Base Malt Guide: Descriptions & Comparisons

Base MaltBase malt is the term we use to refer to the majority of the malted grains used to make beer. Base malt typically forms between 70% and 100% of the malt used in a given homebrew recipe. Base malts are certainly used by all-grain brewers, but also by partial mash and extract brewers who may want to add some diastatic power to their mash or additional grain flavor to their beer. One or more types of base malt may be used in a beer, often complemented by a range of specialty malts for additional flavor, body, and other characteristics.

 

All base malts are typically:

  • Made from barley. (Though beers can be made from 100% malted wheat or rye, these are generally considered adjunct grains.)
  • Light in color.
  • Kilned at a low enough temperature to maintain the diastatic power of the malt.

 

Below is a base malt guide with descriptions and comparisons. It’s a list of the most popular base malts used in home brewing. Also provided is a brief profile of each one:

  • Two-row malt – Two-row base malt is made from two-row barley, which typically features plump kernels and a high starch to protein ratio. Light in color at 1.8˚L.Shop All Grain System
  • Pilsner malt – This base malt is the lightest colored malt available (1˚ Lovibond). It works well for very light lagers and ales. Its profile makes it a suitable base malt for brewing just about any style of beer, but it is a must when making a pilsner lager.
  • Pale or mild ale malt – As a comparison, pale malt is kilned at a slightly higher temperature than pilsner malt, giving it a slightly darker color (2.5˚L) and a maltier flavor. It’s a good option for just about any ale recipe, especially pale ale, IPA, brown ale, porter, and stout.
  • Vienna malt – Vienna malt is another step above pale malt in terms of darkness (3.5˚L). It’s a great option for Vienna lagers, Oktoberfest, and other amber lagers.
  • Munich malt – This base malt is the darkest malt that still has diastatic power. Its flavor profile is has rich, malty flavor reminiscent of bread crusts. As much as 100% Munich malt may be used in some types of German-style dark lagers, such as bocks and Munich dunkel. 10-20˚L.

 

Shop Barley GrainsThis is not a complete base malt list, but these are by far the most common ones with some descriptions and comparisons. As you can see each one has its own profile, including comparisons and contrast with each other. With these simple variations alone, you can begin creating a world of beers.

Want to learn more about the differences between the different base malts? Try this experiment: Brew five, one-gallon, single-malt beers using the same amount of malt, the same yeast, and the same hopping schedule. How are the beers different?
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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.

Homebrew Experiment: Adding Gypsum To Beer To Affect Flavor?

Adding Gypsum To BeerI recently dove head on into the world of water treatments for homebrewing. I’ve always made changes to my brewing water to control mash pH, but I decided it was time to look at water from a historical/regional perspective to see exactly how does gypsum affect beer flavor. Gypsum, also known as calcium sulfate, is a major component in many of the brewing water profiles used around the world. But, does adding gypsum to beer really make a difference in flavor?

Let’s back up for a moment to review one of the ways water and its mineral content, or hardness, can impact your homebrew’s flavor. Different regions of the world have different mineral compositions in their brewing water supply. These differences can be significant. Just look at the levels (ppm) of these common minerals in Burton-on-Trent (UK) vs. Plzn:

 

Burton-on-Trent

Plzen

Calcium

294

7

Carbonate

200

15

Chloride

36

5

Magnesium

24

2

Sodium

24

2

Sulfate

800

5

 

In these two examples, it’s believed that the high sulfate water of Burton-on-Trent led to the development of bitters and pale ales, whereas the soft water of Plzen in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) was suited to the creation of crisp, clean lagers. Homebrewers have the ability to mimic regional brewing water profiles by adding gypsum to beer along with others such as calcium carbonate.
Having just brewed and English Bitter, I was curious how a Burton brewing water profile might affect the flavors in the beer. After doing some research, I came across an experiment to help gauge the effects of a mineral salt on a beer. It goes like this:Shop Gypsum

 

  1. Prepare concentrated solutions using the mineral salt in question. For my test, I’m using gypsum. I started with filtered or distilled water and add measured amounts of the salt in one-gram increments into 500ml or 1L volumes of water.
  1. Measure out equal beer samples. Be sure to use a consistent volume and record it in your notes.
  1. Add 1 ml of each solution to the different samples. After doing the first round of taste tests, you might try adjusting the concentration of the solution.
  1. Take notes on how the flavor changes and find your ideal adjustment. Be sure to have some water and possibly some unsalted, relatively bland crackers or bread between each sample to cleanse your palate.
  1. Calculate how much salt would be needed for a full volume batch of beer.

