Friday, June 22, 2007

Where Did I Go? Also, Pitching Rates.

Clearly most of this week fell by the wayside. I spent the past few days recovering from some bizarre summer cold and catching up on work missed due to said cold. That was then. This is now.

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'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!

Lessons Learned:

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...

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