Saturday, January 14, 2012

Screwy's Recipe 65 - Screwy Witz Witbier

Over the past several months I've been slowly converting all of my favorite extract recipes over to all grain. I've converted my Stouts, IPAs, Oktoberfest and several others over the past six months saving my wheat beer extract recipe for last. I was a little anxious about converting the wheat beer recipe to all grain because I would have to add flaked wheat and flaked oats to the mash. I've never used flaked wheat or flaked oats before and I was worried that if I didn't do it properly I could get a stuck mash. A stuck mash would mean wasting an entire brewday and ending up with no beer to show for it, not to mention throwing away all those ingredients.

Wheat, Oats, Barley, Hops And Secret Ingredients In Screwy Witz

Thankfully the morning I picked up my grains Joe Bair was helpful enough to explain which step I had to do differently in preparing the mash when using flaked ingredients. Thanks to Joe's advice I was able to brew two 5 gallon batches back to back without running into any problems or getting a stuck mash. Once the mash was completed brewing an all grain wheat beer was just the same as brewing any other all grain recipe as far as the lauter, boil and fermentation went.

Screwy Witz Witbier At Four Weeks

The last time I brewed a Belgian Witbier it was from an extract recipe had I ordered from Mr. Beer in 2010. I had spiced up the recipe back then by adding crushed coriander seeds and orange rinds to provide some citrus notes and some cardamom to add bit of spicy heat. Back then I hadn't really developed a taste for this style of beer yet but lot of people who tried it really liked it. Since then I'd been brewing wheat beers using DME and steeping grains and those recipes produced a nice drinkable wheat beer that was a hit with the people who drank them. So I set out to convert my basic wheat beer recipe from DME to all grain, with further plans in mind of using some adjuncts to create as many different wheat beer styles as I can.

I Love A Good Wheat Beer Any Time Of Year

Now with any fear of a stuck mash out of mind and far behind me I focused on creating the perfect Belgian Witbier recipe, one that I thought came the closest to what I wanted and others would expect in the final beer. My goal here was now two fold convert my DME recipe to all grain and then extend that conversion further out into the BJCP guidelines for a true Belgian Witbier which states 'Moderate sweetness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanilla) with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumy coriander, often with a complex herbal, spicy, or peppery note in the background. Moderate zesty, citrusy orangey fruitiness. A low spicy-herbal hop aroma is optional, but should never overpower the other characteristics.'

Flaked Oats, Flaked Wheat, Wheat Malt, Pilsener Malt And Rice Hulls

Within a week and only after having invested a lot of time doing online research I put together my final ingredient list. I emailed the list over to Princeton Homebrew and anxiously waited for the reply from Joe Bair confirming when he thought he could have my order ready and which of my preferred ingredients were in stock. I know whenever I email an order in to be filled it depends on how hectic it is in the store before I get a reply confirmation back. I always make it a point to send my list over well in advance of my planned pick up time and remember on the drive over that I may have some time to look around and ask questions while I wait to pay for my order.

Mixture Of Rice Hulls And Malted Grains Go In First

The day I picked up my ingredients Joe asked if I'd ever done an all grain wheat beer before and I said no this would be my first time. Joe suggested that I first add the malts, rice hulls and strike water to the mash tun and mix them all together until they hit my mash temperature, making sure there was enough room and strike water left on top of the tun so when I added the flaked oats and wheat they were submerged. 

Flaked Wheat And Oats Added To Top Of Mash

Loading the mash tun was easy to do even though l had never done it this way before. The idea was to  simply create a sort of filter bed made up of rice hulls and grains that would prevent the thick proteins from the flaked oats and wheat from sticking the mash. I just added a cup full of pilsener malt then a cup full of rice hulls and then a cup full of pilsener malt then a cup full of wheat malt until all the hulls and malts were in the mash tun. Then I added strike water until I reached my mash thickness, stirred all the grains together hitting my mash temperature and leaving enough room for the flaked grains and additional strike water.

Mash Tun Topped Off And Ready To Go

Into the mash tun went the rice halls along with the Belgian pilsener malt and German wheat malts. I filled the tun up to the 4 gallon mark when I hit my mash temperature of 152F after mixing all the rice hulls and grains together with the strike water. Next I poured the flaked wheat and flaked oats on top of the mash and then added enough strike water to fill the tun up to the 4.75 gallon mark and then screwed on the lid and began the 60 minute countdown. After doing this for the first time I realized that this whole process was easier to do than it was to explain and it made perfect sense. The rice hulls mixed in with the malts provided a deep enough grain bed that the mixture of flaked oats and wheat on top would never be able to clog up the filter and cause a stuck mash.

Single Infusion Mash And Fly Sparge

Since the flaked oats and wheat had to sit undisturbed during the entire mash process there was no need to open the tun or mess with it for the entire hour. I built this mash tun myself and have used it dozens of times so far and it always holds the mash temperature from start to finish. I start out by preheating the mash tun with about 2-3 gallons of 170F water for 20 minutes or so only dumping it out just before I'm ready to add in my grains and strike water.

Vorlauf The New Wort Until It Runs Really Clear

Right after I stir the mash and tweak my mash temperature I screw on the lid of the mash tun and immediately place two folded towels on top of the lid to help hold in the heat and keep it from escaping through the lid. Since the cooler itself was designed by the manufacturer to hold cold liquids the lid wasn't engineered to hold in heat but the folded towels placed on top of the lid provide the needed insulation.

Adding The Screwy Witz Special Ingredients To The Boil Pot

One of my favorite parts of the brewday were spent preparing the spices that went into the boilpot along with the hop additions and bitter orange peel. I put all the spices in a small plastic container for convenience and then just added them all to the boil at the same time. Belgian Witbier by style should use Noble hops that complement the citrusy coriander and spicy cardamom induced flavors and aromas that are unique to this style of beer.

Cooling Down The Wort To Pitching Temperature

If there's one step left in my brewing process that needs further improvement it's the wort cooling process. I learned a lesson in physics about the heat transfer in liquids the first time I used a water bath cool my wort down. Unlike hot air that rises up drawing in the cooler surrounding air to replace it as it's being heated water acts a whole lot different. With my sink filled with 55F water and a bunch of frozen water bottles I found that the water closest to the boil pot was really hot. But the further I moved my hand through the water away from the boil pot the colder the water temperature was. I ended up using my mash paddle to carefully stir the water bath to keep the colder water circulating against the side of the boil pot.

Racking Cooled Wort To LBKs Using An Auto Siphon
 As the wort was cooling I gave it several good stirs to keep the hot wort in contact with the cooling coils and the side of the boil pot. This really sped up the cooling process a lot by preventing a thermal barrier from forming around the colder coils and pot surfaces. Another benefit of stirring the wort is it forces all the cold break to collect in a neat little pile on the bottom of the pot making racking only the clean wort into the fermentors much easier.


  1. Have you even gotten an infection by having your wort open to the air as it cools? I usually cover mine w pot lid - or seal tightly w foil when I brew outside... not totally sure that's necessary but it works for me. Nice blog

  2. I've never gotten an infection or covered the boil pot when cooling the wort down. I brew indoors so the environment is more controllable and cleaner than outdoors but the idea is to cool down the wort as quickly as possible to avoid infection.