Tag Archives: How I Brew

Stout Experiment – Brewing Details and Results

The recipe target the creation of 5 liters of 10 °P (1.040) wort, post boil.  I used a “brew in a bag” process, though unlike some I choose to mash with only a portion of the water and add the remainder as a sparge or rinse.  My default water to grain ratio is 3.0 liters per kilogram, which is somewhere around 1.5 quarts per pound.

Grains Amount Percent
Maris Otter 0.57 kg 68%
Flaked Barley 0.17 kg 20%
Roasted barley 0.10 kg 12%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
Nugget  6 g 50 min 40

All batches were mashed at 68 °C for an hour.  My 4 gallon brew pot fits into my oven which is easier to control than using a propane burner.  It’s not perfect – my oven’s lowest setting is about 76° C – so I have to monitor the mash temperature with a remote probe and turn the oven off and on a few times during the one hour mash.  Still it was pretty worry free.

I made three separate “brew-in-a-bag” mashes.  The first batch was brewed in the normal manner, all grains mashed together.  The main mash of the next two batches consisted of only the base malt and the flaked barley.  For the second batch I added about 300 grams of water to the roasted barley and let it steep cold, overnight.  About a cup of liquid was drawn from this and added to the wort after mashing was complete.  For the third batch I  added the roast barley just prior to the end of the mash.  I did not write down exactly how long it was in the mash, maybe 3 to 5 minutes at most.

The first full mash achieved an extraction efficiency of 85%; the second two mashes were about 75%.  That is a pretty huge difference but until I can repeat the experiment I am not going to claim it as significant, merely interesting.  All three batches were 2.7 kg in the fermenter and pitched with 2.5 grams of Safale US05 dry yeast.  Thirty seconds of pure oxygen was also added after pitching.  Note I pitched the dry yeast directly on the wort.  While not really a best practice, I felt it would lend the best chance for consistency among the batches.

Interestingly all three batches ended at the same terminal gravity of 3.1 °P (1.012), so that the cold steep batch ended at a slightly lower ABV than the other two.

See Much Difference?

See Much Difference?

But the real question is:  how did they taste? And the simple answer is not much different at all.  The color of the foam on the fully mashed batch was ever so slightly darker than the other two, but the taste differences were simply nil.

My take away from this experiment is: do what works for you.  If your water is naturally high in alkalinity then a full mash with dark grains may be the simplest approach.  If your water is more balanced and you don’t want to fuss with mineral additions then by all means mash your pale grains first and let the starch conversion happen at the correct pH before adding your dark grains.  And if you are like me you can just make a quick water salt adjustment for the dark mashes.

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My Water – Application #1

In an earlier post, I began discussing my local water and now I am talking about practical examples of how I treat it, depending on the style.

To recap, here is the typical Pittsburgh area water:

Calcium 30 ppm
Magnesium 10 ppm
Sodium 25 ppm
Chloride 30 ppm
Sulfate 75 ppm
Alkalinity 70 ppm

I like this water profile – the levels of all ions are fairly low.  It is easier to add than to take away!  The only potential problem with this water is the calcium level.  The generally recommended level is 50 to 150 ppm, so I am usually adding calcium in one of the three common ways: calcium carbonate, calcium chloride or calcium sulfate.

Recently I brewed a Kolsch-Style Ale – the beer is mostly pilsener malt and just a touch of wheat malt.  Because this recipe has no dark or roasted malts, and my water has low levels of calcium it is quite likely that the mash pH would end up being too high.  Adding calcium should help a bit, and if I add calcium chloride it helps bring up the chloride to sulfate balance.  Why is that important?  Allegedly, beers with a high sulfate to chloride ratio tend to favor hop expression, whereas the reverse brings out the malt.  I have not confirmed this through experiment, but for now I will extend provisional acceptance.

The other thing I did was a about 3% acidulated malt to the mash.  This malt has been kilned in such a way as to encourage the production of lactic acid.  Chew some – it is sour stuff.  Besides helping to drop the pH, adding acid to food generally brightens the flavor.  I think it works well here.

