Compensate or pull through?

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Esben

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I recently brewed my second ever all-grain recipe. My first all-grain brew was a borderline-disaster, even though the resulting beer ended up quite drinkable. I felt a lot more confident and made less errors for my second attempt - progress :) I read Palmers “How to Brew” (an excellent book) back-to-back to get a sense of the basics and now I use it for looking up details and when in doubt about something. But during this second brew I ran into some issues that I was hoping You could help me clear up. It is important for me to understand not only the how but also the why, so please be explicit in Your answers so I can understand the thoughts behind :)

Recipe
Style: Blonde Ale
Batch size: 22.5 L

3.00 kg of 2-row Pilsner Malt (replacement since I couldn’t get american 2-row pale malt).
1.85 kg of Vienna Malt.

25.82 g of Hallertauer Mittelfrüh @ 60 minutes (13.1 IBU).
32.97 g of Hallertauer Mittelfrüh @ 15 minutes (8.3 IBU).

California Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP001).

Mashing at 66.7 C for 60 minutes.
Mash-out by heating to 75.6 C over 10 minutes.
Sparge with 75.6 C water to reach boil volume.

60 minutes total boiling time.

Yeast starter prepared a few days before brew-day to propagate a single package to roughly 200B cells. Ferment at 17 C. After fermentation slows down, raise to 22 C for a diacetyl rest.

Equipment
Ace Micro Brewery: An all-in-one type kettle. A (too) cheap Grainfather knockoff.

How it went (and a lot of questions)

First mistake:
I use Beersmith 2. When preparing i used the software to calculate the proper strike water temperature. But when adding the grain to the water the temperature didn’t drop all the way down to the target 66.7 C mash temperature - not even close - so something is completely off in my equipment profile i think.
  • How much do some minutes at a wrong temperature mean to the end result?
  • Is it better to undershoot or overshoot the target mash temperature?
  • When should i start my mash timer: After adding the grain or when i hit the target temperature?
  • When mashing in a kettle as i do, is it better to just heat the strike water to my target mash temperature and let the kettle heat to hit the mash temperature?
Second mistake: I assembled the overflow pipe in the malt pipe in the wrong order. The details of how it works are not important but it meant that the top mesh could not slide all the way down and rest on the grain bed. After mashing (mashing by recirculation in this type of system) i noticed that the wort had channeled almost all the way to the false bottom along the circumference of the malt pipe. I panicked and stirred the grain bed prior to sparging. This meant of course that I ended up with a very un-clear wort and i had to skim off a lot of gunk during boiling to compensate for this.
  • Obviously I am going to assemble correctly next time, but in this situation what should i have done?
Third mistake: My boil volume should have been 25.9 L but I ended up at roughly 28 L. Therefore (also due to lower than expected brewhouse efficiency) my pre-boil gravity ended up low at 1.035 instead of the target 1.042. I decided to not do anything about this since i estimated that the beer would still end up in the suggested OG range for the style.
  • Should I have compensated with DME to hit my 1.042 target?
  • How would I choose which DME to use (since the recipe uses two malts)?
  • Should I also have compensated in the hop amounts?
  • What if the pre-boil gravity had ended up above target. Should I prioritise hitting my planned boil volume and accept this, or add water to hit the gravity target?
Another question: Everything went according to plan with my yeast starter and fermentation. But i would have preferred not to add 2 L of disgusting yeast starter wort to my beer. How many yeast cells should i expect to be suspended vs flocculated - i.e. how many cells will I loose by pouring off everything but the yeast layer at the bottom?

I know this was a proper wall-of-text. Thanks for reading through if You got so far! Explanations and answers will be greatly appreciated. Hopefully I will make even fewer mistakes for my next brew :)
 

ronson92

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Hi,
I'm adding grains when water has temperature about 2 Celsius degrees more than mash or first rest temperature and I'm starting mash timer. It's easier to heat water alone.
Temperatures of amylases activity are not step function, they work in a range of temperature. If mash temperature is 1-2 degrees higher than target temperature - it's fine.

About second mistake I can't say you anything because I don't use all-in-one kettle. I have an enamel pot.

It's up to you if you want to have everything exactly as in recipe maybe you can add DME but I have never do this. I don't even check pre-boil gravity. I heard that you can add extract but I don't have experience.
After filtration I'm boiling wort, chilling and when I'm decanting wort to fermenetr I'm checking gravity (only to check efficiency and for my information). I don't correct it in any way. This is homebrewing, nothing must be perfect here :D But of course you can add water to hit target gravity. I think that you don't have to worry about hops (unless you add 10l of water).
 

cactusgarrett

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I'll take a stab at as many as i can....
  • How much do some minutes at a wrong temperature mean to the end result?
  • Is it better to undershoot or overshoot the target mash temperature?
  • When should i start my mash timer: After adding the grain or when i hit the target temperature?
  • When mashing in a kettle as i do, is it better to just heat the strike water to my target mash temperature and let the kettle heat to hit the mash temperature?
  • Just a few minutes shouldn't affect anything. And being off a few degrees won't produce a noticeable difference.
  • If you do under/overshoot by a LOT, the direction will determine if it's "better". Higher temp yields less fermentable wort (ultimately sweeter) and lower temp is more fermentable (ultimately thinner/drier).
  • After you add grain, you're on the clock. There is no magic start/stop time, though. Close enough is good enough.
  • Not sure what you're asking. Is it better to infuse mash or direct fire the kettle? To each his own regarding this.
My boil volume should have been 25.9 L but I ended up at roughly 28 L. Therefore (also due to lower than expected brewhouse efficiency) my pre-boil gravity ended up low at 1.035 instead of the target 1.042. I decided to not do anything about this since i estimated that the beer would still end up in the suggested OG range for the style.
  • Should I have compensated with DME to hit my 1.042 target?
  • How would I choose which DME to use (since the recipe uses two malts)?
  • Should I also have compensated in the hop amounts?
  • What if the pre-boil gravity had ended up above target. Should I prioritise hitting my planned boil volume and accept this, or add water to hit the gravity target?
  • For some, 1.035 vs 1.042 is close enough and they just leave it. When you're low on your gravity and high on volume, your two main options are to add extract to hit gravity, or to boil longer to get down to the target volume. There is no prescribed fix.
  • If you go the DME route, and you're doing all-grain, the lighter the better. Less impact to the integrity of the recipe.
  • Ideally, you would adjust your hopping level. Having more volume than planned lowers the IBU (we're not going to worry about utilization here). Having the same volume but a different-than-target gravity also affects your IBU: higher gravity lowers hop utilization. For your case, the gravity wouldn't have affected much, but the extra 2L could have warranted a few more grams of hops. I would venture a guess that you're not going to notice a perceivable difference, though.
How many yeast cells should i expect to be suspended vs flocculated - i.e. how many cells will I loose by pouring off everything but the yeast layer at the bottom?
I can't speak to yeast count, as there are a LOT of variables that go into figuring that out. Next time you do a starter, there are two options:
1) Do it close to brew day (no more than 2 days ahead): with this, you should plan on having the volume somewhat lower, knowing you're going to pitch the whole thing into you batch. It isn't enough time to flocc out the yeast.
2) Do your starter a week ahead of brew day: this should give it proper time to build count (3-4 days), then enough time to crash cool and flocc out the yeast. THEN you can decant the spent starter wort and pitch only the slurry at the bottom.


Hope this helps.
 

Hopalong

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GREAT explanation of the process.
  • How much do some minutes at a wrong temperature mean to the end result? Define some minutes and what you consider is a wrong temperature.
  • Is it better to undershoot or overshoot the target mash temperature? Depends for how long the mash rests during the low temperature or high temperature event.
  • When should i start my mash timer: After adding the grain or when i hit the target temperature? Why worry, use iodine and test for starch after 30 minutes with the mash at whatever temperature is recommended. Rest for 30 minutes at 152F and test for starch, if starch is still present wait another 10 minutes. If starch is present after a 60 minute rest the malt is slack.
  • When mashing in a kettle as i do, is it better to just heat the strike water to my target mash temperature and let the kettle heat to hit the mash temperature? Since, target temperature is 152F, when the grain is added the temp drops which you have a handle on, so, if the resultant temperature is used for activating a lower temperature activated enzyme, the mash can be slowly increased in temperature to 152F to complete saccharification. However, the longer mash rests below 150F the drier the beer becomes during aging and that needs to be considered because it will take time for the mash to reach 152F, unless a boiling water infusion is used and that's the best way to do it. Use whatever source heats the kettle to maintain mash temperature. I use a gas heated mash tun (no false bottom) and a gas heated lautertun.
When a diacetyl rest is used the beer is krausened because yeast takes a beating during the high temperature rest. Unless you are good at producing diacetyl eliminate the rest. It's easier to clean up a poor brewing process and to use decent yeast than to add another step to the brewing process. The rest is only a temporary patch, anyway, diacetyl returns.

Due to reading certain books and referring to on line brewing instructions you are locking into numbers such as strike and target temperature, preboil gravity, OG. The problem with locking in with computer generated recipes and the data attached to the recipe is they are not accurate time after time because malt is very inconsistent and before a recipe can be deemed as accurate the spec sheet for the malt listed on the recipe is required. A spec sheet comes with each sack of malt and it's used for determining if the malt is capable of producing ale and lager. There are two types of malt on the market, under modified-low protein malt which is used for producing ale and lager, and fully modified-high protein malt which is suitable for producing whiskey and malt extract.
The recipe recommended a rest at 152F for one hour, the problem is that the recipe omitted the conversion rest at 140F. When the conversion rest is omitted the complex types of sugar required in ale and lager do not form and only primary fermentation is needed. When conversion occurs secondary fermentation is required. A recipe that omits a conversion rest and recommends using a certain type of malt is an indication that the malt lacks Beta amylase which drops malt from brewers grade malt into distillers grade malt.
When conversion occurs secondary fermentation is required because yeast deals with glucose differently than it deals with maltose and maltotriose. During secondary fermentation yeast absorbs maltose through the cell wall and an enzyme within yeast converts maltose back into glucose. The glucose is expelled back through the cell wall and it becomes yeast fuel. The gravity comes closer to expected FG during second fermentation. After two weeks the beer is transferred into kegs without adding priming sugar. During aging/lagering yeast works on maltotriose and the beer naturally carbonates and drops to expected FG.
A recipe that recommends using fully modified malt, single temperature infusion, only primary fermentation and adding priming sugar or CO2 for carbonation the beer produced is similar in quality to Prohibition style beer which is easy to produce, but lacks complex sugars maltose and maltotriose.

Here's an easy to do tip. Before adding any hops bring the extract to boiling and as the extract boils skim off the hot break as it rises and continue to remove it until it ceases to form or at least drastically reduces, then add bittering hops and skim off the second hot break. Less hops are needed because removing hot break cleans the wort and hop character sticks better to clean wort. Less goop will be transferred into the primary fermenter which is a good thing.

If possible purchase Weyermann light and dark Pils floor malt. The malt is slightly under modified which means the malt is rich in enzyme content. The malt is low in protein and that means it has a bunch of sugar in it. To make beer richer boil some malt. A type of heat resistant, complex starch called amylopectin enters into solution when mash is boiled and when the boiling mash is added back into the main mash Alpha releases A and B limit dextrin from the starch during dextrinization. A and B limit dextrin are types of tasteless, nonfermenting sugar responsible for body and mouthfeel. The temperatures used during infusion brewing are not high enough to cause the starch to enter into solution before Alpha denatures and the starch ends up in the spent mash. Without the starch beer thins as it ages.

