Monday, August 3, 2009

Lambic 3 - Turbid Mash

Normally summer brewing isn't my thing, but brewing outside on a cool June day at my parents' house in Massachusetts is a completely different experience from brewing in my sweltering DC apartment. This year's batch makes it three summers in a row I have brewed a lambic on my summer vacation. I enjoyed the last two brewdays so much that this year I decided to extend it by making my first attempt at a traditional turbid mash schedule.

The basic idea of a turbid mash is to draw off some of the wort during the mash, holding it hot before adding it back to reach the mash out. This liquid (because it is drawn off early and held too hot for the enzymes to work) still has starches and other complex molecules that are usually broken down before the end of the mash. These molecules are part of the reason that a traditionally made lambic takes several years to ferment as wave after wave of microbes slowly tear apart the large molecules (creating sourness and complexity as byproducts of their effort).

I was surprised that the mash regimen, while labor intensive, did not take THAT much longer than the Wyeast (cereal) lambic mash I had used for my previous two batches of lambic (probably just over 2 hours from dough-in to sparge). What I did not expect was the big drop in efficiency I experienced. The previous batches each hit 90%+ owing to the hot sparge and long boil (which allows for extra runnings to be collected). While this mash had a similar sparge and boil the starches were not fully gelatinized. Despite the fact that turbid mash is that it calls for raw (ungelatinize) wheat, you do not boil or otherwise swell/burst the starch granules during the process (which would allows the enzymes access to the starch).

For my microbes this year I added a package of Wyeast Roeselare along with a cup of slurry from last year's batch (half of which was bottled with the rest racked onto raspberries and dark cherries). That batch has a great aroma, but is a bit lacking in sourness (most likely due to the high alcohol content).

While the turbid mash didn't take too much longer than a standard mash it did involve many more steps, rests, and twists (what did kill my entire day was the 5.5 hour boil I needed to reduce the 9 gallons of pre-boil wort down to 5). Hopefully the pictures along with each step will help to make it easier to follow than the (similar) text descriptions found in either Wild Brews, and The Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers.

A Pictorial Turbid Mash

The 5 gallon mash tun, empty at the start of the day.

My big kettle started with the entire (milled) grist, 5.25 lbs of German pils and 2.75 lbs of raw hard winter wheat (a softer wheat would probably be ideal, but I couldn't find any raw).

The small kettle got spring water, heated up to 144 F. The instructions I was following called for a total of 4 gallons of water for the mash, but I started with more to account for any evaporation or adjustments to the mash temperature (which came in handy).

First 2.5 qrts of the 144 F water was mixed into the grain, to get the mash to 113 F. This is a very low water to grain ratio (.3 qrts/lb), so there was not much free liquor. Grain holds onto about .4 qrts/lb at the end of the mash, so really this step just gets the grain damp (basically no free liquid).

I mixed the water and grain together in my big kettle before transferring it into the mash tun to ensure it was thoroughly wet (the manifold in my mash tun can get in the way).

The water in the kettle was then heated to a boil and held there for the rest of the infusions.

After letting the mash rest for 20 minutes I added 4 qrts of boiling water to it to get it up to 136 F.

After 5 minutes I pulled 1 qrt of wort from the mash using the spigot (I did a brief vorlauf to remove any large chunks of grain). The 1 qrt of "turbid" wort was heated to 176 F in the big kettle to halt any enzymatic action.

Right after pulling the 1 qrt of wort I added 6 qrts of the boiling liquid to get the mash up to 150 F.

After 30 minutes I pulled 4 more quarts of wort from the mash (through the spigot again) and combined it with the wort I had pulled earlier in big kettle. I put the pot back on the heat to get it back up to 176 F.

Right after pulling the second portion of turbid wort, I added another 5 qrts of boiling water to get the mash up to 162 F.

With the final infusion complete I topped the small kettle back up, and cranked the heat to get the water up to 185 F for the sparge.

