Tropical Ingredients, Hitting FG & Rauchbier: Mr. Wizard


Have any good recipes for pineapple or coconut ale? or any light beer recipes? I’m new so the easier the better.
Kevin Hill
Clemson, South Carolina

Recipes are something I typically steer clear of in my column, but I do like offering ideas about developing a recipe. I also like a bit of food trivia when the opportunity arises. Pineapples have an interesting effect on foods of which some people are unaware, and that is the degradation of proteins. That is because pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, named after the bromeliad family of plants that include pineapples. If you choose to prepare skewers of meat and include fresh pineapple chunks, make sure to use them quickly, as opposed to storing them in the fridge the day before your big cookout. Bromelain acts to tenderize meat and will turn firm pieces of your favorite protein into mush. The same sort of thing can happen if you choose to add fresh pineapple juice to beer, except instead of making beer mushy it will destroy its foam stability.
I prefer adding fruit to beer instead of wort because the retention of fruity aromas and flavors is better. So if you want to brew a fruity, pineapple wheat beer consider using pasteurized pineapple juice or pineapple puree. A good time to add fruit is after primary fermentation is complete. One pound per gallon (0.45 kg per 4 L) is a good starting point for a beer with reasonable fruitiness. If yeast is still active when the fruit is added, the fruit sugars will quickly be consumed and the perception of fruitiness drops off. If you simply want to drink a homebrew with a nice pineapple kick, there is nothing wrong in my book with adding the pineapple to your beer when it is served.

Coconut is an ingredient that is gaining popularity in brewing, largely because of the success of certain beers like Kona’s Coconut Porter. The best way to use coconut seems to be by adding toasted shreds to wort at the end of the boil or by adding the toasted shreds to beer at the end of fermentation like a dry hop addition. The usage rate for a nice hint of coconut in the nose and mouth is 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 pound per gallon (0.1 to 0.23 kg per 4 L). Toasting coconut is similar to roasting malt — the longer and hotter the toast, the darker and more intense the flavors. The bottom line is to keep an eye on what is happening in the oven and control the process.
Light beer brewing is not something most homebrewers admit to thinking about, let alone admit to having actually done! That’s why my groundbreaking, tongue-in-cheek article in the March 2001 issue about using Beano® as a brewing aid for light beer was written as a gaff. I think only the thickest skinned brewers understood the beauty of the method and actually tried it. Not long ago, light beer was synonymous with very pale, very delicately flavored lagers with low caloric content and not much alcohol. These types of light beers are easy to make fun of and I am sure most of us have chuckled about how light beer is similar to sex in a canoe. The truth is that brewing super clean, super light beer at home is among the most difficult things to do and not the type of thing that new brewers typically want to attempt.

What you may find fun to brew at home is the nebulous style called session IPA. These beers have many of
the attributes of light beer, such as lower alcohol, lower caloric content, drinkability and refreshing character,
along with the more interesting flavor notes associated with today’s hoppy ales.

I have started all-grain brewing and have brewed about five batches so far. I am still trying to figure out my system, take good notes on every batch and use the no-sparge method. Are there any disadvantages of having too much water in the mash? I am adding all my water into the mash so that I don’t have to add any water along the way. In my last batch I used 9 gallons (34 L) of water to 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of grain. My final gravity (FG) was 1.016. I was hoping to get 1.012 or less for the style I was brewing. Next time I am considering adding more water, but I am wondering if it is alright to add all the water to the mash or should I add some water later to adjust my final gravity reading?
Mark Sponer
Morrilton, Arizona


I am definitely a subscriber to the idea that keeping things simple is a benefit to many things that brewers do in the pursuit of great beer. Simplifying things can have a very positive effect on consistency, ease of brewing, and quality, in addition to generally making the whole process of brewing more enjoyable. Some processes are better candidates for simplification than others. I have never really understood why sparging seems like such a great candidate for simplification because it is already pretty simple.

