Homebrew 6

Brewday - 20/10/13

Propaganda - 7% Black IPA

After the fairly mediocre results so far, I did a bit of research on water chemistry. It turns out that the pH of the mash needs to be around the 5.2-5.4 mark in order for all the enzymes to do their stuff properly and the pH is determined by a number of factors, including the type of beer you're making and the inherent hardness of the water itself.

The first step is to find out what kind of water you've got and the United Utilities website has a really handy section where you can print out a water report for your area so that's exactly what I did. It turns out that Holmes Chapel has extremely soft water - the exact opposite of what's needed for brewing pale ales. Pale grains and soft water together result in a mash that never gets down to the required pH and is not acidic enough to work properly.

It's a pretty straightforward job to add the required compounds to the water to artificially increase its hardness and this is indeed what any decent brewer would do. However, dark grains naturally create a more acidic mash and stouts and porters can therefore be made with softer water. I'm a big fan of Black IPAs (Wild Raven in particular), so I decided to make a Black IPA next, in order to have a mash which is acidic enough without having to get involved in water additions just yet. I bought some litmus papers off eBay and set about making a recipe.

My wish-list for the beer was to be a little stronger than Wild Raven and quite bitter, with a big hop aroma. I decided 7% was an acceptable strength for the style so designed the grain bill to achieve that. By a happy coincidence, with 5 gallon batches the final percentage ABV seems to turn out about the same as the total grain weight in kilos, so I would need 7kg of grain.

Grain Bill:
5550g Maris Otter
500g Light Crystal
300g Carafa III
250g Torrified Wheat
200g Chocolate Malt
100g Biscuit Malt
62g Carapils  (finishing off a bag!)
38g Wheat Malt

Total 7000g

 Mashed in.

 The runnings from the Mash Tun

 The bottom of the Boiler (Copper)

 The basic set-up.

I did an overnight mash, starting at 11.30pm into 18L of 75C strike water. This settled down to 67C and had a pH of 5.4 so I went to bed. At 5.30 the next morning, the temperature was 65C. I sparged with 75C water until there was 25L in the copper and a further 5L collected in a pan on the stove for top-ups.

Once it was boiling, I scraped the creamy foam off the surface and left for 15 mins before doing the first hop addition and timed down 60 minutes from then.

60mins 28g Target 11.12%aa
30mins 30g Chinook 13.85%aa
15mins 1tsp Protofloc
10mins 60g Amarillo 10.9%aa
10mins 20g Chinook 13.85%aa
1min 40g Amarillo 10.9%aa
1min 50g Cascade 7.7%aa
0mins 20g assorted ends inc Chinook and Styrian Goldings

Total IBU 88.45

The boil, complete with hops added.

This is a lot of bitterness but not totally off the scale and I'm hoping the style will handle it. The other big thing I changed this time round is that I had read a few articles which suggested that the yeast count from one 11g pack is simply not enough so I used two packets of Safale US-05 yeast instead of one. I hydrated them in about 500ml of boiled and cooled water at about 24C about three hours before pitching.

With the cooling coil in and everything in hand, I went upstairs to transfer Brew 5 into a different vessel for a secondary fermentation. It was this brew that I managed to tip all over the floor as per my despondent tweets last weekend. The next few hours were a bit of a blur, as I ran about the house with cloths, towels and carpet cleaning machines. Somehow though, the room got cleaned up and Brew 6 was transferred into the FV. It only made 21L, not the full 23 but I popped the yeast in and had a well-deserved sit down at about 5.30pm!

The OG was 1.069, which I was really happy with. The airlock started bubbling after a couple of hours and by day 3 it was quite vigorous, bubbling about once every 2 seconds. All my previous brews have seen a kind of spongy-looking protein suspension form and float to the top of the FV. This never got anywhere near sinking and I had to rack out from underneath it in the end. This time however, the flocs formed discrete chunks and sank to the bottom. Whether this is a product of the darker grains, the lower pH or something else, I don't know. I think it was much better though, because it allowed a textbook krausen to form on top. This was a couple of inches thick at its peak, with the trademark light and dark mottled pattern on top of the foam.

The krausen receded completely by day 7 and the gravity had dropped to 1.015, giving an ABV of just over 7%. The yeast had produced a marginally higher attenuation than expected, the numbers were perfect all the way through and I'm totally convinced about using 2 packs from now on if using packets.

On day 7, I added 50g of Cascade, straight into the FV and popped the lid back on. I'm currently planning to rack somewhere between day 10 and day 14.

I would like to have quite high carbonation to avoid the beer being heavy and claggy, so I'm going to increase the amount of sugar I mix in before bottling.

All I need to do now is not tip it all over the floor.


Well, I bottled the entire batch on day 12, adding 150g dextrose to the bottling bucket for priming. It made 36 bottles, which are now tucked away, conditioning in a box in the utility room. As usual, I couldn't resist opening one, purely for research purposes, after three days in the bottle. It was bloody lovely. Totally drinkable already, with a monstrous roasted, chocolatey taste and a big hop bouquet. The colour was jet black, it had loads of body and developed a nice foamy head, which lasted for a good 10 minutes. Just how I wanted it.

My only concern so far is that it might be a tad too bitter at 88 IBU and I reckon I might be reeling that back a bit for the next batch but on the other hand, that could mellow out over the next few weeks. It'd better be good because I've gone and opened my big mouth and promised to take a few bottles to the inaugural meeting of the Macclesfield Homebrew Society in a few weeks' time.



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