Author Topic: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?  (Read 1000 times)

Offline jimdabler

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Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« on: April 05, 2014, 02:23:18 PM »
Hi all...  Sorry if this is posted somewhere else but I couldn't find it...

So I've been home brewing about a year now and doing all-grain for about the last six months...  I'm noticing a difference in clarity between my extract brews and my all grain brews.  When I'm brewing, I seem to have a nice rolling boil for the full 60 - 75 minutes time frame.  I add my Irish Moss (or Whirl-Floc tablets) during the last 15 minutes of the boil...  I do two stage fermentation (not really wanting to discuss the pros/cons of multiple stage fermentation.  I'm more interested in the boil process right now).  I add a clarifier (usually isinglass) for that last 72 hours of secondary fermentation.  However, my beer always seems to suffer from a haziness that I can't explain.  It's not chill haze (at least I don't think it's chill haze) because it seems hazy when I bottle.

I usually try to be very precise in my mash/sparge temperatures.  I use a wort chiller to cool the wort down.

I've been doing some research, going back to John Palmer's "How to Brew" and Charlie Papazian's "The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing" and seeing if I can find what I'm doing wrong.  The biggest culprit seems to be the hot break or cold break periods.  I've read what Palmer describes as the hot break but I don't seem to recall seeing anything like that in my recent all-grain attempts. 

So, my question is this:  How do I know when I've hit the hot break and the cold break?  That's the area I think I may be screwing up.  The beer seems to taste fine enough - everybody who drinks seems to like it so I haven't been too worried.  But the perfectionist in me is now upset and wants to know what I'm doing wrong.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

jim()
« Last Edit: April 05, 2014, 04:14:15 PM by jimdabler »
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 07:26:44 PM »
I'd start with the mash. This sounds like a problem with your mash pH.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 07:39:59 PM »
I'd start with the mash. This sounds like a problem with your mash pH.

+1. When I got a grip on pH, the clarity (and quality) of my beers got exponentially better. I highly recommend downloading Bru'nWater. It'll help you hit your target pH very accurately.
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Offline gymrat

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2014, 08:51:54 PM »
I see two things here. First Whirfloc, regardless if directions, needs to be added with less than 15 minutes left in the boil. 15 minutes will denature it. I add mine at 5 minutes to go.

Second, I struggled with clarity of my beer for years...then one time, quite by accident, I discovered it was my pour that was causing the haziness. I was pouring beer into sample glasses and noticed the first glass was crystal clear, the second one had the usual haze. I learned to pour slowly and watch the beer coming out of the bottle, as soon as I see any sediment at all I quit pouring. I don't care what I leave in the bottle.

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Offline majorvices

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2014, 02:25:20 AM »
Almost certainly a pH problem. Do you have any idea about the mineral content of your water? There are some simple primers on brewing water about the web. But basically you need to figure out what style beers your water is suited to brew, and make adjustments from there.

In my area, I can brew an "amberish" beer and usually my pH will check in at 5.4 no problem. With dark beer I need to add some calcium carbonate. With a very pale beer I need some lactic acid and calcium chloride. Some very pale beers, such as kolsch, pils or Helles I usually build my water from RO water and add minerals from there or blend my filtered tap with the RO.

Palmer has a good section on water in his book and there are some pod casts that will give you some serious detail.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2014, 04:46:20 AM »
I'm a big fan of getting a ward labs water test. And or building water from RO or distilled using Brun water or similar. I use brewers friend

Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2014, 05:32:35 AM »
I agree with the experts so far. 

To try and answer your direct question though, the hot break normally occurs right as your wort is starting to boil.  A layer of foam will start to form on the surface of the wort.  This layer may be 1/2" thick or expand until your kettle boils over depending on the wort composition.  If you are boiling for 60+ minutes you must be seeing some level of hot break.

Cold break forms as the temp of wort drops through a certain range (don't recall what it is off the top of head) and looks (to me at least) like seaweed or kelp in undisturbed wort.  If you are stirring your wort to circulate around your IC it just contributes to the "cream of wheat" texture of the wort and you may not be able to differentiate it from all the other sludge swirling around in there.

The folks here will correct or clarify as needed.  8^)

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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2014, 07:34:36 AM »
You really can't "screw up" hot break or cold break, but you can skim the hot break (I do this on the lightest pilsners occasionally, but I'm not convinced it does anything);  you should stop whirlpooling and let the cold break settle in the boil kettle, if you have a concern that too much of it is getting into the fermenter.  I use a double mesh strainer to minimize cold break/trub carryover and have gone to a false bottom kettle with whole hops get very clear wort to start with in the fermenter.  But as said above, you may very well have a pH problem arising from the makeup of your base water.  Try a batch with store bought distilled water and use Bru'nwater to build the right composition of your brewing water and I bet your beer will be clear.  Of course, many beers are intentionally hazy, but that's not from the pH being wrong...good luck and keep brewing!
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Offline jimdabler

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2014, 11:34:34 AM »
thanks for the replies.  Lot of good information.

Hadn't even thought about the pH level being off.  I've got the Bru'n Water spreadsheet and will use that before my next brew session - scheduled for a couple of weeks out right now.  A second attempt at an Amber Ale.

I appreciate the help...
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2014, 11:47:23 AM »
I know you're asking about the boil, but most clarity issues occur in the cellar.

How's your pitching rate? Are the beers attenuating before transferring to the brite? When/where do you cold crash? How cold is the beer when you fine? You need to form haze in order to remove it.
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Offline dcb

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2014, 09:43:31 PM »
Cold break forms as the temp of wort drops through a certain range (don't recall what it is off the top of head) and looks (to me at least) like seaweed or kelp in undisturbed wort.

When brewing today I got a pretty good look at the cold break formation, and I drew off a sample to see what I could see.  The first pic is after the sample set in the fridge for about 15 minutes, the second after a full hour.  Seaweed or egg drop soup sums it up pretty well.


Offline majorvices

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2014, 04:18:50 AM »
Also, and I'm surprised no one mentioned this (including me) the hot break is the foam in addition to the "egg drop soup" looking protein coagulations that form in the boil. Some malts will form more than others but you should see some in every boil. When I brew with pilsner malt I get a vast amount of "egg drop soup" rolling around in my boil.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2014, 04:39:50 AM »
Keith is correct. I'm a skimmer, as it gives me something to do while waiting for the boil.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2014, 04:59:22 AM »
I'm a skimmer, as it gives me something to do while waiting for the boil.

+1.  Me too.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Hot Break - How to know when you've hit it?
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2014, 05:26:57 AM »
I skimmed a couple times then I heard (Bamforth I think) on the BN say that the top foam at hot break, if left in, will bind to tannins and other polyphenols. I dont recall which episode, and cant vouch for my memory on this. I do recall them saying that skimming vs not skimming is not much difference, so I just quit doing it.