Following are brewing references I keep online for my own use, but which may be of value to readers of this blog:
These techniques can help un-stick a fermentation:
- Heat up the fermenter, at least to the top of the yeast's temperature range.
- Swirl the fermenter vigorously to get yeast back into suspension.
- Raise a packet of yeast in a start to high krausen, then pitch it into the beer.
- Add champagne yeast, which has a high alcohol tolerance and may finish it out.
- In a worst-case scenario, add Brett, Lactobacillus, and/or Pediococcus to dry out and/or sour things up a bit.
- If this is a high-gravity beer (10% or higher ABV), give it time. It might take weeks for the fermentation to finish.
I've done most of these in the past with some success.
Bottle-conditioned beers that are not carbonating:
- If it's only been a week or two since bottling, wait another few weeks.
- For one week, invert each bottle (hold it upside down) and jiggle it a little to drop the yeast on the bottom of the bottle back through the beer. This will often wake the yeast up enough to carbonate the beer. If it isn't carbonated after a couple of weeks of this, try one of the other tips here.
- Try combining the above inversion technique with storing the bottles somewhere that's very warm, like 80F or so, for a week. The increased heat and rousing of the yeast may do the trick.
- As a last-ditch effort, I've found that the following can work:
- Sanitize a new set of caps, an opener, a pipette or eye dropper, and a container large enough to hold 3-4 ounces of water.
- Add distilled water and an eighth-teaspoon of GoFerm or another yeast nutrient into the container. Mix the nutrient in well and warm the mixture to about 75-85F.
- Sprinkle a dry yeast like CBC-1 or champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118 or Red Star Premier Cuvee) into this warm mixture. Watch it for signs of life from the yeast, such as foaming or bubbling. When you see a decent amount of activity, you're ready to move to the next step.
- Either find a location that stays in the 75-85F range, where you can store the bottles for 2-3 weeks, or do something like place a temperature controller and heat source in a cooler. You want somewhere with a warm, constant temperature that's safe for the yeast but at the upper end of its optimal range.
- With the sanitized opener, open one bottle of the beer. Suck up a pipette full of yeast and squirt it into the bottle. Re-cap immediately.
- Repeat the above with all the remaining bottles until all have been inoculated and re-capped.
- Discard the used caps and clean up.
- Coax the yeast:
- Invert each bottle a couple of times and place it in the warm location.
- Each day, invert the bottle a couple more times and put it back in the warm location.
- After a week or two of this, check the carbonation level. It should be good now.
- If this doesn't work, consider force-carbonating the beer in a keg or other vessel.
As I learn additional methods, I'll be adding them.
If you've been calculating brewhouse or mash efficiency and have noticed a significant drop in your numbers, or you just want to see if you can get them better, here are some ways you can do that:
- Grain Crush: This is a common cause of efficiency issues.
- Too Coarse: If the crush is too coarse, the water and enzymes cannot convert the starches in your grain into sugars that can be fermented.
- Too Fine: If it's too fine, the fine particles may be preventing wort from flowing through the grain bed, reducing efficiency.
- Testing: Rock Bottom and others suggest getting a #14 sieve. Crush 100 grams of a base malt in your mill. Shake it through the sieve for 3 minutes. Weigh what is in the sieve versus what fell through. For them, the ideal crush left 71% of the weight in the sieve.
- To Fix: For your next few brews, play with the crush settings or try crushing the grain more than once before brewing. You may find that you need to adjust your crush to a finer or more coarse level.
- Mash Thickness: This is another common cause of efficiency problems. Thinner mashes tend to result in a higher extract from grain, while thicker mashes result in a lower extract.
- To Fix: While 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain is a common ratio, you may want to investigate increasing this if you're not getting the efficiency you expect. At HomeBrewCon 2020, Denny Conn mentioned using 1.6 quarts per pound in his brews.
- Mash Temperatures: Mash temperature can impact extract efficiency.
- Lower temperature mashes (149F and lower) tend to result in lower extract from the grain
- Higher temperature mashes (158F approximately) tend to result in higher extract.
- Adding a protein rest (113-131F with 122F being ideal) of 15-20 minutes can break down the grain's cellular structure and make starches more accessible. This can impact body and head retention, so you may want to add some Carapils or Crystal/Caramel malt to compensate for this.
- Mash pH and Water Chemistry:
- pH from 5.2 to 5.6 is considered good.
