Ask the Ex­perts

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

Home­brew ex­pert Brad Smith, au­thor of the Beer­smith home­brew­ing soft­ware and the voice behind the Beer­smith pod­cast, tack­les ques­tions about hops ad­di­tions, con­i­cal fer­men­tors, and keg­ging beer.

What are the dif­fer­ences among bit­ter­ing, fla­vor, and whirlpool hops? How can a home­brewer do a whirlpool ad­di­tion?

As lit­tle as 5 years ago, brew­ers pri­mar­ily used three types of hops ad­di­tions for mak­ing beer: bit­ter­ing, fla­vor, and dry hop­ping. Bit­ter­ing ad­di­tions were added early in the boil to pro­vide the bulk of the bit­ter­ness needed to bal­ance the beer. Fla­vor ad­di­tions were done late in the boil, usu­ally at 20, 15, 10, or 5 minutes from the end of the boil. These were in­tended to pro­vide more fla­vor and aroma than boil ad­di­tions. And fi­nally dry hops were added late in fer­men­ta­tion, not to pro­vide bit­ter­ness but to add fresh hops aroma to the beer.

Over the past few years, our knowl­edge of hops aroma oils and how they con­trib­ute to beer aroma and fla­vor has ex­panded dra­mat­i­cally. Sci­en­tists have iso­lated dozens of hops oils in­clud­ing myrcene, linalool, geri­anol, caryophyl­lene, hu­mu­lene, and far­ne­sene. We’ve also learned that these aro­matic oils are ex­tremely volatile, which means the bulk of the oils

will boil away in as lit­tle as 10–15 minutes in the boil. The net re­sult is that we now un­der­stand that boil­ing hops, even for a short pe­riod, does not pre­serve the fla­vor and aroma we most want to pre­serve in beer. The for­mer “fla­vor” ad­di­tions don’t add much fla­vor; they pri­mar­ily con­trib­ute bit­ter­ness, which of course can be more ef­fi­ciently done with a bit­ter­ing ad­di­tion. Whirlpool and dry-hop ad­di­tions done be­low boil­ing tem­per­a­tures do a much bet­ter job of pre­serv­ing de­sir­able hops oils.

The net re­sult of this new knowl­edge is that modern hops sched­ules for hoppy brews such as IPAS con­sist of bit­ter­ing, whirlpool, and dry-hop ad­di­tions, but not fla­vor ad­di­tions. The boil/bit­ter­ness ad­di­tion pro­vides the bulk of the bit­ter­ness, and the whirlpool and dry-hop ad­di­tions pre­serve the crit­i­cal aro­matic oils. Whirlpool ad­di­tions are usu­ally added shortly after flame-out while the wort is still hot (typ­i­cally at 168–194°F/75–90°C). On a com­mer­cial sys­tem, these are done in

the “whirlpool” sys­tem after the boil, which helps sep­a­rate the wort from hops and grain ma­te­ri­als. Home­brew­ers also com­monly re­fer to “whirlpool” hops as hops added to the wort after the boil but be­fore the wort is chilled. A home­brewer would typ­i­cally add whirlpool hops to the ket­tle and let them steep for 10–20 minutes be­fore the wort is chilled and trans­ferred to a fer­men­tor.

I see a lot of home­brew­ers switch­ing to con­i­cal plas­tic or stain­less-steel fer­men­tors. Do I need a con­i­cal fer­men­tor to make good beer?

A con­i­cal fer­men­tor has a cylin­dri­cal main fer­men­tor at­tached to a con­i­cal bot­tom. The cone is typ­i­cally set at around a 60° an­gle, which al­lows any sed­i­ment or yeast to slide rapidly down the cone and set­tle in the bot­tom. This leaves min­i­mal con­tact be­tween the sed­i­ment and beer and makes it easy to draw the sed­i­ment/yeast off the bot­tom us­ing some kind of dump valve at the bot­tom of the cone.

A con­i­cal fer­men­tor is what pro­fes­sion­als call a “uni­tank,” in that ev­ery stage of fer­men­ta­tion can be com­pleted in the same ves­sel (pri­mary, sec­ondary, ter­tiary, clear­ing/ag­ing) with­out need­ing to trans­fer the beer from ves­sel to ves­sel. Yeast can be har­vested for re­use from the bot­tom of the tank, and typ­i­cally, ev­ery few days the sed­i­ment is drawn off so it will not af­fect re­main­ing beer. Com­mer­cial con­i­cals also have tem­per­a­ture con­trol for pre­cise fer­men­ta­tion pro­files.

