Monday, April 30, 2012

Brew day: Step Leader Hefeweizen

The next month is gonna be crazy busy for us. A trip to Brooklyn, Mother's Day, Beerfly Alleyfight, a wedding, Memorial Day weekend... There's not a free weekend day in sight. So with that in mind, I decided to take advantage of our last weekend staying at home for the next month by brewing up a quick batch of Hefeweizen. Now we've brewed our Step Leader Hefeweizen plenty of times. Our first beer ever was an extract batch of Hefe, and we even brewed a Hefe to hand out when our third child, Lily, was born. However, this time I was ready to take the next step and use a direct-fire mash tun to do an authentic, Bavarian-style mash schedule.

When it comes to heating mashes, there are all sorts of acronymed methods you can employ (RIMS, HERMS, etc.). However, I've read that if you're using a mash tun that can be direct-fired, you can keep your mash temperature fairly consistent by simply pumping the wort out the outlet valve and back up to the top of the mash using a hose. I decided to try this simple method and see what happens. As for the mash schedule, well it was right out of Eric Warner's Classic Beer Style series book, German Wheat Beer: mash in around 100°F, direct heat it to 122°F for a 25-minute rest, decoct roughly two gallons for a half hour, return that to get the mash up to around  147°F, let it sit there for 15 minutes, direct heat it to 160°F for 15 minutes, then direct heat it to  170°F for the mash-out.

Dorrie helps mash in...
So did everything go according to plan? Well, for the most part, yes. I mashed in at a 2.5 quarts water per pound of grain ratio (crazy high by my own experience, but fairly typical for German brewers) and quickly found that I no longer need to overestimate what Beersmith tells me for a strike temp when I'm heating the water in the actual mash tun. The pump worked fine for recirculating and I didn't notice any scorching issues with my false bottom. With my crappy old burner turned three quarters of the way open it raised the mash temps around 2°F per minute, which is recommended. I did have a little issue with getting a uniform reading even with stirring the mash fairly frequently; I'm thinking I should focus more on stirring well right before each rest. I didn't really run into issues with the temperature climbing after reaching a target temp, but that may have partly had to do with the fact that it was a very cool day.

...and Jonas helps stir the mash.
The one time I did run into a problem of overshooting my temp it was during the mash-out, when I climbed to 176°F. The lesson: pay closer attention when I'm busy setting up my hoses to sparge. Hopefully I won't notice any issues with tannins. I also ran out of sparge water a little early (collecting only 6.6 gallons instead of 7); perhaps the kettle plus the decoction meant extra evaporation. Oh, and it turns out I should still decoct around 50% more grain than Beersmith recommends even with the ability to direct-heat... When I returned my 9-quart decoction it only raised my mash temp to around 133 instead of the target of 147.

I did a 90-minute boil and ended up collecting 4.6 gallons of Hefe at 1.069 (yes, still trying to dial in my evaporation rates) which I diluted to 5.6 gallons at 1.053. I aereated and pitched a 500mL starter of WLP 380 Hefeweizen IV yeast. Unfortunately, my chest freezer had previously been set to 34°F and while I left it open for a little while it apparently was still quite cold because 18 hours later there was still no fermentation and when I took a temperature reading it was at 59°F. My plan was to start at 62°F and up it two degrees each day to 68°F.

I left the chest freezer open for most of the evening and fermentation began about 24 hours after pitching at 60°F. This morning it was up to 62°F (which the chest freezer thermostat was still set to) but now it's already up to 66°F! So much for my plan of slowly ramping up! Oh well, I guess we'll see what kind of flavor profile we get out of it. I'll do my best to post the results here down the road (yeah, I know I always say that but tend to forget to actually do it).

In the meantime, I kegged our light and dark mild ales last night and carbed them tonight. They're quite tasty, though I'm not finding that big of a difference in flavor between the light and dark milds. I'm thinking next time, instead of chocolate and carafa malts I'll go with chocolate and roast barley. Fortunately, they're both damn tasty! Cheers!


Blogger Señor Brew™ said...

When I was read the sentence about the two gallon decoction raising the temp from 122 to 147, I immediately thought, that's not enough. I've only done a few decoctions, and a couple were accidental--my non-direct (or indirect) heated mash tun was full, and my mash temperature was too low. But just from experience, it seems that it's difficult to ramp up the temperature a ton just from adding the decoction back. I think it has something to do with the fact that your decoction is more solid than liquid.

Sure enough, i read later that it wasn't enough. Anyway, while I use software for basic recipe formulation and water treatment, I don't know if I would use it for mash temps. It seems that there are too many variables involved for it to be really accurate--size, shape, heat retention of tun, ambient temperature and humidity, evaporation rate of your decoction, water/grist ratios, etc. I'm sure the software has inputs for a number of these, but to me it's like using software to predict the weather with accuracy. As a meteorologist, I'm sure you can appreciate the logic of that. Trial and error has worked better for me.

For some reason, I find myself spending more time commenting on your blog then writing mine. :-)

10:02 AM, May 01, 2012  

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