Is Reusing Yeast Cake From A Homebrew Fermentation Okay?

Reusing Yeast Cake When Homebrewing.After bottling a batch of beer, many homebrewers have looked at that inch-deep layer of yeast and wondered, “Hey, isn’t there something I can do with all that yeast?” As a matter of fact, there is!

When we think about reusing yeast cake, our natural inclination is to pour another batch of wort right onto it and let ‘er rip. Why not save a few bucks, right? While it is possible to be successful with this strategy, there are a number of factors to consider when reusing yeast cake. Among others, these include:

 

  • Is the style of homebrew appropriate for the yeast being used? If pitching wort onto an existing yeast cake, the styles of the two beers should be relatively similar. Many American and English ale yeasts can be used interchangeably to produce a variety of ales, so you could probably get away with using an ale yeast to make another ale. The same thing with many of the European lager strains. The main exception is with very distinctive yeast strains,Shop Conical Fermenter especially those for Belgian ales and German hefeweizen. You’d be safe if reusing yeast cake from an English pale ale to ferment an American stout, but you obviously wouldn’t want to use a Belgian strain to ferment an English pale ale (though you may end up with a very tasty Belgian pale!).
  • How long has the beer been sitting on the yeast cake to be reused? The longer the beer has been sitting on the yeast, the greater the number of yeast cells that may be mutated or dead. Dead and mutated yeast cells can contribute off-flavors to your beer, so if you plan on reusing yeast cake, use one that has only been in primary for a short amount of time (7-10 days).
  • What was the gravity of the original beer? High gravity fermentations and the alcohol produced from them stress yeast more than lower gravity fermentations. And yeast stress leads to – you guessed it – off-flavors. You’d be better off pitching a high gravity wort onto the yeast cake from a low – to mid – gravity fermentation.
  • How hoppy was the original beer? Shop Liquid Beer YeastThe amount of hops in the first beer can influence the second. You generally want to pitch a hoppier beer onto a yeast cake from a less hoppy beer (e.g. pitch an IPA onto the yeast cake of a pale ale), otherwise you may end up with excessive hop bitterness or flavor.
  • What color are the two beers? As with hops and bitterness, the color of the first beer can influence the second one. To avoid a change in beer color, pitch a darker wort onto the yeast cake from a lighter beer. For example, pitch a stout onto the yeast cake of an amber ale.

 

Other issues that come into play when reusing yeast cake include accurately predicting the number of yeast cells being pitched and whether there was anyShop Temp Probe infection in the original batch. For these reasons, it may be worth starting with a batch of fresh beer yeast. If you really want to reuse yeast cake, consider harvesting and washing the yeast to reduce the impact of dead yeast cells, beer color, and bitterness, and then use an online calculator to get an estimate of how much yeast slurry to pitch into the second beer. And as always when working with beer yeast, practice impeccable sanitation techniques to avoid contaminating the yeast.

Have you ever pitched onto an old yeast cake? How did it work out?

—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Spring Forward with These 3 Single Hop Beer Recipes

Making Single Hop Beer RecipesAs temperatures rise, spring offers a great time to transition away from malty stouts and porters and towards beers that suggest the beginnings of the growing season. As an ode to the flowers and the trees starting to bloom this month, consider paying tribute to every brewer’s favorite flower: the hop with these 3 single hop beer recipes!

If you’re a hop aficionado, you’ve likely come across some single hop beers in your drinking explorations. Making beers that showcase a particular hop variety is a great way to learn the strengths and weaknesses of different hops. The warmer temperatures of spring suggest a lighter, paler beer, the perfect backdrop for experimenting with different hops.

 

Choosing Hops for Your Single Hop Beer Recipes

If you’ve shopped around for hops before, you’ve probably noticed that they are often labeled bittering hops, flavor/aroma hops, or dual-purpose. Single-hop beers will give you the chance to put these conventions to the test.

Super alpha hops have been developed to highlight their bittering potential, but you might be surprised how many of them work well aromatically. Bravo, Magnum, and Simcoe come to mind. Use restraint with these hop varieties in your single hop beer recipes – a little can go a long way.

Conversely, low alpha and noble hops are often celebrated for their aroma characteristics, but some brewers find that they provide a clean bitterness. East Kent Goldings is a versatile hop in this regard, often used as the single hop in traditional English beer styles.

