Saving a Beer, One draft at a time

    I had a beer, which was made with just LME + cascade hops. The goal was a simple beer my buddy Dan could brew exactly the same. I targeted just LME and cascades. We brewed it when he was visiting after thanksgiving ( Normally I would add Crystal 40 and Carapils (Dextrine) ( to an APA like that.

    The problem was the beer. It was not bad, just "Meh." The malt was missing in flavor, body and mouthfeel. After a while I decided I wanted to "fix it." My first thought was to mash/steep the crystal 40 and Carapils and just add it. Then I realized that might not work, since the malt would not be boiled fermented and the yeast does other things to it besides convert to alcohol. There I set out to test the idea, before I ruined a whole keg.  My plan was to add one pint’s worth of malt to a pint of beer, tweak, and then add the scaled amount to the whole keg.

    About that time I heard the Specialty Grains shows on Basic Brewing on Jan 17th 2013 with Darnelle Brawner ( I decided to try a variety of grains and explore my grain library, and of course science ensued.

    Then I recorded a podcast with James Spencer for Basic Brewing which posted March 6th, 2013 (


    This experiment does not really replicate adding grains to a mash, it is a bit closer to adding steeping grains to a boil. It does show you some of the flavors and colors you get from the grains.


    The basic technique was to steep 11g of grain, strain it, and add beer. The compare to the base beer.


    1. Infrared thermometer
    2. Kettle and/microwave
    3. 2 glasses
    4. Small Strainer
    5. Small Scale (1-11 grams will be measured)
    6. Mediocre Beer
    7. Specialty Grains
    8. Notepad or other way to record results, say a brewers log book!


    1. Startup
      1. Start water boiling in a kettle, or microwave it to about 170.
      2. Get two glasses and a scale.
      3. Place one glass on the sale and tare it (zero it).
      4. Add 11g of grain to the glass (based off of what I would have added to 5 gallons of beer, and some very sketchy math)


    1. Steeping the grains
      1. Add hot water just enough to go over the grains (in a nonic pint glass, it is about 1/2 inch)
      2. Measure the temp, this is where the infrared thermometer kicks butt, or just guess. If it is too low (normal) put it in a microwave for 15 seconds.  It will foam up! Check temp, repeat until about 170F.
      3. Wrap glass in beer cozy or towel, place second glass on top to hold in heat (stack the glasses). The following picture is two nonic glasses stacked with a 1/2 of water in he bottom glass with grains.


    1. Strain
      1. After 30 minutes, remove top glass, smell the grain tea, write down notes
      2. Strain the water from the grain tea into the second glass.  I have a small tea strainer that was perfect.
      3. Rinse the first glass
    1. Pour
      1. Pour a full pint into the glass with grain tea in it. Get decent foam to help bring up the aromatics.
      2. Pour a half pint into the second glass.
  • Observe
    1. Run a judge sheet on the first beer, check appearance, aroma, taste and mouth feel.  Write down notes!
    2. Compare with the other glass (non-tea beer).
    1. Mix
      1. After drinking about 1/2 of the grain tea beer, if it too strong, pour
      2. the other half pint in, compare and take notes.
    1. Repeat
      1. Repeat with every specialty grain you have, borrow some from friends, get small amounts from your LBHS.
    2. Thoughts What would I do different?

  • Grind? Might work for 1 grain, but painful for mail grains, I think mortar and pestle would work.
  • Steep longer and colder? Seems like it is a time waster
  • Not brew a mediocre beer? Only in the name of science!
  • I am changing my base beer away from Crystal 40, towards 80
  • I will likely do something with bittering hops with my Xlite (1025 APA) Zythos hop beer. Tastes bit malt-flat and needs bittering, but mixing with Ninkasi IPA was very good.
  • Would I do it with Pilsners? YES! I would added darker malts to move in the BJCP spectrum, Alt, Schwartz, etc.
  • My Results

    1/22/2013 Crystal 40


    Added 11gm of Crystal 40, did not crush,

  • Water about 140F after being microwave, just enough water to cover the seeds. Let sit for 30 minutes
  • Smells like mash, getting more flavors than I thought.
  • Strained and added to pint. Poured pint on top
  • Much darker than test beer
  • Malt aroma is overpowering, very bready
  • Head Retention less?
  • Might want to cold crash it, forgot that part
  • 1/23 Carapils:


  • Not as much flavor
  • Not as much color
  • Not as much impact
  • Probably really need to crush this grain.
  • 1/24 Crystal 80


