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ESB Consistency Brew

March 26, 2011

I really liked my last ESB, so I’d like to make it again.  Unfortunately, once I dig into the recipe and notes, I’m not sure that I took good notes.  First of all, it says that I added 16 grams of Gypsum (along with 1 g CaCl2) presumably when pre-boiling (since there is a 3 g CaCl2 mash addition in the recipe), resulting in a very high Calcium concentration (294).  I didn’t remember being that bold with my additions.  Could it explain why my beer was the way it was (really “soft”)?  It is consistent with Designing Great Beers‘ Burton profile, but I guess I had forgotten that I had gone all-in on that profile (because I clearly remember thinking it was wrong based on other resources).  Now:  should I go with that crazy profile or tone it down?  It all comes down to how much I believe that I actually used that profile and how much I think I just forgot to update the recipe to the actual additions…

An interesting note on high calcium:  alpha-amylase’s optimal temperature range is increased, presumably resulting in a more fermentable mash for a given temperature.  That might explain the low finishing gravity of the original brew.

Reading the club’s water presentation, I’m not sure how much of that Calcium would have even made it into the water.  Apparently gypsum is not really soluble in water near a neutral pH (something I was aware of at the time of brewing, but just didn’t worry about).  I could probably re-make the beer based just on CaCl2 additions, resulting in a pretty malty beer.  This is more consistent with what I perceived.  The high level of sulfates that would have resulted from so much gypsum should have accentuated the hop bitterness, while the beer was clearly more malty.

So, the final decision:  Pre-boil with 5 g CaCl2 to precipitate out as much bicarbonate as I can (to be left with ~50 ppm).  Add 3 g CaCl2 to the mash to replenish Ca+ (and make the beer really malty again).  Maybe later, I can try to have a more balanced or even bitter ESB.  So essentially, all I’m doing is increasing the CaCl2 in the pre-boil to take out bicarbonate (since the gypsum probably didn’t do anything the first time anyway).

Pre-Brew

Pre-boiled 4 gallons of water with 3 g CaCl2.  I had meant to put in 5 g, but my scale isn’t very accurate at that low of a reading so I resorted to what Brewer’s Friend said it should be for 3 g.  I thought I had 5 g entered for some reason and went with it.  It would be interesting to see how much calcium carbonate would have been left behind had I put in the right amount.  To compensate, I added 5 g CaCl2 to the mash, so I essentially just swapped the additions.  I don’t imagine it will have much effect.

Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe

Brew Day (3/27/2011)

Once again, I used the club’s grain mill.  This time I went with a setting one notch finer than I have been.  I’ve been stuck at 65%, which is better than I had been getting, but still not as great as I’d like.  When all was said and done, I got ~75% efficiency.  Luckily I was able to guess what the OG would end up as during the boil so I added the 4 g of pellet hops that I had along with the 2 oz (~56 g by my scale) of leaf that I had bought.  Since the original recipe just had 54 g of hops, the final BU:GU came out within the same ballpark (0.65 – 0.7).

With my super duper new immersion chiller I was able to return to my quick chilling and got the wort below 140 F (DMS threshold) in less than 2 minutes, <100 F (hot-side aeration threshold) in less than 3 minutes, and <60 in <7 minutes.  I brought it down below 60 F since I wanted to add the secondary kettle to it and didn’t want temp to rise too much.  Once I added the secondary and by the time I took a temperature (within a minute of transferring) the temp was in the 85 F range and quickly dropped to the mid-60’s where I stopped.

With this quick cooldown and yeast that was ready to go, I went from the end of the boil to pitching pretty quick (<1 hour, I think).

All in all, this brew went really well.  I can’t think of any mistakes I made that could affect the beer (though I made a few mistakes that spilled/spewed water all over the kitchen).

Yeast for this batch came from the Oatmeal Stout I kegged about 4 weeks ago (which is coincidentally the same yeast I brewed the original ESB with).  Knowing that it was so old, I made a starter a couple days prior to make sure it had time to grow and check its viability.  It seemed to do well, now I just need to hope that it was enough (1 L starter).

Fermentation

Fermentation started in earnest over night.  Not as vigorous as the original, but the temperature was initially lower at ~65 F.  After 1 day, I raised the temperature up a few degrees (from 65 F to 68 F setting on aquarium heater).

Sample after 1 week:  1.013.  Bitter and high alcohol.  Nice aroma, though.  The alcohol is definitely not as smooth as my Maibock.  Hopefully that’s just because it’s warmer and uncarbonated and it will be better when it’s cold and carbonated.

Initial Impressions

At first taste, it’s very similar to the original.  I’m pretty surprised.  When I went back to BeerSmith to check the recipe and results, I was surprised to be reminded that it’s in the 7.5% ABV range, ’cause I didn’t notice it.  Tasting it afterwards, you can taste the alcohol, though.

More Impressions

This beer has been in the keg for quite a while now, is well-carbonated, and has been drank quite a bit.  Between it and my alt that it occupied the keezer with, I definitely preferred the alt, mainly due to the high alcohol in this.  It seems, that no matter what, after 1 pint of this I can feel it.  The alcohol is fairly smooth, but I’m hoping to bottle a couple six-packs and let them sit for a while to mellow out some more.  I’ve mentioned to a couple fellow brewers that I made an ESB that had a much higher efficiency – and ABV – than I expected and they all thought I was silly for thinking that was bad.  I can’t really say they were wrong either.  The alcohol isn’t exactly “hot” so maybe I should just be happy with it.

Also side-by-side comparisons with this brew versus the previous brew, revealed that they’re really not too similar.  It’s been a while since I did it, so I can’t say exactly why, but they were easily identified as two different beers beyond the alcohol content.

Aged Impressions

This beer is getting quite a bit of evaluation…

I’ve had quite a bit of this beer set aside for a few weeks now and I just poured a 12 oz. (I think I’m only left with 22 oz. bottles now).  I think it’s very nice.  The alcohol is certainly there, but it’s not bad.  Maybe with my recent higher gravity beers, I’m less sensitive to it, but I think it’s a fine beer.  It’s still definitely too “soft” to be a good ESB for competition, but I think it’s still decent to enjoy if I’m looking for an ESB, especially if I’m looking for one with a kick (which isn’t something I do often, honestly).

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From → Ale, All-Grain, Brews

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