Sep
07
2016

Does full volume mash affect maltiness and body of the beer ?

I came across a very interesting discussion on the effect of full volume mash on the fermentablity of the wort and resulting maltiness and body of the beer in BIAB brewing on HomeBrewTalk.

My approach is to mash with about 2/3 of the water with 1/3 reserved for sparging. I have considered doing a full volume mash, which is the more traditional BIAB approach, but haven’t tried it yet.

Original poster, Bassman2003, who switched to full volume mashes noticed some beers lacking maltiness or body and asks ‘Do you think BIAB results in more fermentable wort? Do you find the need to mash a little higher? if so, how much higher?

The first response, from dmtaylor, is interesting – ‘If you find your beers are lacking in body, perhaps your efficiency is too high? Or your water too hard? Your mill gap too tight? Mashing too long? I’ve been mashing for only 40 minutes for the past 10 years with no ill effects because it’s a waste of time to mash longer than that for most styles (except maybe Belgians). If you mashed for much longer, like 75-90 minutes, this would certainly hurt body.’ His theory that mash length and efficiency affects body/maltiness is interesting. I am aware that the temperature is a major factor with a lower mash temperature producing more simple sugars and hence a more fermentable wort, but hadn’t considered mash length as important in this regard. My thinking was that mash length and/or efficiency was just about getting more sugars out of the grain and hadn’t considered whether the additional sugars tended to be biased towards complex unfermenatble sugars or the simpler more fermentable sugars.

Gavin C, chips in, ‘No alterations to recipe/mash profile other than the obvious slightly altered mash pH considerations are needed if doing full volume mashes’. He cites an experiment by Braukaiser on the topic of fermentability and mash thickness – ‘Contrary to common believe no attenuation difference was seen between a thick mash (2.57 l/kg or 1.21 qt/lb) and a thin mash (5 l/kg or 2.37 qt/lb). Home brewing literature suggests that thin mashes lead to more fermentable worts, but technical brewing literature suggests that the mash concentration doesn’t have much effect in well modified malts’.

Another fellow, wilserbrewer, mentions an approach that I think might be very practical and worth a go – ‘Another approach I have used, mainly to save heating time while making large batches, is to mash in with around 60% of the total water, then after 40 minutes or so add the remaining water to the mash at say 160 – 180 degrees, stir well, wait a few minutes, stir well again and remove the bag.’ I like the idea of this approach, it eliminates the sparge but does not alter mash thickness. Also this is very practical for me because I have to lift the pot onto the gas burner after the mash and this approach makes the weight that I have to lift more manageable.

On the subject of mash PH Gavin C notes ‘Thinner mashes are more dilute meaning all other parameters being equal they will have a higher pH than a thicker mash’ and ‘an often overlooked method to increase a mash pH is to mash thinner’.

Brulosophy also has done an experiment on sparge vs no sparge. The results of this were somewhat inconclusive. The sparged beer was noticibly more hazy and 14 out of 26 testers were able to detect a difference. 7 out of the 14 preferred the sparged version. Overall though it seems the differences in the final beer were quite minor.

There are so many variables in brewing but luckily I’m not too much of a perfectionist or it would drive me insane. I tend to go with the practical, easy, approach that gets good results and as a result of this discussion I will be trying out the approach mentioned by wilserbrewer, that is to mash with usual volume but add the extra water towards the end of the mash in lieu of sparging.

Oct
30
2014

Kettle trub in fermenter – could it actually be beneficial?

I used to strain out the trub with a sieve when transferring the wort from the kettle to the fermenter but on one brew I got lazy and just dumped it all into the fermenter, every last bit of trub – hot break, cold break, hops debris and every single drop of liquid and solid material that was in the kettle. The result? Great beer, nice and clear, no off-tastes that I could tell. After that I never went back to attempting to prevent trub from making it’s way into the fermenter. I’ve been getting good clear beer and have made some of my best beers since then.

So when I came accross a blog post detailing experiments done on this – The Great Trub exBEERiment – I read it great interest. The article refers to a reasearch study done on the impact of kettle trub on levels of isoamyl acetate (banana) and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover) compounds. Surprisingly, the study found the that wort with the most trub actually produced a beer with significantly lower levels of these compounds! The author details his own experiment and discovery that the beer fermented with the kettle trub actually came out significantly clearer than one that had the trub carefully removed.

So why do brewers go to the trouble of seperating out the trub by whirlpooling, straining etc? I guess most brewers would assume that doing so will improve the clarity and reduce off-tastes but now it seems that not only is it not the case, but the opposite may actually be true.

I’ll keep on doing it my way, trub and all, but now with the knowledge that it’s not just a lazy shortcut but something in my process that may actually be beneficial to my beer.

Aug
13
2012

First All Grain

I just finished my first attempt at an all-grain brew tonight. The process was similar to my partial mash process except no malt extract was used. Due to the restrictions of brewing on top of my stove and available pots, I went for a smaller batch volume of 13 litres. I think it all went fine but the proof will be in the drinking. It will be very interesting to compare this with my previous partial mash batch which was a similarly hopped pale ale.

I mashed 3kg of grain, which I crushed in my converted pasta maker grain mill, in a bag in my 20L pot with 9 litres of water. I was shooting for a mash temp of 68C but the temp had actually crept up into the low 70s by the end of the mash due to me leaving the inner ring on at the lowest setting. Next time I’ll leave it off and see how well the pot holds the temp wrapped in a towel and ski jacket.

I batch sparged in my 12L pot with 7 litres of water poured over the top of the grain in the bag. Then I mixed the runnings in the 20L pot and got about 14 litres. I split these between 2 pots for the boil. My SG was 1.049, giving me a brewhouse efficiency of around 73% which I believe is quite decent for this type of mashing process.

I had a little bit of trouble getting a good rolling boil in my 20L pot as the bottom of the pot has a concave center which I think makes it much less efficient on the ceramic electric stovetop. Later on in the boil, when the volumes had reduced, I ended up ditching it altogether and putting the extra wort into another 5L pot.

I cooled in ice water. It took 30 minutes to get it down to 16.5C, so I overshot a bit (22C would have been fine) and didn’t actually need to spend quite as long cooling.

I ended up with about 11L in the fermentor after evaporation loss so I topped it up with cold water to my 13L target. After giving it a good shaking to aerate, I pitched the US05 yeast that I had harvested from the previous batch.

Fermentation got off to a quick start – the airlock was bubbling and krausen had formed as soon as I checked it in the morning.

See the recipe and specs here.

May
22
2012

Homebrew Competition

I entered my first homebrew competition on Sunday 20th May. The event, organisesd by SOBA Nelson and held at the Sprig & Fern in Nelson, was relaxed and informal. There were 30 different beers, entered by around 15 home brewers. The beers were judged by the entrants so we each had a chance to try 30 different beers. The overall standard was very good, there were a lot of top notch beers. My personal favorites (apart from my own of course) were Jason Bathgate’s Manuka Black Cofee Porter, Stink Hammer IPA, Smoked Moose Knuckle Brown Ale and Adam Tristram’s American Pale Ale. I was actually more impressed with the standard of beer at this event than what was on offer from the pros at this year’s Marchfest. Also it was a great chance to meet and socialise with other local home brewers.

(Still from Matt’s video)

My beers didn’t place but they seem to have been quite well recieved by most people. I entered two recent batches, batch 13, Double Cascade Pale Ale and batch 15, Digital(ish) IPA. I actually thought the heavily hopped IPA had the best chance of placing but it was the milder Pale Ale that got the more favourible reviews.

The results of the competition are posted here. My entries were nos. 3 and 4. Here’s are the scores and comments I got (as best I could make out from the scrawl on the judging sheets): Continue Reading »

Apr
23
2012

The pasta maker grain mill

Proper grain mills can be expensive, especially here in New Zealand so when I found out that some home brewers were having success with converting cheap pasta makers into grain mills it seemed like something worth trying and I picked up one on TradeMe for $22. The rollers on a pasta maker are smooth and won’t pull in the grains so the first task is to roughen up the rollers. Reading through online forum discussions on this topic I learned that some people have disassembled the pasta maker, removed the rollers and got them knurled. But I also read about a much quicker and easier approach that also seems to work well and this is what I did. No need to disassemble, simply run a drill back and forth across the rollers and the drill bit will roughen up the surface of the rollers enough to allow them to bite on the grains and pull them through.

The next thing is to construct a hopper to feed the grains into the rollers. I’ve seen some examples online of fancy woodworking or metalworking skills being used to construct hoppers for the pasta grain mill, but again I opted for the path of least resistance – cardboard and duct tape!

And that’s pretty much it. The only other addition was a flat piece of cardboard to direct the crushed grains into a collection container. Here she is in action:

It can be powered with the hand crank that came with it, or by an electric drill.

I milled a few kilos of grain for my latest brew this weekend and I was pretty pleased with the results. I think I got a pretty good crush. The operation started off well but did start to go a bit slow after awhile. I came to the conclusion that my rollers were not quite rough enough so I wasn’t getting a strong bite on the grains and they were coming through quite slowly. I gave up on using the drill after awhile and went back to the hand crank as I found I was just spinning my wheels with the drill bit when I wasn’t getting enough traction and the slower speed of the hand crank was more effective. I got through all the grain that I needed for the recipe but planned on doing some further roughening on the rollers at another time. Here’s an example of the crush: Continue Reading »

Apr
16
2012

Getting ready to do All Grain on the cheap

I’ll admit it, I’m a frugal home brewer. One of the original attractions to home-brewing for me was the cost savings aspect. But I notice a lot of home brewers get carried away by the hobby and spend a small fortune on all sorts of fancy gear. The home brewing experience for these gear obsessed home brewers turns into another avenue for excessive consumerism and materialism. If you worked out the total costs of some of these elaborate setups, I reckon some homebrewer’s beer ends up costing way more than the best craft beer you could buy. That would be a major ‘off-flavour’ for me. The fact that my beer costs a fraction of what I would have to buy it for is a great incentive for me and perhaps even does more for the perceived flavour of my beer than any fancy equipment could.

To date I’ve been brewing with a bare minimum of equipment: mostly just a 12L pot and and the original plastic fermenter + accessories kit that I first purchased to get into the hobby. With this minimum of equipment I’ve been able to make some pretty decent beer using extract and partial mash brewing methods, beer that I really enjoy making and drinking. Continue Reading »

Mar
06
2012

Brewing Software Review – BrewMate

Hey there, this post is a collaboration post with some other home brewing bloggers to review all the different brewing software applications that we use. Links to the other reviews are at the bottom of this post.

I came across BrewMate when I was looking for a free recipe calculator application. In the past I had played with the BeerSmith free trial version and then settled down on an Excel spreadsheet application called Kit & Extract Beer Designer which served my needs well until I started doing partial mashes. At that point I was considering buying a copy of the popular BeerSmith but first decided to have a look at some of the free brewing software apps available. Two of the apps that I looked at were QBrew and BrewMate. I found that either of those apps would have met my needs but I settled on BrewMate as it had more features, a nicer interface and has been updated more recently. Continue Reading »

Feb
22
2012

Working my way through a 28kg bucket of malt extract!

I found a local guy in Nelson that sells home brewing ingredients, Bill Fennell (website – ThatBeerPlace.com). I had a look through is his lists of supplies and the bulk malt extract caught my attention because it cost a fraction of what I usually pay for malt. The only snag was that it came in such large quantities, 28kg of malt extract is a lot of homebrewing! And liquid malt extract needs to be used up while it’s fresh so it’s not ideal to leave it hanging about for many months. Too much malt for me to handle in a short timeframe I thought.

Then some friends of mine decided to get into home brewing after tasting some of my beer. So I figured if we split a bucket between us it would be doable to use it up while it’s still fresh. Four batches each would see it all used up. So we ordered a bucket of Maltexo All Malt Light. I have 2 new batches in the fermentors now so I’m half way through my half. Here’s what I have brewing: Continue Reading »

Jan
17
2012

Time for a Toucan

A toucan brew is simply one done with 2 cans of pre-hopped extract. The Coopers Stout that I brewed last year tasted nice but I felt it lacked head and body. It was a bit on the light side and I reckoned it could benefit from more concentration. So it seemed an ideal candidate for a toucan. I did the toucan with a can of Coopers Stout and a can of Coopers Dark Ale and 500g of brown sugar as it seems like a popular toucan recipe on the AussieHomeBrewer.com forum, and it’s very simple – no steeping grains, no boiling hops. I was a wee bit concerned about the amount of bitterness which I calculated to be around 70 IBUs using the Kit & Extract Beer Designer, but was reassured on the forum that it doesn’t taste overly bitter especially when aged for awhile.

A Cunning Plan To Prevent A Messy Blow-over Continue Reading »

Jan
14
2012

Getting All Fancy!

