Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hochkurz Mashing

There is an old mash technique referred to as "hochkurz" mashing, which stems from the German words for "high" and "short". This mash style starts at a higher temperatures than most and stays at each temperature for less time, thus "high temperature" and "short duration" at each temperature stage.

The idea in a Hochkurz mash is to mash in two steps. The first step maximizes the beta amylase enzyme activity, and takes place at 145F. It lasts for 30 minutes (up to 45).  The second step maximizes alpha amylase enzyme activity, and occurs at 158-162F. It also lasts for 30 minutes (up to 45 if needed to complete conversion). These steps are followed by a traditional mash-out at 170F for 10-15 minutes. This allows the mash to complete in 70-100 minutes.

Theoretically, this 70-minute mash will result in a more complete conversion than a single-step mash that runs over a longer period of time, since the Hochkurz mash gives each of the two main amylase enzymes a chance to work at their optimal temperature.

With a brewing system like The Grainfather, performing a Hochkurz mash is pretty simple. Fill the kettle with water, set the 145F starting temp, add the grain, and wait 30 minutes. Then change the temp to 160F, and wait 30 minutes more. Finally, set to 170F and sparge after 10 minutes.

If you're using hot water infusions to raise the temperature of the mash, you'll want to start with a thicker mash for the first step so that the additional hot water doesn't dilute the wort too much.

According to some of the sources I've read, this is an excellent general purpose mash schedule. While there are some beer styles (lagers in particular) that will benefit from a different schedule, most will do well with Hochkurz and will show a higher brewhouse efficiency too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mandarina Blonde Ale 1.0

A while ago, I read something about Mandarina Bavaria hops. One of the brewing sites had them on sale at the time. They said the hops can impart a mandarin orange aroma and flavor to a beer. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I bought some anyway.

After doing some thinking about it, I thought they sounded like they might go well in a blonde ale. I thought a nice malty blonde ale with some added bitter orange peel and sweet orange peel, combined with a couple of healthy later additions of Mandarina Bavaria hops would create a very nice spring or summer beer.

Not having a ton of faith in my recipe creation skills, I decided to do a 3-gallon batch for this one (or 3.9 gallons before shrinkage, trub, and other losses). I also wanted to see if The Grainfather boiled a batch any harder if it was a smaller size, and if this impacted chill haze.


4 pounds of 2-row Brewer's Malt
1.75 pounds of Munich Malt
4 ounces of Carapils/Dextrine Malt
2 ounces of Caramel 60L Malt
0.5 ounces of Tettnang hops pellets @ 5.0% AA
0.5 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets at @ 7.3% AA
0.65 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets @ 7.3% AA
0.5 ounces of Sweet Orange Peel
0.5 ounces of Bitter Orange Peel
1 pound of Orange Blossom Honey
1/8 tsp. yeast nutrient
1/2 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/8 tsp. Super Irish Moss
1 packet Safale US-05 yeast

You might be wondering the "why" of some of the ingredients. The Munich Malt is there to sweeten the beer and add some body. The Carapils is there to help generate a nice head. The Caramel 60L should add a slight reddish or orange-ish color to the beer, to help visually evoke the orange flavors and aromas. I used Tettnang for bittering just to hopefully add a little complexity. Mandarina Bavaria is there, as I noted earlier, to give a good mandarin orange flavor and aroma. The orange peel varieties are present to punch that up a little more. I'm even considering adding some in the secondary, but we'll see. This is the first time I've really done a recipe from the ground up, so it will be interesting to see how it comes out.

According to BeerSmith, this brew should have the following specifications:
  • Batch Size: 3.9 gallons (3.0-3.1 expected in the fermenter)
  • Original Gravity: 1.047 SG or 11.9 Brix (actual was 13.1)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.039 SG or 10.1 Brix (actual was 10.2)
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG or 6.0 Brix
  • Bitterness: 20.4 IBUs
  • Color: 5.2 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 4.7%
  • BU:GU Ratio: 0.438
I used The Grainfather's water calculation formulas to determine that I would need 3 gallons of mash water and 1.75 gallons of sparge water. I decanted these amounts in The Grainfather and my mash water heating setup and kicked on the heating elements.


According to my calculations, The Grainfather formula resulted in a mash thickness of approximately 2 quarts of water per pound of grain. I knew that would drag down the efficiency of the enzymes, so I increased my mash time to 90 minutes for this batch to hopefully allow for a full conversion.

The grains were mashed at 152F for 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes at 156F, and then a 10-minute mash out at 167F.

I sparged the grains with the water. My expected kettle volume post-sparge and pre-boil was 4.2 gallons approximately. In reality, I ended up with about 4.1 gallons at a gravity of 10.2 versus the 10.1 I expected.


