Help fix my Czech

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
2,419
Reaction score
12,063
Location
duncannon
Ok, so here's what I've brewed and it scored a 29, judges were a little conflicting on hop bitterness but both detected DMS.. I think the beer is pretty good but always looking to improve. I did have to use more hops than expected because the saaz I got from yakima chief were only 2.2% alpha..

Used Czech water profile in beer Smith 3

86.7% floor malted bohemian pilsner
10% crystal 20
3.3% carapils

Saaz at 60 minutes for 20 ibu
Saab at 15 minutes for 10 ibu
Saab at 2 minutes for 4 ibu

Czech budejovice yeast from white labs #wlp803

Underlet the mash and started at 147 then brought up to 151 and Ph was 5.4 mashed for 60min followed by a 60 minute boil.

Og 1.052
Fg 1.015
Abv 4.8%

Used whirlfloc hot side and gelatin before kegging. Fermenter is temp controlled, started ferment at 55f for 5 days then brought it up to 65f for a couple days for D rest, then dropped 3 degrees everyday until at 38f added the finings then kegged.

Any suggestions to recipe or process is greatly appreciated, this was my second batch of Czech premium lager that I've brewed so I'm learning the style. Thanks in advance. Oh here's a pic of the final product.

20240603_200747.jpg
 
started ferment at 55f for 5 days then brought it up to 65f for a couple days for D rest, then dropped 3 degrees everyday until at 38f added the finings then kegged.

I would start by extending the fermentation by 5~7 days. Keep everything else the same and see what happens...

Cheers!
 
Besides giving it time to ferment, lagers really benefit from aging while cold crashed at low temps. It is actually part of the definition of what makes a Lager. If crashed and stored cold (ie lagered) for three months, it will be better, If one waits 6 months, it is usually even better still..

The DMS can be a result from wort with pilsner malt being boiled feebly or not long enough. An hour is sufficient, if boil is not lame. Ninety minutes is traditional, but I've not detected any difference between vigorously boiled for an hour vs boiled for 90 mins.

Another possible source of DMS is not cooling wort off fast enough. If cooling from boil temp from boil temp to around 165F happens too slowly, DMS can develop as well.

If it were me, I'd also ditch the crystal and cara malts. That Bohemian pilsner malt has a lot of good subtle flavor, and is easier to appreciate without a lot of heavy sweet unfermentables in the way. This is a good one not to over hop, as seems to be the trend, a subtle light malt should be balanced with a flavorful but not overwhelming hops. Just my opinion of course.
 
Eh 5 days at 55 is fine if you have a vigorous yeast pitch. I've had lagers with similar OG chomp through sugars in that time, if I give a big old yeast pitch. Your diacetyl rest was fine and the slow walkdown should take care of any fermentation byproducts. Did you get much yeast character in the flavor?

Honestly your recipe and process seem fine. But 29 is not great, so something's wrong. I concur with getting rid of crystal. There's no reason for it, and it pumped up your FG (1.015 is high for a lager), possibly giving a flabby, sweet feel.

I'm not a huge fan of Saaz by itself. It's pretty one dimensional. I found that layering in another noble hop gives a lot more depth of hop flavor. My personal favorite is Tettnang, and I've used Hallertau Mittelfruh. Maybe 85% saaz and 15% something else.

Last, Czech brewers love decoctions. That may be a missing flavor the judges were looking for. Love me a good decoction.
 
Thanks all for your inputs, I double build my starters but sounds like fermentation should still be longer as well as my boil time, I used the crystal malt for color more then anything else but have no issue dropping it, and was considering using mittlefruh in conjunction with saaz.

@Jack Arandir I did not get yeast characters in the flavor nor did the judges mention it. I'll be brewing this beer again soon, so I'll change my boil time and drop the crystal malt, add mittelfruh or tettnang depending what my lhbs has on hand.. decoction on my system is a challenge so I'll probably skip that for the next batch and see what improvements I get.

As for chilling I use a counter flow chiller so I feel I get it chilled and into the fermenter in a fairly quick amount of time.

@day_trippr when talking fermentation time, are you talking extending the time before the D rest?
 
I made a few Czech pilsners trying to get as close as I can to Czechvar or Pilsner Urquell. Mostly successes, but missing a flavor that I can only describe as sucking on paper clips.

My recipe/process is very similar to yours. On my last batch I added a pound of acidulated malt, increased the hops by about 10%, and most importantly, let it lager for an additional few weeks. That seemed to get the results I was looking for.
 
-use the Pilsen profile for water
-get rid of the c-20,
-raise your mash temp to 158,
-do a full 90-minute boil (decoction would even be better),
-make huge starter (or whatever Beersmith calculates),
-decease your fermentation temp to 50-52 and let it go a full 10-14 days before doing the d-rest,
-try to make your final wort as clear as possible
- make a 10-gal batch, because when your first keg blows the second one will have been lagering the right amount of time since you've been impatient and nipping at the first keg before it is fully conditioned.
 
Thanks for all the pointers, great info everyone. I really appreciate it. I do 15 gallon batches so yes it makes sense as I get to the third keg it's better and better ad time goes on. I now have a few things to try and we'll see how it goes.
 
Looks like a solid profile. I agree, extend fermentation time to 10 days before bumping up temp for D. rest (63-66) for 3-5 days.

Pilsner Urquell has 40 IBU... Maybe kick your bittering hops up 15-20% if you like that.

Also agree... Dump the C 20. You can substitute a honey (25 L) or some other malt like Vienna or Munich for more mouth-feel.

If you like em dry... Try some Brutzyme. I like dryness and am enjoying the subtle change of less sweet.

And hell yeah ... Lager for two weeks at least. 4 is better or perhaps more. I often keg my 5 gallon batch in two smaller 3 gallon corny kegs. I can be impatient with part of the batch, and let the other 3 gallon batch lager in peace.

Good luck. The picture of your beer looks just about perfect.
 
Ok, so here's what I've brewed and it scored a 29, judges were a little conflicting on hop bitterness but both detected DMS.. I think the beer is pretty good but always looking to improve. I did have to use more hops than expected because the saaz I got from yakima chief were only 2.2% alpha..

Used Czech water profile in beer Smith 3

86.7% floor malted bohemian pilsner
10% crystal 20
3.3% carapils

Saaz at 60 minutes for 20 ibu
Saab at 15 minutes for 10 ibu
Saab at 2 minutes for 4 ibu

Czech budejovice yeast from white labs #wlp803

Underlet the mash and started at 147 then brought up to 151 and Ph was 5.4 mashed for 60min followed by a 60 minute boil.

Og 1.052
Fg 1.015
Abv 4.8%

Used whirlfloc hot side and gelatin before kegging. Fermenter is temp controlled, started ferment at 55f for 5 days then brought it up to 65f for a couple days for D rest, then dropped 3 degrees everyday until at 38f added the finings then kegged.

Any suggestions to recipe or process is greatly appreciated, this was my second batch of Czech premium lager that I've brewed so I'm learning the style. Thanks in advance. Oh here's a pic of the final product.

View attachment 850804
Was there a specific gravity reading at Day5, and how many total days on the yeast?
 
I agree that there is too much crystal. “None” would suit me best, but in any case think about dialing it back.

I also don’t believe in CaraPils, but whatever you’re doing for head formation, it’s working and you shouldn’t change it.

DMS suggests you need a more vigorous boil, as folks have pointed out.

If your goal is to make a beer you like or to score well in competitions in the US, I’d suggest experimenting with more characterful base malts: 5% Munich and/or 10-50% Vienna. I am believing more and more that what people are looking for when they drink US craft beer, even when it’s a light lager, is just much closer to Vienna malt than Pilsner. Or swap out the Pilsner for English pale, but that’s a whole different post …

As for decoctions … keep your expectations very moderate. Some folks will tell you that multiple decoctions are absolutely necessary for this beer; others will tell you that you won’t be able to tell any difference at all. However you come down, that there’s this kind of debate tells you that it can’t make a big difference that absolutely anyone would taste.

One more thought: if you liked the beer much more than the judges did, consider that you’ve got a packaging or storage problem rather than a beer problem.
 
Lots of great advice above. I would ditch the crystal malts and instead sneak in a little VIenna and wheat malt for better foam, maybe 8 or 10% of each. Also I love Willamette in this style and never been too happy with shop-bought Saaz. Maybe if I grew the Saaz myself I'd be happy with it but something gets lost in the processing IMO. Or maybe try whole cone Saaz assuming you used pellets, I think there might be a difference there that I want to play around with more.
 