Sparging is used in brewing for the primary purpose of improving the extraction of wort from malt. Even if
malt were free, sparging would still make sense because more beer can be brewed from a given weight of malt, thereby reducing the amount of malt that is required in a batch. This may seem trivial on a homebrewing scale, but using less malt per unit volume means a smaller mash tun is required. If you have a mash mixer and lauter tun, now there are two vessel sizes that are influenced by efficiency. The fact is that malt is not free and sparging is used to reduce malt costs, relative vessel size and the size of malt handling equipment; this is all very relevant to commercial operations.

The no sparge homebrew camp argues that the cost associated with sparge equipment and the hassle of
sparging outweighs the loss in efficiency when sparging is omitted from the homebrewing process. I do not entirely disagree with this argument, especially if a brewer has limited space and limited equipment. One of the consequences of not sparging is that the wort gravity of the pre-boil wort is often higher than when the mash is sparged, and the water typically added during the sparge needs to go somewhere.

So, a logical thing to consider is what you have proposed and that is to simply add the mash water volume and the sparge water volume used in a conventional recipe all at the same time to the mash. There are a few problems, however, with doing this.

The first is a practical matter; adding all of the water to the malt requires a larger mash tun than when sparge water is used. For many brewers this really may be a trivial point that has no real bearing on the size of equipment used for the job.

My second point is a bit more real. When mashes become progressively thinner, enzyme stability decreases. Most beer in the world is brewed using a mash thickness somewhere between 2.6 parts water to 1 part malt (weight/weight basis) on the thick end of the spectrum to 4 parts water to 1 part malt on the thin end of the spectrum. Your last brew used 9 gallons (34 L) of water (75 pounds/ 34 kg based on 8.34 pounds/gallon) and 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of malt, or 9.4 parts water to 1 part malt. That is an extremely thin mash and the enzymes in such a mash are much less stable than enzymes in a thicker mash. The rate of the enzymatic reaction is also slower because the concentrations of both enzyme and substrate are reduced as the mash becomes more diluted (for more information on this subject read about Michaelis-Menten kinetics).

This has a direct bearing on your particular problem, and that problem is low wort fermentability. You are successfully extracting wort solids, mainly sugars, from the malt added to the mash, but those wort sugars are not all fermentable, (which they never will be, but in your case this is even more pronounced). The result is a high finish gravity. I suggest using a thicker mash to help stabilize your enzymes. You may also want to use a lower mash temperature. The next time you brew consider using a ratio of water to malt of about 4:1, a mash temperature of 153 °F (67 °C) and a mash time of 60 minutes. Collect your wort using the no-sparge method and then dilute the wort before boiling. Or you can boil the wort immediately after collection and add the water after the boil to adjust the gravity.

The third thing about a very thin mash that may be of concern is the extraction of more tannins than you would get using a thick mash, but I don’t have any references or anecdotal experience to back that up. I put this in as a possibility because many brewers are concerned about tannin extraction and if this were omitted someone would wonder about it.

I do want to touch on something that I see as a bit of a red herring. In your question you indicate that you are considering adding more water in your next batch in order to reduce the final gravity. This method can work, but by adding more water to your batch you will also reduce the original gravity. I think what you really want to do is hit your target original gravity and reduce your final gravity closer to 1.012. The best way to do this is by influencing wort fermentability, and the best way to do that is by adjusting mash temperature and mash thickness. Diluting beer or wort with water to affect the final gravity is nothing more than quite literally watering down the beer, and based on your question I don’t believe that is what you wish to do.

I recently moved to Seattle and do not have air conditioning in my current home so it regularly passes 80 °F (27 °C) inside during the summer. Outside of buying and customizing a freezer to regulate temperature for most beers, are there any types of yeast that would thrive in this environment? The rest of the year fermentation temperature is nearly perfect.
Bradley Corrigan
Seattle, Washington


What’s that old adage? When the Pacific Northwest presents you with warm, summer weather get outside and enjoy it before the rain returns. Or is that just the hype intended to ward off the invaders?

