Monday, November 9, 2009

Back on board with a Robust Porter, & first time using John Palmer's water calculation sheets

Yesterday was a bit of a test run to see if I was ready to brew, after improving somewhat from my back injury. Luckily, a friend of my girlfriend recommended a chiropractic college that sees patients for cheap (I'm not insured currently since I'm not working). It turns out they are having a canned food drive, so I've been charged 3 cans of food per visit for back adjustments and some sort of ultrasound on my lower back muscles, which has really helped. I'm still not 100%, but I'm back up and brewing!

I have finally made my first true attempt at using John Palmer's water chemistry spreadsheet for brewing water. My goals for this beer were to:
  • Balance the mash pH by adjusting for the proper Residual Alkalinity
  • Achieve 50+ ppm calcium in the full wort for yeast health & beer clarity
  • Adjust the chloride to sulfate ratio heavier to the chloride side to improve maltiness
I did this by adjusting only the mash water, and not adding any minerals to the sparge water or the boil. Portland mineral levels are all in the single digits, and can almost be considered nil. So my total mineral additions in the mash water came out to be:
  • 3 gr. Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
  • 5 gr. Calcium Chloride
  • 9 gr. Baking Soda (seems like a lot, but that's what the spreadsheet said I would need to acheive an RA of 300+, to make sure the dark malts did not over-acidify the mash)
As far as I can tell, I did this right, but the other way to do it would be to shoot for a London water profile (where porters originated) on the entire brewing water. Either way, I think it's important to have enough minerals in the water to buffer the acids from the dark grains. I have been tasting a lot of porters & stouts in Portland, and although I really don't know which breweries are adjusting their water and which are not, it seems that I run into a lot of good dark beers that have a bit too sharp of a roasty bite. This could be from not adjusting the brewing water and getting a low pH in the mash. If done properly, the water adjustments should allow for a smoother and more nuanced roasty beer.

Unfortunately I was not able to get a good pH reading. I'm still meaning to take my ColorpHast strips in to Upright to test them against the digital pH meter. It's well-documented that these expensive strips can be off by as much as .3 pH, so I need to find out exactly how much mine are off to make them worth using. Or better yet, ask for a pH meter for Christmas!

Before I go to the recipe, I wanted to mention the OBC Fall Classic homebrew competition which took this past Saturday. It was a fun day, I judged IPA's in the morning, and American Ales in the afternoon (our flight was all pale ales). I also entered 3 beers: the Belgian Dark Strong, the Flanders red, and the fresh-hopped black saison. I was not expecting the black saison to do well, but out of all 3 beers, it was the only one to win a medal, taking first in Belgian & French ales! That is the first time I have placed first in that category, and it was a pretty big flight with 21 beers.

On to the beer recipe:
Back-cracker Porter
Recipe is for 7.2 gallons pre-boil, 6 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.062 F.G. 1.014 ABV 6.3% IBU's 43

9.5 lb. Glen Eagle Marris Otter malt
.5 lb. Munich malt
.5 lb. Briess Special Roast
.5 lb crystal 40
.5 lb. chocolate malt
.5 lb. black patent
.5 lb flaked barley
.25 lb. Special B

30 gr. Chinook whole 10% AA 60 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 4% 15 min
28 gr. American Goldings whole 4% 0 min

Mash: 4.25 gallons, mash in to 149 for 60 minutes
(Mineral additions noted above)

Sparge with 5 gallons
Collect 7.2 gallons at 1.052 = 83% efficiency

Boil 60 minutes (I collected a little too much wort, so I used a slightly harder boil to get down to 6 gallons in 60 minutes)
Whirlfloc & Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes

Chilled to 66, collected 5.25 gallons
Oxygen for 60 seconds
Pitched Wyeast 1056: about 1/2 cups thick yeast slurry from last batch
Ferment at 68 degrees
Racked to keg on 12/1/09 Tastes great so far, sample was not salty as I had feared after adding all that baking soda.


Todd said...

Good to see you're back on your feet. What was your Ca ppm in the mash? (Minding that some is left in the tun, precipitated out in the boil, etc.), to ensure that you had the desired 50ppm leftover for fermentation?
p.s.- i'll jump on the bn forum and pm you my email

Seanywonton said...

Hey Todd,
I was at 120 ppm calcium in the mash, so I figure I should be at or just over 50 ppm in the final wort.


Clint said...

nice check out my guide on homebrew
---->How to make Beer at Home

Quinn said...

not sure if you know this but our water can vary in mineral content by quite a bit daily based on the weather. in the rainy season i try to hit middle of the road for adjustments.
- paul

Ray G said...

congrats on the win Chupa
Im thinking its a good time to
make a porter too maybe I will try your Robust recipe with some water adjustments since Im playing around with that stuff myself now.

Keith said...

Palmer's worksheet changed my life. Yes, you might get lucky and make good beer without it - but I now know that it is really what makes the difference between good and great beer.

Tom E said...

I'll second or third or fourth the Palmer spreadhseet. Definitely a very valuable tool.

I do have my doubts about the notion of needing 50ppm Ca for yeast health. My water has about 20-25ppm Ca and I haven't noticed any difference in fermentation performance for beers where I've added Ca vs those where I haven't. Look at it another way - they have no problem fermenting beers in Plsen with way less than 50ppm Ca in the water.

Ray G said...

@ Tom

Dr Charles Bamforth from UC Davis was on Brew Strong recently and said that having around 50ppm of Calcium is also helpful in preventing haze.

Not sure about it in regards to yeast health though, I didnt seem to have any problems before I was adding calcium and my #'s are in the single digits, on a homebrew scale I think a proper pitch size is much more important.

Seanywonton said...

Tom, Ray,
I agree with both of you that it's probably not that big of a deal, case in point Pilsner Urquell.
My hoppy pale beers will probably never be clear, as they are unfiltered and dry hopped, so there is a nice hop haze every time.
I guess it's one less problem to worry about or eliminate though if you have your calcium at over 50 ppm.