Trying to figure out if complicating my process is going to be worth it

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Kaiser

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I'm not quite happy with the aroma and finish of my beers. For the lagers, in which I use only bittering hops or only little amounts of flavoring hops, I don't get much aroma from the beer. I feel that it is rather empty compared to a commercial Helles or Maerzen. And the finish still feels a little to harsh. And there is this pesky slight dustiness that I'm getting occasionally from my beers.

So this weekend I want to give a Helles a try and make sure that I pay attention to all the details that I know could make a difference and which I can take care of w/o bying new equipment:

- use a heated step infusion mash with a 57 *C (137 F) dough in and a 2 step saccrification rest. This is pretty much as authentic German as it gets and this would be a first for me since it doesn't really fit my brew-house. But I can make it work.

- when batch sparging don't drain the wort below grain level. This is basically in response to the BYO article about sparging

- fix the manifold seal for my MLT. Recently I started pulling in air through this.

- add hops before the hot break and maybe even FWH the batch. Hopefully this smoothens out the finish

- 90 min boil

- DMS rest. When I have an imported Helles it generally has a tad of a sweet aroma. It doesn't smell like the typical DMS aroma to me, but I could imagine that it is DMS which is barely at the aroma threshold. So far I have been chilling my beers below 100 within 10 - 20 min. No Commercial brewery that has a whirlpool can do that and I want to know if this is the reason why my beers have such a clean (=empty) aroma. I'll have to read up on average time that commercial wort is spending hot.

- 12+ hr post chill whirlpool settling. For that I will chill the wort to ~48F and keep it in an ice bath for the next 12 hrs before racking to the fermenter. This is supposed to get rid of about 60% of the cold break. Commercial brewies may have settling tanks for this. And since I don't have a conical I have to go this route.

It's a lot of changes, but If the beer really comes out different (and hopefully better) I could start eliminating one extra step after another to figure out what is actually important.

Kai
 

Got Trub?

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Kaiser - what temperature are you serving your beers at. I've noticed just a few degrees warmer can make a HUGE difference in the aroma as well as the flavour of the beer.

GT
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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Got Trub? said:
Kaiser - what temperature are you serving your beers at. I've noticed just a few degrees warmer can make a HUGE difference in the aroma as well as the flavour of the beer.
7 - 8 *c (46 - 48 F). I already tried warming them up.

Kai
 

Got Trub?

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It figures it wasn't going to be a simple fix. I'd been dissapointed with both my helles and vienna lager until I realized they were too cold. Served at 48F and they were totally different beers.

I just did another helles with 4oz of melanoidin added per Jamils recipe and did the o/n chill to 44. The wort I transferred was crystal clear. It was a little disconcerting to add the yeast and watch it get all cloudy again.

I'll be tracking this thread to see what your results are.

GT
 

Spyk'd

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Dude said:
Ummmm.....why don't you adjust your recipes for more finishing hops toward the end of the boil and/or dry hop?
My question as well...?

:drunk:
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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Dude said:
Ummmm.....why don't you adjust your recipes for more finishing hops toward the end of the boil and/or dry hop?
I read that this gives you a different, more American style, aroma and flavor. When the flavor compounds in the hops are allowed to oxidize they become more stable. I also heard that you should let the hops sit out in the air for a few days before brewing (I think it was one of the hop growers on Basic Brewing Radio) so they can drive off the harsher flavor compounds.

The hop flavor and aroma that I'm looking for in this Helles will be subdued anyway and the aroma I noticed in the commercial examples didn't seem to come from the hos. But I do intend to make a German Pils later this yeasr if I can get the hops for it.

Kai
 
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sounds like decoction mash is what your looking for for the aroma and flavor without overdoing it with the hops.. DMS a must and if your chilling to pitch temp is 20 min ya I would say for that beer I would take it down to about 150 and let it rest there for 20 to 30 min then chill to pitch temp over another 30 min or so.
JMHO
JJ
 

FlyGuy

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The other side of brewing that you haven't discussed is ingredients. Can it be assumed that you are focusing on your process because you are certain you are getting the freshest hops? If all my beers were turning out with less hop aroma than expected and I was getting a harsh finish, the first place I would look is the freshness of my hops. Have you ruled that out? You never said.

