Monday, February 20, 2012

Brew Day - Stout and a Decoction Mash

I've decided for today's brew, I'll be making an Oatmeal Stout.  The focus of today's post will be on a specific type of mash called the "Decoction" mash. This post is about becoming familiar with the mash processes other than an infusion mash for knowledge sake, not necessarily for the utility (I assume I'll end up with a lower mash efficiency than normal, as my system is best made for infusion and batch sparging).

Usually home brewers will utilize the basic single step infusion mash.  The infusion mash is only really possible today because of two things: fully modified grains and accurate temperature control and measurement.  Prior to the availability of fully modified grains and accurate temperature monitoring, a decoction mash was used to reach acid and protein rests. Then a saccharification/mash out step, an infusion step and sparge was possible without actually needing a proper thermometer.

If using a lot of adjunct grains (wheat, rye, oats, etc) it's a good call to use a protein rest. A protein rest has been used for under-modified grains to break down proteins into amino acids that are usable by yeast. My recipe for this brew does not need a decoction mash or protein rest, but since it's the old school way of mashing, we're going to give it a try.

The other reason for using a decoction mash is temperature control.  Through a bit of trial and error, the brewer can determine how much boiling of a decoction is needed to get a mash up to the correct temperature .  This means with close attention to detail, the brewer can consistently brew without the need of a thermometer (although I will be using one - it would take a few tries to get this right without one).  As long as the brewer uses the same ratio of volumes of liquid in mash and decoction boil, with the same amounts of grain and same equipment, the final product should always be the same. [EDIT: I should be more clear here, working without a thermometer would require a multi-step decoction, and we'd need to figure out boil volumes to get our grains to each step]

I'll be doing the simplest decoction mash today - a single step decoction. We'll be doing a protein rest, a single decoction with a saccharification and boil, 30 minute mash and a fly sparge.  In the future, I'll be doing a heavily adjuncted (possibly a gluten-free) beer, that will utilize multiple decoctions.

Adjunct: Sources of fermentable sugars other than barley. Usually grains that are not fully modified.  Common commercial adjuncts are wheat, rice and corn, others are millet, quinoa, buckwheat, oats and rye.   Usually require mashing with barley for proper saccharification.
Decoction: Running's from the MLT that will be heated and added back to the mash
Rest: Period of time keeping the grains and/or decoction at a specified temperature
Saccharification: The process of breaking complex carbohydrates into monosaccarides (fermentable sugars)
Protein Rest:  Holding grains at about 122F to break down proteins into usable amino acids.

All Grain Oatmeal Stout
9.5# Organic Crisps Pale Ale Malt
1# Organic Great Western Wheat Malt*
1# Organic Rolled Oats
.5# Organic Briess Caramel 120 Malt
.5# Organic Briess Chocolate Malt
.5# Organic Weyermann Carafa II Malt
.5 oz. Organic Belgian Admiral Pellet Hops @ 60min
.5 oz Organic Belgian Cascade Pellet Hops @ 20 min
.5 oz Organic Kent Golding Pellet Hops @ 5 min

*Wheat isn't really common in stouts (maybe in a Russian Imperial Stout).  I added this because I had a pound sitting around, and it kind of goes with the decoction mash.

Project Values:
Volume: 5 Gal
OG: 1.070
FG: 1.018
ABV%: 6.8
IBU: 27.4

The Single Step Decoction Mash:
The quick and dirty steps of a single step decoction mash for the grain bill:
  1. Heat 6.75 Gallons of water to 127F
    • We calculate this number off of our grain bill and take into account our mash tun.  This number will be higher than an infusion mash. We have a total of 13.00# of grain and 6.75 gallons of mash water.  This equals about 1.93 Gallons per pound (you could estimate to 2 Gal per #) 
  2. Mix grains and all water in MLT
  3. Allow for temperature to adjust
  4. Temperature should be around 122F
  5. Allow to rest for 20 minutes
  6. Drain 3 Gallons of MLT liquid (called decoction)
    • This number will change with your system and the amount of grains/mash water used.  Normally you want to drain 30%-40% of the MLT liquid.  Essentially we need to pull the correct amount of water, that when boiled and added back into our MLT (which should still be around 120F from the protein rest) will adjust to our mash strike temperature (defined by style, here I'm looking for the mid 150's).  This might take some trial and error over a few batches to get your volumes perfect.  For our first brew, we'll just have to pay attention, take notes, and adjust our end mash temperature by adding either hot or cold water.
  7. Slowly bring decoction to 158F
  8. Rest for 15 minutes (Saccharification)
  9. Bring decoction to a boil for 15 minutes, stirring.  Add water if decoction becomes too thick
  10.  Re-introduce some decoction to the MLT
  11. Temperature should adjust to standard mash temperature
  12. Repeat until you hit your strike temperature 
    • If you run out of decoction prior to hitting your strike temp, then we need to add more hot water.  Remember how much you need to add to get to the strike temperature so that we can adjust for next time.  We'd rather not add water if possible, as the thicker the actual mash is, the better extraction we will get.  
  13. Allow to mash for 30 minutes  (Saccharification)
  14. Begin heating water for sparge 
  15. We'll be using much less sparge water as we're essentially using our decoction as a a first batch sparge. 
  16. Fly sparge  with 2 Gallons water at 168+F.  
  17. Collect 6 gallons total of sparge running's (including any leftover decoction)
  18. Everything after that is standard - Boil/Hop, Cool, Aerate, Pitch, Seal, Ferment and Bottle.

