Tag Archives: BBR Experiment

Comparing Saison Yeasts (and What’s on Tap)

Recently I gave the recipe for Saison Wry , the beer that won a gold medal in the recent TRASH beer competition.  I recently re-brewed the recipe, splitting the roughly six gallon batch into two fermenters. In the first carboy I used my standard Wyeast 3711, French Saison yeast.  I love this yeast. It is rock solid and I believe it could ferment your concrete garage floor down to 1.002 or so.  It is the yeast I used in the medal winning recipe.  In the second carboy I pitched Wyeast 3726, Farmhouse Ale.  The 3726 is a limited release strain, and according to Wyeast it has an expected attenuation of 74% to 79%, versus the 3711 which claims 77% to 83%.

To make starters, I split active Wyeast smack packs into two, 2 liter soda bottles with about 1 liter of starter wort in each.  I noted the 3726 was a very powdery yeast; it settled OK but was much easier to disturb than the 3711.  In the end, I ended up with about 40 ml of fairly solid 3711 yeast but about 120 ml of very powdery 3726 yeast.  The 3711 smack pack was a few months older so perhaps some of the volume difference simply could be due to viability, but I think most of the difference was due to the 3726 not settling as well.

The wort had an initial gravity of 15.4 °P (1.063), and after pitching I aerated each carboy with pure oxygen for 90 seconds.  The wort was about 16 °C (61 °F) at pitching but I let the controller to 19°C (66 °F), and let it rise to 22°C (72 °F) by the third day.  The 3711 finished at a very typical 1.0 °P (1.004) for an apparent attenuation of 94% and 7.9% ABV.  The 3726 finished at 2.8 °P (1.011) for 83% attenuation and 6.9% ABV.

Today, here is the beer fridge, it is “Farmhouse vs. the French”:

So, which yeast “wins” ?  Both yeasts cleared well and both beers turned out very clear:

The Farmhouse Ale is softer and rounder, and perhaps a bit fruitier than the French Saison.  The French Saison is spicier and definitely drier and has a noticeable bend toward the higher alcohols.  In fact it has a slightly solvent like character that is stronger than I remember.  I guess I need to compare it to a bottle from the first batch to see if I am remembering correctly.  Which do I prefer?  It is funny, I seem to prefer the one that I pour first.  If I try the Farmhouse first,  then the French seems a little rough.  If I start with the French, then the Farmhouse is not a crisp and tart as the Farmhouse.  Which will I use going in the future?  Well, the Farmhouse is a specialty strain and not regularly available, so it will probably be the French Saison yeast.  And that is OK with me.

BBR Trub Experiment – The Truth is in the Taste

Got together with two good brewing friends last night to taste the beers I made for the Basic Brewing Radio / BYO magazine trub experiment.  You can click the BBR Experiment tag to see my previous posts on this, but essentially I brewed two beers (a light colored, low gravity ale and a dark colored medium high gravity ale) in which I split the wort between two fermenters such that all of the hop residue and trub went into one fermenter and only clear wort went into the second.

There were a few anomalies noted during the brewing, and the final gravities varied just a little, but not in a way consistent with the presence of trub.  Before the tasting last night I noticed that the “no trub” beer had a slight haze in the bottle, compared to the “fermented with trub” beer.

But what about the taste?  Well, with the help of the DW, we conducted a type of triangle test.  Each of the three tasters were given three samples of beer, one of which was different than the other two.  None knew if the odd beer was the ‘trub’ or the ‘non trub’ beer. Each taster was asked to identify which beer they thought was different from the other two, and which beer they preferred.

Interestingly in tasting both the light ale and the dark ale, each of were successfully in calling out the ‘odd’ beer.  In the case of the light colored ale, we all agreed that we preferred the beer that was fermented with the trub.  We found the trub fermented beer to be cleaner and crisper tasting, versus the non trub beer whose flavor was more muddled.  For the dark ale one taster strongly preferred the trub fermented beer.  For me and another friend, while we correctly identified the odd beer we found the differences very slight and just slightly preferred the non trub beer.