Finally I added all of the 176 F starchy wort from the big kettle to get the main mash up to 165 F (167 F was the target, but it took me more water than called for to hit my mash temps). This is hot enough that the enzymes should not work on the starches added back to the mash (preserving them for the fermentation). After about 10 minutes I then started the vorlauf (I used a piece of aluminum foil with holes poked in it to prevent the grain bed from being disturbed).

After 10 minutes recirculating the wort I started the sparge, draining from the mash tun into the big kettle, with the mash water staying hot on the turkey fryer.

90 minutes later, with the sparge complete and ~9 gallons of 1.024 runnings collected I put the big kettle on the burner and put the spurs to it. It still took about an hour to get the wort to a boil due to the large volume and underpowered burner.

I had picked out some Hallertau Selects because they had such low AA% (1.5 when they were fresh), perfect for this brew since I have been too lazy to age any hops.

I added the hops just as the boil was starting.

Even with the large volume of very hot sparge water my efficiency wasn't great and it took .5 lbs of light dry malt extract to get me up to my target OG of 1.048. Assuming the same efficiency (74%) 5.75 lbs of pils and 3 lbs of wheat would have gotten me there (along with 10% more water at each step of the mash). With the 5.5 hour boil completed, the wort chilled to 68 with my immersion chiller, and the hops strained out, I drained the wort into a 6 gallon Better Bottle.

Once the transfer was complete I pitched a pack of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend along with a cup of slurry from last summer's lambic. Fermentation took off quickly, and after a few days added 1 oz of house toast Hungarian oak which I had boiled in water for 30 minutes to reduce the tannins.

I'll figure out if all the work was worth it when I try the beer next summer.

Lambic 3.0

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.50
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated SRM: 3.5
Anticipated IBU: 12.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74 %
Wort Boil Time: 330 Minutes

5.25 lbs. German Pilsener
2.75 lbs. White Wheat
0.50 lbs. Muntons DME - Light

3.00 oz. Hallertauer Select @ 330 min.

1.00 Oz House Toast Hungarian Oak Cubes

WYeast 3763 Roeselare Yeast + Slurry (Wyeast Lambic Blend, Russian River Chips, 3F Gueuze)

Water Profile
Spring Water

Mash Schedule
Turbid Mash - See description

Brewed 6/29/09 By myself

Raw hard winter wheat from Whole Foods used in the mash. Bottled spring water used with no adjustments. Traditional turbid mash employed.

Collected ~9 gallons of 1.024 runnings. Super long boil because it just simmered for the first hour or two on my turkey fryer. Added 1.5% AA poly bag stored hops at the start of the boil. Added DME to compensate for lower than expected extraction near the end.

Chilled to around 68 then pitched most of a pack of Roeselare and about a cup of slurry from lambic 2.0. Fermentation took off quickly in my parent's storage closest which was in the mid-60s ambient. After a few days added 1 oz of house toast Hungarian oak which I had boiled in water for 30 minutes to mellow.

10/14/10 Racked 2 gallons of the beer onto 2 lbs of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

10/15/10 Bottled the remaining 3 gallons with 3.5 oz of table sugar.

3/23/11 Ended up a bit more carbonated than I expected, but the flavors are great (funk, citrus, minerals). Sourness is a bit lacking, but still a great beer.

7/21/12 Bottled the grape portion... finally. 1.5 oz of table sugar and a bit of rehydrated Red Star Premier Cuvée. Sourness has come up a bit, but it is slightly vinegary. Still a bit cloudy, we shall see.

3/19/13 Finally a tasting of the Cabernet sauvignon aged portion. Nice mix of light fruit accented by lemons and funk. Similar to the plain version in that it is close, but not quite there. The flavors don't mesh in a way that works seamlessly.


Todd said...

I've been waiting for this post for a while. I've got a turbid mash lambic, also with Roselare (and some dregs) that's been in the fermenter since mid-may. Hopefully these things are worth all the time spent mashing and boiling down.

