Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quick 'N Dirty Tech Tues: Mash Thickness, Pt. 1

Mash thickness is defined as the ratio of volume of water to the amount of grain in your mash. Here in the US, it is typically expressed as quarts (of water) per pound (of grain), or qt./lb. Mash thicknesses can run the gamut from .75 quarts/lb. to 1.3 quarts/lb.+. You may have wondered what sort of impact your mash thickness can have on the resultant beer. Today I'm going to do a short entry on that topic to help you further customize your brews and get exactly what you want out of your end product.

Different thicknesses primarily affect the types of sugars that are produced during the mash. (If you need a quick primer on what to expect of worts of different sugar compositions, look here.)

Here's a quick practical rundown of what you can expect from a thick and thin mashes, respectively. Thick mashes tend to produce a higher proportion of dextrins, which lend a fullness and sweetness to the finished beer.[1] Noonan writes, "A thick mash (less than three-tenths of a gallon of water per pound of malt) induces the greatest overall extraction. A much thinner mash increases the proportion of maltose, and thus wort attenuation."[2] For reference, 3/10 of a gallon is 38.4 fluid ounces, or 1.2 quarts.

Bottom line: A thicker mash will typically result in a more dextrinous wort. A thinner mash, on the other hand, will typically result in a thinner, more highly attenuated wort. As far as numbers are concerned, less than 1 qt/lb. would probably be considered thick. Likewise, more than 1.5 qt./lb. would probably be considered on the thin side.

You'll just have to wait around for Part 2 to learn about the mechanisms responsible for this difference.


[1] Noonan, Gregory New Brewing Lager Beer (Brewers Publications, 1996) pg. 140-1
[2] Ibid.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Caramel vs. Crystal Malts:

My memory was not as blurry as I thought. Noonan does differentiate between Caramel malts and Crystal malts in the following way. He writes that Crystal malts are fully saccharified before kilning (thus the glassy endosperm), whereas Caramel malts are not fully saccharified.[1] After discussing the ways in which the production processes differ, he writes the following:

"Caramel malts were traditionally used by continental lagre brewers, whereas crystal malts were favored by British ale brewers. The distinctive, complex flavors of caramel malts have their place in brewing, but unfortunately, modern maltsters are eschewing the production of crisper-flavored crystal malts in favor of the easier-to-process caramel malts. In fact, most modern maltings no longer make a distinction between caramel and crystal malts."[2]

So...is there a difference? Yes. At least there was. Keep in mind that this text was also written eleven years ago. If trends remained the same, then there may be little to no pragmatic difference between caramel and crystal malts. If that's so, then I'm still not sure what the difference is between say, CaraAroma and a crystal malt of a comparable Lovibond rating. I'll have to do some more research before I finally weigh in on this issue.

Second order of business: I brewed an American Amber Ale on Saturday morning. Here's my recipe:

Maris Otter 62.5%
Munich Type II 31.25%
UK Crystal 60L 3.125%
CaraAroma 3.125%
OG: ~1.065

1 oz. Palisade (9.7% AA) 60 min.
1 oz. Athanum (5.1% AA) 15 min.
.5 oz. Palisade 10 min.
.5 oz. Athanum 10 min.
.5 oz. Athanum 5 min.
.5 oz. Palisade @ flameout

Safale S-04

I ended up knocking this batch out in about 5 hours. That even includes the milling of grains. Seems like the process is becoming more refined. There is still one area that is causing me problems - extract efficiency. I calculate my anticipated OG using 65% as the anticipated efficiency. I mashed 16 lbs. of grain at 154F at a rate of 1.1 quarts per pound for ~75 minutes and came up short by 9 GUs. That's an extract efficiency of about 57%. That's quite poor. I did an iodine test to check for proper starch conversion and the resulting color was a deep red, but certainly not black. (The deep red shouldn't be surprising given my mash temp and the inclusion of some darker crystal malts.)

My problem could have to do with many aspects: mash pH, mash thickness, and lautering. I'm still not entirely prepared to jump into the first two right now, but I will be changing my manifold this week to see if that improves yield at all. I hope to post a picture or two of the fully constructed mash/lauter tun later on this week. I plan on using mostly CPVC.

