Sunday, September 29, 2019

Pilsner Mandarina SMASH 1.0

I've come to the conclusion that the best way to bring my recipe creation skills up a level is to focus a bit on the flavor contribution of various malts. There is a lot out there on the subject already, but most experts will tell you that each of us has a slightly different sense of taste and smell. What may seem dry and lemony to me could seem very different to you.  The best way to know what the different base malts contribute to a recipe is to build a single-malt and single-hop (SMASH) beer.  To fairly compare the malts to one another, you will want to use the same water profile, mash and sparge steps, same hops, same yeast, etc.  Your only change should be the base malt.

I have a fair amount of a number of base malts in stock, along with a decent quantity of Mandarina Bavaria hops pellets, and some Coopers dry ale yeast.  With the Brewie+ functional again, I should be able to create a number of SMASH beers which are nearly identical apart from their base malts.  At least this is the current plan.

Once I have samples of all these smash beers, I can use them to start constructing the malt bill for my (hopefully) ideal Belgian Tripel and Dubbel from the ground up.

Recipe

5 pounds Briess Pilsner Malt*
1 ounce Acid Malt (to adjust mash pH)
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
0.5 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops 9.2% AA (15 min.)
0.7 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops 9.2% AA (5 min.)
1/8 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
9.8 liters (9800 grams) of mash water
5.9 liters (5900 grams) of sparge water

Note: In future recipes, the Pilsner malt would be switched with another base malt, such as Pale Ale, Vienna, or Munich.  If I have enough on hand, perhaps even more than one brand of each base malt.

The style is roughly between a Pale Ale and a New England IPA. I'm using only late boil additions to give the flavor and aroma of the hops without the intense bitterness.

Characteristics:
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons estimated, 2.75 actual
  • Original Gravity: 1.046 SG estimated, 1.042 SG actual
  • Pre-Sparge Gravity:  15.1 Brix, 1.058 SG (actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.036 SG estimated, 1.042 SG actual
  • Pre-Boil Volume:  not measured
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG estimated
  • IBUs: 32.7
  • SRM: 5.7
  • ABV: 4.6%
Mash Process:
  • Mash in for 15 minutes at 120F
  • Mash at 148F for 15 minutes
  • Mash at 158F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 162F for 10 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge at 168F for 15 minutes
The reason I'm doing a step mash here is to give the base malt a chance to express itself fully in the finished beer.  We should end up with something medium-bodied that has a mix of the sugars present in the malt.  The 120F rest is to break up the proteins that would cause haze later on.

Boil Schedule:
  • 60 minutes: No hop additions
  • 15 minutes: 0.5 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 5 minutes: 0.7 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 0 minutes:  Chill down to 80F, then continue cooling to ambient temp of 69-70F before pitching the yeast.
Fermentation Plan:

Since the goal here is to produce the beer quickly and easily to allow comparison with other batches using other base malts, I'm not going to do anything too elaborate here. The Coopers Ale Yeast ferments in the 68-75F range, so my goal will be to pitch the yeast when the wort is down to 70F and use my temperature control system to keep it there.  That should minimize any flavor or aroma contribution from the yeast.

As soon as fermentation is complete, I'll bottle the beer using a medium level of carbonation (either 4 small carbonation drops or 1 big Coopers carbonation drop) and allow it to condition for two weeks or more before taste-testing.  In the meantime, I'll likely brew other SMASH beers using the above approach to enable side by side comparison.

Post-Brewing Observations and Notes

09/29/2019:  I changed the gap setting on my mill today to something closer to 0.035 from a much larger setting, to see how this impacts efficiency.  I'll leave it at that setting for the next few SMASH brews to ensure a valid comparison.  

For this batch, I measured the mash and sparge water amounts by hand using an accurate scale to ensure that they were correct.  As I have probably mentioned before, I've not found the Brewie+ to be particularly accurate at loading water, even immediately after calibration.  When I do the measurement, the volume of beer is nearly always what I expect.

I had about a half-inch of water over the grain bed, which is what I wanted.  I checked the pH level early in the mash and it was higher than I wanted, so I added an ounce of Acid Malt and some pH 5.2 stabilizer. This brought the pH down into the 5.5-5.6 range.

Since ground water this year is around 74F, the best I can realistically expect the Brewie's plate chiller to manage is about 80F, so that's how I configured the setting in the recipe.  The Brewie will chill the beer down to 80F and stop. I'll leave it out at the 69-70F ambient basement temperature to cool down before pitching the yeast.  Then I'll pitch the yeast and set the temperature control system to hold the beer at 70F through primary fermentation.

The Brewie worked fine through the mash and sparge.  As it did back in July, the heating element on the boil side stopped working as it began heating wort to a boil.  Luckily I was present when this happened. I was able to quickly clean and rinse a kettle and transfer the wort into it.  However, that kettle proved too small, so I had to quickly clean and rinse a larger kettle and transfer the wort into that.  I placed the kettle full of wort onto my old induction cooktop and let it start boiling the wort.  While that was going on, I did what I could to clean out the Brewie+.  However, it kept shutting itself off, which the manufacturer suggests implies a short somewhere in the system.  Most likely it's either burnt the wires attached to the boil heater again or the heating element has gone bad (or both).  I won't know until we take the thing apart again.

Thankfully I could transfer the boiling wort back into the Brewie+ and use its Developer Mode to activate the correct pump and valves to chill the wort down to 75F before pumping it into the fermenter.

The wort ended up being about 2.75 gallons in the fermenter, at a gravity of 1.042 SG instead of the expected 1.046 SG and 2.5 gallons.  Given the hassle involved in finishing the batch, I am pleased that it came that close to the calculated values.

Beer in the fermenter prior to yeast pitch

09/30/2019: 
I had forgotten that the last couple of times I used this yeast, that it's an incredibly quick and vigorous fermenter.  It pushed its way out the airlock down the sides of the fermenter, into a dinner plate sized puddle on the floor, and a trickle several feet away.  Needless to say, a bit of mopping was needed.  Gravity is down to 1.007 SG already. I chose not to use temperature control this time, which was another mistake.  The temperature has averaged 75F since yeast pitch, ranging between 72F and 78F during fermentation.  I doubt it's going to be a great beer, but on the other hand, this was just an experimental beer... so maybe it doesn't matter.

10/03/2019:  Gravity 1.005 SG, and has held at this level since about 4am on 10/1/2019.  The beer is extremely cloudy at this stage and will probably need a dose of gelatin to brighten up, but we will see.

10/04/2019:  Gravity is holding at 1.005 SG.

10/05/2019:  Gravity has held for a few days now, so today I bloomed a half-teaspoon of gelatin in water, heated to 152F, then dropped into the beer. The beer was then moved to my mini-fridge to chill.  I'll check on it in a couple of days.  Right now, it's very cloudy.

10/06/2019:  Gravity is now reading 1.004 SG, and the temperature is down to 43F.  I plan to leave the beer alone for at least two more days before checking clarity.

10/08/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.003 SG and temperature 38F.

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