- Rock Bottom Brewery found pH 5.2 to 5.3 at 149F worked best for their setup
- On forums, some brewers report that pH 5.4 was ideal for them
- Having a Calcium content in the water of 50ppm or higher helps amylase to work well
- Lautering Technique:
- Stirring: While stirring during the mash can improve extract efficiency, too much stirring can cause the grain bed to become too compact, preventing wort flow through it. Too little stirring can result in dry spots in the grain bed and an uneven grain bed level. The result of these issues can be the creation of "channels" through the grain bed that cause the wort to flow through the channels rather than the entire bed, impacting efficiency.
- Guideline: It is recommended that you stir about every 15 minutes for 3-5 seconds. This will reportedly increase efficiency as much as 4%.
- Rock Bottom Brewery found that minimal stirring improved their efficiency, and that a 90-minute lauter time worked best for them.
- Mash Out and Sparge:
- Sparge Water Temperature: While conventional wisdom says that sparge water should be in the 168-170F range to work effectively, Denny Conn and others report that sparge water temperature makes little difference in a homebrew scenario and that even room temperature water will do the job.
- Sparge Speed: Sparging too quickly may not give the water enough time to extract all the sugar it can from the grain. It's suggested that it should take 30-50 minutes to fully sparge a typical 5-gallon batch grain bill.
- Dilution: Adding too much sparge water can dilute the wort and hurt efficiency. Use only as much as you need to maximize your efficiency. Taking notes and experimenting will help you figure that out.
- Guideline: A recommended guideline is that mash water and sparge water should be somewhere in the 1:1 or 1:1.5 (mash:sparge) range to be effective.
- Minimize Losses: A big chunk of the brewhouse efficiency figure is impacted by your losses, such as water left to dead space in the mash tun, transfer lines, pumps, and trub. Finding ways to minimize (and measure) these is critical to optimizing efficiency.
- A cylindrical mash tun is considered to be the most efficient design, with the width and depth of the grain bed approximately equal.
- What's Changed in Your Process or Setup: If you have noticed a change in your mash efficiency or brewhouse efficiency, either positive or negative, ask yourself what has changed in your process or equipment. For example:
- Is your scale accurate? If it isn't, you may think you're mashing 5 pounds of grain when in fact it's 4 or 6. This can mess your efficiency numbers up.
- Are you measuring your water accurately? In smaller batch sizes, a few extra (or fewer) ounces of water can impact your numbers.
- Does your mash tun or kettle have more dead space than you are accounting for?
- Is your mill gapped correctly?
- (and so on... think about every step from measuring ingredients through to pumping wort into your fermenter)
As I learn more, I'll be adding it here.
Here are some ways you can make your brew day go faster. Much of this comes from a talk given at the AHA HomeBrewCon in Portland, Oregon, in June 2018.
Before Brew Day:
- Measure your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready, including water
- If you have the ability, schedule the heating of water to coincide with the start of brew day (e.g., setting it up with a timer to begin heating the night before)
- Have your recipe notes ready so you're basically just adding grain and getting started on brew day
On Brew Day - Mashing:
- Current research suggests that for American malts, which are bred for high diastatic power and are well modified, the majority of the sugar extraction takes place in 20 minutes. Combine this with a higher mash temperature (which aids conversion) and you can shorten mash time considerably. The conventional 60-90 minute mash times are mostly based on the inconsistent and poorly modified malts from the 1970s and 1980s. If using European malts which may not be as highly modified, you may need to mash longer than 20 minutes, even then 25-30 minutes should be enough.
- Sparging with cold water can save time heating sparge water. Tests have shown that there's no significant benefit at home brew batch sizes to using heated water. You lose 2% of the sugar versus hot sparge water, but save time and energy. Denny Conn noted that heated sparge water only makes sense if your gravity is over 1.300 SG, as up that point sugar will dissolve into water of any temperature.
- Use malt extract to eliminate the need to mash at all, especially in hop-forward styles.
- BIAB (no sparge) methods can save time, basically putting all your water in at the start instead of sparging later on.
- You can also eliminate mash out time from your process. Experiments have shown that there's almost no difference in the wort when a mash out is done versus when it's not.
- Briess tells us that the five reasons we boil are:
- Coagulation - allowing proteins to form in the hot break
- If you use kettle finings like Whirfloc or Irish Moss, you may not need to worry about this with modern malts
- Evaporation - reduction of wort volume
- If you plan your water volumes properly, you don't need evaporation (or much of it)
- Sterilization - eliminating any bacteria in the wort
- This doesn't take very long, a few seconds when you're above 185F.
