HOMEBREW Digest #5856 Tue 05 July 2011

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  Re: Poorly fermentable wort (Fred L Johnson)

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---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2011 05:42:23 -0400 From: Fred L Johnson <FLJohnson52 at nc.rr.com> Subject: Re: Poorly fermentable wort Many thanks to all of you for the responses to my question on why my Belgian wit wort was so unfermentable. Suggestions have included that the saccharification temperature was too high due to uncalibrated thermometers, dead space below a false bottom in the mash tun, uneven mash temperatures through the mash, low beta amylase in the pilsner malt, and high gravity due to dissolved proteins. Regarding the mash tun, there is no false bottom and the mash was stirred well during frequent, gentle heating. My thermometer is calibrated and traceable to an NIST standard, so I trust the mash temperature values. The mash had a negative iodine test for over thirty minutes before transferring it to a lauter tun. I suppose it is possible that there was insufficient beta amylase in the grist, but that would not be characteristic of this malt. The published Hartong Index for this malt is a range of 34-43%. Perhaps someone could further comment on the possibility of low beta amylase activity, considering 50% of the grist was unmalted wheat. I suppose I could treat the beer with amylase--assuming the enzyme will work under post-fermentation conditions--and see just how much more fermentable this beer could be. I did read from one professional brewer (Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing) that he uses a "two-stage rest" with a "long" 152 degrees F saccharification rest, but I don't know what "long" means to him and I don't know what the other, undescribed rest is. Perhaps I need to really lengthen the mash time. The possibility of a high starting gravity due to soluble proteins seems to me to be the most likely explanation for what I observed. One private email suggested "...your protein rest is the culprit". I suspect this was referring to my not actually having a proper protein rest. David Houseman also recommended a more extensive mash profile including an acid rest, a protein rest, a beta-glucan rest, and a saccharification rest. In this regard, I did need to acidify the grist to get the pH down to 5.3 (at mash temp). But I had no problems lautering this grist, for which a beta-glucan rest would be indicated. I suppose I could perform the old Lowry protein assay on the beer and compare it to a beer that was more fermentable, but I'm not sure the Lowry assay will react with short peptides that could be contributing to the gravity. I know wheat beers contain more dissolved protein than an all-barley malt beer, but I'm not sure how to easily determine how much of the gravity is due to the protein or peptides without making up standard solutions of beer proteins--too much trouble. If the high final (and original) gravity is simply due to high protein levels, do these types of beers need to have a more extensive protein rest? I don't see that high protein levels are actually causing a problem with the beer. It seems that a high protein level merely needs to be accounted for when formulating the recipe, determining an adjusted target starting gravity to achieve the desired alcohol content of the beer. Perhaps the simplest thing to do would to be to rebrew this with David Houseman's suggested multiple rests just to see how much different the beer could be with the extensive step-mash profile. Any other suggestions? Fred L Johnson Apex, North Carolina, USA Return to table of contents
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