Also, out of curiosity, what is the 'DMS rest' you speak of? I have never heard the term before.
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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FlyGuy said:
...the first place I would look is the freshness of my hops. Have you ruled that out? You never said.
I don't have much control over that. I bought the hops I'm going to use a few weeks back. Being Tettnanger I don't know which harvest they are from.

Also, out of curiosity, what is the 'DMS rest' you speak of? I have never heard the term before.
I basically think that I chill to early (not to quickly) and that there might be the need for a smidge of DMS in the aroma. That's why I'm planning to keep the wort hot for a while before chilling. Now I think I may just go with a 60 min boil and chill 10 min after flame-out. Later I may increase this time.

The rest of the ingridents are pilsner malt and WY2206 grown from a plate.

I'll also boil my racking hose just to make sure I'm not getting an infection from there. It looks a little gunky and I don't have the time to go to the LHBS.

Kai
 

pjj2ba

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We'll see how my methods are working in a couple months. Damn those lagers. I've been using step mashes in my lagers this year - my first year really brewing a bunch of lagers. Mash in at 130 F for 10 min, then up to 149 for 45-60 min, then up to 158 for 10-15 min and mashout to 168 F. In my unfinished beer sampling I seem to be getting a nice body. For hops, I've been doing similar to you, maybe a little more flavor hops though. I'll typically go with 20 - 35 IBU of 60' hops (depending on style) and always at least some flavoring hops, often at 20' min, not 30'. Typically less than 1/2 oz. I like the 20' min addition as I think I still get just a hint of some aroma, and not to much flavor. This past weekend I brewed a Czech Pils with 0.2 oz of Saaz added at 5'. This is the first of 5 lagers so far this winter with any aroma addition. I wonder if this small of an addition might give you what you want. We'll see how the aromas compare - in a couple months.

I've working over a hypothesis in my head that heating for at least 5' leads to a stabilization of aromas, making them more aging stable.

Yeast maybe? I've only messed around with 2 lager strains so far (trying a 3rd soon). I do know that some ale yeasts, like the White Labs Kolsch can really bring out the hop flavors - maybe relating to sulfur? The Kolsch yeast is a stinky one!
 

Dude

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Kaiser said:
I basically think that I chill to early (not to quickly) and that there might be the need for a smidge of DMS in the aroma. That's why I'm planning to keep the wort hot for a while before chilling. Now I think I may just go with a 60 min boil and chill 10 min after flame-out. Later I may increase this time.

The rest of the ingridents are pilsner malt and WY2206 grown from a plate.

I'll also boil my racking hose just to make sure I'm not getting an infection from there. It looks a little gunky and I don't have the time to go to the LHBS.

Kai
I've never heard of chilling "too early". I also don't brew lagers or have a problem with DMS. That said, This interests me. Do you know where you read that?

Seeing I know you slightly on a personal level, I happen to know you are probably more sensitive to DMS than most others. I am also assuming you are probably noticing something that anyone else who tries your beers probably doesn't notice. That said, it is your beer and if you aren't happy with it, then what is the point, right? ;)

I read through your initial post again, and the leaky manifold concerns me as well--not for DMS production so much, but for oxygenating your wort. That could attribute to the harshness/dustiness you described. As we all know, oxygen is bad, bad news for wort until just before fermentation.

Kai, I'm going to give this to you straight. I think you need to do later hop additions to mask these off flavors that you are getting. Even a very small late addition will do it wonders, IMHO.
 

