I brewed over the weekend. I was going to brew a version of my Copper Clipper recipe, which is just a lower-gravity, “summer” version of my Copper Ale recipe. However, I got better extract efficiency than I expected, so I ended up brewing the regular-strength beer. Oh well. One interesting thing about brewing is you never know when something you’ve never seen before is going to pop up.
For the most part, my brewday went well. I brewed a 3.0-gallon (11-L), all-grain batch and followed my normal procedures. I treated the water for chloramines and added some minerals to make the mash pH fall in a reasonable range. I tasted the water to confirm that there were no off flavors. I also crunched a few kernels of malt and smelled the hops to confirm they were fresh.
I mashed in my brewpot and held the temperature around 152 °F (67 °C) for 60 minutes, then mashed out. Next, I transferred the wort to the lauter tun (a 3-gallon beverage cooler, lined with a nylon steeping bag), and collected the wort by “pulse sparging” — collecting a couple cups of wort, adding the same amount of sparge water on top of the grain bed, waiting 30–60 seconds, then repeating. (It’s a lot like continuous sparging, but done a couple cups at a times instead of continuously.) I collected about 4.0 gallons (15 L) of wort and boiled it down to 3.0 gallons (11 L) over 90 minutes. After cooling the wort, I transferred it to a carboy, aerated, and pitched one sachet of dried yeast (Safale US-05). The next morning, it was bubbling and has been fermenting for the past couple days at 72 °F (22 °C).
The Problem — Poor Hot Break
There was, however, one problem during the boil — the hot break was almost non-existent. Instead of seeing big, fluffy flakes of break material, I just saw a muddy-looking wort. I added a pinch of calcium, in case the boil pH was little high, but that didn’t help. Neither did the second pinch.
One difference this time around was the base malt I used. I normally use US 2-row brewers malt for this beer, but this time I used a British Maris Otter pale ale malt. I noticed during the recirculation stage that the wort didn’t clear to the degree it usually did. So, I was expecting more hot break than usual. But, as I mentioned, that didn’t happen. Also, after cooling, it didn’t seem like there was as much break material at the bottom of the kettle. (Plenty of hop sludge, though.)
British malts are generally lower in protein, so that might have contributed to the disappointing break material. Or, the pH of the mash and boil might have been off and the protein in the wort never coagulated. (I didn’t measure the pH this time around, but I think this is the least likely option.) Or, as is most likely, everything might be fine, but just looked different than I’m used to. (I’ve had other batches with disappointing break material that turned out fine, but this one seemed particularly lacking.)
So, I’ll be curious to see how this batch turns out. It’s happily fermenting now, and smells like fermenting wort normally does. I’ll be curious to see how (or if) the wort clears after fermentation, and if the resulting beer is clear. If the break material didn’t form and the wort has too much protein in it, this could lead to hazy, biologically unstable beer. On the other hand, if the protein level in the malt was very low in the malt, there should be no problems with haze, but the fermentation might suffer. And on the other, other hand, if it’s all fine, I’m just worrying over nothing. In any case, it’ll be a chance to learn something about brewing.
I’m brewing my pale ale this coming weekend, so I’ll see if my usual US 2-row malt gives me the usual break material. After the pale ale, I’m going to crank out my first batch of exercise recovery ale, and then maybe try an IPA with catnip. (Yes, catnip, people make tea from it sometimes.)