A 75-minute boil, with the following schedule:
  • 75 minutes: No additions, just a straight boil of the wort.
  • 60 minutes: Tettnang bittering hops were added
  • 15 minutes: Added yeast nutrient, Super Irish Moss, sweet orange peel, bitter orange peel, and 0.5 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 7 minutes: Began recirculating wort through the chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Added 0.65 ounces of Mandarina Bavaria hops, cooled the wort chiller, and began pumping wort into the fermenter
I expected a post-boil volume of 3.7 gallons. By time trub and shrinkage kicked in, that would work out to about 3.0-3.1 gallons in the fermenter.

The reality turned out to be a post-boil volume around 3.5 or 3.6 gallons, with just a little under 3 (best guess) in the fermenter. The Grainfather's counterflow chiller again did an amazing job, with wort flowing into the fermenter at approximately 64.5F. My expected original gravity was 11.9 Brix, but I achieved 13.1 Brix at a lower volume of wort.


The wort was pumped into a sanitized SS Brewing Technologies Brewmaster Bucket. Given the small volume, relatively low gravity, and low ambient temperature in the basement this time of year, I decided to forego any temperature control during the first stage of fermentation.

A taste test after two weeks of primary fermentation would hopefully tell me if the beer would benefit from lagering at 50F for a while or could be dosed with gelatin and cold-crashed to clarify.

Update 3/18/2017: I extracted a sample from the fermenter last night to see how it's coming along. It has a good light color. Since we're still mid-fermentation its aroma had a good bit of diacetyl to it. The beer itself was surprisingly dry and bitter. There was some hint of orange to it, but not what I expected. I boiled 16 ounces of water, then dissolved 16 ounces of Orange Blossom Honey in it. When this cooled, I added it to the fermenter.


This beer was an experiment on several levels. I wanted to develop a nice citrus beer with strong notes of orange. I wanted to try brewing a 3-gallon batch in The Grainfather instead of my usual 5 and 6 gallon batches, to see if a smaller batch boiled any harder. I have wondered if one cause of the haze in my beers is the somewhat weak rolling boil The Grainfather does. That's something I plan to test after primary fermentation is over.

I can say that the boil this time, which started at approximately 4 gallons and boiled down to around 3.5, seemed more vigorous than usual. The surface of the wort churned more than I am used to seeing in the 5 and 6 gallon batches. Whether this will translate to a clearer beer remains to be seen. I didn't treat this batch with Clarity Ferm from White Labs so if it comes out nice and clear, the more vigorous boil could be the reason.

I'll be back to add more notes after primary fermentation is complete, on approximately March 26, 2017.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rhinegeist Truth Clone Recipe

Disclaimer: While searching for a good IPA recipe, I discovered the following on a forum online. I am not claiming authorship of the recipe below. If the forum post I read is factual, and I have no reason to think it isn't, this recipe includes input from one of the Rhinegeist brewmasters. That means it probably can produce a beer very close to the original. I plan to brew it at some point to see how it turns out. For now, I'm just documenting and sharing the recipe here.


8.5 pounds of Rahr Pale Malt (67.3%)
2.75 pounds of Golden Promise Malt (19.5%)
12 ounces of Briess Vienna Malt (5.3%)
10 ounces of Carared Malt (4.4%)
8 ounces of Flaked Rye (3.5%)
0.65 ounces of Bravo hops pellets @ 15.0% AA (60 minutes)
0.71 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (20 minutes)
0.30 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 10% AA (20 minutes)
1.10 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (10 minutes)
0.25 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (10 minutes)
2 ounces of Centennial hops pellets @ 10% AA (0 minutes)
1.5 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (0 minutes)
1 ounce of Citra hops pellets @ 12% AA (0 minutes)
2 ounces of Amarillo hops pellets @ 9.2% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1.5 ounces of Simcoe hops pellets @ 13% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1 ounce of Citra hops pellets @ 12% AA (dry hop 7 days)
1 Tbsp. Irish Moss
1.5 Liter starter of San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090)

Notes from the Rhinegeist brewmaster say that they use 20% Golden Promise malt, 2% CaraRed, 4% Flaked Rye, and 5% Vienna and mash at 150F. The brewmaster also says that they hop with 30 IBUs worth of Bravo at 60 minutes, 20 IBUs of a 2:1 mix of Centennial and Simcoe at 20 minutes, and 16 IBUs worth of a 2:1 mixture of Centennial and Simcoe at 10 minutes. At 0 minutes they and Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra then steep for 45 minutes before cooling. They dry hop with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra for 7-8 days. They suggest you shoot for a starting gravity of 15 Plato or 1.061 SG, and try to attenuate down to 1.9 Plato or 1.007 SG.


Mash with 8 gallons of water for 90 minutes @ 150F. Raise to 170F over 7 minutes for mash out.


Boil for 60 minutes with the hops scheduled as noted above.

Perform a hop stand by turning off the heat but waiting for 45 minutes to cool the wort after the boil.

Fermentation Schedule

Ferment at 65F for 3 days.

Ramp from 65F to 70F over 4 days.

