Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Color without Roast Flavor

So, going back through some of my earliest posts I came across a technique first used on a schwarzbier back in Jan '09. Many schwarzbiers that Ive tried, either homebrewed or craft, seem to be far too roasty, almost porter-like in their flavor. When I was brewing up mine I really wanted to limit the roast flavors in the beer. Even using dehusked carafa, it can be tricky to keep the roast flavor to a minimum if you really want a black beer.

Now you could try using Sinamar (essentially extract from Carafa) but to my palate it seems to leave an unpleasant taste in the finished beer. So to avoid going that route I decided to try capping the mash with finely ground Carafa Special. I gave this a shot because Ive done a few parti-gyle brew sessions and the ones that I cap the mash with dark grains always seemed to be quite a bit more reserved in the roast department than I would have expected. So I thought what the hell, why not try it out on a schwarzbier, the worst thing that happens is I have a lager porter!

Well it worked amazingly well, the beer turned out absolutely black and gorgeous. In the picture to the left you can see the difference in the color of the runnings before and after the carafa cap. There was barely a hint of roast flavors, the beer tasted like a pilsner but was black! This is a great way to get lots of color into a Black IPA without the roasted flavors. Anyone brewing up any beer that they want a lot of color in without any roast flavors should give it a shot I think you'll be surprised with the results.

Black Color without the Roast Flavor

  1. Formulate your recipe as usual - However, use only Carafa Special as a color malt (make sure you buy the Special, regular Carafa has a much stronger roast character)
  2. Grind the Carafa Special very finely using a coffee grinder (milled grain doesn't impart as much color)
  3. Mash and recirculate as you would normally.
  4. Sprinkel the finely ground carafa on top of the grain bed and sparge as you would normally

Note - Recently it has come to my attention that some people are also trying out cold mashing of the roasted grains to bring out the color without the roast flavors. I've yet to try this method myself, although it does seem it could work well. However, it also requires another step and piece of equipment to clean, whereas capping the mash requires very little extra time or mess (no separate straining of roasted grains is needed)

Beers that Used the Technique


JC Tetreault said...

While interesting, I'm still not sure what the interest is in a black colored IPA, if there is supposed to be as little flavor contribution as possible. I very much do get the whole, "lets see if we can do it" factor, but I suppose I'm a bit of a purist, knowing that I'd like my beer color to represent the resulting flavors.

not meant to be a dig, just a personal supposition.

and I'm sure there are otherwise some great applications with some version of what you've described here for limiting acridity of the higher roasted grains.

cheers, JCTetreault

Ryan said...

Honestly Ive never made a Black IPA myself, Ive only used this technique on Schwarzbiers

Something like a schwarz isnt supposed to have a lot of roast flavors yet be jet black, so the color isnt necessarily representative of the flavor, and it is a traditional beer style

theres always gonna be people trying this or that, and trying something really dark without much roast character might be a gateway for the BMC crowd into trying other really good beers that they have always been afraid of.....

James said...

Great post. I'm interested in trying this method for making a black saison. Except, I would like to use half of the Carafa special in the mash and the other half for "capping" the mash as you describe here.

One question. Do you think that adding highly roasted malt directly to the sparge could result in increased astringecy or tannin extraction due to the lower sparge pH on top of the acidifying properties of the dark malt?

Ryan said...

James - Id be interested to hear how a saison like that would turn out, although using some in the mash would inevitably make it a tad more roasty

About the pH issue, honesty I hadnt really thought about that, but I havent noticed the pH during sparging being an issue for me either, if anything due to my very hard water it will tend to rise during the sparge rather than lower, but even then I havent had much of a problem, some of these brewing problems I wonder if while they make an impact on large scale (brewpubs) they really dont play a part for a 5gal batch or so...

You dont happen to have a pH meter do you? It would be interesting to see a graph of the pH runnings during sparging with a cap or roasted malt. If you dont Ill give it a shot on the next beer I do like this

anyhow, you have a nice looking blog! I'll definitely be poking around it now from time to time

James said...

Yes, I have a pH meter. I'll take readings during the mash & sparge when I brew the dark saison and share the results with you. I batch sparge.

I may or may not put a portion of the dehusked carafa III in the main mash for the saison. You're right, it might create more roastiness than I'd like. I'm really just looking to get it pitch black with a little hint of chocolately flavor.

James said...

Thinking more about it, the pH is probably less of an issue since I batch sparge. But, I'm going to check it anyway.

I have one more question though. In your experience, is the color contribution of the carafa in the sparge roughly equivalent to the amount of color you would get from adding the carafa to the main mash?

For example, BeerSmith says I need 12oz of carafa special III in the mash to hit 32 SRM. Does adding that 12oz in the sparge contribute the same amount of color as if it had been added in the whole mash?

Ryan said...

Yes, the color is the same and is possibly more if you grind it to a flour like I do

32srm is pretty dark, I think you could shoot for around 25-26 and it would be plenty dark, that would also let you cut back on the roast a bit, 12oz of carafa will be pretty roasty

James said...


James said...

Yesterday I brewed a dark Belgian using this technique. I decided against the saison yeast and used 3787 instead. I used 6.4 oz of Carafa III Special added at mashout. Mash pH was 5.32 with no carafa. The pH of the batch sparge with the carafa stirred in was 5.18. So, the carafa did indeed drop the sparge pH.

The technique worked. The sparge wort darkened the beer A LOT. I tasted a sample and while there may have been a subtle chocolatiness there was no roastiness.

Eventually I'll get a post up on my blog with pictures about the brewing of the beer. I'll let you know when that happens.

Ryan said...

Im glad it worked out flavor-wise for you

I dunno your science background, but Im always very very skeptical of pH meters that report to the hundredth of a pH, even taking out to a tenth of a pH is sketchy for me on most meters, that said 0.1pH drop, if is real, shouldn't affect most peoples sparging, but its something we should watch none the less

I cant wait to hear how your final beer turns out, keep me updated!

James said...

I finally put up a blog post about my carafea III capped mash beer. It was for the Iron Brewer competition. I didn't win, but the beer turned out great. Here's a link:

Ryan said...

James, the beer looks great! I didnt notice it in your tasting notes, how do you think the dark grain cap worked in your beer?

James said...

The the flavor contribution of the carafa special cap was extremely minimal. If it added anything besides color I would say perhaps just the slightest touch of dark chocolate and I may only think that because I am looking for it. No roast or astringency.

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