Archive for the ‘Homebrewing’ Category

Hop additions explained

October 28th, 2014

BeerSmith on the Best Hop Techniques for Homebrewing

This week we take a look at the best hop techniques for homebrew beer – our hop technique roundup.  A good understanding of various hop techniques is critical for successful brewing.  Yet the wide array of hopping techniques with terms such as mash hopping, first wort hops, dry hops, boil hops, and late hop additions can be confusing to first time and experienced brewers alike.

Beginners and intermediate brewers alike often apply the wrong technique to a given beer style.  Knowing which technique to use for a particular style or desired flavor profile is part art form, but it all starts with a firm understanding of the techniques themselves.

We’ll present the most common hop methods in something of a chronological order, starting with the mash and ending with finished beer:

Mash Hopping

Mash hopping is simply the addition of hops directly to the mash tun itself.  The hops is often placed on top of the grain bed and left to sit as the mash is sparged.  Mash hopping is reported to provide a better overall balance and character to the beer, though it adds almost no bitterness.

Mash hopping is seldom used today because it requires a fairly large amount of hops and adds very little in direct flavor.  Since the hops are never boiled, no bitterness is released and most of the flavorful oils from the hop flower are lost in the boil that follows.

Brewers today theorize that most of the reported benefits from mash hopping are a byproduct of lower pH from mash hopping and not the hops itself.  Given the relatively high cost of hops, as well as many cheaper methods exist for controlling the pH of your wort, I’m not sure why a homebrewer would choose to mash hop.

First Wort Hops

First wort hops are hops added to the boil pot at the very start of the lautering process.  Unlike mash hops, first wort hops remain in the boiler during the boil and therefore do contribute bitterness to the wort.  I covered this method in detail in an earlier article on First Wort Hopping.

First wort hopping is an old German method that has enjoyed a home brewing resurgence.  In blind taste tests, beers brewed with this method are perceived as smoother, better blended and have less of a bitter edge and aftertaste.   I have personally used this method with great success on a variety of beers where a smooth well balanced bitterness is desirable.  I’ve even used it on lightly hopped styles as it helps to reduce the perceived bitterness without upsetting the malt-bitterness balance of the beer.

Bittering Hops

Bittering hops or boil hops are just that – hops added for the bulk of the boil to add bitterness to the beer.  Boiling hops releases the alpha acids that provide bitterness in your beer.  The longer you boil your hops, the more bitterness you will add.

Beer software, such as BeerSmith can help you estimate the bitterness for a given hop additions.  In general, your bittering additions should be boiled for full length of your boil (typically 60-90 minutes) to extract as much bitterness per ounce of hops as possible.  I will usually add my bittering hop addition at the beginning of the boil.

Late Hop Additions

Hops added in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil are called late hop additions.  These hops are usually not added for bittering, though they do contribute a small amount of bitterness to the beer.  The main purpose for late hop additions is to add aroma and aromatic hop oils to your beer.

In addition to bittering compounds, hop cones from “aromatic” hop varieties contain volatile hop oils that provide the strong flowery aromatic flavor and scent desirable in many hoppy beer styles.  Unfortunately most of these compounds boil off within 10-20 minutes of adding the hops.

Late hop additions should always use “aromatic” hop varieties, and should be done within the last 10 minutes of the boil to preserve as many aromatic oils as possible.  In addition, late hop additions are most appropriate for beer styles where a hoppy flavor and aroma is needed.  You would not add late hop additions to a malty or low hop beer style.

The Hop Back

A hop back is a device containing hops used inline between the boiler and chiller to infuse fragile hop oils and aroma directly into the hot wort before it is cooled and transferred to the fermenter.  While a hop back does not add any significant bitterness to the beer, it can add great aroma to your finished beer.  For more information see our article on the hop back.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping is the addition of hops after the beer has fermented.  Hops are typically added in the secondary fermenter or keg and left for a period of several days to several weeks.  Dry hopping is used to add a hoppy aroma to the beer, as no bitterness is added with this method.  Dry hopping is also used in many commercial beers for a hoppy burst of aroma.

I’ve covered this method extensively in a previous article on dry hopping, but the basic method is to add a few ounces of hops to the secondary before bottling.  If kegging, use about half as much hops.  Again you should use only aromatic hop varieties, and you should only use this method with hoppy beer styles where a strong hop aroma is desired.

Combining Hop Methods

Advanced brewers often use a combination of hop additions to achieve a burst of hop aroma and flavor, particularly for hoppy styles like India Pale Ale.  In fact, many true hopheads will add substantial first wort and boil hops, followed by multiple late hop additions and a final dose of dry hops.

Personally, I try to keep things simple, so I will typically add a single boil or first wort addition for bitterness, followed by a single late hop addition in the last 5-10 minutes of the boil to preserve aromatics and dry hopping if appropriate.  To save money, I’ll also try to use higher alpha bittering hops for the main boil hops and save my precious aromatics for the late addition and for dry hopping.

On non-hoppy styles, I’ll often choose to add a single bittering addition, often as first wort hops since I like the smooth blending perception this method produces.

Brew notes & ramblings…

October 22nd, 2014

Heres a couple handy brew notes for reference…

* extract conversion:

DME has 45 points per pound per gallon (ppg)

[(1 pound) * (45ppg)] / (5 gallons) =  9 specific gravity points on hydrometer (1.009), per pound of malt in a typical 5g batch

LME has 38 gravity points per pound per gallon (ppg)

[(1 pound) * (38ppg)] / (5 gallons) = 7.6 specific gravity points on hydrometer (1.0076), per pound of malt in a typical 5g batch

* Yeast Rehydration (recommended for dry yeast before pitching)

Rehydrate yeast per instructions on pack- sprinkle yeast into 10 times yeast weight (11g of yeast in 110 ml of water = approx 4 oz)  of boiled water, cooled to 70-80 degrees F, cover with foil & let stand for 15 mins then lightly stir, then let rest again for 5 mins before pitching.

* Yeast Starter (always recommended to ensure healthy yeast)

Prepare a wort of a gravity of 1.045 using 4 oz DME per 32 oz water.   Bring wort to boil to sterilize & cool to 70-80 degrees F. Pour your pitch-able yeast slurry, or direct sprinkle dry yeast into wort & let rest for 24 hrs in a sterilized container with airlock, The use of a stir plate will dramatically increase yeast growth.

* Priming fermented beer with corn sugar

For standard 2.5 volumes of carbonation use .8 oz (.7 oz for lower 2.3V English Bitters  & .9 oz for 2.6V Pils, Belgians ) of priming sugar / gallon of finished beer, fully dissolved in 2cups of water, stir into bottling bucket, then fill & crown bottles
If individually dosing each bottle, measure your sugar solution in ml (if 2 cups = 473 ml) & divide by the number of bottles (if 5g in secondary, accounting for trub & tubing loss take 4.75g x 128 for total oz / the size of bottle giving us 27 for 22’s or 50 for 12’s) then using a sterile syringe, draw up 17.5 ml of sugar solution for each 22 or 9.5 ml per bottle for 12 oz bottles then crown.
If bottle conditioning a bright, clear beer that was fermented with a high flocculating yeast & has had an extended period in the secondary, you may want to rehydrate & blend in some CBC-1 conditioning yeast to ensure full carbonation, this will leave sediment to the bottom of your bottle.

* Conversion factors:
1 liter of water = 1 kilogram in weight
1 ml of water = 1 gram in weight
1 cc = 1 ml
29.5 ml in 1 oz

* All grain water to grist ratios
Mash to water ratios range from 1.25-2 quarts to lb of grain in mash tun.  Thinner mashes can be more efficient & reduce  the chances of the mash sticking when lautering (sparging) but can impact strike temperature as well as the grain will “take” less heat from the strike water, as there is more hot water.  This can create a beer with less fermentability, giving the end result more body & less alcohol.  Lower initial mash temps can increase fermentability, and allow for multiple “rests” or steps of temperature by decoction or simply adding small amounts of boiling water to gradually raise the temp of the mash, while thinning it as well.  Rims & herms recirculation systems should have rather a thin mash as there are hoses, pumps, etc that take volume from the mash tun, if too little strike water is used it may run the grain bed dry & pack against the false bottom.  All things to concider for each all grain recipe & adjust.  Be sure to take & compare notes as well and use BeerSmith as a way to help calculate and organize notes & recipes.

BeerSmith Software info

October 16th, 2014



We rely on BeerSmith software both here at the shop & at home.  We use it for every brewing project, whether it be a new scratch built recipe, referencing a clone for inspiration, working up a custom kit for customers or just as a database to keep track of ingredients & recipes to duplicate or tweak in the future.  We highly suggest purchasing the mobile version of BeerSmith from the App or Play Stores’ first, as it wont be long until you’ll fall in love with its ease of use & surprising level of features for the little cash outlay.  For sure, you’ll have your phone or tablet at your side every brew day for sure.  The Desktop version is laid out a little differently, and of course much more feature rich & allows you to generally dig a little deeper into the details.  You can also keep physical ingredient inventory, scale batches & print reference sheets fairly easily.  The ability to create & store your recipes both locally and in the integrated cloud service, makes BeerSmith a fantastic, useful tool.  For more information check out their website at or check the vieo out here: Video link or take a free 21 day test drive here.
-Beer Guys

Pilsner history & info

October 16th, 2014

Pilsner beer is remarkable not only for its modern dominance, but also its relatively recent origins. The popularity of Pilsner is truly worldwide, so much so that Pilsner recipes still dominates the US and many other beer markets. It is simply the most popular beer style in the world.

