Monday 27 February 2023

Cream Ale - BrewZilla Brew Day

Here's a rundown on our latest BrewZilla Brew Day - where we brought our Cream Ale Recipe to life.

A number of firsts for us again with this brew. Since the Cream Ale style calls for a clear finish, we thought we'd try including a (half) whirlfloc tablet to help with clarifying. We're also using an lager yeast for the first time, opting for SafAle W-34/70.

Shoutout to 41 Pints of Beer for the ingredients - we've always had excellent results and great efficiency with their grain.

As always, we started with filling our 35L BrewZilla with our strike water and adjusting the minerals and pH as per our Brewfather recipe. 

We doughed in and gave the grain bed a thorough stir before leaving it to rest for 10 minutes - a relatively small grain bill meant there was plenty of space left at the top of the malt pipe which was a welcome change from the past few brews where it's been full to the brim.

After the initial 10 minute rest, we took a pH reading. We didn't add the full amount of phosphoric acid recommended by Brewfather (for fear of overshooting - you can always add more in but can't take it back out) so we got an initial reading of 5.53, within the recommended range of 5.2 - 5.6, but we wanted it a little lower so added a tiny bit more acid which got us down to 5.44

We switched on the pump of our BrewZilla and began our recirculation. We anticipated a thicker mash than we had and the flaked maize didn't gum it up or slow it down too much like we thought it might which was nice. Recirculation flow was pretty decent the entire time making for a stress free mash.

After the 60 minute mash the wort had cleared up nicely from recirculating. We raised the temperature from our 65°C mash temperature to 75°C for our mash out and kept it there for 10 minutes.

Next it was time to lift the grain basket and sparge the grain bed. Water flow through the grain bed was good so we hit our pre-boil volume of 28L in about 10 minutes or so.

Once sparging was complete, we set the BrewZilla to "HH" for maximum (boiling) temperature and waited for it to come up to a rolling boil.

Whilst waiting we measured out our 60 minute hop addition of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh as per the recipe.

We also used the time to take a pre-boil gravity reading on our AliExpress Digital Refractometer. It gave us a reading of 1.040 - a few points higher than our expected 1.037.

We had a rolling boil before long, so we added our 60 minute hop addition. Plenty of space left at the top of the BrewZilla so didn't have to worry too much about a boilover.

No other hop additions until 5 minutes left in the 60 minute boil, so we used the time to weigh out our dextrose addition, yeast nutrient and whirlfloc tablet. We cut back the dextrose by 50g since we were already ahead with our efficiency from our pre-boil gravity reading.

Side note - we finally remembered to bring a fold up table so we could set everything up in the garage instead of having to run back in/out of the house to do things in the kitchen - this was a great idea and made things feel so much easier and faster - why didn't we do this sooner!?

With 10 minutes left in the boil, we added our dextrose, yeast nutrient and whirlfloc tablet. Probably added it all a little too quick as it stopped the rolling boil, but the temp only dropped to about 99°C, so not anticipating it will have made much of a difference. Will try to remember to add it in more slowly next time.

With 5 minutes left in the boil we added our final hop addition of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh

At the end of the boil we began chilling with our immersion chiller. No need to worry about messing around with whirlpool hop additions for this one, just get it as cold as possible as soon as possible.

Whilst waiting for the chiller to do it's thing we took a small sample to measure our Original Gravity which was 1.051

Getting more efficiency than expected is often a good thing, but we're worried this one may come out a little too strong. Our recipe predicted an OG of 1.044 so we're well above that, and will give us a fair amount of ABV if it attenuates as low as expected - potentially around 5.6% which is right at the upper limit of what is acceptable for the Cream Ale style. We're worried there may not be enough hop character to support this - guess we'll soon find out.

Once our wort had chilled sufficiently, we transferred it to our Keg King Apollo Snubnose Fermenter.

A quick note on whirlfloc - having not used it before we weren't exactly sure what to expect, but this certainly surprised us. These photos were taken approximately 20 minutes apart - the first immediately after transferring from the BrewZilla. The difference is striking.

We've never seen settlement like that happen so quickly and turn so clear before - we'll definitely be including whirlfloc in all future brews unless they're designed to be hazy. Very surprised at how effective the whirlfloc was.

As a sanity check we also took a floating hydrometer reading which confirmed an original gravity of around 1.050.

We chilled our wort a little further in the fermenting fridge to get to our pitching/fermentation temperature before pitching our 2 packets of SafAle W-34/70 yeast.

Pleasingly we had signs of fermentation within approximately 8 hours of pitching the yeast.

After less than 48 hours from pitching yeast, fermentation had reached its final gravity of around 1.006. This is the value from our Hydrom floating hydrometer and is yet to be confirmed with a traditional floating hydrometer, but we've never had a beer ferment out this fast.

W-34/70 at around 20°C truly is a beast - we kept the fermenter under approx 10psi of pressure throughout the fermentation so we're hopeful this has suppressed any off flavours from developing by fermenting fairly warm for a lager yeast.

Final Gravity reading is around 1.006 - pretty much as expected and giving us a total ABV of 5.78% - certainly a bit more than we were aiming for.

Will give it another couple of days on the yeast to help it mature and clean up a little before cold crashing and kegging.

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