Was the schedule you used mostly from Wild Brews? Did you change anything?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yeah, I've been sitting on those pictures for a month trying to find the time to toss this post together.

I used the Biohazard schedule (Cantillon from Brewing Techniques) for the most part. It had hard volume which I found easier to deal with. Wild Brews uses percentages, which is easy enough for the infusions, but instructions like "remove 33% of the liquid from the mash" seemed pretty tough to get right.

Wild Brews and Biohazard had pretty similar schedules, although Wild Brews was a bit more aggressive with the amount of liquid pulled and the temperature it was held at (which would improve efficiency).

I had to add extra water several times to hit my temperatures, but other than that I didn't really make any changes.

Good luck on your brew! What is another 5 hours on a beer that takes a year or two?

Ryan_PA said...

Where are you finding your Hallertau Selects? I have read you mention these for your lambics several times, and I have not yet found them in any LHBS (not that you are anywhere near me) or any online store.

I have been tinkering with artificially aging hops, but it is more work than I would want to do if I get the same results with the selects.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I had actually bought some ~3% AA Hersbrucker to use, but I needed to make a quick run to Strange Brew ( after I went up to MA for a carboy and they had Selects for ~$2/oz. The first time I ordered them through Northern Brewer, not sure if they still have them.

Honestly unless you are doing a spontaneous fermentation I don’t think it is worth the effort to age hops because you don’t have to worry about rogue microbes taking over the fermentation.

Josh said...

Aren't you an accountant? 33% is 1/3rd. :)

Let me know how this goes. Also what temp do you rest these at?

Now that I'm a new homeowner I was all about OH I CAN LAGER NOW.

My basement stays at 70F. :(

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My point was how you figure out what 33% (1/3) of the liquid in the mash means without draining the whole thing? You could do an estimate, but I wanted to have the values.

This one is sitting in a room off my parents' garage, probably in the low 70. Few lambic brewers have any temp control, the seasonal change contributes to the character of their beers.

Josh said...

Also on a completely unrelated note: I'm digging the posts with more pictures in them.

Scott said...

Time for you to buy a banjo burner. I can get 9 gallons of wort boiled down to 5.5 gal in 90 minutes, depending on humidity. 5.5 hrs to boil down is a huge drag on an otherwise great brew day.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I am closing on a house next Tuesday, so I will certainly be getting a new brewing rig in the near future.

Ryan_PA said...

Mike, any idea why I am getting more than double your IBU calculation when I plug 3 ounces of 1.5% hops in for 330 min?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

We are probably just using different formulas. I forget what my ProMash is set to use, what are you using?

Ryan_PA said...

ProMash as well. I think I need to drop the boil time to under an hour to get your numbers with the same quantity (by ratio since I am scaling up to 60 Gal)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I am using the Tinseth with a 1.15 concentration factor. What formula is your ProMash set to?

I don't know if ProMash takes it into account, but larger boils do a better job with hop utilization.

bellebouche said...

Good to re-read this and your Lambic 2.0 posts... found them again when doing a google for 'turbid mash' - you're right up there.

My thoughts are turning to Lambics at this time of year as the cherry trees in the garden here are teeming with underripe fruit. I've also bought in a load of wheat berries (for feeding to chickens!) and have sacks of old wild hops left from 2007/2008 harvests.

Everything is in place I guess... time to give it a whirl and get the base beer made. When it comes round to 2011 I'll be ready and waiting for those cherries!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds awesome, I've been thinking about planting a couple cherry trees at my house. I wonder if there is anyway to get my hands on a Schaerbeek, the traditional type used in Kriek...

John-Patrick said...

I just started the boil for a kriek based primarily on this turbid mash schedule. Some mash temps needed some adjusting, but I nailed a couple too. In the spring I'll be adding the 2010 and 2011 crop of tart cherries from my tree. Thanks for posting this.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Glad to hear, hope it turns out well. I’ve been wanting to plant a couple sour cherry trees in my backyard, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I just bottled this batch a couple weeks ago (and put half onto Cabernet grapes), after less than two weeks the carbonation was already at or above where I wanted it… hopefully the Champagne yeast was just quick.

John-Patrick said...

I brewed a Lambic today combining this brew schedule and some JZ/BN tips and got some great looking/smelling wort. Eleven hours from milling to pitching without any snags, and year old attic aged hops but it will be worth it (and it was fun). My nearly year old Lambic based on your Lambic 2.0/3.0 smells great too in the carboy. Thanks for the posts throughout the years!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Glad to hear! Are you planning on a vertical blending, Gueuze type beer? That's my eventual goal, not sure I'll ever make Lambic to do it though.

ryanb said...

Are you just switching on and off the same burner?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep, just switching the pots back and forth although it would certainly be easier with a second burner.

Unknown said...

Looking to brew a beer with bugs. Either a Lambic or Flanders Red. A bit confused about what to brew in. There seems to be three options. Listened to Jamils podcast on Flanders Reds and he suggests using a plastic bucket and letting it sit for a year or more there. His podcast on Lambics is more sketchy and does not say what he ferments in. There are guys who seem to stick a skinny oak stick into the bong and have it go into the beer in a glass carboy -this scares me. There are others who seemed to use an large oak plug in the glass carboy, not sticking into the beer. Others seem to just use a regular glass carboy with an airlock. Do you have any suggestions based on your brewing experience with these types of beers?



The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No offence to Jamil and all he has done getting homebrewers to brew better beer, but the advice I have heard from him on sour beers is usually lacking. He seems to try to apply the same basic rules and techniques that work for clean beers, and that is a mistake. You can make a mediocre sour beer with his suggestions, but it won’t be great.

I think the oxygen transfer issue has been blown way out of proportion. For your first batch a carboy or better bottle with an airlock is the safest way to age the beer. The big risk with a bucket is that you will not have a good indication if the seal is letting air in. They are fine for primary, but I would avoid them for long term aging

I tried the oak peg thing years ago and had issues (cracked carboy) and even when it worked passed through a stopper the results were no better than using an airlock and oak cubes. If you like a vinegary character in your reds (which is what a high amount of oxygen during aging will get you) I would get it from blending in some beer aged in an open vessel.

Hope that helps, good luck!

Unknown said...

Thanks Mike

Bit more nervous about doing this one as it is such a long time before you get feedback from your beer as to whether you treated it right. Was going to try the Turbid mash schedule using whole wheat I got at my local Coop. Maybe do a cereal mash first with the wheat. A bit worried as heading into winter and my basement is in the 50's during this time, St Paul MN

Anonymous said...

Mike, Did you use UNMALTED wheat? If so, do you have any idea what to plug into Beersmith for Yield Potential, etc?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes, unmalted, and even more specifically wheat that had not been flaked or torrified. You do not want the starches to be gelatinized, which allows some to be carried through into the wort.

Anonymous said...

RE: Turbid Mash. Any reason not to do straight decoctions for each temperature step? Is there a reason not to boil the decocted portion for a lambic?

Unknown said...

Have any pictures of a glass of the finished product?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There is a link at the very bottom of the post to the tasting notes (which includes a picture).

Unknown said...

I am getting ready to brew a Lambic and have a question for you. Do you oxygenate your wort on a Lambic?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes, I aerate/oxygenate in the same way I would for any other beer. Yeast (both Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces) need oxygen to build healthy cell walls.

Mike said...

What are your thoughts on fermcap in the boil. I have a 35 gallon wine barrel ready to fill, 2lbs of debittered hops and a gallon of grown up dregs. Psyched to get this going.
I want to do it in 2 batches and beersmith is giving me a 35 gallon preboil for the bigger batch. Question is can I use fermcap to max out my 30 and 15 gallon pots for the boil? Just worried fermcap might effect the beer negatively? Pellicle formation? What do you think? Thanks.

Mike said...

I meant 20 and 15 gallon pots.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I know plenty of people use Ferm Cap, but it isn’t my thing. That said, the first dark/sour saison I brewed with my friend Noah had it in the boil, and the beer turned out fine.

If you are doing two batches it is surprising that you’d have a pre-boil volume of 35 gallons for one of them even with an extended boil. Maybe just collect a slightly lower volume of runnings, aim for a higher gravity, and top-off with a bit of water? You could also hold a few gallons of the runnings back, and add them after an hour of boiling.

Good luck!

Mike said...

I am actually making 45 gallons, 35 for the Barrel, and then two 5 gallon carboys that will receive different dregs and bugs. They will act as top off for the barrel and added complexity for blending later down the road.
I have a 20 gallon Electric Brewery clone, but have an extra hand and his 15 gallon pot for one day, hence the uneven split.
I may try holding 5 gallons of preboil in an igloo cooler and top up the boil kettles as they get down reasonably. I put a 2 hour boil in beersmith with a 1.5 gallon/HR boil off, so I should have room for all 5 gallons within the boil time. Just cautious about fermcap as a lot of money and time is going into this beer.
thanks for all the info and support on this site. I am sure you have your hands in hundreds of sour beers being brewed. Not literally.
On a separate note, do you know how to get ECY20 anywhere? for sale or trade?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like a good plan, best of luck!

No, I'd love to see Al step up his production. I haven't been able to buy any East Coast Yeast since I stopped by Priceton Homebrew last year.

Tichols said...

Hey Mike,
You've really gotten me interested in sours now. And i want to make some asap. However I do not have access wine grapes or dregs, and it isnt exactly cherry season. Should I wait til next summer, or use dregs from a bought lambic? Can I use apples perhaps?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Mission accomplished! Can you get a yeast/bacteria blend from Wyeast or White Labs? That is the easiest place to start with sours. I think pitching a healthy dose of standard ale yeast (your choice) is a good idea too. If you get another culture or some dregs later, then you can add them when you do.

If you want to add fruit flavor, it is best to do that after the beer has already aged for 6-12 months, so brewing now would be perfect timing for next summer's harvest.

Good luck, and let me know if you run into any other questions!

Tichols said...

Alright! Perfect timing :D
I think Im pretty set, I will pick up some yeast and brett at my store - they have the whitelab selection. Another homebrewer offered to hook me up with grapes next summer, yay! Im going to Copenhagen Beer Celebration in may, with some luck - somebody there will have dregs. Otherwise Ill drink another cantillon, and see if I can harvest some there.
So... just one question - how many grapes per gal/liters?
Thanks again

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like you're all set!

Hard to give a definite amount, but about 2 lbs per gallon was right with the Cabernet sauvignon grapes we added to our pale sour (1 lb per gallon of the same grapes in this one wasn't enough). 2 lbs per gave a great fresh raspberry aroma, you'd have to go higher if you want it really vinous and wine-like.

Cheers, and good luck!

Tichols said...

Hehe - Im gonna need a larger carboy then :)
Just got the bret and belgian sour blend at my local store. They didnt have any hops with AA below 4.5%, so im actually considering using some I picked in the forest some months ago:P
I have no idea what the AA is, but generally native danish hops have very low AA :)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've got some homegrown hops aging for an eventual batch of local-lambic. Not as much fun as wild hops though. Best of luck on yours!

John said...

Mike--I am about to brew my first Lambic (10 gallons-5g roeselare, 5g Belgian Lambic blend and might toss in dregs) I have been following your blog for a while and I was wondering if the lack our sourness you have experienced with your lambics is due to not using the aged hops? The lacto that would create a lot of the tartness and sourness doesnt like IBUs and even with low AA hops you are boiling for a long time and there is bound to be some IBUs. Thoughts? Btw, Brandon @ embracethefunk is helping me with this lambic, hes a member of the homebrew club I am president of...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is actually the point of using aged hops in a lambic, to reduce the role Lactobacillus plays in fermentation. Lambic brewers want the Pediococcus to be the primary acid producer. This isn't a big deal with a pitched lambic, but with spontaneous fermentation the heat-tolerant and prodigious Lacto could drop the pH too quickly, before the Saccharomyces has a chance for a good primary fermentation without the hops.

Pedio can be a bit finicky, so it may just not be getting rolling in my case.

Good luck brewing, and let me know if you run into any issues.

Ryan_CA said...

Hey Mike,
I brewed 15 gallons of my first lambic a la turbid mash last week using 65/35 barley to raw wheat, thanks to all the great info on your site. Everything went smoothly and I ended up with 17 gallons topped off to the brim of my fermenter with 1055 wort. I ended up not having the bugs handy after the brew day so I only pitched my ale yeast. I am expecting the bugs to arrive in the mail sometime early this week (roughly 10 days between sacc pitch and bug arrival). Do you think this will affect my overall outcome negatively? I have mixed vials of WY and WLP brett, lacto and pedio strains, as well as a few smack packs of WY lambic blend coming. I know you like to pitch everything all at once. Thanks for the great info here!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Odds are the beer will be less sour than it would have been with bugs from the start, but with a turbid mash it is less of an issue because you are creating all sorts of complex dextrins that the primary yeast won't ferment.

Commercial cultures are great, but some bottle dregs will help boost that muted sourness as they tend to contain more aggressive microbes.

Hope that helps, best of luck!

w3 said...

Just wanted to confirm you used raw wheat that was whole, i.e. not crushed or milled? I see your comment about using ungelatinized wheat, so no cereal mash either? Assuming the barley malt was crushed?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I buy raw wheat that hasn't been milled, but then I mill it. It's pretty tough on the mill, but I've never had a problem. If you use flaked wheat there really isn't a good reason to do a turbid mash, which converts some of the wheat's starches and gelatinizes/extracts most of the rest.

Paul said...

I brewed up a lambic using this method last spring using ecy bugfarm and wow is thing sour. Do you find that the sourness mellows with age as the Brett takes over and gets more complex? Or does it just continue to sour more? Starting to think I should have reserved this to blend with something not so incredibly sour.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sourness can mellow slightly with age, but not much. if the gravity is still dropping, it could continue to increase in acidity. Certainly nice to have an acid beer on hand to add sharpness to under-sour batches.

Paul said...

I'm thinking it was the 9 lbs of apricot puree I added. I've never had a beer quite this sour and it may be the citric acid I'm not used to, it certainly isn't acetic it's just sharply sour. It looks like I'll have to get used to it, next time I'll follow your advice and just fruit half of the batch

Unknown said...

i would advise anyone who wants to understand the true nature of Belgian/Northern France turbid mashing to read this journal paper from 1918 (its free, like all articles 12 months old and over)

This will enlighten a lot of you, who are a far way off with understanding both the process and the reasons behind it.

Uncle said...

Hi Mike,

thanks a lot for this post.
I'm trying to build a spreadsheet, in order to up/downscale the recipe.
Could you please tell me how did you calculate the volumes of boiling water to add to reach the 150F and 162F steps ?
I'm trying to calculate these volumes with the palmer's equations, but without success. ( )

I think the reason lies in the fact that a fraction of liquor is removed from the mash tun before adding the simmering water.

Is there an easy way to calculate the amount of water to add at these steps, when the recipe is being up or downscaled ?

Oh, and thank you a lot for your book. It was my most inspiring last year reading !

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I used ProMash, but the brew day itself required some trial and error. Adding water, stirring, taking a reading and adding more if needed. You can certainly try to scale everything linearly based on the amount of grain/water I started with, but that may not be perfect for your equipment. Best of luck!

Uncle said...

Thank you ! I will try this way.

Pikotrubos said...

Translated your recept into Russian and posted on Pikabu (Russian Reddit)
so now you have a little more audience