 

So how did my experiment go? Did adding gypsum to beer affect its flavor?

Initially, the concentration of gypsum I was adding to the beer was too low to make any difference. I started with a 1 gram gypsum/500 mL water solution. Adding 1 mL of said solution to a 125 mL sample of beer only increased the effective concentration of by 1.6 ppm – an imperceptible change for my palate. As you can see, it would take a very concentrated amount of gypsum/water solution to simulate the Burton water profile. What I ended up doing was stirring about .5 gram of gypsum into a .5 L sample of beer to come close to the level of Burton water in the English bitter. Using this concentration of gypsum absolutely affected the beer’s flavor. The hops went from a background bitterness to a full floral sensation that covered the whole mouth. I will definitely use more gypsum in future pale ales.

Shop Digital pH MeterUsing the method above you can begin to get a stronger understanding of how to adjust your brewing water. Just remember different salts affect beers in different ways, and different styles may lend themselves to different mineral concentrations. Experiment, test, record your results!

While the above experiment does give us some ideas as to how adding gypsum to beer affects its flavor, it does leaves some questions. In particular, how does mashing and boiling the hard, gypsum-infused water throughout the brewing process affect the perception of different flavors?

What is your take on the subject? Share in the comments below!
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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 of the Local Beer Blog.

Some Hot Info For Brewing Beer With Coffee

Coffee Beans For BrewingI used to drink coffee, but haven’t had the stuff in years. I loved the aroma and flavor, but hated depending on it to function in the morning.

These days, the only time I drink coffee is when it’s in my beer.

Coffee porter, coffee stout … I’ve even had a coffee IPA. For fans of both beer and the caffeinated drink, there are lots of great options. So how can you mix the two for homebrewing? It’s easier than you think.

 

Choose a Style

The first step for brewing a beer with coffee is determining what kind of base style you’d like to use. These days, brewers are all over the map with what kind of beer they’ll add coffee to, but classic examples include Founder’s Breakfast Stout, brewed with Sumatra and Kona coffee, and Kona’s Pipeline Porter, which uses Kona coffee as well.

You’ll often see coffee beers use a malt-forward base, as coffee flavors match the profile of roasted barley and chocolate malt very nicely. There are a lot of great stout and porter kits you can use as your base, but consider an imperial stout or robust porter for ideal pairings.

That said, experimentation is the beauty of homebrewing, so maybe an American pale ale with coffee is more up your alley. When it comes to brewing beer with coffee everything is open to one’s own interpretation.

 

Pick a Coffee

Once you know the style of homebrew you’d like to use, you’ll want to pick a coffee that matches nicely. Not all coffee beans are the same.

Coffee Stout Beer Ingredient KitTechnically speaking, any style of coffee will work, but you may have specific tastes or even strength you prefer. Espresso will be much stronger in perceived coffee flavor than a “cinnamon roast” coffee bean, which might offer more nut-like flavor. The National Coffee Association has a great list of roasts – from light to dark – that may help you find the kind you want.

One thing to be aware of when brewing beer with coffee is the oil content of beans, as it may impact head retention and mouthfeel of your homebrew. Depending on the beer style you’re using, that may or may not be an issue. An imperial stout, for example, isn’t as reliant on a big stack of foam as a pale ale.

 

Adding Coffee To Beer

Depending on the intensity of coffee flavor you seek, you may be interested in adding coffee to your boil, but the best way to get that roasted taste is in secondary fermentation. To maximize flavor without too much astringency, try cold brewing coffee.

Making a cold brew coffee is easy. Take a cup of ground beans and mix with four cups of cold or room temperature water. Let it sit for 12 to 24 hours, strain the coffee grounds from the water and you’re set. You’re left with less acidic, more flavorful coffee.

Shop FermentersKeep in mind the risk for infection is fairly low as long as you properly sanitize whatever the cold brewed coffee touches.

As an alternative, you could also place ground coffee beans into a muslin bag and steep them like a tea for up to seven days in your secondary. Just make sure to sample your beer as the ground beans steep to make sure you achieve the right amount of flavor you’re looking for.

Ready to start brewing beer with coffee? Check out the Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, which has all the ingredients prepared for you.

Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, 
This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

A Quick Look At The Different Types Of Specialty Malts Used To Make Beer

Specialty Malt For All Grain BrewingWe recently covered a number of popular base malts, which form the majority, or foundation, of a given all-grain beer recipe. Most homebrew recipes will incorporate a small to moderate amount of specialty malts to give the beer additional character, color, and flavor. Every specialty malt has its own unique characteristics that it adds to a beer, which may be used alone or combined with other specialty malts to create a certain malt profile.

So what are some of the most popular specialty malts used in beer? Here’s a rundown of the descriptions of the different types of specialty malts you might use for partial-mash or all-grain brewing.

 

Most specialty malts are made from barley grain, but these first two are made from wheat and rye.

  • Wheat malt – Wheat malt is an adjunct grain that provides bready wheat flavor, body, head stability, and diastatic power, with little impact on color. A little may be added to ales and lagers, or a larger portion may be the backbone of a German weizen. If using a substantial amount of wheat, rice hulls are recommended to prevent a stuck mash.
  • Rye malt – Rye malt can be used in many of the same ways as wheat malt, but provides a distinctly different flavor, often described as spicy. Think of the flavor difference between wheat bread and rye bread. Rye also contributes body, and sometimes a mouthfeel described as oily or slick. Most rye pale ales will only use about 10-20% rye malt, while a German roggenbier may use as much as 100%.

 

All of the descriptions below are for the different types of specialty malts used in beer that are made from barley grain:

  • Carapils® malt – Carapils®, or dextrin malt, is a very lightly colored malt used to increase body and head retention without affecting color. This is accomplished due to the higher level of unfermentable dextrins in this malt. Generally only 5% or less is used in a grain bill.Shop Barley Grains
  • Munich malt– Munich malt can be used as either a base malt or a specialty malt. It is commonly added in smaller amount (1-2 lbs.) to add a malty or bready depth of flavor to the grain bill, though beers may be made with up to 100% Munich malt. Munich malt contains enough diastatic power to self-convert.
  • Aromatic malt – Aromatic malt is a Belgian-style Munch malt contributing, rich, sweet, toasted, and malty flavors to a beer. Commonly used in brown ales and darker Belgian styles such as dubbels.
  • Victory® malt – Victory® malt is a trademarked specialty malt made by Briess. As a lightly roasted malt, it has a nutty, biscuit-flavor characteristic. A small amount (~5%) may add a slight biscuit flavor to a lighter ale or lager. Use more in a darker beer to bring out those same flavors. No diastatic power.
  • Special B – Special B is another darker Belgian-style malt. At 118˚L, it is only appropriate for use in darker beer styles. For example, a pound in a Belgian dubbel or barleywine will contribute strong flavors of raisin or toffee.
  • Caramel malt – Of all the different types of specialty malts, this category is the broadest. A wide range of caramel and crystal malts provide color, body, and flavor to a number of beer styles. They’re rated by color, from 10 to 120 degrees Lovibond. At the lower end of the spectrum, they may offer flavors of caramel, biscuit, or honey. Sweet malt flavors become more rich into the 60 to 80 range. Caramel 90 and 120 offer darker color and flavors of raisins, dates, and burnt sugar. All caramel malts will contribute some unfermentable dextrins to your beer, increasing body and head retention.
  • Carafa malt – This type of specialty malt is a very dark, de-bittered roasted malt. Use it when aiming for a beer with color, but no astringent, roasted bitterness. Commonly used in swarzbier, dunkel, and black IPA, but also works in less roasty stouts and porters. Very dark at 500˚L.Shop Barley Crusher
  • Chocolate malt – A dark roasted malt offering chocolate flavor. A pound is plenty in a five-gallon porter or stout, though as much as two pounds may be used. A very small amount can be used to adjust color in amber or red ales.
  • Black patent – A very dark, very bitter specialty malt. Too much may make your beer taste burnt. Generally, 1-4 oz. of black patent in a stout will contribute plenty of dark roasted flavor and color.

 

This is just a brief list of the more common different types of specialty malts along with a description of their basic characteristics. There are many other specialty grains available that can used in beer as well. What are some of your favorite specialty malts?
—–
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.

Quick Guide To Understanding Brewing Water Chemistry

Homebrewer With Brewing WaterIn home brewing, water chemistry can have a huge impact on beer flavor and quality. For one, it has to be clean and free of microbiological contamination. That’s a given to prevent spoilage. But in addition to that, the concentration of minerals in your brewing water can impact not only flavor, but also mash performance, acidity, hop bitterness, yeast health, body, mouthfeel, and other factors. For these reasons, many home brewers pay fierce attention to the chemistry profile of the water they use for brewing.

When looking at the brewing water chemistry, brewers pay attention to the following minerals:

  • Calcium – Lowers pH and helps with mash conversion.
  • Magnesium – Lowers pH and aids yeast health.
  • Sodium – Sodium can help give beer body, but too much might make a beer taste salty.
  • Carbonate/Bicarbonate – These can slow the mashing process and make hop flavors taste harsh.
  • Sulfate – Sulfate can introduce harsh, dry flavors.
  • Chloride – May contribute sweetness.

 

Water Chemistry for Mashing

One of the many ways water chemistry comes into play in home brewing is with the mashing process. This is particularly important for all-grain brewers, but also partial mash brewers. The enzymes in malt need certain conditions in order to covert starches into sugars. One of the primary factors is pH, or acidity. The enzymes work best when working within a specific pH range. Pure water has a pH of about 7, whereas ideal conditions for enzyme activity is about 5.4-5.5. Certain malted barleys can lower pH more than others. Depending on the source water, it may be necessary to add mineral salts to raise or lower the brewing water’s pH for a given beer recipe.

 

Water Chemistry for Brewing Certain Styles

Shop Homebrew BooksSome styles of beer were developed based on the local water profiles of the breweries that made them. To recreate a Munich Dunkel or English Bitter, it may be necessary to replicate the brewing water chemistry of those locations.

Brewing water chemistry analysis and profiles for specific locations is widely available from books such as Homebrewing for Dummies, Designing Great Beers, and others.

 

So How Can Brewers Change Their Water?

Before making changes to your brewing water, it’s very important to establish a starting point, otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark. Consider checking with your local homebrew club. Someone may have already figured out the mineral content of your local water source and offer some recommendations for how to adjust your water, if at all. You can also check with the local water department for a water quality report. Another option is to use only reverse osmosis or distilled water, in which case you’re essentially starting from pure H2O. This would be the purist way of handling your brewing water chemistry.

Shop Water TreatmentOnce you’ve established a baseline, you can add minerals to adjust your water profile. There may be a balancing act between maintaining an appropriate pH level and replicating the water of a particular region. Once the concentration of the minerals listed above are established, a brewer can use the following to make adjustments:

  • GypsumGypsum adds calcium sulfate, which lowers pH. 1 teaspoon per five gallons adds 140 ppm of sulfate and 60 ppm of calcium.
  • Calcium CarbonateCalcium carbonate raises pH. For every teaspoon added to 5 gallons of water, it adds about 60 ppm of carbonate and 36 ppm of calcium.
  • Magnesium Sulfate – As the name suggest, magnesium sulfate adds both magnesium and sulfate. 1 teaspoon in five gallons will increase sulfate by 100 ppm and magnesium by 25 ppm.
  • Table Salt – Table salt contributes sodium and chloride. 1 teaspoon adds 170 ppm of chloride and 110 ppm of sodium.

*Source on ppm data: Homebrewing for Dummies

With these four ingredients, you can manage mash pH and effectively match any global water profile you want.

Though the calculations can certainly be made by hand, there are some water chemistry calculators which can help you determine how much of each to add to reach a certain water profile. BeerSmith is a software program for brewers with water calculations built in. Brewers Friend has a water chemistry calculator. Bru’n Water offers a water chemistry spreadsheet that will help you make adjustments.

 

Shop Digital pH MeterConclusion

Before adjusting your brewing water chemistry, it’s important to know what you’re starting with. To start with a blank slate, use reverse osmosis or distilled water. Otherwise, contact your local water department a water analysis or profile or ask your local homebrew club for help. If those resources aren’t available to you, there are also water testing kits that can help you determine the mineral content of your water. Start paying attention to the mineral content of your water and pay attention to its effects on mash efficiency, yeast performance, and flavor. This is this essence of brewing water chemistry.

—–
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 of the Local Beer Blog.

Dried Malt Extract vs Liquid: Which is Better?

Dried Malt Extract vs Liquid 2There are a number of “this vs. that” debates in homebrewing: dry vs. liquid yeast, single vs. two-stage fermentation, extract vs. all-grain brewing. On both sides of the argument you will hear supporters of their chosen method insist that theirs is better. But often times the answer depends on the brewer, their equipment, their skill level, their time availability, and a number of other factors. It all boils down to personal preference.

The same can be said for dried malt extract vs liquid malt extract. Neither is necessarily better than the other. Both forms of malt extract have their merit, and both have their drawbacks. Let’s break down the difference between both types of malts to determine when you might prefer dried malt extract or liquid syrup in your homebrew.

Continue reading

Get Sweet On Your Beers: Start Brewing Beer With Honey!

Man Brewing Beer With HoneyWe put it in tea, we mix it into our lip balm and of course it’s good for baking, but for many homebrewers, honey is also a pivotal ingredient for brewing.

From the “ealu” of Great Britain’s Anglo-Saxons to President Obama’s White House Honey Ale, brewing beer with honey has been an important part of the craft. What makes honey so great is its flexibility for brewers, whether they simply want to use it as a fermentable sugar in their boil, as a source of sweet flavor or even as a priming ingredient.

Honey is great as a medium to connect all the aspects of your homebrew, from the sweet taste of wort to herbal aromas of hops and even yeast esters.

So how can you start brewing beer with honey? Here are three different ways:

 

Brewing With Honey In The Boil

For many, the high fermentability of honey provides an easy way to add extra gravity to a beer, since the sugar found in honey is almost entirely fermentable. Unless you’re making mead or braggot, you’ll want to make sure honey isn’t more than about 30 percent of all your fermentable sugars in a brew, depending on the level of honey flavor you seek. For best results, the National Honey Board recommends that when brewing with honey, not using more than 2.5 pounds of honey per five gallons.

A key trick is to know when to add honey. If you want to use it in the boil, consider adding it as a late addition. Due to its high fermentability, using honey early on in the boil can dilute the body of a beer and cause a drier finish when drinking your homebrew. Many beer recipes will call for a honey addition at the very end of a boil (in the last five minutes) or at flameout, which is best for retaining the honey’s aromas and flavors.

 

Brewing With Honey In The Secondary

If you want to avoid using honey on brew day, adding it during secondary fermentation is a good option. It allows you to keep the characteristics of the honey you’ll want to show up in your beer. To eliminate any wild yeasts and bacteria that may be in the honey, it’s important to pasteurize your honey first:Shop Beer Recipe Kits

  1. Preheat an oven to 176°F.
  2. Pour honey into a sanitized, oven-proof saucepan.
  3. As the oven preheats, heat the honey on the stove top to 176°F., stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the honey is 176°F., cover it and put it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
  5. Place the saucepan in an ice bath to lower the honey’s temperature to match that of your beer and pour it into the secondary.

The reason we heat the honey to 176°F. is that this temperature is hot enough to kill off microorganisms, but not so hot that it drives off the honey’s valuable aromas and flavors.

 

Brewing Beer With Honey: As A Priming Sugar

While substituting honey for your normal priming sugar may not add a lot of unique flavor, priming with honey does have the potential to add a small layer of complexity to your beer. Just be sure you only adding the honey for priming, as combining it with any other priming sugar can have explosive results.

If priming beer with honey, the honey will need to be diluted with water before adding to your homebrew. Different honeys have different densities, so there’s no uniform amount of water that may be ideal. You may need a small digital scale to weigh out the honey. Most formulas suggest four to five cups of water should be sufficient to mix with the honey.Shop Accurate Scales

As a precaution, you can bring the water-honey mix to a boil to kill any potential bacteria, the same as you would when mixing any other priming sugar.

Now that you’re ready to start brewing beer with honey, what to make? If you’re feeling experimental, check out the available beer kits from E. C. Kraus and see which beers you may enjoy with a touch of honey!
—–
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

No-Bull Directions For Using One Step No Rinse Cleanser

One Step No Rinse CleanserThe directions on the container of One Step No Rinse Cleanser simply say to rinse your equipment with the solution. Is there a minimum amount of contact time one must allow for the solution to work prior to using the sanitized equipment? The results of an online search stated anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I know the safe route would be to let it sit for at least 2 minutes, but I’d rather not stand there waiting if I don’t have to.

Name: Paul
State: Missouri
—–
Hello Paul,

The One Step No Rinse Cleanser is actually an oxygenating cleanser. This means that it uses a burst of oxygen from the solution to do the sanitizing. This high oxygen level actually destroys any unwanted microbes.

The great thing about any oxygenating cleanser is that it gives the biggest burst of oxygen while the solution is evaporating off the surface of what is being sanitized. In other words, the contact time with the solution is not what really matters. What matters is that the solution be allowed to evaporate without interruption after being taken out of the solution. The amount of time in the One Step solution is not critical. This is way the directions seem so vague.

The only situation when the length of time would matter is if you are treating a piece of equipment that has a lot of tight spots, or has a surface that is complex and Shop Basic A Cleansernot smooth. A couple examples of this would be a nylon brush or a straining screen. In both cases you would want to give “some” time for the solution to work its way in between and onto the surface of each nylon bristle or into the corner of each square of the screen. This could require a few seconds due to the surface tension of the solution.

The flip-side of this is when sanitizing a surface that is smooth, like glass, no time is required in the solution at all. Just dip or apply with a rag and allow to evaporate. Again, the evaporation from the surface is what’s key, not the time in the solution.

If you want to get the most out of the One Step No Rinse Cleanser you would allow your equipment to dry completely before using. However, I understand that following such directions would not be practical in a lot of situations, since it would make things way too time consuming. So as a matter of practicality, I would follow these directions: dip or or wipe with a rag the equipment with the solution of One Step No Rinse Cleanser, then allow to dry for 5 minutes.

One final not I’d like to make is that the One Step No Rinse Cleanser is not a Shop Sanitizerssoap or detergent in any way. It is not designed for or intended to release grime from your wine making equipment. This is something that needs to be done with a dish soap or similar, beforehand. The One Step No Rinse Cleanser is strictly for sanitizing your wine making equipment. It is designed to kill any molds, bacteria, etc.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Using Torrified Wheat For Head Retention

Homebrew With Torrified WheatI’ve been home brewing for just over a year and I’ve heard that adding torrified wheat as an adjunct can improve the head retention in beer and lace work within the glass. However, not once in my circle of friends has any experience of quantity and outcome. I generally brew all grain pale ales using Maris Otter as the base. Is there a recommended amount of torrified wheat to use that will add a creamy head without causing any degradation in clarity?

Name: Kevin Holmes
State: Essex, United Kingdom
—–
Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your homebrewing question about using torrified wheat for head retention in brewing!

In the context of homebrewing, a good torrified wheat definition would be a type of brewing grain that has been heated in order to break down its cell walls. The idea is that this gives water and enzymes in the brewing mash fast, easy access to the wheat’s proteins and starches, resulting in a quick conversion and a higher yield of fermentable sugars. It’s worth noting however that torrified wheat does not have any diastatic power of its own.

You are correct in your understanding that using torrified wheat in your homebrews can improve head retention in a beer. The torrified wheat percentage needed in a grist is approximately 5-10%. This amount can make a big improvement in head formation Shop Barley Grainsand retention. Briess recommends using up to 40% torrified wheat in a beer recipe, with the upper limit being for a weizen, Belgian witbier, or other wheat beer. If mashing with a significant proportion of wheat, rice hulls are recommended in order to avoid a stuck mash.

Please note that these same benefits can come from brewing with malted wheat, instead of torrified wheat. Both the red wheat and white wheat varieties are great alternatives for producing head retention. But unlike torrified wheat, malted wheat also has a significant amount of diastatic power (160-180 DP), worth considering if using a high proportion of wheat in a grain bill. Again, as little as 5-10% can improve head formation and retention. Personally, I have had good results using as little as half a pound of wheat malt in a 5 gallon pale ale recipe. The improvement in head retention was certainly noticeable.

If you’re looking for ways to improve head performance, other than using torrified Shop Barley Crusherwheat or malted wheat, you may also want to look into using Carapils malt (sometimes called dextrin malt). If for some reason you want to avoid using wheat, this is the way to go. Briess recommends using 1-5% of Carapils in your grain bill for improved body and head retention, without significantly impacting your beer’s color or flavor.

Kevin, thanks again for your great question about using torrified wheat in brewing for head retention. Anyone else have suggestions for controlling head retention in their beers?
—–
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.

Brewing With Chili Peppers For Fun And Torture

Beer With Chili PeppersBeer drinkers are an eclectic bunch. Some are hop-heads and some prefer malt bombs, but mixed in with the plethora of sects is a smaller group – those who like it hot.

You may have noticed commercial breweries experimenting more by brewing with chili with peppers, recently. Stone has the painfully hot Crime and Punishment and Twisted Pine has the infamous Ghost Face Killah. But there’s no need to go to the extreme with your homebrew!

If you’re looking for unique heat or some layered vegetable flavor, there are lots of ways to go about adding chili peppers to your beer – and lots of peppers to use – when brewing with chili peppers.

 

What Kind of Homebrew?

Before you find the kind of pepper you want to use, it’s important to determine the style of homebrew you’d like to make. The homebrew you use as your base beer will help you pick what kind of chili peppers to use and how much heat you want to feature.

For example, you could brew something light, like a lager, which could help really showcase aspects of a pepper, all the way up to a stout, which can balance the spice and heat with its own sweet maltiness and roasted characteristics. Here’s a chipotle porter recipe as an another example.

The first time I tried brewing with chili peppers I used a blonde ale base because I wanted the pepper to be front and center. It was perfect for my love of hot food, but a little too much heat came through for other drinkers. Find a style that you enjoy and that will allow you to feature the right amount of heat.

 

Which Peppers to Use?

Once you’ve got a beer style picked out, consider these three popular chili peppers to reach your desired level of intensity:

  • Anaheim: This pepper may be ideal for those who don’t want a ton of spicy heat, as it falls relatively low on the Scoville heat scale. As a mild pepper, it mixes a little bit of sweetness with low-level heat. Anaheim peppers will be good for lighter-bodied brews with a touch of heat.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Jalapeño: Chances are you’re familiar with this pepper, which is often found in spicy food dishes. Jalapeños offer stronger heat than Anaheim peppers and fall about midway on the Scoville scale. Chipotle peppers – smoked jalapeños – also make an excellent option when brewing with chili peppers. The smoke adds another layer to the pepper heat and flavor. Consider jalapeños to be good for just about any beer style, depending on your tolerance for heat.
  • Habañero: Among the hotter peppers easily found at grocery stores, habañero peppers aren’t for everyone, thanks to a heat level many times that of a jalapeño. If you love spicy heat, adding this chili pepper to heartier beers like porters or stouts that can withstand the heat.

 

When to Add Chili Peppers to a Brew

Like other unique ingredients (such as herbs and fruit), you’ve got options for when to add peppers in your homebrew. You can leave them whole if you want to minimize heat or slice them in half to expose seeds and the vegetable’s membrane, which contain capsaicin, the compound that makes a pepper hot.

Other timing options when brewing with chili peppers:

  • Late-boil: This will add heat, but little aroma to your beer. Add peppers at the very end of the boil and let them sit in the wort for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Primary fermentation: If you want a bit more balance, adding peppers during primary fermentation will offer some heat, pepper flavor, and aroma. Just make sure to sanitize or gently blanch peppers them before putting them in your carboy or bucket.
  • Secondary fermentation: To get the most flavor, aroma, and heat from your peppers, try adding them after primary fermentation. This offers the option of starting with a pepper or two, and then you can taste the beer to find out if you want to add more during the secondary process.
  • In the bottle: For pepper enthusiasts only! Adding a pepper straight into a beer bottle will leave no doubt as to what you’re drinking!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

 

How Adding Chili Peppers Impact Your Homebrew

When brewing with chili peppers you’ll definitely get a pepper flavor in your beer, but it’s important to know that how you use peppers may also affect the head retention of a beer.

If you’re using seeds and other exposed parts of the chili pepper, oils from the vegetable may seep into your beer, greatly reducing head retention. In my experience with a jalapeño blonde ale, carbonation wasn’t a problem, but little to no foam remained in my glass a few minutes after it was poured.

Think you can stand the heat? A good place to start for first-timers is with selecting a homebrew recipe kit. Find a brew you like and think will support the pepper heat and give it a shot. It’s an easy way to test pepper flavors and discover the kick they can add to your homebrew!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.