Add dry hops on day 7.

Cold crash with a gelatin addition for 3 days.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Butternut Squash Spice Ale version 1.0

My wife is a big fan of pumpkin ales. Some time ago, I purchased the ingredients for one that I never got around to making until today.

If you look at the Northern Brewer web site, you may recognize this as being similar to their Smashing Pumpkin Ale recipe. That was my starting point. I added Butternut Squash to it because we had one in the kitchen that we had no plans for. I also added Melanoidin Malt to give it a little bit of the crust/biscuit flavor that you find in Southern Tier's Pumking. I could have added Victory Malt like they do, but I am hoping the Melanoidin will give a more subtle crust-like flavor and some added sweetness to accentuate the pumpkin pie flavor profile.

I bought the grain for this recipe over a year ago and hadn't used it. I decided to get it out and make it, not knowing if the age of the grain would ruin the result or not. Even if it did, I figured it would be good practice to make it.

The Recipe

7.5 pounds 2-Row Pale Malt
2.5 pounds Munich Malt
8 ounces Caramel 80 Malt
8 ounces Melanoidin Malt
4 ounces Caramel 60 Malt
1 pound Roasted Butternut Squash
0.85 ounces Cluster hops @ 7.2% AA
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 packet Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast
0.5 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 tube White Labs Clarity Ferm
Super Irish Moss
1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer

Per BeerSmith and my equipment profile, the beer should have the following characteristics:

  • Original Gravity: 1.057 SG (14.0 Brix)
  • Bitterness (IBUs): 17.4
  • Color (SRM): 10.1
  • ABV: 6.0%
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.056 SG (13.8 Brix)
  • Final Gravity: 1.011 SG (estimated at 7.3 Brix on a refractometer, accounting for alcohol)
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.308 IBU/SG
  • Batch Size: 5.78 gallons
  • BH Efficiency: 80%
  • Estimated Pre-boil Volume: 6.4 gallons
When the brewing was over, my actual results were:
  • Original Gravity: 14.1 Brix or 1.0573 SG (slightly higher than expected)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 13.9 Brix or 1.0564 (slightly higher than expected)
  • Pre-boil Volume: 6.4 gallons (exactly as estimated)
  • Post-boil Volume; 6 gallons
  • Fermenter Volume: 4.9 gallons (below the 5.1 gallons estimated)
After the beer is finished brewing, I'll update with the ABV and other info.

Mash Schedule

The beer will be brewed in iMake's The Grainfather RIMS system, with the following mash schedule:
  • 4.75 gallons tap water place in the kettle with a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine from the water. 2.5 gallons place in the sparge water kettle and treated with part of a Campden tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine.
  • Mash water heated to 152F
  • Grains and squash added, plus pH 5.2 Stabilizer added. Recirculation pump turned on.
  • 30 minutes mash time at 152F
  • 60 minutes mash time at 158F
  • 10 minutes mash-out at 168F
  • Sparge with 2.5 gallons at 168F
Grain basket is removed, grains removed from it, and the basket cleaned while wort reaches a boil.

Grain and squash, post-sparge

Boil Schedule

A 60-minute boil will be performed, with the following schedule:
  • 60 minutes: Add Cluster hops
  • 30 minutes: Sample of wort removed and allowed to cool
  • 20 minutes: Add Super Irish moss to cooled wort sample
  • 15 minutes: Add yeast nutrient
  • 10 minutes: Add rehydrated Super Irish Moss and whirlpool a bit
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate boiling wort through chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Add pumpkin pie spice, remove hop spider and hops, whirlpool while running cold water through wort chiller to cool it down. Pump wort into fermenter.
The boil getting started, before hops addition

Fermentation Schedule

With the wort temperature in the 59-75F range, I pitched the US-05 dry yeast directly into the wort. 

Owing to unusually cool tap water, wort entered the fermenter at approximately 64.6F. I calibrated the temperature on the InkBird controller and attached a fermwrap heater to get the wort into the recommended 59-75F range for the yeast.

My goal is a 1-2 week fermentation, followed by cold-crashing and then bottling.


On February 25, 2017, I decided it was time to bottle the brew. A refractometer reading of 7.9 Brix, adjusting for original gravity and the presence of alcohol, gave me a final gravity (according to BeerSmith) of 1.015 SG and an alcohol content of 5.48% ABV. This is in the ballpark of what I was expecting.

I calculated that adding 5.35 ounces of corn sugar to the bottling bucket should bring the beer to a finished carbonation level of 2.8 volumes of CO2. That should allow the aromatics of the squash and spices to be detectable, and combined with the Melanoidin malt give a nice head, too. 

My final yield was approximately 16 bottles of the 12 to 16 ounce size and at least 18 of the 22 ounce variety. The beer is cloudy at this point, with a nice orange color to it, a hint of pumpkin spice to the aroma, and a mild flavor. The flavor hints at the squash and spices, and is neither too bitter or too sweet. I'm happy with it at this point, though the real test comes when it's conditioned and chilled.

