Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Triple Decocted Czech Pilsner Recipe

One of the decoctions boiling away on the stove.A few months ago my first Czech Pilsner stumbled out of the starting blocks, with the yeast failing to start fermenting. After pitching lager yeast for a second time I ended up resorting to a pack of US-05 to get it going.  It ended up being a solid beer, but since then I’ve been looking for an excuse to brew the recipe again. When I found out that Pilsner Urquell was putting on a Czech Pilsner homebrewing contest in DC I was ready to go.

Czech Pilsner wort in my fermentation fridge.Other than pitching active yeast... I tweaked the process/ingredients in a couple places to try to improve on my first attempt. I swapped out the "regular" Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt for the floor malted version which is supposed to impart greater maltiness (and added 1% acid malt to ensure proper conversion pH with the soft water). I also stepped up from a double decoction to a triple using the mash schedule suggested by Weyermann (which surprisingly did not include a protein rest). My final alteration was to add a flameout hop addition to bolster the spicy Saaz aroma, especially because this beer will spend 8 weeks lagering before I put it on tap.

The contest isn't being held until August 10th, but I’d like to get the beer on tap a few weeks before then to give me time to dial in the carbonation. At that point I’ll also decide whether it is worth fining the beer with gelatin, and/or adding a Saaz hop tea to boost the aromatics. Hopefully all the effort pays off and I win the grand prize (a trip for two to Prague), but with 50 entries I'm going to need a lot of luck.

Chilling with my new recirculating pump.This was also my first time using my new submersible pump to chill the wort.  I used ground water to knock the temperature down to 80 before switching over to pumping ice water through my immersion chiller.  It worked really well allowing me to get the beer down to pitching temperatures despite my 70 degree tap water.  I'll be using this pump for ales as well this summer as my tap water climbs up into the 80s.

Anyone else enter in DC? Chicago? New York?  The event requires that the brewers show up with their entries, so I'm hoping everyone brings extra to share with the other contestants.  I'm also hoping Pilsner Urquell brings some of their more traditional beers that are usually only available in and around the brewery.

Protein goo left on the surface of the mash after the first sparge.Bohemian Lager

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.75
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.13
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated SRM: 4.0
Anticipated IBU: 42.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

98.8% - 10.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted BoPils
1.2% - 0.13 lbs. Acid Malt

1.50 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.90% AA) @ 75 min.
1.25 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.90% AA) @ 30 min.
1.25 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.90% AA) @ 10 min.
1.25 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.90% AA) @ 0 min.

0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

WYeast 2001 Urquell Lager

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC diluted with 66% distilled

Mash Schedule
Acid Rest 90 min @ 101 (Infuse)
Sacch I 45 min @ 148 (Decoction)
Sacch II 30 min @ 162 (Decoction)
Mash Out 10 min @ 170 (Decoction)

4/23/11 Made a ~3 qrt starter with a 2 month old smack pack. Good activity within 24 hours. Fermented out in 5 days, at which point I crash cooled it to drop out the yeast.

Brewed 5/1/11

Decanted yeast and put it in the fermentation fridge at 45 F to start bringing it up to fermentation temp.

6 gallons of Distilled water to cut 2 gallons of DC water. Mashed with 3 gallons distilled, plus 1 gallon filtered DC. Added 2 pints distilled plus 1 tap to the first decoction (pulled 10 qrts of mostly grain). A bit over the temp target on my first rest ~155, so I left it for 25 minutes and then proceeded to the boil. A few degrees low on the Sacch rest ~147.5. Added an extra 5 min.

Collected 6.75 gallons of 1.047 runnings with a batch sparge, great efficiency due to decoctions, mash-out etc... Added a bit of extra filtered tap water at a few points to dilute the boil.

Chilled to ~50 F, strained, allowed to settle for 10 minutes before racking to the fermenter. Left quite a bit of trub/hop residue behind. 60 seconds of pure O2, then pitched the starter, which I had fed 2 pints of wort once it had been brought to a boil. Boiled 2 qrts of water to add the following morning to get the gravity down to the target gravity.

24 hours later some activity at 45 F ambient.

Four days into fermentation I started raising the ambient temp by 1 F a day to prevent the yeast from cooling as the slowed down. Four days in 46, five 47, six 48, seven 49, eight 50.

5/11/11 Moved out of the fridge for a diacetyl rest. Ambient temp ~65 F. Fermentation appears to be about complete.

5/17/11 Moved to a keg, gravity down to 1.012. Just a hint of sulfur. Dropped temp to 33 F to lager for a couple months before serving.

7/11/11 Moved to the kegerator and hooked up to 10 PSI.  Really murky/yeasty on the first few pours, hopefully just the yeasty trub kicked up from moving it.

7/12/11 Added 3/4 pack of Knox gelatin hydrated in 1/2 cup of room temperature water and then dissolved with 3/4 cup of boiling water. Already tastes much cleaner/crisper after settling overnight.  Still waiting on the hop tea...

7/21/11 The gelatin did a great job clearing it, although it is not quite as brilliant as Pilsner Urquell.  The flavor, and the malt in particular is great, but it is slightly more buttery than I wanted.  We'll see if that changes over the next few weeks before the competition.

7/27/11 Steed 1 oz of hops in 1 pint of water just off the boil. After 10 minutes strained through cheesecloth and added the hop tea to the keg.

8/10/11 Made the final round at the Pilsner Urquell Master Hombrewer Competition (top 6), but failed to medal.  Really happy with the way it turned out, cleaned up nicely, and has a great hop aroma.


-- said...

I am entered in the DC region. I brewed two batches and will compare them before choosing which to enter. Both of the recipes were pretty similar to yours (floor malted bopils malt with double decoction and 100% saaz hopped).

I'll definitely bring a few extra bottles to share in August. Good luck!

Dank brewer said...

I'm entering my Abominable Snow Pilz into the mix at the Chicago location. Brewed it with Snow for the water source (naturally soft) I did two versions exactly the same as an experiment, one double decoction, and one double step infusion. I'll be competing the decocted version in the Milwaukee German Fest Homebrew competition in July. Depending on the results, I'll make the trek from Minneapolis to Chicago! Cheers!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Using snow should get you some points in the "Artistic impression" section of the score.

Good luck to both of you!

Seanywonton said...

Sounds like a great recipe! I think you are right to fine this beer, it would especially pay off in competition. I have also really liked shortening my keg dip tubes by about a half-inch (beer loss of 1 pint) to get super-clear beer with no additional transfers.

Luke said...


How in the hell do you keep your stovetop so clean with all of that sticky sugar water flying around?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You just can't see the well around the burner...

Matt said...

What do your chilling times look like with that pump?

Texas groundwater in the summer doesn't do me any favors and that looks a lot more affordable than a Therminator or counter flow setup.

Good luck with the competition!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I bet I was down to lagering temps in 30 min. 20 min with the ground water, 10 more with the ice. You could get more ice (I only had 14 lbs) and switch over sooner to speed things up even more. A Therminator wouldn’t even help you since it can’t chill the wort below the temperature of the ground water.