Cleaner malt flavours

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Cleaner malt flavours

Postby DaveS » Tue Oct 03, 2017 14:28

Hi!

I'm generally able to brew fairly presentable beer, but something that I've started noticing recently is that if I leave a few bottles for four or six months, I end up with much cleaner, more distinct malt flavours, particularly from crystal malts. Possibly relatedly, the beers often seem to clear from "almost clear but with a slight haze" to "absolutely pin bright" over about the same time. I'm assuming that there's some slight off flavour that conditions out over time, which is too subtle for me to pick it out distinctly, but strong enough to mask the malt flavours a bit.

This is a bit open ended, but I'm wondering whether anyone's got ideas for things to try to get that clarity of flavour without the waiting? I'm not expecting a spot-on diagnosis based on the very vague description above, but would be happy to get some ideas for things that might make a difference.

Some stuff that I'm considering:
* I use Cambridge tap water, which is harder than Chuck Norris, and just do the all-purpose Graham wheeler "boil with gypsum" water treatment. I wonder if it's worth trying a brew with bottled water?
* I brew-in-a-bag (in a picnic cooler - it's complicated), with a dunk sparge at the end. Could I be oversparging, or sparging too hot? I might try skipping the sparge entirely to see what happens.
* I normally add Irish Moss, but don't fine otherwise. Would rather not fine with gelatine as my girlfriend is veggie and would probably object.
* I normally use reasonable quantities of late hops - it might be worth doing a brew that really minimises the amount of hop matter in the beer to see whether that makes a difference.

Any thoughts? Other ideas?
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby dmfcb750 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 15:12

Two fold, I presume you are bottle conditioning, thebyeast on the bottom continues to do it's job by dealing with the rest of the fermentable sugars leaving the unfermantables from roasted malts alone and more dominant in the beer. Second, the proteins causing haze will eventually fall to the bottom of the bottle. Or so, I believe.

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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby HTH1975 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 18:43

Depending on the beer style, I'd look at softening your mask liquor with AMS.

Also try cold-crashing and fining before bottling.

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Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby Brewzee » Thu Oct 05, 2017 06:06

Ive got similar water Dave, Ive done the boil everything then add gyp thing but now I add 15 ml AMS to my 17Ltrs of strike and 1 tsp gyp to my grains. I put just under 20ml AMS in 20ltrs water for my sparge. I put 1tsp gyp in a large jam jar of cold water and shake on and off as I brew then add it to the start of my boil, it doesnt all disolve. I just fill up some old pots to their brims and use a teaspoon for AMS, so volumes are approx. Seems to work and I did do the approx maths way back when based on water supplier report. Testing mash with a Ph strip will get you into the ball park after a few brews but its not an exact science. I test it after 5 mins and 20 on basis that this in when the enzymes are grooving out and need the right Ph.This and rehydrating Irish moss in a little water have done the most to aid clarity in my beer. I still get chill hazes sometimes but I absolutely refuse to put fish b~!!ocks or plastic in my beer in order to clear it. Hoppy beers have a haze from the hops this drops over time, so brighter beer with less hop flavour that lets the malt shine through.
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby DaveS » Thu Oct 05, 2017 21:28

Interesting, definitely sounds like it's worth having more of a play with my water chemistry. Presumably starting with bottled (soft) water would also be a good way of trying this out?

Cold crashing isn't really an option as I don't have a brewfridge yet. It might be interesting to try "lagering" a bottle or two in the fridge for a few weeks after condition, though, to see what difference that makes...

Thanks!
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby Kev888 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 23:26

Things do change in that length of time - very fine stuff settles out more, hops tend to lose aroma, rougher edges tend to mellow. I guess these things can help malt flavours come through more clearly. But importantly, it sounds like things aren't getting worse over time, which is good and suggests a lack of infection and other major stability problems.

If you think there is something particular that time is healing, then sadly it could be many things. But assuming you have the basics covered, then over-extracting (or uneven extracting) in the sparge and water treatment are the two things i'd consider first. Particularly make sure the pHs are falling into range for both mash and sparge, and that there is enough calcium involved to promote clearing.