Pilsner’s origins can be traced to a single date and location. On November 11th, 1842, in the town of Pilsen the first keg of Pilsner Urquell was tapped. (Ref: Daniels) This makes Pilsner one of the youngest beer styles, even among lager beer styles which were brewed in nearby Bavaria at least back to the 1500’s.

Pilsen in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) had a unique combination of ingredients and circumstance to create the Pilsner style. First, the surrounding country produced light 2-row Moravian barley, considered the finest light malt for brewing beer. Second, the country produced a hops originally known as Zatac red, now called Saaz. Saaz hops is a noble hop prized for its aroma.

Third, Pilsen had extremely soft water that is desirable for making very pale beers, and also enhances the bitterness from the hops. Finally, Bohemian Pilsen shared many brewing techniques with nearby Bavaria. The first Pilsner was created with a combination of these four elements and the important fifth element of Bavarian lager yeast. The result was the palest of lagers with a refreshing aromatic hop finish that we now know as Pilsner.

The Pilsner Style

The defining example of Pilsner is the original Pilsner Urquell from the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen, Czech republic. In fact the word Pilsner is reserved in Bohemia exclusively for brewers in Pilsen.

Pilsners have an original gravity between 1.044 and 1.056, very light color of 4-6 SRM and hop rate of 35-45 IBUs. They have light to medium body, a clean flavor and finish with low diaceytls. They are hoppy and slightly malty with no aftertaste. They are typically well carbonated, and often served in a tall Pilsner glass to enhance the perception of carbonation.

Brewing Pilsner Beer

The unusually pale color of Pilsner derives from the use of Moravian Pilsner malt that is malted at the brewery at the low temperature of 100-122F versus 170-180F for an average lager malt. The lower temperature develops less melodin and a far lighter color than conventional lager malt. It also leaves some residual moisture that will spoil Pilsner malt if not used quickly.

Moravian Pilsner malt is most desirable for brewing Pilsners, though it can be difficult to find here in the US. Pilsner malt from other sources is an acceptable alternative, and lager malt can be used in a pinch, though it will result in a darker beer than true Pilsner malt.

Brewing light colored Pilsner from extract can be a challenge as extracts are inherently darker than corresponding grain malts due to the extraction process. The best course of action is to choose the lightest possible pilsner or lager malt extract if you want an authentic light pilsner color.

Pilsner Urquell uses 100% pilsner malt, with no other additions. Some home brewers will use a small amount (<10%) CaraPils or very light Crystal malt to add body and head retention.p>

Pilsners use a Bavarian style of three step decoction, though Pilsners typically are mashed with unusually thin decoctions, and then boiled for an extremely long time (often 2-3 hours) to boil off the excess water added. However, many modern commercial and home brewers use a single step infusion mash at 153 F (67 C) with equally good results. Some do add a protein rest.

Saaz hops is used exclusively on traditional Bohemian Pilsners, with hops added at the start of boil and the last hop addition about 30 minutes before the end of the boil.

Soft water is a key ingredient in Pilsner. Pilsen water has extremely soft water containing only 50 parts per million of hardness. For homebrewers, you can often start with distilled water and add the minimal water minerals needed to approximate Pilsen water.

Bohemian Lager yeast is the ideal yeast to use for a full bodied Bohemian style, though in a pinch Bavarian or another continental lager yeast can be used for a lighter, drier taste. Your lager should be fermented at 50F and lagered at low temperature of 35-40F for three to five weeks before serving.



Stuck Sparge?

October 6th, 2014

BeerSmith on Avoiding a Stuck Sparge

A stuck sparge can be a painful experience when brewing all grain beers. New all grain brewers often find their sparge has come to a complete halt when brewing their favorite beer, so this week we look at how to avoid this common home brewing problem.

The cause of a stuck sparge is quite simple – a stuck sparge occurs when your grain bed and filter mesh at the bottom of your lauter tun get completely clogged with bits of grain and no longer allow wort to flow. The flow of wort from the lauter tun into the brewing pot will slow to a trickle and then stop completely. While this problem occurs more often when using high protein adjuncts such as wheat malt, it can occur with almost any brew.

Avoiding the Stuck Sparge

The best thing to do about your stuck sparge is avoid it in the first place. Here are some strategies for doing this:

Properly Mill your Grains: The crush of your grains has a significant impact on your sparge as the grains form the filter bed needed for proper sparging. You can control the milling of your grains using an adjustable dual roller grain mill such as the Barley Crusher. An ideal milling with break the internal bits of grain into a coarse powder while still leaving the bulk of the husks intact. The husks then form the filter bed for your sparge. In general dual roller mills do the best job overall. Adjust the gap on your mill to achieve as fine a crush as possible without destroying the hull integrity.
Use a Well Designed Mash Tun: There are many systems home brewers use to act as a filter such as false bottoms, stainless steel braid, and cut copper tubing. In general the filter area should be as broad as possible with the width and height of the filter area approximately equal to the depth of the grain bed. Cylindrical Gott or Igloo water coolers with a false bottom work very well. Whatever system you use, be sure you have a large area covered by the filter, and the filter elements evenly spaced across the bed. Poorly designed filters are more prone to clogging.
Sparge Slowly – Most first time all grain brewers attempt to lauter their mash much too quickly. A full sparge of a 5 gallon batch should take 20 minutes or more. Use a clamp on your sparge line to slow the flow of the wort. Rushing your sparge not only reduces your extraction efficiency, it also can lead to a stuck sparge.
Mash Out – A mash out step raises the temperature of the mash to approximately 168F, and halts the active enzymes used during the mash. More importantly, a mash out step raises the mash temperature making the sticky sugars in the wort more soluble, resulting in a slightly thinner and less sticky wort. The less sticky wort helps reduce the chance of a stuck mash.
Keep the Grain Bed Afloat – If fly sparging or batch sparging, it is important to keep the grain bed afloat with a small layer of water above the grain bed. If you let the sparge water run too low, the top of the grain bed will dry out, compressing the entire grain bed and increasing the chance of a stuck mash. Adjust the flow of water into your lauter tun to keep a layer of water over the grain bed so the top of the grain bed is floating and not compressed.
Add Rice Hulls – Rice hulls, available from most brewing stores, add no flavor or sugars to the beer but can significantly reduce the chance of a stuck mash by providing a proper grain bed that filters the wort. Rice hulls are particularly useful for recipes using high protein additives such as large amounts of wheat or flaked barley.
Dealing with a Stuck Mash

What should you do if you already have a stuck mash? Here are a few steps you can take if you are faced with this difficult situation already:

Float the Grains – Unless you are at the very end of the sparge, add water to float the grains which will help to expand the grain bed and free your stuck sparge.
Add Hot Sparge Water – If the temperature of the grain bed is below 168F, you can add hot water to the grain bed to raise the overall temperature to 168F. This will help reduce the viscosity of your wort and aid in breaking the stuck sparge. However, make sure you don’t raise the temperature above 170F, as this could result in extraction of unwanted tannins from the grains.
Stir the Grain Bed – Though in general you always want to avoid disturbing the grain bed once it is set, you can stir up the grain bed as a last resort. This will almost always break the stuck sparge, but it also will result in some grain material being released into the wort and also hurt your overall efficiency. You can help mitigate both of these by drawing a few quarts of wort off the grain bed after stirring and recycling these back into the top of your lauter tun until the wort runs clear again.

Using Steeping Grains

September 26th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Steeping Grains for Extract Brewing

Steeped grains enhance the flavor and color of home brewed beer. Award winning extract beers all use some kind of steeped grains. Steeped grains add body, color, and fresh flavor to your homebrewed beer.

In our earlier series on beginner brewing, we covered the basic process for making extract beer at home. This week we’ll take a look at brewing extract beer with steeped grains. Steeped grains add authentic flavor, body and color to your beer.

Steeping grains is a remarkably simple method. The grains are added to 1.5 or 2 gallons of plain water before the extracts are added. Heat the water to between 150 and 170 degrees F, and then add the grains. The grains should be crushed to expose the sugars within the grain. It is usually best to put the grains in a grain bag to make them easy to remove, however you can remove the grains by running the hot mixture through a strainer if necessary.

The grain bag will float at the top of the mixture. Leave it in and attempt to hold a constant temperature for 20-30 minutes. If you leave it in too long or steep at temperatures above 170F you will extract excessive tannins which will result in a dry astringent flavor in the finished beer.

Steeped grains will not add many fermentables to your beer (i.e. your original gravity will not increase much). Steeping grains, unlike mashing, does not convert the complex starches in the sugar into fermentable sugars, so only a small percentage of the steeped grain (< 10%) will ferment. However, since unfermentable proteins are added by steeping, the body of the beer will be increased.

Whenever possible, use freshly ground grains as crushed grains will slowly oxidize over time. If you leave your crushed grain exposed to air for more than a few weeks you may add off flavors to your beer. Storing your crushed grains in an airtight package in a refrigerator or freezer will help them to last longer, as hot temperature and moisture spoils the crushed grain more quickly.

Specialty grains are usually used for steeping. Caramel malt is often used to add body and color. Darker malts such as chocolate and black patent are also commonly used primarily for flavor and color. Other popular additions include carafoam and carapils for body and roasted barley for a deep coffee flavor.

