Anything I’m Fermenting

March 12, 2009

Absolutely! Dry Beer.

Filed under: Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Rather than respond to Sjoerd’s question in the comments, I think it is worth discussing it in it’s own blog post.

Here’s the question (I’ve edited it a bit to summarize):

I wonder if it is possible to create an absolutely dry beer, by first doing the alpha-step on 73 degrees, and then adding beta-amylase enzymes and continue mashing at 60 degrees. I remember reading that enzymes reside in the liquid parts for the most. Most of the starch, however, resides in the non-liquid parts. (more…)

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 9

Filed under: Uncategorized — iwouldntlivethere @ 2:54 pm

So what does it all look like, when you put it together?

Here are the recipes I ended up using for the Champagne of Beers. The first one is for the sourmash part of the beer, the second for the main recipe:

Sour Mash (part of Champagne of Beer)

A ProMash Recipe Report

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (L):           4.50
Total Grain (kg):         1.20
Anticipated OG:          1.059
Wort Boil Time:             60    Minutes


%     Amount     Name                                  Origin              Potential SRM
75.0     0.90 kg.  Lager Malt(2-row)             Canada         1.036      2
25.0     0.30 kg.  Flaked Rice                                             1.040      1

Out of a total of 6 kg of grain (including sugar), 1.2 kg was used for the sourmash (or 1/5th). It was mashed using a typical mash temperature of 67 C for 60 minutes, but was not boiled, and no hops added. After mashing, the grains and mash were transferred into a sanitized plastic jug. This, after souring, would be added to the regular mash to lower the pH, and kill off the lactic acid bacteria.

From what I had read about sourmashing, all I needed to do was add a handful of unmashed pale malt grain, and the naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria would do the rest over the next 3 days. Furthermore the temperature of the sourmash should be kept at around 50 C to ensure that the lactic acid bacteria thrive, and other contaminant micro organisms suppressed.

Well, I added a handful of malt grain, and kept the sourmash in a cooler with lights to maintain the required 50 C temperature. And nothing happened. It didn’t sour, it didn’t ferment, it didn’t stink. It didn’t do anything for two days. I thought maybe the high temperature was the problem, and removed the sourmash from the cooler and just put it by a heat vent in my house. Another handful of malted grain and a day later, nothing was happening; again no souring, no fermenting, no stinking, no gas. No action.

In desperation I added a tablespoon of the sourdough bread starter I keep. That did the trick. A day later the sourmash was fermenting vigorously. Tasted clean, sour, and a bit fruity. I’ll show pictures in the next posting.

What does this mean? Probably that it is harder to start a sourmash than it sounds. I don’t have any other lessons from this. Other than that keeping a sourmash at 50 C is not necessary, or beneficial. I’m just glad I had a sourdough culture available to kick start the sourmash.

And a picture of what it looked like!


Notice the bulging sides of the jug, and the inflated plastic wrap over the opening – very actively fermenting.

March 10, 2009

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 8 (finally!)


So I’ve been otherwise engaged for the last few months. Sorry. Maybe this will make Sjoerd happy? The cliffhanger I’ve left you with was how will I make the Champagne of Beers ‘dry’? Actually, the cliffhanger is more like how did the beer turn out!

In regards to the dryness, I aimed to ensure a complete conversion of starches to simple sugars (as far as possible) by regulating the temperature. I started relatively low (around 63 C) and stayed there for 30 minutes. Then raised the heat to 67 C for another 30 minutes, finally I brought it up to 70 C for 30 minutes. The first step is ideal for beta-amylases, so they get to make a lot of simple sugars. Unfortunately, they leave behind a lot of starch because they are stumped by branches on the starch molecules. So the rest at 67 C (the typical homebrew saccharification rest) tried to get the alpha-amylase into the action to break apart the big starches into smaller ones – but still allow the beta-amylase to continue its work chewing up the starch into simple sugars at the new end-points of the starch molecules created by the alpha-amylases’s snips. The final rest, at 70 C is to get the alpha-amylase into its happy place. Unfortunely, this is hot enough to cook the beta-amylase, but my hope was that it would have finished its work by now. However, the alpha-amylase could still snip apart ‘branch-limit dextrines’ and other complex sugars in to smaller, hopefully simpler ones, that the yeast could then tear into (and so drying out the beer).

The other contributor to dryness in the Champagne of Beers is all the cane sugar I added to it. This is a bit counter-intuitive (isn’t sugar sweet, which is not dry?). Being completely composed of a simple sugar, the yeast can convert all of it into alcohol. So no worries about sweetness. In addition, by relying on cane sugar for a substantial part of the extract in this recipe, the proportion of complex, unfermentable sugar is correspondingly lower. Further, I believe that the taste of alcohol itself balances sweetness, so the added alcohol content in this beer also will make it taste dryer.

The yeast for this beer ( Wyeast’s 1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast) is also known for finishing dry – one of the considerations in choosing it.

Finally, I have been fermenting it a long time in secondary – several months now. With hope, the yeast will have become desperate enough to try eating any sugars in the beer. This may take some time to be noticable, because the activity level of the yeast is so low, but that’s why this long period is partly for.

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