Monday, February 25, 2013

Hotbreak At Last

One of the more popular beers we're brewing here in San Miguel is a Belgian tripel with honey. Belgian tripels are one of my favorite styles and the reason I brew it to begin with but it's nice to see that it's being received well here. It could be the people are drawn in by the rarity of a higher alcohol beer but I believe it's the high quality and unique character that is the selling feature.

Nice chunks of hot break material
After the boil
As you know, I've been working to modify my challenging brewing water in order to brew better beer and for this recipe I've tried to mimic the water used from the region that Chimay is brewed. By diluting my tap water with a percentage of reverse osmosis water and adding back in some essential minerals that the filtration stripped out I am finally able to see the positive results from these efforts.

One clear sign that I'm on the right track is the great 'hot break' material I'm seeing in the boil kettle. In the past when using the local tap water I would see very small, dusty evidence of protein formations. Now, the break material is large and dense. The perfect indicator that the mash and sparge ph are in the right acidic zone. This is also suggestive of the beer being clear and bright after fermentation and some aging in the kegs and bottles.

This tripel recipe is naturally simple composed of 22 lbs. of 2-row, and a pound of crystal #20 for a 11 gallon batch. I add cane sugar late in the boil to raise the gravity to the level I want. After a couple days, when I see a serious amount of krausen forming on the beer, I pour raw honey directly into the fermentor.

I've included the spread sheets that show the water modifications I use for this recipe and you can see that I'm using 3/4 of my brewing water as reverse osmosis filter water. Along with that I'm adding back in calcium sulphate in the form of gypsum and some calcium chloride. R.O. water combined with my grain bill lower my mash ph down to 5.6 in this case.

In the sparge water I'm including a few oz. of phosphoric acid to lower the ph. In the future I may leave the sparge water adjusted with the mineral addition only and see if the resulting break material is just as good without the lower ph achieved with the acid addition. Truth be told, I doing this because I'm running out of the acid.

With these water adjustments I expect to reap the benefits in terms of better mash efficiency because of the lower ph, better attenuation in the fermentor from the more efficient starch conversion, a clearer finished product along with a defined malt flavor and hop utilization and flavor.

I will be reviewing future beers I'm brewing that have the adjusted water and talk about whether the qualities I'm hoping for are evident as a result of using the new water. Let me know if you have any questions about my brewing practices down here in Mexico. Cheers!

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