I will put together a more detailed report for James at Basic Brewing, and I will post it here.  I am looking forward to the results from other brewers who participated in the experiment, but in the meantime I am not going to worry about a little trub in my fermenter!

BBR Trub Experiment – Bottling the Old Ale

After eight days in the primary I measured the gravity at 1.017 or so, which represents 73% attenuation and no activity in the airlock I call it done.  6.2% ABV, 62 IBU, 20 SRM.  The color difference that was noted before is now gone:

I am not going to get very fussy about this bottling. After all, I will be lucky to get a six pack out of either batch.  I carefully boil 20 or 30 milliliters of water with 12 grams of corn sugar (twice, once for each batch).  I pour one of the syrups into a third, empty gallon jug and then rack the non trub wort on top of it.  A little swirling, then I pour (yes, pour) the beer into six 12 ounce bottles and cap. The final gravity was 1.017, which I measured with a “bottling hydrometer”, that is, a hydrometer that only reads from 0.990 to 1.020.  The marks are far enough apart that even a far sighted coot like me can tell the difference between 1.017 and 1.018.

Once the trub batch is done I pour the second syrup into the bottling jug and rack the trub wort on top of it.  This time I only get 5 bottles, and the FG is 1.018.  All eleven bottles go into conditioning at room temperature.

Of course I taste the hydrometer samples, and I find that the difference is subtle.  Flavor wise I don’t pick up much difference, but a dark, slightly roasty flavor may cover the subtleties.  What I do think I perceived was a difference in texture on the tongue.  Could it be diacetyl?  I am not sensitive to the flavor, but I have learned to perceive it as a slickness on the tongue.  Not sure, we will wait for later judgment.

Well I thought I had found all of the differences but the beer had one last surprise left:

When I went to clean up, I found the jug containing the “trub sample” almost rinsed clean with warm water.  The ring on the control sample required scrubbing with a brush to remove the ring.

Beer. You just never know.

BBR Trub Experiment – Batch #2

For some unknown reason I have decided to go whole hog on this BBR experiment thing.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it is because I have a relatively full backlog of brewed beers, and I have the time to spare.  Plus I love to experiment with my “small batch” brewing technique.  So let’s see how this day went.

9:40 AM

I walk into the garage with nothing but a recipe.  I begin by hooking up my Sansa Clip and setting it to play “The Naked Scientists”, a really good British podcast that covers both cutting edge science topics as well as kitchen science. The first order of business is getting the mash water started.  Normally I would measure the exact quantity into my mash tun, ut today I just put 5 liters or so into a plastic bucket and added the heatstick.

9:51 AM

The next order of business is weighing and crushing the grain. Luckily this is a simple recipe:

  • 76% US Two Row
  • 10% Crystal 10
  • 14% Red Wheat Malt

And it is only about a kilogram of malt.

9:58 AM

Grain is crushed and minerals (calcium sulfate and calcium chloride) are added. Shortly thereafter the water is hot, and like the anal retentive engineer I am I spend some extra time weighing it out (4.2 kg) exactly.

10:23 AM

Mashing in is complete at 66º C.

10:36 AM

Pulled a wort sample and measured the pH at 5.2.  That is a little low, but Pittsburgh water is very low in carbonates.  I will keep monitoring and adjusting mineral additions in future batches. I slice up some andouille and red pepper for jambalaya I will be making later in the day.

11:25 AM

Mash out begins, but I am in the mood to weigh everything. So it takes awhile.  Plus I am taking one liter of the wort to use as a yeast starter medium, so I double check my calculations to be sure I am making the beer I think I am.

12:15 PM

The wort is on.  I set the flame very low and retire to have some lunch.

12:50 PM

Lunch is done and the boil is started.  Everything if fine except I forget to add the 5 minute addition of hops.  Oh well, flame out hops are OK, no?

1:50 PM

Boils is done and the wort kettle is sitting in a large pot of water to cool.  Four hours and ten minutes have elapsed, and in that time I have made this batch of beer and started supper. Not too bad.