If you'd like to build a cooler-based mash/lauter tun yourself, I would suggest looking at John Palmer's article on the matter.

IBU Dissolution:

For a few weeks now, I've been looking for an answer as to what the theoretical limit of IBU dissolution is. I have not found an answer yet. Tech Talk yielded no useful results. I've emailed my question to the "Ask the Professor" section of Zymurgy, so hopefully something will come up. I'm interested to know because I hear people talking about beers with 100+ IBUs, and it strikes me that the calculations we use as homebrewers to deteremine IBUs can be, well, just wrong. Sure, they can give us a good idea of how much to add for a bittering addition, but it is unlikely that we actually have 35 IBUs in a beer just because a calculation says so. For one, I'd like to know just where the IBU mark ends.

Tomorrow for Technical Tuesday: Mash Thickness.

[1] Noonan, Gregory New Brewing Lager Beer (Brewers Publications, 1996)
[2] Ibid.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Meeting Success + Recipe Possibilities

The HOPS meeting last night was really nice. It was just me, George & Nancy (of course), a fellow named Bruce and his friend Erica. Bruce brought a two year old Old Ale and a smoked Baltic Porter that were both quite nice. The Old Ale in particular was really delicious. It had some really nice dried dark fruit aromas and a head that was intensely persistent. Very nice offerings.

There was talk of putting together a competition in early-mid November. Now that I've been more interested in competing, the prospect has me excited. More on that as things progress.

Leaving for BCTC tomorrow! I'd emailed Offshore Ale a day or so ago to let them know that I'd be pouring for them. Just heard back this morning from Joe Cleinman that I'd be pouring with him and the head brewer Matt Steinberg. I look forward to hanging out and pouring some great beers.

Lastly, I'm looking for suggestions. I have a bunch of grains around and I can't decide what to make with them. Here's what I have lying around:

10 lbs. Maris Otter
5 lbs. Munich Type II
.5 lb. CaraAroma
.5 lb. British Crystal 60L
.5 lb. Brown Malt
.5 lb. Carafa I (Dehusked)

I also have 2 ozs. of Palisade (9.7%AA) and some Safale S-04.

I'm thinking I could go any of the following routes: American Amber, American Pale Ale, American Brown, or an Imperial Brown Ale. I'm sort of leaning towards the last option as I haven't made anything much over 1.055 in the past few brews. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Tech Tues? + HOPS Meeting

Whoops - Technical Tuesday fell by the wayside yesterday for a few reasons. 1.) I didn't prepare enough in advance on the topic due to afternoon time constraints and evening...uh...extended beer analysis. 2.) I got thrown off by a comment made by Dave Houseman (member of the AHA Governing Committee) in a recent issue of Tech Talk in which he states: "Caramel malt and crystal malt are essentially the same thing." I figure Dave probably knows better than I do. Again, not enough work in advance.

Anyway, this topic is being tabled until next week. The whole basis for this entry is a hazy recollection of a discussion on the issue by Noonan in New Brewing Lager Beer, so I'll need to take a look at that before I try my hand at this one again.

Lastly, I'll be heading over to the HOPS meeting at Home Sweet Homebrew tonight around 6:30-7pm. I'll be taking some Golden Ale and some APA. Looking forward to some feedback from other brewers. That's something I could use more of.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Things to Come

Just a quick note to say that I'll be posting tomorrow on the differences between Caramel malts and Crystal malts.

Then, on Friday, it's off to Ommegang! Woo!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More IBU Talk + English Mild Recipe

Yesterday I mentioned a number that could be used for expressing how the IBUs in a beer are distributed in regards to bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Thinking about this some more, I decided that it would become really convoluted, but thought that I might provide a general sketch of the idea anyway.

Back to our first example. In Schedule #1, it is probably safe to say that the majority of the bitterness will come from the addition at 60 mins (66 IBUs). So if we set up a system whereby the IBU contributions are expressed as ratios, we'd probably need three.

1.) Bitterness:Flavor
2.) Bitterness:Aroma
3.) Flavor:Aroma

So 1.) might look like 66:18, or 1:3.6. 2 might look like 66:.5, or 1:132. 3 might look like 18:.5, or 1:36.

Is this helpful? Eh, I don't know. It seems to be more trouble than its worth. The trouble becomes more apparent when we talk about beers like the one I posited in Schedule #2. Where does flavor end and aroma begin. If I hop a wort for 2.5 minutes, is that an aroma addition or a flavor addition? Should this depend on the IBU contribution of the particular addition? If so, how?

I'm not sure that this would be very useful, especially for beginning brewers. And, as Bouckaert would surely point out, this still doesn't say much more about flavor.

It's probably okay to ditch this idea, or at least table it for now.


I brewed an English Mild last week for the first time! It's not ready yet, but I think I'm in love with the style already. Here are some reasons: 1.) Fermentation was complete in all of five days. 2.) It cost me less than $20 for all the ingredients to make 5 gallons. 3.) The ABV is sufficiently low such that I could just nurse it all day. 4.) It's tasting really nice already! This may just become the house beer.

5 lbs. Mild Malt (~72%)
.5 lb. British Crystal 60L (~7%)
.5 lb. Brown Malt (~7%)
.5 lb. CaraAroma 120-150L (~7%)
.5 lb. Carafa I (Dehusked) (~7%)

.75 ozs. East Kent Goldings (6.2% AA) Just a bittering addition

Safale S-04 (Quickly becoming one of my favorite yeasts)

Mashed at 155F for about 70 minutes.
OG: ~1.045
FG: ~1.011
ABV: ~4.5%

I still seem to have achieved close to 75% AA despite my inclusion of such a high percentage of specialty malts and a high mash temp. I think I may have to mash a bit higher next time to get a more dextrinous wort.

I'm really excited for this beer. I've been on a low alcohol beer kick as of late, and I think this will be one of the best so far. I intend to compete with this beer when the time comes. I'm also ready to drink it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Some Thoughts on Bouckaert's Thoughts

Bouckaert brings up some interesting points in his keynote address of the NHC. In particular, he talks a bit about the large gap between what IBUs seem to tell us about a beer, and what sort of flavor impact they actually end up having. Starting at around the 27 minute mark, Bouckaert begins to tell an allegory wherein he has painted his house blue. Some others on the block decide to paint their houses blue as well, and eventually the homeowners association steps in to formalize a system to determine "blueness" after people begin bickering over whose house is more blue than whose. The system is put into place and each house now has a rating expressed in Blue Units, or BUs. (He then cracks an even better joke when he comments, "Since we are in the US, we actually call it International Bitterness Units.") He continues his story by telling of the fictional day that the homeowners association decided that their block should contain no houses with fewer than 40 IBUs. Even if his family doesn't like it, they are now left without the freedom to choose a new color.

It's not hard to see where he's going with this. (By the way, if you don't already know Bouckaert's position on styles, you should probably first look here. He rails against them.) He even comments on the inclusion of IBU ranges in style guidelines as "ridiculous." (Listen in at the 35:58 mark.) Why?

Because, as he aptly states, "This is a measurement, a measurement that is not relating to taste. I can make you a 40 IBU beer tasting like 25."

And he's right. There are a great many factors that play into creating the overall taste profile of any given beer. Original gravity, water mineral composition, particular hop choice, hopping schedule, fermentability of the wort, etc. all make significant contributions to how the beer will be perceived in the end. Is the bitterness perceived in a 40 IBU Czech Pilsner comparable to that perceived in a 40 IBU English Barleywine? Of course not.

We can still account for some of the differences here with numbers. The GU:BU ratio that Daniels uses in Designing Great Beers comes to mind. (For a beer of an OG of 1.050 and 50 IBUs, the GU:BU ratio would be 1:1.) However, this still isn't the whole story.

Let's talk about hopping schedules for a moment. Say that I want to make an Imperial IPA hopped exclusively with Centennial. Guidelines state that IBUs for this style can range from 60-100+. Using the Tinseth utilization that I so adore, I decided to run some numbers on potential IBUs of an Imperial IPA with an OG of 1.080. For comparison, here are the results of my two different hopping schedules.

Schedule #1:

2.5 ozs. Centennial (10% AA) @ 60 mins - IBU Contribution = 66 IBUs
1 oz. Centennial (10%AA) @ 15 mins - IBU Contribution = 13 IBUs
1 oz. Centennial (10% AA) @ 5 mins - IBU Contribution = 5 IBUS
.5 oz. Centennial (10% AA) @ 1 min - IBU Contribution = .5 IBUS

Total IBU Contributions = 84.5 IBUs

Schedule #2:

2.5 ozs. Centennial (10% AA) @ 20 mins - IBU Contribution = 40 IBUs
1.5 ozs. Centennial (10% AA) @ 15 mins - IBU Contribution = 20 IBUs
1.5 ozs. Centennial (10% AA) @ 10 mins - IBU Contribution = 14 IBUs
1.5 ozs. Centennial (10% AA) @ 5 mins - IBU Contributions = 8 IBUs
1 oz. Centennial (10% AA) @ 1 min - IBU Contribution = 1 IBU

Total IBU Contributions = 83 IBUs

As far as IBU totals go, these two beers are really close. However, the these beers would undoubtedly taste radically different. Where Schedule 1 would produce a beer with a substantial bitterness, Schedule 2 would not. Instead, Schedule 2 would be an over-the-top hop flavor/aroma apocalypse without the extreme bitterness at the end. Should we adopt a ratio of bittering hops to flavor/aroma hops in order to explain this? I'm not sure. But does that mean that inclusion of IBU ranges in the guidelines are "ridiculous"? Perhaps not.

I will say, even as a BJCP judge, that I do not think the guidelines are meant in this way. They are a tool. They can be helpful when designing a recipe for the first time, especially when brewing a style that one has not had the opportunity to try before. I recently brewed a British Mild. As these beers are primarily cask-conditioned real ales served on draught in England, I've never had one. To my knowledge, I've never had an American version of one either. But seeing that they tend to fall in the 10-25 IBU range is helpful - especially since I know that it is not a style where late hopping additions are commonplace. So when I'm doing my calculations, I can take that into account. Later on if I want to brew a Mild dry-hopped with Amarillo, no one's stopping me! However, to get the idea of how they've historically tasted, it behooves me to use the guidelines.

In the end, I appreciate where Bouckaert's coming from. If beer drinkers aren't willing to discuss the possible merits of a given beer becuse it doesn't fall into an established category, then we have a problem. Also, no amount of number crunching will improve how the beer comes together in the glass - that's a product of, as Bouckaert puts it, the knowledge, experience, and creativity of the brewer. That being said, I also think that guidelines can be very useful, especially for those who are new to beer. They succinctly explain many different types of beer and enable the brewer to recreate them, even if the brewer has little experience with the style.

Technical Tuesday: Gravity Calculations for Partial Boils

If you are an extract/partial-mash brewer, you may have wondered how to account for the high gravity worts that you'll be boiling. You know that it must be higher than your target OG for 5 gallons, but how much higher is it? This figure is especially helpful when targeting a specific level of hop bitterness in your finished beer. By knowing the proper OG, you can hop appropriately and make beers that are closer to what you originally intended.

Let's say you intend to brew five gallons of an American Pale Ale with an original gravity of 1.050. According to Ray Daniels' Designing Great Beers, you would need about 6.6 pounds of LME to achieve this gravity.

Daniels notes that the extract potential of 1 lb. of liquid extract in 1 gallon of water yields between and OG of 1.037 - 1.039.[1]

If we take the average (1.038) and express it in Gravity Units (GUs), we can calculate the following way:

First multiply 50 (target GUs) by 5 gallons. The total gravity units that we're shooting for will be 50 x 5 = 250 GUs.

Then divide the total GUs by the GU potential of the extract. 250/38 = ~6.6.

There you are. ~6.6 pounds is how much you'll need to get an OG of 1.050 in five gallons.

If doing a full-wort boil, you could calculate the hopping rate using 1.050 as your OG. But if all of your fermentables are in three gallons, the gravity of your wort will be higher. Subsequently, hop utilization will go down and you won't be able to extract as much iso-alpha acid from your hops. Since an APA is a fairly bitter beer, you're going to want to adjust your hopping rates to get the desired amount of bitterness.