Thanks @AlexKay and @dmtaylor I think packaging and storage is good on my end, this was a ship in and wait a couple weeks before judging type of competition so I can only hope it was stored cold during the 2 week wait... in any case I'm going back to the drawing board with a bunch of tweaks to hopefully improve the beer overall thanks once again to all the wonder folks on this forum. I'll be brewing it this week so I'll know in a couple months.
 
Here is a great resource for DMS information - https://www.milkthefunk.com/wiki/Dimethyl_Sulfide

Mash pH and boil time play the largest role in the amount of DMS that gets created and left to remain in the final wort. I do not think boil vigor is as important as keeping 100c (212F) for long periods of time if needed. But it all starts in the mash. If you do not create a lot of SMM, then you will not have a DMS problem downstream. Try a mash pH of 5.6 or even 5.8 (measured at room temps) then knockout (add acids) near the end of the boil to get it down to 5.3 - 5.1

The Budvar folks like long boils. They say it is one of the places they create their color along with decoctions. They only use base malt for their beer but have a nice color. So imho, to nail this style one needs to extend their boil to probably 2 hours (or more) and maybe try some decoctions. They also do an extended lagering period for the beer 4-6 months. Their process is fine tuned to beat up the wort to generate flavors then give plenty of time to "heal" the beer.

 
Keeping near boiling temperature for a long time while not boiling vigorously is in fact the method used to create DMS intentionally, if you’re brewing Rolling Rock, say, or some English lagers.

Homebrewers have a process advantage (one of our only ones) with a naturally higher surface-area-to-volume ratio, which might be one reason that long, vigorous boils seen as necessary by the pros can sometimes be skipped.

OP has (if you believe the judges) a DMS problem, and “can sometimes be skipped” seems like the wrong thing to explore. The most likely and quickest fix is going to be to boil harder and longer.
 
Yes, the longer boil I recommend (90-min) is for color and flavor, not dms, also, no other base malts necessary. Never considered a 2 hour boil, so next time I'll go for it. I usually do a single decoction and mash out at 168-170. Definitely a 3-month+ lager period, thus the 10-gal batch😛.
 
Yeah, I'm gonna dial up a 2 hour boil for this batch and see what that does for me, dropping the crystal malt which is what I used for color so the boil time will take care of that. Also going to add tettnang to the hop bill. I have been building the yeast up for the past 10 days so it should be ready to go to work. Decoction is going to have to wait until the next batch because this is going to get brewed on Wednesday after work and unfortunately I won't have the time, but this will give me opportunity to decide for myself if the decoction is necessary when I compare this batch with the next one, which I will decoct.
 
Keeping near boiling temperature for a long time while not boiling vigorously is in fact the method used to create DMS intentionally, if you’re brewing Rolling Rock, say, or some English lagers.

Homebrewers have a process advantage (one of our only ones) with a naturally higher surface-area-to-volume ratio, which might be one reason that long, vigorous boils seen as necessary by the pros can sometimes be skipped.

OP has (if you believe the judges) a DMS problem, and “can sometimes be skipped” seems like the wrong thing to explore. The most likely and quickest fix is going to be to boil harder and longer.
What or who is "can sometimes be skipped" aimed at? Please explain.

As long as one is at 100c (212F) the wort is boiling. I did not see anybody suggesting a lower temp simmer. One can fire up the jet engine afterburner and pour thermal load into the boil, but that is not necessary. Plenty of brewers make lagers with low thermal load boils at 60min without any DMS issues.
 
Yeah, I'm gonna dial up a 2 hour boil for this batch and see what that does for me, dropping the crystal malt which is what I used for color so the boil time will take care of that. Also going to add tettnang to the hop bill. I have been building the yeast up for the past 10 days so it should be ready to go to work. Decoction is going to have to wait until the next batch because this is going to get brewed on Wednesday after work and unfortunately I won't have the time, but this will give me opportunity to decide for myself if the decoction is necessary when I compare this batch with the next one, which I will decoct.
The decoction practice is kind of interesting. Historically they had to do it. As time went forward, they decided to still use the practice for the flavor and color benefits. This caused them to work the rest of their process around it to stay modern. We as homebrewers do not need to do it but if you want the traditional approach, it is worth it. Basically the Czech brewers caramelize and oxidize the heck out of heck out of their wort which starts out as a pale beer. While creating a lot of flavor, does decrease the shelf life of the beer. Staling will occur faster. But how fast is depending on your brewery. Worth a shot but keep track of these things if you are in to the style.
 
