Anything I’m Fermenting

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.

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July 15, 2008

BIAB / Brewing Update

Filed under: Beer,Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 7:13 pm
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Thanks PistolPatch for the tip about doughing in! (“You will find it easier to add your water to your kettle first, … add your bag and THEN pour your grain in. You’ll have no doughballs this way and no heavy stirring to do either.”)

I’ll post some pictures soon of my new 5-gallon batches (the photos in the earlier post are of my 3-gallon system). About the tip, I’m not sure why, but I still got dough-balls using your method. I ended up having to very slowly pour in the grist, while constantly stirring, to prevent them. Perhaps I have a finer grind, and the substantial amounts of flour make dough-balls an inevitability. On balance, I think this was easier than adding the water to the grist though, so I will continue to do it this way.

Changing gears, I want to quickly describe an experience I’ve gone through home-brewing, hopefully it will add to the general level of knowledge about homebrewing (i.e. others avoid my mistakes!).

I live in Toronto, and rather bizzarely for a large city with an active beer culture, there are no home-brew shops. There are one or two brew-on-premises places that sometimes sell a bit of extra grain or hops, and maybe a place way out in the hinterlands of Brampton (not an great option for the car-less, or car owners for that matter – it is a substantial trip of unproven utility). But otherwise homebrewers are limited to mail-order, or banding together to buy wholesale via a very helpful local microbrewery.

In short, getting malt is a real hassle. To stretch my malt, I use whole wheat flour as an adjunct – usually equal in wieght to about 1/3 of my base malt. As well, I found an Italian coffee substitute called Orzo that is simply roasted barley (kind of like black patent?), and a Korean ‘tea’ made from lightly roasted barley grain (SRM of around 65?). Unfortunately, I ran out of Orzo, and kept forgetting to go up to Corso Italia on St. Clair Ave to buy some more – realizing this only after I had already started a brew session. So in a pinch I just used ground coffee. Yup, just dumped about 100 g of it into my mash.

The results? Well, regular roast coffee has less darkening power than I would have thought – maybe around 250 or 300. And I believe it adds an acrid taste to the finished beer. Perhaps if I had added brewed coffee, rather than the actual grounds, I could have avoided this – but that would have involve a bunch of new variables, so I never did that (not realizing that it would end up tasting weird). The other unknown is the flavour effect of the Korean tea barley. I made a little trial batch with a bit of pale malt and the tea barley – didn’t taste great, but I did end up boiling off most of the water, and had to keep adding more to maintain a boil.

In the end, I was able to get a selection of malts including Carafa from Justin. So in my last batch I did not use either coffee or the tea barley – I may never know which the acrid taste actually came from.

May 7, 2008

Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB)

Filed under: Beer,Brewing,Pictures — iwouldntlivethere @ 8:46 pm
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As I said in the first post about National Homebrew day, my brewing method is based on the BIAB method described by ‘Thirsty Boy’ on the Brewing Network’s forums. I have put together a few shots of my brewing day, just to compare to Justin’s more normal home-brewing set up. Please note that Justin brews 10 gallons per batch, compared to my 3.3 gallons – it may be difficult to scale the BIAB method much above 5 gallons, or so I hear.

The usual procedure in home brewing is to gently mill your grain – taking care to crush the grain rather than grind it, as the husks should be kept as entire as possible. These are put into a mash tun – usually some sort of picnic cooler with a manifold of one type or another at the bottom to allow drainage of the mash. Water is heated in the brew kettle to a strike temperature considerably above the mash temperature – it will decline when mixed with the milled grain. The mash is allowed to rest for about an hour. The mash mixture is then drained – the first runnings are ‘recirculated’ back into the tun, to ensure clear wort. Additional hot water is poured into the mash tun to ‘sparge’ the grain – wash out remaining sugars. This wort is then boiled with hops, and fermented.

In contrast, here is the method I use:

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