Ask the Ex­perts

Home­brew ex­pert Brad Smith, author of the Beer­smith home­brew­ing soft­ware and the voice be­hind the Beer­smith pod­cast, tack­les ques­tions about buy­ing hops in bulk, mul­tistep mashes, and the dif­fer­ences in fil­ters.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - If you have a ques­tion for the ex­perts or want to share your ex­per­tise, email us at [email protected]­brew­ing.com or visit our web­site at beerand­brew­ing.com.

Some of my club mem­bers are do­ing a bulk buy of hops. What is the best way to break them up and store them, and how long will they last?

You can cer­tainly save some money by buy­ing hops in bulk, es­pe­cially if you have a few friends who can split the pur­chase. The down­side, of course, is what to do with sev­eral pounds of hops you may not be able to use im­me­di­ately.

The first thing you want to re­mem­ber is that heat, light, and oxy­gen are all en­e­mies of fresh hops. Heat and di­rect sun­light will break down many of the chem­i­cals in hops more rapidly, both re­duc­ing their al­phaacid con­tent and im­pact­ing their fla­vor. Oxy­gen ac­cel­er­ates the ag­ing process, as well, which is why you find most com­mer­cial hops pack­aged now in foil bar­rier pack­ages that are of­ten purged with an in­ert gas such as ni­tro­gen. The form of hops also mat­ters. Whole-leaf hops, be­ing loose and more ex­posed to oxy­gen, will not fare as well as pel­let hops, which are com­pressed.

In an ideal world, you want to store your bulk hops in oxy­gen-purged, foil-lined pack­ages at freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. In real­ity, you’ll likely have to break up and repack­age your bulk hops to use in in­di­vid­ual batches and to share with friends.

The best method for pre­par­ing your hops for stor­age is to use a vac­uum-seal­ing ma­chine; they are avail­able for food stor­age at many home-goods stores. Some even work with foil and polyester film (e.g., My­lar) pouches. If you don’t have ac­cess to such a de­vice, you want to get as close as you can. For ex­am­ple, you can pur­chase small polyester film pouches, add a prepack­aged des­ic­cant to each pouch to re­duce the oxy­gen and mois­ture and then seal it. Even plas­tic freezer bags of­fer some pro­tec­tion, if you take care to re­move as much oxy­gen as pos­si­ble. Store these in the freezer to min­i­mize the degra­da­tion that light and heat will cause over time.

How long your hops will last is de­ter­mined by some­thing called the Hop Stor­age In­dex (HSI), which varies by hops va­ri­ety

as well as by the tem­per­a­ture and pack­ag­ing you use. The HSI mea­sures the per­cent­age of al­pha acids lost in six months if the hops are stored at 68°F (20°C). From the HSI, you can use soft­ware or an on­line tool to es­ti­mate your al­pha loss over time, but in prac­tice, if you pack­age, freeze, and store the hops prop­erly, most va­ri­eties will last a year or more.

I have a few older brew­ing books that rec­om­mend mul­tistep mashes. What is the pur­pose of do­ing ex­tra steps in the mash?

Mul­tistep mashes are not com­monly done any­more, and most all-grain brew­ers now use a sin­gle step, called the sac­cha­r­i­fi­ca­tion step, with the main con­ver­sion tak­ing place in roughly the 148–156°F (64–69°C) tem­per­a­ture range. The real­ity is that most mod­ern bar­ley malts sim­ply don’t need the ad­di­tional steps.

Mul­tistep mashes, in­clud­ing steps such as acid rest and pro­tein rest, were once used to help lower the mash ph and cre­ate the en­zymes needed to help break down sug­ars in the malt dur­ing the main con­ver­sion step. Be­fore the devel­op­ment of mod­ern malt science, malted bar­ley, in­clud­ing base malts, of­ten were not fully mod­i­fied, which means that they lacked suf­fi­cient en­zymes to con­vert the malt. These “un­der­mod­i­fied” malts of­ten re­quired ad­di­tional lower-tem­per­a­ture mash steps that would de­velop the en­zymes needed for mash­ing.

