reproduce before it starts doing its heavy lifting. Also, lactobacillus, which brings the necessary "sourness" note, seems to prefer anaerobic environments, so aereating the wort well at this point helps prevent an overly-acidic end result.


Adding the Starter

OK.. bugs, dinner is served... Go for it.


Ready to Ferment

Oh.. beautiful... the aroma of corn and cinnamon, and even a this point, a slight sour note of the Lactobacillus in the starter. I can also smell the warm old clay from the "chichera". This looks very promising.


In 3 days...

As I write this, the chicha is sitting in the garage next to a 3 gallon carboy full of a strong sack. That was made from honey harvested by the bees you can see in the background of the photo above with the chickens. It will take one more year for that sack to be ready. Sweet meads of this strength take a long time to mellow out. In contrast, we'll be feasting to the chicha this Saturday, celebrating "28 de Julio", or Peru's independence day.


Success!!

The "28 de Julio Party" was quite a success. We made anticuchos de corazon, yuquitas a la huancaina, tamales, tamalitos verdes, and pisco sours. Most of the guests liked the chicha, which was ladled straight our of the clay chichera, while still fermenting, into one pint glass "caporales". Some culturally insensitive individuals which shall never again be invited said that the chicha was foul and reminded them of some evil form of moonshine. For the queasy, I made a few jugs of "frutillada", which is chicha blended with some strawberries and sweetened with a bit of honey. That's a specialy of Cuzco.


Upyaykurikuy!!

That's "Cheers!" in quechua. And then... "Hascha Tawan!!" (I want more!)


Metrics and Comments

Starting gravity was 1.060, final gravity was 1.020. For the non brewers: this is the "density" of the chicha, which tells you how much sugars there where before and after fermentation. The difference in sugar contents then tells you the final alcohol content. After a 3 day fermentation, and with the chicha still bubbling, it had a 5% alcohol content. It was fairly "dry" by then, (most sugars had been converted) but I suspect that if we let it fully ferment we'd end up with a 5.5%. That's within the range of the average store-bought commercial beers here in the US. A Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is 5.7%, and a Heinecken is 5.4%,a Budweisser is 5.0%. The final pH of the chicha was about 3.5. That is fairly acidic, and the equivalent of a Beligian Lambic. "Regular" Beer has a final pH of about 4.0. The low pH of chicha, courtesy of Lactobacillus plantarum, makes it taste nicely sour, and also acts as a preservative. For the chemically illiterate: distilled water has a pH of 7, and muriatic acid a pH of about 0.1.

For the next batch: I'll follow the traditional method described by the 1947 Harvard research instead of the "modern" simplified methods, which produced a chicha that was higher in starches than what I would have liked. There was also almost no head on this brew, which I attribute to an apparent lack of soluble proteins an an excess of corn oils floating over the brew. Next batch I'll allow the malt to heat up fully, which might help the malt proteases break down the larger aminoacid chains. I might also use a protein rest on the upi of 30 minutes at 125-130 degrees F. For the oils: scooping out the krausen should clean those out, and the traditional mashing method probably works better at removing them.

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Comments:

Posted by 72.230.9.53 on March 24, 2009 at 01:24 PM PDT #

i am doing a country fair project and i am dong Peru so tyhank you for helping me on it with your research!!!

Posted by 72.230.9.53 on March 24, 2009 at 01:26 PM PDT #

Thanks

Posted by 69.144.215.10 on November 03, 2009 at 10:58 AM PST #

its what i needed , i hope it works for my friend #AJIT# OZAY from Turkey

Cheers

Posted by 200.79.149.254 on May 19, 2010 at 02:00 PM PDT #

My family is from Cusco and never bother to learn everything at detail on how to make it since my grandma was always the one in charge for doing this but now that Im in Pennsylvania,and after 7 longs years without chicha, I decided to make my own and there I found your site.
Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful information. I truly appreciatte it,
If you ever go back to Peru , let me know , my family in Cusco will welcome you with lots of chicha . God bless,
Gaby

Posted by Gaby on June 08, 2010 at 02:11 PM PDT #

Hola Gaby! Gracias por tu comentario! Let me know how your chicha turned out. I'd love to visit your family in Cusco. I'll get in touch the next time I head down to Peru.