Final Values:
Calculated -
Volume: 6 Gal
OG: 1.060
IBU: 25.3
Color: 30.3

Estimated -
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.6%

So, using the volumes above, things are looking pretty good.  I knew my original gravity would be low.  But, using the boiled decoction volume of 3 gallons, I hit a strike temperature of 155F and it held for 30 minutes.  Pretty good.  I believe the low efficiency was due mostly to my equipment; I did a fly sparge and my equipment is really made for a double batch.  If I was using a round cooler, the fly sparge would have worked out better.  If I could have lowered my overall decoction volumes and saved more volume for a batch sparge, things would probably have ended up closer to my projected values. Or, I could have ran a batch sparge and attempt to boil off more water (this is probably what I should have done to reach my desired numbers).  Each of those methods would add some aspect to the flavor/body of the final product. The main thing here is that the end product will still end up as a good tasty beer.  All in all I ended up with about an extra gallon, but was off by about 1% on my ABV.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brew Day -All Grain Belgian Dubbel

Last week I wrote a post on a Belgian Dubbel recipe.  Due to some time constraints, I was not able to brew it when I wanted to, nor blog the brew day.  Today's post is a quick re-cap on the brew day.

If you look at the recipe in the post linked above, it's different than what I ended up with, mostly because I miss-spoke when ordering the grains.  No fear, by upping my batch to 5.5 Gallons and adding extra grains I had lying around, we end up with a good looking recipe for the style.  So without further ado

Jameson's Belgian Dubbel
12.5# Organic Gammbrinus Pale Ale Malt (3.0 SRM)
1# Organic Gambrinus Munich (10.0 SRM)
.5# Organic Briess 60L (60 SRM)
.5# Organic Breiss 120 L (120 SRM)
.25# Organic CaraMunich (56 SRM)
1# Organic Belgian Amber Candi Syrup (45 SRM)
.5 oz Organic Belgian Admiral Pellet Hops (13.48% AAU)   20.3 IBU @ 60 min boil
.5 oz Organic Belgian Cascade Pellet Hops (3.2% AAU) 2.9 IBU  @ 20 min boil
.5 oz Organic Kent Golding (7% AAU) 0 IBU @ 5 min
White Labs Belgian Strong Ale Liquid Yeast (WPL550)

Projected Values
OG: 1.073
IBUs: 23.2
Color: 17.4 SRM
ABV%: 8.1

Target Strike Temp: 155°F

HLT: Hot liquid tun.  Also known as a "Brew Pot".  Used to heat water and boil wort.


  1. Heated 9 Gallons of water to 172°F
  2. Mixed heated water and crushed mixed grains in my MLT using about 6 Gallons of water
    1. Mix Grains and water about 1/3 at a time.  
    2. Stir to ensure no pockets of dry grain exist
    3. Adjust water amount so that your grains are fully covered by a small amount of water
  3. Allow temperature to adjust to strike temperature
    1. After 10 minutes, mash temperature was 154°
  4. Allow mash to sit for 50 minutes
  5. During mash period, begin heating remaining water, plus 2 extra gallons for sparge.  Heat to 175°f
  6. After mash is completed, begin batch sparge
    1. Begin draining liquid from the mash tun
    2. Return the first 1/2 to 1 gallon of liquid carefully back to MLT
    3. Repeat until runnings are clear of particles.
    4. Fully drain all liquid from the MLT
    5. Add heated sparge water from HLT, enough to cover grains and stir
    6. Repeat steps 1-4
    7. Repeat step 5-6 with remaining water
    8. Drain until about 6 Gallons of liquid collected
  7. Take collected sparge runnings (6 gallons), and bring to a boil
  8. Add .5 oz Organic Belgian Amarillo Pellet Hops
  9. After 40 min, add .5 oz Organic Belgian Cascade Pellet hops
  10. 15 minutes later add 1 oz Organic Kent Golding Pellet Hops
  11. Boil 5 minutes more
  12. Begin cooling
    1. Keeping everything sterile, filter out hops if possible
  13. Transfer into fermenter
  14. Aerate 
  15. Pitch yeast
  16. Seal fermenter and wait!
Final Projections and Mesurments:
OG: 1.070
IBUs: 23.2
Color: 17.4 SRM
ABV%: 7.8%

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Small Scale Kitchen Brewing - Pale Ale

One of the main issues I hear from people looking to jump into brewing is that it requires a lot of space, time, money and equipment.  While this can be true, it doesn't have to be.  Most people who brew start on very basic setups, and many of those never move on to more complex systems.  More often than not, great beer is the result.

I want to make something clear here.  There are two main reasons for the outcome of one's homebrew;  the brewer and the quality of ingredients.  I will not name any names, but there is a very popular plastic system one can purchase at many retail locations, but I'd steer clear of this "guy".  I've seen it both first hand and heard it from others, a lot of ingredient kits out there have old, poor ingredients.  Don't assume anything that is a "kit" is bad though.  Just beware pre-hopped extracts, and buy from actual homebrew shops.  If there isn't one in your town (stay local, if for nothing else than freshness), go to a reputable online supply company (see side bar).

So, I have decided I am going to make a 3 gallon extract brew.   You can do a 1 gallon, less than that I don't know if you'd actually end up with much.  This brew is going to be the most basic I can think of, so it may not turn out the most tasty.  It shouldn't be bad, and it may be great, I just haven't tried such a 'simple' beer before [Edit After Brewing: I actually think this brew will be great. I underestimated the process.  This will be a good batch]
Size comparison, a 7 Gallon carboy on the left, a 3 on the right

Terms That Need Explaining:
Normally I'd jot down some terms here, but since this is the most basic, we're going to not worry about  most of them. All you need to know:

Wort - Pre-fermented beer.  Made up of fermentable sugars,  Today, it'll be a combo of extract and water
Pitch\Pitching: The act of pouring yeast cultures into cool wort.

Jameson's All Extract California Pale Ale

Estimated Total Brew Time: 2 Hours
Final OG: 1.050

Total Brew Time:
I started at 10:45 am, and was 100% done and cleaned up by 12:30.  So 1:45 minutes total.  Much of which was just waiting during the cooling period.

