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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: beerrat on December 22, 2010, 02:22:25 PM

Title: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on December 22, 2010, 02:22:25 PM
Can anyone can cite a source, or even from personal experience if boiling wort in a copper vs stainless steel vs aluminum brew pot impacts final taste of a beer.  I'm thinking if any, maybe lagers could be impacted.

I'm interested in historical brewing, specifically 1890-1910,  and from what I understand, boil kettles were made of copper then.

Wondering if I need a copper kettle to replicate taste. I have a stainless one now. 

Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: oscarvan on December 22, 2010, 02:37:02 PM
AFAIK Kettles in most micro breweries are still copper. Although not a brewer, my chemist dad says it helps to bind sulfites. But mostly copper is valued for it's heat conductivity properties, ie, the heat spreads out nicely instead of concentrating anywhere which can cause scorching. Aluminum has similar properties, and many people use it to brew. Stainless tends to be less optimum in this regard which is why extract recipes make you turn off the heat when adding things.

The reason they used copper "back then" is because they had two choices, copper or iron and I do believe iron is not conducive to tasty brewing.

I have been using copper for my extract brews, and they taste great. Going all grain I will have to use a converted keg though as finding a 10+G copper kettle would obliterate the budget.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: Hokerer on December 22, 2010, 02:48:54 PM
Stainless tends to be less optimum in this regard which is why extract recipes make you turn off the heat when adding things.

It's not just stainless, to be safe, you want to kill the heat as you're adding the extract regardless of your kettle material.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: oscarvan on December 22, 2010, 03:05:43 PM
Understood, I do.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 22, 2010, 03:16:31 PM
A little copper in the wort is a micronutrient for the yeast.

You can brew in stainless, copper of aluminum pots.  Cantillon has an iron brew kettle, so I have seen one that does not follow the rules.

Not all microbreweries us copper kettles.  Some do.  Many are stainless.  If you ever go to the New Glarus Hilltop brewery they have a gleaming copper brewhouse.  If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.   
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: oscarvan on December 22, 2010, 03:59:03 PM
Quote
If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.

Fooled again....... :-\
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on December 22, 2010, 04:27:15 PM
Thanks for the replies.  I understand the history and why copper used - interested in the taste aspect.

I'm wondering if it makes a taste difference in final beer - either from personal experience, or able to cite any reference as I have found none.

If there is a difference, I may be able to get same effect by placing my copper immersion chiller  in the kettle with the wort before boil.

I'll do a small batch experiment with and without copper to see.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: tumarkin on December 22, 2010, 04:33:50 PM
probably hard to prove, you'd have to brew the exact recipe with everything the same except the 2 kettles (and have them as close as possible other than the metal type). lots of good beer is brewed without copper. copper provides the yeast with additional nutrients, but you can have a healthy fermentation without use of copper. anything you can do to make your yeasties happy (well, not including a high ferm temp, though they certainly like that ..... party time!) makes for better beer. you could always use some copper tubing in your kettle to provide the yeast with a taste of copper.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: kerneldustjacket on December 22, 2010, 05:22:56 PM
Copper is used in stills to help remove sulfer based compounds...or so I've heard...I've never engaged in distilling...I really only know how to do it in theory.

But I'd have doubts that any such effect occurs with a wort boil in copper.

As others have pointed out, trace copper is helpful to yeast, but some sources say malt has trace amounts of copper in it...but how much "trace" is enough?
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: denny on December 22, 2010, 05:24:10 PM
My guess is that the use of copper in traditional boiling vessels came about pretty much for reasons...it worked, and obviously SS wasn't an option back then.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 22, 2010, 05:42:24 PM
Quote
If the brewkettle is open, and you can look into it, you will see it is all stainless on the inside, the copper is for looks.  Same with Sierra Nevada's 200 barrel system.

Fooled again....... :-\

You will find smaller systems that are copper on the inside.  Some of the ones in Europe are probably copper.  You have to look to be sure.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: euge on December 22, 2010, 06:21:03 PM
So for the copper to benefit the wort how much should there be? My pick-up tube is copper. And so is my IC- though I generally put that in at flameout.

How long should the exposure/contact be and will a minimal amount suffice? I think someone posted in another similar thread that they toss a copper penny into the boil.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: Kaiser on December 22, 2010, 06:24:30 PM
I have a copper immersion chiller that I boil in the wort for the last 15 min. I think using a copper kettle would be similar to that. It would be interesting to brew a beer w/ and w/o this chiller in the wort. 

Copper was popular because it was easily formed into kettles. These days it only serves as decorative cover over SS brewing equipment. Mostly because SS is cheaper and is more easily cleaned than copper.

Kai
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on December 23, 2010, 10:31:36 PM
Thanks everyone!

Kai - thanks for the info, and thanks for a fine history of German brewing on your  web site.  I'm finding this very helpful in my research as the brewers that I am trying to replicate (Robinon's, Scranton, PA) trained in Worms Bavaria around 1860-1870. They came back to Scranton and build a "state of the art" brewery in 1876. 

For my historic brew, I'll keep the immersion chiller in the pot for bout 30 minute before end of boil to help replicate a copper kettle when using my my stainless brew pot.

I'll be posting more question/updates on this research project, already have a lot of question on replicating ingredients and methods.  May need a historic brewing section of this forum. ;-)
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: tubercle on December 24, 2010, 12:37:53 AM
Throw a piece of 1/2 copper tubing about 1" long in the brew pot. It makes a great boil chip but rattles like hell.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: euge on December 24, 2010, 08:50:26 AM
That is one hell of kettle! The provenance must be interesting.  :D
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on December 26, 2010, 01:43:41 PM
Is it me, is the reply by Richard Wagner(?) now missing (the one with the brew pot photo)? 
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: Hokerer on December 26, 2010, 04:19:19 PM
Is it me, is the reply by Richard Wagner(?) now missing (the one with the brew pot photo)? 

I don't see it any longer either.  Maybe he removed his own post for some reason.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: mrbowenz on December 27, 2010, 04:03:46 AM

sorry, tried to edit something and deleted the post by accident , here it is again:


I am a historic brewer who regularly uses a 43 gallon copper, my kettle is from Villedieu-les-Poêles ,France and made in 1802 ( so says the hallmark ). As stated previously, copper was the choice material because of availability and form for hundreds of years. Today, several micro breweries use copper as a decorative element , but cost is often the prohibiting factor in replicating authentic all coppers. The elements of copper as an aide to healthy yeast has been highly debated and shouldn't be a concern as to the authenticity of recreating historic ales, beers and lagers. Also too, is the consideration of a heat source, since the period of your intended recreations are of late 19th century and early 20th century, mostly steam fired kettles were employed , but this is impractical to the 10 to 20 gallon batch maker. heat source is a factor because one needs to consider a direct fire method, of either a coal or wood based source( of which imparts other flavor and aromas into the wort)

I personally believe that wort caramelization  can become a factor in preparing worts for either grain or extract because of the heat conductance and efficiency of copper as a boiling vessel. The replication of historic recipes can only really be done as a modern interpretation anyway , and to that , means
 1. Brewing with original recipes with modern malt, hops and yeast ..most successful final product.
 2. Same modern ingredients, however a replication of old style equipment for process, second best.
 3.  Total recreations of field grown malt, hops and forensic fermentational yeast cultures on period equipment, outside of the scope and resources of most recreational brewers. 

Choose your path and follow the level of how authentic you want to create your recipe, some tips include , finding a maltser who has been "in business" during that period, many German and English maltsters have been around and still producing malt today, same goes with hops , copy and build water specific to your region, and decide your yeast profile of what's commercially available today, or culture from old examples. Most importantly recreate a recipe you can drink and enjoy, tell the story and share with friends.

Here's some shots of my kettle...never mind the kitty !
(http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i226/mrbowenz/S5000217.jpg)
 

In action :
(http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i226/mrbowenz/ChrisBlueberryFestival.jpg)
(http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i226/mrbowenz/P7181071.jpg)
 
 
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: mrbowenz on December 27, 2010, 04:50:44 AM
BTW, I am not Richard Wagner ...great guy, but I am the "other" historic brewer from PA  ;D
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: euge on December 27, 2010, 06:59:12 PM
That is one hell of kettle! The provenance must be interesting.  :D

I wasn't sure if the kitty was part of the ingredients for some arcane historical brew... ;)
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on December 28, 2010, 11:21:37 PM
BTW, I am not Richard Wagner ...great guy, but I am the "other" historic brewer from PA  ;D

My bad! I figured either Rich or Bethlehem's "John Goundie Brewer".   Thanks for the wonderful information.  Love the cat in the kettle, the period costume, and contribution to Bethlehem's brewing heritage.

