Not so great fermentations. How not to mash.

A blend of milled malted barley for beer brewing

I brewed a beer yesterday, and, let me say first, any day brewing is, barring injury, a great day. The beer in question was supposed to be Julian Shrago’s Laurel India Pale Ale (Laurel IPA’s recipe here).

First off, I had to do substitutions for the hops that I wanted since the LHBS (Local Homebrew Store) didn’t have certain ones. This is common. Subbing for hops or grain or yeast happens, and we homebrewers just need to roll with it. Problem was I forgot what was subbing for what and Laurel IPA has a lot of hop additions.

Yet, all that could have been overcome, after all, at the end of the day the wort, with hop additions reasonably close to the recipe, would turn out to be beer, and maybe even kick-ass beer.

No, the major impediment to making an IPA yesterday was a miserably low conversion of grain to sugar. Instead of the usual (low) efficiency of 65-70% for a pre-boil specific gravity of 1.045, this batch eked out a miserable 55% for a pre-boil specific gravity of 1.035. Ten points low, in homebrew-speak. You can boil a little longer to drive off water and make it a wee bit higher of a specific gravity, but I don’t think boiling for several hours is all that good of an idea.

What happened?

Saccharification – Getting the sugar out. When cracked (partially milled) malted grains are steeped in hot water between 140F and 158F (call it 142-156F to be safe) the saccharifying enzymes that are present within the malted grain break the more complex starches into simpler sugars that the beer yeasts will be able to digest to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Mashing temperature regulates the enzymes. The higher the temperature of the porridge-like mash (up to 156F after that the enzymes shut down and above 170F they begin breaking down), the greater the sugars released that the yeast won’t be able to break down resulting in a sweeter but lower alcohol beer.  At lower temperatures  releases more fermentable sugars for a drier taste. John Palmer has some more on this step here. For this mash  I used 149F since that is what the recipe called for.

This batch may not have worked too well because the grains were packed too close together. I used an insert and this may be the culprit. Outside the insert the enzymes were too dispersed and inside the insert they were too close together.

So, “What the Hell” Pale Ale it will be.

The wort received a 90 minute boil and these hop additions:

1.0 oz Amarillo @ 60 minutes before end of boil.
1.0 oz Columbus @ 10 minutes before end of boil.
1.0 oz  Simcoe @ flame out.

White labs WLP001- California Ale

The OG (original gravity) is 1.051.


Add your voice to the discussion. Be respectful of others.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s