Saturday, May 14, 2011

Total Zen to Total Fail in 3.2 Seconds

Brewday!!!!1!!!one!... I love brewday. Totally drowns out the constant mumbling in my brain. I can't worry, dwell, obs, or stress when I am thinking about strike temps, mash volumes, evaporation rates, etc... I purposefully brew the hard way for this reason. If brewing was too easy, I would be able to think too much and that defeats the point. It is teh supergreat. Right now I have an empty house, brew kettle is heating up to boil, and I am the most relaxed... life is kinda good.

Today I'm brewing a Belgian Witbier. This is a style I do over and over because it is really quick, easy to drink, and most people like it (even non-beer nerds)... This style beer is better the fresher it is, and the yeast I use is insanely fast. With kegging, it is ready to drink at one week. Most beers are a month minimum. Even with bottling, this beer was insanely fast. With this yeast, bottles always carbed up for me within a week when three weeks is the norm. I am planning this beer to be on tap for my son's 3rd birthday party (we have a huge family, family birthday parties typically run into 40ish people) Party is either going to be Memorial day weekend or the the weekend after. Either way, plenty of time.

So... The 'ticulars of this beer. Pilsner malt... anytime I use pilsner malt I do a 90 minute boil instead of one hour. The reason we boil beer is to sanitize, extract flavor and bitterness from the hops, and to boil off impurities. Pilsner malt is high in a particular impurity called DMS (idk what it stands for and don't feel like googling... someone once told me, Never. Google. Anything. lol) and DMS can give off flavors similar to creamed corn or popcorn... not what I am going for. So an extra long boil will ensure that all of that junk evaporates away. Lots of wheat... this recipe is 60-ish% wheat. Wheat is kinda tough to mash, it turns to glue as it soaks then clogs up the works and does not like to drain when sparging. Whenever I do this recipe I use rice hulls rice hulls are exactly what they sound like. The hulls that are removed from rice grains. They add no flavor, color, or sugars to the beer. They just keep things loose and flowing in the mash tun. Low hops... this style isn't about the hops. It's about a strong wheat flavor, good yeast, and other spices (I'll get to that) I do still use a 60 minute hop addition to balance sweet/bitter and a small 5 minute addition for aroma. Spices... Coriander, cracked and added to the end of the boil. Also, bitter orange peel added at the same time. Instead of bitter orange peel I have played around with a lot of citrus options... zest of orange, grapefruit, lime... blood orange peel, flesh, juice (love blood oranges)... but today keeping it simple and using dried bitter orange peel. These spices give the expected flavor profile for the style.

This all seems kinda dry... how about some pics?

 Taking the new 10 gallon Mash Tun for a spin today... Waiting on boil right now to figure out efficiency... Efficiency is the measure of the amount of sugar that is pulled from the grains vs. the amount of sugar the grains actually hold. Typically expressed in a percentage. 70% efficiency is average for this process (I think) and I usually get about 83% from my calculations.

 Nailed my strike temp, 152... unfortunately all the extra head space in the bigger tun caused me to lose 5 degrees over the course of the hour mash. Not used to losing more than a single degree. Wondering if I should go back to the 5 gallon tun until I have everything together for 10 gallon batches.

 This is a pic of either draining first runnings or sparge, idk which, they both look the same.

Full kettle before boil. Really like the color...

Can kinda see I came really close to boiling over due to blogging while coming to a boil... 

Need to break here to sanitize some stuff and get my crap together for post boil activities (also need beer).

Oh hey! I'm back... Totally chill... so quiet right now (no kids), sitting outside , just chirping birds, light sprinkling rain on tin patio roof... total zen. What was I blogging about? Oh... beer! 

 Also this! Have I mentioned the SMaSHed Pils? I love this beer. Really nice balance, somewhere between a pale ale and IPA but pilsnery, citrusy hops, mild lingering bitterness. I have to bottle some of this before it is gone... Also, this has to last me until the birthday party so that I leave the other batches alone, keep your fingers crossed... idk what will happen!!

So... I got stuff sanitized, ferementor rinsed, boil is done, all hops and spices added... wort is chilling... smells amazing as usual, wish I could share the smell with you.

Wort chilling, notice how much has boiled off. Also, I meant to get a pic of my wort chiller before putting in, but I spaced again, sry. Next time for sure...

ok... zen feeling gone... took gravity reading. 1.038 wth!?! that puts me at 40% efficiency? wth?!! ugh ugh ugh! Triple checked gravity reading... checked calibration of hydrometer... wth?! drastic measures... boiling a pound of dry light extract right now, to add and boost gravity. Hoping to save this. This is the second time with this recipe that I have gotten low efficiency... I don't get it. crap! 

okay okay, deep breath... so, results. I boiled a pound of DME in 2 qts water and added to fermentor. Only brought gravity up to 1.040. Also, as a bonus, I stirred that into fermentor with my thief (thingy that I take gravity samples with) and managed to break the tip off. ugh.

This recipe has failed me twice. I'm thinking it's not my method, bc I have brewed other things since and still hit my high efficiency numbers. Posting recipe to reach out to more experienced brewers...

3 lbs belgian pils
1 lb 6 row
5 lbs unmalted wheat
1/2 lb quick oats
1 lb rice hulls

mashed 1.125 qt/lb (normal for me) not counting rice hulls. (pre-soaked rice hulls) mashed at 152 for an hour lost 5 degrees. double batch sparge 2.5 then 3 gallons at 170. 7ish gallons into brew kettle, 1.5 gallons boiled off in 90 minutes. 5.5 gallons into fermentor

was expecting 1.055 with my normal efficiency, ended up at 1.038... maybe it's the all the unmalted wheat? do I need a longer mash? I don't mind making mistakes if I can learn from them, but I have no idea what I am doing wrong... 

Also side note, cider is not done yet. Sitting at 1.016. I'm going to push it till tomorrow night and then keg. I probs won't have time during the week. Ayways... did I mention ugh? Also, Later...

Edit- sorry forgot one more pic... 
Pitching my liquid yeast starter into the fermentor....


  1. My favorite part was THIS!!!!!1!!!!one!

  2. What was your pre-boil gravity? You say your pre-boil volume was 7 gallons. Based on that grain bill, 70% efficiency would be right around 1.034 pre-boil.

    I've understood efficiency to be related pre and post boil using this formula: V1*G1=V2*G2. So, if your post boil measurements were 5.5 gallons and 1.038, then you would've had a efficiency of 61% (7*G1=5.5*38 or 209). To achieve a post boil OG of 1.055 using this grain bill, I think you would've needed to post 90% efficiency.

    What was the point of this rambling? Efficiency is only as useful as the accuracy of your measurements. I'm still leaning about efficiency too, so I hope my analysis is accurate. I posted a thread on HBT to continue the discussion:

    Looks like a nice brew day regardless. Prost!

  3. TJ, I never take preboil gravity readings... I never understood the relevance unless you are at your final volume?

    As far as calculating, I have always cheated and just changed the efficiency numbers in my brewing software until my gravity matches... according to my method of calculating (not really a method), I usually hit 83% and I have hit 1.057 with this recipe before (thinking 90+% efficiency isn't likely?)