Not all grains are appropriate for steeping however. Pale malt, for example, adds very little flavor and should be mashed. Flaked and torrified ingredients such as flaked barley, wheats, munich malt and oats also need to be mashed. To get a complete list of grains that may be mashed, visit our grain listing. Grains marked as “Must mash” should, in general, be mashed and not steeped.

Steeping these “must mash” ingredients will rarely produce the desired flavor or body and in some cases may generate off-flavors. In order to properly use these ingredients, you need to switch to a partial mash or all-grain brewing method that will mash the ingredients to take full advantage of them.

To add freshness and complexity to your extract beer, try steeping some freshly crushed grains in your next batch of all extract beer.


BeerSmith on Oktoberfest

September 16th, 2014
Marzen and Oktoberfest RecipesThe German Marzen and Oktoberfest beer styles are seasonal favorites of beer drinkers worldwide.   This week we take a look at the traditional Marzen and Oktoberfest beer recipes and how to brew them at home.

Marzen has a mixed origin.  Some sources note the extremely close relationship between Marzen and Vienna beers.  Ray Daniels notes that the term Marzen was first used for beers brewed in Vienna in the 1700’s.  Marzen is also close in relation to brown beers brewed in Bavaria as early as the 16th century, though the term Marzen was not originally  applied to this style.  Most modern authors attribute the origin of the name “Marzen” to Vienna, as no references can be found of Munich Marzen’s prior to the late 19th century (Ref: Daniels), though simillar styles were being brewed in Bavaria much earlier.

Marzen, the German word for the month of March, refers to the month when these beers were originally brewed.  Summer was too hot to brew and ferment beers properly, so by a 1539 ordinance in Bavaria, beer could only be brewed between the days of St Michael and Saint George (29 Sept-23 April).

As beer was not brewed in the summer, the last beers of Spring were made with a higher alcohol content and stored in cellars, often refrigerated with ice to last the summer.  This higher gravity beer was named after the month when most were brewed – March or Marzen.

The modern Marzen and Oktoberfest styles may bear little resemblence to the early Marzen of Vienna or even Munich.  The early Marzen was described as dark, brown and full bodied.  In fact, the turmoil of the wars of the early 20th century Europe nearly brought an end to both Marzen and Vienna style beers, though the modern Marzen enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when the Munich Oktoberfest started up again after World War II.  The Oktoberfest style, a slightly stronger version of Marzen, is brewed specifically for the world famous Munich festival each year.

The Marzen Beer Style

The BJCP style guide describes Marzen as as a rich, slightly malty beer with a slight hint of toasted character from Vienna malt.  No roasted or caramel flavors are present, and the beer has a fairly dry finish.  Noble hops are present though should be only lightly perceived in the finished beer which is decidedly malty.

The original gravity of a Marzen is in the 1.050-1.057 range, lightly bittered with noble hops providing 20-28 IBUs of bitterness.  Some “fest” beers are brewed at a slightly higher starting gravity.  The beer is well attenuated, with a finishing gravity of 1.012-1.016.  Color should be golden to orange-amber with a color range of 7-14 SRM.  The alcohol by volume is 4.8%-5.7% and Marzen’s are usually fairly well carbonated.

Brewing a Marzen Recipe

Marzen is generally made from a combination of Munich, 2-row Pale Malt, Pilsner and Vienna malts.  Generally, the malty Munich malts makes up as much as half of the grain bill, with either Pilser or Pale Malt making the balance of the grain bill.  For extract recipes, a Munich based extract made from Munich and Pale malt is generally best to use as a base.  Vienna may be added to substitute for 10-15% of the Munich malt to add a slightly more toasted flavor.  A small number of homebrew recipes also add 5-10% Crystal or 5% Cara-pils malt to add body and head retention.

Hops for Marzen/Oktoberfest beers is typically of the Noble German or Bohemian variety,  and the bitterness ratio (BU:GU) is generally around 0.5-0.6.  Popular hops selections include Saaz, Tettnanger, and Hallertauer though occasionally American hops are used by homebrewers.  Generally these are added only for bittering, and aroma or dry hops are rarely used.

The mash is almost always a single infusion mash for homebrewers in the middle range of around 152-154F for the conversion step.  Purists can try a traditional German decoction mash, though in most cases it is unnecessary given modern highly modified malts.

Bavarian lager yeast or Marzen/Oktoberfest yeast is the prime choice for Marzens, with Bohemian Pilsner yeast providing a reasonable backup.  Ferment ar around 50F (depending on yeast choice) and lager near freezing (33-37F) for at least 5 weeks.

Water treatments are rarely needed, but you might want to consider alternative water sources if your water is exceptionally hard.

Diastatic Power and Mashing Your Beer

September 8th, 2014

This week we cover the technical topic of the diastatic power for mashing your all grain beer. While rarely covered, this topic is an important one, especially for home brewers making beers with high percentages of non-barley or specialty grains. This is an important topic for partial mash brewers as well, since they are often mashing with a high percentage of specialty grains.

The Malting Process

The story of diastatic power starts as part of the malting process. As we covered a few weeks ago in the article on Malting at Home, the malting process consists of placing raw barley grains in water and germinating (sprouting or growing) them until the acrospire (the little leaf growing inside the husk) reaches a length close to that of the grain itself. The malt is then kiln dried, and the tiny sproutlets fall off, leaving malted barley. For darker and specialty grains the malt is roasted at varying degrees of time and temperature to achieve everything from caramel malt to stout roast.

The purpose of the malting process is primarily to break down the protein structure of the hard grains and make them friable for mashing. In fact, you may often hear the term “modification” of the malt. Highly modified malt has almost all of its protein structure broken down, while undermodified malt still contains a significant portion of unfermentable proteins and complex starches. A secondary effect of malting, however, is to develop the enzymes (notably beta amylase) needed for mashing.

Diastatic Power

Diastatic power refers to the enzymatic power of the malt itself – its ability to break down starches into even simpler fermentable sugars during the mashing process. The term “diastatic” refers to “diastase” enzymes. There are two “diastese” enzymes, the first is alpha amylase and the second is beta amylase. These enzymes might be familiar to many of you who have been brewing all grain for a while, as they are the primary enzymes active when you mash your grains in the normal temperature range of 148-158F.

So why should an average homebrewer care? If you don’t have sufficient diastatic enzymes in your mash, you simply will not be able to properly convert sugars during the mash. This will leave you with a partially fermented very sweet beer, with very low alcohol content.

Diastatic Power is measured in degrees lintner (often denoted with a big °L), though in Europe a secondary measure of Windisch-Kolbach units (degrees °WK) is often used. You can convert from one to the other using Lintner=(WK+16)/3.5 or going the other way as WK=3.5*Lintner – 16. A malt needs a diastatic power of approximately 35 °L to be considered “self converting”. Some of the newest American 6-row malts can have a diastatic power as high as 160 °L. (Ref: Wikipedia)

You can get the lintner values for many common malts from the malt supplier’s specification sheet, or from our BeerSmith database. Lets look at sample lintner values for a few commonly used grains:

American 2 Row Pale Malt: 140 °L
American 6 Row Pale Malt: 160 °L
British Pale Malts: 40-70 °L
Maris Otter Pale Malt: 120 °L
Belgian Pale Malt (2 row): 60 °L
German Pilsner Malt: 110 °L
Munich Malt (10 SRM): 70 °L
Munich Malt (20 SRM): 25 °L
Vienna Malt: 50 °L
Wheat Malt, German: 60-90 °L
Wheat, Unmalted (flaked, Torrified): 0 °L
Crystal Malt (all): 0 °L
Chocolate Malt: 0°L
Black Patent Malts: 0 °L
A few things become obvious looking at the above examples. With the possible exception of the very lightest specialty base malts such as Vienna or Munich, few specialty malts provide very much enzymatic power. Almost all of the enzymes needed to convert your mash are contained in your base malt, so the selection of a good base malt is important. Wheat provides diastatic power nearly equal to barley so it can be used in large proportions to make wheat beer.

Diastatic Power for All Grain and Partial Mash Brewers

How does this affect your all grain brewing? Clearly if you are brewing an all grain batch with a high power base malt like American six row, you will have plenty of enzymes available to convert your mash, and it will also convert at a faster pace than it might otherwise. However, if you are using a low power 2-row British malt with a large number of specialty malts, the sugars will still convert but might take substantially longer to do so.

A few specific styles can also cause problems for the all grain brewer. Lets take the example of Belgian Wit, which typically is made from 60% pale malt and 40% unmalted wheat (often flaked or torrified). If you select a Belgian Pale Malt base malt with low diastatic power, you may be in for a very long mash as the unmalted wheat contributes no enzymes to the process. The grains will likely still convert (little of the unmalted wheat will convert in any case) but it may take a long time to reach full conversion.

Diastatic power plays an even more important role for partial mash brewers. Many beginning partial mash brewers tend to take several pounds of specialty malts and try to mash them without a pale base malt. This can cause very poor conversion, as the fermentable portion of the specialty malts lack the enzymes to convert. It is important that you mash with sufficient base malt to provide the enzymes needed in the mashing process.

Estimating Diastatic Power for your Mash

To get a quick idea of whether you have sufficient diastatic power in your all grain or partial mash brew, I recommend you simply average the weighted diastatic power of your ingredients and see whether the final number is greater than the 30 Lintner minimum needed to convert. The overall diastatic power for your mash would be the sum of the diastatic power for each ingredient times its weight divided by the total grain weight. To get this number, just multiply the diastatic power for each grain times the weight of that grain, add the numbers up for all of your grains, and divide by the total grain weight.

Lintner_for_batch = Σ(lintner_for_grain * weight_of_grain) / (total_batch_grain_weight)

Lets look at a quick example: a partial mash using 2 lb of Caramel Malt, 1 pound of chocolate malt, and 1 pound of British Pale malt, with a diastatic power of 50 Lintner. The Caramel and Chocolate malts both have a diastatic power of zero, so they each contribute (0L x 1lbs) and (0L x 2lbs) for a total contribution of zero lintner-pounds. The pale malt is (50L x 1 lb) for a total contribution of 50 L-lbs. Now we add the contributions for all three up (which is 0+0+50) or 50 L-lbs. Now we divide by the total grain weight in the mash which is simply 4 lbs, which leaves an overall average diastatic power of 50/4 or 12.5 Lintner. Since this number is smaller than 30 L needed to convert the overall mash, another few pounds of pale malt or a grain with higher diastatic power might be warranted.

I will note that the above calculation is a rough approximation, as the specialty grains are only partially fermentable and contain many non-convertible starches, but I usually prefer to err on the side of more enzymes rather than end up short in the mash. Also, I don’t like to wait forever for my mash to complete, so I will often shoot for a number higher than the 30 L limit shown above. Note that this calculation is really only needed for mashes with high percentages of specialty malts, as most modern base malts have very high diastatic power.

BeerSmith on IPA

August 27th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale (or IPA) is a popular staple of homebrewers, microbrewers and hopheads who enjoy brewing some of the hoppiest beers on the planet. This week we look at India Pale Ale beer recipes, how to brew an IPA recipe and its history.


According to Wikipedia, India Pale Ale traces its origins to the 17th century in England with the earliest pale ales. In fact, new malting techniques developed at the start of the 17th century using coke-fired as opposed to wood-fired kilns enabled production of the first pale malts, and subsequently paler beers. One of the popular pale styles was a beer called October beer, which was highly hopped and designed to be stored for an extended period. Note that this October beer bears no relation to German Oktoberfest beer.

George Hodgson, owner of Bow Brewery brewed a version of October beer that was popular among the traders of the East India Trading Company in the late 1700’s. East India traders subsequently started trading many of Hodgson’s beers including his October beer. The highly hopped, high gravity, highly attenuated pale ale actually benefitted from the long trip to India and became popular with consumers there.

Other brewers, including several large Burton breweries like Bass, Alsop and Salt lost their European export market in Russia due to new high tarrifs on beer. They quickly emulated the October beer of Bow Brewery and also started exporting to India. The style, which now was now commonly called “India Pale Ale” became popular in England as well around 1840.

The IPA Beer Style

IPA is a hoppy, fairly strong pale ale traditionally brewed with English malt, hops and yeast. The American version has a slightly more pronounced malt flavor and uses American ingredients. The BJCP style guide for 2008 places original gravity at between 1.050 and 1.075, and highly attenuating yeasts are used to drive a final gravity between 1.010 and 1.018 for 5-7.5% alcohol by volume.

Multiple hop additions dominate the flavor profile in IPAs. English IPA’s typically have 40-60 IBUs, though the slightly stronger imperial IPA versions can have hop rates as high as 120 IBUs.

Color is similar to many pale ales – golden to deep copper color – varying between 8-14 SRM for the finished beer. Moderate carbonation is often used, though some English IPAs are lightly carbonated.

Brewing an IPA

Hops dominate the flavor of an IPA, so careful selection of the hop additions is critical to success. Traditional English IPAs use popular English hops such as Fuggles, Goldings, Northdown, Target, though sometimes noble hops are also used in finishing. Higher alpha English hops are also popular for bittering. American IPAs use the rough American equivalents such as Cascade, Centennial, Williamette, though again higher alpha hops are often used in bittering.

Multiple hop additions are almost always used for IPAs including bittering hops at the beginning of the boil, often several additions of finishing hops in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil, and dry hops to provide a hoppy aroma. In general, higher alpha hops are used for the base boil addition while aromatic lower alpha hops are used in finishing and dry hopping, though some traditional IPAs use lower alpha English hops throughout.

Traditional English 2-row pale malt makes up the bulk of the grain bill (or two row American malt for the American IPA), usually around 85-90% of the total. Crystal and caramel malts are traditionally used to add color and body to achieve the desired overall color both in extract and all-grain recipes.

Chocolate and black malts are not often used in commercial examples though they occasionally make their way into home-brewed recipes. Personally I prefer moderately colored caramel/crystal malt. Occasionally you will see wheat, flaked barley or carapils malt added to enhance body, though these are rarely used and only in small quantities.

As many IPAs were first brewed in the English city of Burton, they share much with their English Pale Ale cousins, including the unusual Burton water profile which accentuates the hoppy profile. The Burton water profile has extremely high concentrations of calcium carbonate and bicarbonate. Depending on your local water source, a small addition of Gypsum (CaSO4) can sometimes help to simulate the hop-enhancing high carbonate Burton waters.

IPAs are most often made with traditional English ale yeasts, though care must be taken to choose a highly attenuating yeast and avoid some of the lower attenuating, fruity British ale yeasts. Many brewers bypass the problem entirely by choosing a highly attenuating American or California ale yeast for a cleaner finish.

All grain IPAs should be mashed at a lower temperature than pale ales to achieve the high attenuation desired. A mash temperature around 150F for 90 minutes will aid in breaking down more complex sugars for a clean finish that accentuates the hops.

IPAs are fermented and stored at the traditional ale temperatures, usually around the mid 60’s F. Long storage periods are sometimes required to achieve the proper hop-malt balance.

BeerSmith on extract brewing

July 30th, 2014

Malt Extract and Beer Brewing

Brewing with malt extract (liquid or dry) is the starting point for every new brewer. Today many homebrewers use malt extract as the dominant base for their beer.

I bought my first malt extract, a Muntuns and Fison’s Irish Stout kit in 1987 when I started brewing, and continued brewing exclusively with extracts for the next 10 years. Brewing with extract offers many advantages over all-grain brewing. Less time and equipment is required.

While some purists point out that all-grain brewing gives you more control over certain ingredients in beer, the parade of award winning extract recipes in both local and national competition indicates that extract brewers are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with all grain brewers with regards to beer quality.To design a great beer recipe with malt extract it is important to understand its characteristics and limitations.

Malt extract is made by mashing grains using the traditional process to produce wort, a hot sweet sugary liquid. The wort is then concentrated from its original gravity of perhaps 1.080 to a thick syrup with gravity of between 1.400 and 1.450. The wort is concentrated by evaporation under heat.

To reduce the heat required, the entire process is typically done under vacuum. Heating the wort to concentrate it also produces meanoidins, a color pigment that darkens the extract. This darkening process continues when boiling your extract. That is why wort made with even the palest malt extracts is significantly darker that corresponding all grain wort.

Liquid malt extract also contains water, an element that allows the coloring reaction to continue at a slow rate as the malt extract ages. Thus liquid malt extracts will continue to get darker as they age. Dry malt extract is not susceptible to this effect.

Beers made with malt extract will tend to ferment slower and finish at a higher gravity than corresponding all-grain beers. This is due to a variety of factors including the presence of unfermentable dextrins from the concentrating process, the lack of free nitrogen in extract malt needed for yeasts, and the potential for oxidization of the malt for malts stored for an extended period.

The last point is worth mentioning, as both dry malt and liquid malt are prone to oxidizing when exposed to air or moisture for an extended period of time. All of these factors point to the critical importance of getting fresh malt extract whenever possible, and storing malt extracts in an airtight container in the refrigerator to minimize moisture and slow the effects of aging.

As long as proper care is taken in selecting and storing your extract, brewing with malt extract can be a real pleasure. To enhance your malt extract recipes I recommend the following tips:

Use pale malt extract as your base for the beer.
To add color to your beer, steep dark grains rather than adding dark extract – this will enhance the body and flavor profile of your beer.
Avoid using sugar in proportions larger than 10%. Sugar adds a cider-like flavor to the beer without contributing body.
For bitterness, boil with separate fresh hops (pellets, plugs or leaf). Many hop oils and bittering agents break down during storage in pre-hopped malt extracts. Its always better to go with fresh hops.
Use steeped grains to enhance the color, body and flavor of your beer. From 2-5 pounds of steeped grains in a 5 gallon batch will produce better beer than extract alone. Remember that some malts (munich, wheats, flaked and terrified malts) require mashing, and can’t be steeped.
As you boil malt extract, it will get darker. Consider using a late malt extract addition if you are targeting a light to medium color beer.
If you are brewing a wheat beer, use wheat based extract. Similarly if brewing an Octoberfest or Marzen beer, use Munich based extract.
Use a spreadsheet or brewing program such as BeerSmith to estimate your color, bitterness and original gravity and match it against your target style. This will avoid many bad batches of beer.
Be aware of the effect of the size of your boil pot on the bitterness of your beer. Small boil, high gravity malt extract batches will achieve significantly lower hops utilization than full size boils. Use a good spreadsheet or brewing program to estimate your bitterness before brewing.
When converting an all-grain recipe to extract, take into account bitterness and color change as well as the base malt conversion. Extract recipes will generally need more hops and less colored additions than all-grain. See my article on converting all grain recipes to extract for more information.
Use high attenuation yeasts with extract brews. Remember that extract beers generally ferment slower and leave a higher final gravity than expected.
Store your malt extract in airtight containers, away from light sources, and ideally in a refrigerator to minimize oxidization and aging effects.
Malt extract brewers produce fantastic beer. Every year, even at the national level, malt extract brewers consistently finish in the winner’s circle. I hope this article helps you maximize the potential of malt extract brewing and helps you reach the winner’s circle as well.


BeerSmith on Saison

July 22nd, 2014

Saison Beer – Belgian Farmhouse Ale Recipes

Saison is a light, refreshing ale originally brewed in farmhouses in the French speaking regions of Belgium for field workers. Now the beer is brewed in many locations around the world. Its a complex style with a mix of fruity aroma and flavor, some spiciness and even a hint of tartness. Today I’ll take a look at the history of Saison, how to brew it and some Saison recipes.

The History of Saison

Saison originated in Wallonia, the French speaking southern half of Belgium. It was traditionally brewed for the fall season to refresh farm workers during the harvest. “Saison” is the French word for season, as Saisons were most frequently brewed in the fall/winter seasons and then stored for the following fall’s harvest. It shares some characteristics with its cousin, Biere de Garde. Saison was also moderate to highly hopped to survive the long storage period.

While modern Saison’s range from 5-8% ABV, traditional Saison had a much lower alcohol content of 3-4% ABV. The lower alcohol content made the beer refreshing during a hard work day and kept the workers relatively sober, as some farmhouses had daily allotments of 4-5 liters per worker.

Saison’s were usually brewed locally in the farmhouse for the workers, and was bottle conditioned. Many Saisons in Belgium are still bottle conditioned. Some Saisons were even blended with Belgian Lambic to increase the acidity and add complexity to the finished beer.

The Saison Beer Style

There is a fair amount of variation with Saison – with light to darker variants, some Saisons using spices, and some blended or soured slightly. The BJCP style guide describes Saison as highly fruity with a fruity-ester aroma reminiscent of citrus fruit such as oranges or lemons. It may have a moderate hop aroma and some spice aroma but only from the addition of spices.

A low to moderate sour-acidity may be present. It may have a light malty flavor with no diaceytls.

The color is golden to amber in color (4-14 SRM). Alcohol content ranges from the traditional 3.5% to a more modern 6.5%. Original gravity runs from 1.055-1.080 (14-19.5 plato). Hop bitternes is moderate to moderately assertive (20-40 IBUS) and should balance the maltiness of the beer for both the lighter and heavier versions of the style.

Saison is usually bottle conditioned, and may have a slight chill or yeast haze and is highly carbonated.

Brewing Saison

The bulk of a Saison’s grain bill is based on Pilsner malt. Vienna and Munich malts are most often added (up to 10%) to contribute color and complexity to the beer. Wheat malt is used in some Saisons but is not always included. Darker Saisons also sometimes include darker Crystal malt for color. Candi sugar or honey are sometimes used to add flavor and alcohol without increasing the body of the beer.

Some Saisons are soured or acidified using acid malt, sour mashing techniques, Lactobacillus bacteria or by blending the finished beer with Lambic.

Noble hops, East Kent Goldings and Styrian hops are most often used in Saisons. The hops should balance the malt, but not dominate the flavor of the beer. Some Saisons are dry hopped. Also some stronger versions of Saison do use spices of various kinds to add additional complexity. Most brewers recommend starting without spices, but corriander and bitter orange peel are popular additions for stronger Saisons.

The use of hard water (or gypsum), which is common in Wallonia, can accentuate the dry finish and bitterness of the finished beer.

Unique Saison or Belgian yeast strains are an important ingredient for true Saison as they generates a large portion of the fruity esters and complex flavor that defines Saisons.

Body for saisons varies from light to medium, so a mash profile in the range of 148F-154F is most appropriate.

Saison Recipes

Here are a few Saison/Farmhouse Ale recipes from the BeerSmith Recipe site:


BeerSmith Amber Ale Recipes

June 30th, 2014
BeerSmith Home Brewing News


American Amber Ale Recipes

American Amber Ale, also known in the Pacific Northwest as Red Ale is a uniquely American beer that is robust, rich and enjoyable.  A fairly recent style, Ambers have become very popular with mainstream beer drinkers in the US.  This week we take a look at the American Amber style, how to brew it at home and some examples of American Amber recipes.

American Amber became popular in the Pacific Northwest before spreading nationwide, primarily through microbreweries and small regional brewers.  These beers are also called Red Ales or West Coast Ales in some regions, and the style itself overlaps somewhat with American Pale Ale.  However Amber ales have a stronger caramel flavor, more body, are darker and color and have a balance between bitterness and maltiness, where Pale Ales tend to have a stronger hop flavor.  Amber ale is also popular in Australia, with the most popular being from Malt Shovel Brewery (James Squire Amber).

The American Amber Ale Style

The Amber style is considered somewhat richer than pale ale, and is recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as its own style (10-B).  Ambers can have moderate to high hop flavor, but the hops should not be dominant.  American hops are most often use which can result in a somewhat citrusy flavor.  Malt sweetness and a caramel flavor are desirable, but Amber should not have the roasted character of a brown ale.  Few esters and no dicetyl is desirable.

Stronger versions may have some alcohol warmth, but the finish should be smooth.  Medium to full body for the beer is normal, with moderate to high carbonation.  The BJCP specifies an original gravity of 1.045-1.060 and final gravity of 1.010-1.015 giving 4.5-6.2% alcohol by volume.

Bitterness is between 25-40 IBUs, giving an average bitterness ratio of 0.619 BU/GU which places amber ales slightly on the malty side as far as overall balance.  Color is amber to copper brown, with an SRM of 10-17, though some mass produced ambers run at the low end of the color range.

Ambers are moderate to highly carbonated – and typically have good head retention.

Brewing an Amber Ale

Amber Ale is traditionally made with American two row pale malt as the base, making up 60-85% of the grain bill.  Medium to dark crystal malts are used to provide color and caramel flavor, typically making up 10-20% of the grain bill.  Small amounts of other specialty grains such as a tiny amount of roast malt (for red color versions), aromatic malt, carafoam, munich or victory malts may be used to add unique character to the brew.

There is no fixed water profile associated with Amber ale, so a variety of waters can be used.  However, as the water does not add significantly to the flavor for this style, a moderate water profile (not too high in sulfates or carbonates) is desirable.

American hops are traditionally used, with citrus varieties such as centennial being popular.  Like pale ale, it is not unusual to use multiple hop additions during the boil as well as a moderate amount of fresh dry hops to provide some hoppy aroma, though overall the beer should be well balanced, with the balance slightly to the malty side.

As a full body Amber is desirable, one generally uses a full bodied single step infusion mash with the conversion step at 156-158F for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.  Since the beer is generally 100% barley malt, no special techniques are needed.

Most amber ales are fermented with American ale yeast, which provides a fairly clean finish with high attenuation.  Some of the more robust and rich Ambers may also feature use of lighter English ale yeasts that can contribute low to moderate esters and complexity to the beer without unbalancing it.  Ambers are fermented and aged at normal ale temperatures (64-68F), and should be bottled or kegged with moderate to medium-high carbonation.

So you need a new Brew Pot?

June 18th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Aluminum vs Stainless Brewing Pots

A perpetual debate among home brewers and on various discussion forums is the merits of aluminum vs stainless steel pots for brewing beer. This week we look at the pros and cons of each to help you make your own educated decision on your next beer brewing pot.

Aluminum Pot Pros and Cons

Aluminum pots are widely available and inexpensive because aluminum cookware is widely used for preparing foods. Inexpensive Turkey pots in the 36 quart range can be found at your local Walmart, particularly right after Thanksgiving at great prices. Aluminum pots cost considerably less than stainless steel – often half as much. Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than steel, so your pot will come to a boil faster and also cool down faster after you are done boiling.

The only major disadvantage of aluminum is that it will oxidize, so you can’t use oxygen-based or caustic cleaners such as Oxyclean. This is the major reason why professional brewing equipment is made of stainless steel and not aluminum – the stainless steel is easier to clean with caustic cleaning agents. Also, over time aluminum will get an oxide layer over it which can discolor the aluminum and give it a grey tone. This is not a cause for concern – the layer of aluminum oxide actually protects the pot, but it is not as pretty as stainless steel.

I feel it is important to address a number of myths about aluminum. First, aluminum pots are not linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A number of medical studies since the 1970’s have found zero link between Alzheimer’s and the use of aluminum. Keep in mind that every day you drink soda from aluminum cans (though most are lined) and eat food prepared in aluminum cookware – it is safe.

A second myth is that aluminum will react with acidic content of the wort and either add off flavors or eat away at your pot. This is also untrue – water has a pH of7.0, your wort has a pH of around 5.2, while spaghetti sauce can run as low as 4.6 and the most acidic diet sodas you drink run as low as 2.5. For comparison, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Your wort is simply not acidic enough to react with your aluminum pot.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pots are the “Cadillac” of brewing pots, with designer pots running into the many hundreds of dollars in price. They are more expensive than comparable aluminum pots, but are a favorite of serious brewers. Stainless steel will remain shiny, as the passive oxide layer is not visible – so its easy to tell when your stainless pot is truly clean.

An advantage of stainless steel is that you can use oxygenated cleaners on it, which makes it a favorite with professional brewers who need to clean large vats. You should avoid long term exposure to bleach based cleaners as these can pit your stainless steel pots and vessels.

Stainless steel is stronger than the softer aluminum metal, so it is less prone to denting and scratching for a comparable wall thickness. However, you are unlikely to outlive a well made stainless or aluminum pot in either case. Stainless has a strongly bonded oxide layer, so it is less susceptible to attack by acids, though again the acidity of wort is not a concern for either metal.

The major disadvantage of stainless steel is that it does not conduct heat as well as aluminum, which means a longer time to reach boil and also longer cooling times after the boil.

Which to Choose?

If you select a well made heavy-duty pot, large enough for a full boils that is heavy and conducts heat well, you can’t go wrong with either stainless or aluminum. I look for a heavy pot with thick walls as it will conduct heat better and also hold up well to the occasional nicks and dings. An ideal pot has a diameter approximately equal to its height. A well made aluminum or stainless steel pot will likely last a lifetime.

If you are a brewer on a budget, you can’t ignore the large price advantage of aluminum – often it costs half as much for a comparable pot. Stainless steel has a “cool factor”, but it also has a price associated with being cool. Now I personally use stainless steel, but I’ve also been brewing for 25 years and started out using a cheap kitchen pot.

* If you would like to check out some options, feel free to visit out site or stop by, we carry a a variety of Stainless Brew Pots that start at $27.99

BeerSmith on Head Retention

June 10th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Enhancing Beer Head Retention

An important characteristic in homebrewed beers is the ability of the beer to retain a nice foamy head for a long period of time. Commercial brewers go to great lengths to improve head retention by a variety of additives. However homebrewers also have access to ingredients and additives that can help your foam last until the last drop.

Note that enhancing head retention is closely related to enhancing the body of the beer. Foam is the result of CO2 bubbles rising through the beer. These bubbles attach themselves to substances in the beer and form a skin around the bubble. Obviously the more CO2, the more bubbles, but the goal of the brewer is not bubbles but stability of the head. As foam collapeses, evaporating bubbles tend to solidify the beer near the surface, allowing more beer to be poured with less foaming after a few minutes have passed.

Head stability depends on the presence of substances with low surface tension in the beer which can form stable elastic bubbles. The two primary contributors to head retention are certain high molecular weight proteins and isohumulones (alpha acids from hops). Therefore beers with more proteins that are highly hopped will have higher head retention.

Methods for Improving Head Retention

We will explore the following possibilities:

The use of body and head enhancing malts such as crystal, wheat, or carafoam
The altering of the mash schedule to enhance head retaining proteins
The use of heading agents – additives that enhance head retention
Addition of high alpha hops – which will increase bitterness, but also increas isohumulones that enhance head retention
Limiting the use of household soaps on drinking glasses and homebrew equipment
The use of a nitrogen and CO2 mix for carbonation and serving
The shape of the glass used to serve the beer
Head Enhancing Malts

The inclusion of proteins and dextrines enhance the body and head retention of finished beer. Unfortunately when used to excess, proteins and dextrines can interact with tannins and reduce clarity and promote cloudiness, so a proper balance must be struck. Crystal malts to include the light Carapils and Carafoam, and caramel malts.

These are the most common body and foam enhancing additives that enhance head retention primarily by adding dextrines and other complex proteins. The overuse of such malts can result in proteins reacting with tannins to create a chill haze. Similarly, other grains high in protein such as flaked barley and wheat can be used to enhance head retention, though again at the cost of clarity.

Mashing Schedule

Since head retention depends on the level of high molecular weight proteins, any step in the mash that breaks down proteins is undesirable. For example, a protein rest in the 50-60 C (122-140 F) range would not be desirable. To improve head retention you would generally favor a full bodied, higher temperature mash, with main conversion in the 158 F (70 C) range, and avoid intermediate protein rests.

Heading Agents

Homebrew shops sell a variety of additives, usually under the generic title heading agent. Some are intended to be added at bottling time, while others need to be added at the end of the boil. Follow the instructions included with the agent to determine what is required. Many heading agents are derived from an enzyme called pepsin that is derived from pork.

Other popular heading agents include iron salts, gums, and alginates. All heading agents will alter the flavor of the beer, in general making the character softer. In general, heading agents are not necessary for homebrews that are made from 100% malted barley and wheat. Heading agents are more commonly used in commercial beers that have high rice and corn content, lacking the necessary proteins of an all-malt beer.


As mentioned in the introduction, isohumulones which are a form of alpha acid also will enhance the head retention of beer. Alpha acid is the primary bittering agent in hops. Therefore highly hopped beers will have better head retention. Obviously overall malt-bitterness balance is still required, but one can use higher levels of hops, particularly in darker full bodied beers to enhance head retention.

Limit the Use of Household Soaps

Household soaps such as common dish soap and dishwashing soap have a significant detrimental effect on head retention in beer. You should not use household soaps on either your brewing equipment or your main bar drinkware. Detergent washed glasses in particular will quickly reduce the head on even a well constructed beer. Instead use a beer-friendly cleaning agent from your local homebrew supplier.

A Nitrogen Mix

Some beers, most notably Guiness Irish Stout, are carbonated and poured with a mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. CO2 is relatively soluable in beer, and therefore does not promote the formation of gas bubbles as well as non-soluable gasses. Nitrogen dissolves less easily in beer, and provides a better base for forming a stable head. However, nitrogen alters the perceived character of the beer, and use of pure nitrogen would result in an unacceptable mouthfeel and carbonation.

A mix, therefore, is always used. The mix varies depending on the style of beer – a low carbonation stout might be served with a mix of 25% carbon dioxide and 75% nitrogen, while ales and lagers might include more CO2 – perhaps 60% CO2 and 40% nitrogen. Low carbon dioxide mixes (25/75) can be applied by mixing the gases in the cylinder, but higher mixes generally require two separate tanks – one of CO2 and one of nitrogen. A high precision blending device either at the tap (i.e. a stout tap) or inline are needed to blend the two gasses for dispensing.

Shape of Serving Glass

The shape of the glass is also a determining factor in both head formation and head retention. A tall narrow glass enhances the formation and retention of the head, while short wide glasses do not. This is the reason many Bavarian wheat beers and Pilsners are served in tall narrow glasses. Use the proper glass for the style of beer you are pouring to enhance the overall presentation.

As a reminder I post new articles and podcasts every week to the BeerSmith Blog if you want to catch up on the latest in homebrewing.

Thank you again for your continued support!

Brad Smith
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Malting your own grain…Taking home brewing to the next level!

June 4th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Malting Barley Grain at Home

For the adventurous home brewer who wants to take all grain beer brewing to yet another level, you can malt your own grains at home. While most micro and home brewers start with malted grain, it is possible to purchase unmalted grains and go through the malting process at home. The equipment required is modest, and bulk unmalted grains can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of malted ones.

Unmalted barley is widely used for animal feed, so a good place to purchase unmalted grains in bulk is likely a local feed store. Usually it is sold in large quantities – typically 50lb to 100lb bags. Smaller quantities can be purchased from some brew stores, pet stores or equestrian specialty shops.

There is a lot of variation in unmalted barley quality. If possible, you want to choose a barley that is low in protein as high protein will result in cloudy beer. Inspect the grains if possible before buying to look for minimum broken grains, absence of mold or bugs, consistent color and general overall quality.

Steeping the Raw Barley

The first step in home malting is to steep the barley in water to begin the germination process. Start with a large bucket that can handle the grains plus enough water to float all of the grains. Add water until all of the grains are floating, and let the grains sit in the water for 2 hours.

Remove the grains from the water (a strainer is good for this) and let the grains air out and dry for about 8 hours. This step is important as if you leave the grains in the water they will drown and eventually die.

After the grains have dried for about 8 hours, steep them again in a clean batch of water for another two hours, and dry them again for 8 hours. You will likely have to continue this for a third cycle. Within 24 hours of starting, you should see small roots start to grow from the base of the kernel (called chits). Stop your cycles of steeping and drying once you have 95% of the grains germinated.

You should have added approximately 40-45% moisture (water) at this point. Assuming you started the dry grains with ~9-10% moisture content, adding 35% moisture will result in a weight gain as follows: 1 kg of grain has ~100 g of water before steeping. Adding 350g of water (45% water content) results in a total of 1.35kg. So if you started with a given weight of grains, you can stop steeping when the grains weigh 30-35% more than when you started.

Germinating the Grains

The grains must now be germinated in a cool, slightly moist, but well ventilated area to grow the small leaflet inside the grain called an acrospire. This generally takes 2-5 days. The ideal temperature for germination is 64F, or about 18C.

You want to keep the seeds cool, spread them out well and moisten them periodically with a little spray mist. The germination process generates heat, which can lead to bacteria or mold growth so its important to aerate the grains and turn them every few hours in a cool location to avoid infction. Many early malters actually spread the grains on a concrete “malting floor” to keep them cool and make it easy to turn them periodically.

You continue malting until the small leaf (acrospires) within the grain is approximately 80-100% of the length of the grain. Note that the acrospires is inside the grain, so you need to actually split the grain open with a knife or razor blade and look for the white leaf that is part of the endosperm and attached to the rootlets. Typically the external portion of the rootlet will be about 2x the length of the grain when it is finished, but checking the actual acrospire length is the best method to determine when to stop.

Drying the Malt

Drying the malt can be difficult as it requires a steady temperature of between 90-125F (31-50C). Drying at a higher temperature will destroy the enzymes needed for mashing. If you are fortunate enough to have an oven with temperature control that can go this low, then leaving it in the oven for ~24 hours is an excellent way to go. In some cases, even the oven light is sufficient to reach the 90F temperature needed, though it may take some time to finish.