  • Seems like same aroma as Crystal 40
  • Much darker
  • More balanced than the 40, expected otherwise
  • Still too much, or too soon. Liked it much better than expected.
  • Slight more water this time.
  • 1/25 Wheat malt


    Great aroma

    Slightly acidic/sour, no matter what Jamil says (I was listening to his podcasts on wheat styles and he said people say it has an sour note, but he said it didn’t, I think people are tasting the grain…)

    Much better mouthfeel



  • Grainy/Bread aroma and flavor, strong like crystal 40, surprising, might be hard to tell them from flavor/aroma.
  • Maybe color is different?
  • 1/26 Dark Chocolate Malt


  • Very roasty/coffee in the raw, black
  • Not as aromatic as I expected
  • Taste of coffee very apparent
  • Cut it in half, much more caramel than coffee, very well rounded, hops seems to pop better
  • 1/27 Carafa II


  • Very roast, very black in glass
  • Very black mixed in, darkened head
  • Coffee taste high, when cold, less as it warmed up
  • 2/9 Special B


  • Grain had rasiny smell, not present in beer
  • More deep copper than brown or black, pleasant aroma, went from grainy to fruity as it warmed
  • Vienna


  • Very little impact, bit grainy aroma, no color difference
  • Slightly better aroma
  • Cherry Smoke


  • Vienna doing nothing, so I added cherry smoke to it.
  • Not as much aroma as expected, lots of taste, too much
  • Added more body though
  • Mixed pint much better.
  • 2/10/2013 Pale Chocolate 250


  • Smelled like old coffee, I had just brushed teeth, maybe that is affecting the taste?
  • Picking it up in beer, not as chocolate as I expected/hoped
  • killed keg!  Time to write this up

Alternative Priming Sugars in Cider experiment

This is a combination of experiments.  The first is the BBR-BYO #9 experiment (Basic Brewing Podcast April 14, 2011 – New Experiments and Scandinavian Brewing) where you hydrate dry yeast for one batch, and then just sprinkle it on others.  I won’t go into the results of that one here (no spoilers). 


For this experiment I chose to replicate the cider brew that was in the Basic Brewing Video   (Jan 30th, 2011, Simple Cider).  The simple steps were:


  1. Buy two jugs of Treehouse cider from Costco.  This is pasteurized and has no preservatives, and comes in a pack with two 1 gallon jugs.
  2. Add yeast (Red Star Pasteur Champagne ).
  3. Place airlock, tin foil, or just light screw the lid on.
  4. Wait (and beg forgiveness from your wife for leaving yet more crap on the counter).


Photo of the jugs:





Now at the end of the experiment I had 2 gallons of cider which I needed to bottle.  Never satisfied to do things simply, I decided to play with alternative priming sugars.  I grabbed some sugars around the house, and using the method discussed in the Basic Brewing Podcast (October 28, 2010 – Alternate Priming Sugars) I tried to calculate the correct amounts to match the amount in 1 carb drop (take grams of sugar from nutrition label and make it  equal to that of a 12 oz, and I think I target 2.4 volumes for 12 oz. Using I targeted about 2g. There was a fair amount of guess work, and honestly on the honey, which was hand labeled "Blackberry," I just did a dollop.  All of the other sugars were unopened so I did not sanitize them.


I added each sugar to one each of the batches, but because their FG was different, I did not taste batch vs. batch.  I actually labeled each with tape, then a paper label.  Each type of sugar priming had its own cap (which I kept a table of as well).  Here are the bottles complete:




Following is the table of the priming schedule, I managed 10 bottles per gallon: 6  sugars had 1 from each batch, I did 2 carb drops , 1 just still, and 1 with a campden tablet and apple juice to sweeten it.


I tasted 2 of them with my friend Toby.  I then brought 6 bottles to the National Homebrewers Conference in June of 2011.  There I gather some friend, hornswoggled John Palmer, and met with the Basic Brewing crew and recorded a podcast.  Only James had a slight clue what I was up to, the tasting was blind.  Here are my notes from memory.




Tasting Notes

Tasted with Toby



Apple juice

16 ml

It was definitely more apple flavored than the honey, almost "concentrated."