Last edited:
What or who is "can sometimes be skipped" aimed at? Please explain.
What I’m saying is what I think you just said: plenty of brewers make lagers with low thermal load boils at 60 min without any DMS issues. Those brewers are skipping what I would say is conventional wisdom and accepted best practice among professionals. It works for them! I’m suggesting that one reason it might is that a 5-gallon brewer has 3 times the A-to-V that a 5 bbl brewer does.

As long as one is at 100c (212F) the wort is boiling. I did not see anybody suggesting a lower temp simmer. One can fire up the jet engine afterburner and pour thermal load into the boil, but that is not necessary. Plenty of brewers make lagers with low thermal load boils at 60min without any DMS issues.
As long as you are at 100 C you will be turning SMM into DMS. The speed with which you get rid of that DMS depends on the vigor of the boil. Pouring heat into the system will — regardless of whether it is also doing other things you don’t want — give you more mixing and more interface area, and get rid of DMS faster for you. Getting rid of DMS faster may be a low priority if you’re not having a DMS problem. But the OP thinks he may be having a DMS problem, and an easy, reliable, and logically straightforward solution if you are having a problem is to increase the vigor of the boil.

It’s probably best left for another thread, but I’m generally skeptical of any large effect of thermal load on beer quality. I have certainly not seen convincing evidence.
 
I have never had DMS problems in the past, brewing very regularly for 13 years, but I am new to this style and this type of malt. With most my beers I do a what I consider a rolling boil, not vigorous but not a simmer. In any case I'll let this one rip and add the extra boil time, I'll obviously factor that into my pre boil volume with the extra boil off. This style actually grabbed my attention a year ago when I was at an event and another homebrewer that was pouring beer there gave me a bottle of his Czech pils to try and it was fantastic. I hope to see him again at this year's event so I can bounce this off of him and get his input as well.
 
Yes. I agree with what you are saying Alex. In my view, it might be best to try to limit the SMM created in the mash first by adjusting pH to 5.6 or 5.8. That would reduce or eliminate the need for boil gymnastics. Or maybe try a pale malt instead of a pilsner malt. That would reduce the SMM from the get go.

When you mention industry practice, it depends upon what area or section of professionals you choose to look at. Homebrewers went through a long phase where we were taught to boil the snot out of everything. That is just not needed and through study, can be avoided with other practices. We were also taught for a long time to run our mashes at pH 5.2. Well through study one realizes the famous European brewers are mashing at pH 5.6 or higher. Budvar does not even treat their brewing water. At first this is kind of jarring but after you learn more about their process, they do this for specific reasons, one being limiting SMM creation to avoid DMS. They do speak of long simmer boils. I am not sure if that is their normal boil intensity or not. But the pro brewing world is always going to find a way to limit power consumption and costs. So if they can successfully do a low intensity boil and get the expected outcome, they will. We do not have to follow that practice as you state.

Just trying to interject more of a view of the source of the problem (too much SMM) rather than just one of the fixes (boil intensity). Playing with the boil should be a choice for flavor/color/style reasons rather than a fix which might break other things.
 
I think we’re mostly on the same page here! I’m a little confused about mashing, though. My understanding is that all of the SMM is in the malt (the less kilning, the more SMM), that it all solubilizes during the mash, and the only remaining questions are how much converts to DMS and how much DMS is removed. I did not think mashing conditions played any role?
 
Good points, I can easily adjust my mash ph to 5.6 or 5.8 and conduct a 90 minute boil, I will be using the same malt atleast for the next few batches because I have 2 50lb bags of it.

I read about the presence of SMM in the mash also and did not realize it could be limited this way.
 
The info is on the wiki link I posted. It is more about the pH one carries through the mash to the end of the boil. So what is emphasized is the pH from the start of the boil to near the end until you drop the pH by adding acids. The approach being - mash on the high pH side and do not adjust until the end of the boil. This limits the conversion from SMM to DMS from ever happening.
 