If you live in a sunny dry climate, sun drying is also an option. Some care is needed to keep birds and other small scavengers away, but you can leave it out in the sun for 2 days which should be sufficient to dry the malt.

A third option is to use an actual food dehydrator. Inexpensive home food dehydrators are available for as little as $30-40 and work quite well.

You are targeting a finished moisture content of approximately 10%. Assuming you have not lost much material in the first two steps, this would mean the finished weight of the grains with their rootlets attached should be close to the total weight of the unmalted grains before you started the steeping process. Recall that we started with about 10% moisture content in the original unmalted grains. Therefore you can stop drying when the grains plus rootlets weight are back to approximately their original unmalted weight.

Finishing the Malt

The last step is to separate the dried, malted grains from the rootlets growing out of them. After the grains are sufficiently dry, the rootlets will simply fall off them with a little agitation. You can use a colander or some screen to shake the grains around and separate the dried rootlets. Note this is a bit of a messy process, as the rootlets tend to get on everything, so you might want to do this outside.

At this point you have pale, malted barley equivalent to that which you would normally purchase from your brew supply store. You can crush it and use it just as you would any pale barley base malt.

If you wish to make specialty malts from your pale barley, you can toast the malts in the oven to make varying shades of crystal, toasted, brown malts. For the lightest of crystal type malts, try toasting at 275F for one hour. For a medium crystal, try toasting at 350F for 15-30 minutes. If you toast at 350F for an hour you will come close to a commercial brown malt. You can also get different variants by toasting wet vs dry malts. A wet toasted malt will impart a slightly sweeter toasted flavor.

For more on home malting, her is an article on Bodensatz by Dan Carol which I used when malting on my own for the first time. Geoff Cooper also has a short article on roasting malts.

Thank you again for your continued support!

Brad Smith
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How to use a Refractometer

May 20th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

How to Use a Refractometer, Brix and Beer Brewing

Refractometers are widely used in the wine and beer industry by to track fermentation, but less commonly used by home brewers. However, if used properly a refractometer can be a great tool to track specific gravity in place of or to supplement your hydrometer. This week, I take a look at refractometers, how they work and how an average home brewer can use one. I’m going to use BeerSmith as the refractometer conversion tool, as the hand calculations are fairly complex and could occupy another entire article.

How a Refractometer Works

A refractometer is an optical device that, like a hydrometer, measures the specific gravity of your beer or wort. It does so by sampling a small amount of liquid, and looking at its optically. The main advantage over a hydrometer is the small sample size needed – typically only a few drops.

If you start with a glass of clear water, you will notice that the water and glass bend the light passing through it in a certain way. The bending of the light by the water is called refraction. Light bends to different degrees as it passes through different substances. This is the same effect that glasses lenses in eyeglasses are based upon – the lenses bend the light allowing glasses to adjust the focus of an image and make it clearer to your eyes.

If you add sugar to your glass of water, the light will bend more. The refractometer takes advantage of this effect to measure the amount of bending (refraction) which indicates the amount of sugar in the sample. Most refractometers use a prism and a light source to illuminate the sample. On inexpensive refractometers, you hold the instrument up to a natural light source. More expensive models have internal light sources.

Most brewing refractometers measure samples in Brix, which is a scale used to measure specific gravity primarily by wine makers. Some also use a Refractive Index (RI) scale. Both the Brix and RI indexes need to be converted to standard specific gravity or Plato scales using a formula, as wort does not have the same reflective properties as plain sugar water.

Calibrating Your Refractometer

Before you use a refractometer, it needs to be calibrated. Most refractometers are calibrated by using a sample of distilled water. You lift up the daylight (sample plate), and add a few drops of distilled water. Close the daylight plate and allow the water to spread across the sample plate. Make sure there are no bubbles. Refractometers are temperature sensitive, so allow the sample to reach room temperature unless you have a model that automatically compensates for temperature.

Hold the refractometer up to natural light and take a reading. Most refractometers have a calibration knob or screw that will let you adjust the zero setting. What you want to do now is adjust the refractometer so it reads zero with distilled water in it. This may take a few tries. If you can’t zero it out or it is not adjustable, you can handle the adjustment using BeerSmith (see the calibration items under the refractometer tool).

If you want an accurate reading, you should also calibrate the refractometer using a wort sample that has a known specific gravity. You can do this calibration by mixing up a small amount of dry malt extract with water, then take an accurate hydrometer reading and also refractometer reading and enter both readings into the BeerSmith refractometer tool (use the “calibrate refractometer settings” button).

Using Your Refractometer when Beer Brewing

Using the refractometer is very similar to what you just did when calibrating it. Open the sample plate, make sure it is clean and dry, then add a few drops of your wort. Again, if the wort is hot allow it to cool to room temperature first (ideally 68F). Close the sample plate, check for bubbles, and then hold the refractometer up to a natural light source.

Reading the refractometer is easy – just take the reading directly from the sight scale. The reading you take will most likely be in percent/degrees Brix or RI.

Refractometer Limitations when Brewing Beer

Here’s where some people get disappointed when using a refractometer. Refractometers are calibrated to measure the amount of sugar (sucrose) in a clear sample of water. The sugar in barley beer (maltose) is a different animal. Therefore some adjustment needs to be made to take into account the fact that we’re measuring colored maltose and not clear sucrose. You can’t just use the measurement you made with the refractometer.

Converting the Brix measurement to a specific gravity or Plato measurement made on a sample of unfermented wort is a moderately complex calculation which requires a spreadsheet or a tool like BeerSmith. However, there is yet another complication: once the wort starts fermenting alcohol is produced, and the alcohol changes the overall equation yet again.

In practice, this means that in order to calculate the true gravity of a fermenting or fully fermented beer, you need not only the current refractometer reading, but also the starting gravity. So if you are using a refractometer, it is critically important you record the starting gravity of the wort before fermentation if you want to calculate a mid-fermentation or final gravity for your beer.

Converting Brix to Specific Gravity or Plato with BeerSmith

Now that we’ve calibrated your refractometer, and understand the limitation, open up the Refractometer tool in BeerSmith. Assuming this is your original gravity reading for unfermented wort, select the “Unfermented Wort Gravity” calculation at the top and enter your Brix (or RI) reading from the refractometer. The “corrected gravity” will show your original gravity for the beer.

Once you have your original gravity and the wort is fermenting, you can take additional readings. In this case use the “Fermenting Wort Gravity” calculation in the tool and enter both your Brix refractometer reading and the original gravity. The corrected gravity will show your current adjusted reading.

There is a third calculation in BeerSmith, called “Finished Beer ABV/OG” which lets you back out the original gravity of the beer if you forgot to measure it in the first place. In this case you need to take a final gravity measurement with both the refractometer and an accurate hydrometer, and enter those readings to get the original gravity.

All Grain Mashing

April 15th, 2014
BeerSmith on Mashing for All Grain Beer Brewing

Mashing can be a mystical process for first time all-grain or partial mash beer brewers.  At its heart, the mashing process uses hot water and natural enzymes to convert complex sugars from malt into simpler sugars that can be readily fermented.  We covered the basics of infusion mashing in an earlier article.

At its essence, mashing converts long chains of starches into much shorter sugar chains.  Several enzymes that naturally occur in barley malt play key roles in breaking down these sugars.  The process starts during malting when the barley grains are germinated and dried.  Beta-glucanese and proteolytic enzymes divide branches of complex sugars into shorter chains.

During the mash, the heavy lifting is done by diastatic enzymes that break down the protein and carbohydrate chains that lock up fermentable sugars.  Further, as these starches are heated they become more soluble in water, making it possible to extract the sugars and create the sweet wort extracted during lautering.  Crushing the grain before mashing increases solubility making it possible to extract a larger percentage of the sugars and starch.

Here’s a summary of the major enzyme groups found naturally in malted barley and their active range:

  • Phytase (86-126 F) – Lowers the pH of the mash.  Lowering the mash pH has a number of benefits, though a Phytase rest is rarely used by modern brewers.
  • Debranching (95-112 F) – Helps to increase the solubility of starches resulting in increased extraction for certain malts.
  • Beta Glucanese  (95-113F) – Breaks down the gummy heavy starches, which can help improve stability and extraction, particularly for mashes high in proteins and adjuncts such as wheat.
  • Pepidase (113-131F) – Produces free amino nitrogen, which can aid in fermentation.
  • Beta Amylase (131-150F) – Produces maltose, the main sugar fermented in beer.
  • Alpha Amylase (154-162F) – Produces a variety of sugars, including maltose and also some unfermentable sugars.  Mashing at the higher end of this range produces more unfermentables and therefore more body in the finished beer.

For single or multi-step mashes, the main step is called the conversion or saccrification step.  The bulk work of mashing is done by the alpha and beta amalyse enzymes, both of which are active to some degree in the normal 148-158F conversion step range.

Mashing at a lower temperature of 148-152F activated more beta amalyse, resulting in more maltose conversion.  Maltose is the primary sugar preferred by yeast, so a lower mash temperature results in a larger percentage of sugars being fermented resulting in a clean beer finish with higher attenuation, slightly higher alcohol content and less body overall.  It does generally take a bit longer for beta amalyse to do its work, so a longer conversion step at low temperature is needed.

Mashing at the high end of the range (154-158F) activates alpha amalyse, resulting in not only maltose but other unfermentable sugars.  Less of the sugars will ferment, leaving lower yeast attenuation and additional body in the finished beer.  Alpha amalyse completes its work more quickly than beta, so a slightly shorter step time can be used.

