Sunday, July 3, 2016

Belgian Trappist Single 2.0 Recipe and Journal

One of the beers I've brewed that I enjoyed the most was an extract-based Belgian Single from a recipe on the E.C. Kraus web site.  Having made the switch to all-grain brewing, I wanted to take a stab at brewing an all-grain version of the beer.  Using the Kraus recipe and the BJCP guidelines for the Trappist Single style, here's my all-grain recipe.

The Recipe and Ingredients

8 pounds of Belgian Pilsner Malt
7 ounces of Biscuit Malt
4 ounces of Aromatic Malt
1 pound of Brewer's Crystals
1.25 ounces of Sweet Orange Peel
0.25 ounces of Indian Coriander, crushed in a mortar and pestle
0.8 ounces of Styrian Goldings hops pellets at 6.2% AA
1.25 ounces of Czech Saaz hops pellets at 3.2% AA
1 ounce of Czech Saaz hops pellets at 3.2% AA
1/2 teaspoon of Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 tablespoon of pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1 package of Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II Ale Yeast

90-minute mash at 152F followed by 167F mashout for 10 minutes
90-minute boil with hops additions at 65, 15, and 5 minutes
Yeast nutrient and Whirlfloc added at 15 minutes
Orange peel and coriander added at 5 minutes

Ferment at 73F for 7 days, followed by 75F for 14 days, then bottle.
Prime with corn sugar and champagne yeast.


The Targets

BeerSmith calculated the following characteristics for the beer, based on a 5.5 gallon final volume:

  • Pre-boil gravity:  1.050 SG or 12.3 Brix
  • Original Gravity:  1.052 SG or 12.8 Brix
  • Post-boil volume: 5.5 gallons
  • Estimated ABV: 5.8%
  • Estimated Color in SRM: 4.4
  • Estimated IBUs:  24.1

The Mash

I loaded 4 gallons of water into The Grainfather with a Campden Tablet, heated to 152F, and let it sit for a few hours to remove chlorine and chloramine.  In another kettle, I heated 4 gallons of water with a Campden Tablet to 170F for sparge water use.

The grain was loaded into the kettle and I made sure to mix it well.  The Grainfather's recirculating arm was attached and the pump switched on, which ensured that the wort recirculated during the mash.

After the 90-minute mash, The Grainfather temperature was raised to 167F and held there for 10 minutes for mash-out.  The grain basket was lifted out and allowed to drain before I added sparge water.  3.5 gallons of the 4 gallons of sparge water was added to the grain basket to sparge it. About 20 minutes later the sparge was finished and the grain basket set aside.

The kettle was then set to boil mode.  The post-sparge volume was 6 gallons.  I added a quart and a half of hot water to bring the volume up slightly to account for loss during the 90-minute boil.

Pre-boil gravity at this point was approximately 12 Brix (~1.049 SG), which was about what I expected.  This figure was confirmed by both refractometer and hydrometer (which seemed to be reading identically).

The Boil

The Grainfather was at a boil some time later. There was some foaming at the start of the boil, but by 5-10 minutes in, it was gone.

The 90-minute boil schedule went as follows:

  • 65 minutes:  Added Styrian Goldings hops pellets in a hop spider.
  • 15 minutes:  Added 1.25 ounces of Czech Saaz, Yeast Nutrient, and Whirlfloc tablet
  • 7 minutes:  Began recirculating wort through the wort chiller to sterilize it
  • 5 minutes:  Added 1 ounce of Czech Saaz, Sweet Orange Peel, and Coriander
  • 0 minutes:  Removed hop spider and began pumping chilled wort into fermenter
The boil process went as expected with no surprises.

Final volume in the kettle was 5.0 gallons.  The Grainfather had a fair amount of sediment in the bottom that I decided to leave in it, which cost me maybe a quart to a half-gallon of wort.

The Fermentation

The Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II yeast reportedly prefers temperatures in the 65-75F range.  I've chosen to set my temperature control system to keep the beer within the 73-75F range and will leave it there for two weeks.  This should cause the yeast to generate the fruity and spicy flavors typically found in Belgian style beers. The coriander and orange peel should enhance this.

