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Monday, July 25, 2016

Rice Hulls While Brewing Wheat Beers: Do You Need Them?

Jimmy(your's truly) on the left
Brooligan Matt on the right
Mashing In
We recently brewed a slightly modified version of Great Fermentations' Witless in Indianapolis. The airlock is bubbling away now. We change the orange peel charge a little by stepping down to only .5oz of bitter orange peel and adding .5oz of sweet orange peel. The recipe suggests Wyeast 3944 but I opted for Safbrew's T-58 Dry yeast in hopes that I get a little more spicy Belgian character and shipping liquid yeast in the summer is risky.

I don't practice brew in a bag but I do use a bag. I have The Brew Bag that fits 10 gallon round coolers and I use it in place of a false bottle or bazooka tube in my mash tun. I don't skip the sparge. This hybrid style of brewing makes for lots of fun experimentation. I read that rice hulls were not necessary when doing true brew in a bag since there was no sparge. I opted not to add the supplied rice hulls to my wit mash. That was a mistake.

This was my first all grain wheat beer using the bag as in place of a false bottom. When it came time to sparge there was a thick layer of gunk at the top of my mash that the sparge water could not penetrate. I had a stuck sparge. Luckily the problem was on the top so the fix was easy. I had to stir every 5 minutes or so since the layer reformed quickly. A quick stir with the brewing spoon and all was well. Rice hulls, at about 5% of the grain bill, increase the filterability/drainability of your mash. Rice hulls don't add any flavors or fermentables to your beer unless they used in excessive amounts. Bottom line: I shouldn't have skipped the rice hulls.

I don't expect that the brew day troubles caused and ill effects in the beer but there was lost time and too much stirring. Now we wait a few weeks to try Light As The Breeze Belgian Wit from No Ragrets Brewatorium.

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