Article and Photos by Joe Strybel
UPDATE — April, 2013
Yup, you read that correctly.
We’ve received a lot of inquiries about this process, but…we’re not done yet!
The idea here is to approach the brewing process from a different angle. PolyScience is a leader in temperature control and this is a prime area to flex a little of that precision and know-how.
If it’s been a while since grade school, here’s a refresher on the Scientific Method:
- Ask a Question Can the sous vide technique efficiently yield beer? If so, are there any notable improvements to flavor, mouthfeel, yield and ABV?
- Do Background Research There have been few attempts at sous vide brewing and there’s very little information available on previous trials.
- Construct a Hypothesis Sous vide beer brewing will yield energy efficient processes and will have no noticeable effect on flavor, mouthfeel, yield and ABV.
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment Five, individual gallon batches will be produced. Two are controls. Of those two, one will be barrel aged using the Sonicprep™ – just for fun. The remaining three are all made using the sous vide approach. These three present different scalings of ingredients and one will also be barrel aged with the Sonicprep.™
- Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion TBD
- Communicate Your Results So far, the hops were picked and dried, the grains were mashed, the wort got hopped up and the yeast was pitched. Now, we have to sit tight for a bit and enjoy the gentle bubbles coming out of the air locks. We’ll continue to update throughout the experiment. Cheers!
FERMENTABLES, EXTRACT RECIPE:
- 3.15lbs (1428.82 grams – 285.76 g/gal) Amber Malt Syrup (60 min)
- 6lbs (2721.55 grams – 544.31 g/gal) Amber Malt Syrup – late addition (15 min)
- 1lbs (453.59 grams – 90.72 g/gal) Soft Blond Candy Sugar – late addition (1 min)
FERMENTABLES, ALL GRAIN RECIPE:
- 9.5 lbs (4309 grams – 861.8 g/gal) Rahr 2-Row Pale
- 2.5 lbs. (1134 grams – 226.8 g/gal) German Munich Malt
- .75 lbs. (340 grams -68 g/gal) Briess Caramel 60L
HOPS & FLAVORINGS
- 1 oz (28.35 grams – 5.67 g/gal) Summit (60 min)
- 2 oz (56.7 grams – 11.34 g/gal) Mt. Hood (30 min)
- 1 oz (28.35 grams – 5.67 g/gal) Chinook (20 min)
- 3.4 oz (96 grams – 19.2 g/gal) Fresh Cascade (10 min) (Or substitute: 3 oz / 85g Cascade Pellets - 17 g/gal (10 min)
- 2 grams (.4 g/gal) Grains of Paradise (5 min)
- Wyeast #1056 American Ale Yeast. (775 ml Starter – 155 ml/gal)
- Optimum temperature: 60–72°F
- 5 oz (141.75 grams – 28.35 g/gal) Priming Sugar
- 5 Gallons of Bottled, Distilled Water – Divided 1 gal/batch
Here’s the scoop:
The Sous Vide IPA was mellow, noticeably smoother. Aggressive hop additions did little to create the punch we were looking for. The traditional boiled batches were incredibly hoppy with enamel-stripping bitter and grassy flavors. The same recipe via sous vide had a smooth hop profile, but was leaning towards a Wit in mouthfeel. The first sip of the Sous Vide IPA tasted rather flavorless at first. After cleansing the pallet with a few more swigs, the sous vide effect revealed itself. Due to the lower temperatures, the theory is that the lupulin could not be fully extracted. Boiling temperatures are consistently required for such extraction, although it’s been quite difficult locating a credible answer on this extraction process and temperature requirements. Most sources simply suggest to boil the hops, however, we know that boiling temperature is directly related to altitude. So, is it safe to say that a beer brewed at higher elevations would be mellower than that of something brewed at sea level?
Overall opinion? Sous vide beer is not perfect, but with proper balancing, the process is promising.
This recipe is divided due to the large volume of liquids required. The key is to use the maximum vacuum bag size, but few are able to accomodate volumes larger than 1.5 gallons. If a large enough vaccum bag is not available, add the full mash recipe to the vacuum bag and fill with distilled water, with enough room to still vacuum seal. The remaining water can be added after the mash. If using milled grains, strain the mash. We prefer using biodiesel bags
for this process, but Chinois/Fine Mesh Strainers can be substituted.
After straining, funnel the mash into clean and sanitized, open/uncapped 1 gallon carboys. Place the carboys in a circulating water bath at 95°C. The circulating bath must be filled to levels to account for displacement without floating the bottles. Add hop additions as scheduled, via a widemouth funnel. No boil will be reached at this temperature. Allow to heat for 90 minutes.
Once again, strain utilizing a biodiesel bag or fine mesh strainer.
Cool this wort to 22°C/72°F within 60 minutes. Pitch your yeast. For this recipe we utilized a yeast starter, but pitching active yeast in a smack-pack will do just fine. Ferment at 19.4°C/67°F for two weeks.
After two weeks, you may choose to re-rack into secondary fermentation or head straight to priming and bottling.
For more information on the brewing process, click here