Mandatory Equipment:
Stock pot ( I'll be using 1.5 Gallon stock pot)
Extra pots for side boiling (If using a stock pot smaller than your batch size)
3 Gallon fermenter** (they exist! or you could use 1 Gallon jug for a 1 Gallon batch)
Blow Off Tubing/Airlock and Stopper (#7 for a standard 3 Gallon Glass Carboy)
Siphon cane and hose (cane for bottling)
Sanitizer (Iodophor, San Star)
Funnel (you could siphon)
On the left: Liquid Extract, Hops and Grain
Center: Strainer, Liquid Yeast Culture, Fermenter with Airlock
Right: 1.5 Gallon Stock Pot 
Bottling equipment***

Optional Equipment:
Small Grain Bag or Strainer (If using optional grains)

*We need to be able to boil our wort.  If we have 3 Gallons to boil, it's tough in 3 Gallon pot.  But!  We could theoretically boil 2 Gallons of wort, and add 1 Gallon of sanitized water prior to pitching!  Downside here is we might get a lower hop utilization. This could be offset by adding more hops.
**So the real kicker here is the fermenter.  You can use a bucket if it is food grade, you have an airtight lid, and you can somehow attach an airlock or blow off tube (whole drilled in the lid).  But a 3 Gallon glass fermenter runs about $25 online, plus shipping.  They are a bit heavy to ship ($10 at least) so check your local homebrew store.  They may be willing to get you one if they don't have it in stock.
***Will be covered later.  You could theoretically re-use old plast soda bottles with screw on caps(I wouldn't recommend it).

Ingredients for a 3 Gallon Batch:
Ingredients, top down, Malt (grain), Yeast
Hops, and Extract (bag)
4.4# Briess Organic Maltoferm Liquid Malt Extract
1/2 oz Organic California Pellet Ivanhoe @ 20 minute boil
1/2 oz Organic American Pilgrim Pellet Hops @ 20 minute boil
1 oz Kent Golding Whole Hops @ 5 minute boil
White Labs California Ale (I find liquid to be the easiest, activate 1+ hrs prior to brew).

Optional Grains
1/4# CaraMunich Malt

Scaled for a 1 Gallon Batch
1 1/3# Briess Organic Maltoferm Liquid Malt Extract
.2 oz Organic California Ivanhoe Pellet Hops @ 20 minute boil
.4 oz Kent Golding Whole Hops @ 5 minute boil
White Labs California Ale Ale - This will be total overkill for this size batch.  You could pitch dry yeast, preferably re-hydrated, and even better with a starter.

Here's where it is better to design a brew for a volume vs. scale it down, we may end up with some not so easy to measure amounts.

Projected Values from BeerSmith
Original Gravity: 1.055
IBU: 39.8
Color: 5.0 SRM
ABV: 5.6

If Using Grain (Optional):

Original Gravity: 1.056
IBU: 39.8
Color: 7.5 SRM
ABV: 5.6

1. Begin heating a total of 3 Gallons of water, If using grains, move to step 1a.
Left I'm boiling water to sanitize it.  
This will be added to the main wort (right) once both are cooler 
  • I'll be using a 1.5 Gallon stock pot.  I'll start with 1.5 Gallon for wort, and boil two more Gallons on the side in other, smaller pots (3 total).  These will only have water in them, no wort.   
  • Use less if you only have a 3 Gallon or smaller pot.  Give yourself enough room for a rolling boil.  And be aware that while boiling, wort has the tenancy to foam up, so give yourself a little extra room.  BeerSmith claims 2.82 Gallons is the perfect amount for a 3 Gallon brew pot, assuming we are going to add about 1/2 gallon after boil.
1a. If Using Grains (Optional)
  • Put your grains in your small grain bag (Note, I did not have a gran bag, I used a small strainer to soak the grains, careful if using this method.  Don't let those grains escape.  See picture)
  • Place your bag of grains in your water 
  • Begin heating your water, keep your grain bag off the bottom of the pot as much as possible. Use medium-low heat or else your'll burn the bag and the grains on the bottom..
  • Heat the water to about 160°F
  • Remove grain bag
  • Continue heating to boil
Optional: I'm steeping my grains in a strainer.
 Try to get as much grain soaked without it escaping
2. Once boil begins, add 4.4# Briess Organic Maltoferm Liquid Malt Extract (or whatever extract you have) and stir
Adding the MaltoFerm Extract
  • Add it slowly!  And stir constantly.  You probably want to turn off your stove, as the extract will easily burn on the bottom of the pan.  In the future we could use this caramelizing action to our f[l]avor..

3. Once extract is dissolved, return the wort  to a full rolling boil (we now have wort!).
4.  Add our fist addition of hops, 1/2 oz of California Ivanhoe Pellet Hops and Pilgrim Pellet Hops
5. After 15 minutes of boiling add 1 oz Kent Goldings Whole Hops.
6. Boil 5 more minutes.
Fermenter after adding iodine (sanitizer)
  • From here out, 100% of everything must be sterilized. Hands, tubing, spoons, fermenters, anything!!!!  Make yourself a batch of sanitizing solution. Start by santizing your fermenter, then you can dump that solution into something else to use for remaining equipment.
7.  Begin to chill and use a sanitized strainer to remove hops and any particles.  Add the additional boiled volume.  If it does not fit, cool on the side, we can always mix everything together in the fermenter (this is how I am doing it, using a 1.5 Gallon pot).
  • There's a lot of ways to do this.  The key is the faster, the better.  I've know people to just throw a lid on and walk away until morning, just asking for problems.  The easiest way to chill in this situation is to just get a bunch of ice, and place you stock pot (covered!) in an ice bath in your sink.  Plug your sink, add a some water and a good amount of ice.  Place your stock pot w/ cover in the bath.  Make sure no water makes it into your beer (see pic below).  If you need to add water, it needs to be sterilized by boiling first.
After iodine has settled.  
8. Once the wort is chilled to the mid 70's, we aerate the wort by stirring vigorously with a sterilized spoon.
9. Siphon or pour using a funnel into your sanitized fermenter
10. Pitch your activated yeast
11. Pop on your air-lock and store in a dark place.
12. Allow fermentation
13. Bottle****
14. Enjoy****

****Post coming soon

Swirl, nature is beautiful .. Sanitize your carboys
Fermetner and funnel
And the wort boils!

Ice Bath - Once we've finished boiling,
we need to cool ASAP, 
Stove utilization, added pots to lower the chance of boil over

Final Product and a Hydrometer taking a
Gravity Reading
Happy Carboy, Happy Yeast, Happy Me

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipe Design - BJCP and a Belgian Dubbel

I have decided for my next brew day, I will be making a Belgian Dubbel style ale.  For those not familiar with the style, some common characteristics are:

  • Malty, sweet beer
  • Good head retention
  • Deep amber color
  • ABV% of 6.0%-7.5%
  • Lower IBU
  • Hop flavors are usually low bitter, slight aroma.
  • Fruity flavors, including raisin
  • Sometimes Belgian sugar is added to spike ABV, color and add flavor
So how do we set out to make such a beer?  We could just go copy someone else's recipe.  What happens when we can't get all the ingredients?  Can we trust that the recipe is accurate? Do we even care?

The answer to that last question is important.  We can create great beer without following style guidelines.  It  may change from brew day to brew day.  It can be fun to make up a style on the fly (although it's likely to exist or be a hybrid of styles).  But being able to re-create the beer styles of the world is a fun challenge for the homebrewer.  It also helps the brewer gain a better understanding of where their flavors are coming from, and how different ingredients are used with each other to create flavor and body profiles.  It also can help the brewer hone in their brewing procedure to produce consistently great beer time and time again.  It makes us better tasters of beer, and helps us find other beers to compare our own to.

Designing a Beer Recipe? Start with BJCP
If you've decided to create your own recipe for a style of beer, chances are you've tried that style before.  You might think that's sufficient to accurately create the style, but chances are you have missed some of the over tones of flavor that actually contribute to the overall complexity of a brew.  Or you just plain don't pay attention to color, head retention or aroma.

To accurately create a style of beer, the place to start is the Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP.  Now, I'm not saying you need to go out and get a BJCP certification to accurately taste or create accurate beer styles. The key is what you find here: BJCP Style Guiedlines.  Read them for the beer style you wish to make.  Note the ingredients section.  This is key because when we jump over to BeerSmith (or however we are calculating our grain and hop bill), we'll be using numbers such Original Gravity (OG), Color (SRM), Bitterness (IBU), Final Gravity (FG) and Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to calculate amounts.  These say nothing about flavors.  We need to know the correct type of grains, hops and and spices to get the correct flavor profile.

BJCP states for a Belgian Dubbel, a base malt of Belgian Pils or  Pale Ale malt will work well.  From the ingredients I have available to me, I've decided on Gambrinus Organic Pale Ale Malt.  I usually use a Special Malt, usually the Organic Breiss Special Malt, 130 SRM, but my supplier can no longer get this (my supplier is all organic).  This will be an issue as the special malt imparts a common raisin flavor to this beer style.  I'll have to do without.  I may look to lower my total base malt amount and add some carmalized Belgian sugar/syrup to help with the flavor.  Color wise I'm substituting Caramel 60 (Briess).  I'll be adding CaraMunich (Briess) which will add small amounts of color and some fruity flavors.

Hop wise, Goldings seem to be the main hop used in these beers.  

Finally, and crucially, is the yeast we choose.  Yeast has a very big effect on the final flavor, clarity, and body.  BJCP gives good descriptions of flavors and yeast strain manufactures normally give a good description of how a yeast will behave, and what flavors they tend to produce.  Fermentation temperature is a HUGE part of the final product, make sure you are brewing at the correct temperature for your style.  This will ensure the correct flavors make it into the final product.  Luckily, most yeast manufactures will have some sort of matrix to help the brewer decide on the proper strain.  Also, most strains are named after the style they are meant to brew.

Building the Recipe in BeerSmith
I've slightly touched on this, but I have started to use a program called BeerSmith 2.  It's a great program that keeps track of your entire brewhouse.  It's fairly inexpensive, under $30, and worth every penny.  There are other good alternatives, such as and not limited to, BeerTools Pro and ProMash. There are also freeware opensource programs as well as web based calculators that can do much of this as well.  All this can also be accomplished with a simple spreadsheet.   A spreadsheet is the most complex but is good for beginners to actually understand the calculations taking place.  In a future post, I'll be designing and using a homemade spreadsheet to show how many of these calculations are made.

I've tried all three (BeerSmith, ProMash and Beer ToolsPro) and ended on BeerSmith, partially as it seems to still be in development. They all work great, and have trial periods to play with.  Chose the one that you prefer.  Anyway, I'll be doing a more in depth post on BeerSmith, but here I'm just going to talk about how I designed my beer using this software, the BJCP guidelines and a list of available ingredients at my local homebrew shop.

Using the guidelines from BJCP, and local available ingredients, I decided to use the following to make my beer:

Gambrinus Organic Pale  Ale Malt
Breiss Organic CaraMunich Malt
Briess Organic Caramel 60
Belgian Candi Sugar, Amber
Kent Goldings Hops
Belgian Amarillo Hops
Belgian Cascade Hops
Belgian Strong Ale Yeast

Now, we can work out of BeerSmith.  Once open, we can go to our recipes and create a new one.  From here we need to setup our batch profile. The equipment profile and mash efficiency items we'll need to setup in the future, but if we are just designing out grain and hops, we can use the defaults.  Just make sure we are choosing a 5 gallon all grain batch.

The next step is to start adding ingredients. Add your grains and hops, using amounts you think are correct.  This is a high ABV beer, so I'm going to start with 12.5# of base malt.  Add in the specialty malts, ensuring you are keeping these numbers low.  For a 5 gallon batch no more than a few lbs total.  Do the same with hops.  Here you may want to adjust the AAU and BAU if these numbers are known.  Adjust the boil times to your plan.

Double clicking on our added hops we can change
AAU, BAU, hop type, boil length and other variables

If you have an equipment, mash, fermentation and carbonation profile setup, use them. If not, you'll have to use the built in ones, look at them and find the one that fits your system best.  Choose the style of beer you wish to make from the "Style Guideline Comparison" drop down menu.

