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The Oatmeal Toffee Stout - a Brew Recap

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/07/2014 at 06:46:26 AM


My recipe was ready.  My oats (well, part of them) were toasted.  My starter had cold crashed overnight.  It was time to brew.

Before I could do anything, however, I had to handle even more cleaning than normal.  I hadn't fully scrubbed out my kettle from the last brew, but that was no big deal.  I did, however, have to fully clean and sanitize my mash tun... thanks to Christmas. 

You see, my wife had bought a huge (23 pound) turkey a couple of days before Christmas, and it was still frozen solid on the night of Christmas Eve.  My only real option was a cold water thaw, but I didn't have many good choices as to a location for this, so I ended up using my mash tun.  Suffice it to say that I had no interest in mashing in a cooler that had contained turkey juices (read: blood), so I ended up using a half gallon of bleach and every drop of hot water that my house's tank held in an effort to fully clean and rinse the thing.

With that out of the way, I heated my strike water on the stove.  Sure, I could have heated my strike and sparge water on my propane burner, but the stove is "free"... or, at least, doesn't use my precious propane.  I watched the temperature until it was about two degrees warmer than Beersmith recommends (I still don't have my equipment quite right in the software, but have learned that two degrees pretty much fixes it), and I mashed in.

My target mash temperature was 154 degrees F; after a half hour, the mash was 154 throughout, with the exception of one hot spot at 155.  I must have left the lid open longer than I realized, though, as my temps ranged from 148 to 151 at 45 minutes, and were pretty uniformly 148 at 60 minutes. 

I vorlaufed, then kept the first gallon of my first runnings, which I would use to make my syrup.  It was at this point that my wife became less than enthused with my brewing.  My kettle was occupied with collecting the first runnings, and my smaller brew pot (the six gallon one) was being used to heat sparge water.  I got the biggest pot in the kitchen and used it to make my syrup, figuring that while I'd need to watch it, an 8 quart pot would be big enough to boil 4 quarts. 

I was sadly mistaken.

One massive boilover later, I grabbed another pot (a 6 quart job) and placed about a quart and a half of wort into it.  Splitting the batch should still work, I reasoned, so I went with it.  Things seemed to go smoothly for a while, so I stepped out of the kitchen... and yep, you guessed it - another boilover. 

At this point, my sparge water was ready, so I brought my six gallon pot inside to the stove.  Surely, I reasoned, six gallons would be far more than enough to handle three and a halfish quarts of wort for syrup?

Well, the much bigger pot WAS big enough, but only left me about a gallon of space to spare unless I stirred like a madman (which I did while doing my best to clean up the massive mess I had made).  Eventually, the wort did thicken (going from normal liquid to a thick syrup in the space of just a couple of minutes), and I was left with perhaps a pint and a half of thick syrup.  I heated up a little over a half gallon of water to make up for the lost volume, and used it to get every drop of the syrup from the pot, then combined it all in my kettle.

But hey, I was outside at this point - out of my wife's kitchen and hair.  All was good, the wort was almost boiling... wait, why wasn't it boiling yet?  Yep, you guessed again... I was out of propane.

So, I made a quick run to the gas station and did a cyliner exchange, raced home, and started heating again.  Finally, I was ready to boil, though I was now approaching two hours more time invested than normal.

The boil, at least, went like a charm.  I nailed my volume perfectly, though I did overshoot my gravity a bit - target was 1.063, but the temp adjusted reading I pulled was 1.067 -  not that it hurt my feelings one bit.  I did manage to save the beer from my two year old, who had found my leftover hop pellets and was just CERTAIN that I needed to add some East Kent Goldings to my primary fermenter. 

It was at this point that I made another error.  If you read my last post, you know that I planned to pitch my yeast a bit warm, then ferment at the top end of this yeast's temperature range.  This is exactly what I did, though I later read a couple of items that suggest that I should have fermented cool to promote diacetyl production (or to at least minimize the yeast's metabolizing of it).  Worse, I managed to mix up my yeast info, and mistakenly placed my temperature controller at 70 degrees F (WLP004 has a recommended max temp of 68 degrees F). 

Fermentation was already going nicely within six hours, which is always a nice thing to see.  The fermentation itself didn't look that extreme - I had a fairly thin krausen, and I didn't get a lot of the crazy swirling - but thirty-six hours later, things had clearly slowed down, and I had a gravity of 1.023 (target FG was 1.018, according to Beersmith - which, admittedly, didn't know about the syrup step).  Twelve hours after that, the krausen was completely gone, and gravity was 1.022.  The sample was quite sweet up front (and full of major fruity esters), which concerned me... and to make things worse, I didn't taste a hint of butter.

I let the beer sit one more day, then dropped the temp controller to 64 degrees F (the low end for this yeast).  I left it alone for four and a half more days, but I fretted over this batch like a total newbie the entire time.  I figured that I probably had reached final gravity already since the bulk of fermentation had gone so fast, and WLP004 (unlike some Belgian yeasts) seems to run hard until it's done, then simply stop.  However, one more gravity check revealed a gravity of a hair under 1.020.  Even better, that sweet jolt was gone, as were most of those harsh, fruity notes. 

I've given the same advice a thousand times - "don't worry about green beer in the fermenter, it doesn't taste like aged, carbed beer" - but still, I worried.  Given the fact that this beer is now pretty delicious, hopefully I will recall my own advice next time.

I'm still disappointed that I'm not getting any butter flavor; I'm figuring that as a result, this batch will be more of an oatmeal caramel stout than an oatmeal toffee stout.  However, it looks like this is going to still be some tasty beer; I suppose that I'll somehow choke down this mistake batch while plotting on the minor adjustments (lower mash temp for sure) to try the next time that I brew it. 

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Batch Size (gallons)5.5
Recipe typeAll Grain
Style13C. Oatmeal Stout
Original Gravity1.063
Final Gravity1.018
ABV5.91% (basic)   /   5.92% (advanced)       [what's this?]
Color33.2 SRM
Boil Time60 min

YeastWhite Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale Yeast)

Pale Malt, Maris Otter9 lbs69.6%3
Oats, Flaked 11 oz5.3%1
Victory Malt 8 oz3.9%25
Oats, Flaked (toasted) 8 oz3.9%15
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L 8 oz3.9%40
Black Barley (Stout) 8 oz3.9%500
Chocolate Malt, Pale 8 oz3.9%225
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 4 oz1.9%60
Carafa III 4 oz1.9%525
Barley, Flaked 4 oz1.9%1.7

Goldings, East Kent (Boil)1.85 oz605%33.3

for complete recipe (with details like mash and fermentation temps), click here

Tags for this post: oatmeal, toffee, stout, caramel, beer, homebrew, homebrewing, brew, brewing, temperature, wlp004, temp

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