Sparging Options for Session Beers


If you undersparge, you leave usable sugars behind in the grain bed. If you oversparge, you extract an excessive amount of tannins. When brewing a session beer, collecting the proper volume of wort allows you to get a reasonable extract efficiency and brew a beer that isn’t astringent.

Session beers allow beer drinkers to enjoy “a few” without becoming overly intoxicated. They are low-gravity, low-alcohol beers for extended drinking sessions. Brewers can  — and, of course, have — differed over exactly how low in alcohol a beer needs to be in order to qualify as a session beer. For the sake of this article, let’s say session beers are those under 4.5% ABV. (And outside of this article, feel free to apply your own definition.)

Just because these are “little” beers, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t require our full attention. One of the biggest potential problems when brewing a session beer is oversparging. With a smaller malt bill, collecting your full pre-boil wort volume may mean you’ve sparged past the point that tannins become much more soluble. Oversparging in this manner results in beer with an astringent mouthfeel. This is frequently described as the puckering, bitter-like feeling one experiences when drinking tea. [Read more…]

Lautering and the Length of Your Brewday


Heating your wort as you collect it saves time on brewday.

In the previous article, I discussed when you can safely stop mashing and proceed to the mash out and recirculation steps. Heading to the next step when an iodine test indicates that the mash is converted can frequently save you at least 20 minutes out of the usual 60-minute mash time specified in most homebrew recipes. Today I present another way to save time in your all-grain brew day — pick a lautering method that makes sense given how quickly you can heat your wort.



Lautering is the step in all-grain brewing in which the brewer separates the sweet wort from the spent grains. Most forms of lautering involve sparging — rinsing the grain bed with hot water. This extracts sugars from the grains that did not freely drain along with the first wort. (The first wort comprises all the runnings from the lauter tun that are undiluted with sparge water.)

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