Now we can look at the little sliders below our recipe.  It shows us on the left hand side our projected OG, IBU, Color and ABV of our final product.  On the right hand side of the sliders are the accepted range for the style selected under "Style Guideline Comparison" drop down menu.
"Sliders" showing my recipe compared to BJCP
We can now adjust our recipe so that the black arrows for the sliders end up in the green portion.  We can either do this by manually changing our amounts or ingredients, or use the automatic "Adjust" buttons in BeerSmith.  This will automatically change your grain or hop amounts by small increments until it hits your profile.

Use the buttons on the "Home" tab to automatically scale batch size, convert from grain to extract  or adjust color, gravity and bitterness.
For my Belgian, I ended up with:
12.5 # Gambriuns Organic Pale Ale Malt
.5# Briess Organic CaraMunich
.25# Briess Organic Caramel 120
1# Organic Belgian Amber Candi Sugar
.5 oz. Organic Belgian Amirillo hops @ 60 min
.5 oz. Organic Kent Goldings @ 20 min
.5 oz Organic Belgian Cascade @ 5 min
1 Wyest Belgian Strong Ale Yeast

Using my own equipment profile, and a two step temperature mash (which will be covered on brew day)

My Projected Values are:

OG: 1.073
FG: 1.015
IBU: 17.8
ABV: 7.6%
Color: 15.8

For this style, BJCP states:
OG: 1.062-1.075
FG: 1.008-1.018
IBU: 15-25
Color: 10-17

All within their respective ranges! UPDATE/EDIT: Although most numbers are on the high side, my IBU's are low.  This could result in an unbalanced brew.  Maybe by brew day I'll increase my hops.  I've noted that this style is generally malty and less bitter, so that might be OK. But, remember those sliders are based on the style, which already has a low IBU\Malt ratio.  By being on the extremes of Gravity and IBU's for the style, it may throw off the overall balance of the beer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Administrative - A Quick Welcome

Over the next few days, a few other brewers will be joining in on the Adventures in Zymology blogging.  Each brewer will bring their own style and focus on brewing (if you haven't noticed mine are quite technical). Currently we have an additional three bloggers joining up.   Hopefully we'll see some posts in the near future (although all of them are way more busy than I am).

One great thing about brewing is that there are many different ways to the same end.  Don't be surprise if there are posts that almost contradict others - there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Also note, any blogger who joins has full control of content, nothing will be edited.  Most my posts have been very focused on brewing and brewing science.  This could change, as new bloggers aren't required to only blog about brewing.  I hope to see some post in the future that may spread out from just blogging brewing processes and brewing science into brewing activism (it exists) and springboard into any topic the author chooses.  Hopefully it will bring some variety into the blog!

Anyway, keep a look out for post by new bloggers, and if you brew and would like to join the AiZ network, please feel free to request!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Brewing Basics - Fermentation 101

For today's post, I will be stepping away from the brew-day portion and will be focusing on the basics of fermentation.  I'll be describing what happens during the fermentation process, basic ways to track the progress of fermentation, and what steps we can take during the fermentation to create the best possible end product.

Some Terms to Clarify:

  • Aerobic: Bio-chemical process that require oxygen
  • Anaerobic:  Bio-chemical process that do not require oxygen
  • Fermentation: Anaerobic process where yeast metabolizes sugars and produces alcohol and C02
  • Priming: The addition of a specific amount of fermntable sugars to fermented beer prior to bottling.  These sugars are used by yeast while in the bottle to add carbonation.
  • Rack\Racking:  The act of transferring, usually by siphoning, fermented beer from one vessel to another, whether fermenter to fermenter or to bottle\ botteling bucket. 
  • Respiration: The first stage of yeast after pitching.  Aerobic process where yeast consumes oxygen for    reproduction, cell maintenance and fermentation
  • Secondary\Secondary Fermenter: The act of using a two stage fermenting system
  • Sedimentation: Life cycle of yeast after fermentation.  Yeast begins to flocculate (clump) and drop out of solution.

What is Fermentation?
Fermentation is an anaerobic process (one that does not require oxygen) that converts simple sugars into two main products, alcohol (ethanol) and CO2.  This is achieved by introducing healthy active brewers yeast to sterilized, room temperature beer wort.  Often with brewing, fermentation is done in two stages, Primary and Secondary fermentation.  The fermentation (ignoring bottle conditioning and aging) process usually takes about two weeks, but is dependent on factors such as temperature, available nutrients, yeast strain and sanitation.  These items will also effect the final product.

The chemical reaction of actual fermentation is:
C6H12O6 --> 2CO2 + 2C2H5OH

An Important Note About Fermentation:
Sanitation. Everything I'll be talking about here must be sanitary.  Keep your fermenter sealed at all possible times, only opening when necessary.  Anything that touches the inside of the fermenter must be sterilized.  Keep airlocks and rubber stoppers clean and sanitized. Poor sanitation is almost always the cause of the following problems in the final product:

  1. Over Carbonation: While this can happen due to improper priming of your beer prior to bottling, introduction of bacteria or wild yeast can kick in a fermentation in bottle, either fermenting leftover sugars, or converting starches that brewers yeast is unable to
  2. Sour Beer: Caused by bacterial infections
  3. Moldy Beer:  There are a ton of molds that can live on the surface of your beer.
  4. Cloudy Beer:  There are a ton of infections that result in a haze in your brew
In fact, I'd say almost all problems with finished products are due to sanitation, and the fermenting time is when your brew is very vulnerable.  One good sign of a bacterial infection is if you see a film build up where the surface of your beer is in contact with the bottle. Note, there are no known pathogens that can live in fermented wort.  So that infected beer won't make you sick, well minus the stomach ache from drinking too much vinegar. 

