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Old 07-22-2014, 12:58 PM   #1
JonGrafto
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Default Sour Mash Berliner Question

Ok folks.
Yesterday morning I mashed in 10 gallons of a Berliner Weiss, cooled to 120° and then threw a cup of 2-row on top.
I then purged with CO2, covered with Saran wrap and purged again and covered in my Igloo cooler.

I have been checking temps and they are not too bad but dropping. I checked this morning and it was at 105°.

I was going to heat it back up by placing boiling water into the mash and here is where my question is.

When adding boiling water, do I stir up the entire mash?
(Won't that introduce oxygen?)

I want to sour for at least 48-72 hours (dictated by taste).
So far it smells good, well... It doesn't smell bad. Just like plain yogurt.

Input please... Thanks.

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Old 07-22-2014, 02:51 PM   #2
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It will sour just fine as it cools, keeping oxygen out is much more important than maintaining the heat. I know another brewer who makes great berliners that doesn't bother keeping it warm at all, he just lets it naturally cool from 120F and sours it for a week.

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Old 07-23-2014, 06:27 PM   #3
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So I checked it last night. Smells ok... not too disturbing considering the circumstances. But I noticed that all of the grains bloated up and rose to the top. It was all still covered in Saran Wrap but I still thought this was weird.

I may try and taste it tonight. At that point it will be 54-58 hours in.

What should I expect?
Do I plug my nose and dive right in? Ha ha.

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Old 07-23-2014, 06:58 PM   #4
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So I checked it last night. Smells ok... not too disturbing considering the circumstances. But I noticed that all of the grains bloated up and rose to the top. It was all still covered in Saran Wrap but I still thought this was weird.

I may try and taste it tonight. At that point it will be 54-58 hours in.

What should I expect?
Do I plug my nose and dive right in? Ha ha.
That's normal, it's what mine does when the lacto is thriving. I just used a sanitized spoon and tried to get mostly liquid, can't avoid the grain.
The sourness should be immediately apparent, it should taste pretty good for the most part. I let the sample cool down before tasting it.
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Old 07-23-2014, 07:02 PM   #5
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That's normal, it's what mine does when the lacto is thriving. I just used a sanitized spoon and tried to get mostly liquid, can't avoid the grain.
The sourness should be immediately apparent, it should taste pretty good for the most part. I let the sample cool down before tasting it.
Could I drain it from the bottom with my ball valve? or should I be taking the sample from the top most portion?

I was thinking to just open the ball valve and drain an ounce or so for taste but didn't know if the souring goes from the top down or if it even matters.
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Old 07-23-2014, 07:21 PM   #6
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Could I drain it from the bottom with my ball valve? or should I be taking the sample from the top most portion?

I was thinking to just open the ball valve and drain an ounce or so for taste but didn't know if the souring goes from the top down or if it even matters.
I don't think it matters but that's just my gut. I'd imagine the lactic acid would disperse evenly in the liquid, probably will be fine to taste it like that. It's what I would do if I had a spigot on my pot.
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Old 07-23-2014, 07:37 PM   #7
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I don't think it matters but that's just my gut. I'd imagine the lactic acid would disperse evenly in the liquid, probably will be fine to taste it like that. It's what I would do if I had a spigot on my pot.
Thanks for the input. I have done many other beers in the past, but this is my first venture in any type of sour or sour mash for that matter.

Hopefully it turns out well and becomes a consistently brewed recipe.
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Old 07-24-2014, 01:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JonGrafto View Post
Ok folks.
Yesterday morning I mashed in 10 gallons of a Berliner Weiss, cooled to 120° and then threw a cup of 2-row on top.
I then purged with CO2, covered with Saran wrap and purged again and covered in my Igloo cooler.

I have been checking temps and they are not too bad but dropping. I checked this morning and it was at 105°.

I was going to heat it back up by placing boiling water into the mash and here is where my question is.

When adding boiling water, do I stir up the entire mash?
(Won't that introduce oxygen?)

I want to sour for at least 48-72 hours (dictated by taste).
So far it smells good, well... It doesn't smell bad. Just like plain yogurt.

Input please... Thanks.
There is a lot of mis-information out there about sour mashing, including the impact of oxygen.

When sour mashing you are actually doing two things: 1) you're creating conditions under which lactobacilli will rapidly sour the wort, and 2) you're trying to create conditions which impair the activity of other microorganisms such as enterobacteria and acetobacter.

The major factor determining the activity of lactobacilli is the temperature - lacto works best in the range of 37-42C (~98-108F), but can produce lactic acid less efficiently at much lower temperatures (as cool as 15C/60F). Lactobacillus is a microareophile, meaning it needs small amounts of oxygen, but they also don't care if lots of oxygen is present. There is anecdotal evidence that "extra" oxygen may actually lead lacto to produce a nicer flavour profile that is more complex, which has been my experience as well.

The reason we like to aim for the higher end of lacto's temperature range is that those temperatures inhibit (note: inhibit, not kill) several bacteria that can produce some very unpleasant off flavours and aromas. Enterobacteria like Clostridium butyricum will grow in a too-cool mash (at or below 37C/98F), and produce a lot of buteric acid which can really ruin a beer. Other entero's like Escherichia coli can also grow, generate all kinds of nasty off-flavours/aroma (vomit, faeces), and can be potentially pathogenic if you're doing a no-boil. All of those entero's don't give a rats behind if there is oxygen present or not - they grow fine with or without it.

The only reason people use an oxygen barrier is for Aceotobacter, which produces acetic acid (vinegar) in the presence of oxygen. In small amounts acetic acid can be quite nice in a sour, but it doesn't take much before it starts becoming unpleasant. The good news is that Acetobacter is inhibited above ~35C (95F), so if you keep your mash in the lacto-range you don't need to worry about an oxygen barrier.

I've been experimenting with a number of sour-mashing methods over the years. I've done away with oxygen barriers in my mashes - they're only needed if you cannot keep the temperature up - and, IMO, you end up with a nicer sour profile if the mash has access to oxygen. I've tried letting it cool near the end of the mash to allow some Aceotobacter activity - if done right that can add a nice depth to the beer, but its easy to over-do it (8-12 hours at/below 35C at the end of the sour mash seems to work). More recently I've done a few with pure and mixed cultures, instead of inoculating with uncrushed grain. To date they've ranged from unsatisfactory to horrendous; I've got a post on my blog about one of the worst ones, but a lot of my pure culture attempts have led to "thin" beers that lack the depth of flavour you get from a "true" sour mash.

Bryan
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Old 07-24-2014, 01:35 PM   #9
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Damn, had a feeling it was dangerous to taste the sour mash before the boil. My first two went from 120 to around 80, probably held 80 for 3 days. Must have been lucky cuz they came out great.

They hold steady for me now around 90F after cooling from 120 over 2-3 days. Your mention of E Coli is fairly disturbing....
But yeah, everyone I've talked to with experience in making good berliners has said letting oxygen in will lead to vomit aromas and said it was the most important part. Interesting to know this isn't the case at all.

Maybe the exposure led to more Clostridium Butyricum getting in the mash and taking over.

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Old 07-24-2014, 02:23 PM   #10
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I taste my sour mashes all the time - but I also keep them above 37C (98F). The only time I had a vomit aroma was the one time I forgot about the mash, and let the temp drop to ~33C (91F). Oxygen has nothing to do with the formation of those aromas though; those are from the enterics and they work fine with or without O2.

B

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