And you thought you were long winded??!!!!
 

VirginiaHops1

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I don't think you need to sweat when to start the clock like mashing exactly 60 minutes is some magic number. Just mash in and get set up at your target mash temp and then start counting. No need to add unnecessary worry/stress to brew day. Some people mash for 60 minutes, some mash for 90 minutes, I've heard of people mashing overnight as well. I usually do 60 but on my last batch I had to put my 2 year old to bed since my wife was gone, took awhile and my mash sat there for 90 minutes. Did I care? Nope
 

GPP33

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Mistake 1 - did you take notes on how much the temp actually dropped? Use that temp again next time and adjust the profile in Beer Smith to match. I personally haven’t adjusted Beer Smith yet for that, I just ignore it and use 10 degrees F. I heat my strike water to 10 degrees above my mash temp then slowly add my grains and stir them in. I start my timer when I’m done adding, a few minutes really won’t make a difference however a few minutes at the wrong temp in the beginning could.

I have no idea what a malt pipe is so can’t help you there.

Mistake 3 - In always leave it as is, I think once I came up way short in volume so I added some water, otherwise let it ride and take notes so I can compensate next time.


I usually cold crash my starters and decant the excess liquid, though others will say it doesn’t make a difference. I recently did a Triple and the yeast in the starter would not drop out of suspension so it all went in. L
 

cactusgarrett

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Before adding any hops bring the extract to boiling and as the extract boils skim off the hot break as it rises and continue to remove it until it ceases to form or at least drastically reduces, then add bittering hops and skim off the second hot break. Less hops are needed because removing hot break cleans the wort and hop character sticks better to clean wort. Less goop will be transferred into the primary fermenter which is a good thing.
You suggested the same thing in an Oktoberfest thread, and I don't think i agree skimming the boil at any point is beneficial. You're talking about "cleaning the wort"... if this were a practice that is widespread beneficial, I think more brewers would do it, and it definitely isn't a common practice. I speak only to all-grain brewing, and maybe I'm just out of touch with extract brewing, though.

Info from someone much smarter than me on the subject:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/skimming-boiling-wort.464155/#post-5969781
 
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madscientist451

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My version of the answers:
First mistake:
Did you properly measure your strike water to grain ratio? Since you ended up with more pre-boil wort, is there a chance you used more strike water and then got a higher temperature?
I've been using the strike water calculator on the GREEN BAY RACKERS website and it always works great.

Second mistake:
Don't worry, "unclear wort" doesn't hurt anything, relax, have a homebrew.

Third mistake:
The pre-boil volume was 2 liters more than expected. The easy solution would have just been to get the boil going and wait until the volume was reduced to the expected level, and then start your anticipated hop schedule. Adding DME at the end is another solution, I often (but not always) pull a sample of wort with about 5 minutes to go in the boil, chill it down in an ice bath and then decide if I want to add DME. You can always add some table sugar or honey if you need to bump up the ABV. Use an on-line calculator to determine how much to add.

Yeast question:
You can pour off the 2L of starter wort if you want, I usually just swirl it up and chuck the whole thing in, BUT....I usually only make a 1qt (about 1L) starter.
 
OP
Esben

Esben

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I'll take a stab at as many as i can....

  • Just a few minutes shouldn't affect anything. And being off a few degrees won't produce a noticeable difference.
  • If you do under/overshoot by a LOT, the direction will determine if it's "better". Higher temp yields less fermentable wort (ultimately sweeter) and lower temp is more fermentable (ultimately thinner/drier).
  • After you add grain, you're on the clock. There is no magic start/stop time, though. Close enough is good enough.
  • Not sure what you're asking. Is it better to infuse mash or direct fire the kettle? To each his own regarding this.

  • For some, 1.035 vs 1.042 is close enough and they just leave it. When you're low on your gravity and high on volume, your two main options are to add extract to hit gravity, or to boil longer to get down to the target volume. There is no prescribed fix.
  • If you go the DME route, and you're doing all-grain, the lighter the better. Less impact to the integrity of the recipe.
  • Ideally, you would adjust your hopping level. Having more volume than planned lowers the IBU (we're not going to worry about utilization here). Having the same volume but a different-than-target gravity also affects your IBU: higher gravity lowers hop utilization. For your case, the gravity wouldn't have affected much, but the extra 2L could have warranted a few more grams of hops. I would venture a guess that you're not going to notice a perceivable difference, though.


I can't speak to yeast count, as there are a LOT of variables that go into figuring that out. Next time you do a starter, there are two options:
1) Do it close to brew day (no more than 2 days ahead): with this, you should plan on having the volume somewhat lower, knowing you're going to pitch the whole thing into you batch. It isn't enough time to flocc out the yeast.
2) Do your starter a week ahead of brew day: this should give it proper time to build count (3-4 days), then enough time to crash cool and flocc out the yeast. THEN you can decant the spent starter wort and pitch only the slurry at the bottom.


Hope this helps.
Great explanations - thanks :) Just to be sure i understand correctly: With crash cooling the yeast starter you mean putting it in the refrigerator or the like. Or is there more to it?
 
OP
Esben

Esben

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GREAT explanation of the process.
  • How much do some minutes at a wrong temperature mean to the end result? Define some minutes and what you consider is a wrong temperature.
  • Is it better to undershoot or overshoot the target mash temperature? Depends for how long the mash rests during the low temperature or high temperature event.
  • When should i start my mash timer: After adding the grain or when i hit the target temperature? Why worry, use iodine and test for starch after 30 minutes with the mash at whatever temperature is recommended. Rest for 30 minutes at 152F and test for starch, if starch is still present wait another 10 minutes. If starch is present after a 60 minute rest the malt is slack.
  • When mashing in a kettle as i do, is it better to just heat the strike water to my target mash temperature and let the kettle heat to hit the mash temperature? Since, target temperature is 152F, when the grain is added the temp drops which you have a handle on, so, if the resultant temperature is used for activating a lower temperature activated enzyme, the mash can be slowly increased in temperature to 152F to complete saccharification. However, the longer mash rests below 150F the drier the beer becomes during aging and that needs to be considered because it will take time for the mash to reach 152F, unless a boiling water infusion is used and that's the best way to do it. Use whatever source heats the kettle to maintain mash temperature. I use a gas heated mash tun (no false bottom) and a gas heated lautertun.
When a diacetyl rest is used the beer is krausened because yeast takes a beating during the high temperature rest. Unless you are good at producing diacetyl eliminate the rest. It's easier to clean up a poor brewing process and to use decent yeast than to add another step to the brewing process. The rest is only a temporary patch, anyway, diacetyl returns.

Due to reading certain books and referring to on line brewing instructions you are locking into numbers such as strike and target temperature, preboil gravity, OG. The problem with locking in with computer generated recipes and the data attached to the recipe is they are not accurate time after time because malt is very inconsistent and before a recipe can be deemed as accurate the spec sheet for the malt listed on the recipe is required. A spec sheet comes with each sack of malt and it's used for determining if the malt is capable of producing ale and lager. There are two types of malt on the market, under modified-low protein malt which is used for producing ale and lager, and fully modified-high protein malt which is suitable for producing whiskey and malt extract.
The recipe recommended a rest at 152F for one hour, the problem is that the recipe omitted the conversion rest at 140F. When the conversion rest is omitted the complex types of sugar required in ale and lager do not form and only primary fermentation is needed. When conversion occurs secondary fermentation is required. A recipe that omits a conversion rest and recommends using a certain type of malt is an indication that the malt lacks Beta amylase which drops malt from brewers grade malt into distillers grade malt.
When conversion occurs secondary fermentation is required because yeast deals with glucose differently than it deals with maltose and maltotriose. During secondary fermentation yeast absorbs maltose through the cell wall and an enzyme within yeast converts maltose back into glucose. The glucose is expelled back through the cell wall and it becomes yeast fuel. The gravity comes closer to expected FG during second fermentation. After two weeks the beer is transferred into kegs without adding priming sugar. During aging/lagering yeast works on maltotriose and the beer naturally carbonates and drops to expected FG.
A recipe that recommends using fully modified malt, single temperature infusion, only primary fermentation and adding priming sugar or CO2 for carbonation the beer produced is similar in quality to Prohibition style beer which is easy to produce, but lacks complex sugars maltose and maltotriose.

Here's an easy to do tip. Before adding any hops bring the extract to boiling and as the extract boils skim off the hot break as it rises and continue to remove it until it ceases to form or at least drastically reduces, then add bittering hops and skim off the second hot break. Less hops are needed because removing hot break cleans the wort and hop character sticks better to clean wort. Less goop will be transferred into the primary fermenter which is a good thing.

If possible purchase Weyermann light and dark Pils floor malt. The malt is slightly under modified which means the malt is rich in enzyme content. The malt is low in protein and that means it has a bunch of sugar in it. To make beer richer boil some malt. A type of heat resistant, complex starch called amylopectin enters into solution when mash is boiled and when the boiling mash is added back into the main mash Alpha releases A and B limit dextrin from the starch during dextrinization. A and B limit dextrin are types of tasteless, nonfermenting sugar responsible for body and mouthfeel. The temperatures used during infusion brewing are not high enough to cause the starch to enter into solution before Alpha denatures and the starch ends up in the spent mash. Without the starch beer thins as it ages.

And you thought you were long winded??!!!!
Thanks for your very thorough answer :) A lot of the very process-technical stuff I didn't understand unfortunately. I will probably understand better when I come back and re-read a few years from now when i have read more books :p
 

william_shakes_beer

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A couple general information comments to aid your understanding:

1. The enzyme process of converting starch to sugar is not an on off switch, its a gradient. The only absolutes are: at 170F the enzymes are permanently denatured and will not return. At 155 the enzymes are inactive and will not convert until the temp is raised. I usually aim for a post stir/pre dough temp of 165ish. If the temp drops too much I stir before I consider adding heat (which I almost NEVER necessary unless its really cold outside) There has also been "hall talk" that the actual conversion process occurs in the first 15 minutes, and the 60 minute mash is to ensure conversion is as complete as possible. If you want to drop the temp, stir. If you want to retain heat add insulation on the outside of the kettle. I use reflective and a Velcro strap. Just be sure not to expose it to direct flame.
 

cactusgarrett

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Great explanations - thanks :) Just to be sure i understand correctly: With crash cooling the yeast starter you mean putting it in the refrigerator or the like. Or is there more to it?
Correct. Chill it for a day or at least overnight. The degree of flocc will sometimes vary due to the different strains of yeast. Then just pour off the top, clear supernatural liquid and warm up the resulting slurry before use.
 

cactusgarrett

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A couple general information comments to aid your understanding:

1. At 155 the enzymes are inactive and will not convert until the temp is raised.
Am i missing something here? I understand conversion to be active from 131°F-150°F (for beta enzyme) and 154°F-162°F (for alpha enzyme). This is why many brewers utilizing a single infusion mash schedule shoot for ~148°F-156°F.
 

Rob2010SS

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Am i missing something here? I understand conversion to be active from 131°F-150°F (for beta enzyme) and 154°F-162°F (for alpha enzyme). This is why many brewers utilizing a single infusion mash schedule shoot for ~148°F-156°F.
I'm with you on this one. Is it possible william is thinking that the strike temp has some effect of the enzymatic activity?
 
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