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Old 03-04-2013, 03:17 PM   #1
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Default How to do small test batches?

I'm a new brewer - only on batch 5 - and am just now transitioning to all-grain (or, I should say, "mostly grain"...).

I haven't been entirely happy with my results so far, though. In fact, out of the 4 beers I've tried, only one was really good (an extract-base clone of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale from a recipe found here).

Rather than stumble blindly from one 5gal disaster to the next, I'd like to take a more scientific approach to figuring out what I like in a beer (that is to say, I know what commercial beers I like, but I don't know what is *in* them that makes them so likable). So my plan is to employ Ye Olde Scientific Method and brew up a number of small test beers of around 1 quart to 1 gallon each in which only one ingredient is changed with the rest of the ingredients and process remaining the same.

What I could use some help with from HBT is how to go about this, particularly with testing different base malts. Like, should I use any hops at all? Will over-pitching the yeast speed things up (like, say, using a whole packet of US-05 for a quart of wort)?

Once I get a good idea of how different base malts taste, I'd like to next test different hops for flavor, doing a BIAB brew of around 2 gallons, let's say, with a single base malt and a fixed amount of bittering hops, then splitting the batch up into 4 equal portions and adding a different type of hops (same weight * alpha acid percentage to each) with 20 minutes remaining in the boil.

Has anyone else done such a series of experiments? If so, I'd sure appreciate some wisdom from you (or even some half-baked conjecture - why not, it's all beer, right?)

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Old 03-04-2013, 03:27 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicSmoker View Post
I'm a new brewer - only on batch 5 - and am just now transitioning to all-grain (or, I should say, "mostly grain"...).

I haven't been entirely happy with my results so far, though. In fact, out of the 4 beers I've tried, only one was really good (an extract-base clone of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale from a recipe found here).

Rather than stumble blindly from one 5gal disaster to the next, I'd like to take a more scientific approach to figuring out what I like in a beer (that is to say, I know what commercial beers I like, but I don't know what is *in* them that makes them so likable). So my plan is to employ Ye Olde Scientific Method and brew up a number of small test beers of around 1 quart to 1 gallon each in which only one ingredient is changed with the rest of the ingredients and process remaining the same.

What I could use some help with from HBT is how to go about this, particularly with testing different base malts. Like, should I use any hops at all? Will over-pitching the yeast speed things up (like, say, using a whole packet of US-05 for a quart of wort)?

Once I get a good idea of how different base malts taste, I'd like to next test different hops for flavor, doing a BIAB brew of around 2 gallons, let's say, with a single base malt and a fixed amount of bittering hops, then splitting the batch up into 4 equal portions and adding a different type of hops (same weight * alpha acid percentage to each) with 20 minutes remaining in the boil.

Has anyone else done such a series of experiments? If so, I'd sure appreciate some wisdom from you (or even some half-baked conjecture - why not, it's all beer, right?)
no reason why any of this wouldn't work. except for the no hops thing.

scaling recipes is easy with brewing software (I use BeerSmith2, very easy to scale). I presume scaling also applies to yeast.

there is a 1-Gallon Brewers Unite! thread in the Beginners section.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:47 PM   #3
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I've done some similar. But separate boils if working on bitterness. I also used the shasta 3 ltr bottles as primary and regular 2 ltr as secondary/conditioning. I mostly just force carbed in the 2 ltr with the carbonator cap!!

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Old 03-04-2013, 05:38 PM   #4
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That is how I spent my first year of brewing. UK pale malt vs US pale malt. Notty fermented at 65 vs 60. Cascade vs Centennial. 60 minute addition vs FWH. I'd say out of my first 40 batches, only ten were actual recipes that I built off of the "research"

I learned a lot though. 1 gallon is the way to go. Still do it.

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Old 03-04-2013, 05:41 PM   #5
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no reason why any of this wouldn't work. except for the no hops thing.
Alright, given that there has to be some hops even for the base malt testing, what hops and how much per quart of wort would provide a clean, neutral amount of bitterness?

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scaling recipes is easy with brewing software (I use BeerSmith2, very easy to scale). I presume scaling also applies to yeast.
My rationale for over-pitching the yeast is to get fermentation started as quickly as possible and, perhaps, over a lot faster, too. I'm talking about using the equivalent of 20 packets of dry yeast for a 5gal. batch. Will this work, or will it just result in strange off flavors and render the experiment moot?

As for BeerSmith 2.0... let me just say that it is NOT for the new brewer. I used it for my last two batches trying to gain some familiarity with it and it has been exceptionally frustrating (particularly the equipment section). That said, when I asked the pros manning the counter at my LHBS to give me some pointers on using BeerSmith 2.0 I was a bit surprised to seem them all struggling with the same parts as me...


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I've done some similar. But separate boils if working on bitterness. I also used the shasta 3 ltr bottles as primary and regular 2 ltr as secondary/conditioning. I mostly just force carbed in the 2 ltr with the carbonator cap!!
Hmmm... I was going to use gallon glass jugs, but 2L or 3L bottles seem a lot more sensible. As long as I can find a drilled stopper for the airlock that will fit!