The bottles were placed in my marine cooler with a heating element and temperature controller set to keep the "hot box" at 76F inside. My plan is to leave the bottles here until March 11, 2017, when I'll chill one and see how the carbonation is. If the beer is properly carbonated, I'll chill it for a few weeks in the fridge to clarify it a bit.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

The only issue I had during this one was the sparge. My sparge water got too hot before I had removed the grain basket from The Grainfather. It had reached over 200F. I turned off the heat and allowed it to cool, but it cooled a little too much and ended up around 150-160F when I started the sparge. Sparging took quite a bit longer than usual, probably because of the cooler water. (By the end of the sparge it had gotten down below 150F.) That's a mistake I don't want to make again. It didn't seem to hurt the gravity or volume, just took a lot longer to complete the sparge.

Owing primarily to a lot of sediment in the kettle, I didn't achieve the 5.1 gallon volume I expected in the fermenter. I decided to turn the pump off before it sucked up too much of the sediment, which resulted in reaching just under 5 gallons in the fermenter.

Update 3/5/2017: The beer has been conditioning in the bottles for about a week now. I popped one in the fridge yesterday and opened it last night. At this point, it's a cloudy orange-brown color with a very thick long-lasting head (thanks to the Melanoidin malt I expect). The first thing I noticed was a diacetyl aroma and flavor, which took some work to get past. Having opened a bottle too early in the past, my expectation is that this diacetyl issue will clear itself over the next week or so as the yeast finishes cleaning up the beer. I'm happy that there was no carbonation issue with this batch, as there have been with some other recent batches - so taking the additional time to calculate the proper priming sugar dose based on volume and temperature seems to have helped.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Belgian Dubbel 3.0

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, it's no secret that I am fan of Belgian style ales. I've made at least six different Tripel recipes that I can remember, several Quadrupels, two or three Trappist Singles, and before this, two Dubbels. One was an extract beer that turned out OK. The other was an all-grain beer that was easy to drink but just didn't hit the mark for me. The recipe I brewed on February 5, 2017, started out as a clone of La Trappe Dubbel. La Trappe's Dubbel is one of my favorites.

When I started assembling the ingredients for this one, I began wondering about my Saaz hops. They were a bit older, and were only 3.2% alpha acid to start with. My concerns were that they might not bitter the beer enough, and that adding a lot of them might trigger a grassy flavor in the finished beer. So I made the decision to use some German Northern Brewer hops to handle the bittering. They were fresh and certainly strong enough at 10.1% alpha acid. I would add a second addition at about 20 minutes to provide some flavor, using the Saaz and a packet of Styrian Goldings I had that was only 1.4% alpha acid. I like the flavor combination of Saaz and Styrian Goldings in a Belgian ale, so I reasoned it would work well here. As I write this, the jury's still out.

The Recipe

8.5 pounds of Belgian Pale Ale Malt
1.25 pounds of Caramunich III Malt
11 ounces of Cara-Pils Malt
0.40 ounces of German Northern Brewer hops pellets @ 10.1% AA
1 ounce of Styrian Goldings hops pellets @ 1.4% AA
1 ounce of Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 3.2% AA
2 pounds of D-90 Candi Syrup
1 packet of Wyeast 3787 Extreme Fermentation yeast
Super Irish Moss
pH 5.2 Stabilizer
White Labs Yeast Nutrient
White Labs Clarity Ferm

Per Beersmith, the characteristics of the brew should be:

  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.063 SG (Actual was 13.9 Brix or 1.0564 SG)
  • Bitterness (IBUs): 20.5
  • Color (SRM): 19.1
  • Estimated ABV: 6.7%
  • Total Grains: 12.44 pounds
  • Total Hops: 2.40 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.367 IBU/SG
  • Estimated Pre-boil Gravity: 1.041 SG
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
  • Batch Size: 5.90 gallons (actual volume was approximately this)
  • Estimated Pre-Boil Volume: 7.0 gallons (water was added to reach this volume)
  • Boil time: 60 minutes
Given the grain bill, the Grainfather calculations recommended 5.1 gallons of mash water and 5.1 gallons of sparge water. I rounded both of these down to whole gallons, mashing with 5 gallons and sparging with 3. I ended up having to add possibly a quart to reach the 7-gallon pre-boil volume.

The mash schedule was:
  • Heat 5 gallons to 149F.
  • Add grain to the grain basket, stir to ensure it's all moistened.
  • Add pH 5.2 Stabilizer to the mash water and start the recirculation pump.
  • Mash at 149F for 60 minutes
  • Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge with 3 gallons of water at 168F
  • Top off the kettle to 7 gallons
Pre-boil gravity after some stirring registered 10.3 Brix vs. the 11.7 Brix I expected. I have not yet determined why my gravity was much lower on this batch than usual, but I do have a suspect. I had trouble attaching the recirculation arm to the valve. In the process, I think I loosened the valve from the rest of the recirculation tube. When I returned near the end of the mash, there was a puddle on the basement floor where the valve had leaked wort onto the floor. My suspicion is that the loss of some amount of wort, combined with the the fact that the leak probably prevented the recirculation from working properly, lowered my gravity a bit. If not that, my grain mill may need adjustment. It may not have crushed the grains as finely as needed. The leak has since been fixed, but I still need to look at the mill.