- Caramelization - darkening of the wort due to oxidation of sugar
- No significant caramelization happens in the boil, just some concentration
- Isomerization - conversion of alpha acids into iso-alpha acids
- The latest research suggests that long boils may not be required to extract hop bitterness and flavor
- When shortening the boil, most people worry about DMS.
- Research shows that DMS lasts at most 38 minutes at boil temperatures
- Even in Pilsner malts, said to have the highest DMS levels, Brulosophy found that a 30 minute boil with a 100% Pilsner malt grain bill, no one in the triangle test could detect DMS. When sent to a lab, both the 90-minute boil and 30-minute boil version showed no DMS at all.
- Similarly, boiling with the lid on produced a beer that had no DMS when tested.
- Based on all this, ways to shorten the boil:
- Use malt extract
- Do one gallon batches (which extract this can be a 15-minute boil and a one-hour brew day
- For all-grain batches, a 30-minute boil should be plenty
- Chilling stops hop isomerization, achieves a sufficient cold break, lessens the potential for aeration damage (oxidation), and stop the formation of compounds that would be boiled off normally (e.g., DMS).
- Recirculating the wort during chilling (especially with an immersion chiller), you can much more rapidly chill the wort. (Brulosophy tests showed that no stirring took 25+ minutes to chill the wort, stirring occasionally took this down to 21 minutes, and stirring continuously took 8 minutes.)
- Ways to shorten chilling time:
- Constant stirring during chilling with an immersion chiller
- Invest in a more-effective chiller\
- The JaDed chillers with extra tubing
- Counterflow chillers
- Plate chillers
- Consider a "no chill" brew, which eliminates chilling time by just leveraging a stainless fermenter by putting the boiling wort inside the fermenter. There are risks to this (e.g., allowing a potential infection or wild yeast to set in) but if you're careful this should be ok.
- Conventional wisdom says you should rehydrate dry yeast (Lallemand says they design their yeast to be pitched dry right into the wort), pitch directly from a yeast pack, or make a yeast starter ahead of time. Then it'll take 1-3 weeks in a primary vessel followed by 2-3 in a secondary vessel, possibly longer for higher-gravity batches.
- If you are looking at a lager, it's been determined that lager yeast strains tend to fall into two genetic classifications. The Saaz-based strains seem to thrive in colder temperatures and retain more of what we'd consider a lager-style gene profile. The Froberg style yeasts like Wyeast 3124 (Bohemian Lager) or SafLager 34/70 (Weihenstephan) have a much more ale-like genome and are very clean. You can ferment these warmer.
- Things to speed up fermentation:
- Aerate wort: More aeration will tend to cause fermentation to start and end faster and end at a lower gravity. Chris White showed that aeration made a major difference.
- Use a Vitality Starter for liquid yeast, but use dry yeast in its dry form
- A vitality starter basically is just putting yeast in a starter wort for 3-4 hours before pitching them into your main wort.
- For a high-gravity beer, aerate 12 hours after fermentation starts
- If you're using a Froberg style lager strain, ferment a little warmer
- Bottle as fast as the spigot can flow
- Use a bench capper
- Set up everything logically and within reach
- Use two hands, one filling and one capping
- When kegging, pre-sanitize and purge kegs ahead of time
- Batch packaging in a keg is faster than bottling
- Generally speaking, traditionally you're looking at 3 weeks at 70F to carbonate a batch
- With kegging, it's about a week - set it and forget it
- Ways to speed this up:
- When carbonating in bottles, using a warm water bath with the bottles can speed this up
- "Rock and roll method" for kegging - set regulator at 30 psi and roll the keg around for about 10 minutes, the start turning the psi down toward your target psi, which should get it ready to serve in 6-12 hours.
- "Glide path method" for kegging - set regulator to 50 psi, rolling the keg on its side, until you reach your target psi
- "Burst carbonation" for kegging - Set the regulator to a high psi for a shorter period of time
- Spunding valve - Let your fermenting beer carbonate itself. Rack to the keg when your fermentation is nearly done. Add a spunding valve, then it will carbonate itself and release extra pressure.
The 15-minute Beer Method:
- Using malt extract, you can go through the whole brew process in an hour
- Use a 15-minute boil and roughly double the bittering hops you'd use in a 60-minute boil
- According to Brulosophy, you can go from start to cleanup in an hour
Zero Boil Beer:
- Bring wort to boiling and turn off the flame
- Do 15-20 minute hop steep (a.k.a., hop-stand or whirlpool)
- Trades the short hop stand for the 60-minute boil time
They recommend experimenting with all these techniques and see what works for you. They've used them for a wide variety of styles using these methods and had success with them.