The Bottling

All of my Belgian style ales have had carbonation issues for a while.  I think the problem is some combination of flocculent yeast, tired yeast, and not enough carbonation sugar.  When I did my Belgian Quad, I primed the batch with champagne yeast and candi syrup for 2.8 volumes of CO2.  I even added extra carbonation drops to a few bottles to try to ensure that at least some had an excess of sugar in them.  The result was a beer that carbonated despite coming out at 11.3% ABV.

Hoping to replicate that success here, I've again rehydrated a packet of champagne yeast and boiled up a 5.4 ounce weight of corn sugar for priming.  I transferred about a gallon of beer into the bottling bucket, then added the yeast and sugar, stirred this with a sanitized spoon, then gravity transferred the rest of the beer into the bucket.  This should ensure an even distribution of yeast and sugar.

Yield for the batch was 24 small (12-ounce), 1 16-ounce and 11 large (22-ounce) bottles.  That works out to around 4.3 gallons.  Some amount was lost to two hydrometer tests and to the yeast and sediment in the bottom of the fermenter.

Fermentation and Other Notes

BeerSmith calculates my mash efficiency to be 88.8% and my brewhouse efficiency to be 78% overall.  That's not bad for a relatively novice all-grain brewer.

July 7, 2016:  6 days into fermentation, I took a sample from the fermenter to confirm that it's fermenting well, and to examine the color, clarity, aroma, and flavor.  The beer had a nice citrusy Belgian fruity aroma. The color was a pale yellow.  There was a fair amount of cloudiness present in the sample but it was mostly clear.  The flavor was different from the extract versions I'd brewed previously but very pleasant.  I noticed some roasty malt flavors, orange from the orange peel, and Belgian yeast fruit/spice notes.  It should be good when it's properly carbonated and chilled.  It's mostly dry with just a hint of sweetness.  There was an odd chemical-like flavor to it, though.

July 16, 2016:  Approximately two weeks of fermentation have passed. A hydrometer test revealed a final gravity of 1.019.  This is roughly where it was when I last tested it.  The refractometer registered 8 Brix uncorrected, which worked out to 1.019 after correction for fermenting wort (so I've got my calibration sorted).  This works out to an attenuation of only 63%, though, which is disappointing.  A taste test from the hydrometer tube (not letting beer go to waste) yielded a very dry beer with only a hint of coriander and orange flavor.  Not quite what I was looking for but not undrinkable at all. The odd chemical-like flavor is still present.

July 24, 2016:  Today I learned a valuable lesson.  First, to make sure I taste our tap water before brewing and (second) to verify that we're not under a water quality advisory.  After I finished brewing the beer, I poured a glass of water from the tap.  It had that chemical taste to it.  When I made a comment about it, my wife (who pays far more attention to the news than I do) noted that our area was under a water quality advisory for nitrate levels at the time.  After tasting the finished beer last night and again today, it's undrinkable.  The chemical taste is strong and unpleasant, overshadowing the beer itself.  Even if that flavor wasn't present, I don't feel comfortable giving it to others or drinking it myself.  I poured the entire batch down the drain.  While that's disappointing in the extreme, it's better than making myself or someone else sick.  Lesson learned: Taste the water before brewing and if under any kind of advisory, use distilled or spring water rather than tap.

Post-Mortem and Possible Changes

My intent for this beer was something a little sweet with a clear orange peel presence and a hint of coriander in the background.  This version came out more dry than I wanted, so in the next iteration I think I'll bump the mash temperature to 154F to see if we can bring up the sweetness a bit.  I might also bump the amount of orange peel.

Despite the fact that I made use of Whirlfloc during the boil, the yeast is a medium flocculent strain, and there's no wheat or oat malt in it, the beer seems fairly cloudy.  It's probably time to invest in a chamber that can help me cold crash the beer before bottling.  That might help with clarity.

After brewing this beer, I read an article in BYO magazine about the Belgian Trappist Single. The author of that article suggested doing a protein rest at 131F for 10 minutes, mashing at 145F to get a more dry beer, and then doing a body rest at 158F to make sure it doesn't get too thin.  I'll probably adjust the v2.1 brew to include the protein rest, but a main mash at 154F to get the sweetness I want (which is technically not per the style), and finish with the 158F body mash... just to see how it goes.

Adding corn sugar and champagne yeast has definitely solved my carbonation issues.  I noticed as I poured this batch out that it was properly carbonated in every bottle, even after only a week in conditioning.

I'll likely re-brew this beer in the next few weeks to see how it should have turned out.


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