Dude

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Jaybird said:
sounds like decoction mash is what your looking for for the aroma and flavor without overdoing it with the hops.. DMS a must and if your chilling to pitch temp is 20 min ya I would say for that beer I would take it down to about 150 and let it rest there for 20 to 30 min then chill to pitch temp over another 30 min or so.
JMHO
JJ
Please explain how a decoction mash affects aroma? This is a new one to me.
 

zoebisch01

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Personally I 'd fix that leak first (it may not be the issue, but I don't think it is a positive thing). The DMS brainstorm is interesting, and your trouble could be in that realm. Sometimes what pulls out a uniqueness in a beer is something that borders on flawed (like as I have read about Sam Smith's Pale Ale). This is a philosophy that you find in many arts. Perfection doesn't always mean 'perfect' if you get what I mean. I wonder though, does it seem your beers have degraded in flavor? If so, and you are on municipal water make sure the composition hasn't changed. I know it's a long shot, but it could merit looking into.
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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Dude said:
Kai, I'm going to give this to you straight. I think you need to do later hop additions to mask these off flavors that you are getting. Even a very small late addition will do it wonders, IMHO.
I'm planning to make this very light beer to expose all the flaws that my process still has even if I pay very close attention to the details.

The DMS thing is new for me. I'm just doing this to see what is the aroma that I can get when I leave a little more of it in the beer before it is to much to have a noticable corn smell. I suspect that this is the aroma that I find in some of the commercial examples. I can later decide if I like it or not.

Zoebish is corret, the absence of certain "flaws" may become a flaw. As an example, though lagers are considered low ester beers, they are not free of esters. Esters are a vital aroma compund in any beer and w/o them the beer would taste and smell empty. You just need to make sure that you get the right mix and level of them.

Dude,

I still have one of your flip-tops and always meant to send it back anyway. I filled it with my Doppelbock and may throw in some more beers as well. Including some which I think jave the pesky off-flavor that I want to get rid of.

Kai
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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I'm brewing this one tonight. So far everything went just fine. The mash held its rests very nicely in the kettle when wrapped in blankets and a sleeping bag. No bubbles while lautering: the teflon tape must have worked. I'm now holding the DMS rest for 15 min.

Kai
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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This one was off to a slow start. 48hrs to low kraeusen was a new record for me. I'm not quite sure what the problem was, but I suspect the lower than usual pitching temp (42 *F) and only 80ml (2.5 oz) of yeast sediment for pitching. Another reason might be the better than usual cold break removal (contains some nutrients) and the skipping of the 20 min protein rest. But I doubt that it could have been tha latter. Even the cold break removal wasn't complete enough to get more than 60% of the cold break out of the wort.

I's going now with a 1.5 in kraeusen. I was hoping for a blow-off to get rid of the gunk on the Kraeusen, but I wil have to top off with more wort for that.

Kai
 

pjj2ba

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Mine was slow too (Vienna lager). I did the modified batch sparge, never letting the grain bed get exposed to air. I had intended this to be a modified fly sparge (no grain bed mixing), but I ran my first runnings a bit too fast and compacted the grain bed a bit too much. I just added the sparge water and mixed, vorlauf, drained to the top of the grain bed and repeated again. OG was 2 pts high (1.052). Like you, I had very good cold break removal with this batch. I recirculated until 140 F, then switched to pumping to the carboy. My mash schedule was 10 min at 130F, 60 min at 148F, 10 min at 158F mash out to 168 F.

I'm a little suspicious of cold shocking my starter, but I did that process like I normally do. My normal routine for lagers is to have my stirlplates in a back room at ~ 62F, then into the fridge as I get ready to boil so only 1.5 hrs or so at 45F. Pitched at 50 F. This year I've been getting good krausen formation by 24 hrs, but not with this batch. My krausen is very clean, no gunk, just white foam. My frankenstein kettle filter worked very well this time. I was concerend there for a while as it was so slow and I know I pitched a good amount of yeast. Now I wonder if it had something to do with the wort, not a cold shock, as that part of my process was as I normally do.
 
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Kaiser

Kaiser

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Interesting to hear that you are seeing a similar thing. I doubt that it is the modified sparge and I'm more inclined to blame the cold break removal though the literature I read suggests 12 hr setting. But that is for a much lager vessel, in a small brew pot that clearing should be much faster.

My Kraeusen is also fairly clean which I contribute to the increased cold break removal and the fact that it was hopped before the boil. The hot break must have bound up lots of the alpha acids.

Kai
 

pjj2ba

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Getting back to the original comment about lack of aroma. I've been reading through the new JZ & JP beer styles book and the European lager recipes all have 1 oz of hops added at both 15' and 5 ' (or flameout). This seems quite a bit excessive for the style. That's a fair bit of aroma. According to the BJCP, that might be acceptable to have high aroma in a CAP, but not a German or Bohemian Pilsner. 1 oz in the last 5-0 minutes is going to add quite a bit of aroma, way more than I detect in commercial examples. As I said before, In addition to the bittering additions, I've been adding about 0.5 oz of hops at 20' in most of my lagers this year with only 1 batch that I added 0.25 oz of Saaz at 5'. My first batch should be ready in 4-6 weeks.
 
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Kaiser

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I'm actually talking more about non-hop aroma in the first place, basically the base-line aroma that you get when there is only one bittering hop addition at 60 or 90min. I feel that there is a significant difference between my beers and the commercial examples and I want to figure it out. It might be DMS which commercial brewers may drive to the perception threshold to minimize boil time and evaporation. As a home brewer I generally chill to 100 *F within 10 min after flame-out. German brewers don't do that.

Kai
 

the_bird

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Just so I'm clear, you're thinking about maybe letting a bit of DMS back into your beers, because you think that's what's "missing" in the aroma of your beers versus the commercial examples?

It would almost make sense; they're using lots of Pilsner malt, and you've got to figure that some of the old-school breweries aren't exactly utilizing the latest and greatest in chilling technology. How did/do the German breweries chill their wort?
 
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Kaiser

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the_bird said:
Just so I'm clear, you're thinking about maybe letting a bit of DMS back into your beers, because you think that's what's "missing" in the aroma of your beers versus the commercial examples?
Exactly. Once I determined that this is it, I can decide how much I actually want.

It would almost make sense; they're using lots of Pilsner malt, and you've got to figure that some of the old-school breweries aren't exactly utilizing the latest and greatest in chilling technology. How did/do the German breweries chill their wort?
When you don't have an infected beer, DMS is a function of the boil-whirlpool-chill process and this process generally lets the wort sit hot for a while when it is in the whirlpool. The boil needs to be designed such (length and evaporation) that the DMS formed during the hot phase after the boil is going to be below the spec for the particular product. Energy costs (evaporation) and time costs (boil time) go against that and I expect breweries to be right at the limit of what they deem ok for a DMS level. And this level may not yet have a smell like corn to it which would give it away as DMS.

These days breweries may actually chill the wort to 80 *C before the whirlpool to slow down the DMS formation and even use an evaporator after the whirlpool to evaporate DMS formed after or during the boil. The latter lets them work with evaporation rates as little as 1%/hr. The wort is then chilled with a plate chiller to close to 0*C (to maximize cold break) and then brought back up to a pitching temp of 6*C.

In the olden days a cool ship was used. That's basically a large shallow pan in which the worts slowly flows while being cooled by ambient air. Obviously a sanitation nightmare.
Kai
 

pjj2ba

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Kaiser said:
Interesting to hear that you are seeing a similar thing. I doubt that it is the modified sparge and I'm more inclined to blame the cold break removal though the literature I read suggests 12 hr setting. But that is for a much lager vessel, in a small brew pot that clearing should be much faster.

My Kraeusen is also fairly clean which I contribute to the increased cold break removal and the fact that it was hopped before the boil. The hot break must have bound up lots of the alpha acids.

Kai
One more data point. I've got another slowish fermentation going. I really do now suspect too much cold break removal. I did back to back 7.5 gal. batches of Oktoberfest and split it between 3 carboys. I split 3 ways the yeast cake from the Vienna lager I started two weeks ago that I had just an hour before racked to secondary. I was seeing activity within 24 hrs, but it hasn't been as vigorous as the other lagers this winter where I wasn't so efficient at break removal. I know the yeast were active as just before adding I shook the container the yeast had been temporaily transfered to and it started to foam over. I think I'll modify my kettle filter a little.
 