Seriously, you state in your question that the temperature is “nearly perfect” for fermentation during all times of the year except for the summer. In my opinion all hobbies deserve a break and it seems to me that your break from brewing should be in the summer. But if you cannot stand to think about such a thing, consider brewing saison, wit, weizen and other styles that have aroma profiles that are enhanced when the fermentation temperature is increased.

Moving beyond the obvious advice, I want to really consider what you have in your climate because this answer is transferrable to other regions that really do have issues.

The average August high in Seattle is 76 °F (24 °C) and the average August low is 56 °F (13 °C) according to the website. On the surface of things I am thinking that you can pretty much brew any type of ale that suits your palate, but let’s not focus too much on how perfect your climate is for homebrewing!

One very simple thing you can do is take advantage of this average temperature and use water as a thermal buffer. Simply place your primary fermenter into a large bucket that allows you to fill the larger bucket with water without risking any flow of water into the fermenter. Assuming you placed your fermenter outdoors where the temperature rises and falls during the day, and under the protection of a waterproof box to protect it from radiant heat gain and rain, you could use a very slow water trickle into the outer bucket to create a cooling jacket to remove the heat of fermentation and maintain a relatively constant temperature for your fermenting beer. This method takes advantage of the average August air temperature (which is much cooler than the peak high temperature) and takes advantage of the municipal water temperature.
This line of reasoning should give you some options for brewing in the summer without investing in expensive refrigeration equipment.

On a recent batch I mashed at a very high temperature (160 °F/71 °C), but still ended up with more attenuation than I expected (the finish gravity was lower than expected by about 0.007). I use the brew in a bag (BIAB) method, and sparge by heating water in a second kettle to 170 °F (77 °C) and placing the grain bag in the kettle after the mash for about 10 minutes. During this sparge, the wort in the mash kettle is left sitting and slowly cools. Can the cooling of the wort in the mash kettle create more fermentable sugars as it cools down, or is the sugar profile “locked in” after the hour-long mash?
Dan Deveau
Colorado Springs, Colorado


Unfortunately, enzymes do not “renature” once they have been heated to the point of thermal inactivation and later cooled. Enzyme denaturation can be likened to cooking an egg, since egg whites and enzymes are both proteins and denaturation is exactly what happens when eggs are cooked. This can be seen when the clear, liquid albumin of the egg irreversibly solidifies and turns opaque when cooked.

I think there are several things going on with this batch and brews like this in general. For starters, your mash temperature was really not that hot. According to Kunze’s Technology Brewing and Malting, alpha amylase remains active up to about 167 °F (75 °C) and begins to quickly lose ac-tivity at 176 °F (80 °C) when it denatures. So mashing at 160 °F (71 °C) is certainly not the end of the world, in fact Kunze cites the optimum temperature range for alpha amylase to be between 162–167 °F (72–75 °C), which is a bit higher than the average zeitgeist of today’s brewing collective. While 160 °F (71 °C) is too hot for beta amylase to survive for long (most sources indicate its denaturation temperature to be about 158 °F/70 °C), there will be enough activity with most of the highly enzymatic North American malts on the market these days to yield wort with normal fermentability.

Beyond the denaturation question, let’s consider what happens to wort after wort collection and boiling. Assume an infusion mash is used with a temperature of 154 °F (68 °C) and the wort is run to a kettle or holding vessel without a mash-off step. Also assume that the kettle or holding vessel is not heated until completely filled, not an uncommon scenario for many brewers who infusion mash. The wort in the kettle or holding vessel has a mixture of dextrins and active enzymes and wort fermentability can certainly change during this time period. This is especially true if the mash was short and the concentration of unfermentable dextrins is high at the beginning of this hold period; this is another example of Michaelis-Menten kinetics mentioned in the earlier question from Mark Sponer about sparging.

Now assume that the temperature in the kettle or holding vessel drops during this timeframe. Since the mash temperature in this hypothetical scenario was just a bit above the denaturation temperature of beta amylase and we have the possibility of a short mash, it is well within reason to expect some active beta amylase to end up in this container because enzyme denaturation takes time to occur, is influenced by enzyme concentration and is influenced by mash thickness and substrate concentration. So as the temperature drops below the denaturation temperature these remaining “native” enzymes (meaning that they are not denatured) remain active and continue producing maltose. This same logical argument about time and temperature is exactly the same reasoning that can be used to explain all sorts of things about brewing and food science, from pasteurization to staling.

There is a practical take-home message to this. The first is that brewing mistakes often are less catastrophic than they first may seem. In your case you thought you cooked your goose, so to say, and ended up with wort that was more fermentable than you expected. The second take-home message is that temperature measurement and control is pretty easy given the proper tools, and these are a good thermometer, reliable scale to weigh your malt and a reliable and accurate method of measuring water volume. As long as you know the temperature and weight of the two components of the mash (water and malt/grain) you can control your mash temperature and virtually eliminate losing sleep when the mash temperature is not on target.

During a recent stop at Springfield Brewing Company I tried the Rauchbier. I had never tried this style before and was a little scared of the smoke but I really enjoyed it and had three. I would like to try my hand at something similar and would appreciate any tips you could give me. I don’t want it too smoky so I am wondering how much smoked malt to use. I have never brewed a lager so was thinking of possibly using a Kölsch yeast to get a cleaner profile.
Dave Hixson
Manchester, Missouri


Thanks for asking about our “I Wanna Rauch” rauchbier! This beer was brewed in collaboration with Keith Wallis as a Pro-Am entry at the Great American Beer Festival. Keith’s “I Wanna Rauch” was the Best of Show winner of the “To Helles and Bock” competition judged in March 2014 at The Home Brewery in Ozark, Missouri. As a result we worked with him to brew this tasty lager. This is our second Pro-Am beer and both have been brewed using Keith’s recipes. This year was especially exciting for Keith and the SBC brewing team as we won a bronze for our entry, out of a total of 89 beers.

The key to brewing a good rauchbier is balance between the smoked malt and the other beer flavors. While this beer is traditionally brewed with lager yeast, I think a great rauchbier could be brewed using a very clean ale strain, and your suggestion of using Kölsch yeast sounds like a viable plan. The only problem that this type of yeast may cause is cloudiness in the finished beer because these strains have low to medium flocculation properties.

In our beer we used our house lager strain and fermented the beer at 54 °F (12 °C) until the gravity was down
to 1.016. At this point we capped our fermenter with a pressure relief valve and allowed the tank pressure to increase to 15 psig. We typically cool our lagers to 38 °F (3 °C) four days after the gravity stops dropping and hold the beer at this temperature for about 10 days and then cool to 32 °F (0 °C) for a few days before filtration. The same cooling curve was used for this beer, and we skipped our normal filtration step since Keith’s homebrew was not filtered. When we first put the beer on draught it was a little cloudy but cleared with time. I believe that if we had filtered this beer some of the body and mouthfeel would have been altered in a way that would have detracted from the finished beer.

The star of the show with this style is the smoked malt. Keith’s recipe derived about 25% of the extract from Weyermann beechwood-smoked barley malt, about 20% from Weyermann Munich I, about 15% from CaraMunich® I malts and the balance from American pale 2-row malt. The original gravity weighed in at 1.056, the final gravity was 1.010 and the beer was balanced with about 25 IBU of hop bitterness from a single addition of Northern Brewer added 15 minutes into the 75-minute boil. Some rauchbiers I have tasted brewed in the US have a notable bitter note. This beer really had a terrific balance with the hops hanging in the background playing a crucial supporting role and letting the malt characters really shine.

Issue: December 2014