Cold Extraction Overview and a 1.4% ABV Saison

Despite what you’ve been told, low abv beers are all the rage right now!

Truth be told, I’m not up on trends in brewing.

What I am in touch with is my hankering for beer. When I drink beer, I tend to like to drink more than one pint. This can be unproductive and disruptive.

In a world filled with 15% abv dessert stouts (which I am guilty of brewing), double and triple IPAs, and all the high octane nonsense like “Snake Venom” where are we to find a drink that’s tasty and still lets us keep our heads clear. Look no further.

Actually, I highly recommend reading “Cold extraction of malt components and their use in brewing applications” by Dan Bies. Look here.

There are more reasons than avoiding inebriation to make low abv beers. They are lighter and arguably more refreshing than their bolder cousins. They’re great on a hot day and fine on a cold one.

In this series, I will brew through a large variety of styles attempting to reproduce hyper low alcohol versions using a cold extraction method. Naturally, I will catalog my experiences and opinions on this blog. For your benefit or demise.

I must also give credit to reddit u/Neuroplasm for sparking this whole idea. I first came across it when he/she did this post.

Cold Extraction: Brew Process

When using cold extraction the idea is you get “all” the flavor components of the malt without all the fermentables. I say “all” but really its more like “most” or “a lot”.

Everything for this is the same as a “normal” brewday except the mash.

Using cold/RO water, all the water for the brew is collected in my electric kettle. I BIAB.

After that, I add the grist to the cold water and let it sit overnight in a cold place, at refrigerator temps. In the winter, I can use my sun-room. In the summer, I’ll have to use my spare fridge and a bucket. At least 8 hours of steep time is recommended unless using some mechanical means to “stir”. It’s easy to just let it sit overnight but if you want to recirculate or have a means of mixing then the time can be cut down considerably. Dan Bies says, one hour is adequate, if recirculating.

Once extraction is complete, remove the grain bag or lauter. I can’t speak to using any method other than no-sparge.

Once the grain is separated from the cold wort, hit the heat and bring to conversion temp. Both beta and alpha amylase are soluble in cold water and will be present without the grain. Once conversion is complete, everything is the same as a normal brewday.

1.4% ABV Saison Recipe

Overview 

  • Packaging volume: 19 L (5 gal) 
  • OG 1.020
  • FG 1.005
  • EBC 8.8
  • IBU 12.3 ( *estimated 80% utilization)
  • Steep 8+ hours (cold)
  • Convert at 67°C (45 minutes)
  • Boil for 60 minutes 
  • Carbonation 2.5 Vol

Fermentables 

  • Pilsner malt (4 kg)
  • Munich malt (500 g)

Hops

  • Chinook 7 g at 45 minutes
  • Summer 42.5 g at 2 minutes

Yeast

  • Danstar’s Belle Saison (1 pkg)

Fermentation

  • 19°C (probe on the side of the bucket in my fermentation chamber)

Water Profile

  • Balanced (Chloride to Sulfate)

Notes From Brewday

  • Mash was 9°C when first mixed
  • Steeped at 4°C (ambient) for 12 hours
  • Issue with the kettle lead to an unplanned rest at 50°C for 15 minutes
  • Mash pH 5.66 with 4 mls lactic acid
  • After boil, chilled all the way to 16.5°C (colder than my target but just fine)

Taste Notes

Appearance – Crystal clear after a week in the keg and fined with gelatin. Light color but not quite straw. Solid white head with good retention.

Aroma – Spicy.

Taste – Peppery, slightly bitter, a hint of citrus, not much malt.

Mouthfeel – medium full, carbonation-medium

Other – Very drinkable, crisp and refreshing. I would prefer something with more malt character but for 1.4% was impressed with how much flavor it had. This beer won’t fool anybody into thinking its 6% abv but doesn’t taste anything like what I’d expect from 1.4%. Overboard on the hops and a tad too peppery. I would back off on both the Chinook and Summer next time and maybe change the fermentation temp.

Thoughts Moving Forward

As I mentioned, I will continue to play with the cold extraction to produce more low abv beers. I’d like to look into a way to boost the beta-glucans up as a way of improving the mouthfeel but am unsure how to go about this. Flaked oats are the obvious choice but I don’t know how much (beta-glucan) I’ll get doing a cold steep. Bies found that with using pale malt only 10% of beta-glucan was extracted when compared to a congress mash. Here’s a link to a nifty graph illustrating what I’m talking about. Note that beta-glucan extraction wasn’t measured for rye malt, another good choice for boosting the content. I’m going out on a limb, but it seems safe to say that if 10% was what was seen in pale malt then a similar percentage could be expected from oats or rye.

Another interesting thing to note is there aren’t a lot of dextrins in beer made using a cold extraction. Used to be that people said dextrins where responsible for boosting mouthfeel/body. That’s been pretty much debunked.

Recommended Reading

Reference

Bies, D. (2016, September 5). Cold extraction of malt components and their use in brewing applications. Retrieved from http://blog.brewingwithbriess.com/cold-extraction-of-malt-components-and-their-use-in-brewing-applications/

Comments are welcome!

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