The boil schedule:

  • 60 minutes: Add German Northern Brewer pellets in hop sock attached to hop spider
  • 20 minutes: Add Saaz and Styrian Goldings pellets in hop sock, then grab a sample of wort to cool down and use with Super Irish Moss
  • 15 minutes: Add yeast nutrient
  • 10 minutes: Add D-90 syrup, then rehydrated Super Irish Moss, stir rapidly to allow the Super Irish Moss to do its thing
  • 7 minutes: Begin circulating boiling wort through the counter flow chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Turn off the heat, whirlpool the beer. Run cold water through the chiller to cool it down, then begin pumping wort into the fermenter.
My final kettle volume was a little over 6 gallons. In the fermenter, accounting for shrinkage from cooling and losses to trub in the kettle, I still had 5.9 gallons. The gravity in the kettle measured 13.9 Brix versus the 15.4 I'd been expecting. That was probably due to the mash issue. Still, even at 13.9 Brix or 1.056 SG, it's well within the guidelines for the Dubbel style.

The counter flow chiller dropped the wort to 67F in the fermenter, which was ideal for the yeast.

The recipe called for oxygenating the wort before pitching the yeast, which I accomplished by dangling the tube from the counter flow chiller high up in the fermenter. This ensured that the wort splashed as it entered the fermenter. If you're thinking that wasn't enough oxygenation, stay tuned. 

I attached my fermwrap heater and Inkbird temperature controller to the fermenter. I had the cooling system nearby, but doubted that I would need it for this beer.

Since the nearly 6-gallon wort volume was close to the top of my fermenter, leaving perhaps a gallon or so of head space, I decided to forego the airlock and use the blow-off tube instead. 

The morning after I pitched the yeast, there was regular burping in the blow-off liquid container. A day after pitching, the burps were about a second apart. When I checked it two days later, there had actually been blow-off through the tube and into the gallon jug underneath. While I'd been concerned that I hadn't oxygenated the wort before pitching the yeast, it doesn't appear that the yeast minded.

Note the jug of previously-clear blow-off fluid, now pale milky tan from blow-off

The fermentation schedule:
  • Feb. 5 and 6: Ferment at 68F
  • Feb. 7: Increase to 69F
  • Feb. 9:  Increase to 70F
  • Feb. 10: Increase to 71F - placed an insulated bag over the fermenter to help it maintain heat
  • Feb. 11: Increase to 72F
  • Feb. 12: Increase to 73F
  • Feb. 18: Chill to 50F and hold for 4 weeks in the mini-fridge
  • Mar. 18: Bottle the beer and hold in 76F "hot box" for 2 weeks to carbonate
  • Sep. 18: Per the original recipe, it should be cellared for six months.
My best guess is that the finished beer will read as 8.5 Brix on the refractometer (adjusting for original gravity and alcohol). That will correspond to a final gravity of 1.014 SG and an alcohol content of 6.67% (ABV).

Update 02/12/2017:  The yeast is still apparently working hard. When I've checked on it, there are burps from the blow-off tube approximately every 10-15 seconds. I'm not planning to chill it until those appear to have stopped.

Update 02/15/2017: I extracted a sample from the fermenter to taste before moving it to the mini-fridge for lagering. The sample has a pleasing but yeasty aroma. The flavor is much more dry than I expected it to be, given that it's supposed to be cloning the La Trappe Dubbel. Color looked good. It was understandably cloudy. The beer will now spend 4 weeks at 50F before I see it again.

The original recipe called for priming with Simplicity Candi Sugar at 31 grams per gallon of wort and cellar conditioning for six months before serving. I'm planning to aim for 3 volumes of CO2 and to allow it to cellar as long as I can stand it. I'm not sure if I'll use corn sugar or Simplicity to prime it.


Update 3/12/2017: Looking at my work schedule, I saw that I would be on-call next weekend when the beer would reach its four-week lagering time. I decided to take it out a week early and bottle it today, when I am not going to potentially be interrupted by tech support calls from the office.

Using BeerSmith's Carbonation Tool, I entered the desired CO2 volume of 3.0 volumes, beer temperature of 51F, and volume of 6 gallons. This indicated that I would need 5.9 ounces of corn sugar to carbonate the beer. I couldn't get 5.9 ounces to read consistently when I weighed it, so I ended up settling for 6.05 ounces instead. Some of my recent brews have been undercarbonated anyway, so I figured this might help.