Variables We Are Worried About During Fermentation
  1. As mentioned, sanitation
  2. Ensuring enough oxygen for the first cycles of yeast (respiration)
  3. Ensuring no additional oxygen is added
  4. Available nutrients
  5. Average temperature
  6. Consistent Temperature
So I've talked about item #1.  Item 2 I have gone through in the Ingredients 101 Post, on the section regarding yeast.  Basically, after boiling wort we need to re-introduce oxygen into the wort prior to pitching. This is because during respiration, they need to eat up oxygen.  This helps them store energy for the next few weeks of fermentation.  

But! Item #3 above mentions we don't want to add anymore oxygen, but you'd think that the yeast would like more available oxygen during fermentation.  The fact that the fermentation process is anaerobic means we can use the lack of oxygen to our advantage.  For a newly introduced colony of wild yeast to survive after your pitched brewers yeast has taken off, it needs oxygen.  No oxygen available means it can't colonize the wort.  Same with most bacteria.  So try hard to keep you fermenter closed, and try not to agitate the brew.  Keep it stationary

Available nutrients are very important to make sure your yeast is able to colonize your wort quickly before any wild strains can get in on the action.  Obviously we need to make sure we have properly converted our starches into fermentable sugars for yeast to metabolize. We also need to make sure that there are the proper amount of amino acids available.  If using fully modified grains, a normal mash will give us enough amino acids.  If we are using under modified grains or a lot of adjuncts (like wheat), then we need to preform a "Protein Rest".  Essentially, prior to raising our grains to our strike mash temperature, we raise the grains to 120°F, and hold for 20 minutes.  This breaks down the proteins in the grain into usable amino acids.

Average temperature is another important factor.  Choosing a yeast that works within the temperature range your fermenter will be sitting at is crucial. If your fermenting environment is too warm, you'll be getting odd, undesirable flavors in your beer.  Also, you're less likely to hit the target body style of your brew.  If it is too cold, fermentation will be slow and likely to not ferment fully.  This will result in an overly sweet, malty beer. This can also result in fermentables left that may kick into fermentation in the bottle, creating over carbonation.

Finally, keeping a consistent temperature is an important factor in getting the highest quality brew.  Fluctuation of temperature will cause off flavors, or could shock yeast.  Although it is hard for the homebrewer to keep their fermenters at consistent temps (especially if it's in a garage!), there are little things you can do to help mediate this.  Wrap your fermenter in something that's an insulator.  Also, there are products you can buy that help keep your temperature constant, like the electric carbouy warmers that wrap around the outside of your fermenter.
Tracking Your Fermentation Process:
So, how can we tell how far along we are in our fermentation?  The key here is to pay attention from the beginning and make sure your keep good notes.  The two easiest ways to monitor the progress of fermentation are Gravity readings and airlock bubble rate (quite a technical term!)

We want to make sure that prior to pitching our yeast we take a specific gravity reading and record it.  Using this number as a starting point, we can track the progress of our fermentation.  As our wort ferments, chains of sugars are metabolized into Alcohol and CO2.  As those sugars are converted, the overall density and therefore Specific Gravity drops.  By taking gravity readings during the fermentation process, we can watch the gravity drop.  As we move forward through the fermentation, the rate of change will slow.  We should also have an estimated final gravity, the Specific Gravity we think we will hit after fermentation has completed (there will always be non-fermentables plus some fermentable left, see the Attenuation portion of the ingredients post).  Once this has slowed to almost a stop, and we're pretty much at our estimatedFG we can say that primary fermentation has completed.

The other way to track the progress is to look at our airlock.  Since one of the products of fermentation is CO2, we can draw a parallel to the production of CO2 to the rate of fermentation.  Once fermentation commences, CO2 fills the head space of the fermenter, then starts getting pushed up and through the airlock.  The airlock will start to bubble at constant rate.   In my experience, after  about 12 hrs of pitching, I'll get about 1 bubble per second. As fermentation slows, so does the rate of bubbling.  Usually the bubbling will slow to 1 every minute or so, and that's when we're pretty much done with Primary fermentation. 

Sedimentation and Secondary Fermentation:
After the first 3-7 days from pitching, fermentation will slow.  During this period, the yeast begins the process of sedimentation.  Once sedimentation occurs, very little fermentation happens. Here the yeast is getting ready to go into dormancy due to the lack of fermentables available.  If you want to culture yeast, this is the time to grab it.

So, once sedimentation has occurred, we could pretty much call our beer ready for bottling, and some people do stop here.  But we can add another step that will help clear up our final product, reduce sediment in the bottle and clean up some of the flavors. The yeast now will start to go through the process of autolysis, or the act of deterioration.  This will impart an undesirable flavor on our final product. Now this step is more of an aging type of a step, but since it is referred to as "Secondary Fermentation" I'll be talking about it here.  Note, this step is often called just "the secondary".

After sedimentation, we want to carefully transfer our beer to a new sanitized fermenter. We usually do this with a siphon.  Make sure you have the proper siphon equipment, or you are just going to waste your time.  Get a good racking cane and the proper length of tube.  Take care if you need to move your fermenter prior to racking.  If your fermenter is on the ground you'll need to raise it as we normally use gravity to move the beer.  Allow your wort to settle prior to racking.

Go slow and take your time transferring.  You'll either need to purchase some sort of racking cane holder or hold it yourself.  Start your siphon correctly.  The key here is to keep the flow moving at all times, stopping can make liquid backup into the fermenter you are attempting to transfer out of, kicking up sediment. Keep the tip of the racking cane in between the sediment and the top of the liquid level.  You'll have to decide when to stop.  It's a game, the more you pull out the more and more sediment you'll pull up.  You will need to leave some liquid behind. We don't want to pick up the yeast cake on the bottom, or any leftover foam on top.  While we need to have yeast in our secondary, there is still a ton of it in suspension in the beer.

The secondary is a great place to add hops for dry hopping.  Also a great place to add other herbs or spices to add mellow aromatic flavors.

