Thursday, June 28, 2007
I've been looking into both the Distance Education programs at the Siebel Institute and the American Brewers Guild. I realize that both are respected, but I'm concerned about putting a lot of time, money, and effort into something that will not help me come any closer to brewing professionally. I really need some good advice on this one.
These things being said, I also really ought to get to more homebrew club meetings and do more judging. I haven't been completely crazy about either so far, though my experience with both has been quite limited. I should also start competing. I know that they're all good things to do, so I'll make it happen.
In other news, I've been very good about keeping my Belgian Red around. I brewed it some time in late May/early June and decided that I would hang on to half a case for a while. I duct-taped it to keep my grubby paws off it and put on a note that it is not to be opened until August 1st. Well, that's not quite going to happen as I intend to bring some to this year's Ommegang Fest to share with others after the fest.
Here's the Belgian Red recipe:
10 lbs. German Pils
1 lb. CaraRed
1 lb. Melanoidin
.5 lbs. Flaked Oats
1 lb. Corn Sugar
Premiant and Saaz
(This beer has 2 oz. of Saaz as the finishing hop.)
It reached a bit over 80% apparent attenuation. ABV ~6.7%.
It's kind of wicked. This was one of the first beers that I by having a concept of what I wanted to beer to taste like and formulating from there. I really wanted a reddish ale with Belgian-esque fruitiness and phenolics and a complementary Saaz character. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the result. I expect it to be even more pleasant when I open it up once again.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I actually just finished up listening to the Jamil Show episode on Belgian Pale Ales. Aside from using a slightly funky hop (I used Styrian Aurora), my recipe and process was quite similar to that discussed in the show. I've been really wanting to start making beers specifically to enter into competitions, and this is one that I'm hoping will turn out as a really nice example of the style.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Mashing is the process that converts the unfermentable starches in malt to fermentable sugars. It is done by adding a certain amount of hot water to the grains in a vessel referred to as a mash tun. There are enzymes naturally present in the malt that will work to convert the contents of the barley kernel to fermentable sugars. These sugars fall into three categories: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and trisaccharides.
Monosaccharides are carbohydrates comprised of just one molecule. The following are monosaccharides relevant to brewing: glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.
Disaccharides are carbohydrates comprised of two molecules. The brewing-relevant disaccharides are: maltose, sucrose, lactose, and melibiose.
Trisaccharides are carbohydrates comprised of three molecules. The brewing-relevant trisaccharides are: maltotriose, glucodifructose, fructosant, and raffinose.
Some of these sugars are already present in the malt at the outset. Others will have to be produced by the breakdown of starches by various enzymes in the mash. Of all of these, maltose is arguably the most important. According to Fix, it constitutes between "46 to 50% by weight of the sugars in a grain wort."
The production of maltose in a given wort is largely determined by the enzymatic action of α-amylase and β-amylase. They both produce maltose, though α-amylase also produces other sugars.
Imagine a large group of inflated balloons tied closely together with string. Now imagine that you get to throw darts at that group of balloons. But these are very special darts. In fact, there are two types of darts. The first group of darts act in such a way that each can only pop one balloon at a time. After these darts break two or three balloons however, they become incapable of breaking more. The second group of darts is capable of releasing many balloons at one time (that is, making smaller clusters of balloons) as well as breaking just one balloon.
If you used just darts from the first group, you would break many balloons, but leave behind the core of the clusters. If you used just the second group, you would get many smaller clusters, but not really break all that many balloons. Obviously to break the most balloons, you would have to use both types of darts.
In the above metaphor, the group of balloons is a large carbohydrate (often referred to as an Amylopectin), β-amylase is the first group of darts and α-amylase the second. Because both of the enzymes have different optimal temperature ranges, a compromise between temperatures must often be reached in order to mash successfully. Specifically, β-amylase works best between 131-150F and α-amylase works best between 154-162F. Palmer goes on to note that, "The temperature most often quoted for mashing is about 153°F."
The take away message is this: If you want to make a drier, thinner, more fully attenuated beer, mash a bit lower than 153F. This type of mashing favors the β-amylase enzyme. If you want to make a somewhat sweeter, fuller-bodied, less-fully attenuated beer, mash a bit higher than 153F. Hopefully now it is easier to see why this is the case.
