Dumb idea #2 - Smoked porter
In preparation for the cooler days of autumn, I'm thinking of either a coffee porter or more intriguing, a smoked porter. But, how do I smoke the malt? I'm assuming you need just a little bit since I want the smoke to be present but not over powering. Probably just use green maple twigs for the smoking but I can get other woods if needed. I am sure that I want to use hardwood and not softwood (pine, spruce etc).
How do I smoke a bit of malt and how much do you suggest for a 5 gal batch so that it is present and supporting but not overpowering? Doesn't have to be perfect but I need a starting point to fine-tune from later.
Good choice. I have one ready to keg right now.
I cold-smoke malt for brewing. There's a nice thread with pictures here: http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=2814.0
but you can do it in so many ways and get good results.
Usually for a Porter, since the roast flavors are pretty big, I'd use about 20% cold-smoked pale malt. If you smoke the malt with some heat it may change the characteristics of the malt a bit and make it more smokey, but that shouldn't matter too much with this style.
Definitely use hard woods. Fruit trees make really nice smoke: apple, cherry, pecan, citrus. Personally I stay away from mesquite, thinking it's too strong a flavor. Alaskan Smoked Porter uses Alder.