Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pineapple Milkshake NEIPA - Brew Night

So last night Mark Anthony and I gathered at his place to take another shot at a NEIPA.  This recipe and brewday night were informed by our past attempts including our recent hazed and confused brew session.  In our hobby learning and developing as a brewer are best informed by trial and error.  You can and probably should read about the hobby.  This and other blogs give lots of great information.  There are hundreds of books that inform you about the hobby.  Certainly, there are two really excellent magazines about it.  You can and should watch videos about brewing.  There are lots of great videos on brewing on youtube.  Some of them are actually by really excellent brewers who actually know what they are talking about.  Some of them should be avoided.  But nothing will inform you like actual experience brewing- both with success and failure.   And there is no substitute for lots and lots of practice.  Practice is the main reason I am such a fan of 2.5 - 3 gallon stove top batches.

I love this hobby.  I have for years.  And over the years, I have developed some best practices that work well for me.  Many have been learned through trial and error, many through study.  Many in my case by having a mentor who taught me so very much.

So why am I digressing about learning and experience on a brew night post?  Where the hell are the photos of the grain and wort?  Where's the freaking recipe?  Well, because we nailed the brew night last night.  It wasn't perfect, but our experience and knowledge was able to overcome the problems that we had with the brew day.

Last night we brewed a session pineapple milkshake NEIPA with centennial, citra, and mosaic.  3.3 gallon batch.  Here is the recipe.

3 gallon batch
1.048 OG    1.013 FG  ABV 4.63  IBU 47 Rager   SRM 10 Daniels  65% Efficiency

3 lbs 6 Row - Cargill (love this malt)
8 oz Flaked Oats - Quaker
8 oz Cane Sugar (late) - C&H
5 oz Cara 60 - Cargill
4 oz Wheat Malt -  Cargill Malted White Wheat
1/4th LB - Lactose
(the sugar from the 46 oz of pineapple sugar, for me the calculation was about 6.6 ounces of sugar)

The Hops
1 oz at 15 Centennial 10% AA
.5 oz Whirlpool CITRA 12 AA% 15 minute whirlpool starting at 175 F
.5 oz Whirlpool MOSAIC 11 AA%15 minute whirlpool starting at 175 F
.5 oz Dry hop CITRA CRYO 25.2 AA% at high krausen
.5 oz Dry hop MOSAIC CRYO 24.2% AA% at high krausen
.5 oz Dry hop CITRA CRYO 25.2 AA% days
.5 oz Dry hop MOSAIC CRYO 24.2% AA% 3 days

The yeast - Wyeast British Ale 2 1335 - why? Several friends have reported excellent results for this yeast in this style.  We are aware it is a departure from London Ale 2.  We'll report back on results. going to ferment at 66 F.

The mash - Full volume, no sparge at 153 F

The water - NEIPA profile- balance the calcium and the chlorides for us we were about CA 125 and Chloride 175.  That gives the desired "soft mouth feel".

The brew night was really relaxing and pretty much free of any major problems.  We made our water adjustments and heated the water to the strike temperature recommended by Brewersfriend.  But somehow I screwed up my settings on my equipment profile.  Rather than telling the software that I loose 7 degrees F upon mash in, I told it I loose 3 degrees F on mash in.  So we were sitting at 149 rather than 153 F.  What do you do?  Well you have a couple of options.  You can do nothing or you can bring the temperature up somehow.  With our cooler mash tun, increasing the temperature by flipping the switch is not an option.  So we did what we do when we miss; we used the calculator on brewersfriend to calculate an infusion.  And used the water that would have been for the mash out addition to bring the temperature up to the correct rest temperature.  No big deal.  We were only planning on 65% efficiency and no sparge so skipping the mash out is really not a big deal for us.  We also could have pulled a decoction, something you have seen us do many times.

Here is the point: experience and knowledge are your real tools on a brew day.  Not fancy fancy equipment.  Not your computers (although they are really important). Experience and knowledge.  And you get those by brewing... brewing a lot.

Other best practice steps we took?  Well we used a brew bag as a mash filter.  We used 1 camden tablet to remove chlorine and to scavenge off additional oxygen.  We used aluminum foil as a mash cap.  When we stirred, we stirred gently.  As you all know I am skeptical about oxygen's effect on mashing, but on the other hand I am not going to invite extra oxygen into the game.  We also bagged our hops.  There is no reason to increase hop debris in your wort.  We chilled this one in the sink with ice water.  We knew it would chill quickly with the addition of the frozen pineapple juice.   We were at pitching temperatures in 20 minutes.