Home con­i­cals have the same ad­van­tages: You can fer­ment and age beers for an ex­tended pe­riod in the same ves­sel with­out trans­fers, and you can har­vest yeast eas­ily and keep your beer sep­a­rated from sed­i­ment. Lower-priced plas­tic con­i­cals have collection balls for har­vest­ing yeast, thermo-wells to mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture, and are priced competitively. Higher-end home stain­less-steel con­i­cals have sim­i­lar fea­tures and of­ten add sep­a­rate rack­ing valves, and some have op­tional tem­per­a­ture-con­trol sys­tems. Some larger ones can also be pres­sur­ized for low-pres­sure oxy­gen-free trans­fers us­ing a CO2 tank.

All of that be­ing said, a con­i­cal is not re­quired to make great beer. In fact, you can fer­ment great beer in a cheap food-grade plas­tic bucket as long as you use proper san­i­ta­tion tech­niques. You can cer­tainly sep­a­rate your beer from sed­i­ment by just rack­ing it to another ves­sel, and you can har­vest yeast from the bot­tom of your bucket or car­boy. A con­i­cal just of­fers some time sav­ings, less risk dur­ing trans­fers, and ease of use, par­tic­u­larly for larger batches (10 gal/38 l or larger), where it be­comes harder to lift and trans­fer large vol­umes of beer.

I’m think­ing of switch­ing from bot­tling my beer to keg­ging. What do I need to be­gin keg­ging beer?

Keg­ging beer of­fers a huge time sav­ings ver­sus bot­tling. Stain­less-steel kegs are very easy to clean, and you can force car­bon­ate your beer, which gives you bet­ter con­trol over the ex­act car­bon­a­tion level. The only down­side is that you do need some kind of re­frig­er­a­tor—ei­ther space in an ex­ist­ing re­frig­er­a­tor or a ded­i­cated freezer/re­frig­er­a­tor or kegera­tor to store the keg be­cause proper serv­ing pres­sure re­quires re­frig­er­a­tion.

Craft Beer & Brew­ing Magazine® has a great class on keg­ging your beer (see learn.beerand­brew­ing.com), but here are

the ba­sics. The most ba­sic sys­tem con­sists of a keg, a CO2 tank and reg­u­la­tor, two hoses with con­nec­tors, and a sim­ple plas­tic pic­nic tap. The most pop­u­lar kegs are 5-gal­lon (19 l) Cor­nelius (soda) kegs, which are about the size of a scuba tank, though 2.5- and 1.5-gal­lon mini-kegs are good op­tions if your re­frig­er­a­tor space is lim­ited. Kegs may have ei­ther ball-lock or pin-lock con­nec­tors, which refers to the style of con­nec­tor used on the in and out ports of the keg.

A CO2 tank pro­vides car­bon diox­ide gas to car­bon­ate and also dis­pense your beer. CO2 will not spoil your beer the way oxy­gen will, so a Co2-pres­sur­ized keg will store for many months. Most be­gin­ner kits come with 5 lb (2.3 kg) CO2 tanks, and they are shipped empty. You can fill or ex­change the CO2 tank at your lo­cal bev­er­age-gas sup­plier. For a small additional fee, you can usu­ally up­grade to a 10 lb (4.5 kg) or 20 lb (9.1 kg) tank, which will last a lot longer and is gen­er­ally about the same price to fill.

You will also need a pres­sure reg­u­la­tor at­tached to your CO2 tank. The reg­u­la­tor low­ers the pres­sure from roughly 800 pounds per square inch (psi) to a typ­i­cal beer-serv­ing pres­sure of 11–13 psi. A gas line con­nects from the reg­u­la­tor to the in­put on the keg to pres­sur­ize the keg. The out­put of the keg con­nects to a beer line that runs to the tap. Most be­gin­ner kits come with cheap plas­tic “pic­nic” taps (at right), though you can also pur­chase stain­less-steel pub-style taps to in­stall on your re­frig­er­a­tor door or bar.

To use your keg sys­tem, first as­sem­ble it and check for leaks by ap­ply­ing pres­sure and spray­ing the var­i­ous fit­tings with Starsan or soap/wa­ter, which should bub­ble if a leak is present. Clean and san­i­tize your keg and then siphon your fin­ished beer into it. Once the keg is full, seal it up and ap­ply CO2 pres­sure. Use the purge valve at the top to purge the oxy­gen from the keg and re­place it with CO2. To car­bon­ate the beer, put the keg in the re­frig­er­a­tor and set the pres­sure to about 12 psi. If you leave it un­der pres­sure and re­frig­er­ated, the beer will fully car­bon­ate within 5–7 days. After that, just serve and en­joy!

If you have a ques­tion for the ex­perts or want to share your ex­per­tise, email us at info@ beerand­brew­ing.com or visit our web­site at beerand­brew­ing.com.

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