Had a Great Experiment with Mash Additives Planned... then Brew Day Happened

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micraftbeer

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With several threads I've been reading lately, there were proponents of some mash additives with opinions on which one would work better, but there was little in the way of side-by-side comparisons. So I planned out this experiment to mash 3 batches back-to-back, varying just the mash/sparge water treatment. I had a rare overlap of a completely free day, along with the family being out of town, so a perfect opportunity. 13.5 tiring hours later, I had 3 batches of beer, but a couple process problems that will skew my desired pure comparison. I'll still post the results when I get them, but I'm curious if anyone has any thoughts on how these process hiccups might affect my results. This isn't a LODO experiment per se, but I am stealing bits of that process (as much as I'm willing to do).

The recipe was a simple Pale Ale, hoping for a "cake and eat it too" result that I could evaluate effects on both malt and hop flavors. Below is my recipe, then the 3 variations I did (plus their unplanned hiccups). My end metrics are planned to be taste & aroma feedback, both from me (most important customer) and some neighbors that are "regulars" of mine.

4.25 gallons into fermentor
OG 1.060
IBU 36
91% Brewer's 2-row
9% Victory
0.21 oz Magnum @ 60 min
0.8 oz Cascade @ 20 min
0.4 oz Amarillo @ 20 min
0.8 oz Cascade @ 7 min
0.8 oz Cascade dry hops
White Labs WLP001 California Ale (1 whole yeast pack per 4.25 gallon batch, was lucky enough to get 3 vials all from the same lot#/day)
Mash @ 152F for 60 min, 168F for 10 min
Water treated with brewing salts to reach below target profile, K-meta tablet, and lactic acid added to target 5.4 pH
1645554222362.png

Mashed in mash tun with false bottom, continually recirculating through RIMS with return wort going through Blichmann AutoSparge with hose laying on top/just under liquid level in mash
Then transferred to separate Boil Kettle to boil on mild rolling boil for 60 mins, followed by cooling through CFC before going into fermentor with 1 min oxygen wand treatment
Fermenting at 66F

1. Batch 1 (YOS water)- to the mash and sparge water (3.8 gallons of each) I added 7.5 g of Fleischmann's dry bread yeast + 7.5 g of Dextrose bottling sugar (7.5g of each added to both mash & sparge water). This one had the unplanned accident of too fast of a fly sparge (like 2-3 minutes), and OG hit 1.057 instead of 1.060. I would normally consider this OG difference not that big of a deal, but it will be a variable not present in the other batches.

2. Batch 2 (Vitamin C)- to the mash water I added 2.6 g of Ascorbic Acid powder. This one had a problem where I disrupted the false bottom accidentally and got some grain particles flowing through and a few stray bits making it into the mash. It was a small amount of particles that normally I wouldn't be bothered by, but the Blichmann Button Louver false bottom has been amazing at providing clear wort in the Boil Kettle so far, so this is a slight difference. Fly sparge lasted 20-30 minutes. Hit 1.061 OG.

3. Batch 3 (Baseline)- nothing else added. This one had no process anomalies, fly sparge lasted 20-30 minutes and hit 1.061 OG.
 

ScrewyBrewer

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I would gladly give up 0.003 OG points if it saved me 17 to 27 minutes of sparging time. As for hop and malt flavor, my guess is there will not be much of a noticeable difference between the three batches. I noticed a 0.3 difference between the cation and anion balance in the water profile, but I doubt that would be any cause for concern.
 

Bassman2003

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I do not think those two situations would cover up any changes. Did you see any differences in the hot break foam? Any aroma differences? The general rule of thumb is if you can smell the aroma of the mash, the LODO flavor is escaping :) You will have to report back when you are drinking the beers to see if anything is separating the beers.
 

eric19312

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I agree with @ScrewyBrewer that mash difference on the gravity basis is probably not going to be noticeable. Also that smidge of grain that go into the (mash? did you meant to type kettle?). A bit isn't going to matter.