Bit on fork

Carbonated but drier than the Apple Juice.  No Honey flavor




Tasted on Podcast



Carb Drop


Control:  Good bubble, good flavor



Less carb, interest flavors

Cinnamon Syrup


Less carb than expect, no cinnamon at all

Mini marshmallow


Funniest, coated the tongue

Light Agave


Most carb, almost a gusher, different flavor than carb drop though



Did not like compared to carb’ed ones



Mixed the remain, was actually quite good




Not Tasted



Camden Tablet and Apple Juice


Thought on this, and it  was a bad idea 🙂


The details will be on the podcast which should air in late July.   It was a lot of fun and we finished with a Princess Peach Ale, which was enjoyed by all.


My favorite line was from Steve who said "I thought you were going to do some thing like Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose."  Really he should have known better 🙂




I was surprised how much the priming sugars added flavor.  Even the agave, which I expect to have little flavor impact, had an impact.  The Cinnamon Syrup was also the surprise in not imparting the expected flavor.  I was hoping for apple pie on that one.  I also was worried the mini-marshmallows were going to not dissolve and land in a  cup like a hot chocolate.


In the future I would probably do a few more sugars:  maple syrup, brown sugars, different honeys, different juices, DME, among others.  I might also just add cinnamon to see what that comes out like.


Most people felt they like the carb drops the best, but I think you could really tweak the final flavor of a cider like this.  I think I would recommend the apple juice.




Big thanks to the (starting on my right in the photos):   John Palmer, Andy Sparks, Nathaniel Muller, Steve Antoch, Michael Berta, Steve Wilkes, and  of course James Spencer who took the photo!

BYO-BBR #7, used my idea for an experiment

Updated:  Added a helpful hints section


Hey homebrewers time for a Science-Off!  Please forward to your friends!

The latest BYO-BBR experiment took my idea for an experiment:  Determining when Starch conversion really happens during the mash.

This is based off of a statement Chris Colby made about Conversion really happening in 10-15 minutes.  The experiment is simple:

When mashing (Partial or All Grain), do an iodine starch test every 5 minutes (from the top).

Record the results.

Enter results on the web form below (This includes the grain bill, temp, etc.)

Now I came up with a clever way to record this.  Get a (or two) pill-a-day boxes with a white background like you can get them at Bartells etc. for about a dollar.  I got 2, since 7 days only goes to 35 minutes.100_5613

Take a photo when you are done, and you can send that into Basic Brewing.  That way people can compare photograph results as well as times.

helpful Hints

  • Setup everything you normally setup during Mashing beforehand.  Testing/Photographing every 5 minutes takes up a fair amount of time when you thought you had an hour block
  • Have a 5 minute timer or mash in on a 5 minute mark.  It makes it easier to know when you have to pull the sample.
  • Close the other compartments so you do not drip in the wrong compartment
  • Do not shake, they are not water proof and they leak under the lid
  • Put the containers on a plate, see next hint.
  • Do not spill the iodine.  if you do make sure you have a plate
  • Take a before and after picture of the tests so you can be sure there was a color change

An Example:



If you notice, something is very wrong about my results.  It looks like starch appeared later in the mash.  Well I think that is because I was doing a pumpkin ale, and I believe the pumpkin was releasing starch as the mash was going on.  So lesson learned, puree the pumpkin!



One factor they are looking at is, does stirring makes a difference, so if you brew twice this month, try stirring the mash one time, and not the other.  Other Factors:

1) Stir vs. Non Stirring

2) Mash thickness

3) SG at time of reading

4) Total SG

5) Types of grains

6) Top reading vs. deep reading (not really looking at this)

7) Does the beer taste different if you stop at l

Even if you are not doing AG or PG, you can do the experiment by getting a small amount of grain and just mashing by soaking the ground grain in a measured amount of heated water. (Say 1lb in 1 quart of water).  They describe how to do an iodine test in the podcast, and below.

The Deadline for submitting data is End of February.

I was unaware they were going to use my idea because I was working on doing a quick talk on the idea.  Therefore the more people submit data the better!  So please submit data!


Page to enter data:

Link to BBR podcast and BYO Blog:

The experiment is described from minutes from 8 min to 20 min.

February 3, 2011 – BYO-BBR Conversion Experiment Intro

Chris Colby, editor of Brew Your Own magazine, and James invite you to take part in Collaborative Experiment Seven. Also, Steve Wilkes joins James to talk cider, lagering, and other homebrew business.

iTunes | Streaming mp3

February 10, 2011 – Mash Time Experiment

Home brewer Charles Hoffman and James conduct an experiment comparing the effects of different mash times on a single recipe. Chris Colby and Kai Troester help interpret the results.
Kai’s starch test page

iTunes | Streaming mp3

Chris does not have a blog on it yet.

%d bloggers like this: