Monday 14 November 2022

West Coast IPA - BrewZilla Brew Day

Our latest brew day features our attempt at a West Coast IPA. You can view our full recipe here, as well as our recently published West Coast IPA Recipe Creation Guide for some ideas and guidelines on how to build your own West Coast IPA recipe.

Here's our sack of grain - at just under 7kg in total there was plenty to be added - we sourced all the ingredients from our friends at 41 Pints of Beer.

Our first step on brew days is to get our BrewZilla and Digiboil setup with their respective amounts of water, and water adjustments made as per the calculations from our recipe in Brewfather, as well as a half camden tablet in each to remove any chlorine from the water.

We adjust our water with calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and calcium chloride.

In our last brew we adjusted the pH of our mash for the first time using phosphoric acid - and in this brew we're also going to attempt to adjust the pH of our sparge water as well. Our research suggests that a pH lower than 6 is ideal for sparging, and any higher can lead to more tannins being extracted which can cause some astringency in the final beer. The tap water we use for brewing is more alkaline with a pH of over 7, so we’re thinking adjusting it is probably a worthwhile thing to do.

Part way through our mash in and you can see we've got a really thick mash - we reduced the amount of water in the mash to around 23.5L - the BrewZilla profile in Brewfather would have had us using more water than this and it would have been full to the brim which can be difficult to manage. The reduced water volume of 23.5L worked pretty well and seemed about right for a grain bill this size.

After letting the grain bed settle for 10 minutes after doughing in, we took a pH reading and we were bang on exactly what our recipe predicted at 5.34 - perfect!

What wasn't so perfect was when we checked the pH of our sparge water to find that the water had somehow reached a pH acidity level of under 4 - ie. super acidic which was incredibly strange and too acidic for sparging with. We're really not sure what caused this or why it happened, but we tipped out the sparge water we had prepared, and made a new batch with the same volumes, same water adjustments and the same relatively small amount of phosphoric acid (~0.4mL) and we got a pH of 5.93 which was exactly where we wanted it. I'm not able to explain what happened initially with the sparge water but we got it right in the end, so moving on!

We have a tendency to not heat up our mash water hot enough, so we get a fairly significant drop in temperature after doughing in - and even with recirculating it can take some time to come up to our target mash temperature. We ended up having to adjust our BrewZilla to over 75°C to get it reading 65°C at the top of the grain bed. West Coast IPA's are meant to be dry and ferment out fairly heavily, so we're not too concerned about having some extra fermentable sugar created from a lower mash temperature, but we really need to remember to adjust our mash in temperature so it's much higher to try and avoid this for future brews.

If you're using a BrewZilla, you should definitely get a long probe thermometer you can stick in the top of the grain bed so you can measure the temperature of your mash more accurately.

We would have liked to include rice hulls in our grain bill to help aid with recirculation, since wheat malt and toffee malt are known to create a thick, sticky mash. Unfortunately 41 Pints were out of stock so we had to make do without them, which lead to a fairly slow recirculation during the mash. You can see from the image below the tiny trickle we were restricted to for recirculation.


We stirred the grain bed a few times during the mash to try and help increase efficiency - but it was slow going. Unsurprisingly when sparging the drainage was also very slow and required a fair amount of stirring to coax the water through the grain bed. Rice hulls really are a game changer here - I normally use them so haven't had to deal with a slow/stuck for quite some time.

Moving on to the boil - and our pre-boil gravity reading shows we're bang on our expected target of 1.061. It's always a nice feeling to hit your numbers. The yellow refractometer pictured below is our AliExpress Digital Refractometer which we're finding after a bit more use is more accurate than we initially gave it credit for.

Whilst waiting for our BrewZilla to reach a boil, we measured and weighed out our hop additions. We've got a mixture of Citra, Centennial and Chinook hops for this one.

Hops were added as per the recipe into our hop spider with 15 and 10 minutes remaining in the boil. 

We then had a decent whirlpool hop addition for 15 minutes at 80°C to help extract a little more bitterness, but more of the desirable piney and fruity flavours from the hops.

After our whirlpool/hop stand, we continued to chill using the standard BrewZilla immersion chiller, before transferring to our Keg King PET Apollo Fermenter.

Gravity readings on our digital refractometer and good old floating hydrometer showed an OG of 1.066/1.065 - bang on what our recipe predicted. Colour looks amazing too.

We then pitched 2 packets of US-05 yeast and waited for the fermentation to begin!

There was a sizeable amount of trub in the fermenter as you can see from the picture above.

A gravity reading after a week of fermentation showed we had reached our target FG of 1.012

And lastly the graph from our fermentation using our RAPT Pill

Blue line = Temperature

Red line = Gravity

Green Line = Alcohol Content

As you can see fermentation was fairly steady and reached terminal gravity in just a couple of days before a soft crash (11/22) for dry hopping and finally the cold crash.

You can see after our cold crash has been completed we've got quite a bit of trub in the bottom, with a layer of yeast and then the dry hop charge sitting on top. 

The other larger white section at the top is a thin layer of yeast that has stuck to the fermenter wall during cold crash and didn't make it all the way to the bottom.

We transferred under pressure into a corny keg - initial taste is very promising and appears to have turned out very well, but we'll give it a couple of weeks to condition and fully carbonate before doing a full tasting review of this one.

Check out our Tasting Results and Review for this brew!

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