The other popular step used by modern brewers is the dough-in rest (protein rest).  Usually done at a temperature between 100-120 F, the dough in allows the grains to soak and saturate as well as allowing the key various lower temperature enzymes to begin chopping up longer chains of molecules.  This will generally lower your pH slightly, and improve your mash efficiency by a few percent.  I personally recommend a 20 minute dough in at a temperature between 100-112F for maximum impact.

John Blichmann on his Auto Sparge

April 3rd, 2014

Check out the Auto Sparge, this neat addition to your Mash Tun will keep your grain bed properly covered while saving you time,  increasing efficiency and avoiding a stuck sparge.

Brewing a English Pale Ale

March 12th, 2014

BeerSmith on Brewing an English Pale Ale

English Pale Ale is a classic beer style and a personal favorite of mine. This week we take a look at how to brew this classic style at home including the history of the style, formulation of recipes and brewing of English Pale Ale.

The History of English Pale Ale

English Pale Ale shares much in common with classic English Bitters. The defining example of the style is arguably Bass Ale from Bass Brewery in Burton on Trent, England. The Bass brewery was established by William Bass in 1777 as one of the first breweries in Burton on Trent.

Pale ale and bitters both are derived from English “real ales” which were widely produced in England in the 18th and 19th century, and originally served with little to no carbonation from hand pumped cellar kegs.

Pale ale can also trace its origins to the start of the industrial revolution in England. The availability of both coal fuel and high quality steel allowed the production of pale colored malts in the early 1700’s. Previously only brown and dark malts with smoky aroma were available due to the use of wood in malting.

The English Pale Ale Style

English Pale Ale has a medium high to moderate hoppy flavor and aroma. Often a malt or caramel flavor and aroma is present, with a slight alcoholic warmth. The hops should balance the caramel and malt flavor at a minimum, though many examples have a slightly hoppy balance.

The body of a Pale Ale is medium to full, and carbonation is generally low except for some bottled commercial or export ales. The finish is generally dry with no secondary malt flavors, and no diceytl. Fruity esters, often a byproduct of English ale yeast, is often present.

Original gravity is generally between 1.048 and 1.062, with 30-50 IBUs of bitterness. Color is golden to deep copper (6-18 SRM). Alcohol by volume is a healthy 4.6-6.2%.

Brewing an English Pale Ale

The base malt for English Pale Ale is english pale malt. The classic type is English two row barley malt with low nitrogen content, traditionally a bit darker than classic pale malt due to the use of higher kilning temperatures. Pale malt composes about 90% of the total grain bill. For extract brewers, start with a pale base extract and add the appropriate color steeped caramel malt to achieve your desired color.

Crystal and caramel malts are used in most pale ales, both to add color and body. Crystal generally makes up 5-10% of the total grain bill and is selected in a color to balance the overall target color.

Maltose syrup is used in many commercial pale ales, but is hard to find for use in home brewing. Corn or cane sugar can be used in small quantities (generally less than 10%) to give a similar effect.

Wheat, cara-pils, or flaked barley are occasionally used in pale ales to add body. Generally only a few percent are added, as any larger amount will result in a cloudy finish to the beer. Chocolate and black malts are used very rarely in some recipes, but I recommend not including them in your pale ale.

BC Goldings and Fuggles hops are the favorite varieties for Pale ales. Target, Northdown and Challenger are occasionally substituted. My personal preference is BC Goldings. Often three hop additions are used – one for boiling/bitterness, an aroma addition at the end of the boil and finally dry hops for added aroma after fermentation.

A single step infusion mash is sufficient for mashing a pale ale, as the highly modified English malt will convert easily. A medium to high body mash profile (153-157 F) will give you an authentic rich bodied beer.

For Burton style English Pale Ales, the water profile is extremely high in Calcium Carbonate and Bicarbonate. Burton water has 295 ppm Ca, 725 ppm Sulfate and 300 ppm Bicarbonate. This exceptionally hard water accentuates the bitterness in the hops giving a sharp finish to the beer. However, achieving the appropriate water balance can be difficult for homebrewers. Usually a small amount of Gypsum (CaSO4) added to the brewing water is sufficient to give a slightly sharper finish.

English Pale Ale yeast is used for traditional Burton ales like Bass, and the major liquid yeast manufacturers even carry a special strain for Burton ales. Other english ale yeasts are also popular with homebrewers for all types of pale ales. Finally, many homebrewers use American ale yeast for its clean finish and neutral flavor.

Pale ale should be fermented and aged at traditional ale temperatures (generally 62-68F), lightly carbonated and served slightly warm if you are a traditional ale fan. American brewers may prefer higher carbonation and a colder serving temperature.


What’s Brew in a bag?

February 28th, 2014

Beersmith on Brew-In-A-Bag (BIAB)

Brew in a Bag (BIAB) all grain beer brewing is a new method for all grain brewing that originated in Australia. BIAB is an inexpensive way to for homebrewers to transition to all grain or partial mash brewing. Brewers also enjoy brew in a bag methods for the shorter setup, brewing and cleanup times.

Also see my podcast episode on BIAB here.

The concept behind “brew in a bag” is to move to all grain brewing with minimal extra equipment, setup or time. The BIAB method involves using a grain bag set in the brew pot to mash the grains, followed by a sparge step where the bag is removed from the pot and the remaining wort is boiled as you would any other beer. While less efficient than traditional methods, you can easily compensate for this by using a little more grain in the mash. (Ref and Image Credit: BN Article on BIAB by Thirsty Boy)

Brew in a Bag Equipment

For an all grain batch, you need a full size (batch size plus a few gallons) boil pot and ideally a propane burner to quickly boil it. For partial mash brewers, a smaller pot (3-4 gallons) is acceptable as you will not be mashing or boiling the full size of your batch. The brew in a bag method eliminates the need for a mash tun, hot liquor pot, or lauter tun.

The only other equipment needed (aside from normal extract brewing equipment) is a large grain bag. The bag should be made of a mesh material and sewn together like a great pillowcase. It should be large enough to cover the entire inside of the boil pot, and have a drawstring or tie at the top to allow the bag to be closed.

The bag will line the boil pot and closed to hold the grains during the mash. At the end of the mash the bag is slowly withdrawn and the remaining wort is boiled, cooled and fermented as any beer would be.

The Brew in a Bag Method

Brew in a bag is usually done using a single step infusion mash, the same profile most all grain brewers use. This involves preheating the water in the mash tun to a predetermined temperature before adding the grains. In a major departure from traditional methods, the entire pre-boil volume of water is used for the mash.

In BeerSmith, you can do this by choosing a single infusion, no mash out mash profile and then setting the first mash step volume (choose details next to the mash profile, then double click on the first step) equal to your boil volume.

You can also use the infusion tool to calculate initial strike additions, setting the strike volume equal to the initial boil volume for your batch. For a partial mash BIAB, less water is typically used – but again it is equal to your starting boil volume.

Once the strike water is heated to the appropriate starting temperature, the bag is added to line the edge of the boil pot, and the grains are added. Done appropriately, you should come very close to your target temperature for mash conversion – usually between 148 and 156 F.

Once you reach your target mash temperature, it is best to cover your pot and maintain the temperature as steady as possible for the next 30-60 minutes while the complex sugars in the grain are converted to simple ones. You can also wrap the pot in towels to help maintain temperature.

After the mash is complete you have the option of heating the mash slightly to a mash out temperature (around 168F). If you are planning to heat the pot while the bag is still in it, you do need some kind of screen or false bottom at the bottom to prevent the bag from getting burned or melted by direct heat from the burner. For BIAB, the mash out aids overall extraction efficiency when you remove the bag.

Finally, slowly lift the grain bag out of the pot and let it drain. Once the bag has drained you can empty it, spray it down and clean it off for reuse on your next batch of beer.

From this point forward, the wort left in your boil pot can be boiled, cooled and fermented just as you would any batch of beer. If brewing all grain, simply boil the wort with hop additions, cool it and transfer to your fermenter. For partial mash, you can add your extract, hops and continue to brew.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Some of the advantages of the brew in a bag method include:

Equipment Cost – If you have a large brew pot already, the only additional equipment needed is a bag, which you can make yourself if you have access to a sewing machine.
Simplicity – Brew in a bag lets you move to all grain or partial mash brewing in a simple way, and the method itself is very simple to set up and execute, even with limited space.
The limitations include:

Batch Size – All of the grains have to fit in the bag, and the bag has to be lifted out without breaking, so this does place some limitations on high gravity batches. However with a properly stitched grain bag, double batches are possible though a pulley may be desirable.
Efficiency – Since BIAB is a full volume method, you will lose a few percent efficiency – overall batch efficiency is usually lower than with fly sparge methods. However, this can easily be compensated by adding a little more grain to the batch and formulating your recipes with the appropriate lower brewhouse efficiency estimate. Experienced BIAB brewers have reported efficiency as high as 80% in some cases.
High Water to Grain Ratio – Mashing at a high water to grain ratio, as is the case here, results in lower levels of beta-amalyse, resulting in more dextrines in the finished beer. This can translate to higher body than desired at the high end of the mash temperature range (156-158F). Conversely, the thin mash also works poorly at the low end (148-150F), creating dry beer. In general BIAB works best in the mid mash temperature range (150-156F). Finally, if you are brewing a beer high in non-barley adjuncts such as flaked wheat, BIAB may not be the best option. (Ref: BN Article on BIAB)