Author Topic: Berliner Weisse Methods  (Read 845 times)

Offline flbrewer

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Berliner Weisse Methods
« on: July 08, 2015, 06:11:13 PM »
I'm going to give this style a go shortly and wanted some opinion on the two options below. The first is from Michael Tonsmeire's most recent publication and the second is from a fellow brewer that sounds like he knows what he's doing! Thoughts?


Option 1- Standard wort production> transfer wort to fermenter> pitch brewer's yeast, Brett, and lactic acid.

Option 2-Boil a liter of preservative-free apple juice in your starter flask. Then dilute it by half with seltzer water to purge the headspace with CO2. Toss in a handful of unmilled pilsner malt (or pretty much any basemalt), put an airlock on it, and keep it hot (~100-110F) for several days.

When that's looking ready, make up a mash 50/50 wheat malt and pilsner at around 1.030 or 1.035. I'll typically run my raw wort off right into my carboy, let it come down to about 120F, then pitch in my souring bugs. Bacteria are really light, so it's hard to get your starter to drop out all the way. Just go ahead and just pitch in the whole starter to get your beer going.

Keep that ~110F for a couple of days and you'll have a nice sour wort. At that point, I like to transfer it to my kettle to boil it and halt the souring. Then you just cool and pitch like normal. A clean German ale yeast is typical, but I like WLP644 for a little fruity ester character.

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2015, 09:50:06 PM »
I do a version of option one on all of my sour beers.

Normal wort production but with sours I dont use hops. My lacto strain requires <10 IBUs and at that level they dont really shine through. I dry hop however,,,

Chill to 90-100F and check wort pH. I've added a step of manually adjusting my wort pH to 4.5 with lactic acid before transfer to the fermenter to reduce the chance of some wild bug taking off.

Transfer to fermenter and pitch my entire lacto starter, which has been working for 5-7 days.

Set temp at 90-100F and I let my lacto go for a week.

Reduce temp to 70F and pitch my brett, or dregs. Here is where I would pitch wy2007 of 1056 if I was doing a berliner type beer.

For my lacto-brett American sours I let the brett go two months before I start looking for terminal gravity. With brett my terminal gravity means two hydrometer samples the same gravity a month apart. If I add fruit, I add it a month after pitching brett, and let the fruit go two months before checking gravity. This year I will be using oak spirals and those will go in a month before hydrometer samples start.

Offline kramerog

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2015, 11:03:35 PM »
Option 2 is approximately what I do.  What I do differently is make a starter with DME at 1.020 instead of apple juice and I don't boil the wort or beer; I just pitch the ale yeast when the beer has cooled down.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2015, 05:47:44 PM »
Option 2 is really a sour mash or sour wort in which you are getting whatever you get from the grain for better or for worse. It's not pure lacto; you're getting yeast and other bacteria that are fermenting away at that starter. So along with lactic acid production you'll get alcohol, other acids and various flavor compounds--not all good. For the most part the flavor compounds will boil out or will get blown out during primary fermentation but it is possible to end up carrying over some flavors. I've done a version of this plenty of times and only had flavors show up a couple of times. They weren't bad but they weren't what I expected (e.g. vanilla). Plenty of people have negative experience with it so there is good reason to avoid this process unless you want that element of risk and unpredictability in your beer.

There are so many easily available sources of lacto these days. In addition to the pitches from yeast labs there are all those probiotic pills with lacto (and sometimes other stuff) that people have used with success. You can get those pills for as little as $5/jar.
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2015, 11:05:56 PM »
My preferred process is a bit different from any of those listed...It has given me the best results in competitions.

1.  Make a 1 L starter (1.020) and pitch 1 packet lacto using an airlock (no stir plate).  Keep at 95-100F to ferment out (about 5-7 days).

2.  Chill overnight, decant spent wort and step up to 2 L at 1.035 or so.  Same process as above.

3.  Chill to crash out powdery lacto.

4.  Brew typical Berliner recipe, 5-10 IBU's (either with mash hop or decoction), 149F conversion rest, 168F mashout/10 min., no boil, chill to 110 or so and rack with no splashing to fermenter.

