Brewing Mildly

[This is one of my geekier posts, here. As a creative generalist, I typically “write for a general audience.” Whether or not I have an actual audience in mind, my default approach to blog writing is to write as generally as possible. But this post is about homebrewing. As these things go, it’s much easier to write when you assume that “people know what you’re talking about.” In this case, some basic things about all-grain brewing at home. Not that I’m using that obscure a terminology, here. But it’s a post which could leave some people behind, scratching their heads. If it’s your case, sorry. But, you know, “it’s my blog day and I’ll geek if I want to.” As for the verb tenses and reference to time, I’m writing much of this as I go along.]


Generated a recipe for a Mild (11A) using BeerTools and posted it in their recipe library.

So Far (So Good)/Lo Five

That generated recipe is serving as the basis for two recipes I’m mashing right now (June 8, 2008). One, “So Far (So Good),” close to this generated one, is a single-step (infusion) mash with a simple grainbill, to be fermented with S-04 (so it’s “British style”). The other (“Lo Five”) is a multi-step mash with a more complex grainbill (added Carastan, Caramel 80, and chocolate). “Lo Five” is to be fermented with SS-05 (so it’s something of an “American style”).

I’ve copied the main details of this generated recipe in the standalone BeerTools Pro desktop application (version 1.5.9 beta, WinXP; also available on Mac OS X). I then tweaked that generated recipe a tiny bit to suit my needs for the “So Far.”

Here’s the version I used, before I started brewing:

So Far (So Good)

11-A Mild

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 5,0 gal
Efficience: 75,0%
Atténuation: 75,0%
Calories: 114,99 kcal per 12,0 fl oz

Densité Initiale: 1,035 (1,030 – 1,038 )

Terminal Gravity: 1,009 (1,008 – 1,013)

Couleur: 13,81 (12,0 – 25,0)

Alcool: 3,41% (2,8% – 4,5%)

Amertume: 16,9 (10,0 – 25,0)


1,0 ea Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04
2.5 kg 6-Row Brewers Malt
150 g Brown Malt
150 g Vienna Malt
150 g Munich TYPE I
200 g Special B – Caramel malt
0.5 oz Challenger (8,0%) – added during boil, boiled 90 min
11,0 g Strisselspalt (3,3%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min


Air ambiant: 70,0 °F
Source Water: 130,0 °F
Altitude: 0,0 m

00:13:00 MashinEaud Empâtage: 1,91 gal; Strike: 173,56 °F; Target: 158,0 °F
01:33:00 Sacc 1Rest: 80 min; Final: 158,0 °F
02:13:00 Fly SpargeSparge Volume: 4,0 gal; Sparge Temperature: 168,0 °F; Runoff: 3,48 gal


Trying for a relatively simple mild. May skip the Strisselspalt. Doing two similar recipes.

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.9b

I then cloned that recipe and tweaked it a bit more to get my “Lo Five” recipe. Here’s the recipe I used before I started brewing:

Lo Five

11-A Mild

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 5,0 gal
Efficience: 75,0%
Atténuation: 75,0%
Calories: 106,17 kcal per 12,0 fl oz

Densité Initiale: 1,032 (1,030 – 1,038 )

Terminal Gravity: 1,008 (1,008 – 1,013)

Couleur: 17,05 (12,0 – 25,0)

Alcool: 3,15% (2,8% – 4,5%)

Amertume: 15,0 (10,0 – 25,0)


1,0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05
2 kg 6-Row Brewers Malt
150 g Brown Malt
150 g Vienna Malt
150 g Munich TYPE I
200 g Special B – Caramel malt
105 g Light Carastan
125 g 2-Row Caramel Malt 80L
50 g 2-Row Chocolate Malt
0.5 oz Challenger (8,0%) – added during boil, boiled 90 min


Air ambiant: 70,0 °F
Source Water: 130,0 °F
Altitude: 0,0 m

00:03:00 MashinEaud Empâtage: 2,02 gal; Strike: 130,09 °F; Target: 122,0 °F
00:21:36 Ramp 1Heat: 18,6 min; Target: 150 °F
00:41:36 Sacc 1Rest: 20 min; Final: 150,0 °F
01:00:12 Ramp 2Heat: 18,6 min; Target: 158 °F
01:20:12 Sacc 2Rest: 20 min; Final: 158,0 °F
01:38:49 MashoutHeat: 18,6 min; Target: 170,0 °F
02:18:49 Fly SpargeSparge Volume: 3,72 gal; Sparge Temperature: 168,0 °F; Runoff: 3,23 gal


Trying for a relatively simple mild. May skip the Strisselspalt. Doing two similar recipes.

