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Affligem Abbey Tripel Clone 1.0

I've been trying to perfect a one-gallon brewing system that uses a Sous Vide cooker and induction cooktop to produce all-grain beer.  I've made four batches with it so far.  The first batches were all reasonably good but did not hit their gravity or volume targets.  I've been trying to dial that in for a while but haven't had much success.

Today I decided to brew a scaled-down recipe from the Candi Syrup Inc. web site.  This is their clone recipe for Affligem Abbey Tripel, with cane sugar replacing the clear candi sugar in their recipe.

Recipe

2 pounds, 5 ounces Belgian Pilsner Malt
2 ounces Aromatic Malt
5 ounces Cane Sugar
0.15 ounces UK Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA 60 min.
0.20 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 2.8% AA 60 min.
0.20 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 2.8% AA 15 min.
0.15 ounces Styrian Goldings hops @ 2.8% AA 3 min.
1/8 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II yeast

According to BeerSmith, the characteristics of this brew are:

  • Batch Size: 1.0 gallons
  • Estimated Pre-Boil Volume: 1.64 gallons
  • Boil Time: 60 minutes
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 80%
  • Total Grains: 2.75 pounds
  • Total Hops; 0.70 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.32 IBU/SG
  • Estimated Pre-boil Gravity: 1.063 SG
  • Estimated Final Gravity 1.011 SG
  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.082 SG
  • IBUs: 26.3
  • Color: 5.4 SRM
  • Est. ABV: 9.4%
Actual post-brewing results were disappointingly different:
  • Pre-boil volume: 1.64 gallons (approx.)
  • Pre-boil gravity: 9.1 Brix or 1.036 SG
  • Post-boil gravity: 15.0 Brix or 1.061 SG
  • Post-boil volume: ?
Mash

The mash water was placed in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag and clipped to the side of a 4-gallon stock pot filled to a level within the Anova Sous Vide cooker's operating range (which took about 2.75 gallons).  This was heated to mash temp and when the water inside the bag was within a degree of the surrounding water, I added the grains.  Mash began at 149F and ended with a mash-out at 170F.

The bag was emptied over a strainer, over another 4-gallon pot.  I had a bit of an accident and scaleded myself pouring the wort out of the bag into the strainer, and ended with some wort and grain on the table around me.  Fortunately no hospital visits were involved.  This may have had some impact on efficiency this time around.  Hard to say.

Grain was sparged up to the 1.6 gallon level and the grain discarded.  1 gallon of mash water was used, and 6.8 quarts of sparge water were used (approx.).

Boil

As soon as the grain was sparged, a boil was started on the induction cooktop.  When the boil began, the following schedule was used:

  • 60 minutes:  Add 0.15 ounces of Challenger hops and 0.2 ounces of Styrian Goldings, also the cane sugar
  • 15 minutes:  Add 0.20 ounces of Styrian Goldings hops, Irish Moss, and yeast nutrient
  • 5 minutes:  Add Sweet Orange Peel, Styrian Goldings
  • 0 minutes: Turn off the heat, put on a lid, and put in mini-fridge to chill

The post-boil gravity measured 15.0 Brix or 1.061 SG, well below the expected 1.082 SG. Was that due to the spillage of grain and wort? Maybe. Either way, efficiency works out to about 56% on this batch, which is way below what I've been seeing in this setup.

Post-Mortem

I managed to squeeze in two brewing sessions today, both with disappointing results.  In both cases, my efficiency was well below what it normally is.

I could blame grain crush, since the earlier brew that hit 47% efficiency used grain I crushed myself.  But this batch used almost entirely grain crushed when purchased, and only hit 56% efficiency.  Even when I used only store-crushed grain, I never saw such low efficiency.  Something else must be at fault here but I haven't figured out what yet.

The spill of 170F wort and grain on my arms, hands, and work table was a bit of a disaster.  I'm not sure quite what went wrong there.  Maybe too much stuff in the bag?  Maybe I wasn't careful enough opening it?  Hard to say. It's something I need to figure out before I do myself some serious damage.

Update 08/12/2017:  The finished beer is actually pretty good.  I think if I scale this up to a full 5-gallon batch I might have the good "base Tripel" recipe I have been looking for.  In the next iteration, I'm thinking I'll replace some of the Belgian Pilsner malt with Cara-Pils to improve the head retention, add some sweetness, and improve the body a little.  I might also mash the grain at a slightly higher temperature the next time around, too.  Unfortunately, I haven't seen the real Affligem Tripel on store shelves in Ohio so I can't compare it to the real thing.

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