5.  Pitch decanted lacto starter and let ferment at 95-100F for 7 days or so.

6.  Let beer naturally cool to 70-75F, pitch 1 packet/vial of german ale yeast (no aeration).

7.  Let ferment out and age to increase acidity if needed (sometimes up to 4-6 more months to get that classic BW acid level).  Brett can be pitched if desired to increase complexity.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2015, 12:50:45 AM »
My approach is very similar to brewinhard's. However, I do like the broader flavor that I get by culturing a lacto culture using a pitch of raw grain into the starter. When you keep it anaerobic with a good airlock, it will eventually develop into a mostly monoculture of lacto at a nice low pH. Since a pitch of Wyeast or White Labs pure lacto will cost you many dollars, the raw grain approach is very economical and pretty low risk. If it doesn't evolve into a pleasant smelling starter in time, toss it. It didn't cost more than a few cents.

If you are doing a 5 gal batch, I suggest that you don't need to use your fermenter for the wort souring stage. I just run off the hot wort into a corny keg and pitch the lacto starter into that when its cooled enough. Put the lid on the corny and vent it every day. Lacto doesn't make much CO2, so you don't really need to worry about pressurizing the keg during the ferment. I put a heating pad on the keg and wrapped it with a blanket. It only takes about 3 days to drop the wort pH to the very low 3 range. I don't think you have to wait for a week.

Its an easy process. Try it!
Martin B
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2015, 01:15:56 AM »
Maybe it's time to develop some new terminology? I would call Martin's method Spontaneous Souring, and my method Controlled Souring, or Selective Souring. When you do it would be Preboil or Postboil. No one is right or wrong, they're just different. I happen to prefer the clean predictable sour, but I appreciate the wild nature of spontaneous too.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2015, 02:16:51 AM »
I do a sour wort method. I mash, then runoff into a keg and use a few handfuls of pilsner malt to innoculate the wort. To minimize the risk of off flavors I drop the pH to the ballpark of 4.5 using lactic acid and I purge the keg with CO2 to keep the oxygen levels down. Then I stick the keg in a cooler with my Brew Belt strapped on it.

I would recommend a spunding valve of some sort if you do this in a keg, however. I learned the hard way that a lot of CO2 pressure can build up during the souring process. During my first sour wort process I hooked up a cobra tap to draw off a sample, and was met with an instant firehose/geyser scenario. What a mess that was...
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2015, 05:07:58 PM »
Jim, with pre-acidification of the starter wort, that spontaneous method can be much more selective. pH is the primary limiter of spoiling organisms in wort and applying our own acidification instead of waiting for our lacto friends to take over, is an effective way to shut the bad boys out. Taking the pH down below 4.5 means you've taken virtually all the alkalinity out of the wort and the subsequent wort pH drop is easier from that point.

My experience is that eventually, all the nasty smelling organisms are overwhelmed by the lacto's low pH environment, but starting out with low pH should make the possibility of the starter from smelling nasty, much lower. I think you are doing it right.
Martin B
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Berliner Weisse Methods
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2015, 10:10:51 PM »
Jim, with pre-acidification of the starter wort, that spontaneous method can be much more selective. pH is the primary limiter of spoiling organisms in wort and applying our own acidification instead of waiting for our lacto friends to take over, is an effective way to shut the bad boys out. Taking the pH down below 4.5 means you've taken virtually all the alkalinity out of the wort and the subsequent wort pH drop is easier from that point.

My experience is that eventually, all the nasty smelling organisms are overwhelmed by the lacto's low pH environment, but starting out with low pH should make the possibility of the starter from smelling nasty, much lower. I think you are doing it right.
Thanks Martin! Its not my original thought for sure, but something I stumbled on in the weeds that I think makes sense. But to reiterate, I really think there are numerous ways to do these sour beers, it all depends on what you want.