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Transition to AG brewing and Recipe Design (Part 3)

Posted by xnoom on 11/04/2016 at 03:57:19 AM


Part 1, Part 2

Brew 9: First Recipe: Pale Ale

After doing research on recipe design (primarily by reading Designing Great Beers and Brewing Classic Styles, and following the /r/homebrewing Tuesday recipe critique threads), I was ready for my first attempt at recipe.  Following feedback from a discussion thread, I settled on this recipe.

After multiple glowing reviews of the brew bag, I decided to get one, not being a huge fan of the vorlauf step (a few husks always managed to get through).

I can highly recommend this approach, as it cuts a good deal of time from the brewday with no perceived downside (by me, at least).

Brew day went mostly smoothly, other than a slightly low mash temp (1-2 degrees).



After bringing down the temperature a bit, I tried pushing ice water through the chiller with the pump from my keg washer.

I switched away from ground water too soon… I ran out of ice before it was chilled all the way.

I was able to get the temperature lower than I had with my warm groundwater though, down to ~70.

Beersmith predicted this beer would finish at 1.012, but it actually came in at 1.006 (88% apparent attenuation).  I was worried that this indicated infection, but a search shows many other people online reporting similar attenuation with 1056.  It was somewhat lacking in body, perhaps from the over attenuation.  There was a lot of pleasant hop aroma from the citra, and a nice smooth bitterness, but very minimal honey taste from the honey malt.

My initial impression was that the beer was good, but not exactly what I was expecting.  I got happier with this the more I had it though… once I stopped being overly-critical, I was able to appreciate it as a good beer.  It was very refreshing, and in particular it was great when mixed 4-5:1 grapefruit soda.

Perhaps even more importantly, I finally managed to get to the bottom of the off taste in my first pour after reading through this thread.  I ditched my original lines and went with Ultra Barrier Silver PVC Free, and the taste was finally gone!

Brew 10: Second Recipe: Brown Ale

My second recipe was a brown ale, taking inspiration from Caribou Slobber mixed with recipes in Brewing Classic Styles and Designing Great Beers.

I tried recirculated ice water through the chiller again, and made it much simpler by adding some quick connects.  It worked much better this time… I didn’t switch until the temperature had gotten closer to 100, and I actually ended up below pitching temp by a couple degrees.


I picked up a Beerbug, as I was interested to see the progress of fermentation.  I also had to pick up a stopper, as Beerbug fits a standard airlock opening, and Speidel has a larger one.

Unfortunately, this was a nice waste of money, as the Beerbug is now no more than an expensive paperweight.

Before their site went AWOL, I had mixed feelings… it seemed to be more sensitive to temperature changes than a hydrometer, and read quite a bit lower than the gravity reading taken at kegging time.  However, it tracked the progress of fermentation well, and showed clearly when it was complete.

I hope a better product comes along to take its place (Tilt, anyone?)



The beer came out with a nice chocolatey taste, but maybe a touch too sweet.  At first I thought it was very slightly fruity (possibly from the yeast), but that dissipated a bit as it aged.

I didn’t get much of the nutty taste I’ve read from Golden Naked Oats, so I may not have added enough (or may have chosen a beer with too many other flavors).  It had great mouthfeel, coming off as almost creamy.

Brew 11: Third Recipe: Sorta NEIPA

I had recently come across New England IPAs… and having no easy access to the style on the west coast, I thought it would be interesting to give it a try.  After reading some general IPA advice and getting some feedback, I put together this recipe... since I hadn’t had one though, I was a bit hesitant to go all the way with it, so I went a little light on the oats and kept the sulfate:chloride a touch above 1:1.

I also decided to try malt conditioning while lowering my mill gap to 035”.  This turned out to be a terrible idea, as my mill completely jammed (even after raising the gap back to .040”). I had not previously had problems with a cordless drill… this time though, I ended up having to grab a corded drill from the neighbors to get through the grain.

Afterwards though, the brew itself was mostly uneventful… mash temp came in a bit low (possibly because of colder outside temps).  Efficiencies were close, and FG was just a touch low.

This beer came out very good, though I can’t really say how close it is to a real NEIPA.

It had a super strong fruity aroma which persisted even after more than a month in the keg (I like to hope at least partially because of the closed transfers...), and amazing head retention.

There was moderate bitterness on the front, and just a very slight lingering grassy taste on the back, possibly from the large dry hop.

The lighting in the picture makes it look darker than it actually was; it was much more orangey looking in person.

While it was quite tasty, I didn’t quite pull off the creamy mouthfeel… probably because I hadn’t completely followed the recommendations for oats and water chemistry.


Brew 12: Fourth Recipe: Oatmeal Stout


For my last brew as part of this misadventure, I decided to put together an oatmeal stout recipe.  

I unfortunately don’t have much in the way of pictures, as I just had to pick the one day during the year that it rains in Southern California, so I had to rush to get everything under a canopy.

I neglected to take a picture of the beer itself, so you’ll have to take my word that it definitely looked like a stout.

The brew day went fairly smoothly.  After my ill-advised malt conditioning attempt, I tried leaving the mill gap at .035” and picking up a corded drill, which made it significantly easier to mill at a lower more consistent speed.  Possibly as a result, my brewhouse efficiencies bumped up to about 70%, a neighborhood I’ve been able to stay in consistently since.

I didn’t read up on toasting of oats ahead of time, so I missed the general recommendation of toasting them several days in advance and placing them in a paper bag, and instead ended up toasting them morning of.  This was my only time making this beer, but I didn’t detect any harsh character from this though.  The beer came out very smooth and chocolatey (maybe even a bit too much, I might up the amount of roast barley next time).

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this process a ton going through it, and I’ve since continued to delve further into recipe design, small batch testing, and moar gear.  Looking back, it was a bit daunting to make the leap, especially as someone who tends to over-research and over-prepare for things (spending time researching 3-vessel HERMS/RIMS or water chemistry before ever doing all-grain is probably not a great idea…).

After actually making a couple batches though, it’s really not so tough.  Breaking things down and focusing on a minimal amount of changes at a time really helps to understand the effects, and reduce possibility for mistakes.

Tags for this post: all grain, equipment, transition, brewing

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