 

Tips For Formulating Your Single Hop Beer Recipes

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules for single hop brewing, but you might want to consider the following as you develop a recipe for your single hop brew:

  • Select a beer style that really showcases the hops. A golden ale, pale ale, or IPA are often good choices.
  • Develop a simple grain bill that won’t cover up or distract from the hops. Try a base malt plus small amounts of one or two specialty grains for color and/or flavor.
  • Choose a clean yeast strain, like Wyeast 1056, that will let the hops shine through.
  • If brewing multiple single hop brews, consider using a constant base recipe, simply changing the hops for each one.
  • You may wish to brew small batches to get the most experimentation out of your raw materials.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw all these suggests out the window – feel free to try a single hopped stout or Belgian IPA!

 

Single Hop Beer RecipesShop Hops

Ready to try some single hop brewing? Give one of these recipes a try!

 

East Kent Bitter
(five-gallon batch, all-grain)

Specs
OG: 1.045
FG: 1.011
ABV: 4.4%
IBUs: 31
SRM: 9

Ingredients
8 lbs. Maris Otter malt
1 lb. Crisp Crystal 45L
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :60
.5 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :30
.5 oz. East Kent Goldings hops at :15
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops, dry hopped for 5 days
Wyeast 1099 or Safale S-04 Shop Barley Grains

 

Bravo IPA
(five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 51
SRM: 8
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Boil Volume: 6.5 Gallons

Ingredients
6 lbs. light dry malt extract
1 lb. Munich 10L malt
.5 lb. Caramel 40L malt
.33 oz. Bravo hops at :60
1 oz. Bravo hops at :15
.67 oz. Bravo hops, dry hopped for 5-7 days
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Safale US-05 Shop Bazooka Screen

 

Amarillo Wheat Ale
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.25%
IBUs: 23
SRM: 5
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
Boil Volume: 3 Gallons

IngredientsShop Hop Bags
3.3 lbs. light liquid malt extract
3.3 lbs. wheat liquid malt extract
.5 lb. torrified wheat
.5 lb. caramel 10L malt
.5 oz. Amarillo hops at :60
1 oz. Amarillo hops at :15
1 oz. Amarillo hops, dry hopped for 7 days
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Safale US-05

Do you have any favorite single hop beer recipes? We’d love you to share in the comments below!
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

5 Beer Recipe Kits Perfect For Beginners

Steam Freak Ingredient KitsHomebrewing is not especially difficult… at least it doesn’t have to be. For the beginning homebrewer, extract beer recipe kits are the easiest way to get into the hobby, requiring the least amount of time and energy and still resulting very remarkable beer.

As an absolute beginner, try to focus on the most important steps (like cleaning and sanitation) and just try to get the process down. As you continue to brew, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try new and exciting brewing methods.

To get you started on that first batch, here are five excellent, easy-to-brew beer recipe kits:

  1. Munton’s Connoisseur Kit: India Pale Ale 
    IPAs are one of most popular styles of craft beer today, delighting hop heads from coast to coast. With this beer recipe kit, the hoppy bitterness is already present in the malt extract, so there is no need for a 60-minute boil with multiple hop additions. Add 2.2 pounds of dried malt extract to make a full 5-6 gallons of beer. Yeast packet included.
  1. Steam Freak: “Steam Stoker” American Stout
    Stouts, with their robust, roasted flavor, are very forgiving for the beginning homebrewer. Steeped specialty grains offer flavors of caramel, chocolate, and coffee, supported by bitterness and spicy, floral hop flavor from Nugget and Willamette hops. Steam Freak beer recipe kits include caps, priming sugar, yeast, and complete instructions to guide you through the brewing process.
  1. Munton’s Connoisseur Kit: Nut Brown Ale
    Many brewers start with a brown ale. It’s the perfect middle of the road beer to break into brewing. The Nut Brown Ale is a malt-forward, English-style beer with a subtle nutty flavor. Just like the IPA above, this one is super-easy to brew.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  1. Brewer’s Best: American Pale Wheat
    This beer recipe kit is as easy to make as it is easy-drinking. It produces a remarkable wheat beer with a beautiful light-copper cooler. It’s moderately hoppy from a combination of Cluster and Liberty hops, with an enjoyable, crisp finish.
  1. Steam Freak: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter Clone
    This beer recipe kit replicates the popular Samuel Smith brand of robust porter. Steep the specialty grains for improved body and flavor, then mix in the dark liquid malt extract. English hops (included in the kit) are boiled to provide bitterness, flavor, and aroma as characteristic for the style.

