Author Topic: Pilsner brewing  (Read 4945 times)

Offline redzim

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Pilsner brewing
« on: January 12, 2011, 02:11:31 PM »

With spring hopefully on its way, the brewing mind turns to Pilsners. As is probably the case with many homebrewers, I’ve never been able to achieve that great crispness of even run-of-the mill Bohemian Pilsners that are a dime a dozen over in Germany, never mind something stellar like Pilsner Urquell.  One might ask, why bother to even try to match them; they’ve had almost 2 centuries of head start, and I’ve only done 3 or 4 batches of German and Bohemian Pils. But I’d like to give it a shot and get better beer. 

Last summer my Pilsner attempts were consistently too “sweet” and “bready”.  I might also be tasting diacetyl, but I did do diacetyl rests on these beers, and anyways I don’t really know what diacetyl really tastes like, when it comes down to it….  (is there some commercial beer that has diacetyl issues…. I’d buy some just to learn what it tastes like !)  I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things to improve on, and would love some suggestions… 

1)   Malt. I brewed both JZ’s “Myburger” (1.054 to 1.009) and BoPils (1.057 to 1.014) recipes last year with Crisp Euro Pils as the base malt, because that is what I can get cheap from my local brewpub.   Would paying almost twice as much for something like Weyermann make a huge difference?  I’ve done other lagers (Maibock and Helles come to mind) using this Pils malt as the base and got good results, and even placed in some competitions (the Helles took a gold, and the Maibock a silver, at New York State Fair last summer)…. The breadiness is not so out of place in those styles.

2)   Yeast. I brewed both these Pilsners with S-189 dry Swiss lager yeast which has good recommendations from people like Denny…   I would love to keep using dry yeast – would W-34/70 be better?  I’ve heard nothing good about S-23 though.  Unless you all tell me that I will NEVER make a decent Pils without a liquid yeast and a monster starter…. I started brewing that way but just kind of slipped over to the quick and easy “pitch dry yeast into the fermenter and hit it with the mix-stir” method (with encouragement from folks like MullerBrau) and never looked back

3)   Water. This is the  one I don’t really want to deal with, but will if I have to. I’ve never modded my water, and get good ales, stouts, as well as good amber and dark lagers. So I guess I may be on to something, I just don’t know how to fix it.  Here’s my water profile: pH 7.4.  Na 14ppm, K 1ppm, Ca 54ppm, Mg 9ppm, Total Hardness  173ppm, Chloride 25ppm, Carbonates <1ppm, Bicarbonates 166ppm, Total Alkalinity 136ppm.  From my limited research it seems this is not good Pilsner water… what can I do to fix it?

I know this is a pretty involved query, but if anyone has ideas on even part of my question, I’d appreciate it. Or if you need more info, let me know.

-red

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2011, 02:40:21 PM »
1) Grain bill should be simple. 100% pils malt. Anything more than that is most likely unecessary (with the exception of acidulated malt and perhaps cara-pils) . I like Best German Pils but Rahr makes an exceptional substitution.

2) The S-189 is a decent lager strain. I prefer the liquid lager strains though. Regardless, in either case, are you pitching enough yeast? You need (at least) 2xs the amount of yeast for a lager as for an ale. See the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com. You need to aerate longer as well. Are you cooling to pithcing temps before pitching? Pitching warm and starting fermentation off, then cooling, is not an ideal way to make a lager.

3) Water is going to be essential. As is pH. You must have soft water and you must check pH. In the case of your water I would start with RO water and add some calcium back in. You will want about 50ppms of calcium in your brewing liquor.

Pilsners, Helles', and Kolsches are very difficult to brew. But it you dot all your t's and cross your i's you can do it. Errrr.... I mean the other way around. ;D
« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 02:43:14 PM by majorvices »
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Offline denny

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2011, 02:57:03 PM »
2)   Yeast. I brewed both these Pilsners with S-189 dry Swiss lager yeast which has good recommendations from people like Denny…   I would love to keep using dry yeast – would W-34/70 be better?  I’ve heard nothing good about S-23 though.  Unless you all tell me that I will NEVER make a decent Pils without a liquid yeast and a monster starter…. I started brewing that way but just kind of slipped over to the quick and easy “pitch dry yeast into the fermenter and hit it with the mix-stir” method (with encouragement from folks like MullerBrau) and never looked back


S-189 is a great dry lager yeast, but probably not the best choice for pils (although not terrible either).  34/70 would be better if you want to stay with dry yeast.  I'm using WY2124 this lager season and I think it's really a great pils yeast.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2011, 03:03:10 PM »
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?
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Offline denny

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2011, 03:12:05 PM »
Doubtful there's anything wrong with that!  Most of the time I go all pils, but every once in a while I'll throw in about 5-10% Munich.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2011, 03:19:46 PM »
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?

I used nearly this same grain bill (2% mel) on my first lager in my new ferm chamber.  It didn't come out great, a bit sweet and slightly bready like red complained of.  Maybe its a touch of diacetyl (I too did a good long d-rest), I know what diacetyl tastes like but its hard to tell in this brew.  Maybe it just needs more lagering, maybe I didn't use enough yeast, but my second try is sans melanoidin.  Its in the lager fridge, I'll report in a few weeks.
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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2011, 03:30:11 PM »
Doubtful there's anything wrong with that!  Most of the time I go all pils, but every once in a while I'll throw in about 5-10% Munich.

Do you ever do a step mash for pils?  If you're only doing a single infusion, at what temp are you mashing and for how long?

tomsawyer, I get that bready flavor in my Helles. I've always attributed it to the small amount of Munich and melanoidin I use in that grain bill (I actually enjoy that flavor in my Helles). But I don't think it's as appropriate in a N. German Pils, from what I understand. So, I may try a 100% pils recipe in the future. It depends on how my most recent pils turns out.
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Offline denny

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2011, 03:41:18 PM »
Do you ever do a step mash for pils?  If you're only doing a single infusion, at what temp are you mashing and for how long?