But could you explain this forcing carbing with a carbonator cap thing? It sounds like a good way to cut a week or more out of the process by skipping bottle conditioning, am I right?
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:47 PM   #6
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Especially for ales the flavour profile of from the yeast is important. You will lose this with such a blatant over pitch rate.

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Old 03-04-2013, 06:34 PM   #7
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maybe not think of it as "neutral" bitterness any more than it is "neutral" maltiness or sweetness. both exist in the beer, but there is a balance between the two, some are more bitter and some are malt forward, dependent on style.

if you're looking for an "average" hop, the alpha %s go from 3 to 17, so the average is 10%. Centennial is around that, it's a popular and tasty variety and used as the single hop in one of my favorite IPAs, Bell's Two Hearted. I'll be using it in my first attempt at a SMaSH next brewday

then look at the Bitterness Ratio. IBU/SG. take your IBUs and divide by the estimated OG dropping the 1, and compare that to the average of the range of IBUs and OG in the style.

for example.

for an English PA, the range of OG is from 1.048 to 1.060. so the average is = 1.054. use 54 for the calculation. the range of IBU for the style is 30 to 50, so the average is 40.

40/54 = .740, so for a "balanced" bitterness, in a 1 gallon batch of a 2-row/centennial SMaSH, 2lbs 1.2oz of 2-row and 1/3oz of centennial will give you that ratio.

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Old 03-04-2013, 06:35 PM   #8
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Hmmm... I was going to use gallon glass jugs, but 2L or 3L bottles seem a lot more sensible. As long as I can find a drilled stopper for the airlock that will fit!

But could you explain this forcing carbing with a carbonator cap thing? It sounds like a good way to cut a week or more out of the process by skipping bottle conditioning, am I right?
For the bottles airlock I just used the soda cap and drilled the same size hole in it as the one in my bucket lid and used the black rubber grommet from the lid. Soda bottles I stayed away from were anything with vanilla, ginger, rootbeer and cola. And the carbonator cap looks like this and carbed the 2 ltr at fridge temps in 2 days.
http://www.homebrewery.com/images/carbonatorcomp.jpg
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:05 PM   #9
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So my plan is to employ Ye Olde Scientific Method and brew up a number of small test beers of around 1 quart to 1 gallon each in which only one ingredient is changed with the rest of the ingredients and process remaining the same.
Great timing, I have been thinking about doing this as well. I am mostly concerned with experimenting with hops and yeast, I can get a good idea of malt character from chewing a few grains.

My concern right now is boiloff rate for a different pot. I know what it is for my normal setup, but I'm not gonna be using that for 1 gal. I am also thinking that mashing for 5 gal and boiling as 1 introduces a change in scale partway through the process, skewing the volume and hop utilization calcs from the software. I'm leaning toward scaling in the software to 1 gal, then multiplying by 5 for just the mash/sparge, then divide by 5 for separate 1 gal batches and preserve hop utilization rate in the boil. Now I have to test for boiloff rates in the pots I plan to use so I can set up the right figures in the software to get the right sparge volumes....

I do enjoy brewing, but this seems like a bit of a pita, and my schedule is pretty tight not leaving a lot of time for brewing, so I'm also looking for information about commercial examples that use specific hops so I can test them to see if I like their character. I know I am not a fan of cascade thanks to an offering at a local brewpub, that was helpful.

Anyone know of any commercial smashes and the details of their ingredients?
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:40 PM   #10
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Great timing, I have been thinking about doing this as well. I am mostly concerned with experimenting with hops and yeast, I can get a good idea of malt character from chewing a few grains.
Yeah, my motivation for doing this has evolved, too, since I proposed it. I've been following a few threads debating when to add the hops for flavoring/aroma - most recipes and at least one chart floating around the interwebz say that adding hops with ~20 minutes left in the boil gives the strongest flavor while the addition at ~5 minutes left gives the best aroma. A bunch of upstarts are arguing that adding hops after flameout, and, more specifically, after the wort has been cooled to 180F, gives the best flavor and aroma. Then there is dry hopping (though that is not something that is tested on brew day).

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... Now I have to test for boiloff rates in the pots I plan to use so I can set up the right figures in the software to get the right sparge volumes....
I personally think that the only practical way to do this is BIAB in small pots on the stove. My current plan for testing the timing of hop additions is to mash 5-5.5 gal of a "neutral" wort (ie - all 2-row) in the 30qt. turkey fryer outside, maybe do the bittering addition as well, then transfer this to the smaller pots on the stove for doing the addition timing experiments.

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Originally Posted by Doongie View Post
I do enjoy brewing, but this seems like a bit of a pita, and my schedule is pretty tight not leaving a lot of time for brewing, so I'm also looking for information about commercial examples that use specific hops so I can test them to see if I like their character....
I hear ya... I'm in no rush to do these experiments myself and for the same reason: PITA factor.

That said, a good example of an IPA that uses just one hop and has a pretty simple grain bill is Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. IIRC, it uses 91% 2-row and 9% C10 and just Centennial for bittering/flavor/aroma/dry-hop additions (1oz each for a nominal 5 gal. batch).
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