Anything I’m Fermenting

November 13, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 5

I’m realizing that this series on the Champagne of Beers has become my longest and wordiest yet. The previous 4 posts discussed how to achieve a very light colour, fizz without head, higher alcohol content, a noticeable acidity, and light body. Here are all the characteristics I am aiming for.

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv

4. Noticeable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness. Cloudiness, or haze, in beer is a bugbear for homebrewes (and I guess brewers generally). In most commercial beers, people expect perfect or near perfect clarity – the only exceptions being bottle-conditioned beers, and some wheat beers. If the beer’s expected clarity is not found, people will assume the beer has gone bad. This spills over into the homebrewing world.

Generally homebrewers, and drinkers of homebrew are much more forgiving of haze in their beer – they understand that it is a natural part of minimally processed beer. However, even homebrewers often feel that a clearer beer is a better beer. In some ways this is only due to the standards set by commercial breweries, but in others way it is an indicator that the beer may contain too much protein, and may not be ‘stable’.

Wine, like beer, is expected to be clear. Even champagne that has been yeast conditioned is always crystal clear. Such clarity is probably beyond my simple methods, but I do have a few techniques. As I explain in my post about homebrewing, my usual grain bill includes considerable unmalted wheat flour. Further, I use a ‘corona-style’ grain mill to mill my malts – I set it to a fairly fine grind, so it produces a lot of malt flour. Both unmalted wheat and finely ground grain are infamous for producing hazy beers.

This has lead me to use two main methods to clarify my [regular] homebrew. First, during the boil, I add Irish moss, a type of seaweed. This acts to bind together some of the haze forming proteins and precipitate them after the boil. The other thing I do is to add dissolved gelatin to my beer when I rack (transfer) the beer to my secondary fermenter. Gelatin also bonds to proteins and precipitates them, leaving them as trub at the bottom of the fermenter, which is left there when I bottle the beer (see http://www.beerbrewer.co.uk/beer/beer-clarity-part-3/ for some details). I believe that both Irish moss and gelatin act by clumping together the proteins, which then become large and heavy enough to fall out of suspension in the beer. Although their action is similar, I think they bond differently with the proteins, so they act on different proteins. Kind of a one-two punch!

Beyond filtering (which I won’t be doing), another method used by brewers to clarify beer is to let them age for a while. Some proteins and haze particles simply need enough time to settle out. Others will oxidize or otherwise bond together over time and then settle out. For my regular homebrews I haven’t utilized this method as I tend to drink my beer fairly young. It seems that there’s always a party or something to bring some beer along to, and that wipes out my cellar! People don’t seem to complain about the clarity of my beer…maybe because it’s free?

For the champagne of beers I plan to age the beer for about 9 months, so the aging effect on clarity should kick in. Thinking about the aging process, I’ve started worrying a bit about how the champagne of beers will carbonate after aging so long. The yeast may have gone into hibernation by then, so will not be able to effectively bottle-condition the beer. I think I will pre-bottle a a bottle a few weeks before the main bottling, and then test the carbonation after two or three weeks. If it has not carbonated sufficiently I’ll probably add some dry yeast to the bottling bucket.

Advertisements

November 11, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 4

Onward on the quest to brew a champagne of beers! So far I have discussed how to achieve a very light colour, fizz without head, higher alcohol content, and a noticeable acidity. Here are all the characteristics I am aiming for.

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv

4. Noticeable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

5. Light body. I’ve already discussed this somewhat in the post about the alcohol content because both the level of alcohol, and the body of the beer relate to the type of grain used for mashing. A lot of the ‘body’ in beer comes from proteins and residual sugars that remain in the beer after fermentation. In contrast to beer, wine does not contain much protein, or residual sugar (in dry wines anyways), so this beer needs to reduce the amount of protein and sugar left.

The first strategy to achieve this was already discussed – namely that I will use a considerable amount of refined sugar and rice. Refined sugar can be completely fermented, leaving no residual sugars, as long as the alcohol content is not too high (which it won’t be in this beer). It can also act as a sort of ‘subsidy’ to the yeast, giving it ‘cheap’ energy so it can devote more effort to breaking down longer-chain sugars. This is referred to as drying out the beer. This dryness is also a phenomenon of the palate, as the fermentation of the refined sugar increases the alcohol content without a proportionate increase in residual sugar or protein, so the beer tastes dryer or more alcoholic (alcohol and sugar balance each other somewhat, in terms of taste; that’s why most cocktails are sweet – to hide the alcohol).

Rice is partway between using refined sugar and using barley malt. During mashing, the starch in rice will be broken down in the same way as it is in barley malt – it will produce mostly simple sugars, but also more complex long-chain and branching sugars that yeast finds difficult to ferment, and so they make it into the beer. These residual sugars usually don’t taste that ‘sweet’, but do make the beer taste thicker, richer, and maltier. While rice will contribute residual sugars, it does not contain much protein.

The protein content of beer is one of it’s defining characteristics. Without the protein, beer would feel like pop. But in this case, I do want it to taste pop-like, within reason. Wine does contain tannins, phenolics, and polysaccharides among other chemicals that contribute to mouth-feel. I think that with the exception of wine tannins, many of these are also found in beer. To reduce the protein content of the beer, I will use refined sugar and rice, as these both contain little or no protein. Further, during the mashing, I will utilize the protein rest.

John Palmer, in his excellent on-line book How to Brew describes the protein rest as being around 52 degrees, for 20 – 30 minutes. He warns that using a protein rest when mashing well modified malts (like the 2-row barley malt I will be using) is unnecessary, and “would break up the proteins responsible for body and head retention and result in a thin, watery beer.” Perfect.

Changing the mash temperature is another way to reduce the body and sweetness of beer. Regular mashing temperatures (the saccharification rest) are around 67 degrees. Palmer states that: “A lower mash temperature, less than or equal to 150°F [65.5°C], yields a thinner bodied, drier beer”. Again, perfect for my needs, so my target temperature will be between 65 and 66 degrees. This is because the lower mashing temperature favours beta amylase, which produces a lot of simple sugars. There is a bit of a cost to this – the mash efficiency declines because some of the starch will not be converted. Beta amylase is not able to break apart starch molecules where the molecule branches – alpha amylase is needed to break off the branched sections.

Blog at WordPress.com.