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Showing posts from May, 2015

Which Grains Can Be Steeped? Which Need Mashing?

For beginning brewers, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether a given grain requires mashing or whether it can be simply steeped in water of the appropriate temperature.  Mashing is necessary when the grain doesn't contain sufficient enzymes to convert its starch into sugars yeast can consume.  Steeping those grains without exposing them to the necessary enzymes will contribute starchy flavors to the finished beer and will reduce the alcohol content.

The lists below have been compiled from sources believed to be reliable, and tell you which grains must be mashed in order to convert their starches, and which can be steeped or mashed.  Long steeping periods (45-60 minutes) can often achieve the effect of a mash provided that grains included in the steeping contain the necessary enzymes.

Corrections and additions are welcomed.  Please note them in the comments.

Base Malts and Other Grains (must be mashed):

American two-rowAmerican six-rowBritish Pale AleContinental PilsenerFawcett P…

Review: Clone Brews by Tess and Mark Szamatulski

I suspect that most home brewers are drawn to the hobby when they taste a craft beer and wonder how it was made, or how it might taste if the recipe was altered slightly.  This kind of curiosity drives us to seek out recipes that come as close as possible to our favorite craft beers, so that we can reproduce or improve upon that brew.  Clone Brews by Tess and Mark Szamatulski is an excellent resource in that quest.  They run a home brew shop and spent many hours working out recipes to clone 200 of their favorite beers, sharing those recipes in this book.

Among the 200 recipes in this book, you'll find clone recipes for Grolsch Premium Lager, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome, Traquair House Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Moose Drool, Dragon Stout, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock, and more.

Being a fan of Belgian and Belgian-style ales, I was particularly impressed with that section of the book.  In it, I found rec…

Can a shorter boil be superior to a long one?

A beginning home brewer friend of mine asked a question that sounds like it should have a simple answer, but the answer isn't quite as simple as it seems at first glance.

His question: "I'm brewing a light-colored beer (a Kolsch).  I want to be sure it doesn't come out too dark. Should I limit my boil to only 20 minutes?"

The gut reaction when you hear this question is to say "No.  Boil for the full 60-90 minutes."  After all, boiling is important to breaking down proteins and making sure that you get the full bitterness from your hops pellets.  If you're doing an all-grain recipe for a light-colored beer like this, you probably want to do a full-size, full-length boil to ensure you get a good result.

An extract-based recipe changes the answer a little.  Malt extract doesn't generally need a full-length boil.  It's basically just a concentrated, already boiled wort.  You want it to boil for about 15 minutes to ensure that any bacteria or oth…

6 Ways To Improve Extract Brewing Results

All-grain brewing, with properly controlled temperatures during mashing and sparging, can produce excellent results.  But all-grain brewing isn't right for every brewer, in every circumstance, for every recipe.  Extract brewing (especially when combined with specialty grains) can produce great beer in a fraction of the time with a smaller investment in equipment.  This makes it the right option for many home brewers.

The difference between getting a mediocre batch of extract-based home brew and a great one is as easy (or as hard) as getting a few key things right.  If you get the following things right, you'll brew a much better extract-based beer:

Where possible, use DME rather than LMEAdd extract at the right time during the boilUse specialty grains to improve flavor, but don't overdo itConsider partial-mash optionsDon't cut cornersWork to improve your equipment and techniques
We'll talk a little more about these now.

Using DME Instead of LME
Liquid malt extract (L…

Learning Yeast Secrets Will Make Beer Better

The April 20, 2015, issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) carried an interesting article about Yeast.  The publication is normally only read by scientists, but I was able to acquire a free copy and read the article.  Most, if not all, of the information in this post comes from that article, entitled Tapping Yeast's Genome by Matt Davenport.  The article features the Colorado brewmasters Keith Villa (of Blue Moon Brewing) and Max Filter (of Renegade Brewing Co.).

Davenport tells us that "Yeast are perhaps the best understood organisms on the planet." Scientists have studied yeast for years, and with DNA sequencing equipment coming down in price, they are gaining even more knowledge about it.  If you're reading this blog, you know that yeast are the main workhorse ingredient in home brewing.  Yeast consume the sugars in beer (and some of the fatty acids from hops!), and give off alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a few esters that can improve the beer's fla…