For some reason or other I’ve resisted putting labels on my home-brew beer bottles until now as frankly I thought it was just getting a bit silly. Instead I just marked each bottle with the batch number written on a piece of masking tape so that I could tell what’s in each bottle. But after 7 or 8 batches I started forgetting which beer matched each batch number, so finally I’ve come to see the usefulness of properly labeling the bottles. Last night I bottled batch no. 11, my second go at Slutty Red, and I added some fancy labels, well not overly fancy (and just black and white because my printer is out of colour cartridge), didn’t let myself get too carried away! Continue Reading »

Dec
04
2011

Time to ramp up production!

I slacked off on the brewing during the winter, it seemed like I had an endless supply built up, but that ‘endless supply’ dwindled and was gone and I was spurred back into brewing action in October, brewing Batch #8. Then I brewed up Batch #9 last weekend, my first partial mash. But the thirsty days of summer are upon us already and so I had to do something about the pace of production. So time came to recommission my old extra fermenter, which I picked up earlier in the year to brew a sugar wash for distilling and a feijoa wine. And now for the first time I’ve got 2 fermenters going at the same time. Here’s what I’ve got brewing: Continue Reading »

Nov
25
2011

My Partial Mash Brewing Process

The next step in home brewing that I’m going to take is to do a partial mash. I’ve discovered a partial mash is actually quite similar to doing an extract brew with steeping grains. It just involves more grains soaked for longer time with a bit more attention to temperature and ratio of water to grain. And I don’t need any additional equipment, so really it doesn’t seem like a major step to make, but I’m writing up the process anyway in order to highlight the differences. Since it’s quite similar to extract brewing and I’m using the same equipment I’ll use my extract brewing process as a basis for this. Continue Reading »

Oct
18
2011

A review of my first 7 brews

I’ve documented the process of making my beers here but haven’t yet reported on how they all turned out so it’s high time for a bit of a review.

Batch 1 – Kit Brew – Mangrove Jacks Munich Lager

A special one because it was my first, but actually I think it was one of the best, if not the best, of the 4 kit brews that I’ve done. As with most kit lagers this is a ‘pseudo-lager’ as it’s brewed with an ale yeast, so, although not true to style, it is still a good beer and got very good reviews from friends who tasted it. Being a kit brew it is lightly hopped but none-the-less very tasty.

see also: process writeup, tasting writeup

Batch 2 – Kit Brew – Blackrock East India Pale Ale

This kit would disappoint anyone looking for an IPA because it is most definitely not an IPA in style. It is more like a lightly hopped kit pseudo-lager than an IPA. I brewed it with beer enhancer and made it up to 18 litres instead of the usual 23 litres to make it more concentrated. I would describe it as more malty than hoppy and none of the bitterness you would expect from an IPA. That said, it still was a good tasty beer, just a bit daft that they call it an IPA.

see also: brew night writeup, mishap writeup

Batch 3 – Extract Brew with Speciality Grains – All Cascade APA

My first attempt at extract brewing was a real winner. It tasted like a good beer that you would get from a micro-brewery. I think this might just be my favorite one to-date.

see also: recipe writeup, brew night writeup

Continue Reading »

Oct
17
2011

Batch No. 8 – Cascade & Amarillo American Pale Ale

Despite being over 6 months since I brewed an extract batch, brew night went more smoothly and efficiently than any of the previous extract brews that I’ve done (I must be getting the hang of this home brewing thing!).

This time I used the blender to grind up my steeping grain (Crystal 60) – not totally ideal as it gives an uneven grind (pulverises some of the grains and leaves others almost untouched), but I reckon good enough for steeping grains and a lot faster than pounding with a pestle.

The other interesting thing this time is that I uesd yeast that I harvested 6 months ago. It’s stretching it a bit in terms of how long yeast stored in the fridge is good for. I prepared a starter Friday night with the intention of brewing Saturday night but come Saturday there was no signs of any action out of the yeast. Continue Reading »

Oct
16
2011

No The Homebrew Didn’t Kill Me!

It’s been a while since I posted here and a logical thinker may surmise that I might have succumbed to the effects of drinking my home brew. I’m happy to report that is not the case. I’ve had a bit of a break from the homebrewing over the winter. But now I’m just about to get stuck in to a new batch, batch #8. In case you’re wondering, batch #7 was a Cooper’s European Lager which turned out nicely.