After transfer is completed, seal up the fermenter.  Usually secondary last about another week. During this time, more yeast and sediment will fall out. There might be a slight up-tick in the rate of fermentation.  Once everything is settled, it's time to bottle.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Brewing Basics - Ingredients 101

So, yesterday I wrote post describing the mash portion of brewing.  I'm going to start to take some steps backwards over the next few days to describe some more basic aspects of brewing.  Today, we're going to concentrate on the four main ingredients that make up beer.

Just a couple of terms that show up that might need some explanation:
  • Fermentables: Smaller chain of carbohydrates (sugars).  Can be metabolized by yeast
  • Final Gravity: Specific gravity after fermentation has completed.  Number is used to calculate alcohol content when original gravity is known.  Shows the amount of starches and sugars not fermented.  Should never be able to reach 1.0
  • Original Gravity: Specific Gravity measured right before pitching yeast.  This number tells us potential alcohol.  Used in conjunction with final gravity to figure out actual alcohol content.  
  • Pitch\Pitching: The act of pouring yeast into wort.
  • Specific Gravity: The 'weight' of water.  When compounds are dissolved in water, the specific gravity goes up.  Distilled water has a SG 1.0.  High SG means more fermentables and starches in solution.  Usually measured with a Hydrometer or Refractometer.
  • Starch: Long chains of carbohydrates.  Cannot be metabolized by yeast.  
  • Wort: Pre-fermented beer.  A sweet, sticky liquid of fermentable sugars made usually from barley, water and hops.  Once yeast is added, the wort starts to turn to beer.

Brewing - Malt, Water, Hops and Yeast
While other ingredients can be used, the main four ingredients in beer are Malt, Water, Hops and Yeast.

Malt is the term we use when talking about the cereal grains used as the primary source of fermentable sugar.   When we talk about malt, we are almost always talking about malted barley. Malted barley contains two things that are really useful to us.  Starches and Diastatic enzymes.  We want to feed these starches to our yeast, but they are too large.  So, we activate the diastatic enzymes that naturally occur in malted barley (by heating).  I've gone deeper into these enzymes in my post Brew Basics - Mash

So, what makes the barley 'malted'?  Germination.  After barley is harvested, the malter moistens the barley to allow it to begin it's germination.

The level of germination is chosen by the malter.  Different types of malts can be malted to different levels.  The further along the malting process the grain is allowed to germinate, the more modified the starches become.  This is at the malters discretion - the further along the malting process (or the more modified) the barley is allowed to become, the more amino acids are available to be used later by yeast. The downside is that as the grain becomes modified, the total yield (kernel weight) drops.  The degree of modification is important when brewing all grain. Under-modified malt will require a protein rest during the beginning of the mash to help break down remaining proteins into usable amino acids.

After germination is completed, the malter next dries the malt in a kiln.  The temperature of the malt is slowly raised as the barley dries.  At this point the malt is ready for use.  Some malt will be kilned at higher temps and longer times to darken the color and caramelize sugars, some will be roasted. These are what are referred to as 'specialty malts' that are used in low total percentage of grain to impart body, color and flavor.

There are also two main types of malt, but I won't dive into the big differences here.  Just be aware that there is 2-row and 6-row varieties of barley and you should be aware of which you are using.  In general 2-row has a higher grain-to-convertible sugars ratio, while 6-row has more husk and is less likely to stick during a sparge. The other main (and important) difference is enzymatic power, but I'll leave that for another post

Malt needs to be crushed prior to use.  The level of crushing is important, we want the internal grain nice and crushed, but we need the husk of grain to be intact. If the grain isn't crushed enough, we won't get good conversion from starch to sugar.  Too much and we get stuck sparges. The husk helps keep water flowing through our grains. Try to get grains that are freshly crushed as they will begin to oxidize once crushed.

Beginner and intermediate (and sometimes advanced) brewers often use malt extract in place of malted grain.  This is a great way to get into brewing, and great beer can be made using extracts.  Essentially malt extract is malt that has been soaked to convert sugars and washed.  The result is a sweet, sticky syrup or dried powder.  When we make all grain brews, we are making this extract ourselves.  There is a huge selection of extracts out there, so most brew styles are possible.  Avoid pre-hopped extracts.  Also, using extract and small amounts of grain can create great beer by doing a partial mash.

Water makes up a good 92% of beer.  The quality of water used is important for brewing.  Mineral content is an important factor, and certain brews call for specific mineral contents.  This will be covered in a post on it's own in the future, but know it's important.  Use a charcoal filter when using a municipal water source as chlorine can impart a flavor on your beer.

Hops haven't always been used in brewing beer.  Prior to hops many other herbs were used to add flavor characteristics (usually bittering) to beer.  But since they arrived on the scene, they pretty much have taken over the duties provided by other herbs.  Hops are an annual vine plant that produce small green leafy cones that are used in the production of beer.

What do hops do for beer, exactly?  Hops contain organic oils produced by the plants lupulin glands.  These are commonly reffered to as alpha and beta acids; adhumulone (alpha), cohumulon (alpha), lupulone(beta), colupulone (beta) and adlupulone (beta).

Each of these acids imparts some character on the beer when the hops are boiled in the wort.  Different hops will have different levels of each bittering compound, as well as other compounds that can have unique flavor profiles (such as the citrus aroma of cascade hops).  When purchasing hops, it's good to know the AAU % (Alpha-Acid Utilization) as well as the BAU% (Beta-Acid utilization).  This percentage gives us a barometer for figuring how much bitterness a hop will impart on our final product.  The length of time in the boil, and how vigorous the boil will affect the end product.

For hops that are used for bittering, an hour boil time is used, this will get our Alpha Acids.  I often do another addition that will last about 20 minutes.  These hops will add bittering through Alpha Acids, but will also impart some beta acids and floral aroma.  A final addition is usually done at the last five minutes for aroma.  Be aware of what the type of hop you are using is best used for.  Usually you can find a hop type described as bittering, aroma or both.  Use the appropriate type of hop for the appropriate use.

Hops come in a variety of forms.  Pellets, Plugs, Whole, and Oil (extract).  While it may seem that whole hops are the best, that is actually not the case.  More often than not, pellet or plug hops are going to be better.  They keep longer, and their oils don't become oxidized as quickly due to the lower surface-to-volume ratio.  Don't get me wrong, whole hops are great.  They are best used closer to harvest season if being used for bittering hops.  Older whole hops work great for aroma as the oxidation of the acids actually help mellow out the flavor in short boil times.  Avoid hop oils at all costs.  These oils only add harsh bittering effects that are unnatural to the palate. Also, hops add much more to beer than just those bittering oils.

So hops add flavor, that's it, right?  Wrong.  Hops also help stabilize the finished product.  Hops have mild antibiotic properties and stunts the growth of bacteria.  Hops act as a preservative that helps keep nasty wild organisms at bay, yet have no negative effect on brewers yeast.  This is where IPA's are said to get their name- large amounts of high AAU hops were used in brews that were to be on board the trip from England to India.  Extra hops were added to increase the life of the brew.  Hence, India Pale Ales are very hoppy.

In future posts I'll go over some more technical items regarding hops.  Just know that IBU is "international bittering units" and we can estimate this number, although it's probably not as accurate as breweries.  There is also the "HBU" scale which is "Homebrew Bittering Units", which we can accurately calculate to compare to other homebrewers.  To compare homebrew to brewery beer, we'll have to use an IBU estimation.

Yeast is a wonderful little single cell organism.  It lives everywhere, floating in the air, on your skin and on surfaces all around you.  Yeast loves sugar.  When yeast metabolize sugars, the main by-products are alcohol and CO2.  So, we utilize these little buggers to take our sugary, hopped and hopefully sterilized wort and turn it into a fizzy alcoholic beverage.

Man has been breeding brewers yeast for a long time.  There are two types of yeast usually used in the brewing process (although some odd ball brews call for unique types):

  1. Saccharomyces cerevisiae - Often referred to as "top fermenting" yeast, or ale yeast.  This is the most common yeast used with homebrewers as it ferments best at temperatures that don't require heating or refrigeration. If the beer is too cold, fermentation will be slow and will not complete.  Too hot and the yeast produces off flavors not desirable in most beer styles. Preferred temperature range is about 60-75 F, but depends on strain.  Used for ales and stouts.
  2. Saccharomyces uvarum -  Called "bottom fermenting" yeast or lagering yeast. This yeast type is common with commercial breweries that make light colored brews, though dark lagers do exist. Creates a more mellow flavored brew.  Fermentation takes longer as preferred fermentation temperature is 35F-55F.  Too hot will result in undesirable flavors.  Too cold and fermentation will stop.    

Within each type of yeast, there are different strains.  Each strain will have it's own characteristics during fermentation and in the resulting brew.  Flavor, fermentability, and body are all effected by the strain of yeast used, as well as the enviroment during fermentation.  Some important charecteristics of yeast are:

  1. Attenuation: Expressed as a percentage. The expected percentage of fermentable sugars that the yeast will metabolize.  Higher number results in a thinner, more alcoholic brew
  2. Flocculation: Usually express as low, medium, high or very high.  This is how well the yeast cells clump together and drop out of solution.  If flocculation happens early, attenuation will be lower, resulting in a malty, sweeter beer. Usually a high flocculation is preferred, and has been selected for by brewers.  More flocculation means easier transfers and clearer beer.  Common exception would be a Heffwiezn where flocculation is low
  3. Optimum Fermentation Temperature:  Expressed as a temperature range. The temperature range best suited for selected strain
  4. Alcohol Tolerence: Expressed as low, medium or high.  Alcohol will kill off the yeast when the ABV% gets to a certain level.  High tolerance yeasts (like high gravity yeasts) can get up close to 20% ABV 

There are other characteristics to look at when choosing a yeast strain.  Things like Diacetyl and Pentanedione production levels are useful for matching styles.  Luckily, most yeast strains are named after the beers they are designed to brew.

Yeast is commonly available in two forms - dried and liquid cultures.  Historically dried varieties have been lower quality.  Dry forms usually require re-hydration with sterile water prior to pitching.  Also, dry forms usually require creating a starter the day prior to brewing.  Dry cultures are also known to contain a small percentage of wild yeast.  Liquid yeast cultures are 100% pure, active, ready to pitch and work great.  I suggest using liquid yeast cultures over dried, or culture your own.  I have heard that many of the issues with dried cultures have been mediated by the yeast producers.  Still, if you can afford it, go with White Labs or Wyeast liquid cultures.

Finally, somethings about making yeast happy.  If you give your yeast the right environment, everything will be all good.  The keys are

  1. Pitch Temperature: If your wort temperature is too far from the yeast, you'll shock the yeast and it will not take off
  2. Oxygen:  When boiling the wort, pretty much all oxygen gets boiled out.  Yeast needs oxygen to store energy during it's first cycles in the wort. So we need to introduce oxygen after cooling the wort.   Vigorous sharking can achieve this.  Once yeast consumes all the oxygen, we do not want to introduce any more as the fermentation process is anaerobic (does not require oxygen).  The lack of remaining oxygen will help keep wild yeast and bacteria from colonizing your brew
  3. Available Amino Acids - Depending on the modification of the malt used, one may need to be  concerned getting the proper amino acids in the wort. 
  4. Available Sugars - Yeast needs sugars to eat, and we need to be sure we've converted enough starches into fermentables.
  5. Original Gravity: If the original gravity is too high or too low, your yeast will have problems.  This goes with fermentable sugars.  The needed OG range is defined by the yeast strain used.
  6. Give them the upper hand:  Keep things sanitary throughout the brew process, especially once boiling is finished.  The less wild yeast and bacteria that make it into your wort (it's impossible for us to be perfect) the better off your yeast is.  It's a competition for space, oxygen and sugars from the get go.  Make sure you are using fresh, active yeast cultures.

So that's the basics when it comes to ingredients.  Stay tuned for more basic brewing, as well as more on ingredients!