But I'm wondering if the difference in time for the lauter changes how much oxygen that batch might have picked up from the environment before it was brought to a boil.

Curious about how you plan to evaluate the beers. Visual side by sides I assume are a given. Actually did you get visual side by sides of what went into the fermentor? Would have been interesting to see if you had visible wort darkening in the control batch vs the other two at that point.

But for the final beer hoping you will make a effort to do some sort of blinded evaluation. Suggest see if you can distinguish either of the LODOish batches from the control batch in a triangle test. The test Brulosophy has been doing because of Covid restrictions sounds like one fairly reasonable way to make you think about whether the beers actually taste different to you.
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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I do not think those two situations would cover up any changes. Did you see any differences in the hot break foam? Any aroma differences? The general rule of thumb is if you can smell the aroma of the mash, the LODO flavor is escaping :) You will have to report back when you are drinking the beers to see if anything is separating the beers.

I did notice some random differences in foam at different points:
1. YOS water batch had solid white hot break foam.
2. AA water batch for some reason had bubbles forming up in the mash tun. I thought this was odd as I had the recirc hose sitting just under the top level of water in the mash tun, and I've found this recent change in my process (going from a splash/spray arm to a hose laying on top) has eliminated any foam up in the mash tun. The AA batch was the one that had some grain break-through that initially had to deal with on recirc in my mash tun, and finally ended up with a few small particles in my boil kettle. This one had a slightly tan hue to the hot break.
3. Baseline batch also had solid white hot break foam.

As far as sensory during the brewing process:
4. The YOS sample smelled horrible in the mash, as well as the sparge water vessel. Smelled like the armpit of a guy who works at a bread yeast factory.
5. All 3 samples of beer going into the fermentors tasted/smelled great, nothing standing out.
 
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micraftbeer

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Curious about how you plan to evaluate the beers. Visual side by sides I assume are a given. Actually did you get visual side by sides of what went into the fermentor? Would have been interesting to see if you had visible wort darkening in the control batch vs the other two at that point.

But for the final beer hoping you will make a effort to do some sort of blinded evaluation. Suggest see if you can distinguish either of the LODOish batches from the control batch in a triangle test. The test Brulosophy has been doing because of Covid restrictions sounds like one fairly reasonable way to make you think about whether the beers actually taste different to you.

Since I did the brews back-to-back, there was about a 4-hour stagger between when them. At first I thought the YOS sample was darker than the AA sample, but it was hard to compare because the YOS had been sitting for 4 hours, and the AA had just been put into fermentor and aerated. I went and looked just now, but it's difficult to compare because of the heat wraps on them to keep everything at same controlled temperature. This is a fairly reddish/orange beer (6.2 SRM from Brewfather), and it's in a big fat All Rounder, so much thicker than a pint of beer comparison. I'll definitely get a picture when I go to taste them.

And as for tasting, I've been copying Bulosophy techniques when evaluating beers. I like that recent addition they did with 4 cups, 2 of each, and then you mix them up and grab 3 of them to see if you can spot the odd-one out. So I will follow that process for my own semi-blind evaluations, and with friends/neighbors for blind observations. All using opaque cups for the tasting evaluation.
 

Bassman2003

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So the wort made with YOS was left sitting for 4 hours before you added oxygen and yeast? That kind of nullifies the experiment a bit.

In my video, I was surprised how little color variation there was between the LODO & HIDO batches. Since you only did a partial LODO approach, I do not think color will be a big determinant. How are you handing the cold side?
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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So the wort made with YOS was left sitting for 4 hours before you added oxygen and yeast?
I didn't explain this well. Both batches I added oxygen and pitched the yeast as soon as it was chilled and in the fermentor. I initially thought the YOS batch looked darker, but I realized I was comparing it after it had been sitting for 4 hours (with its oxygen + yeast), to the 2nd batch which had just received the oxygen + yeast treatment. So the worts weren't at a comparable state to be judging color. As I look at them now, it's hard to tell, but they all look pretty similar.

