Author Topic: Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?  (Read 1517 times)

Offline nateo

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Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?
« on: October 28, 2012, 09:18:45 AM »
I was thinking about mashing with adjuncts and had a few questions. Does anyone target a specific nitrogen content for their wort?

Adjuncts like rice and corn will lighten body, and they contain very little protein. Wheat malt is frequently used to increase body or head retention, and typically has more protein. There seems to be a correlation between protein content and body, but is it exact enough to use predictably? For instance, would an adjunct-heavy beer with a low-protein pils malt be noticeably lighter-bodied than an adjunct-heavy beer with a lot of 6-row and/or wheat malt, assuming the same Kolbach?
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Re: Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2012, 06:16:12 AM »
My understanding is that adjuncts create smaller chain dextrins which is why they lighten the body of the beer.

My other understanding is that nitrogen is important mainly for yeast health.

Another important factor to body may be colloidal formation.

I honestly am not anywhere near schooled enough in chemistry to really know what the hell I am talking about. ;) But from experience: I do think that hops aid in head retention far more than wheat. In fact, I am to the point of thinking that the whole "wheat/extra protein" thing is a little over rated. Some of the beers I get the best head retention and lacing on have no wheat at all in the grist.

I also think that wheat tastes "lighter" that pils, so the extra protein in wheat malt must not be adding body.
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Re: Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2012, 06:50:17 AM »
I think that protein level might have a little to do with body and head retention, but I think that beta-glucans have a bigger effect on head building and retention.  Beta-glucans are polysaccharides that form long chains.  The number one contributor of beta-glucan in brewing is raw barley.  That level is reduced by a factor of ten when the barley is malted.  I recall that raw wheat only has about 20 to 30 percent of the beta glucan production as raw barley.  That does place raw wheat higher in beta-glucan than malted barley.  I don't know how the beta-glucan content of malted wheat compares to raw, but I expect that it would be similar to malted barley.  By the way, flaked grain is roughly equivalent to the raw product with respect to beta-glucan content.

I have brewed a bunch of beers with flaked barley in the past year.  My last beer was a Dunkel with 1% flaked barley.  The head was phenominal and long-lasting.  But in this relatively clean beer, there was a somewhat worty or raw flavor that I feel came from the flaked barley.  I won't be doing that again.  In retrospect, even the ales that I brewed with flaked barley had a hint of that worty, raw flavor that I could plainly discern in the Dunkel, so flaked barley does have to be used sparingly in most beers.  I think the reason it is successful in some stouts is that the roast flavors obscure or meld with that flaked barley flavor and add to the overall experience.

If I consider head and body builders again, it will likely be flaked wheat since I find its flavor crisper.  The fact that it contributes far less beta-glucan would make it easier to dial in an appropriate level in the grist.  PS: that 1% addition in the Dunkel was less than 2 oz.  I'd have to wave just the bag over the mash tun to do much less!

I note that there is a mention of Chit Malt in some German brewing circles.  That is very slightly malted barley that has just 'chitted' its rootlet out of the kernel.  Since the level of modification would affect the beta-glucan content, I have to assume that Chit malt has some intermediate beta-glucan content. 

I do recommend experimentation with flaked barley and wheat for building body and head.  It is very effective.  You do need to moderate their percentage when the beer flavor is more delicate.  In addition, producing a huge head is not a good idea since you end up with a big pour of foam no matter what you do.  So, maybe a 1/2% of flaked barley or 2% flaked wheat might be upper limits for their usage. 

Enjoy!
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2012, 07:52:07 AM »
Thanks for the info, Martin. I've heard some mention that flaked barley could be considered to be a cheaper substitute for CaraPils as far as adding body goes. I will definitely play with it, but it's good to be aware of a potential drawback to be on the look for. It sounds like CaraPils may still be the way I want to go for my hoppy session beers.
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Re: Targeting nitrogen levels / where does "body" come from?
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2012, 08:33:53 AM »
The dextrins that a crystal malt can contribute are quite different from the long chain polysaccharides that a flaked barley or wheat could provide.  The effect will be different, but there is some similarity.
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