Malt­ing science has come a long way in the past 30 to 40 years, so vir­tu­ally all malts you can pur­chase to­day are highly mod­i­fied, mean­ing they have more than enough en­zymes needed for the con­ver­sion step. In fact, you need to specif­i­cally seek out an un­der­mod­i­fied malt if you want one for some rea­son.

You can find out the en­zyme con­tent by

look­ing up the “di­astatic power” of your malt on the malt’s 1 data TO sheet. Most 7 of the en­zymes come from your base malt, and you only need to be con­cerned about ad­di­tional steps if you are us­ing a very large por­tion of non-bar­ley or un­der­mod­i­fied base malt in your beer. For the vast ma­jor­ity of bar­ley-based beers, a sin­gle-step mash is suf­fi­cient.

I’m con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing some kind of fil­ter sys­tem for my beer. What type of fil­ter should I use, and how is fil­ter­ing best done?

Of­ten you can achieve ma­ture, clear beer with­out fil­ter­ing if you have the time avail­able to let nat­u­ral pro­cesses work. How­ever, in a com­mer­cial en­vi­ron­ment, brew­ers fre­quently fil­ter the beer to re­duce the time needed for their beer to clear so they can get it to mar­ket more quickly, as time is money. They also want to re­move the yeast from the beer be­fore bot­tling to avoid shelf-sta­bil­ity is­sues.

At a home­brew level, fil­ter­ing is best done be­tween two kegs. Most home­brew­ing fil­ters are in­line fil­ters you set in the trans­fer line be­tween the two kegs. The

CO2 beer is forced us­ing pres­sure from the source keg through the fil­ter and into a clean des­ti­na­tion keg. You can fil­ter a 5-gal­lon (19 l) keg in as lit­tle as 10 to 15 min­utes, which is a quick way to get your beer cleared.

There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of fil­ters avail­able. I rec­om­mend stay­ing away from sim­ple water fil­ters be­cause many are not re­ally sized or de­signed to han­dle beer yeast and sed­i­ment. Ce­ramic and car­bon water fil­ters can also al­ter the fla­vor of your beer. Most home­brew­ing fil­ters are sin­gle-use pa­per fil­ters de­signed with ei­ther a can­is­ter or plate lay­out. Of the two, I pre­fer the plate-style fil­ters be­cause they of­fer a wide sur­face area and are less prone to clog­ging. Al­though the pa­per fil­ters are gen­er­ally sin­gle use, you can fil­ter mul­ti­ple batches on the same day with one set of fil­ters if you plan ahead.

Per­haps as im­por­tant as the fil­ter lay­out is the fil­ter size. To re­move all yeast and sed­i­ment from the beer, you gen­er­ally need to go down to 1 mi­cron in size. How­ever a 1-mi­cron fil­ter is also prone to rapid clog­ging. To solve this prob­lem, the best idea is to use a two-stage fil­ter with a coarse 3- to 5-mi­cron fil­ter at the first stage and a finer 1-mi­cron fil­ter at the sec­ond stage.

Be­fore us­ing a fil­ter, you want to san­i­tize it—along with the hoses— prop­erly and run some clean plain water through it to flush it. This is also use­ful be­cause some units are prone to leaks, and you want to re­solve any leaks be­fore fil­ter­ing your beer. I also rec­om­mend fil­ter­ing your beer cold if pos­si­ble. Chill haze in beer is the re­sult of small mol­e­cules that bind at lower tem­per­a­ture, so cold fil­ter­ing your beer will re­move more of this haze.

Fil­ter­ing is not for ev­ery­one. As I said at the be­gin­ning, you can ac­com­plish the same re­sults in most cases by sim­ply giv­ing your beer ad­di­tional time, but when you don’t have the time and want your beer cleared quickly, fil­ter­ing is a good op­tion.

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