Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Easy Decoction... no additional time... 2 part decoction step mash

There is a reason real
Bohemian and German
Lagers are made with
decoction mashing.
Wow, and thank you all for the amazing response to the decoction series.  The questions and conversation sparked on Facebook, and on Google+ have been fantastic.  We have some more decoctions coming up.

Sunday's brew was a traditional tripel decoction.  We skipped the proteolytic enzyme rests.  They do help with breaking up proteins and with head retention.  Many brewers report creamy meringue like heads from decoction.  This is especially true when you include the acid and protein rests.  In a couple of weeks when we do the bohemian pilsner, we'll do the full totally geeky process begining at 95 F, then we'll do infusions to 110 F and 132 F, and then a triple decoction. We'll use minimal chemical additions.  Should be exhausting, should be fun, and should make some world class beer.   But you have also heard me say over and over that decoction is just a tool.  A tool you can use to improve your beer.   We also do decoctions on lots of different styles of beer, and we have developed a simple two step decoction process.

Today in an effort to make clear our easy two step decotion or "Easy Decoction"  I am writing the process and posting a recipe for a hoppy pilsner.  You must have temperature control to make this recipe. If you do not have temperature control, then I would suggest using Fermentis K-97 yeast. Fermentis K-97 is a Kolsch yeast.  It produces minimal esters, 23 ppm.  It will be very close.  But you will have to fine the Kolsch yeast with gelatin, or another fining agent.  They are notoriously bad flocculators.   The good news is this is a process you can use to make any style of beer, but works best for all German Lagers,  Belgian Ales,  American premium lagers and any beer where you are using under modified grains.  (anything called floor malted or organic benefits from decoction, although I would recommend multiple rest for these malts, acid, protein, beta, alpha mash out )

Decoction is no big
deal.  You can do it!
Our Easy Decoction method does not add hours to a brew day, the additional time is around 30 minutes.   That is half an hour more time to dramatically improve your beer.    I hope this is helpful to you all.   More than anything I hope you come to understand that decoction, and infusion mashing are just tools.  You can use them to improve your beer.  You can use them because they are fun.  You can use them separately, or you can use them together.   In a later post, we will make a Bohemian Pilsner where we actually use infusion step mashing and decoction.  Of course no technique can replace the importance of good sanitation, and proper fermentation.   So if you are having issues with off flavors, you need to work on those techniques before you worry about decoction, infusion or partigyle.  Here is the other great news, you do not need to have fancy gear, pumps, or recirculating anything in order to make great beer with these advanced techniques.  And nothing will get you more in touch with your beer than these hands on brews.  

You can also use these techniques for small batch.   I love small batch brewing. Standing at the stove channeling my inner Belgian Monk or German brewmeister.  I brew far more often than you see on this blog.  I am always screwing around with something.  I usually brew 2.25 gallons when I brew small.

Ja Whol! - inspired by Pivo Pilsner.

OG 1.050
FG  1.012
Color 4 - 5 SRM - your recipe calculator will say 2 srm. The decoction adds the color.  Decoction also gives the beer a shimmering brilliance.

IBUs - 58
ABV 5%

9.5 lbs of Pilsner -  we recommend Weyermann Barke Pilsner or Cargill EuroPils

Boil Additions
1 oz of Magnum at 60 minutes - 14.7% alpha acid = 14.7 AAUs
2 tsp of yeast nutrient at 15 minutes
1 tsp of Irish moss at 12 minutes
1 oz of Spalt Select at 10 minutes  5% alpha acid = 5 AAUs
1 oz of Spalt Select at 5 minutes   5% alpha acid = 5 AAUs

Fermentis 34 / 70 two packs (if you can't lager then use Fermentis K-97, one pack)

Dry Hop
2 oz of Hallertauer Saphir for 5 days.3.2% alpha acid = 6.4 AAUs (LHBS may just call it Saphir)

Mash procedure;   Our mash is very thin, often no sparge or very little sparge.   It works fine.
  • Rest at 146 for 20 minutes
  • Pull a decoction of 1 quart per pound of grain. 
  • Put decoction into a separate kettle. 
  • Rest decoction at 150 F for 15 minutes then bring to a boil for 15 minutes stirring constantly.
  • Return decoction to the main mash, temperature should rise to about 156 F.  
    • The mash temperatures are not as big a deal as you think.  As long as alpha amylaze is activated by your second decoction you are fine.   Don't exceed 165 F.
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pull the thin mash decoction through your valve.  Pull enough thin mash to raise the temperature to 168+ F. 
  • Bring thin mash to a boil and then return it to the main mash.  The temperature should come up above 168 F.  
  • Mash out rest for 10 minutes. 
  • Boil and make additions as normal.  Watch for boil overs when ever you decoct. 
Dry yeast, especially
Fermentis 34/70 is a
great yeast for lagering.
At the end of the boil chill to fermentation temperatures and aerate.  This is a lager, so you will need to use additional yeast and lots of aeration.   We generally chill to as low as we can with our Jaded Hydra and then put the fermenters into the chamber to get them to pitch temps.   The next day we aerate and pitch the yeast.

Here is another shocker...we prefer dry yeast for lagers.   Dry yeast is packaged with oxygen and nutrients.  So we don't even rehydrate.  We just pitch the yeast right on top of the aerated wort.   We use the fast lager method so many of you have read about on Brulosophy.   Because we aerate the next day, we generally ferment in plastic buckets.  We aerate with a sanitized paint mixer.  Say what you want, 5 minutes of this gives plenty of O2 for the yeast to use when using dry yeast.  Since we use the quick lager method we are not experiencing any oxidization from the buckets, the beer isn't in there long enough to oxidize.   We generally go 10 days at 52 F, then 10 days at 68 F, then 10 days at 34 F.   It makes clean crisp perfect lagers. 

Fermaid K can help your yeast
finish strong.  Remember it's all
just yeast.
If fermentation gets stuck, which can happen with a lager,  we add fermaid K yeast nutrient and swirl gently.  We dont want oxygen at this point. Gently swirling gets the yeast back up into suspension.   We have had great success with this method.  Jake took a beer that was stuck at 1.030 and got it down to 1.018 by swirling gently daily. 

The total time for the decoction mash will be around 90 minutes.  A full on triple decoction usually takes us around 2 hours and 20 minutes.   So this is way faster than a traditional decoction mash.  And way more fun than just sitting around in the garage during the mash.   

I hope you will give decoction mashing a try at some point.  It really is a ton of fun.  And it improves your beer.   And this recipe is fantastic.

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