We can use the following formula to determine what the OG of a given volume would be like assuming it will be 1.050 at 5 gallons. This formula is also courtesy of Daniels.

[GU(beg.) x Volume(beg.) ] / Volume(end) = GU(end) [2]

For example - (60 x 6) / 5 = 72

This formula is helpful for doing things the other way around, that is, figuring out OGs after evaporation. However, we want to solve for GU(beg.), not GU(end). After all, we already know what GU(end) will be...1.050!

In order to go the other way, we use this formula:

[GU(end) x Volume(end)] / Volume(beg.) = GU(beg.) So...

[50 x 5] / 3 = 83.3 - We can round to 83. That is, the OG of your wort is 1.083.

As you can see, that's a big difference in OG of the wort you're boiling!

[1] Daniels, Ray Designing Great Beers (Brewers Publications, 2000) pg. 31 - Table 5.1

[2] Daniels, Ray Designing Great Beers (Brewers Publications, 2000) pg. 36

Friday, July 6, 2007

BJCP Happenings + Yards Update

The BJCP now has a Beer/Cider/Mead Vocabulary Guide up! Sweet! This satisfies my needs for linguistic specificity and beer knowledge - hot damn! Check it out to get your lexical fix.

In Yards news, I got and email from Bill Barton of Yards today indicating that they are currently limiting work that they do on the weekends. However, he also mentioned that as they expand, they may be looking for some extra hands. Hey, I'm just glad to hear back so quickly. Hopefully something will happen with them in the near future. I dig their beers a bunch.

Now on to the weekend...

P.S. A mere two weeks until Ommegang's BCTC!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Giving It A Shot

I sent an email today to Bill Barton of Yards. Apparently he's the contact person for all things related to Brewery Operations.

In said email I mentioned my desire to work in the craft brewing industry and volunteered my services on the weekends.

I'll keep you posted on what happens from here on out.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Perhaps Not-as-Technical Tuesday: Dry Yeast

I've been using yeast from Fermentis for a few months now and I have really enjoyed the resultant beers that they've produced. Not only have the beers been quite nice, the cost of using dry yeast is lower than using liquid yeast. Additionally, it does not require a starter. Should you need a higher cell count for a higher gravity wort, simply pitch more. The cost, at the home level, is sufficiently low to be able to do so.

Today we're going to discuss two aspects of dry yeast: Glycogen Reserves and Rehydration.

The first topic will be Glycogen reserves. Glycogen is for animals what Amylopectin is for plants. In yeast, glycogen reserves serve to maintain life up until the point that glucose uptake from wort is possible. Producers of dry yeast (e.g. Danstar, Fermentis, etc.) take special care to make sure that their yeasts have adequate glycogen reserves to improve their survival rates. Interestingly, this is why it is often not advised that one make a starter with dry yeast. Making a starter uses up the glycogen reserves that the producer had included.

Rehydration is also somewhat related. If you've ever pitched dry yeast straight into a wort without rehydrating beforehand, you probably haven't encountered any problems. But if your beers are turning out fine, why bother with this mysterious hydration business?

In the first few seconds that your yeast is pitched into its new environment, its cell walls are highly permeable. Sugars, hop derivatives, and a host of other wort constituents are capable of killing the yeast at this point as there is no mechanism in place to filter out harmful compounds. Water is the preferred environment for conducting rehydration. See here.

So why is it that your fermentations are proceeding just fine sans rehydration? Easy. The sheer number of cells available in modern dry yeast is quite high. Apparently high enough that the deleterious effects of pitching without rehydrating doesn't seem to cause a huge issue. However, given the small amount of effort necessary to properly rehydrate yeast, there doesn't seem to be reason enough not to. Of course, you could just increase your pitching rate, but don't think that having a bunch of dead yeast in your fermenter is doing wonders for your beer.

By the by, there are some succinct rehydration instructions available here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Peter Bouckaert!

My favorite brewing-related podcast, Basic Brewing, is back!

As though its return wasn't exciting enough, this week's show is Peter Bouckaert's Keynote address from this year's NHC. You can (and should) listen to it here.

So, so good.

Tomorrow for Technical Tuesday - Dried Yeast.