Anything I’m 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.



  1. I’m happy again!
    I wonder if it is possible to create an absolutely dry beer, by first doing the alpha-step on 73 degrees (which will kill all beta’s), and then adding beta-amylase enzyms and continue mashing at 60 degrees. Theoretically it should be possible to conserve a part of the beta-amylase, by draining liquid out from the mash before raising the temperature to 73. That is, I remember reading once that enzyms reside in the liquid parts for the most. Most of the starch on the contrary resides in the nonliquid parts.

    So it would be something like this:
    First create the mash following the no-sparge method. Raise the heat to 60 C and mash it for, lets say 10 minutes. Drain half of the liquid out, and put it in another tun. Raise the heat of the (now thicker) mash to 73 and let it rest for one hour (thicker mash requires longer mashing). All the starch will now be converted by alpha-amylase into nonfermentable sugars, and the beta-amylase is dead by now. Now let the mash cool down to 60 again, and add the remaining part of the liquid in which there still is a lot of active betaamylase.
    Now we can start the beta-amylase rest, which will completely convert all the sugar into fermentable sugars. The only starch left should now be the starch from the liquid that was set apart, and I believe that this is not much.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Comment by Sjoerd — March 12, 2009 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  2. […] Homebrew, Homebrewing, Making Beer at Home, Mashing Rather than respond to Sjoerd’s question in the comments, I think it is worth discussing it in it’s own blog […]

    Pingback by Absolutely! Dry Beer. « Anything I’m Fermenting — March 12, 2009 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

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