On Us­ing Dry Yeast, Hops and Dogs, and Mash and Brew­house Ef­fi­ciency

Home­brew ex­pert Brad Smith, author of the Beer­smith home­brew­ing soft­ware and the voice be­hind the Beer­smith pod­cast, tack­les ques­tions about hy­drat­ing dry yeast, hops poi­son­ing in dogs, and mash and brew­house ef­fi­ciency.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Ask The Experts -

I have some pack­ets of dry yeast. Is it bet­ter to sprin­kle them on top of the wort or hy­drate them with water first?

It is al­ways bet­ter to hy­drate your dry yeast prop­erly be­fore pitch­ing it into your wort. Dry yeast cells are in a sus­cep­ti­ble state in that they can­not prop­erly reg­u­late com­pounds pass­ing through their cell walls un­til they have been hy­drated. For high­er­grav­ity worts, in par­tic­u­lar, hy­drat­ing the yeast be­fore pitch­ing is im­por­tant.

To hy­drate your yeast, I rec­om­mend mix­ing the packet con­tents with about 25 ml of warm (104°F/40°C) water per gram of yeast. I also like to mix in about 1.25 grams of Go-ferm yeast nu­tri­ent per gram of dry yeast. The Go-ferm pro­vides nu­tri­ents that aid in hy­drat­ing the yeast for an ac­tive fer­men­ta­tion.

You don’t want to shock the yeast by chang­ing the tem­per­a­ture too rapidly. Once you have the warm mix­ture of yeast, Goferm, and water, you need to slowly bring the tem­per­a­ture of it down to that of your wort. To do this, add small amounts of wort

to your hy­drated yeast and wait a few min­utes be­tween ad­di­tions. Your goal in this process is to move the yeast tem­per­a­ture less than 10°F (5°C) at a time, and you can pitch your yeast when the mix­ture is within about 10°F (5°C) of the wort tem­per­a­ture.

If you fol­low the process out­lined above, you will not only pro­vide the yeast cells with proper nutri­tion for a healthy fer­men­ta­tion but also min­i­mize the chance of shock­ing the dry yeast cells.

I heard some­where that hops are poi­sonous for dogs. Is this true?

Yes, un­for­tu­nately hops can be quite dan­ger­ous if in­gested by dogs and, more rarely, cats. Com­pounds in the hops can cause a ma­lig­nant hy­per­ther­mia, which re­sults in a rapid rise of body tem­per­a­ture. A dog’s body tem­per­a­ture, which is nor­mally be­low 102°F (40°C), can rapidly rise to 108°F (42°C) or higher, po­ten­tially re­sult­ing in per­ma­nent dam­age to the or­gans and brain or even death.

The ex­act quan­tity of hops fatal to dogs is not known, and some breeds, such as

greyhounds, re­triev­ers, Saint Bernards, point­ers, Dober­mans, bor­der col­lies, and English springer spaniels, are more sus­cep­ti­ble to hops poi­son­ing. For prac­ti­cal pur­poses, you should con­sider any quan­tity of hops to be poi­sonous to your dog. If your dog in­gests hops, he can de­velop the fol­low­ing symp­toms (in ad­di­tion to a rapid rise in body tem­per­a­ture): red­ness around the mouth, ex­ces­sive pant­ing, ex­cite­ment, ab­dom­i­nal pain, seizures, and rapid heart rate. Th­ese symp­toms may oc­cur any­where be­tween 30 min­utes and 12 hours af­ter the dog con­sumes the hops. Treat­ment in­cludes cool­ing the dog, in­duced vom­it­ing, charcoal, and ef­forts to clean its di­ges­tive track. If you think your dog has in­gested hops, try to cool it as much as pos­si­ble and im­me­di­ately take it to a vet­eri­nar­ian or an­i­mal hos­pi­tal for treat­ment. Only a doc­tor can prop­erly treat a pet for hops poi­son­ing. Ob­vi­ously, preven­tion is the best course of ac­tion, so if you own a dog or cat or have other pets in the neigh­bor­hood, you should take care to bag and prop­erly dis­pose of your spent or old hops. You should never mix spent hops with your grains and add them to a com­post pile where an­i­mals may gain ac­cess to them.

What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween mash and brew­house ef­fi­ciency in all­grain brew­ing, and how can I im­prove my ef­fi­ciency?