If you are looking for help in figuring out all of the maths I recommend two sources:  John Palmer’s How to Brew website chapter 15-3 has a nice spreadsheet for entering your water data and looking at the effects of various mineral additions.  John’s spreadsheet calculates a target residual alkalinity value based on beer color.  I have read criticism of this method as being unreliable, but in fairness this is all a bit of a guess.  If you are running a production brewery then you are making the same few beers most of the time and you can nail down your water treatment.  As a homebrewer always trying something new you have to make your best estimations

A more advance calculator designed by Kai Troister can be found at the Brewer’s Friend website.  Kai has done a tremendous amount of investigation and experimentation.  His calculator takes into account you entire grain bill (including the types of malts you choose, not just mash color).  His calculator is a thing of beauty, and if you can soldier through the tedium required to enter all of the information, you will be rewarded!

My Water

Many words have been written about water in brewing.  Everything about water is pretty much known, how it behaves in the presence of malt, its impact of chemistry and flavor. Unfortunately water is one of those topics that many brewers struggle to understand. In this post I am going to talk about the local water (Southwest Pennsylvania) and how I approach its modification for brewing.

First I want to give credit to two sources that have taught me about 95% of what I know about water.  The first is John Palmer, whose website How to Brew is a fantastic resource and includes a free, simple, water chemistry spreadsheet.  The second in Kai Troester, whose even more detailed website and blog are full not just of information but experiments he has conducted.  My hats off to both, and thanks for the help.

The first thing about water is knowing what is in your brewing water.  When I became interested in the topic there were not many resources available to learn about the local water supply.  A few years back I called the local water company and found a very helpful person who sent me three or four years of local testing records.  While this was very useful, it was explained that some of the parameters were only tested once per year and for some measurement (sulfate, for example) there was some significant variation. But not having access to better information, I did my best with what I had.

Today, with the growing popularity of brewing, water test kits have become much more available.  A simple one that I use is made by API and is sold for use in keeping aquariums.  This kit is available for less than ten dollars and allows for quickly measuring two important parameters: water hardness and carbonate levels.  These two parameters are key to understanding and predicting your mash pH.  There are kits available which also measure sulfate, and places such as Ward Labs will test a sample of your water for a small fee. If you are a serious home brewer there is not much excuse for not knowing your water.

Here is a breakdown of the typical minerals and ions found it Pittsburgh area water:

Calcium 30 ppm
Magnesium 10 ppm
Sodium 25 ppm
Chloride 30 ppm
Sulfate 75 ppm
Alkalinity 70 ppm

This is really nice brewing water, as most of theses levels are at or below the minimum required (and it is always easier to add the required minerals, versus having to dilute with distilled water in order to reduce concentrations).  The other not so obvious but equally import factor is this water’s low residual alkalinity (in the range of 35).  What the heck is residual alkalinity and why should you care?  Here is my quick and dirty explanation:

For a number of reasons, the ideal mash pH is 5.3 to 5.7.  When water and malt are mixed, chemical reactions occur with the calcium and magnesium in the water. These reactions tend to lower the mash pH (make it more acidic, which is a good thing).  Darker roasted and crystal malts tend to lower the pH more than lightly kilned malts. This tendency to a lower pH is offset by the alkalinity of the water.  The residual alkalinity is the measure of a water’s tendency to lower mash pH.  It is calculated from the water’s calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity levels.  Grain bills with high levels of roasted/crystal malts tend to require water with higher residual alkalinity (RA =100 and up) whereas very pale beers needs a lower residual alkalinity to allow the pH to drop low enough (RA less than 0).

One can see that a RA of 35 is a very happy medium, very suitable for pale ales and other medium colored beers.  Only the most pale beers may require acid malt or an acid addition to bring their pH in line.  Compare this to two other extremes in brewing water: Dublin, the home of stout, has a RA >250.  Pilsen, the Czech home of the pilsner beer has a RA of probably about 10.

