I had good intentions of brewing every month in 2018. That lasted until February. I ordered ingredients for making my Dortmunder export from More Beer! on February 13, 2018, but didn’t get around to making the batch for six more weeks. And little did I know I would be expanding my homebrewing skills by using gelatin fining for the first time!
I have been ordering mostly online over the past couple years. This is mostly because the homebrew store owner either doesn’t stock what I’m looking for, doesn’t stock enough of what I need, or makes some other kind of mistake that frustrates me (like the time I bought ten pounds of grain, told him to mill it, and hadn’t realized he did not mill it until I was about ready to pour it into the mast tun!!).
One thing I like about online ordering is that I can try ingredients that my homebrew store won’t stock. For example, I tried and really liked the Weyermann Barke Pilsner and Munich malts that were available at a few online stores in 2016 and most of 2017. I had previously ordered these malts online from Rebel Brewer, Homebrew Supply, and Northern Brewer. Of those stores, only Northern Brewer still seems to carry it, but I stopped ordering from Northern Brewer when they disappointed me twice by screwing up my shipments and causing me to miss my brew days.
And don’t suggest I try Midwest Supplies, because I understand that they are also owned/operated by the same company as Northern Brewer. No thanks.
I still had half a pound of a half pound of Barke Pilsner Malt left over from a previous batch as well as some Aromatic Malt left over that I could use and not order. So I ordered 8 pounds of Weyerman German Pilsner Malt and a pound each of of Carafoam malt and Light Munich Malt. I usually use some Honey Malt in this recipe, but MoreBeer! doesn’t allow orders in fractions of pounds and since I didn’t feel like ordering a pound of Honey Malt just to use a few ounces in this batch, I left it out.
I also use Saaz hops in this recipe. One of my gripes with ordering hops online is that I frequently order more than I need because I just don’t know what alpha acid level I am going to get. I have had instances, such as the last time I made this recipe, where the alpha acid content on the hops I ordered online were so miniscule (I had 2% and 3.2% acid Saaz hops that came with that online order), that I ended up using 5 ounces of hops to get to 22 IBU.
My NEW gripe with ordering on line has so far been specific to MoreBeer!. They have two warehouses they ship from: one in California and one in Pennsylvania. When I was ready to check out with this order, I noticed I had a really high shipping cost. As I looked closer at the website, I say that MoreBeer! was able to ship all but the Saaz hops from their PA warehouse. Apparently, they were out of Saaz hops in their PA warehouse and had to ship the Saaz hops separately from their CA warehouse – doubling the nearly $10 shipping charge.
Sorry, but it doesn’t make sense for me to pay nearly $10 in shipping for a few ounces of hops!!
In order to reduce my shipping costs, I decided to replace the Saaz hops with Spalt hops. I had some left over, unopened Spalt hops in my chest freezer that I had ordered as a hedge against getting too low alpha acid hops. As it turned out, those hops were ridiculously low in alpha acid! A 2 ounce package of Spalt hops had a 1.7% alpha acid content and a 1 ounce package of Spalt hops had a 2.4% alpha acid content!
I ordered two more ounces of Spalt hops hoping that they would have high alpha acid content and all the hops combined would be enough to get to my desired IBU target. I had to jigger around with my recipe and so if I boiled my inventory Spalt hops, along with some 4.6% Mt Hood and 3.2% of Saaz hops I had in inventory, that I might end up close to my targeted 21 IBU.
When my order came, the 2 ounces of Spalt hops came in at 6.1%. Rather than have to re-re-adjust the recipe, I opted to just keep those hops for another batch and use up my inventory Spalt hops.
So this batch of the Dortmunder went forward with a revised recipe consisting of:
- 8.5 pounds of Pilsner Malt
- 1.0 pound of Light Munich Malt
- 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt
- 4.0 ounces of Aromatic Malt
- 1.0 ounce of Mt Hood Hops (4.6%)
- 2.0 ounces of Spalt Hops (1.7%)
- 1.0 ounce of Spalt Hops (2.4%)
- 0.5 ounces Saaz Hops (3.2%)
- 2 packs Saflager W-34/70 Yeast
Targets for this batch, based on BrewPal were as follows:
- Original Gravity: 1.063
- Final Gravity: 1.014
- 6.4% ABV
- 25 IBU
My targets using BeerSmith were much different:
- Original Gravity: 1.054
- Final Gravity: 1.013
- 5.1% ABV
- 29 IBU
The grain crush was very fine – it took quite a while during vorlauf to not have a shitload of smaller bits get pulled through with the wort.
I was disappointed that I ended up being well below my BrewPal estimated target gravity (1.050), but it wasn’t too far below that estimated by BeerSmith.
My difficulties with not concentrating the wort down to five gallons during the boil continued. Despite an extremely vigorous and rolling boil, I ended up with six gallons in the brew pot at the end of the boil. I put 5½ gallons into the fermenter and tossed the rest.
Three weeks in primary got me slightly below my targeted final gravity. The beer measured out at 1.012. I transferred the beer to a carboy for a planned month in secondary fermenting/lagering so the beer would be ready by Memorial Day weekend.
As the beer was in secondary fermentation, I started to thinking about when, and more importantly, how I was going to filter the beer. I have used three different kinds of filter set-ups in the past. A plate filter, a cartridge/cannister filter (both requiring disposable filtering media), and re-usable steel mesh filter. I have been disappointed in the performance of the last two and have always returned to the plate filter for when I make a batch that I want to be bright.
I had been reading various mentions of using unflavored gelatin to clear and brighten beer and skip the step of filtering. And though I like brewing gadgets as much as the next homebrewer, I also like to simplify my processes if I can get a roughly equivalent (or better) result.
So I decided to try out gelatin fining.
From the information I have found on gelatin fining, the process is pretty straight forward.
You get some unflavored gelatin…
…and dissolve it in a half cup of water in a Pyrex measuring cup or other microwavable container. Note that the gelatin-water mixture will be a little murky at first, even after it is dissolved.
Heat the water-gelatin mixture in 10-15 second bursts until it reaches 160° (I have to confess I got distracted and let the mircowave run too long; my mixture was up to 175° after I pulled it out of the microwave with a yell of “OH, SHIT!!!”.
The mixture was much clearer after heating. I let the gelatin cool to about 120° and poured it directly into the carboy I was using for secondary fermentation.
This is how the beer looked prior to fining after three weeks in secondary fermentation.
And this is how it looked a week later.
This was probably the clearest beer I have ever taken a final gravity reading.
I was really pleased at how bright the Dortmunder came out. I was prepared to filter if I was not happy, but I was extremely happy!! The nice thing about gelatin fining is that I can use it on darker beers, like my Doppelbock, which I normally don’t filter because sparking clarity is not as big a concern. It is a passive way to clarify beer without having to go through the step of filtering.
The first draft of the Dortmunder: