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Old 01-19-2009, 07:30 PM   #1
emacgee
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Default Belgian White suggestions

Alright, putting together a recipe for a Belgian White and I had a few questions.

A) Is it possible to steep any form of wheat? I read one recipe that mentioned flaked wheat, I’m not able to do any form of mashing and would like to include some real wheat if possible.

B) Yeast. Better to buy one or make a starter from a bottle?

C) How do most people use their orange peel?

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Old 01-19-2009, 08:10 PM   #2
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A) I believe you could steep wheat malt, but not flaked wheat. Someone else could verify.

B) I've used Wyeast Forbidden Fruit which was fantastic. I'm not sure which breweries you could get yeast from, have to make sure it is the primary yeast and not a cheaper yeast they use to bottle.

C) I use a lemon zester and zest the oranges. You want to get only the orange part of the peel not the white part which will supposedly be very bitter.

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Old 01-19-2009, 08:24 PM   #3
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No kind of wheat will work just by steeping. You need a mash to get anything worthwhile out of it.

Are you really sure you can't do a mini mash, though? If you can steep, you can mash. It's basically the same process, just you need to be more careful about getting exactly the right ratio of grain to water and temperature. A mini mash for a Wit might go something like:

- 1 lb flaked wheat
- 0.25 lb flaked oats
- 1.25 lb 2 row

Steep at 150* for one hour, then rinse the grains off with 168* water. Boil and add wheat DME to make up your final gravity.

If you don't want to take on the mash step, I would just do 100% DME. That will still make an ok beer, just not quite as good as you can get with a mash (using all extract, you'll only have malted wheat contributions, no unmalted which is key for a traditional wit).

Another thing you can do (regardless of whether you mini mash) is throw a handful of flour into the boil. That will contribute no useful sugars at all, but you will get a ton of protein and starch into the wort, which moves you at least a little closer to the cloudy results of a traditional Belgian turbid mash.

For the yeast, either way will work. I find it easier to buy a vial: both White Labs and WYeast have good Wit yeast.

I've used both dried bitter orange peel and fresh oranges. Both work well: it's a different taste, but either will work. Add right at the end of the boil.

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Old 01-19-2009, 08:49 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by emacgee View Post
Alright, putting together a recipe for a Belgian White and I had a few questions.

A) Is it possible to steep any form of wheat? I read one recipe that mentioned flaked wheat, I’m not able to do any form of mashing and would like to include some real wheat if possible.

B) Yeast. Better to buy one or make a starter from a bottle?

C) How do most people use their orange peel?
A) Wheat can't be steeped. It must be mashed. If you have a pot and a thermometer, you can mash. You really must mash some if not all the grains to make a half decent Wit.

B) Depends on your preference. Either will work.

C) If you use the dried orange peel use half sweet half bitter, and steep 5 minutes after the boil before chilling. If you use fresh orange peel throw it in at flameout. I recommend using fresh peel myself, I think it gives a nicer effect than the dried stuff...
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Old 01-19-2009, 09:15 PM   #5
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A) I figured the wheat was a no go. I just figured I'd check in case there was something everyone else knew and I didn't. May end up doing a very rough mini mash. Any chance I could do more harm than good by botching a small mash?

B) In case I can't find any yeast at my LHBS which brands will keep the same yeast strain in the bottle. I figured since the wits should be unfiltered and unpasteurized most brands will still have the fermentation yeast in the bottle. Allagash, St. Bernardus, Unibroue etc... anyone have experience with these?

C) What quantity of orange zest do most people use? What types of orange/citrus do people use?

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Old 01-19-2009, 10:00 PM   #6
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The most likely result of messing up a mash is low efficiency. That won't ruin your beer: it will just come out thinner and lower alcohol than you expected.

Another possibility is if you don't wait long enough, or have totally the wrong amount of water, or don't have enough base malt to provide enzymes, or are way off on your temperatures (eg. over 170, which will kill off the enzymes), you can end up with not all the starches being converted to sugars. That's pretty hard to do, though: you have to get something dramatically wrong to prevent conversion. Plus, even if you do have some unconverted starches left at the end, that's not actually a bad thing for a Wit (unlike most other styles where this would be very undesirable).

I wrote up my mashing technique here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/praise-partial-mash-96183/. There are many other ways to go about it: I like mine because it works without a lot of special equipment.

My #1 piece of advice: enter your recipe in Beer Smith before you brew! That will compute how much water you should use, and what temperatures you need to heat the water to, according to how much grain is in your recipe.

I used the zest from one large orange, plus a quarter of a grapefruit. Make sure you get organic fruit, so you don't get any unwanted chemicals or wax on the skin!