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.9b

On a whim (and because I just found out I had some), I switched the hops on the Lo Five to Crystal at 4.9% A.A. One half-ounce plug as first wort hopping, and another half-ounce pellet for the full boil. According to BeerTools Pro, t brings my bitterness level either below BJCP-sanctioned 10-25 IBUs for a Mild (11A) if I don’t add the boil time (FWH isn’t supposed to contribute much bitterness), or at two-thirds of the bitterness range if I add the full boil time.

The “brown malt” is actually some 6-row I roasted in a corn popper. The one in the “Lo Five” is darker (roasted longer) than the one in the “So Far.”

I’ve been having a hard time with the temperature for the “So Far.” I ended up doing a pseudo-decoction and adding some hot water to raise the temperature to something closer to even the low end of the optimal range for saccharification. This is the first batch I mash in a mashtun I got from friends in Austin. I used the strike temperature from the BeerTools Pro software (174F) but I hadn’t set the “heat capacity” and “heat transfer coefficient.” As I usually mash in my Bruheat, I rarely think about heat loss.

On the other hand, I largely overshot the strike temperature on the Lo Five. Two main reasons, AFAICT. One, the Bruheat I mashed the Lo Five in also served to preheat some sparge water, so it was still pretty hot. Second, the hot water from the sink was around 140F instead of 130F, as I had expected. In this case, overshooting the strike temperature wasn’t very problematic. The idea was to do a kind of protein rest, but that’s really not important, with the well-modified malts we all use.

Sparging the Lo Five’s mash was a real treat. Very smooth flow from HLT to MT to vessel. Plus, the smell of the Crystal hops in the first runnings was just fabulous. Because I “recirculate” during the mash, with my Bruheat, I didn’t have to recirculate, yet the runnings were quite clear. My sparge water was pretty much at the perfect temperature and I had just a bit extra sparge water (that I’m using in the So Far). I poured the liquid beneath the false bottom and it looked really nice. Rather clear and dark. After this, the grain bed was almost completely dry.

I did have to recirculate the So Far quite a bit. A good four litres, maybe even more. Still, it remains cloudier than most batches I’ve seen, possibly because some starches are remaining. I didn’t check conversion but I mashed long enough that I was assuming it was enough. Still, with a very low mash temperature, I may have needed an even longer mash. Actually, the mash is much cloudier than the runnings, which eventually became relatively clear.

May need to heat a bit of sparge water. Stopping the sparge in the meantime. A bit like a late mashout, it may help convert some of the remaining starch.

Oops! Was waiting for the Lo Five to boil. Thought it was taking a long time. Usually, the Bruheat gets to boiling pretty quickly. Eventually noticed that the element wasn’t running. The thermostat was still working (clicking sound when I reach the wort’s temperature) but I wasn’t hearing the sound of the element heating the wort. Unplugged the Bruheat, pressed the reset button, etc. Still wasn’t working. Was getting ready to try the clothes dryer to see if there was electricity coming through when I noticed it was in fact the dryer that I had plugged back, not the Bruheat.

Ah, well…


One thing I found interesting is that when the wort was cooling off instead of heating up, the hop aroma wasn’t as pleasant as before. As the wort heated up, the pleasant profile from the Crystal came back as it was.

These are actually old hops, kept in a vacuum-sealed package. This specific package was a bit loose, as if the vacuum-seal hadn’t worked. I expected the hops to smell old. But they smelled really nice and fresh. Their colour is a bit off, but I trust their smell more than their colour.

Eventually got a rolling boil. Because of FWH, I didn’t skim the break material from the wort, which makes for a very different boil. In fact, when I added some of the runnings I had left on the side (to avoid a boilover), the effect was quite interesting.

Added back the rest of the runnings, waited to get a rolling boil again, then added the hops. Had to be careful not to get a boilover as the hops in the unskimmed wort created a lot of foam.

At the same time, I’m heating some sparge water for the So Far. Yes, once again. Guess I really under-evaluated how much sparge water I needed for this one. Strange.

It should be hot enough, now.

This time, I had let the top of the grain bed dry up a bit. This might not be so good. So I added enough water to cover the grain bed and I’ll wait a bit before I resume running off.

Overall, I’ve been much less careful with the “So Far” than with the “Lo Five.” My reasoning has to do with the fact that I perceive S-04 (Whitbread; PDF) to be a “stronger” yeast than the US-05 (PDF; aka US-56; the Sierra Nevada strain, apparently). For one thing, the optimal temperature range for the S-04 is somewhat higher than for the US-05: although Fermentis rates both at 15C to 24C, S-04 is known to sustain higher fermentation temperatures than most other strains (apart from some Belgian strains like Chouffe’s yeast). The flavour profile from S-04 also tends to be more estery than for the US-05, so it can increase the complexity of the finished beer and even cover up some small flaws. Plus, “Mighty S-04” is one of those strains which can be (and has been) used in open fermentation and continually repitched. A bit like “famously robust” Ringwood yeast. So, unlike a lager strain, this is not a yeast strain that Peter McAuslan would likely call “wimpy.” The “strength” of this strength is obvious in the fact that it ferments very vigorously and quickly.

