Given that a year and a half has now passed since we brewed our last batch of beer, it was clearly time to get the wort boiling again. This time, in our ongoing quest for our perfect IPA, we took a step forward into the world of partial mash brewing.
Partial mash is a technique that allows you to get some of the flexibility and control of all-grain brewing, while still allowing for a kitchen-friendly stove-top boil. Basically, you are moving part way from extract brewing to all-grain by replacing roughly half of your extract with grain.
We bought the malted barley whole at our local brewing supply store, and used their barley crusher to mill it into the form you see above.
The cracked barley gets mixed together with the specialty grains you are using and it all goes into a big mesh bag.
The next step is the mash. For our mash vessel, we used a 3 gallon beverage cooler - perfect for keeping hot water at a reasonably stable temperature for the hour or so the grain is steeping. This size cooler can handle up to 6 pounds of crushed grains in about 8.25 quarts of water. Since the cooler and grains start out unheated, we used 165 degree water, shooting for a target mash temperature of 150-153 degrees.
It's important to lower the bag of cracked grains into the cooler very slowly and prod it with a spoon to ensure that no dry patches of grain are trapped in the center.
Another great thing about the cooler is that the spigot provides an easy way to get the wort out after the mash is complete.
After you've collected the first wort, it needs to be immediately heated to 168 degrees to stop enzymatic activity and keep the sugars fermentable. This is done by pouring the wort into a pot that already contains a small amount of boiling water. You then bring the wort to a boil on the stove top just like you would do for all-extract brewing.
While the first wort is heating, more hot water gets added to the wet grains in the cooler and allowed to sit for another 5 minutes before draining off every drop of this second wort to add to the boil pot.
After all the wort comes to a boil, the timer starts for hop additions.
Remember that only half of our malt bill was grain - the remaining is extract. We prefer to use dry malt extract (DME) for both flavor and color reasons. We use the late extract addition technique - adding the DME (all of it, in this case) at the end of the boil to avoid over-caramelization.
For this beer, we were inspired by Russian River's Blind Pig IPA, and Alpine Brewing Company's clone of it, O'Brien's IPA. Both are fantastically aromatic beers in the San Diego Pale Ale style - although at around 6%abv, they are bit lower octane.
The hops we chose were based on a combination of the sparse info about Blind Pig we were able to find on the web, our personal preferences, and what we had on hand. We used Columbus, Cascade and Simcoe in the boil, and then dry hopped in secondary with all three again, plus some Centennial.
The result was easily one of the best beers we have made. It has a beautiful light-orange color, with a nice, white lacy head. Taste-wise, it is quite dry and hoppy, but with just enough malt sweetness for balance. At 6.3% abv, the alcohol content is right where we wanted it.
Doing a partial mash was not much more complicated than straight extract brewing and it made a big difference in the outcome. Add in the extra flexibility you get with regard to the grains you can use (we're thinking of adding some rye next time) and it has definitely become our brewing technique of choice. Until we go all-grain, that is...
This batch won't last long...
Update: also check out our Rye IPA version of this beer.
Total batch size = 5 gallons; Partial Mash in 3 gallon beverage cooler; ~3 gallon, 60 minute stove-top boil; very late malt extract addition; dry hopped for aroma; target abv of 6.4%.
Additional helpful procedural details can be found in "Countertop Partial Mashing" by Chris Colby in Brew Your Own magazine.
4 1/2 lb 2-Row Pale Malt
1/2 lb 40L Crystal Malt
1/2 lb Carapils/Dextrin Malt
1/2 lb Wheat Malt
4 lb, 1 oz Briess Golden Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)
2 oz Columbus Hops (12.3% AA)
2 oz Cascade Hops (6% AA)
3/4 oz Simcoe Hops (13.2% AA)
1 oz Centennial Hops (8% AA)
1 tablet Whirlfloc
White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast
4 oz corn sugar (for bottle priming)
1 oz Columbus - 60 minutes boil
1/2 oz Cascade - 30 minutes boil
1 oz Cascade - 15 minutes boil
1/4 oz Columbus - 2 minutes boil
1/2 oz Simcoe - 2 minutes boil
1/4 oz Columbus - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1/2 oz Cascade - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1/4 oz Simcoe - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1 oz Centennial - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
Heat 8.25 quarts water to 165 degrees for a target mash temperature of 150-153 degrees. Place the 6 pounds of crushed grain (2-Row Pale, 40L Crystal, Carapils and Wheat) into a large mesh bag. Pour the hot water into the beverage cooler, then lower the grain bag into the water very slowly, pushing and prodding with a large spoon to ensure all the grain is wet (this can take several minutes). Put the lid on the cooler and allow to rest 60 minutes.
While the grains are mashing, heat another 4-5 quarts of water to 180-185 degrees for sparging (rinsing the grains). Near the end of the 60 minutes, heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in your brew pot.
After the first mash is complete, remove the cooler lid and open the spigot to draw off about 2 quarts of wort into a large pitcher. The first draw will likely be cloudy with grain particles; pour it gently back into the cooler over the grain bag to help filter it. Draw off the remaining wort by the pitcher-full and carefully pour that wort into the boiling water in your brew pot; continue until only a trickle of wort leaves the spigot.
Pour about 4 quarts of your hot sparge water over the grain bag in the cooler. Gently lift the bag up and down to thoroughly re-wet the grains (but don't slosh). Cover and let sit about 5 minutes. Use the spigot and a pitcher to draw off all of the second wort and add it to your brew pot. You should have about 3 gallons of wort.
Bring the wort to a boil and add hops according to the schedule. At time zero, remove from heat and add the DME one pound at a time, stirring to dissolve (if needed, return to low heat for a few minutes to help dissolve the extract). Stir in 1 tablet Whirlfloc. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes.
Move brew pot to an ice bath and cool quickly to less than 80 degrees. Transfer wort to a primary fermenter, straining most of the hops. Add water to reach the 5 gallon mark. Swirl vigorously then pitch the yeast.
Ferment in primary for 1 week, then transfer to secondary and dry hop with 1/4 oz Columbus, 1/2 oz Cascade, 1/4 oz Simcoe and 1 oz Centennial. Bottle after fermentation is complete (2 to 3 weeks in secondary).