Looking for a beginner homebrewing equipment kit? Our Steam Freak Beermaking Starter Kit has everything you need. This starter kit is the ultimate way to start brewing.
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Immersion Wort Chiller: 5 Steps For Proper Care

Immersion Wort ChillerYou may have read when learning how to use you immersion wort chiller that there’s no need to sanitize your it since you’re dipping it in near-boiling wort. And this makes sense. I usually do little (if anything) to clean my immersion wort chiller before using it to chill my wort. I usually give it a good rinse after use and let it hang dry til the next time I use it. But I’ve been wondering – is this really the best way to care for an immersion wort chiller? Are there reactions I should be worried about or routine maintenance I should be doing?

Let’s explore the topic of how to care for an immersion wort chiller.

To understand the requirements for maintaining immersion wort chillers, we need to understand their design and what they’re made of and how they work. Most wort chillers are made of copper, though you will encounter wort chillers made from stainless steel. They’re basically a copper coil with vinyl hoses on each end. Some wort chillers can use up to 50 ft. of coil. To rapidly chill your wort, you dip the wort chiller in the wort at the end of the boil, then run cold water through the chiller. As the water passes through the chiller, heat is transferred through the copper coil and pulled away by the water, which can then go down the drain or into your yard or washing machine.

My concern was mostly with the copper portion that comes in direct contact with the wort. Copper is used for wort chillers because it is an excellent material for conducting heat. But copper, though a key part of the human diet, can also be toxic in high amounts.

Wort Chiller On A TableAs it turns out, copper develops a protective oxide layer through repeated use. Though a shiny copper coil would look pretty, it’s actually preferable for it to be a dull copper color. This oxide layer helps prevent reactions with your wort. Luckily, even if it were exceptionally clean, the copper wouldn’t react in the wort in such a way to cause any concern. Just leave that oxide layer in place to be safe. This goes for any style of wort chiller, whether it be a counterflow chiller or plate chiller.

What you should keep an eye out for is a blue-green or black build-up on your copper wort chiller. The blue-green layer is called verdigris (it’s what makes the Statue of Liberty green) and it is toxic. That’s not something you want in your homebrew!Shop Wort Chillers

 

So what’s the best way to care for your immersion wort chiller?

  1. Rinse the wort chiller of protein and hop debris after every use. In most cases, this will be all that is needed to clean your chiller.
  1. Drain the water from inside the immersion wort chiller after every use. This will help prevent corrosion inside the wort chiller.
  1. Allow the wort chiller to air dry between uses. Don’t soak it overnight.
  1. To be safe, don’t reuse the chilling water for cooking or drinking. Since you can’t see inside the chiller, you can’t be sure whether there’s any verdigris inside.
  1. If you see any blue-green verdigris or heavy oxidation (black), clean your immersion wort chiller by wiping it down with a rag soaked in vinegar. It’s not recommended to use bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or oxygen-based cleaners, because these will just accelerate blackening.Shop Brew Kettles

 

As it turns out, caring for your immersion wort chiller is pretty easy!

If you’d like to learn more about caring for your metallic homebrew equipment, I highly recommend John Palmer’s Metallurgy for Homebrewers article in Brew Your Own magazine.
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Home Brewing With Hops: A Simple Resource Guide

Beer Wort Boiling HopsWithout hops, most beers would be unrecognizable. Hops are both a preservative and a bittering agent, and their oils are responsible for much of the flavor and aroma found in beer. Whether you prefer a malty beer or you’re a full-blown hop-head, home brewing with hops is a critical part of making beer at home.

Here are a number of resources to get you started on your journey of learning all about home brewing with hops:

 

About Hops

  • The Anatomy of the Hop – Hops, as used in homebrewing, are the flower of the humulus lupulus This post explains what it is about the hop flowers that make them so valuable to brewers.
  • What are Noble Hops? – You’ll often hear the term “noble hops” if you enjoy brewing traditional beers from Europe. Learn what makes these kinds of hops so high and mighty.Shop Hops
  • A Quick Guide to American Hops – What makes American hops different from other hops? What are some popular American hop varieties you can use in your American IPA, American pale ale, or American stout?

 

About Hop Bitterness

  • How to Calculate the IBUs of Your Homebrew – International Bittering Units (IBUs) are a measurement of the bitterness in beer. It’s a factor of how much alpha acid is extracted and isomerized into the wort.

 

About Hop Flavor and Aroma

  • Understanding Hop Oils – Hop oils are the seemingly magical ingredients that give beers a wide range of flavor and aroma characteristics, from citrus and pine, to grapefruit and herbal. Learn more about hop oils and how to maximize their contribution to your homebrew.Shop Bazooka Screen
  • How to Dry Hop in a Homebrew Keg – Some homebrewers like to dry hop right in the keg. Learn how to do this so you don’t end up with a bunch of hops in your pint glass.

Shop Steam Freak Kits

Hoppy Extract & Partial Mash Beer Recipe Kits

 

Hoppy All-Grain Beer Recipes

 

Hoppy Home Brewing ResourcesShop Home Brew Starter Kit

Want to learn even more about hops? If after mastering the topics above you still want to learn more, I suggest the following:

Is there something you want to learn about home brewing with hops that isn’t covered here? Share in the comments below!
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Best Beer Styles for Spring Homebrewing

Spring Homebrewing Season Beer StyleAfter a long, dreary winter, I for one as a homebrewers can’t wait to get out of the house in the spring time and fire up the brew kettle. What do homebrewers brew in the spring? Generally some lighter-bodied beers that exemplify the qualities of the spring season. As if to salute the growing season, these beers tend to showcase the lively flavors of floral hops and fruity yeast varieties.

 

Below are some of the best beer styles for brewing this spring:

  • SaisonSaison is a dry, Belgian-style farmhouse ale typically characterized by fruity and spicy flavors from the use of estery Belgian ale yeast and spices like coriander. Many versions use specialty grains, like oats, wheat, and rye, and can range from a sessionable 4.5% ABV up to 7% or higher. Sometimes honey or sugar are added to help achieve a dry finish. High carbonation and sprightly acidity make saison a supremely refreshing beer to brew in the spring.
  • Bière de Mars – It’s not too late to pull off this high-gravity cousin of the saison this spring. Bière de Mars is a malt-forward Franco-Belgian ale with notes of toffee, dry, fruity flavors, and minimal hop aroma. Like saison, Bière de Mars may utilize adjunct grains, sugar, and spices to achieve the appropriate style characteristics. It’s a no-brainer for spring time brewing.Shop Beer Recipe Kits
  • Maibock – Maibock, or “May bock”, is Germany’s answer to spring weather. It’s a higher-gravity lager just like traditional bock, but paler and a little more bitter. Check out Growler Magazine for a wonderfully simple maibock recipe.
  • Rye Pale Ale – Like barley, rye is a cereal grain that can be used in making beer. It’s often added in smaller doses to contribute a subtle spicy notes to pale ales, IPAs, and sometimes Beglian-style beers. Try this clone of Terrapin Brewing Company’s Rye Pale Ale.
  • Tripel – Belgian Tripels are the true champagne of beer. Bright, golden, effervescent, with notes of fruit and spice, triples are high-gravity Trappist-style beers that showcase the complexity of Belgian ale yeast. Try a Belgian Tripel recipe kit or try this Westmalle Tripel clone when brewing this spring.
  • Belgian WitbierShop Homebrew Starter KitBelgian wit, or white beer, is the perfect beer for drinking the spring sunshine. Brewed in the style of Hoegaarden or Allagash White, witbier is a sessionable beer at just 4-5% ABV. The color is very pale, often cloudy and creamy due to the use of oats and wheat. Citrus peel and coriander make the beer bright, fragrant, and refreshing. Try the Brewer’s Best Witbier kit or Blue Noon, a clone of the ever-popular Blue Moon.

 

These are some of my favorite beers for brewing in the spring – what’s your favorite spring time brews?

—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Belgian Saison Beer Recipe (All-Grain & Extract)

Made With Saison Beer RecipeAround this time last year, we shared some tips and guidelines for brewing a saison. Well it’s that time of year again; I actually just enjoyed my second-to-last bottle of saison homebrew from last year, and it’s time to brew another one.

A few techniques and characteristics can help make your homebrewed saison a good one when using this saison beer recipe:

 

  • Hard water – Mineral rich water can help your saison have a dry finish that’s typical of the style. Consider adding gypsum to your mash water.
  • Simple sugar – Another way to achieve a dry finish is through the use of simple sugar adjuncts. Since the sugar will ferment almost completely your overall attenuation will be higher. Use about 1-1.5 pounds of adjunct sugar in your saison beer recipe.
  • Adjunct grains – A small amount of adjunct grains like wheat or oats can help give your saison some body and head retention. These adjunct grains can be used in raw, rolled, or flaked form. I’ve had good results with as little as 1/4-lb. of Shop Gypsumoats or wheat.
  • Get creative with herbs and spicesOrange peel and coriander are two of the most common flavor additives used when making a saison, but you can try anything from ginger to lavender to rose hips to chamomile. I find that the floral additions really work well in this kind of seasonal beer.
  • Belgian yeast strain – There is a particular yeast character in saisons that can only be achieved by using a Belgian yeast strain. There are several saison-specific yeast strains, including the Danstar Belle Saison Yeast. Other Belgian ale yeasts such as Wyeast 3942: Belgian Wheat Beer Yeast may also be used. Don’t be afraid to let fermentation temperatures push the upper limits when making this saison beer recipe, as the aromatic esters and phenolics are desirable in saisons.

 

Ready to try a saison of your own? Try this all-grain recipe! (See bottom for an extract / partial mash option!)

Shop Beer Flavorings

Belgian Saison Beer Recipe
(all-grain, five-gallon batch)

Specs
OG: 1.059
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.1%
IBUs: 29
SRM: 7

Ingredients 
9 lbs. Two-row malt
1 lb. Caramel 20L malt
4 oz. Flaked oats
1 lb. Brown sugar
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60Shop Grain Mills
.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :30
.25 oz. fresh crushed coriander seed at :20
.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
.25 oz. fresh crushed coriander seed at :10
1.5 tsp. yeast nutrient at :10
1.5 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops dry hopped for 7 days
Lallemand’s Danstar Yeast: Belle Saison Ale (2L yeast starter recommended)

 

Directions: Mash crushed grains in moderately hard water at 148-150˚F for 60 minutes. Sparge to collect 7 gallons of wort. Mix in brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and additives according to recipe. Remove from heat, whirlpool, and cool wort. Pitch yeast at about 70˚F. Ferment at 70-75˚F. Add dry hops to the secondary fermenter. Bottle or keg for 2.5 vols CO2.

EXTRACT / PARTIAL-MASH OPTION: Replace the two-row malt with 6.6 lbs. of Extra Light liquid malt extract. Steep the caramel malt and flaked oats for 30 minutes Shop Steam Freak Kitsin 2 qts. water at 150˚F. Strain wort into brew kettle and add the light liquid malt extract and enough water to make a 3.5-gallon boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and additives according to beer recipe. At the end of the boil, remove the kettle from heat and mix in the brown sugar. Whirlpool, chill wort, and adding enough cool, clean bottled water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast at about 70˚F. Ferment at 70-75˚F. Add dry hops to the secondary fermenter. Bottle or keg for 2.5 vols CO2.

Do you have a favorite saison beer recipe from either extract or all-grain? What makes yours unique?

—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Calibrating a pH Meter for Brewing Beer

A pH Meter For Brewing BeerMeasuring pH is an important part of all-grain brewing for a number of reasons. pH influences starch conversion during the mash, the quality of fermentation, resistance to infection, and flavor. While it’s possible to make good beer without paying any attention to pH, being able to measure the acidity or alkalinity at different points in the brewing process gives you one more tool in your homebrewing toolbox to gain full control over the end result – the beer!

With that in mind here is some basic information on calibrating a pH meter for brewing beer. Some first-time pH meter owners are a bit intimidated by the process, but as you will see, there is not all that much to it.

 

Is measuring pH just for all-grain brewers?

pH is most relevant when mashing, or mixing crushed malt with water. The enzymes that convert the complex sugars found in malt into fermentable sugar work best within a certain pH range (5.2-5.5). While it may be helpful for extract brewers to measure the pH of their wort or finished beer, it’s usually not a priority.

 

Calibrating a pH Meter for Brewing

To calibrate your digital pH meter, you will need:

  • your pH meter
  • 500mL distilled water
  • one or two beakers or glass jars (depending on how many buffer solutions you have) Shop Temp Probe
  • pH buffer solution
  • a thermometer

*Note: pH meters and testing procedures may vary. Follow the instructions that came with your pH meter.

 

To calibrate your digital pH meter:

  1. Prepare buffer solution: If using a buffer powder, mix 250 mL water with buffer powder, and fully dissolve buffer powder in water. If using a solution, pour buffer solution into testing jar.
  1. Turn on pH meter.
  1. Submerge the electrode end of the pH meter into the buffer solution.
  1. Wait until reading stabilizes.
  1. Adjust pH meter as needed. Most entry-level pH meters can be calibrated with a small screwdriver. Turn the small screw on the pH meter until the reading matches the pH of the buffer solution.Shop Digital pH Meter
  1. If using a second buffer solution, rinse the electrode on the pH meter with distilled water and repeat the steps above for the second solution.

 

pH Meter FAQs:

  • What is pH? pH stands for potential hydrogen and it measures the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid on a scale of 0-14. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Measurements below 7.0 are acidic; above 7.0 are alkaline.
  • How often should I calibrate my pH meter for brewing? pH meters should not need to be calibrated for every brew, but will fall out of calibration over time. Calibrate before the first time you use it, and again every 3-6 months. When you recalibrate, make a note of the date and how far off the reading was. This will help you determine how often to recalibrate your particular pH meter when brewing.
  • Do I need to make adjustments for temperature? Shop Accurate ScalesSome pH meters come with automatic temperature control (ATC), in which case you do not need to adjust for temperature. However, you will still need to make sure you’re using the meter within its operating temperature range. Check the manual before using the pH meter in very hot wort.

 

Do you use a pH meter in your home brewery? How often do you calibrate your pH meter for brewing?

—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Is Homebrewing Art Or Science?

Artist rendition of homebrew.What gets you excited about homebrewing? Is it the art of recipe development? Or the science behind fermentation and mashing? The creativity behind combining malt, hops, and yeast, or the learning that comes from every single batch of beer you make? These are the thoughts that crop up when we ponder the question: Is homebrewing art or science. While some may lean towards either the art or the science side of homebrewing, my guess is that for most of us, we’re drawn to both aspects of the hobby.

 

The Science of Homebrewing

One could spend a lifetime trying to understand the science behind making beer. Indeed, many do. It’s the science side of homebrewing that helps us understand the specific actions that allow four ingredients to combine into a flavorful, alcoholic beverage known as beer.

First, we have the science of water. Not all water is created equal. What is the make-up of your brewing water? Is it pure, like the soft water of the home of Pilsner in the Czech Republic? Or is it hard, like the sulfate-rich water of Burton-on-Trent, homeland of Shop Malted GrainsEnglish pale ales. Knowing the mineral content of the water you brew with can help you optimize mashing, fermentation, and flavor.

How about the science of malting? Why does grain need to be malted? It’s the malting process that begins to convert the energy in the grain into what will become fermentable sugar and eventually alcohol. Malting also affect the flavor and color of the grain and creates a whole range options that allow beer to be light or dark, sweet or roasty, and everything in between.

The science of hops reveals what makes beer bitter. It helps us understand IBUs and why an IPA stands apart from a pale ale. Understanding hop oils allows us to grasp how beers can taste and smell like citrus, pine, or grapefruit.

Finally, my favorite science of homebrewing, the science of beer yeast, the mysterious microorganism responsible for converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, explains how the other ingredients can magically transform a sugary porridge into an Shop Hopselixir that relaxes the body and soothes the senses.

 

The Art of Homebrewing

Brew masters have a deep understanding of their craft, not only the brewing side of the equation, but also the sensory side. For without understanding the way that flavor can change our mood or remind us of a special memory, brewers would just be shooting in the dark.

Brewers have to understand the flavors that different ingredients bring to a beer. Science can begin to explain flavor, but to fully understand it, a brewer needs experience. They need the vocabulary to describe the flavor, and only experience can help them understand how much is too much. While some scientific measurements (BU/GU) can help to facilitate an understanding of balance, only experience can help brewers develop an inherent knowledge of it.

There is an art to homebrewing – a creativity, but creativity isn’t just haphazardly throwing in whatever ingredients come to mind. The art is in understanding balance. Shop Beer Recipe KitsHow much hop bitterness is appropriate for a Bohemian pilsner? How much coriander should be used in a Belgian wit? One could easily follow a recipe, but a true artist will know from experience when enough is enough.

