I am usually pretty careful about ingredient amounts when brewing. I also usually don’t get started until sometime after my coffee has kicked in. Well, after doing this for 10 years, I’m pretty sure I am NOT going to get what it was that I’m after.
Yesterday’s errors are two part, one part me and one part supplier. I ordered seven pounds of ‘flaked rice’ for two different brews over the next two weekends. An American Light Lager and a Cream Ale. Normally, for the Cream Ale, I would just use Minute Rice but since the cost of what my supplier charges for Flaked Rice and what the grocery store charges for Minute Rice was negligible, I went with my supplier. When I received the ingredients from my supplier, I noticed that the rice simply looked like ground up rice! I have never worked with ‘flaked’ rice before and not knowing what it was supposed to look like, I didn’t think too much of it.
Being this was a 10 gallon batch, I started my brewday a little early. Before I got my first cup of coffee in, I had all the grains prepared and my strike water on the fire. What I didn’t pay attention to was that I had all seven pounds of the rice mixed in with my grain. I only needed five pounds or so. I didn’t realize this little flub until about half way through my mash. Really, this wasn’t a big deal. It just means that I blew the style and the alcohol content would be higher than what I was after. Still, perfectly drinkable. I completed the mash and moved onto the boil. Here is where it got ugly.
According to the software I was using, my pre-boil gravity, with the extra rice, should have been 1.037. I took my measurement and wound up with 1.020! That didn’t make any sense! Maybe I used a LOT less of the two-row barley then I thought! So, I measured what I had left. Nope. I had exactly what I expected. Maybe I had WAY too much water in my boil kettle? Nope. Dead on with what I wanted. Wow, okay well, if I brew it ‘as is’ I am looking at an ABV of 2.8 percent. I may as well boil water and bottle that! I mean, I know that Light Lager isn’t the most popular style for homebrewing and the commercial versions are usually rather tasteless but, I wasn’t looking to match them THAT closely! Good grief, even THEY run an ABV of 4% or so! Damnit! At this point, I can either boil this beer down to about half of the wort that’s in the boil kettle now, which would take hours and probably taste like burnt coffee or, I can use some dry malt extract to try and boost the ABV to where it should be. I only had about half of what I needed so I tossed it in. This brought my pre-boil to 1.030, still really low for what I wanted but whatever, close enough and no choice but to deal with it. I finished out my brewday and sat for the rest of the afternoon going over, in my head, my steps to try and figure out what it was I missed.
I started tinkering with the program to see if maybe I missed something. At first everything seemed okay. I had trouble with the program the week before with boil volumes but found a way to fix my problem mid boil. It was my first time using the software and expected issues. This time, those problems weren’t there. Everything was right, until I started messing with the amounts of ingredients themselves. On a whim, I removed the rice completely from the recipe and, according to the software, my pre-boil gravity went from 1.037 to 1.022. Almost exactly what I experience during the brew! I didn’t get any conversion from the rice. It wasn’t, by definition, ‘flaked’. It wasn’t pre-cooked or pre-gelatinized to make it mashable. It was simply milled.
What I produced was an American Light, 3.2% ABV, single malt single hop (SMaSH) Lager. Anyway, it’s fermenting away in the brew room. How will it turn out? Who knows but, next time, I am going to go with what I know and stick with Minute Rice. “Perfect every time…” 😉