How are you handing the cold side?
I am fermenting in FermZilla All Rounders, which are pressure capable. I will ferment without any spunding pressure, then when I'm ~2-5 SG points away from predicted FG, I'll dial up to end up with around 3 psi of pressure to finish it out. Then I'll top off to about 15 psi (using tank CO2) and cold crash for 2-3 days in the fermentor. Then I'll transfer to keg, pushing the beer out with tank CO2, and the kegs I oxygen purge by filling with Starsan until it's coming out the PRV and then push all of that out with tank CO2. And when I transfer from fermentor, I let the little bit of transfer line fill up with beer as I purge that into a pitcher, then briefly disconnect the line before connecting to keg.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I agree...sounds great!

As much crap as the Brulosophy crew gets, it is not the easiest thing to brew two batches of the exact same recipe and have them turn out identical, let alone brew two batches with a variable in the mix.

There were some interesting posts over on Reddit about Tetrad Tests as an alternative to Triangle Tests. The basic difference is that you have 4 samples (2 x 2) and the goal is to group the two like beers. Some studies have shown that it provides more accurate results when dealing with smaller data sets. I have been meaning to give it a try myself.

I am a little curious how you managed to get a 2-3 minute fly sparge! Really putting the "fly" in "fly sparge" there. :D
 
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micraftbeer

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I am a little curious how you managed to get a 2-3 minute fly sparge! Really putting the "fly" in "fly sparge" there. :D
I love my Blichmann Riptide pump for a lot of reasons, but the output flow control valve is not one of those reasons. When you get down to really low flow rates, a very small rotation of the knob can have big flow differences. So I thought I had it dialed down to a slow flow out of the mash tun, and was fiddling with the sparge water flow in. I checked in on it a couple minutes later and was shocked to find I had already run off all the water.

1645642186274.png

(that's a racing fly)
 
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micraftbeer

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But for the final beer hoping you will make a effort to do some sort of blinded evaluation. Suggest see if you can distinguish either of the LODOish batches from the control batch in a triangle test. The test Brulosophy has been doing because of Covid restrictions sounds like one fairly reasonable way to make you think about whether the beers actually taste different to you.

I've been thinking about how I'll do the taste testing on this. I'll be having some neighbors over for St. Patrick's Day (drinking non-Irish beers unfortunately...) Most all of my previous experiments are just comparing two beers. But for this one, I will have the beer brewed 3 different ways. Anyone have any insight/experience on how best to do this? Give everyone 2 samples of each, have the cups all shuffled, and see if they can group the pairs together correctly? Or multiple triangle tests, two beers at a time?

I could do some pre-screening and segregate one if it's blatantly different than the others, but I feel like that might have my personal bias creep in and skew the results.
 

Bassman2003

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My advice is to do the major analysis yourself, in a quiet place. You know your beer better than anybody else. While some may fear bias, you can best uncover changes from how it usually tastes. Once you spot a difference, you can then asses over multiple days if it is good or bad etc...

I had friends over to taste test my 4 batch experiment and it was all over the place...
 

eric19312

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i'd do the 4 cups brulosophy experiment on your own first. Test 1 vs 3 and 2 vs 3. If either of these are different enough you can pick them out reliably, and it isnt due to some obvious flaw like a contamination flavor, then see if your neighbors can pick out the same difference in a triangle test.
 

monkeymath

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4. The YOS sample smelled horrible in the mash, as well as the sparge water vessel. Smelled like the armpit of a guy who works at a bread yeast factory.

I think that's the best sensory description I've ever read. I'll be very interested to read your final evaluations (secretly rooting for some of Chuck's signature flavour to come through; Chuck being the guy at your local bread yeast factory).
 
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micraftbeer

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My beers were cold crashed, and then in the keg (on serving pressure) for 2 weeks. I did my own tasting, and then I did several tastings with some neighbors yesterday.

I poured 2 samples of my baseline beer, and 2 of the Ascorbic Acid mash water one in opaque cups, shuffled them around and then randomly grabbed 3 of those 4 cups. Same process for the YOS water beer, which also was taste compared to the baseline beer. I don't have Brulosophy number of tasters here, but...

  • Normal vs. Ascorbic Acid: only 1 out of 7 tasters accurately identified the odd-beer-out
    • The one that identified it, preferred the Ascorbic Acid beer
  • Normal vs. YOS: only 2 out of 7 tasters accurately identified the odd-beer-out
    • The two that identified it, both preferred the normal one
My tastings are part of those 7 tasters above, and I couldn't spot the unique beer myself. What surprised me is I thought when doing the tastings myself the beer I identified as the unique beer "definitely tasted different". So I was shocked to find when I checked the bottom of the cups, it was not different.

The beer overall was pretty good, but not great. I'd definitely tweak that recipe before I brew it again (the 9% Victory malt was too "nutty tasting" to me). Maybe if I decide to try a mash cap at some point, I might retry either the YOS or the Ascorbic Acid additions. Or since I have the jar of bread yeast and Vitamin C, maybe I'll try it on some other recipes at some point.
 

eric19312

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Thanks for sharing. I'm not that surprised, I think this is what brulosophy frequently runs up against. Blinded tasters are not super sensitive laboratory instruments. Any visual differences between the three batches now that they are done?

Also how did you avoid oxygenation when you added the dry hop? Just reread the thread and don't see that part of the process described.
 
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micraftbeer

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I was constrained to use fermentors that I have 3 of, so I wasn't introducing a new variable there. So that meant FermZilla All Rounder. No fancy dry hop process there. I had to release the pressure (they were around 1 psi), then unscrew and pry up the sealed lid. Dumped in the hops, did 2x purge cycles filling the headspace with CO2 then venting, before leaving it with Spunding on to build up to 2 psi.
 

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Try to save some of your 3 samples to compare down the road. Counterpressure fill a 2 liter of each and compare them after some age on them. That's where you may notice a difference in your oxygen reducing efforts. In delicate beers like Pils and Helles for example you want them to get to the proper age and not lose the essence of what makes them incredible when lagered properly.

It takes some time to get good at low oxygen brewing, but when you put in the effort and finally taste the difference it starts to really click. I didn't know anyone that did it and even though it goes against everything homebrewers say doesn’t matter, I fully committed to trying it. I run a tight ship on brew day and have closed transfers down cold, so it made a difference in my brewery for malt and hop flavors, aroma that has been aged to be in its prime.
 
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micraftbeer

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Just following up on this with a last update. The beer has been in serving kegs 70 days. I did a non-blind tasting and took this picture. Not a perfect comparison because this was the final pour from my baseline keg before it kicked. With a normal/rigid dip tube, this would be the beer that has been at the top as I've poured pints from the bottom. The Ascorbic Acid and YOS Water kegs both had about 1.8 gallons of beer left from their original 4.25 gallons. This probably explains the clarity difference, as the baseline beer is clearer than the other two.

The taste still seems about the same as 2 months ago. I was really hoping the AA or YOS samples would have more hop character either in flavor, bitterness, or aroma, but they all pretty much tasted the same. So my conclusion after this experiment is either my baseline process is pretty good as-is, or my skipping of the mash cap nullified the potential benefits of the AA or YOS. This experiment was time consuming, so not sure I'll be doing again with the mash cap added in any time soon.
 

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Bassman2003

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Thanks for sharing your experiences. Doing experiments is always good even though the outcomes might not be as we expect. Discussing this topic of trying to get flavors that might be lost due to process is difficult as there are some ready to light the arrows and shoot...

I will say from my experience, sulfites make the most difference on the hot side and spunding/closed transfers make the most difference on the cold side. The hot side affects flavors being there/retained in the first place and the cold side preserves your flavor from fermentation and hops. YOS + sulfites is even better. One can taste the improvement in the mash wort.
 
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