Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brewday - Oatmeal Stout

I've been away from brewing now for a few weeks and thats allowed me to catch up on bottling and think about what direction I want to move in next. Overall I think I want to focus on improving my techniques and methods in order to have greater control over the brewing process, which will hopefully allow me to make better beer. I decided I wanted to make an oatmeal stout (to be followed by a Russian Imperial stout) and I discussed in one of my last posts the new method I wanted to try involving steeping, as opposed to mashing, the dark grains. I also decided to try a mashout, as my efficiency has been less than expected in my last few batches, something I mainly blame on the temperature in the grain bed dropping too low during the sparge.

The cold-steeping method I used requires a 24 hour steep at room temperature so I made this several days before I brewed. I was intrigued that, similar to crystal malts, it is not necessary to mash dark malts, and sure enough when I tested the gravity on the steep it was 1.047, barely below my overall target gravity of 1.055. No enzyme activity necessary, just steeped and ready to go.

The brewday itself involved more steps than I was used to, and this led to a more challenging and incredibly fun brew. I started by using reverse osmosis water from the supermarket as I have read about the bad effects of chlorine and chloramines that are present in our tapwater. I then added gypsum to provide some calcium, which would normally be present in our tapwater, but is stripped out by the RO process. Small amounts of calcium is apparently important for various aspects of mash chemistry.

The mash was an increased challenge as I had to account for the later addition of the steeped grains as well as the mashout addition. A mashout is not something I've ever really bothered with. The idea is to heat the mash to the point that the enzymes in the malt become denatured, fixing the ration of fermentables to non-fermntables in the wort. It also has the added benefit of raising the temperature for effective sparging right from the beginning of the sparge. Since I wanted to try to improve my efficiency and also keep a high amount of unfermentables in the wort for added body this seemed the perfect time to try it. I wasn't able to raise the temp as much as I hoped, but it was a good learning experience for next time and my overall efficiency was largely improved.

I even got the chance to try out a friend's refractometer, a device that can read gravity with only a few drops of sample, and even account for temperature without annoying conversion calculators. Its was incredibly easy to use and tested against my hydrometer in both pre and post-boil samples the reading were within .001. The only problem I had was the occasional highly innaccurate reading, possibly caused by some water getting into the sample. It is also apparently quite difficult to use on beer once fermentation has begun, so for these reasons I would not abandon the hydrometer completely, but rather use the two in conjunction. I'm definitely getting one of my own just for its ease of use and for the minuscule samples required to operate it.

This brew went great with only some minor hiccups and I'm now really looking forward to refining some of what I learned and applying it to a Russian Imperial Stout. Until then...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm intrigued by the cold steeping, that is a new technique to me. I'm interested to find out how it turns out.

    Just a note on the chloramine issue, campden tablets will effectively get rid of it. I believe the dosing is 1/4 campden tab per 5 gallons of water, I just throw it right in when I'm heating the strike (and later sparge) water.

  3. Ya for sure, I just wanted to try using RO water, but campden tablets are probably a hell of a lot quicker and easier.

    We will have to compare Russian Imperial Stouts soon by the way... yours sounded pretty good.

  4. Definitely. I'm throwing mine in the secondary tomorrow, so I'll get my first chance to taste it. When are you brewing yours?

  5. I'm curious to know if you use any Forced Carbonation (Extraneous Carbonation) in any of your processes?



  6. Hey Eric. The RIS went down last weekend, I'll post on it soon, gonna transfer it today... time for that all important first taste.

    Mr. Bru Gordon, thanks for writing. I am a pretty ardent bottle fermenter, at least for the time being. Soon I'll start doing some forced carbing but my Belgian brews will remain bottle carbed. I was looking at your site... meadery on Galiano hey? Sounds awesome, I would love to check it out, my godmother Isabelle lives there and it's a great place.