And most importantly we are getting the 2.5 - 3 gallon no sparge system dialed in for upcoming contest season.  Can't wait to taste this beer.  The wort samples were amazing.

The beer is now happily fermenting at 66 F.  The beer should be ready for packaging in under a week.  It is a session beer.  So I will wait 24 hours after it reaches terminal gravity, and package immediately. 

Next Up?   John and I have something up our sleeves for this weekend.   Stay tuned.  Then in about 2 weeks I will be showing you all how to make an apple ale, easy partial mash delicious...Graff.  The LODO part 2 post is coming soon.

That's all for now brew nerds.

Friday, January 5, 2018

LODO - the new crazy craze ...kinda...

Every now and then a new craze hits home brew.  Sometimes good, sometimes goofy but always there are elements of truth and of bologna.  Such is the case with the new craze in home brewing... Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewing, or LODO.   It is the current source of both hope and controversy in the home brewing world.  Normally we focus on beginning and intermediate brewing concepts here.  And to be truthful, this post has been in the works for a long time as we worked through the science of LODO and how to present it to you all with as much common sense as we can muster.  You will be thrilled to hear that this is the first of 3 posts on LODO.  The second will dive deep into the science of malt chemistry and our ultimate conclusions will be supported not only by actual chemistry but also by some heavy hitters in the world of brewing science and home brewing.  The third will show our process changes associated with lodo.  The very fact that there is a 3rd post tells you that we do, in fact, accept some of the claims of the Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewers

It should be stated as always, homebrewing is about having fun and making great beer.  There is not one and only one way to brew.  Brew how you want to brew, in whatever way makes sense to you.  I will now also tell you that the LODO disciples are guys who love the same hobby you love.  They are trying to share something that has worked for them, and I believe they are well meaning, if sometimes misguided.

So what is Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewing (LODO)?  Basically the proponents of LODO brewing assert that oxygen is the enemy of quality brewing, especially in German style lagers.  The proponents of LODO claim that as little as 1 PPM of dissolved oxygen in your mash can rob your malt of that special "German" taste.  They call this special taste the "it" factor.  In support of this claim they quote a great old brewing text by Professor Wolfgang Kunze (originally written in the late 1950s and published in 1961) of the Technical Institute of Dreseden and the VBL Institute.  The text has been updated many times over the years, and the work of Professor Ludwig Narziss.  I have read most of Kunze, and almost all of the Narziss that I can find online. Ich kann kein Deutsch mehr, aber ich lese es immer noch ziemlich gut (I can not speak German any more, but I can still read it pretty well, if I have the time). And these texts clearly do state that limiting oxygen is a good brewing practice.  They especially suggest limiting oxygen exposure to finished beer, a point upon which we can all agree.  They rightly point out that many breweries do all they can to limit oxygen ingress throughout the boil.  Sadly, Herr Kunze died last January so we can't simply ask him for his input.  To this end the LODO guys say you should pre-boil your strike water and add potassium or sodium metabisulfite to scavenger off any and all remaining oxygen in your brewing liquor.  (Why do they say this?  well one of these German Professors said that sodium metabisulfite can aid in scavenging additional oxygen from mash water, and from sparge water.)They recommend a closed mash system with as little exposure to oxygen as possible. (again recommended and agreed upon by virtually the entire industry as a good practice)  And only gentle stirring or recirculation, and recirculation return below the mash cap or submerged (again recommended and agreed upon if you feel the need to recirculate. )

The proponents of LODO brewing also say that you should boil gently to avoid additional oxygen ingress during the boil.  And finally the proponents of LODO brewing recommend that you should ferment in an oxygen free environment and then package your beer prior to full attenuation (spunding) in order to naturally carbonate and allow the very active yeast to scrub out any additional oxygen, also known to be a great technique that has been largely forgotten by home brewers.

Finally, the LODO guys say you should ferment your lagers on the cool end, and that there is essentially no diacetyl conditioning needed if you have pitched a large enough healthy enough yeast starter.

So this may surprise you but I think most of their recommendations are valid.  Valid, but not absolutely necessary to make great beer.  There is certainly nothing wrong with limiting oxygen ingress during the mash.  It is even considered a good practice.  Boiling gently (just above a simmer) also makes some sense to me.  There is such a thing as "boil shock", although you could argue that the chemical components created by shock are necessary to achieve certain distinct German flavors.  Adding more sulfites to a beer... Well this makes no sense to me at all just to scavenge off more oxygen.  Dr. Charlie Banforth, the professor of brewing and malting at University of California at Davis, had this to say about adding sulfites, "Sulfites in the mash are to be avoided, yeast will reduce it to sulfide and you will end up with an egg-y aroma in your beer.”  (credit Brulosophy 4/10/2017)  Dr. Charlie Banforth of UC Davis also has said on multiple occasions that a quality fermentation will clean up and or fix almost all issues with HSA.  But what if it didn't have to? What if you never created any hot side aeration issues?  Recently the LODO brewers have been recommending the use of a "trifecta" of water treatments related to oxygen composed of sulfites, ascorbic acid, and bretan b.  I am excited to learn more about the chemical effectiveness of Brewtan-B. For the time being we have not completed any testing or real research on it's effectiveness.

So why the controversy?  Why do you have frustration with the LODO guys? It sounds like you like a lot of what they say...

Don't act like a Troll....
Well, the biggest frustration I have with the LODO guys is that they all seem to be unified under the banner of "LODO or die".  They all have the same motto-"do things exactly as we suggest, or what you do won't work... and our ideas can therefore not be criticized".  I have had one explain to me that despite my 27 years of brewing and considerable experience with contest, and limited experience with professional brewing.  That I was an "idiot" for not brewing LODO, and that I should probably find a different hobby...trolls suck, And aren't really very common in our hobby.   ( I should say not all of the guys act this way.  Brian, techbrau and Ancient abbey have been very helpful and patient with my questions and they didn't even know I was the one asking them...) Normally, when someone says "do things my way or your results are invalid", I would recommend running away as if your hair is on fire.  But with LODO I am intrigued.  I know some of what they recommend works. I don't believe that they are lying about the results. And several Brewers whose opinions I absolutely Trust are praising the technique.  So we have to glean from their learning techniques that will work for everyhone. 

But, I'm still somewhat skeptical.

Repeated experiments and exbrmts show that beer drinkers can not identify a batch where Hot Side Aeration (HSA) was intentionally created versus a batch where HSA was intentionally avoided.  The LODO guys claim it is more than just HSA, they have coined a term called HSO (Hot Side Oxidation).  They claim that HSA/HSO is more than just the creation of trans-2-noneal precursors (the cardboard flavors associated with oxidation).  They claim that oxygen can also react with the pleasant malt related phenols of grain.  And I think that they are right, kind of, (wait... what?  what do you mean they're right kind of...).  Well I am skeptical that 1 ppm of oxygen would have a deleterious effect on your home brew.   I am also skeptical that any staling caused at 1 ppm is with in the human taste mechanism to identify.  After all staling compounds are not self replicating viruses or bacteria they're mostly modified phenols (guaiacol and 4-methylphenol primarily, with some vanillin) When the phenols pick up an additional oxygen molecule they do change chemically.  They no longer taste the same.  They don't however spread like wild fire through your mash. 

The guys at brulosophy were also skeptical,  so they did what they always do, they put it to the test.  In a recent xbrmt over at brulosophy, they followed the LODO process exactly.  Comparing a LODO to standard home brewing practice brought meaningful results.  The tasters could in fact tell the two beers apart.  They could identify the odd beer out, but here's the kicker- most people preferred the beer brewed with normal brewing processes, not the LODO beer.  And they preferred it by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. Obviously, the reaction of the LODO community was not favorable.   They sited all kinds of process improvements and possible problems with the xbrmt.  But as far as I could tell Brulosophy nailed it.   It is fair to say that any process change needs several batches to get really dialed in, and to produce similar results.

So I remain skeptical.  But I'm not skeptical about oxygen's long term effects on beer storage stability and beer packaging.  We've known for a long time that dissolved oxygen has negative impact on beer that has been packaged.  We've known for a long time and we can display this knowledge with actual scientific results.  And after reading a lot of Kunze (btw the electronic edition was over $100.00) and everything by Narziss that I can find on the internet I can assure you that most of their comments about oxygen have to do with finished beer and packaging.  But Kunze does suggest low oxygen mashing as well, and even suggests Nitrogen gassing of the grist, and a nitrogen gas cap of the mash, at one point in the text.  And both consider it a good practice to avoid oxygen at all points in the brewing process.  Further, in researching this post I was able to confirm that not just many, but most of the Bavarian breweries take steps to remove and limit oxygen in their mash.  Many employ degassing towers, some use a mechanism that vibrates the brewing liquor to remove dissolved oxygen from the strike water prior to dough in.   None that I could get to respond admitted to using any kind of sulfite in their brewing liquor (only 2 responded).

I have long suspected the improvements that LODO brewers see in their beer is due to process improvements.  In other words, the careful process they begin following (a careful process meant to reduce dissolved oxygen) is the actual reason for the improvements in their beer.  LODO brewing requires concentration and careful process.  And concentration and careful process always results in better beer.  The LODO guys on various groups and forums seem to be truly truly excellent, and precise brewers.  These are the guys that really want to learn the chemistry, the guys who know exactly how much they lose in their systems, these are the guys who can tell you exactly the heat gain in bTu from firing their system for 1 minute.  That may be why their beer improves so much... Or they might be on to something... I kind of think that it is both... they're definitely damn good brewers (any one who specializes in German styles is usually pretty good, cause it is really damn hard to do well) and they are on to something.

And I suppose if I'm truly being fair I should mention that the fantastic advances they have made (revived)  in packaging also plays a role in the improvement of their beer.  I for one believe that reviving keg spunding and bottle spunding is a great contribution to the home brew scene.

But on the other hand I have to realize, I am now, and I kind of always have been a low dissolved oxygen brewer... I do a no sparge infusion step mash with almost everything I brew.  And that means I boil over half of my water.  I often use tap water and just add a little calcium chloride to get close to where i need to be.  When I do that I almost always pre-boil the water and add 1 camden tablet.  Why? because it's what we used to do... so I still do it.  When I combine this practice with decoction mashing, I will admit I notice an even maltier taste.  So empirical evidence tells me that there might be something to this whole LODO thing.  The most perfect German style beer I have had in the past couple of years was very similar in process to the low dissolved oxygen brewing process.  John, Beth and I triple decocted a Munich Helles.  We had pretreated the water with K-Meta (camden or potassium metabisulfite) to take out any chlorine.  And in a sheer accident we brought our strike water to a boil and had to chill it down to strike temp.   You might remember the post, John was injured, so a pregnant Beth stepped in and helped with the brew day... but that beer... that beer was amazing.

In researching the LODO claim further: I turned to the internet to see if any American commercial breweries use the LODO process.  And a quick search of the internet reveals that surprisingly yes... yes the best breweries on earth do try to avoid oxygen ingress in their brewing process. They limit it, but they no longer go to the lengths that the paper suggests, maybe they never did. So I suspect that there is something to this LODO craze.  As pointed out by another blogger who I enjoy "You may not appreciate the recipes of Anheuser Busch but it is hard to say they aren't one of the world's greatest beer manufacturers."  They make millions of barrels of Budweiser nearly identically worldwide.  Their process and products are meticulous.  And they go to some painstaking levels to limit dissolved oxygen in their brewing process, but they do not add sulfites.  When I asked the brewer that spoke with me about Brewtan-Bl, he said... "No comment".  So now I'm even more confused.  

A big part of me really wants this to be true; to have found the super top secret process that makes the best beer on earth.  But I remain torn.  I have seen many, many experiments that seem to show that HSA is not an issue for home brewers.  I have read an experiment where a guy used a whisk to almost constantly whisk his mash.  The results? No one could tell a difference.  So what the heck...

David Hume, dropping common sense!
So what are we supposed to think?  Is this LODO craze crazy?  Both sides have good points;  both sides make some sense.  Here's the problem I have with LODO and recent LODO trolling activities on various chat rooms.  Any time a group of people are telling you there is only one "right" way to do things, well, that is a problem.  A problem that means their general hypothesis is not valid.  Here is what I mean.  David Hume, the great British empiricist, postulated that a theory that cannot be disproved is therefore always invalid and purely empirical or academic.  "What?  Seriously dude?  We don't come to counterbrew for philosophy lessons, show us a brew day."  OK, I know, but bear with me.  When you try to do LODO and don't do it exactly as they suggest, they say you screwed it up.  When you do exactly what they say and the beer sucks they say it must be something else, you must have screwed up somehow.  The strength of a theorem is it's ability to be proven wrong.  If a theorem cannot be proven wrong, the theorem itself is wrong.  So there based on HUME I reject the notion that LODO is the supreme way to brew, but it is a way to brew. Probably a good way to brew.  

W. Kunze RIP, thank you for
your contributions to brewing.
There are certain things about LODO brewing that seem to be true beyond question.  Certainly the following statement is true- too much dissolved oxygen is not a friend of your mash, and ruins your beer after fermentation.  I'm not as convinced that this is an issue during the boil.  The chemistry doesn't add up.  It is also true to say that oxygen in packaging will shorten the shelf life of your beer and generally lower the perceived quality of the beer.  On the other hand it doesn't make sense to suggest that you would avoid oxygen at all costs and then oxygenate your wort.  Here is another thing that makes no sense.  The LODO guys do not recommend Fermentis 34/70.  The very yeast strain developed by Weinhenstephan Institute, albeit in a dry form.   This is a yeast that can multiply up to 10x without adding oxygen to wort.  That makes no sense at all.  You would think that if OXYGEN BAD NO OXYGEN GOOD, you would want a yeast that doesn't require oxygen.  So what the heck... what do we do?  Well have no fear sports fans.  We have some answers.  We will be taking some cues from LODO, and some from traditional brewing, and forming a reasonable approach to dissolved oxygen in home brewing, sort of a new best practices.  And we will be using LODO techniques to make a couple of lagers, and a Belgian Single in upcoming brew days. 

For now here is a realistic approach to managing potential oxygen damage to your beer.  The two main areas of concern for us are mashing and packaging.  And here is the general idea.  It is a good idea to be aware of oxygen in your mash and especially in your packaging.  It is probably a good practice to take some steps to limit the amount of oxygen in the mash.  It is absolutely a good idea to limit oxygen exposure to finished beer.  So here is some common sense.

The mash procedure changes: 
Like I said previously, we have empirical evidence that suggests that driving away oxygen during the mash is probably a good idea.  So we will be pre-boiling our wort water (hot liquor).  We will be infusion step mashing, and we will be decocting, especially anything German.  We will not be adding additional camden, unless we are using tap water, in which case we will use one tablet per five gallons crushed to negate chlorine (which would be boiled off any way but its what I've always done), and take advantage of the oxygen reduction.  As much as possible we will be doing no sparge brewing.  We will keep the lid closed on the mash tun as much as possible, and using a mash cap (in my case some aluminum foil).  We will be avoiding splashing of the mash.  We already underlet by lowering the bag into the strike water.  We will still stir our mash occasionally, but not vigorously. 

Yeast changes?  None.  Feel free to use Fermentis or Danstar.  After consulting with various yeast providers, we do not feel that this part of their advice is not correct.  I suspect that someone who helped write the "helles paper" had a bad experience with this yeast.   Especially feel free to use Fermentis 34/70.  It is probably the best lager yeast in the world.  But my opinion is only fueled by over 300 batches of experience with this yeast so I could be wrong...

Packaging changes.
When we brew as a team we usually bottle the beer.  We naturally carbonate so no major changes here.  We are just going to flush the bottles with a little CO2 before bottling.  When I brew solo, I will be bottle spunding my beers.  This is an awesome technique and development by the LODO guys and Kai (braukaiser) it is especially awesome for those of you who only bottle your beers.  (It is actually an old technique they have revived.)  I may use some of my 5 liter mini kegs for this because I am lazy.  I will be doing an entire post on bottle spunding for you guys.  Update, got 2 brewboxes for Christmas, will definitely be using them for this process, but following the bottle spunding recommendations. 

Thanks for reading this schizophrenic post.  It was for me to work out my thoughts as much as a post for all of you.

Additional thoughts on LODO...and additional information on LODO - Brian's site.  Full of excellent, albeit opinionated, information.  this is where you can find the original post.

You want even geekier stuff...  Well, there is a whole additional post coming.  In it we will dive into the chemistry of the mash with guys from Cargill.  But if you want to read up right away, and if you can handle the.  science, is an awesome blog.  It is very technical. But like brewing itself, the more you go to this site the more you will learn.  Eventually it will all make sense to you.

And finally accidentalis brewing, Matt always brings common sense to the party. He also gives some great advice for people to understand beer competitions.