The gravity on the refractometer read 8.1 Brix before priming sugar was added. BeerSmith indicates that this is a corrected gravity of 1.017 SG and represents ABV of 5.1%. The aroma of the beer is excellent, combining dark fruit, plum, and caramel malt. The fruit component of the flavor is lower than in the aroma, but still very present, along with some hops bitterness. All in all, I think it might be the best tasting Dubbel I've made - and one of the best I've had. I'm reserving judgment until the beer finishes cellaring, however.

Yield for this batch was 25 bottles at 22 ounces and 10 bottles at 12 ounces. 


While I am disappointed and puzzled that the wort came in well under the gravity I expected, I am fairly sure that the cause is the leakage from the recirculation tube. That may have been exacerbated by the grain mill not being set fine enough, which I'll need to check.

I'm happy that I decided to attach the blow-off tube rather than an airlock. Judging from the color of the fluid in the blow-off jug, I suspect that an airlock would have been blown off the fermenter and some amount of wort sprayed around the basement in the process. That didn't happen, though the blow-off jug will definitely need some cleaning when it's all done.

Update 3/18/2017: I chilled and opened a bottle yesterday to share with family members who were visiting. The beer is beautifully clear with a nice reddish brown color. It generates a long-lasting but relatively thin head and doesn't seem to be quite as carbonated as I expected - given the amount of priming sugar I used. The flavor at this point is very balanced. It's smooth and easy to drink, but for my taste lacks the sweetness and fruit elements I like and expect in a Dubbel. I'm hoping as this cellar conditions over the next few months that it will get better.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Long Does It Take to Make a Batch of Beer?

As a home brewer, there is one question that almost every non-brewer asks me: "How long does it take to make a batch of beer?" This question might mean any of the following, or all of them:

  • How much time and effort goes into brewing and bottling a batch of beer?
  • How long does it take to go from grain, water, yeast, and hops to a finished glass of beer?
  • How long does the brewing and bottling process take, end-to-end?
They might even be asking a combination of these questions.

The unfortunate part is that you can't give a single answer to the question. Brewing effort is affected by:

  • The brewer's experience and skill level
  • The brewer's equipment
  • Whether the recipe is an extract brew, all-grain brew, mini-mash, or extract with steeping grains
  • The temperature in the brewing area (e.g, if it's cold, it takes longer to heat water)
  • The recipe being made
  • The yeast strain being used
  • The availability of temperature control during fermentation
What I usually tell people is that "for me, for a typical beer, with a typical recipe, using my usual equipment and processes, it will take me about 5-7 hours of effort and 2-4 weeks of elapsed time to produce a 5-gallon batch of beer. This varies a bit depending on the style, the complexity of the recipe, and so on."

If you have a friend or family member who brews, they may give you a very different answer. Don't make the mistake of thinking that they are lying to you. Someone with an automated brewing system like the Picobrew Zymatic might only have a couple of hours of effort involved in a brew and be able to go from grain to bottle in 2-3 weeks. Someone else, with a heavily manual setup, a low-wattage electric heating element, and a complex all-grain recipe might tell you it's an 8-12 hour process and takes months of elapsed time to produce a single beer.

I think the fastest I've produced an unfermented beer with my current setup was about 5 hours. That beer took a week to ferment and a week to bottle condition before it was drinkable.

The slowest a batch has taken was a 6-7 hour brewing process, followed by two weeks of fermentation, a month of secondary fermentation, 90 minutes of bottling, and a full year of bottle conditioning. (That beer won't be ready until April 2017.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gulden Draak Clone, version 2.0

About two years ago, I decided to try my luck at brewing a Gulden Draak clone. Gulden Draak is one of my favorite Belgian beers, but its price makes it one that I don't drink nearly as often as I'd like.

To do that particular clone, I cultured up yeast from the dregs of four bottles of the real beer and tossed it in an extract beer I'd brewed based on a recipe in a book.

This time around, I wanted to do an all-grain clone and see if commercial dry yeasts would result in a beer that was close to the original.

As you can see in the image at the left, the clone came out very close in color to the original beer. Unfortunately, while there were similarities in the flavor and aroma, in those respects the clone needs more work.

The recipe below is derived from one I found somewhere... in a book or online.

The Ingredients

13 pounds Belgian 2-row Pale Malt
1 pound Caramel/Crystal 40L
1 pound WhiteSwaen Wheat Malt
8 ounces Melanoidin Malt
5 ounces Caramunich I Malt
4 ounces Biscuit Malt
2 ounces Acid Malt
1 pound Rice Syrup Solids
1 pound D-90 Candi Syrup
0.90 ounces Magnum hops pellets @ 12.3% AA
0.60 ounces Styrian Goldings hops pellets @ 6.2% AA
1 ounce Styrian Goldings hops pellets @ 1.3% AA
1/4 teaspoon Super Irish Moss
1/2 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient
1 package Safbrew T-58 dry yeast
1 package Safbrew Abbaye yeast

The original recipe called for Caramel 60L which I didn't have and listed Brewer's Gold for bittering hops. I swapped the 60L out for 40L and Magnum for Brewer's Gold (since I had a lot of Magnum and no Brewer's Gold). Since the Brewer's Gold was there only for bittering, the switch might not be detectable anyway.