1. Brewing with original recipes with modern malt, hops and yeast ..most successful final product.
 2. Same modern ingredients, however a replication of old style equipment for process, second best.
 3.  Total recreations of field grown malt, hops and forensic fermentational yeast cultures on period equipment, outside of the scope and resources of most recreational brewers. 

My goal is to understand the flavor impacts of the circa 1900 techniques and capture those with modern equipment and ingredients, modified if needed to emulate the flavors.  So my question about copper is what flavors did it impart if any.  Seems like little other then debate as a yeast nutrient.  Your point about caramelization and flavor impact of copper kettle and coal/wood fired is something I need to consider.  I think given steam used, caramelization would be little, and wood nor coal would not impact wort flavor, but the kilning process for hops and malt would have flavoring from those fuels.  Thoughts?

I'm working on my period costume for the historical society ;-)

Happy New Year
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: mrbowenz on December 29, 2010, 11:51:58 AM
Rich Wagner, is from the Philadelphia area and I believe does his work and presentations based on 18th century brewing recipes and techniques, also, he is an expert on Pennsylvania breweries historical/defunct ones and modern I suppose. He uses the practice of brewing with the sun, sight and feel as a brewer would have used in that period, more artistry than science and truly colonial style brewing( early America ).

I on the other hand , do 19th century brewing techniques, and was responsible for bringing back Johann S. Goundie, researching his recipes , history and equipment from that period. I also do 19th century British historical beers and ales, and that his been my main focus for almost 4 1/2 years, one such piece being www.arcticalchemy.com , and working on the next film story and adventure in England and Scotland next year.

Boiling wort in a copper over a wood or coal fire will impart a smokiness and peat-like flavor in the finished wort, in addition to any roasted or malted grains during the malting process. Caramelization occurs in this direct-fire process and can be tricky to control a open fire process.

I find the the period of about 1820 to 1900 as an interesting time in brewing history, both here in America and abroad. The impact of the Industrial Revolution ,the advances in science and medicine had such an enormous influence on the brewing process. Beer history has been somewhat neglected, other than a few like Rich and myself , so I applaud your interest and pursuits into this endeavor.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: beerrat on July 10, 2011, 06:15:09 PM
I just had a tour of Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre PA.  They replaced their copper kettle with a stainless steel one a while back.  I asked if there was a flavor change, and the tour guide did say they ended up adding a significant amount of copper tubing in the kettle and replacing steel tubing with copper as beers did have a different flavor profile without it.  The person on the tour could not give me more detail then that.  I'm assuming this cost them some $ and time ;-)  so there was enough of an impact of the missing copper to merit adding it back.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: woadwarrior on August 19, 2011, 08:35:22 PM
I would recommend against using aluminum. It will leach too easily into even slightly acidic liquids and impart a metallic taste.

@beerat; your info about Lion brewery has given me yet one more reason to love my 50' copper immersion chiller. :) btw, have you ever had Lion's Valley Forge Imperial Stout? yummy. Not sure if they still make it though as I haven't seen it in  years.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: denny on August 19, 2011, 10:25:05 PM
I would recommend against using aluminum. It will leach too easily into even slightly acidic liquids and impart a metallic taste.

If you;re recommending against boiling in AL, I have to disagree based on my own experience.  I used an AL kettle for a lot of batches.  I couldn't taste anything wrong with the beer, and neither could the judges who awarded me ribbons for the beer brewed in it.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: tubercle on August 19, 2011, 11:12:24 PM
I would recommend against using aluminum. It will leach too easily into even slightly acidic liquids and impart a metallic taste.

@beerat; your info about Lion brewery has given me yet one more reason to love my 50' copper immersion chiller. :) btw, have you ever had Lion's Valley Forge Imperial Stout? yummy. Not sure if they still make it though as I haven't seen it in  years.

Is this from actual experience or just promulgating internet myths?
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: Mark G on August 20, 2011, 02:48:30 AM
Nothing wrong with boiling in aluminum. My aluminum BK had many many batches go through it, and never gave a metallic taste.
Title: Re: Copper boil kettle - taste impact?
Post by: woadwarrior on August 20, 2011, 04:54:24 AM
I guess I stand corrected. At least as far as using Al for brewing beer. To date, I've only made meads and everything I've been told and read said not to use it as a brew kettle for the must for the reasons I stated. (And the thought of possibly wasting 20 lbs. of honey didn't seem worth the risk of trying.)