If there is a downside to this it is the fact that the mineral levels, especially sulfate, are on the low side for hoppier beer styles.  Note this consideration is only about beer flavor and not about mash pH.  Extract brewers should have low concern about residual alkalinity but should pay attention to sulfate, chloride, and sodium levels. Note that besides pH, the calcium can impact the yeast performance.  At 30 ppm the calcium in my water is a little low, and an extract brewer might still benefit from small calcium additions.

In the next post about water I will provide specific examples of how I went about treating my brewing water.

What to Wear ? (Part 3)

Part 1 and 2 of this series highlighted beers that I brewed for an upcoming beer tasting.  The first two beers were a Russian Imperial Stout and a Saison, both good styles for tasting as they have distinct and robust flavors that will stand out after one has sampled other beers.  I decided to make a third beer just in case one of the first two did not turn out as expected (and who knows I might just take all three to the tasting).  My choice for the third beer was a Kölsch. This style is much more mild in flavor than the other two, but I had just brewed one earlier in the summer and it turned out to be exceptionally good, so I thought it was worth presenting.

The BJCP style descriptor says a Kolsch should have “soft, rounded palate comprising of a delicate flavor balance between soft yet attenuated malt, an almost imperceptible fruity sweetness from fermentation, and a medium-low to medium bitterness with a delicate dryness and slight pucker in the finish (but no harsh aftertaste)”. Descriptions such a that really put me off because I do not think the words convey much at all about the flavor. While many who try a Kolsch simply write it off as another light flavored lager, I feel it has a subtle and  distinct flavor that is difficult to describe.  For me it is the flavor of a white Italian bread crust, rich with the flavor of grain but not heavy with bread notes. It has a slight sweetness that adds to the pleasantness of the beer.  Much like riding a bike, once you taste it you cannot forget it.  I have been fortunate that business has taken me to Köln on more than one occasion and I have had the chance to sample Früh, Sion, Gilden and Dom Kölsches (and maybe a few others I forgot). Köln is a wonderful place to visit, go there if you can.

The Big K II

Grains Amount Percent
Pilsener Malt (Weyermann) 3.68 kg 92%
Light Wheat Malt 0.20 kg 5%
Acidulated Malt 0.12 kg 3%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
German Tradition (6.5% AA) 25 g 60 min 18
German Tradition (6.5% AA) 8 g 10 min 2
Original Gravity 12.2º P (1.049)
Final Gravity 1.3º P (1.013)
Apparent Attenuation 73%
Estimated ABV 4.6%

I mashed in at 66 °C but the mash settled to 63 °C at thirty minutes.  I raised it back up with the heat stick and let the mash go for one hour total before raising the temperature to 70 °C and mashing out.  I added calcium chloride, epsom salt, and baking soda to the mash, but only such that the final count was 80 ppm calcium, 44 ppm sodium, 115 ppm chloride and 89 ppm sulfate.

The yeast selected was Wyeast 2565, Kölsch.  Selecting the correct yeast is critical to achieving the correct flavor profile, and based on my effort with this style earlier in the summer this yeast delivers the goods.  I made a one liter starter from a very fresh pack of yeast and ended up with about 100 ml of slurry, which I estimate is about 200 billion cells.  Based on what I know about yeast that is a good number for a 19 liters (5 gallon) of 12 plato beer.  I cooled the wort to 16 °C before pitching and let the temp rise to 18 °C for the commencement of fermentation.  I raised the temperature 0.5 °C per day until it reached 20 °C.  I I further allowed it to rise to 22  °C to assure good diacetyl clean up.  Post fermentation it went into a fridge at 5 °C for some cold aging.  ideally this would age for 4 to 6 weeks, but it will only have 3 weeks before the tasting.  Hopefully it will be OK.

What to Wear ? (Part 2)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was invited to participate in a craft beer tasting promoted by the local community foundation. That post detailed the Russian Imperial Stout that I made as the first beer for the tasting. The second beer selected for the show is a Saison, a style that has become very popular in the last five years. I love my Saison with rye malt, so I sent back to the well and used my basic Saison recipe:

Grains Amount Percent
Pilsener Malt (Weyermann) 2.75 kg 47%
Vienne Malt 1.10 kg 19%
Flaked Wheat 1.10 kg 19%
Malted Rye 0.60 kg 10%
Lyle’s Golden Syrup 0.24 kg 4%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
East Kent Goldings 30 g 60 min 18
East Kent Goldings 22 g 15 min 7
East Kent Goldings 22 g 5 min 3
Coriander 30 g 0 min 0
Original Gravity 15.6º P (1.064)
Final Gravity 2.3º P (1.009)
Apparent Attenuation 86%
Estimated ABV 7.0%

I mashed in at 67 °C and let it go for an hour.  I added both gypsum and calcium chloride to the mash, partially to help the pH but also to add some minerals to the relatively low mineral western Pennsylvania water.  I even added a bit of sodium chloride. The final water profile was 89 ppm calcium, 64 ppm sodium, 137 ppm chloride and 148 ppm sulfate.  I almost always mash with 3 liters of water per kilogram of grain, which works out to somewhere around 1.5 quarts per pound (for those still using middle age measuring systems).  My mash efficiency was 78%, which is probably due to using a sugar as an adjunct, freeing up water for sparging.  Since I was using a pilsener malt I boiled for 90 minutes.

Wyeast 3711 French Saison is the yeast I prefer for Saisons.  I had to restart a small sample I had retained fr0m earlier in the year.  I worked up the volume by making an 8 liter starter (which I actually hopped and drank, hey, I may be a coward but I am a thirsty little coward).  The fermentation temperature started at 16 °C before allowing it to slowly rise to 25 °C over a week.  I was a little disappointed in the attenuation.  Wyeast 3711 normally gets 90 or 95 percent, this was 86 percent.  A sample tasted during kegging seemed OK, but unless this thing becomes infected it is what I will serve at the tasting.

So I now had two beers ready for the tasting, but it never hurts to have a backup plan and brew a third.  I will cover that one next.

Bicentennial Brew & Stats

Last weekend a milestone was reached at the LittleBoy Brewery.  The 200th batch of beer was put into the ferementer.  Because this was a milestone brew I made it something unique, a sour red ale.  I used the same recipe as the So Was Red brew, but instead of a Berliner Weisse yeast I pitched a pack of Wyeast Roeselare Ale, which is a blend of ale yeast, brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus.  I put it in a plastic bucket fermenter and intend to leave it sit for one year.  You can’t rush sour.

200 batches of beer is not that much for someone who has been brewing since 1997, but it has been a fun hobby.  Here are a few additional statistics:

  • The 200 batches made 3203 liters of beer or 846 gallons. That is just over 27 barrels.  Budweiser spilled that much this morning.
  • For the first ten years of brewing I never made ten batches in a single year.  I have averaged 23 batches per year in the last five years.
  • I have used 48 different varieties of yeast.
  • My most used yeasts are dry yeasts: Safale US-05 is my go-to: I used it for 22 batches, followed by Danstar Windsor (21 batches), Danstar Nottingham (20 batches).
  • Most popular liquid yeasts: White Labs WLP 002 English Ale (13 batches) and Wyeast 3711 French Saison (12 batches).
  • Most popular categories: English Pale Ale (35), Belgian and French Ale (22), Stout (20), American Ale (13) and Pilsner (12)
  • Most popular styles: ESB (17), Saison (16), Dry Stout (12), Ordinary Bitter (11) and Classic American Pilsner (10).

Of the 200 batches I only really dumped one. It was a spiced Christmas Ale that just never tasted right.  I don’t think it was spoiled, just too bitter and too much ginger.  I kept it a solid year before I gave up on it though.

Brew on!

What to Wear ? (Part 1)

I was recently approached by a neighbor from across the street. They happen to be good friends with Southern Tier Brewing Company in New York, and as such they were approached by the community charitable foundation to “help” with a craft beer tasting fundraiser. And by help I mean they wanted to get Southern Tier to participate.  Somehow the topic of home brewing came up and the organizers of the fundraiser were interested in having a few homebrewers serve, too.  With that my neighbor suggested my name and of course being humbled I could not refuse the offer (there is always an upside to giving neighbors home brew).

Talking with the organizers, they were looking for about 150 servings of a couple of beers, which works pretty well with a 5 gallon corny keg.  They left it up to me to decide what to bring.  My first thought was my saison, as it has won a gold medal in the local competition as s generally liked by those who try it.  What about a second beer?  I recent made a very delicious Kolsch style beer, but I was concerned that the light flavor of a Kolsch would not stand up well to the strongly flavored beers one might find at a craft beer tasting.  I thought about an IPA or such, but no recipe I had really jumped out as being interesting.  Then it hit me: a Russian Imperial Stout!  A well made RIS will easily stand up to any other beer that it is served with.  One challenge is that these beers stand up to aging very well, and often are better after weeks and even months of aging.  I had to get busy.

I had recent made a RIS and entered it into the local TRASH competition where it scored just OK.  It was criticized for not being “imperial” enough, which surprised me as I thought it had great flavors.  What flavors should it have?  The BJCP guidelines call for flavors that are complex and intense: roasted grains, fruity esters, hop bitterness, chocolate, cocoa, and or strong coffee.  Jamil Zainasheff recommends combinations of three roasted and three caramel grains to achieve these flavors. In my first attempt I used roasted barley and two types of chocolate malts for roastiness and caramunich, Special B , and Crystal 160 for the caramel malts.  All together, the specialty malts comprised about 20% of the grain bill.  Not “imperial” enough?  Well then, up the ante to 23% as shown below:

The Rus’ II

Grains Amount Percent
Munton’s Maris Otter 7.23 kg 77%
CaraMunich Malt (48L) 0.32 kg 3%
Special B (147L) 0.40 kg 4%
Crystal 160 0.32 kg 3%
Roasted Barley 0.56 kg 6%
Belgian Chocolate Malt (347L) 0.30 kg 3%
Kiln Coffee Malt 0.30 kg 3%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
Nugget (13.5% AA) 70 g 60 min 68
Columbus (13.9% AA) 20 g 5 min 4
Original Gravity 21.0º P (1.087)
Final Gravity 6.1º P (1.024)
Apparent Attenuation 72%
Estimated ABV 8.1%

The new addition to the grain bill is the Kiln Coffee Malt, a product I saw advertised by Northern Brewer. It has a great roasted coffee aroma, hopefully it does the job here. I mashed at a moderate temperature (65 to 66 °C) but used my heat stick to get that to 70 °C at the end of a 70 minute mash.  I added 10 grams of chalk (CaCO3) and 3 grams of baking soda (NaCO3) to the mash to compensate for the dark roasted grains.  I also added 3 grams of calcium chloride as the local water is low in both calcium chloride ions.  I batched sparged and achieved 70% overall brewhouse efficiency, not bad with a 20°P beer. I boiled for 75 minutes.

This batch was fermented with 20 grams of Safale US-05 yeast, rehydrated and pitched with pure oxygen. US-05 is a workhorse and it is so easy to use in dry form I am not sure why anyone would want to mess with liquid cultures. The 72% attenuation is lower than normal, but this was a very strong beer with lots of specialty malts so I am not dismayed by that performance.

This beer has been sitting cold (5 °C) for almost four weeks, it will be six by the time the tasting arrives.  That should be about right if I have done my job correctly.

Saving Private Ryan

You saw the state of the beer fridge in my last post.  See that big hole in the middle?  That is how bad things are, I actually have an open tap.

In order to fill the gap I whipped up a little bitter with an American spin. I had some homegrown hops I received from a friend (Nugget and Cascade) and used them to target about 38 IBUs.  . Unfortunately, despite being somewhat conservative estimating the alpha acids in these hops, I am not sure they had any at all. When I tasted the beer it was OK (no off flavors) but it had very low bitterness and no hop flavor or aroma. It was really bland, and I decided I could not drink 3 gallons of this swill.

One approach to reconciling this problem would be to simply brew a second, hoppier batch of beer and just blend the two. This is a sound approach but I did not want to spend the time it would take to do that.  I have heard of people making “hop teas” and adding them to finished batches in order to modify the hop character. I decided to do a little hop steep using a half ounce of Centennial.

I started by placing the hops in a mortar and pestle and mashing them up a bit to maximize the surface area:

20130905-204650.jpg

Next I took about 400 ml of beer from the tap and heated it in the microwave. I wanted to just reach a boil (but I think I removed it a little too early). I put the muddled hops into a french press and added the warm wort:

20130905-204658.jpg

I was hoping it would be over 180° F, but once it was in the press it was under 150° F. Since I figured there was not too much isomerization going on, I only let it steep for about 10 minutes before opening the lid on the keg and dumping the liquid into it (after using the press to filter the solids. For good measure I added the other half ounce of Centennial into a large tea ball and dropped it in also:

20130905-204706.jpg

After 24 hours I can already taste a significant difference in the beer.  It has enough hop flavor to make it a drinkable beer.  I would not enter it into any competitions, but I will happily drink it.

If I had it to do over again I think I would have added the muddled hops to the beer and made sure I reached a boil in the microwave.  I think this might have added a bit more bitterness (I mostly get hop flavor/aroma).

Homebrewing.  Live and learn!

Easy Yeast Starters

Have I ever mentioned that managing fermentation is really important to making great beer?  Sure I have.  And I know that one of the biggest challenges to most home brewers is controlling fermentation temperature.  Well, maybe you don’t have a dedicated fermentation chamber but you can certainly make sure that you pitch the correct amount of yeast.  Unfortunately, much like IBU calculations, figuring out the correct yeast pitch relies on a bit of guesswork.  Still, a little knowledge can be a good thing.

First, how much yeast is needed?  The simplest number is about 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato.  A more detailed recommendation is pitching 750,000 cells per ml per °P for ales and 1.5 million cells per ml per °P for lagers.  For ease I am going to use the 1 million value.  A 5 gallon batch is 18.9 liters or 18,900 milliliters.  This means that we need 18.9 billion cells per degree Plato.  So for a beer at 10 °P (1.040) this means that 189 billion cells are needed.

The challenge for the brewer is that your basic White Labs tube or Wyeast smack pack only promise 100 billion cells.  Despite any claims of being “pitchable” the volume of cells in these packages are not truly sufficient, one needs about twice as many yeast cells.  The easiest way to double the volume of yeast cells is to pitch either a White Labs tube or Wyeast pack into make a one liter volume of wort and let it ferment out.

Here is an easy solution: get some empty two liter soda bottles, wash them and sanitize with your favorite sanitizer.  Add one liter of wort and and the yeast, and cap the bottle.  Shake like crazy, then crack the cap and squeeze the bottle until the liquid is near the top.  Set in a nice warm place and let it do its thing. The great thing about 2 liter pop bottles is that they are incredibly strong.  Once the yeast begins to work and liberates some carbon dioxide, the bottles will become quite firm to the touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACracking the lid allows some of the CO2 to escape, and you can once again squeeze the bottle before resealing.  Shake again to redistribute the yeast.  it makes a great substitute for a stir plate.  And, when the yeast has finished growing you can put the whole bottle into the fridge until it is needed.  it is safe, sealed, and secure.

Dry Run

One cannot say there is one aspect of the brewing art that is the most important. A poorly crafted recipe can make  a poorly balanced beer.  A lack of mash control can affect the body and head retention of the product.  A weak boil can impact clarity and hop utilization.  Post boil, good sanitation is certainly a requirement. But even if you do all of these things perfectly, a poorly managed fermentation will be the ruin of your efforts.

One key to proper fermentation is selection of yeast and pitching a properly sized and healthy starter.   If one buys a liquid yeast culture from Wyeast or White Labs, your generally promised a cell count of 100 billion cells, which is only adequate for five gallons of the lowest gravity beer.   Stronger beers need more yeast, which can be easily accomplished by making a starter, but at the small risk of introducing contamination into the culture.  This requires a few days of advanced planning which is a small inconvenience.  Also, if the brewing day is delayed then the yeast starter does begin to degrade and the viable cell count to drop.  Liquid yeasts are great, they just have some disadvantages.

A good alternative is dry yeast.  The only required planning is buying a few packages at the store.  The main problem with dry yeasts has been a lack of variety, but this is improving.  For instance, Fermentis now has a variety of specialty dry yeasts.  The most useful is Safale US-05, which is a great replacement for any recipe that calls for a neutral ‘American ale’ type yeast (it the same strain as White Labs 001 and Wyeast 1056, the ale yeast used in many famous California Pale Ales.  In fact, I no longer bother with the liquid strains of this yeast.).  S-04 is an nice English Ale yeast. They have also added two dry lager yeasts as well as three specialty yeasts.  I recently decided to try Safbrew T-58, described as a “Specialty yeast selected for its estery somewhat peppery and spicy flavor development”.  Based on the “spicy” descriptor and other comments read online I felt an appropriate test would be in a Belgian Blonde Ale recipe (14 liters at end of boil):

Grains Amount Percent
Pilsener Malt 3.72kg 87%
Aromatic Malt 0.16 kg 4%
Victory Malt 0.16 kg 4%
White Sugar 0.25 kg 6%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
East Kent Goldings 28 g 60 min 24
Styrian Goldings 14 g 0 min 0

I have made this basic recipe before. The original gravity for this batch was 17.5 °P (1.072 sg) and the fermenter volume was 13 liters.  So how much dry yeast should one pitch?The T-58 datasheet calls for 50 to 80 grams per hectoliter, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per liter, which represents 6 to 9 grams for this batch.  I just pitched the entire 11.5 gram package.

One can hear many methods to re-hydrating dry yeast. Some suggest merely sprinkling the dry yeast over the wort and letting it sit for 15 minutes or so before mixing and aerating the wort.  Detractors of this method claim high yeast mortality, as the high sugar levels of the wort impair the ability of the yeast cell to successfully re-establish themselves.  Sometimes I use this method for a one gallon batch, and it has never failed to start a fermentation.  But usually I re-hydrate in water.  I typically put about 100 to 150 ml (about one half cup) water in a one cup pyrex cup and bring to a boil in the microwave. I cover with plastic wrap and let cool until it is just above room temperature, 25 to 30 °C ( about 80 °F).  Don’t rush this – hot water will kill the yeast. I then pour the dry yeast over the top of the water and cover it with the plastic wrap again, without stirring.  Maybe 20 to 30 minutes later I take a sanitized spoon and stir the yeast into the water, and then recover and let sit another 15 or 20 minutes.  The yeast is now creamy and bubbling and very healthy looking. One last good stir and into the wort it goes along with some pure oxygen.

How did the T-58 do?  I started the fermentation at 18 °C and let it ferment there for two days before raiseing the temperature to 20 °C. As fermentation subsided I raised the temperature a couple degrees more to help the yeast finish its work.  The final gravity was 3.3 °P (1.013), an apparent attenuation of 82% and an ABV of 7.8%.  After one week I did rack into a keg and since I did not need it immediately it went into cold storage for a couple of weeks.

So can you use a dry yeast to make an authentic tasting Belgian?  Based on this experiment I would say yes you can. The high level of attenuation is critical to making an acceptable Belgian style beer.  The flavor profile reminds me of many of the classic Belgian yeast strains I have used before.

I know I will be trying this again. Safbrew T-58 could become as ubiquitous as Safale US-05 in my brewery.