Yeah, I do sometimes.  I have doubts about how much difference a step mash makes, so I go back and forth doing and not doing them to try to decide what I think.  If I step, it's 146 for 60 and around 158-160 for 30.  For a single infusion I do 147-148 for 90.
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Offline jeffy

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2011, 03:53:22 PM »
I've been very happy with the W34/70 dry yeast for German lagers.  I've also been shooting for lower mash temps (148) to keep the beer as dry as possible.  It's working out pretty well both in my Dortmunder Export and my N. German Pils. 
I usually use 100% Wyerman Pils malt.  I tried a couple bags of Briess Malteurop, but the efficiency dropped pretty significantly and I didn't get the breadiness of the German pils malt.
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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2011, 04:34:55 PM »
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?

What I should have said is that anything more than 100% pils isn't really necessary. Same with a beer like "kolsch", and yet  find myself putting munich in my grain bill from time to time, and I always add wheat.

IMO for a Bo Pils cara-pils is important for the mouth feel, but I know a lot of people disagree with that.
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Offline Malticulous

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2011, 05:26:06 PM »
I made a German pils and a Bo pils recently. The German pils was all Castle Pils, the Bo pils had 5% Best caramel pils. The German pils was with my water and the Bo pils I cut my water with RO 50%. My water is softer than yours is. Both were made with double decotions.

I used one pack S-34/70 in the German pils and pitch slurry in the Bo pils.I think I hit the spot with both of them. With the German pils the  bitterness lingered into the dry finish. It didn't with the Bo pils even with more hops.

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2011, 10:48:29 PM »
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?

What I should have said is that anything more than 100% pils isn't really necessary.

You say that, but you haven't tried mine made with 105% pils. ;)
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Offline Kaiser

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2011, 11:03:46 PM »
Last summer my Pilsner attempts were consistently too “sweet” and “bready”.  I might also be tasting diacetyl, but I did do diacetyl rests on these beers, and anyways I don’t really know what diacetyl really tastes like, when it comes down to it….  (is there some commercial beer that has diacetyl issues…. I’d buy some just to learn what it tastes like !)  I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things to improve on, and would love some suggestions… 

Start doing a fast ferment test for your lagers. The test itself won't fix anything but it gives you one vital piece of information -> the fermentability of your wort. If your beer seems too sweet, chances are that there are too many residual fermentable sugars left. I know from experience that getting the yeast to ferment those last sugars can take a while but you won't get a crisp tasting beer if the yeast doesn't go all the way.

Quote
1)   Malt. I brewed both JZ’s “Myburger” (1.054 to 1.009) and BoPils (1.057 to 1.014) recipes last year with Crisp Euro Pils as the base malt, because that is what I can get cheap from my local brewpub.   Would paying almost twice as much for something like Weyermann make a huge difference?

I like Weyermann a lot,m but many of my recent beers have been brewed with Best Malz Pilsner and they are fine too. I don't have any direct comparison though.

Quote
2)   Yeast.

Is key. I have little experience with dry yeast. Judging by the name, 34/70 is the German brewing yeast. However, when I used the s34/70 strain the results were too sulfury for my taste. I have good success with WLP830, which I think is the W34/70 strain that is so widely used in German brewing. You'll need a large amount of healthy and young yeast. Anything not healthy enough and you'll have problems getting those last fermentable sugars (Maltotriose in most cases) fermented. In its last step I raise my yeast with constant aeration and try to brew within 2-3 days of the last propagation step being complete.

You want to be able to ferment the beer at 46-50 F. How long does your primary fermentation take now?

Quote
3)   Water. This is the  one I don’t really want to deal with, but will if I have to. I’ve never modded my water, and get good ales, stouts, as well as good amber and dark lagers. So I guess I may be on to something, I just don’t know how to fix it.  Here’s my water profile: pH 7.4.  Na 14ppm, K 1ppm, Ca 54ppm, Mg 9ppm, Total Hardness  173ppm, Chloride 25ppm, Carbonates <1ppm, Bicarbonates 166ppm, Total Alkalinity 136ppm.  From my limited research it seems this is not good Pilsner water… what can I do to fix it?

That water needs fixing when using mostly pilsner malt. I'd start with a 50/50 dilution with reverse osmosis or distilled water and  3% acid malt to the grist. Also add about 0.4g gypsum to each gallon of water and use a mash thickness of 2 qt/lb.

There are ways to reduce the bicarbonate in your water even further. One of them is to use all RO water and add salts and another one is to treat the water with slaked lime. But that may take you too far at this point.
 
Quote
I know this is a pretty involved query, but if anyone has ideas on even part of my question, I’d appreciate it. Or if you need more info, let me know.

Getting a Pilsner or Helles that matches up with German beers is one of the driving forces in my brewing. I can tell you it is not easy at all, but maybe those tips will get you a big step closer. In particular the fermentation is key. There don't seem to be enough differences between step mashing (145 to 160F for example) over a single infusion mash that you should not worry about that at this point.

Kai

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2011, 06:21:10 AM »
Anybody got a review for Global pils (and any other Global malts)?

I've personally wondered if there aren't custom made malts being used by the established German breweries.  And I worry that freshness of malt is contributing to my inability to replicate these things, but I doubt that.
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Re: Pilsner brewing
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2011, 07:10:57 AM »
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?

What I should have said is that anything more than 100% pils isn't really necessary.

You say that, but you haven't tried mine made with 105% pils. ;)

Now thats something I have to try!  8)
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