Posted by Guillermo on June 14, 2010 at 10:23 AM PDT #

Sure thing! Let me know when you go there. I have family in Maras , the city of chicha and frutillada. I will make sure you get the royal treatment.
Cheers,
Gaby

Posted by Gaby on August 12, 2010 at 08:08 AM PDT #

Hola Guillermo! I lived in Santa Cruz (Calif, there are so many S. Cruzes) for 10 years after high school back in the hippy surfer days of the 70s before moving to Hawaii, Washington, Ecuador, North Carolina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Peru (born here of US parents).

Lin and I would love to have you post this article as is or abbreviated on our website, Inside-Peru.com

Let me know!

David and Lin Schneider
Los Organos, Peru

Our websites:
Inside-Peru.com
Solar-Energy-Pros.com
OdysseySeaGlass.com

Posted by David and Lin Schneider on August 14, 2010 at 08:35 AM PDT #

Hi David, Hi Lin,

Sure! Go ahead and use this article wherever you wish. Glad to be of service.

I *LOVE* Los Organos. Used to go there often in the early 80's.

--G

Posted by Guillermo Payet on August 27, 2010 at 02:35 PM PDT #

You sound like a homebrewer so I'm guessing you know what "diastatic power" is. Not having found a source claiming corn has any diastatic power it's use in brewing usually requires the inclusion of rye and/or barley malt. I am interested in how your mash converted starch to sugar. To my mind you had little to no diastatic power but eneded up with a 1.060SG.

Posted by S.DeYoung, Piedmont, NC on December 09, 2011 at 03:51 AM PST #

That's why you have to *malt* the corn first by letting it germinate and then stopping the process by drying it. Corn has no diastatic power, but jora (malted corn) does.

Posted by Guillermo Payet on December 09, 2011 at 07:44 AM PST #

Thanks Guillermo,
Your right about the malting proccess producing the needed enzymes! My mistake. I'm playing with a corn based beer and had saved notes from a Wiki page list of malts months ago that included corn with 0 as it's diastatic power. After posting here I returned to the page on line and found Wiki mistakenly shows 0 diastatic power for ALL the malts in the list. An oversight on my part for not doing more checking.

Posted by S.DeYoung on December 09, 2011 at 08:55 AM PST #

Guillermo, gracias para las notas.

I am very interested in making chichi and have been for some time. The sticky part seems to be the germinating and drying of the maize/jora. Seems like it could get real funky, real fast if not paid close attention to.

I found your article informative and confidence-building.

How did the follow-on batches turn out?
How would you classify the taste of the chicha? Sweet? Sour? Malty? Cidery? Dry?

Thanks!
Merry and Happy!

Posted by Boom Daniel on December 23, 2011 at 08:02 AM PST #

> How did the follow-on batches turn out?

Have not made any more!! I got married soon after this posting, had two kids, and my brewing interests have been put on hold for a while.

> How would you classify the taste of the chicha?
>Sweet? Sour? Malty? Cidery? Dry?

I'd say dry and sour.

Posted by Guillermo Payet on December 23, 2011 at 09:07 AM PST #

very amazing. tnx

Posted by Paul T. Stranger on February 09, 2012 at 06:47 PM PST #

Hello!

I am wondering how to do this at home. Did you use dried corn kernals or regular corn kernals? Also, I heard it tastes good with strawberries. Do you have any idea how to do that?

Thanks a ton!
Gabriela

Posted by Gabriela on July 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM PDT #

I used dried kernels, grown by a local farmer. Mexican stores sell them as well. Yes, you can put it in the blender with strawberries and sugar or honey. That's called "frutillada"

Posted by Guillermo Payet on July 03, 2012 at 07:55 AM PDT #

Given this appears to be an old post i'm unsure whether to expect a reply but in the case that I do, i'll ask anyway. I'm curious about the fact that the Chicha is drunk while still fermenting, surely that would result in bloating and discomfort as the yeast continues to produce gas inside you?

Also, is it considered customary to add spices like cinnamon or was that just a personal flare?

Cheers

Posted by Yuri on December 04, 2012 at 04:43 PM PST #

Hi Yuri, no bloating or discomfort. Stomach acids kill the yeasts. Also, people drink carbonated stuff all the time and it doesn't cause trouble. The cinnamon (and sometimes cloves) is traditional in some areas of Peru.

Posted by Guillermo Payet on December 05, 2012 at 09:26 AM PST #

Hello and thank you for your great posting! I'm married to a Peruvian and he longs for a chicha de juro. Can I use the cancha corn? They use it to make Canchita frita. Would it work? Do you remember the corn you used, was it dried? Was it regular corn from Peru or a special breed? Thank you so much for any information :) Hoping to do a batch some day after finding the right corn!

Posted by Suzanna on December 17, 2012 at 01:08 PM PST #

Great post! It really cleared up a lot of things I was confused about. Can't wait to try making my own!

Posted by Steven on February 17, 2013 at 05:32 PM PST #

Wow, what a great article. So much good information! I am going to try this but with purple corn. I can't wait.

Posted by Joshua on May 09, 2013 at 12:59 PM PDT #

I made my first chicha last night using maiz jora I bought online from a Peruvian import store. This jora is dark and smells malty and very sweet--I think it's like a very dark crystal malt. So it comes with a lot of sugar in it already. The recipe on the back calls for equal amounts of unmalted barley and jora, presumably to lighten the body, and just boils it w/o a mash.

I used another recipe w/o any added grains and it came out super thick already. I can't imagine what'll happen with more starch added. I've never had a real chicha so I don't know if mine is anything near it, but I think next time I will try something like what you did here with your own malt.

Posted by C. L. on May 10, 2013 at 06:25 AM PDT #

I wanted to add to my previous comment: the "hot rest" may indeed be the key to the mashless brew. If it's so hot that it's uncomfortable to the touch, that alone should stop the germination but not necessarily destroy the enzymes. It'd be effectively making crystal malt where it'd be "mashed" inside the grain. It doesn't completely get around the issue of high gelatinization temperature, which will ultimately limit the level of starch conversion for many grains other than the usual barley, wheat and rye.

I think my chicha this time will be a bit cloying, but here's to hoping it'll be OK.

Posted by C.L. on May 10, 2013 at 07:59 AM PDT #

I am wondering if you ever made the "1947 Harvard research" version and, if so, how it turned out. If it was better, do you have a more complete reference as to the recipe location? Thanks.

Posted by Dan on May 23, 2013 at 07:09 AM PDT #

great article! love all the pictures and details. I have everything needed except a jug. I know the right jug is needed for good fermentation and aeration. so which is best. should it be glazed inside/ outside/ both/ or neither? is a lid needed/ or will cheesecloth suffice?

Posted by Charity on September 30, 2013 at 01:52 PM PDT #

Hello my name is Mario, I really loved your article. I live in NY and I have been trying to make chicha de jora for the past years. I was able to find dry jora and chancaca plus I brought a porongo from Peru but my problem is that I alwasy get a type of fungus layer after three days of placing the jora in the porongo (is that normal?). Usually what I do is wash the dried jora then place it in a big pot with water and cinnamon, once boiled for an hour I let it cold and then strain the jora and place it in the porongo and finally I add the chancaca and let it ferment for 3 days which never happens. Do you think I am doing something wrong?
I will truly really appreciate your help.

Thank you

Posted by Mario on March 08, 2014 at 01:19 PM PST #

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