Per BeerSmith, with my equipment profile, this beer is estimated to have the following characteristics:
  • Batch size: 5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 22.7 Plato (23.6 Brix)
  • IBUs: 27.5
  • Color: 16.8 SRM
  • ABV: 10.5%
  • BU/GU ratio: 0.28
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 21.9 Plato (22.8 Brix)
  • Final Gravity: 4.4 Plato (4.6 Brix)
When I finished brewing, these were my actual results:
  • Final kettle volume: 5.8 gallons (approx.)
  • Original Gravity: 22.0 Brix (20.5 Plato)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 18.8 Brix (before addition of rice syrup solids and D-90)
  • Fermenter volume: 5 gallons (approx. 0.6 lost to trub in the kettle)
  • Final Gravity: Refractometer reading, unadjusted, was 10.6 Brix. Adjusting for the presence of alcohol and original gravity in BeerSmith gave a final gravity of 3.07 Plato, 1.012 SG.
  • ABV: 10.65% estimated
I came out a little short on gravity, which means I need to do some adjusting in BeerSmith so I can dial in the estimates in the future. The lower gravity is possibly due to a reported reduction in The Grainfather's efficiency for grain bills over 11 pounds.

The Mash

The recipe called for a 90-minute mash at 156F. This is followed by a 10-minute mash-out at 168F.

Mash water in The Grainfather was calculated to 6.4 gallons, but I dialed it back to 6 for easier measurement.

Sparge water was calculated at 1.6 gallons, which I adjusted to 1.5 gallons.

The grains were crushed, mixed, then scooped into the 156F water and stirred to ensure they were all moistened properly. The Grainfather's recirculating pump was engaged and the wort left to mash for 90 minutes.

After the 10 minute mash-out, 1.5 gallons of 168F sparge water went over the grain to rinse out the last of the sugars.

BeerSmith estimated pre-boil volume was 6.25 gallons. My actual volume was: 6.4 gallons after adding some water.

The Boil

With the grain sparged and discarded, the wort was brought to a boil. Boil time was 90 minutes.

For the first 30 minutes of the boil, no hops were added. This was done to help clarify the wort a bit and hopefully reduce chill haze, which is something I see frequently with The Grainfather. In a beer this dark, that was probably unnecessary but I decided to do it anyway.

The last 60 minutes of the 90-minute boil went as follows:
  • 60 minutes: Add Magnum hops pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add Styrian Goldings (0.6 oz. @ 6.2%) pellets, yeast nutrient, rice syrup solids, and candi syrup
  • 10 minutes: Add rehydrated Super Irish Moss dissolved in cooled wort
  • 7 minutes: Recirculate wort through counter flow chiller to sterilize
  • 0 minutes: Add the Styrian Goldings (1 oz. @ 1.3% AA) for aroma, run cold water (but not wort) through the chiller to cool it down. With the chiller cooled, the wort was pumped into the fermenter.
Post-boil volume was 5.8 gallons at an original gravity of 22.0 Brix.


Wort was chilled to 68F via the counter flow chiller. Fermenter volume was a touch over 5 gallons. Pure oxygen was added for 60 seconds, then the yeast and White Labs Clarity Ferm were added.

The yeast was permitted to ferment at its own natural temperature with no attempt to control the temperatures. This is my standard approach for Belgian style ales. I saw a slight temperature increase in the wort about 3 hours out, and frequent airlock activity at the 7-hour check.

Update 1/16/2017: While bottling, it was clear that the fermentation was extremely vigorous. There was the usual ring of yeast on the inside of the fermenter, but it had gotten all the way to the lid of the 7.5 gallon fermenter and into the bottom of the airlock. A blow-off tube wouldn't be a bad idea in the future.

Post-Mortem and Other Notes

This brew, weighing in at over 16 pounds of grain plus two pounds of adjuncts, pushes the 20-pound grain bill limit of The Grainfather. Getting the grain stirred into the mash and the wort recirculating was a bit of a challenge, but The Grainfather handled it fine.

Something I've learned that saves me some elapsed time in brewing is to clean as I go. For instance, when I've finished sparging, I drop the grain basket into a stainless kettle that's large enough to hold it. I scoop the spent grains out, into a plastic bag inside a trash can. While I'm doing this, the wort is heating to boiling temperature. By the time the wort hits the boil, I've dealt with the spent grain and rinsed the grain basket, lid, and kettle. Once the hot break is done and the risk of a boil-over eliminated, I mix up PBW in the stainless kettle and clean the grain basket, lid/bottom, tubes, and anything else I'm finished with. Generally, by the time the boil is over, all I have left to clean is The Grainfather's kettle itself and the few plastic containers I use to measure and hold hops additions, Irish Moss, etc. The leftover PBW in the kettle is used to clean up The Grainfather itself.