Ok, some things have changed so I'm pushing up my brewday to tonight. Here's where I'm at with it at the moment, I won't be able to decoct but I can do a 2 step mash because I can mash in low for a little then set my system to raise the temp and go back to work, this will make for an extended mash until I get home from work about 2 hours later then I can mashout when I get home.. 15 gallon batch on eherms system.

Czech Pilsen water profile with mash ph target of 5.6

95% floor malted bohemian pilsner
5% munich
Mash in at 120f for 20 minutes
Set system temp to 152f and go back to work.
Mash out at 170f

Start 90 min vigorous boil
At 60min add 21 ibu of tettnang
At 15 min add 8 ibu of saaz
At 2 min add 9ibu of tettnang and 4 ibu of saaz for a total of 42 ibu

Chill via counterflow chiller into fermenter and pitch yeast at 52f and hold for 2 weeks or more, bump to 65f for a couple days, drop temp a couple degrees per day and play the waiting game... enjoy.
 
As long as you stay at 152F for a long enough time, you will be fine. I have gone to measuring gravity (with a refractometer) as a gauge of step length instead of time. In your case, stay at 152F until you reach your preboil gravity. Then go to mashout.

As far as fermentation, you want to stay at the 52F temp for most of the fermentation then ramp up for D-rest while there is still some work to do by the yeast. Meaning if you let the beer/yeast finish out at 52F there will be no activity when you raise the temperature for the D-rest, rendering it kind of useless. This requires knowing your final gravity target and starting the ramp when you are close but not there yet. Another case of letting the readings determine your actions instead of blanket time amounts.
 
Got it, yes it will be a long mash time because I have to leave work, mash in, return to work, mashout when I get back, so it's probably gonna be somewhere between 2 and 3 hours at 152f or if you think a different temp would be best I can go higher or lower. As for fermentation, I have a sample port and an easy dens so I can check gravity at any point with only an ounce of liquid, so I'll monitor it that way and raise the temp once I get close to FG.
 
Everyone has already made recipe suggestions, so it would be redundant for me too, but let me talk about competition side of things Am I correct that you sent to one competition where you got the 29? You should really send a beer to at least three comps to worry that beer is not scoring well. You will be surprised and find a 29 pt beer in one comp and score 38 in another. Every judge has different tastes, there are regional variances too.

You need to look at a judges rank too, I take a scoresheet from a higher ranked judge with more value than one who is just a recognized judge (passed online test but has yet to take or pass tasting exam). Or if a judge is not BJCP ranked and is just a local homebrewer or a pro brewer, their scores are not always valuable either...in my opinion, pro brewers are the worse, it seems they ignore style guidelines a lot and judge based on a version of the beer they may brew...aka, a Czech Pils using American hops which is not too style.

Also the comp matters too...is it one with a lot of entries or a very small comp? Judging tendencies come into play also...a comp in Kansas City is know for giving out a lot of high scores, while on in NY is known for barely giving out 40's. To give you an example, I had a NZ Pilsner last year score 30 in it's first comp, then score 45 in it's next, then a 37 then 3 straight 39's. So that beer averaged to be a 40 point beer, and that 30 was an outlier. And it that case, it turned out that there was a snowstorm day of judging, so lots of out of state judges did not make it and the comp had to pull in a lot of people who are not BJCP judges to do the judging. On the other side of the spectrum, I had another beer score 45. 43, 42 in three comps and then a 28 in a 4th. What happened in the case? Well first three were all east coast so only 1-2 days in UPS trucks, while the 4th was in Utah and took 4-6 days traveling cross country in back of a hot UPS truck...which can effect the beer. Also, a National ranked judge in my club also pointed out that the odds are that more East Coast judges have been to Prague and had actually Czech Dark lagers then any judges in Utah.
 
Since I started judging and have seen how the scoresheet sausage is made … I don’t put a whole lot of weight on numerical scores. Written, qualitative feedback is generally more valuable. For instance, if both (or all) the judges think your malt backbone doesn’t support the amount of bitterness, or that your banana/clove balance is off, or your beer is too hot — that’s all feedback that’s worth taking a good, hard look at when you next brew. Ditto if more than one judge agrees on DMS or diacetyl or MBT.

I wish competitions would stop encouraging (requiring) judges to report scores close to one another. If one judge thinks my beer is a 40 and the other, a 26, that’s pretty useful feedback and I want to know!
 
Back
Top