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Ok I am new to brewing and so far have done 3 batches since April 2010. The first was a Hefeweisen, 2nd was a Pale Ale and the 3rd was an IPA. All 3 brews have been almost the same coloring; a medium-dark amber color. My next brew batch I plan on doing next week is going to be a Hoegaarden-like brew. I want to make sure the coloring comes out the way its supposed to be, a light blonde.

What can cause the brew to turn out darker? Is the wort not cooling quickly enough before being added to the primary or could it be a problem with fermentation temperature? Even with my recent purchase of a wort chiller with batch #3, my tap water isn't cold enough to make a difference and it still took 45-60 mins for it to cool down to a temp where I could pitch my yeast. This time around I am planning on using a tub of ice cold water and hooking the one end of the wort chiller to a small garden pump to force the cold water through in hopes of cutting that 45-60 min time frame down considerably.

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Thanks for the info Mike! That's pretty much exactly what I was looking for, but was worried just in case it was something I could help correct but it looks like I won't be able to really fine tune my brews until I start in on all grain brewing.
Mike's got it. From what I understand, the rate of cooling has very little (if anything) to do with color. If you are using extract and want a light colored beer, there are a few tricks...
  • Use the lightest dry malt extract (DME) you can find. Like Mike mentioned, the liquid extracts oxidize and get darker over time (just like when you peel an apple and let it sit out). Some recipes call specifically for liquid extract. If so, get it from a busy shop so you know it's relatively fresh and make sure to add most of it at the end of the boil (see next item).
  • Use the "Late Extract Method". When doing a partial-boil, you don't want to add all your extract at the beginning. The high-concentration of sugars will lower your hop utilization and promote browning reactions that will darken the beer. I've had the best results by adding 25% of my extract at the beginning of the boil and the rest at flame-out. That's right, flame-out. No need to boil it for 10 or 15 minutes; extract is usually pretty sterile because of its high sugar content and you'll be above 150F for enough time that it will sanitize it anyway. Make sure to mix it in thoroughly. (Even though I do full-boils, I use the late extract method on my hefeweizen. It always turns out better than my all-grain attempts.)
  • Oh and, this might be obvious but, whenever you add extract to the boil kettle, make sure the flame is OFF! It didn't matter how vigorously I stirred, if the flame was on when I added extract I always burned it on the bottom of my kettle.
When I was an extract guy, I always ordered by liquid extract from Northern Brewer or MoreBeer. This was because they turn over extract in crazy amounts. I added 90% of my malt in the last 5 minutes of boil. Seemed to work well, but I only did about 4-5 extract brews before I made the jump to All Grain.

Color could also come when transferring. If oxygen is introduced after fermentation, oxidation will occur. Think of rust. It could slowly turn beers darker over time.
If I recall correctly, I saw an article in Zymurgy where a study was done on extract brews and boil time vs colors. Longer boil time did not result in a darker beer. So as far as color goes I think if you have an extract version of a recipe and an all grain version the extract will end up darker due to the darker colors of the extract no matter what time the extract is added to the wort.

I would think the use of lighter colored extracts would be the solution to getting a lighter beer prior to going all grain so long as you still make a tasty beer.
>Longer boil time did not result in a darker beer.

Poppycock!

If that's what their results showed their study was flawed. :P
Sweet thanks everyone for all the great tips. While I always make sure to take the kettle off the flame before adding the extract, I was always adding 100% of it in at once, stirring it well and then adding it back onto the flame. I will definitely try adding the majority of it at the very end and seeing if I can see a difference. Also when I transfer from the primary to secondary I make sure to have my tube all the way on the bottom of the carboy so there is very little-to-no splashing taking place.

What are your thoughts on even using a secondary for a cloudy beer like a Hoegaarden? Should I still rack to the secondary simply to get the brew off the trub at the bottom or no? My inner brewer says move it.
The conventional wisdom has changed in recent years. A lot of us only rack to a secondary when dry-hopping, adding fruit, etc. It depends on temperature and yeast health/strain but there should be no problem leaving a beer in primary for 4 to 6 weeks or longer. A secondary is not needed for clarifying. In fact, racking a beer to a secondary can cause many more problems than leaving it in the primary for "too long".

In the case of a Belgian Wit a lot of the cloudiness comes from the wheat and oats (which, by the way, need to be mashed). Even if you did rack the beer to a "secondary" it would remain cloudy. Only after extended times at cold temperatures (or fining / filtering) would it begin to clear.

I mentioned that for a Wit, the wheat and/or oats will need to be mashed. Not to worry... it's basically just like steeping specialty grains. The only difference is that you'll need to include some malted barley in the grain bag with the wheat and oats so that the barley's enzymes can break down the starches in the unmalted wheat and oats.
Ok sweet! The last batch I did was the first that I steeped some grains. The folks at Home Sweet Homebrew said they would help me with the ingredients so hopefully they will point me in the right direction. Thanks Sam.
Sounds like you have some of the same problems I do. I use the ice bath/wort chiller method and it helps tremendously, especially during summer months when tap water is warmer. One thing i do that is of added benefit is taking the hose running from the faucet to the tap and put it at the bottom of the sink, covering it in ice. I think it helps cool the water an extra few degrees before hitting the chiller. Just make sure you don't pinch off the flow. I usually go through 4-5 small bags of ice but get my temp down in about 10 mins.
Thanks for the info Tom! Actually what I started doing with my batch last week and this weekends batch was to get a long rubbermaid containe, fill it with pre-cooled water, toss in a few bags of ice. Then I submerged a small aquarium pump, pumped the ice water up through the wort chiller and had the return at the far end of the rubbermaid container; by the time that hot water got recycled through it had to travel through 2 bags of ice. meanwhile I also have my brew pot sitting in the kitchen sink with ice packed around it. Ended up being a good way of reusing the same water and managing to keep it as cold as possible at the same time.

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