Partial Mash Brewing Tutorial
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Partial Mash Brewing For Gluten Free Malted Grains
by Brian Kolodzinski
There is a great passage in Dave Miller’s book ‘Homebrewing Guide’ that says working with extracts is “as easy as reconstituting orange juice from frozen concentrate”. The reason this passage is so great is because it makes the brewing process to a new brewer a little less intimidating. It does not say brewing beer is an easy process, but that the major step of creating a wort when working with extracts, is relatively easy. And that is important because there are a lot of steps in the brewing process, and the use of extracts will help build your confidence in brewing.
Compared to conventional brewing which has multiple malt and extract options, gluten free brewing currently only offers multiple malt options. The different malts are necessary to craft the wide range of beer styles that conventional brewers enjoy. Therefore you may find good cause to venture into partial mash and eventually all-grain brewing.
If working with extract is similar to reconstituting orange juice, then working with malt when partial mash brewing is similar to brewing a cup of tea. The only step added while brewing a beer using the partial mash method is to steep malt in your brew kettle before adding the extract. This simple step adds body, head retention and significantly diversifies the flavor profile.
There is one other way to make a partial mash beer that is a bit more complicated than what has been described above. The partial mash method does not allow the malt to benefit from a full mash process as does the all-grain mash process. Another option combines all-grain brewing with extract brewing. Simply put, you use a smaller grain bill that that of an all-grain beer recipe, conduct a full mash process as you would with an all-grain beer recipe, and then boost the collected wort with extract to give you your pre-boil wort volume. This will fully utilize the malt into your final beer. This method was a great option before gluten free malt was easily available and some brewers malted their own malt. It is also a way to keep the cost of gluten free beer more manageable.
- Minimal equipment needed for brewing beer:
- 20 qt. brew kettle
- reusable nylon mesh bag
- large metal stirring spoon
- measuring spoon set
- glass measuring cup
- food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy
- thermometer (preferably digital with temperature alarm)
- additional food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy
- wort chiller
- wort chiller pump
- metal fine mesh strainer
- brewing siphon
- digital scale
Reading a Recipe
In order to brew beer it is important to be able to read a recipe and know some basic terminology. Typically when you read a recipe there will be an ingredient list which may include a grain bill. A grain bill is simply a list of just the grains used in a recipe, and will only be included in partial mash or all grain recipes. Partial mash recipes are those recipes that use a combination of grains and extracts to produce the fermentable sugars needed to make beer; while all grain recipes solely relies on grains to produce the fermentable sugars. If a beer does not use any grains it is an extract recipe, meaning it uses syrup and solid sources of fermentable sugars.
Most recipes will include some of the following information:
- ABV: Alcohol By Volume.
- Boil: Total amount of time which the wort boils.
- Final Gravity (FG): The ending gravity after fermentation, used to calculate the alcohol content of the finished beer.
- IBU: International Bitterness Units are the measure of bitterness in the beer.
- Original Gravity (OG): The starting gravity prior to fermentation, attributes to the potential alcohol content of the finished beer.
- Primary Ferment: Refers to the time the finished wort ferments following the brewing process.
- Secondary Ferment: Refers to the time the finished wort ferments after primary fermentation.
- SRM : Standard Reference Method for determining the color of the beer; also used to describe the color of an ingredient such as malts and grains.
- Yield: The final volume of beer collected after conclusion of the brewing and fermentation processes.
The typical recipe will list the ingredients in the order in which they will be used in the brewing process. And because timing is critical to the brewing process, the ingredient will be accompanied by the time in the process that the ingredient is used. However, when brewing beer, the time starts at the maximum boil time and counts backwards. Therefore an ingredient that is used first, or at the start of the boil, may be denoted with “60 minutes”; while subsequent ingredients will be denoted with a time less than the first ingredient.
Partial Mash Brewing
Now that you have your equipment and can read the recipe, you are ready to brew a partial mash beer. The next step is to buy a kit or ingredients. You will have more brewing options when buying the ingredients yourself outside of a kit. While kits are convenient and easy to use, you will be limited as to the types of beers you can make with a kit simply due to the sheer number of recipes available and the limited numbers of kits. When you buy supplies for a beer recipe, use the recipe as a shopping list. You will most likely need to buy more supplies than the recipe calls for, and have to measure the amounts out when you get home. A digital scale is the most precise way of doing this. And don’t worry about the extra ingredients as you can always use them in future beers.