 Noonan, Gregory J. New Brewing Lager Beer (Brewers Publications, 1996)
 Fix, George Principles of Brewing Science (Brewers Publications, 1999)
 Palmer, John How to Brew 1st Edition (http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter14-5.html) Accessed on 6-26-07
Friday, June 22, 2007
I'm usually very picky about my water. Our fridge has an in-line filter leading to a dispenser on the face of one of the doors, so I'd been using the water from there. However, the flow is insufferably slow. Being that it takes away from the otherwise relaxing experience of brewing, I believe I will try something easier. How 'bout that?
For more on the chemical reactions taking place, check this out.
Technical Tuesday will have to wait until next week. Also, it will not be a discussion of redox reactions. 1.) I don't know all that much about redox reactions. 2.) As far as improving your practical homebrewing goes, I'm not sure knowing a bunch about the relevant redox reactions would help you make much better beer than you already do. Instead, I'll focus on alpha- and beta-amylase. Much more pertinent, interesting (in my opinion), and a topic that I have a better grasp on. Makes sense, yes? Yes.
You may remember the Summer Gold from last week. What I hadn't mentioned up until now was how far off I was on achieving my target original gravity. I was off by close to 25 points. That's a big difference! So what was supposed to be around 5.5% ABV, is currently just a little over 3%. Not a problem! I'll just call it a light Summer Bitter. But ya know, with German noble hops...er...that's a style, right? Uh...whatever, I'll drink it. I bet you'd probably like it too.
I called up George from Home Sweet Homebrew to see if he could troubleshoot from the other side of the city. He suggested that I mash a bit longer and sparge a bit slower. I'm going to give that a shot when I brew today. I'll be making a Belgian-style Pale Ale. Here's the recipe:
10 lbs. German Pils
1 lb. Dark Munich (6-10 Lovibond)
1 lb. CaraHelles
.5 lb. Demerara
Styrian Aurora (7.6% AA)
Shooting for around 20-30 IBUs
Wyeast 3522 Ardennes
The yeast starter has been made. I'll be able to get started as soon as I get home with any luck.
Yeast & Proper Pitching Rates:
Funny story. A few months ago I was shocked to learned that homebrewers tend to underpitch. I had been brewing for close to two years and not really giving my worts enough yeast to do the job right. To be honest, I felt (and to some extent, still feel) a bit misled. I'm not saying I call shenanigans or anything like that, I just wish this had been more clear from the outset.
Let's take a quick look at some numbers as per Jamil's site on the topic. I won't reproduce the calculations here, but the result is that you need about 180 billion yeast cells for 5.25 gallons of wort at an original gravity of 1.048. For comparison's sake, a Wyeast Activator Smack Pack contains 100 billion cells. That's nearly half! The lesson to be learned here is that if you really want to improve your beers, it looks like making a starter is going to have to become part of your brewing skillset.
Unless you prefer to use dry yeast. Turns out you can get a proper pitching rate for 5.25 gallons of a 1.048 OG wort from one 10g packet of dry yeast. One. I happen to get nice results from the Fermentis Yeasts. Of course, they won't work for everything, but they've been good to me so far. They're less expensive and don't require a starter. Well hot damn!
Funny thing about these dried yeasts is that it turns out I've been overpitching with them. Case in point, the Summer Gold from last week. I ended up using two packets for a wort of a mere 1.030 OG. I realized this a few nights ago, and thoughts of yeast bite crept into my head. I took a hydrometer reading last night and tasted. Not bad! It had gotten down to 1.007, an apparent attenuation of about 77%. It just breaks 3% ABV, making it one of the most sessionable beers I've brewed to date. I just need to put it into bottles so that I can get to drinking it!
1.) Start checking for conversion during mashes with an iodine test.
2.) If you're using liquid yeast for 5 gallons over 1.048, make a starter.
3.) If using dried yeast, only use what you need.
Until next week...
Monday, June 18, 2007
But hey, I'm doing what I can. That's where Technical Tuesdays come in. On select Tuesdays, I'll post about something new that I've learned in the past week or so that deals with a technical issue in brewing. This week, it will be about the importance of Redox Reactions. The best part is that we get to learn together. Hopefully my strong desire to convey accurate information about brewing science will not only help me to remember what these things are and how they work, but it will do the same for the readersip. Here's hoping! You can look forward to that tomorrow.
Holy Hell that was intense. The Harrisburg Brewers Fest was amazing! I had the opportunity to taste delightful offerings from a number of killer PA brewpubs that didn't even register on my beerdar until about two weeks ago. Some serious hats off to Abbey Wright Brewery for their Bittersweet Porter, Marzoni's Brewing Company for their Dortmunder Export, as well as Church Brew Works for their mouth-fillingly malty and exorbitant Pious Monk Dunkel.