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Old 01-19-2009, 10:00 PM   #7
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A) I figured the wheat was a no go. I just figured I'd check in case there was something everyone else knew and I didn't. May end up doing a very rough mini mash. Any chance I could do more harm than good by botching a small mash?
Use as much 2-row malt as you have wheat in your minimash. I mash small amounts using paint strainer bags from the hardware store, they are near the paint sprayers. Heat 1.2 quarts of water for every pound of grain to 167*F, turn off the heat, drop in the bag, and affix the lid. Every 15 minutes or so check the temp, if it's below 150*F heat to 154*F and then turn off the heat and replace the lid. After 60 minutes drop the bag in a strainer, and run a few quarts of hot water slowly through the grains to rinse them. Discard the grains. It's that simple!

Hoegaarden is where WLP400 comes from and can be cultured, I recommend at least two bottles worth of sediment. Ommegang Wit is another good Wit to get a yeast strain from. I don't know if the Belgians will work, I haven't heard one way or the other. You can always try to culture the yeast, if it doesn't work you'll just have to start over with another beer. More samples for the brewer.

If you use orange zest, you will need the zest of 4-5 oranges. I use grapefruit zest in my Wit.
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Old 01-19-2009, 10:01 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by emacgee View Post
A) I figured the wheat was a no go. I just figured I'd check in case there was something everyone else knew and I didn't. May end up doing a very rough mini mash. Any chance I could do more harm than good by botching a small mash?

B) In case I can't find any yeast at my LHBS which brands will keep the same yeast strain in the bottle. I figured since the wits should be unfiltered and unpasteurized most brands will still have the fermentation yeast in the bottle. Allagash, St. Bernardus, Unibroue etc... anyone have experience with these?

C) What quantity of orange zest do most people use? What types of orange/citrus do people use?
I have used dried bitter and fresh sweet orange peel. I have had best results with the dried bitter. However, I am fairly sure I got too much of the pith in the fresh sweet peel. Which resulted in a fairly(very)undrinkable beer.

I do 3 gallon batches. The last one I did was a wit and I used .50 oz of dried bitter peel thrown in at flameout for 10 minutes. It was not quite enough. I also didn't use quite enough Coriander.

It's more of a trial and error thing, really. I have found with Wits that the orange/coriander flavor seems to change with every batch, regardless of regularity in use and quantities. Not really sure why though.
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Old 01-19-2009, 11:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by emacgee View Post
Alright, putting together a recipe for a Belgian White and I had a few questions.

A) Is it possible to steep any form of wheat? I read one recipe that mentioned flaked wheat, I’m not able to do any form of mashing and would like to include some real wheat if possible.

B) Yeast. Better to buy one or make a starter from a bottle?

C) How do most people use their orange peel?
Others have gone through the mashing thing. Witbier is not a beer one can really do justice without mashing. Is it possible to brew Witbier with extract? Yes. I've done it. It's just that wheat/barley is too simple a grist, and the other ingredients - which add a ton of character - simply must be mashed. The award-winning Witbier I used to brew professionally had Pilsner malt, wheat malt, raw wheat, Torrefied wheat, flaked oats and a crapton of rice hulls in the mash. You don't have to go that nuts; all I'm trying to say is that the complex grist was far superior to the first attempt, which was simply 2-row and wheat malt.

The right yeast is crucial to the style. If you can successfully culture from a bottle, knock yourself out! Caveat: Breweries often bottle-condition with a different strain than is used in the ferment. I prefer Wyeast's culture, myself, but YMMV.

I use and recommend a mix of dried sweet and bitter Curacao orange peel. If you're after a traditional Wit, or trying to get close to the benchmark commercial examples, you need dried peel, 'cos they sure as hell aren't going to spend three days zesting four metric tons of oranges for their 30bbl batch. They're dumping in dried peel.

Suggestions:
  • Get creative with spices other than Coriander and Orange. Try ginger, or paradise seed, or anise, or rosemary...something different.
  • Don't overhop. The above-referenced pro recipe didn't even boil; it just simmered for an hour, and enough Saazer for 7-10 IBU went in at 30 minutes. For God's sake don't use flavor/aroma hops. A lot of the bitterness and ALL of the complex flavors and aromas crucial to Wit are supposed to come from the spices and yeast, not hops. Save the hops for IPA or something.
  • Drink it fresh. Wit is a bucolic, ancient style, a throwback to the 14th and 15th centuries. Back then, if it fizzed it was because it was still at the tail end of fermentation. I've had Wit that fresh, and it's bloody awesome. Once, I brewed five gallons on Sunday. Thursday I kegged it (target FG was 1.010; I kegged it at ~1.018). We tapped it Friday night, and it was gone by midnight Saturday. Bliss!
Anyway, enjoy your Wit experience! It's a really cool style to brew.

Bob
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Old 01-21-2009, 01:40 PM   #10
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good info. here.

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