Tonight I’m going to brew my favorite style, American Pale Ale. But I still haven’t quite decided what hops I’m going to go with. I have some Simcoe, Cascade and Amarillo in the freezer, so might go with either an all Simcoe or a Cascade + Amarillo combo. I have to get stuck in to the Kit And Extract Beer Designer spreadsheet now and figure out my hops additions.

I have some harvested yeast that I’ve revived and are rearing to go to work. They were sitting in the fridge for the last 6 months, so they were a bit slow to get going in my starter that I made 2 nights ago and I was about to give up on them yestrerday but found them in action today so they should be good to go.

Well I better get down to it and do some multitasking home brewing while watching the Rugby World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

Apr
07
2011

Batch No. 6 – Aidan’s Slutty Red

Aidan's Slutty Red

Roll over Mac's Sassy Red, here comes Aidan's Slutty Red

One of my favorite commercial beers here in New Zealand is Mac’s Sassy Red so I decided to have a go at making something similar. I found a recipe for an approximation called ‘Slutty Red‘ and I converted it for extract brewing and made a few mods based on ingredients available and getting some good advice on the home brewing forums.

The main hops flavour in Sassy Red comes from Motueka hops. These used to be known as ‘B Saaz’ hops (as they were bred by crossing Saaz with New Zealand breeding selection), and hence the name ‘Sassy Red’ for a Saazy beer.

One new experimental thing I did in this batch was using a pre-hopped kit as part of the fermentables. Why? Cost – the unhopped malt extract in either dry or liquid format costs significantly more than a corresponding amount of pre-hopped kit. I reckon it’s a supply and demand thing – more people are buying the kits than malt extract. So I used a can of Coopers Lager as it is one of the lighter ones available. Since it is already hopped I factored this into my bitterness calculations using the handy Kit & Extract Beer Designer. With most of the bittering coming from the Coopers can, I went with a 30 min boil instead of the usual 60 min as I was primarily just doing flavour & aroma hop additions after steeping the specialty grains.

So here’s the recipe and beer profile: Continue Reading »

Feb
22
2011

Batch No. 5 – Nelson Amber Ale

I’m calling this one ‘Nelson Amber Ale‘ because it features Nelson Sauvin hops and I’m brewing it in Nelson. I used the handy Kit & Extract Beer Designer spreadsheet to work out the recipe quantities. It’s basically in the style of an American Pale Ale or an American Amber Ale, but more towards amber than pale since I used all amber malt plus a little medium crystal steeped grains. I used US-05 yeast harvested from batch no. 3. Fermentation started very quickly, within a few hours, and is still amazingly active – it’s been bubbling like crazy for 3 days.

Here’s the recipe: Continue Reading »

Feb
21
2011

Updated Extract Brewing Process

The second extract batch went smoother and quicker than my first one and the brewing process was much more relaxed and enjoyable. The biggest improvement in the process was changing my sanitiser from sodium metabisulphite to iodophor. The sodium metabisulphite requires 1 hour of air drying to work, iodophor just requires 1-2 minutes of contact time, so it’s a hell of a lot more convenient to work with as you can sanitise on the fly instead of having to carefully plan your sanitisation in advance.

A significant difference in the process this time was the yeast preparation. Last time I rehydrated dried yeast, this time I had some yeast harvested from the last batch so I had to make a starter for it the day before. By the way, I found some helpful videos on a website called billybrew.com for how to harvest yeast and how to make a yeast starter.

So here’s the new improved process:
Continue Reading »

Feb
04
2011

Thar She Blows!

The Coopers Stout kicks out one hell of a big foamy krausen:

To deal with this mess, I pulled out the airlock cleaned and sanitised it, cleaned off the mess off the lid and stuck the airlock back in. It’s still foaming out of the airlock a little bit but under control.
Continue Reading »

Jan
14
2011

Third Batch Fermenting – first foray into hops and grains

This one is going to be interesting, I’ve got my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. That’s because when I tasted the wort, it was a bit, well, scary. I totally realise this may not mean anything but the wort from my previous two batches actually tasted good but this time I tossed out my OG samples after a little taste. But the first two batches were pre-hopped kits so it might not be a good comparison. This time the wort was very bitter and had a very concentrated hops taste. So I’m hoping this is normal and that the fermentation process will turn it into a nice tasty American Pale Ale. Otherwise I’ll probably be more inclined to stick with the pre-hopped kits, they are a lot less work and I have already got great results – my first batch is a very nice drop and it hasn’t even fully aged yet. Continue Reading »

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