I ended up meeting up with the ever-awesome Woods sisters and had the opportunity to pour killer Sly Fox beers at the fest! Even better, I got to come back and pour some more beers during the second session! I couldn't believe how much fun it was to be able to pour samples for fellow beer lovers. The overwhelming majority of the crowd had questions about the brewery's location, distribution, and, of course, beers. Serving them was a total delight. Many thanks once again to Suzanne Woods for the chance to hang out!
After the second session wrapped up, it was back to the hotel to meet with the rest of the crew. We mustered all of our strength, got some funny-sounding directions from the front desk of our hotel, then ambled over to Appalachian Brewing Company. The second floor houses the aptly-named Abbey Bar. Touting 50+ Belgian and Belgian-style bottles, as well as nine house drafts, this place is glorious. It will be a stop whenever I'm in Harrisburg or going through Harrisburg again. The food was delicious, the beers were reasonably priced, and even the band was pretty rockin'. (They did a cover of the theme song to Super Mario Bros.!) I bought a pint glass just to convince myself that such a place had actually existed. Damn, damn good.
Can't wait until next year!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
"It boils down to the fact that really the difference in bittering from like a 30 minute addition to a 60 minute addition is almost neglible."
Really? I'm going to have to look into this. Here it goes!
I don't know what other people are using out there to get IBU estimates when putting together a recipe, but I'm a big fan of Tinseth's Utilization Formula. I will admit at the outset that I don't know whether or not Jamil's statement was supposed to be applicable to worts of drastically different original gravities or not. As they had been discussing the Munich Helles style, I'm going to use an original gravity that would be typical of that style to run some quick calculations. In this case, I'm going to use 1.050. Luckily for me, Tinseth's table on the page linked above includes the points where 1.050 and 30 minutes and 1.050 and 60 minutes intersect.
According to Tinseth, the utilization rate for a wort of 1.050 for 30 minute hop boil is 0.177. The utilization rate for a wort of 1.050 for 60 minute hop boil is 0.231. Let's say that I want to hop 5 gallons of a 1.050 OG wort with 1.5 ozs. of Hallertau at 5% alpha acid.
Tinseth proposes calculating IBUs in the following fashion:
IBUs = decimal alpha acid utilization * mg/L of added alpha acids
In order to determine mg/L of added alpha acids, we use the following:
mg/L of added alpha acids = (decimal AA rating * ozs hops * 7490) / (volume of finished beer in gallons )
.05 (decimal AA rating) * 1.5 (ozs hops) * 7490 = 561.75
Divide 561.75/5 = 112.3
.177 (decimal alpha acid utilization for 30 minutes) * 112.3 (mg/L of added alpha acids) = 19.87. We can round to 20 IBUs.
Now for 60 minutes:
.231 (decimal alpha acid utilization for 60 minutes) * 112.3 (mg/L of added alpha acids) = 24.94. We can round to 25 IBUs.
It tentatively appears as though he is correct. I believe Ray Daniels pointed out in Designing Great Beers that the human tongue typically cannot discern a difference of 10 IBUs. (I'll have to double-check on this one as I don't have the book in front of me, but I think this is close.) If that's the case, why do we boil our hops for 60 minutes for bittering rather than 30, or 45? Intuitively it seems that we would retain more of the volatile flavor compounds that would otherwise be lost in a longer boil.
I'm going to have to look around to see if I can either back up or refute this claim.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I plan to brew on Friday as I have the day off. The tentative plan is to make something that satisfies the following criteria: deep yellow to golden in hue, brilliant clarity, malt forward, yet balanced, inclusion of noble-type hops. I also want it to be of a moderate gravity (1.050 - 1.055), fairly well-attenuated, and easy drinking.
This is the recipe I have devised to meet these criteria:
10 lbs. Maris Otter
0.5 lb. CaraFoam
0.5 lb. Biscuit
Hallertau @ 60 mins. & Flameout
Shooting for 20-25 IBU
I plan on mashing low (somewhere between 145-148F) to achieve a rather fermentable wort. Though the yeast I have chosen is not *exceptionally* attenuative, I think this will work overall to make a fairly dry beer. I imagine I won't have any issue achieving at least 75% apparent attenuation. That will work just fine. I would use Wyeast 1056, but the British strain places more emphasis on the malt character. Additionally, it is very flocculant. We shall see how this turns out. I look forward to drinking a cool pint while eating some BBQ seitan.
No better reason to sojourn to Harrisburg but for the 4th Annual Harrisburg Brewers Fest. Not only do proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, there will be some excellent beers to sample! I'm particularly excited to taste offerings from PA breweries/brewpubs that I have not had the chance to taste yet. Bull Frog Brewery, Church Brew Works, Marzoni's Brewing Company, and Otto's Brewpub have all piqued my interest in a serious way. Of course, some of my established favorites will be pouring as well.
In typical brewfest fashion, I can be found rocking a black Ommegang t-shirt and a notebook for about the first hour or so. After that, the notebook goes in the bag and the party starts. Hey, that's just how it is.
Perhaps I'll see you there.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Clearly this is a thing one wants to avoid. And to avoid it at home is pretty simple. Mostly this just entails: 1.) not introducing copious amounts of air while mashing and, 2.) not introducing air while collecting wort. These things are pretty easy to accomplish just by having good techniques.
While I was aware of HSA when I first started brewing all-grain, I wasn't really cognizant of how it works or whether or not I should be worrying about it too much. My first attempt at mashing was for a partial-mash APA. I mashed in my kettle on the stovetop. Holding temperatues constant wasn't very easy and at some point I think I even bumped the temp over 165F. Uh, less than professional. I then did the following to "sparge." I removed most of the grains from my kettle, put them in a strainer that was suspended at the lip of a plastic fermenter, then dumped the liquid content through the grains. As you might expect, it was fairly hazy (as I didn't yet even know the word vorlauf) and efficiency was super low. I was unaware of the importance of these things at the time, and continued on my way by adding in some DME and boiling hops, etc.
My technique was not very good. In fact, it was just...bad. But hey, I didn't know at the time and the beer tasted quite nice. No worries.
Fast forward to my first straight-up all grain brew. Still aware of HSA in the back of my head, but not enough to keep me from splashing some hot wort around, I ended up mashing in a rectangular cooler with an improvised manifold concocted by a housemate. I let my hot wort come running out out full speed into my brew kettle about 3 feet from the outlet on the cooler to the bottom of my kettle. At least this time I vorlaufed and had something closer to a legitimate sparge. Later I boiled, cooled, fermented, packaged and lo and behold, no off-flavors indicating that something had gone awry. Not too shabby.
I will readily admit that this is still my process. I batch sparge, I don't regulate flow, and I splash. As much as I'd like to be, I'm not a by-the-books brewer where these areas are concerned. But hey, I'm working on it and the beers are tasting just fine. Trust me, I'm working my way there.
But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had to know what the deal was with HSA. If I'm breaking several rules, why am I not seeing the results in the finished product?
Enter more confusion. I recently acquired Dr. George Fix's Principles of Brewing Science, 2nd Edition and Greg Noonan's New Brewing Lager Beer. Woah. There is so much going on in beer that I'm willing to say there's just not enough time to fully understand it all without a lifelong dedication to it. (Also, it really helps if your chemistry background is solid.)
What I learned from these texts is that splashing your hot wort around can be bad for a number of reasons. One in particular has to do with an enzyme called lipoxygenase. According to John Palmer in a Basic Brewing Radio interview (start listening around the 7:46 mark), lipoxygenase binds oxygen to lipids and melanoidins to form complexes that will eventually impart stale off-flavors like those mentioned above. Good to know. However, he also mentions that lipoxygenase is denatured at 60C (140 F). If that's the case, where's the worry for brewers doing a single infusion at normal temperatures (i.e. 140F-158F)?
Tentatively it appears as though we can just Relax. Don't Worry. Have A Homebrew.
Of course, there is more to do with HSA than just one teensy tiny enzyme*. This will be discussed as I continue to learn more about the various mechanisms involved. Expect more on this topic soon - it's a good 'un!
*According to Fix, Trans-2-Nonenal, the compound principally responsible for the paper/cardboard-like flavors associated with staling, has a threshold of 0.1 parts per billion. Yes. Billion. That's some sort of intensely pungent compound, no?
Friday, June 8, 2007
Earlier this week I thought I had wrought something wicked upon the earth. Sulfur production was readily noticeable in primary fermentation. Not so hot as far as non-lager ferments are concerned. Some funky aromas (earthy?) were hanging out at bottling time as well though sulfur was no longer an issue. Basically, I was ready to wait a week or so just to toss this.
The first bottle smelled and tasted cidery. Malt flavors were dull. The prognosis wasn't good.