5:45 PM

After bottling the first round of the BBR Trub Experiment and watching some of the AFC Championship Game (you can take the football team out of Cleveland but you can’t take the Cleveland out of the football team…) I returned to the garage t finish the task.  I quickly sanitized two gallon jugs and a funnel, and proceeded to carefully pour about 2.7 kilograms of wort into each.  As with the last experiment, the trub filled wort showed a  different color:

The final gravity was 10.0 ºP (1.040 ). I added 30 seconds of oxygen to each jug, and as before, the kreusen of the trub laden wort fell much sooner than the control.  Into the fermenter at 20 ºC (68 ºF).

6:30 PM

All done.

Brewing the Old Ale

In the last post we discussed the hows and whys, now let us find out the whats.

Since this is an experiment,  I settle on a 5 liter batch.  With a planned gravity of 16.0 ºP, it only required 0.85 kg of fermentables.  As noted in the previous post, I only used 1.39 kg of grain, which only required 4.2 liters to mash (at my standard mash water ratio of 3 liters per kg of grain).  That isn’t much to work with, but with my ‘L’ shaped heat stick and 5 gallon cooler it worked just fine. I mashed at 66ºC (150ºF) for one hour. I missed my expected mash gravity slightly on the low side (1.045 versus 1.048), but that is fairly respectable given the micro batch size.  I used a little 7 liter (8 quart) stainless steel pot as a boil kettle, which is just perfect for these tiny batches.

When the boil was done I put the 7 liter pot into an old 33 quart enamelware pot and added water to the enamelware pot.  This was a little after  two o’clock in the afternoon. A brewing friend, Jim, came over to help bottle a batch of beer we had made in December.  After we were finished I cleaned the keg that had the collaborative brew and then transferred the Faux-toberfest into the three gallon keg.  Then I transferred the So Brown into a different five gallon keg.  The bottom line: I got back to the Old Ale about 6 pm and I figured it would still be a little to warm to pitch.  Much to my surprise I found it was about about 19 º C (66º F). Perfect.

I had two 1 gallon glass jugs sanitized and ready to go.  Another nice thing about these small batches is you don’t need no fancy racking cane, you can just poor the wort from kettle to fermenter.  With the glass jugs on a scale, I was able to transfer exactly 2.5 kg of wort into each fermenter.  And as you can see from the following photo, there is an immediate difference in appearance between the trub and non-trub batches:

Old Ale Wort Before Pitching and Aeration

The sample on the left is the trub-free wort, the sample on the right is full of suspended trub particles. Not too surprising, so far.

Now it was time to pitch yeast.  I want to use dry yeast, as it is much easier to pitch in a consistent and sanitary way.  I also decided to pitch un-rehydrated yeast directly into the wort.  This is a questionable practice, as it is usually better for the yeast if it is carefully rehydrated in warm water.  But remember Papazian’s First Rule: RDWHAHB.  Since this is just a small experiment consistency between batches is most important, a small negative flavor impact is acceptable as long as it applies to both batches.

The final OG for this batch turned out to be 15.5 ºP or 1.063 (versus my target of 16 ºP  or 1.065).  The recommended pitching rate for ales is generally 750,000 cells per milliliter per degree Plato.  For this beer that works out to about 60 billion cells total, or 30 billion per jug.  The Danstar website claims somewhere in the range of 7 to 14 billion cells per gram of Windsor yeast, however, Jamil Zainasheff claims he has measured 20 billion cells per gram consistently with dry yeast.  I had done a little experimenting with bread yeast and found I was getting about 3 grams of dry yeast per teaspoon.  So about one half teaspoon per jug should have given 30 billion cells.   I pitched three quarters of a teaspoon just to compensate for my rehydration laziness. After pitching, I aerated each jug with oxygen for 30 seconds, till the kreusen was just to the top of the neck.

Now here is where a found a little surprise.