Besides, I have a slurry of S-04 (graciously donated by a friend) and only a rehydrated pack of US-05. With more yeast comes a certain safety.

Another whim: I added a plug of Crystal to the “Lo Five” about two minutes before the end of boil. Shouldn’t get any bitterness from this, may get some flavour and, quite likely, some nice hop aroma.

So I was somewhat careless with the “So Far.” Conversely, I was rather careful with the “Lo Five.” Not more than for the typical homebrew batch, but more than with the “So Far.” At every step, I started with the “Lo Five” and let the “So Far” wait for its turn, when I wasn’t too busy with the “Lo Five.” For instance, I only started boiling the “So Far” when the “Lo Five” had been pitched. I didn’t even rinse the Bruheat after transfering the “Lo Five,” so the “So Far” started heating up with some hops from the “Lo Five.”

What I expect as a difference between the two is that the “Lo Five” will be rather clean and crisp while the “So Far” will be a chewier and grainier beer with some fruit notes.

More specifically, I’d like the “Lo Five” to have a clearly delineated malt profile and a perceivable hoppiness. in both nose and flavour. Though I wasn’t very specific about trying to emulate it, I guess my inspiration for that one was Three FloydsMild, as brewed for Legends of Notre Dame. That one was one of my favourite beers, from one of my favourite breweries, served at one of my favourites places. I don’t think “Lo Five” will be anywhere as tasty as that beer, but I was probably aiming for that kind of profile.

Tasting the “Lo Five” wort once it was cool, I thought it was decidedly bitter. Given the fact that this beer may finish rather low, it might be unbalanced. Typically, unfermented wort is sweeter than the finished beer so I’m assuming the bitterness might intensify. What’s somewhat sad is that a Mild can’t really age so it’s not like I’ll be able to wait for the bitterness to smoothen out.

Ah, well… We’ll see.

On the other hand, I seem to have overshot my OG. Not by much, and I probably had a reading error. Given how well the sparge went, it’d make sense that I overshot my efficiency (I usually get 75%-78%). But BeerTools Pro is giving me an efficiency of 92% which is pretty much not possible on a homebrew scale without pulverizing the grain (and leeching lots of tannins). At any rate, if the actual OG is higher than expected, it might balance the beer a bit.

Yes, clearly there’s a problem with my thermometer.

Just finished cleaning up (2:36, June 9, 2008). When I took the OG on the “So Far,” the wort was barely lukewarm yet the thermometer was indicating 120F. Using this temperature for hydrometer correction, the OG for the “So Far” would be exactly the same as that for the “Lo Five” (which seemed cooler). That would mean an efficiency of 83% which is not impossible but kind of high. In fact, the volume in the primary seems to be more than 5 gallons so the efficiency would go through the roof.

I did skip the Strisselspalt but the “So Far” was run through the hops from the “Lo Five” at knock-off. It was boiled about an hour, instead of 90 minutes.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

3 responses to “Brewing Mildly

  • enkerli

    @MF Well, not only is it illegal in Canada to distill at home but it’s a much more involved process. Never tried it but it also seems that there’s less flexibility in terms of what you can do to the wort than with beer. Beer is very complex, very diverse, very flexible. And, in this case, rather quick to finish.

    Which makes me think… Reinspired by my music, coffee and beer glocalisation post.
    Still, my drink of choice remains coffee. Even more complex, almost as diverse (at least in aroma profiles), quite flexible, and extremely quick to finish. From bean to cup, it’s a matter of minutes. Even with green beans, roasting is quick and it produces extremely fresh coffee.
    In both cases, coffee and beer, much of the processing has been done elsewhere. With coffee, it’s done in farms which are usually quite far from the places where coffee is usually consumed. It’s a whole transformation process which goes from selecting and picking the ripe fruit to washing away the pulp and drying the bean. All of this is quite long and costly, coffee beans are still quite inexpensive (including “Fair-Trade” ones).
    For beer, the main transformation process is malting grain. It’s often done in the same regions as where beer is brewed and consumed, but the grain is often shipped from one place to the other. The process is more “industrial” than coffee processing. No need to pick each grain individually. Malting itself (soaking, drying, heating… ) is done on a very large commercial scale, with precise (and expensive) equipment. Craft malting exists, but it’s quite rare.
    Malt is quite inexpensive, even though the price of gas and farmers switching to corn (for biodiesel) have made malt more expensive than before.

  • Maximilian Forte

    Start producing some rum in your basement, and you’ve got yourself one sure customer i.e., moi.

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