Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Gear, New Methods

Regards to brewers and beer lovers everywhere this new year's day.
Since I believe well made beer is a unifying force, I hope the new year brings full flavored fellowship to everyone at your house.
At my house, though, the brewing process needs some adjustment.
I have sampled at least 3 different beers made within the last 4 months and noticed the same or similar off flavor in all of them.
My limited experience judging beer tells me the flaw is astringency.
The only major change to my process this year has been the way I handle grain.
Late this Summer I was excited to add a new mill to my brewery.  I previously had been cracking my grist at the homebrew shop.  But I wanted to expand the all-grain experience to include this step so I bought a nice mill from Rebel Brewer, a reputable homebrew shop here in Nashville.
The  mill came pre-set to a certain width so I attached it to it's base and milled an IPA grist in early September.
When the beer was finished I caught the astringent flavor out of the keg and from one of the small number of bottles I fill when I make 6 gallons.
At the time I wasn't sure what the problem was and thought I might have caught a bug in the fermenter or failed to rinse the keg well enough after I cleaned it.
I refurbished my kegs.
Then I made a Steam Beer and an Octoberfest.
The Octoberfest is good beer but the Steam Beer has something minor (I believe astringency) wrong with it.
I most recently made another IPA and an American Amber.  Both are young beers but after tasting them last night I think the same flaw is there.
Since I got the mill my efficiency has notably improved.  I used to struggle to get 74% and now I easily achieve 80%.
I'm developong a theory that the gap might be set too small and that I'm grinding some of the grain.  The finely ground barley then allows tannins and husk material to get into the beer.
I have adjusted the mill and intend to try the new setting on Thursday when I make another IPA.
But I don't think that's the end of it.
Other processes need to be looked at as well.
The occassional swirl of the carboy might excite the yeast a little bit.  But as I have read lately, it also might cause bitter compounds that are attached to the side of the carboy at the surface to be swirled back into the beer.
I also intend to review the loosness of my mash.  I normally use 1.45 quarts of water per pound of grain but I think now that I should try 1.25 or even lower to thicken the mash and to help adjust the PH.
Finally, I'll probably try a lower sparge water temperature to reduce the risk of rinsing tannins into the wort.
If the problem persists I'll start looking at the water.
Comments and suggestions are welcome, as always.

Good Beer To You.