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Kaiser

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pjj2ba said:
One more data point. I've got another slowish fermentation going. I really do now suspect too much cold break removal. I did back to back 7.5 gal. batches of Oktoberfest and split it between 3 carboys. I split 3 ways the yeast cake from the Vienna lager I started two weeks ago that I had just an hour before racked to secondary. I was seeing activity within 24 hrs, but it hasn't been as vigorous as the other lagers this winter where I wasn't so efficient at break removal. I know the yeast were active as just before adding I shook the container the yeast had been temporaily transfered to and it started to foam over. I think I'll modify my kettle filter a little.

Thanks for reminding me. I have another data point to share as well.

For my Maerzen, which I brewed last week-end, I used the regular 1-2 hr whirlpool rest that I have used many times before. Note that the last batch, the Helles, had a whirlpool rest of about 10 hrs. So I assume that I didn't get as much cold break removal. I pitched about 150 ml thick slurry from the Helles (racked the same day) which is about twice as much yeast as I pitched for the Helles, though I would expect the net count of viable cells to be more of a 50% increase. It was again pitched at 5.5 C, which is not common for me. I again got a 48 hr lag with a less than optimal fermentation performance (Kraeusen formation, no blow-off) after the temp finally peaked at 9 C (48 F). So for me the cold break removal seems to be out out. This is what is left:

- unusually cold pitching. (5.5 C wort and ~8-9 C yeast)
- poorly performing yeast in general (the first time I cultured this yeast from single colonies, it worked with propagation from slant before though)

My last beer with that yeast will be a Vienna Lager in 2 weeks. I plan to pitch it at 8 C, which I ended up pitching most of my lagers in the past, to see if the cold pitch/shock may have been the problem. This will be the last beer with this pitch of yeast.

Kai
 
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Kaiser

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The beer is now almost gone and I want to post an update on this:



Here is the result:

The first surprise was, that there is great hop flavor and aroma even though all the hops were added before the start of the boil. First wort hopping does work! But the hop utilization was better than expected, so it became more of a Pilsner than a Helles.

I can't detect any DMS in the beer. The DMS rest didn't work, but I found that aged beer may develop a sweet aroma. It's likely that I'm getting this when having a German beer here in the US. Besides this, I had a Spaten Maibock on tap a few days back and its aroma was very similar to my lagers. I seem to be on the right track.

The step mash didn't make a dramatic difference since I cannot taste a difference that I would contribute to that. It may take a side-by side to verify this. But the head retention is good. Difficult to tell if his is a result of the long rest at 70 C.

I used the Bavarian lager (WY2206) for this, since this was the only yeast I had on hand at the time and had to push it hard (i.e. warm maturation rest) to get close to the limit of attenuation. But it didn't want to and stalled 0.5 Plato shy of it:

original extract: 12.0 Plato

limit of attenuation: 82% (fast ferment test AE=2.2 Plato)

beer attenuation: 77% (beer AE=2.7 Plato)

The target for the aparent extract of the beer was 2.5 Plato, and as a result of actually being higher than that the beer is a little sweeter than I'd like it to be. But I know to fix this with a different yeast next time.

I didn't see any benefit of the more complete trub removal. According to some studies and other home brewer's experiments, its importance seems overstated anyway.

The pesky "dusty" taste still exists. But since it only happens when I drink the beer that stood in the beer line for a day, I suspect it is staling in the beer line.

Kai
 

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Thanks for the update!

how are you running your fast fermentation test?
 

enohcs

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I haven't read the rest of the responses so I may be overlapping, but you may want to try increasing the amount of hops you use and add them at 30min or so. Adding hops at 30min as opposed to 60 min, you're obviously going to have less utilization, thus more hops will be required, but you will also retain more of the oils that contribute to the flavor and aroma.
 

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Greg Noonan also said that a little DMS will get you that crispness that you find in alot of lagers. So the DMS rest might have worked but not in the manner that you looking for. That is one reason why I switched over to a CFC since it leaves some of the wort at near boiling for a while longer than an IC would.
 
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Kaiser

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That is one reason why I switched over to a CFC since it leaves some of the wort at near boiling for a while longer than an IC would.
Yes, but you don't have to switch over to a CFC for this. Simply don't start chilling immediately.

Kai
 
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