And of course there’s an art to the act of brewing. There’s a certain art to learning how and when to transfer beer from one fermenter to another, and a certain art to bottling without losing a drop of beer. Again, the art is improved with experience.

 

Putting It Together

So, is homebrewing art or science? My approach is that through understanding the science of homebrewing, we begin to develop the artistic skill needed to create truly wonderful beer. This is something that only comes through practice and repetition. Through science with develop our art of homebrewing. John Palmer agrees:

“Brewing is an art as well as a science. Some people may be put off by the technical side of things, but this is a science that you can taste. The science is what allows everyone to become the artist.”Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

Yes, homebrewing is both an art and a science. The beginning homebrewer may focus on the art of the brewing procedures before getting into the science of different ingredients and techniques. Then maybe combine the two into the art and science behind recipe development. I believe that a large part of this hobby’s appeal is that homebrewing fits so easily into both categories. It’s both.

What’s your take? Do you learn more toward the art of homebrewing or toward the science of homebrewing?

—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Award-Winning Munich Dunkel Lager Recipe (All-Grain)


Beer Made From Munich Dunkel Lager RecipeWe recently explored some famous German beer styles. The next one on my “to brew” list is a Munich Dunkel Lager. Here’s some of the basic characteristics of this German style beer.

A Munich Dunkel is a dark lager (dunkel = dark in German). But just because it’s a dark beer doesn’t mean that it’s heavy, bitter, and roasty. Munich Dunkels use little (if any) heavily roasted malt. That means no black malt and no roasted barley. Most of the color and flavor in this beer comes from mid-range malt, particularly Munich malt. (Extract and partial mash brewers may use Munich malt extract.) The Munich malt provides the somewhat sweet, bready, malty flavors that characterize this beer.

In terms of hops, only enough hops are used to provide balance to the beer. You don’t want to cover up the malt flavor. The BJCP Guidelines for the style call for 18-28 IBUs. In a five-gallon Munch Dunkel lager recipe this may only be an ounce or two of hops. For an accurate representation of the style, only German varieties of noble hops should be used.

When brewing a Munich Dunkel Lager recipe, fermentation temperature control will be imperative. The German lager yeast used in this beer prefers temperatures of about 50˚F or below. Before attempting to brew this beer (or any lager for that matter), read Controlling Homebrew Fermentation Temperatures.

The all-grain Munich Dunkel Lager recipe below comes from the American Homebrewers Association. It’s an award-winning beer recipeShop Liquid Malt Extract created by Shekhar and Paula Nimkar of Swampscott, MA. The beer won the Dark Lager category at the 2010 AHA National Homebrew Competition.

 

Tara’s Slam Dunkel
(five-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)

*Note: This beer recipe assumes a mash efficiency of ~86%. You may wish to have some DME on hand in case you undershoot your OG.

Specs
OG: 1.060
FG. 1.020
ABV: 5.25%Shop Steam Freak Kits
IBUs: 13
SRM: 17

Ingredients
8 lbs. Munich malt
2 lbs. Wheat malt
4 oz. Chocolate malt
.66 oz. Hallertau hops at :45
.33 oz. Hallertau hops at :15
2 packets Wyeast 2206: Bavarian lager yeast
1 tbsp. Irish moss at :20
.5 tsp. calcium carbonate (added to sparge water)

 

Directions: The day before brewing, prepare a 4L yeast starter. Mash grains in about 3.25 gallons of clean water at 122˚F for 30 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the mash and raise to 158˚F for 20 minutes. Bring it to a boil for 20 minutes. Return the decoction to the main mash vessel and raise temperature to 149˚F. Remove 1/3 of theShop Grain Mills mash and bring to a boil. Return it to the main mash and sparge with 167˚F water to collect seven gallons of wort. Do a 90-minute boil, adding hops according to schedule. Remove kettle from heat and cool wort to 65˚F. Aerate wort and pitch yeast. When fermentation activity begins, reduce temperature to 55˚F. Ferment for 14 days, then transfer to secondary and ferment at 41˚F for three weeks. Bottle or keg for 2.4 volumes CO2.

Do you have a solid Munich Dunkel Lager recipe you’d like to share with us? Share in the comments below!
—–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.