I’ll start with an ex­pla­na­tion of mash ef­fi­ciency. First, you need to un­der­stand that each in­di­vid­ual grain you use has its own “yield.” The yield is a per­cent­age that rep­re­sents the per­cent of the weight of the grain that can be con­verted into sugar un­der ideal lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions. An av­er­age pale malt might have a yield of about 80 per­cent, mean­ing that 80 per­cent of the sug­ars could be con­verted and ex­tracted in an “ideal” lab­o­ra­tory set­ting.

A real-world brew­ing sys­tem out­side of a lab­o­ra­tory does not achieve this per­fect num­ber. In fact, a typ­i­cal brew­ing sys­tem is only go­ing to get per­haps 80–90 per­cent of the po­ten­tial sug­ars ex­tracted dur­ing the mash, mean­ing that 80–90 per­cent of the yield will be achieved in the run­nings coming di­rectly from your mash tun. The

por­tion of the “ideal” num­ber your sys­tem ex­tracts dur­ing the mash phase is called the mash ef­fi­ciency.

Of course, the mash it­self is only one step in the brew­ing process. Af­ter mash­ing, we may add top-up water, boil, chill, and trans­fer the wort, all of which re­sults in some fur­ther losses due to trub loss, chilling, and trans­fer losses into the fer­men­tor. Th­ese ad­di­tional losses re­sult in a lower orig­i­nal grav­ity of the wort into the fer­men­tor than we achieved coming out of the mash tun.

The over­all ef­fi­ciency of the sys­tem from mash­ing grains to grav­ity points in the fer­men­tor is called the brew­house ef­fi­ciency. It rep­re­sents how well the com­plete brew­ing sys­tem con­verts po­ten­tial sugar in the raw grains into orig­i­nal grav­ity points (sug­ars) in the fer­men­tor. This num­ber is al­ways lower than the mash ef­fi­ciency due to the ad­di­tional losses in th­ese later steps and is typ­i­cally in the 65–75 per­cent range for many home­brew sys­tems.

Many new all-grain brew­ers strug­gle with low ef­fi­ciency num­bers, re­sult­ing in low­erthan-ex­pected orig­i­nal grav­ity for their beer. Some of th­ese in­ef­fi­cien­cies can be cor­rected through ex­pe­ri­ence. As you be­come more fa­mil­iar with all-grain brew­ing, your ef­fi­ciency will of­ten im­prove.

An­other so­lu­tion is to sim­ply lower the brew­house or mash ef­fi­ciency es­ti­mate you are us­ing to de­velop your recipes. This will ef­fec­tively cause you to use a bit more grain in your recipe but should al­low you to hit your orig­i­nal grav­ity with only a dol­lar or two of ex­tra grain added per batch.

If you truly are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing low ef­fi­ciency in your batches, the next item I rec­om­mend look­ing at is your grain crush. The crush of the grain can have a huge im­pact on the ef­fi­ciency you will see from your brew­ing sys­tem. I’ve had cases where a grind that is too coarse, of­ten from grains crushed at a store, can re­sult in low grav­ity num­bers.

The ideal grain crush is ac­tu­ally pretty fine. The in­side of the grain should be crushed to fine gran­ules, but you should still have large pieces of the grain husk left in­tact to act as a fil­ter bed. It is a del­i­cate bal­ance, how­ever, for if you crush the grains too finely you can end up with a “stuck sparge” that will gum up your mash­tun fil­ter and pre­vent proper lau­ter­ing.

If you have prop­erly crushed grains, then the next item to look at is your sparg­ing/ lauter process. Make sure you are sparg­ing with hot water at the proper tem­per­a­ture. The sparge water should be at least as hot as your fi­nal mash step, though it is not un­com­mon to sparge with slightly hot­ter water to im­prove the vis­cos­ity of wort dur­ing sparg­ing and ex­tract more sugar.

Also, in gen­eral, a slow sparge will ex­tract more sug­ars than a very fast one, so try tak­ing your time dur­ing the sparge phase to slowly draw wort from the bot­tom of your mash tun. In some cases the de­sign of the mash tun can play an im­por­tant role as well—ideally you want a mash fil­ter that cov­ers the en­tire bot­tom of the tun so you can draw wort off evenly and avoid chan­nel­ing in the grain bed.

Fi­nally, look at losses in every phase of your brew­ing process. Wort lost be­low the mash-tun spigot, in trans­fers, in your chiller, in the trub left in the boiler, and even in hoses or pumps rep­re­sents lost sug­ars and will lower your over­all ef­fi­ciency. Re­duce losses when­ever pos­si­ble for a more ef­fi­cient brew­ing sys­tem.

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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