12/22/2016: Within about 7 hours the beer was fermenting well. The fermenter temperature remained pretty low for the first 12 hours, eventually climbing from 68F to around 73F. Airlock activity seemed to stop around there. Several hours later, it picked up again and the temperature seemed to climb into the 77F range. I think it's safe to say the yeast are happy.

12/23/2016: I opened an actual bottle of Gulden Draak last night and compared the color to a sample I removed from the kettle during brewing. The color of the two is very close, so I am hopeful there might be similarity in the flavor as well. Won't know for a while, of course.

Sample during the boil. Note that the D-90 and Rice Syrup Solids had not yet been added so the color is a bit light here.
01/16/2017: The beer was bottled yesterday with 5.3 ounces of corn sugar and Montrachet wine yeast for carbonation and conditioning. It's said that the actual beer is conditioned with wine yeast so that's what I chose to use here. The yield was 44 bottles varying in size between 12 ounces and 22 ounces. The bottles were moved to my "hot box" (insulated cooler with a heating element inside) where they'll stay at 76F until I'm ready to test carbonation. The beer at this point is very cloudy, and is something of a reddish brown color. It has a fruity aroma and (even while flat and warm) a decent flavor. I don't know that it tastes at all like a real Gulden Draak at this point, but that may change with conditioning, carbonation, and cooling.

A sample of the beer at bottling time, showing color and cloudiness
If I brew this again in the future:
  • I would consider adding some Special B, more D-90, and the Caramel 60L that the original recipe called for. This would darken the beer a little, like the original, and might amp up the dark fruit flavors a bit.
  • A blow-off tube on the fermenter seems a good idea. This one very nearly blew out through the airlock at the high point of fermentation, despite a lot of head space.
  • I would consider using temperature control to slowly ramp the temperature up over several days and hold it at 76F at the end to finish out. This version has a definite warming element from the high alcohol content which is mellowing out a little with conditioning, but some temperature control might have solved that.
  • I view the real Gulden Draak as a bit sweet, and this beer did not turn out that way. I'd probably mash at a higher temperature next time to increase the residual sweetness.
  • The combo of T-58 and Abbaye yeast strains seemed to work well. The beer has a great aroma, certainly reminiscent of Gulden Draak, and the fruity/spicy elements are present.
Tasting Notes and Parting Thoughts

At the right is a photo showing the clone beer on the left and the real Gulden Draak on the right. The two are very close in color.

The clone needed more carbonation and its head didn't last as long as the real beer's, as you can see in the photo. The real beer was poured first and had a head far longer. To correct that, I'd probably increase the Melanoidin Malt the next time, or swap out some of the 2-row Pale for Cara-Pils malt.

The real Gulden Draak aroma is very much sweet dark fruit, like raisins, figs, and/or plums. The clone's aroma is more caramel malt. Switching to one of the liquid yeast strains like Wyeast's Forbidden Fruit might help bring the aroma closer.

The flavor of the real Gulden Draak is sweet, loaded with dark fruit, and has the faintest warming note to it. The clone's flavor is more caramel, has a stronger warming note to it, and only a small amount of fruitiness. I think that adding some Special B malt to the mix might bring out that flavor, as well as perhaps increasing the D-90 syrup a bit. While I like the clone's flavor, it doesn't hold a candle to a real Gulden Draak.

The bitterness level was about right, so I wouldn't tweak that element of the recipe at all.

The changes I plan to make in version 3.0 are:
  • Swap out some of the Pale Ale Malt for Cara-Pils malt, maybe only 4 ounces. This would be to increase head retention.
  • Swap out some of the Pale Ale Malt for Special B malt, maybe 4-5 ounces. This would hopefully bring out the dark fruit flavors. It may darken the beer a bit, though, so it probably won't look like the real beer.
  • Consider adding 8 ounces of additional D-90 syrup, perhaps during secondary. This would also help to bring out the dark fruit flavors.
  • Consider actually adding raisins near the end of the boil, to add that flavor.
  • Swap out the dry yeasts for Wyeast Forbidden Fruit.
  • Instead of an airlock, use a blow-off tube, as the fermentation was unusually aggressive. Despite having 2 gallons of head space in the fermenter, I found yeast residue on the lid.
  • Although I usually don't use temperature control on my Belgian style beers, next time around I plan to do so. I'm thinking a ramp up of temperature from pitching temp to 76F over a 1-2 week period would work, using heating and cooling to hold the desired temp.
  • Give the beer a conditioning phase at 50F for a couple of weeks to smooth it out before bottling.
You might think, from this volume of changes, that the beer isn't very good. That's not true. It's very drinkable and enjoyable as-is, it's just not the Gulden Draak clone I was looking for.