The following bottles on the other hand were a bit fruity, malt shone through, hop character noticeable and pretty tasty. I had succeeded in making a low OG thing that didn't go bad and tasted pretty beery. Huzzah! Just goes to show that it truly is difficult to really get it wrong. If only more things in life were so self-correcting.
Recipe (for ~4 gallons):
5 lbs. Maris Otter
1 lb. 120L Crystal
1.5 lbs. Brown Sugar
East Kent Goldings @ 60, 20, 5 min.
Apparent Attenuation: ~79%
*This also used to be the way that I would refer to Philosophy internally. Except, for some reason, it would always be in the German: Zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft, or, "Between art and science." Perhaps a nice tagline for a brewpub that does some traditional German styles?
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Let's say you want to make an APA with an OG of 1.055. Let's also say that you're going to use Wyeast 1056 American Ale. You know that it has an apparent attenuation range of 73-77%.
An apparent attenuation rate of 76% will yield a terminal gravity of 1.0132 (we can just round to 1.013). This would make a beer of just around 5.5% ABV. Interestingly, this is the same number as the OG expressed in GUs x 0.1. I've found that they tend to hang really close to one another.
OG = 1.055
55 x 0.1 = 5.5
GU = 55
The ABV Calculation*:
1.055 - 1.013 = 0.042
0.042 x 131 = 5.5% ABV
Likewise this will work with worts of different gravities. How about a high gravity wort like 1.093?
OG = 1.093
GU = 93
93 x .76 = 70.68
93 - 70.68 = 22.32 (Terminal Gravity in GUs)
1.093 - 1.02232 = 0.07068, round to 0.071
0.071 x 131 = 9.3% ABV
How about a low gravity wort like 1.032?
OG = 1.032
GU = 32
32 x .76 = 24.32
32 - 24.32 = 7.68
1.032 - 1.00768 = 3.18592, round to 3.19%
Anyway, it is important to keep in mind that this is just something to give you a quick idea of what your ABV will be like if you plan on having a wort that is attenuated to around 76%. If you plan on making something much less attenuated, or much more highly attenuated, this clearly won't do you much good. However, apparent attenuations around 76% are common enough to make this a helpful mental device.
*I would also like to point out that your results may differ if you use another calculation to determine ABV%. Not everyone uses (OG - FG) x 131 = ABV%. Your mileage may vary.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
1.) The beers that I typically brew tend not to hover in these higher echelons of OG (1.096 in this case), 2.) It was my first outdoor brew, 3.) my boil was done on a charcoal Weber grill. Yes, a Weber grill. Apparently the BTU output is sufficiently high to boil 7.5 gallons to 4.5 over the course of a few hours. How many? To be honest, I lost count. Anyway, it's kind of fun to look at, so here are some images from that day:
My 50 quart brewkettle straddled across the charcoal flames. Hot.
Good old rectangular cooler used as the mashing & lautering tun. Plenty of room even with 19 lbs of grain and 4.75 gallons of water.
Running hot wort into the kettle.
Tasty looking grains, yes?
Finally, here's the recipe used (for ~4.5 gallons):
15 lbs. Marris Otter (~80%)
1 lb. British Dark Crystal 150L (~5%)
1 lb. Weyermann Carafa III Dehusked 488-563L (~5%)
1 lb. Weyermann Melanoidin 28-38L (~5%)
1/2 lb. Chocolate Rye 400-500L (~2.5%)
1/2 lb . Flaked Oats (~2.5%)
2 oz. Simcoe for boiling
2 oz. Millenium last 15 minutes
1056 American Ale
Apparent Attenuation: 78%
Follow him as he makes some beers, drinks some beers, and occasionally makes an interesting point amongst what will probably turn out to be largely tangential pontification.
That being said, the first order of business is to share a tool that I frequently use to make calculations for the beers I brew. (Download it) This spreadsheet calculates the following:
- Original Gravity (all-grain, extract, or a combination of the two)
- Final Gravity (based on theoretical apparent attenuation rate)
- IBU contributions from 6 possible hop additions (using Tinseth Calculations)
As mentioned on the spreadsheet itself, the gravity calculations are averages based on figures as per Ray Daniel's Designing Great Beers (Brewers Publications, 2000). Likewise, the IBU calculations are adapted from the ever-useful Glenn Tinseth's Hop Page. I intend to add some more features (GU:BU ratio is the first to come to mind) in the future. I'll be sure to update as these features are added.
It is obviously not as detailed as a utility like BeerTools, but it will give you some quick 'n dirty numbers so that you have a vague idea of what you're doing (much like myself).