After putting the jugs into the fermentation chamber I noticed that the kreusen on the trub-filled batch had completely subsided, which can be seen in the following photo:

Kreusen about 30 Minutes after Aeration

I set the fermentation temperature to 20º C (68º F) and left it for the night.  The next morning I inspected the progress and found fermentation underway in both batched.  The kreusen on the trub filled batch was full of nasty looking debris, and the wort itself still shows a significant amount of suspended debris:

Old Ales at 14 Hours

So the race is on.  Let’s see where they finish.

Added 17 January 2012:

Well, that was a quick fermentation.  Both samples finished near the same gravity (4.3 ºP / 1.017).  This works out to about 73% apparent attenuation and 6.2% ABV.  Both samples are shown post fermentation below.  Not only does the trub sample show heavy sedimentation and a really nasty ring on the jug, it is still a slightly different color.  What is odd is that before fermentation the trub sample was tinted brown, versus the black colored control.  Those colors have switched, post-fermentation:

Old Ale - Post Fermentation

Both samples are going into the refrigerator for a couple of days.  I plan to bottle his weekend.

Basic Brewing Radio / Brew Your Own Trub Experiment – Introduction

From time to time James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio and Chris Colby of Brew Your Own collaborate on a brewing experiment, inviting their readers and listeners to participate by brewing and evaluating beers under (hopefully) controlled conditions.  Recently they announced their latest experiment, design to evaluate the impact of trub in the fermenter.  The experiment calls for the brewer to make a batch of beer and split it into two fermenters, one containing the “first runnings” from the boil kettle and the second containing the second half of the running and all of the trub.  I thought this would be an easy one to help out with, especially since I have really improved my process for making small batches of beer.

So the first chore is deciding what to brew.  It makes sense that if one is trying to identify subtle differences between beers, then those differences should be easier to identify in a lightly flavored beer (versus a big IPA or Belgian style).  This led me to think about stronger beers, and the fact that some stronger beers (and lagers) are better after a period of extended aging.  The BBR?BYO experiment is set up to evaluate initial taste results, but what if the trub materials have a long term flavor impact, perhaps contributing to poor stability or off flavors three or six months down after brewing?  My conclusion: brew two beers, a stronger, darker beer and lighter style and test both both initially and maybe at six months of life.

So back to what to brew?  It needs to be an ale due to time restrictions.  I wanted something fairly dark and strong, but something to be plausibly ready to drink 4 or 5 weeks after fermentation.  Ironically the ‘Old Ale’ struck me as a viable candidate:  original gravity of 1.060 was high but not outrageous, and with a color target of 10 to 22 SRM it would be dark but not black.  I thought the darker color would mitigate any visual impact the trub might impart, and force the evaluator to rely on tasting skills.  An 80 Schilling Scottish ale might have also worked, but since I had never tried to brew and Old Ale I wanted to learn more about the style and take a shot a brewing it.

The flavor description for an old ale calls for luscious malt character.  In: nutty, caramelly, molasses flavors.  Light chocolate and roasted can be there but are subdued.  They can be bitter, but hop aroma and flavor are not even mentioned.

Unfortunately the first suggested ingredient in the BJCP style guidelines was well modified pale malt preferably of English origin.  I am out, so I will substitute a combination of Breiss 2 row and light munich malt.  The guidelines also call for “judicious” amount of crystal and specialty malts.  What exactly does that mean?  It also mentions the use of sugars (treacle, molasses, etc.) and starchy adjuncts (maize, wheat, flaked barley). Since this is not rocket science, this is what I settled on:

Grist (1.39 kg):

  • 50% Breiss Two Row
  • 27% Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 7% Crystal 60
  • 4% Special B
  • 9% Flaked Barley
  • 4% Pale Chocolate (210ºL)

The above percentages refer to the grist, which contribute 0.81 kg of fermentables, or 95% of the total.  I also added 40 grams of light brown sugar near the end of boil, which contributes the remainder.

Target OG: 16.0 ºP / 1.065

Calculated SRM: 20

Hops: 20 grams of Northdown, 7.7% AA, at 45 minutes for about 60 IBUs.

Yeast: Windsor Ale dry yeast

In the next post I will discuss the details of the brewing and fermenting.