Boiling and other treatments may or may not work for your water, but unless you measure (or get tested) what water characteristics you are starting with, and check the results after you treat it, then things are really just approximations. At least when considering relative subtleties.

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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby robwalker » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:05

The off flavours I look for during ferment are mainly Diacetyl (rest at 15c after brewing) which you can check by pulling a sample, resting the glass in hot water, and smelling the beer. It can be hard to differentiate between crystal malt and diacetyl, so if it changes over days, assume it hasn't gone.
Sulphur - open ferment slightly. It takes a long time to go away once packaged.
Acetyldehyde - simply use good fermentation practices, don't stress the yeast. Again, it'll go in a month at 12c.

One thing not mentioned is varying your malt supplier too, some are not so good, the beer I brew with 100% Vienna malt has a smooth malty flavour very early on. Any late hops will fade significantly after 6 months too, so if you're brewing with any hops past 60 mins at all, maybe drop them out.

Have you tried varying your yeast too - yeasts are totally different and it may just be a case that you want a cleaner yeast.
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby Bad 'Ed » Sat Oct 07, 2017 21:22

I'd imagine it's the detritus dropping out of suspension. I find that muddies malt flavour much more than late hops (although obviously the two are linked).

Lagering is a good idea.

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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby DaveS » Tue Oct 17, 2017 23:50

Right, being a bad scientist I changed a few variables at once when I brewed last week. I went to a thinner mash and didn't sparge, to avoid any issues with sparging too hot or (less likely) too much. I also used a recipe with far fewer late hops than I've been using recently, and finally changed my post-boil filtering step to use a fine mesh bag rather than muslin, which might have helped to keep a bit of crud out of the fermenter (and was a lot quicker, too, owing to the bag in question being bigger and easier to get stuff through than my usual small-muslin-bag-in-a-colander setup). I stuck to the usual water treatment and (lack of) cold crash though. I'll see how all that works out and then try changing some more stuff next time!

I might also try fridging a couple of bottles for a few weeks after they've all conditioned, to get an idea for what sort of effect lagering would have.
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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby serum » Thu Nov 02, 2017 22:01

The malt flavour seems to be the thing that I find separates every single home brew I've tried from the real deal.

Getting that real clean malt flavour is what I've been trying to get but I always seem to have a bit of what tastes like oxidation. I've tried plenty of other peoples' brews and I'm yet to have a homebrew without it. I've got it down as far as I can get and for brews with more crystal it seems harder at the moment.

I've got a braumeister now and before it was my lighter beers that would suffer but now it's the more amber coloured ones. I think I'm going to try lagering them for quite a long time to see if I can get that flavour to settle. It's more a sherry flavour than diacetyl so I think it's oxidation. I get less of it with the BM and I've refined my bottling to introduce a bit less but it's still there although not as bad as it was before.

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Re: Cleaner malt flavours

Postby RokDok » Tue Nov 07, 2017 22:40

Dave,
What Kev88 says.
There is fantastic brew skill here, and you've received superb advice, I am no where near, and not really capable that level of perfection.
What you are after depends what you want to achieve.
I've tasted Rob's , and Serum's beers and they have been remarkable - to a quality that, that I think supersedes what is available commercially.
I guess that that is the direction that you want to head in.
Personally , I am much more random in my brewing, in reality I'm thinking I'm being artisan where in fact compared to the above guys I'm just being lazy.
The beer changes so much as it matures- in common with a decent wine here...... and that for me is part of the mystery of this art.
One of my kids found a bottle of a Sarah Hughes Clone that was one of the first beers I ever brewed - four or so years ago. At that age you are into tones of sherry- it was I think the best beer - at that age - that I'd ever made.
For me one of the pleasures is enjoying the beer as it matures and sensing the change.
Maybe think of it as a wine or a cheese which benefits from that most precious of commodities ......time.
Cheers
RD

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