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Old 05-28-2012, 10:48 PM   #1
Robth
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Default Some GF Brewing Observations and Questions

Hey all,
First post here. I'm a somewhat experienced homebrewer (all grain, been brewing over a year, do a pretty wide range of styles) who's recently started doing some small-batch GF experiments. I'm intending to share them mostly with my dad, who's now gluten-intolerant but also a beer lover since well before I existed, and also with some other friends, including one very sensitive celiac.

I wanted to throw out a few observations/rules of thumb I've been going by for others to confirm or disagree with, and also ask a few questions. Here goes.

The rules I've been following regarding keeping things gluten free are as follows (these are meant to be pretty strict, since one friend is quite sensitive):

  • Glass and metal equipment can be shared with non-GF uses; all plastic or non-stic equipment must be GF only
  • Fermentis dry yeast is safe; White Labs or Wyeast should be cultured through 4-5 generations on a gf medium before being used.
  • The equipment chain of custody needs to be solid - for instance, I don't intend to use hops from my LHBS in the final product, since they use the same scoops for hops and barley.
  • It's my understanding that Brewer's Clarex and the like can't actually be trusted to chop up the protein functional groups that gluten intolerant people are sensitive to. No shortcuts - or, at least, none so easy as that.
  • All these rules are relaxed, of course, for the test batches, which only I drink.

Do these sound sufficient? Overly paranoid? Am I missing anything?

Next, my qualitative observations on recipes:
  • I've generally preferred my recipes brewed on more "interesting" yeasts (i.e. WLP550, Wyeast 3711) to those on more straightforward (US-05) yeasts. I think the esters and whatnot may help bury the off sorghum tastes.
  • It seems like part of the trick is to get sorghum down to 50-60% of the mash or less without including so much of anything else that its own undesirable aspects start to come out. For instance, I've found that honey up to ~15% of the mash can be nice, after which the brew starts to taste like honey wine or something. Currently doing some experiments trying to find the limits with Belgian candi sugar.
  • I've been messing around with steeping millet, amaranth, and buckwheat - unmalted, but sometimes roasted - to try to add some body and grain character, and I've found that it helps, but not as much as I'd like. I don't currently have the capacity to grind these grains, and I suspect I'm getting less out of them than I otherwise would as a result.
  • Maltodextrine definitely helps offset the sugar adjuncts in terms of creating a balanced mouthfeel.
  • Small batches help. I haven't yet produced anything I want to drink more than a gallon of on this project, and using 1 Gal plastic containers for fermenters also makes it easier to do side by side experiments.

Do these match other people's experience?

Lastly, my big question of the moment. I've been thinking about buying some amylase and doing a largely millet mash - I like the taste of that grain. How has this worked for anyone who's tried it? I don't know that I'm up for actually malting the grain myself, so this seems like the second best option.

Thanks for any help, and sorry for the wall of text; I haven't had anywhere to lay these thoughts out, really, so you guys end up with a lot of my rambling to read.


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Old 05-28-2012, 11:55 PM   #2
igliashon
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Welcome aboard, matey!

I just did an experiment with Crosby and Baker Amylase formula and 5 lbs of (pre-gelatinized) millet. No dice, don't waste your time. It'll give you a big vat of maltodextrin and almost no maltose. Unless you can find an enzyme mix that's balanced with alpha and beta (in which case PLEASE share your source!), an all-alpha formula (the only kind I've been able to find) won't give the results you're looking for. We talk a lot about using sweet potato to get beta amylase (the only source we know of), but good results are hard to come by and I can't name any success stories of GF all-grain brewing (others, please chime in if you've got any!). It seems the best results are from malting your own grain, as GF grains do have a modicum of diastatic power. Not much, but some (apparently).

As for the rest of your observations, I'd say they're spot on. I haven't experimented much with yeasts yet but I have a strong feeling that that aspect will really make the difference between "okay" and "great". Got any favorite strains you'd recommend?



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Old 05-30-2012, 11:11 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by igliashon View Post
I haven't experimented much with yeasts yet but I have a strong feeling that that aspect will really make the difference between "okay" and "great". Got any favorite strains you'd recommend?
Well, it's an ongoing experiment. So far I've found that WLP530, which I really like in barley beers has produced some good-ish gf things, but I think that some of the harsher elements of its flavor profile can accentuate the unpleasant sorghum taste. WLP550 has gone better; I use that yeast less than 530 or Wyeast 3711 for barley beers, but I think it's flavor works pretty well in the one gf experiment I've done with it to date.

Stuff I want to experiment with more includes 3711, which gives a nice Belgian funk with just a bit of fruitiness if you keep the temperature down, and WLP510, which I haven't tried in a gf brew yet. Also thinking of switching to S-04 instead of US-05 for a basic ale yeast for this project.

In general, I'm looking for stuff with a little to a lot more esters than average, to balance that metallic sorghum flavor. Time may show this to be a stupid idea, but it's what I got for now.
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Old 05-30-2012, 11:23 PM   #4
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I just ordered a bunch of Fermentis dry yeasts, and I'm going to investigate what happens with using, for instance, the lager yeasts at ale temperatures. People have tried to talk me out of it, but I've read success stories that have my interest piqued.

Another area of experimentation I'm moving into is using vegetable adjuncts, like beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes. These add trace sugars, interesting colors, minerals, and at least the sweet potato seems good for mouthfeel and a bit of lingering sweetness. Carrots and beets I haven't investigated yet but the Brooklyn Homebrew Shop recipe book has a few gluten-free recipes with these veggies.

BTW I did find a source of complete diastatic enzymes (alpha and beta amylase together), in case you missed the post. I'm gonna do some 1-gallon test batches and see what I can do with it.

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Old 05-31-2012, 12:30 AM   #5
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Careful with the carrot recipe in the brooklyn brewshop book...that was the 3 gallon batch of water I made that I later poured out.

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Old 05-31-2012, 01:27 AM   #6
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Ah, I'm not following their recipe. My current plan is to use a half-gallon of carrot juice in an IIPA recipe I've been tweaking for a while, just to see what it does with the flavor.



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