Before you start brewing it is important to first clean you work area and sanitize all the equipment. Sanitation is the most critical step in brewing as it prevents unwanted contaminants, mainly bacteria and wild yeasts, from getting into your beer and destroying it. Contaminated beer can be dangerous to consume and should always be disposed of. Sanitize equipment using a sanitizer designed specifically for brewing, and avoid using bleach. Bleach is alright in an emergency but should not be considered for use as a regular sanitizer. A good idea is to buy a spray bottle and fill it with sanitizer as well. Sometimes you may forget a piece of equipment and need to sanitize it quickly.
- Mill your grains to release the starches within the grain. It is recommended that you do not mill your grains coarsely, but more finely as to release as much of the starch as possible.To release the starch from within millet and buckwheat malt a mill gap setting of 0.65 – 0.70 mm is recommended. When milling rice malt you want to keep the rice hull intact while still milling the rice seed within the hull. A mill gap setting of 0.90 – 0.95 mm is recommended for rice malt.
- Mix your milled grains with 20-25% rice hulls. The rice hulls will allow for proper circulation and filtration.
- Calculate your brew kettle water volume and strike temperature.
- Add the water to the brew kettle and add your blend of grains and rice hulls in a nylon mesh bag along with the appropriate amount of Alpha Amylase enzymes.
- Cover brew kettle and let sit for recommend duration during which time the starches will be converted into fermentable sugars.
- Before mashing concludes, prepare your sparge water and add to the hot liquid tank.
- Upon conclusion of mashing, uncover brew kettle and remove nylon mesh bag leaving behind the wort.
- Sparge grains by slowly pouring sparge water through grains one quart at a time.
- Once all the wort has been collected, place brew kettle with wort on a heat source.
- While wort is coming to boil, prepare the remaining ingredients in premeasured amounts so they may be added at the appropriate times. Once the wort is near a boil, add the extract as instructed per the recipe. The temperature of the extract will reduce the water temperature and you will again need to allow it to return to a boil.
- Allow the wort to come to a rolling boil. This is the stage that you are waiting for a hot break, and may occur for 5-20 minutes. This is also the first stage that your wort may boil over. A boil over is when the hot break billows over the side of the brew kettle. Reduce the temperature of the wort to control.
- After the hot break has been achieved and you have allowed the wort to boil for at least five minutes, you are ready for the first addition of your hops or other ingredient. When you add your first addition of hops, start by only adding a small amount. The alpha acids in the hops may cause a boil over. You may notice the head of the wort temporarily build up again. Once the head has subsided it is safe to add the rest of the hops addition. Add all ingredients as instructed per the recipe.
- Before the boil time has expired, you will want to prepare you ice bath or wort chiller. An ice bath is a way to cool the wort without any additional equipment. It is exactly what it sounds like, a sink of ice cold water that you place the brew kettle. You never want to allow any water or other contaminates in your wort. With an ice bath, you bring down the temperature of the wort by using cold water to draw the heat out of the wort. This uses a lot of water and a lot of ice, and does take some time to complete. Another option is to use a wort chiller to pump ice cold water through the wort and draw out the heat. A wort chill conducts temperature more efficiently, and with a constant supply of cold water it reduces the temperature of the wort very quickly.
- Once the boil time has expired, immediately cover the wort and begin to bring down the temperature of the wort. This is the stage that the wort is most vulnerable to contaminants such as bacteria and wild yeast. Make sure anything the wort comes into contact with is sanitized.
- Before the temperature of the wort has reached the range which you will pitch your yeast, you first must prepare the yeast. Some yeast may be dry pitched, meaning the contents may be poured directly into the wort. While other yeasts need to be prepared or started. Follow the instructions on the yeast package.
- Once the wort has reached the temperature range which the yeast me be pitched, it can be transferred to the primary fermentation vessel. You can rack the wort using a siphon, or pour the wort using a metal fine mesh strainer. Either way, you want to leave as much sediment behind while collecting as much wort as possible.
- Now that the wort has been transferred to the primary fermentation vessel, it needs to be prepared for the yeast. Using a medal spoon or whisk, stir the wort vigorously for 4-5 minutes. This aerates the wort and should produce a frothy head.
- Pitch the yeast.
- Cover the primary fermentation vessel and insert the airlock.
- Allow the wort to sit undisturbed in a dark area at 68-70 degrees for at least one week. This will also be the most active period of fermenting.
- After one week you may rack the wort to a secondary fermenting container.
- After another week the wort can be racked to a bottling bucket and bottled with priming sugar where it will continue to age.
Congratulations, you have just brewed your first partial mash brew!