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Old 01-25-2013, 02:30 AM   #1
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Default First Time Attmepting Sour Mash

We've been all-grain brewing for about 8 months. We are now planning to do our first sour mash to create a session (~5%) Belgian Pale Sour. I have a few burning questions before getting started:

1. Should we sour mash the entire mash, or just a portion of it.

2. If we only do a portion, do we combine the sour portion with the rest of the mash and proceed as normal with an hour mash at 152 F or so?

3. Should we use completely different equipment (mash tun, tubing, kettle, carboy, bottling bucket, etc) than we use for our normal, non-sour beers?

4. If we use the same equipment, what is the best way to clean everything afterwards?

5. I have a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler mash tun. How concerned should I be about the headspace (oxygen)?

6. What should the mash pH be in a sour mash?

Remember, we are not using any wild or sour yeast strains. Thanks for the help!

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Old 01-25-2013, 11:11 AM   #2
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1) Depends on how sour you want your beer. For a 'Belgian' Pale, i wouldn't sour the whole mash.

2.) You'll mash normally, then cool the mash to around 110 to sour. You'd then combine the soured wort with the 'clean' wort in the kettle or fermenter.

3.) One thing folks like about the sour mash is that it's pre-kettle, so you boil or at least heat the wort and kill the bacteria that soured the beer. You don't need seperate equipment and don't worry about your mash tun. The lacto that sours the mash is on all malt.

4) Just like normal.

5) Huh? If you're asking about oxygen in regards to the sour mash, it's bad news. You need to at least cover the mash with plastic wrap and I purge the mash tun with CO2.

6.) pH should be what it is when you like the way it tastes, or at least find it to be as sour as you want.

There are tons of posts on here about sour mash beers. Read up a bit and you'll get a better idea of what you're doing.

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Old 01-25-2013, 11:28 AM   #3
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When soured mash is added to the mash it is done to lower Ph for water that needs this treatment. Just do a regular mash as you would without souring--epecially if your Ph without would be optimal.

Once you have the conversion done then you can either add lactobacillus to the whole batch of wort by dunking some raw grain in it. All grain has lactobacillus on it. If you do this your only control on how much lactic acid will really be more hit and miss and limited to temperature and duration. "Do you you let it sit for two days or three before boiling?"

I prefer to make a separate wort, sour it, and then add that to taste into the main batch in the brew kettle. I usually add between a pint and a quart depending on how sour I want the batch. I'd add it just late enough to be pasteurized by the boil because the change in Ph can draw more tannins from your hops.

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Old 01-25-2013, 05:19 PM   #4
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Ok thanks for the tips. We don't have a MLT dedicated to sours yet, so I was going to just pick up a small cooler for the sour mash portion. Our total grain bill is just 9.5 lbs, so I was going to mash 2 lbs in a separate cooler for a couple of days at ~110 and then add this to the main mash just before lautering. However, I hear your point about the pH of the wort and tannin extraction during the boil from the hops...

So I think right now my options are...

1. Combine sour mash with main mash before lautering and lauter everything together.

2. Lauter the main mash completely and start boil. Lauter sour mash separately (using same MLT) and combine in kettle with maybe 15 min left in boil?

Finally, what is a good water/grist ratio for the sour mash? I heard a 'thick' mash is best. 1 qt/lb?

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Old 01-25-2013, 07:10 PM   #5
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I have a small two gallon cooler that I use for souring. I make a small wort with DME or sometimes using pale malt. Then, when it gets down to around 110F I throw in a handful of grain. This gets plastic wrap laid on top of the liquid, because lactobacillus work anaerobically. I then seal up the lid and let it ride for two days. I did some last night and this morning I checked the temperature and it was already quite sour. I would then add this to the boil kettle to taste. Some people use lactobacillus added to the fermenter, but hops retards lacto so it doesn't get the same effect in my view.

As for the grist/water ratio for the sourmash, I just use the standard of 1.25lb:1qt. This last time I used DME to make the wort and used 1lb:1qt. This got me a gravity of 1.044. I notice that this one is souring faster. This could be because of the higher gravity or because instead of just dipping the grain in the wort several times and removing, I just threw it in and left it. A larger colony of lacto would have made it into the wort. I'll filter it out later.

If you are using a small amount to sour (not a full 5 gallons), why not just do BIAB (Brew in a Bag) with that portion so there is no need to lauter it in a MLT.

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Old 01-28-2013, 06:50 PM   #6
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Thanks for the photo and info. Definitely helpful.

We used a small cooler and mashed 3 lbs of grain at 149, then dropped it to 127 and sprinkled some (crushed) grain on top. We covered with plastic wrap and let it sit for two days over which time the temp ultimately went from 127 to 92.

We had some ugly stuff growing after the two days, but no foul smell. We skimmed the ugly stuff off and added this sour mash to the main mash just before lautering. The wort into the fermentor has no sourness at all.

Could we have lost it all by combing the two mashes? Would it have been better to lauter it separately?

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Old 01-30-2013, 01:00 AM   #7
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When I did a sour mash beer I mashed like normal, then let it cool to 110 and threw in a handfull of grain. I left all the grain, didnt remove any of it. Then put plastic wrap on top to cut off all air, then put some plastic wrapped pink foam on top. Did it all in a cooler to help keep it hot. Left it for 3 days (was at 100 by the last day). Collected the wort and brewed the rest like normal using a common ale yeast (either US05 or 1056 as thats what I keep around). Turned out awesome. Used a flanders red recipe as the base.

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