1 Way To Lighten Your Beer In Color

There are a few tips and tricks make you tilt your head and say, “Ah yes, time to share this one and look really smart.”  Well this is one of those.

Fairly frequently, I hear about extract brewers getting darker color beers then what was intended.  I still hold the notorious, “tang” flavor as a favorite.  I feel like an auto mechanic while people describe the issue.  Instead of making noises that describe the problem with your the car, the facial expressions are used to describe the flavor – priceless.  I digress though, Jay’s Brewing is here to help with the color issue and probably help with the dreaded, “tang”.

So the solution, very simple.  When you’re  making your beer, and are following directions when to add in malt extract into the beginning of the boil, ignore it.  You can save adding most of your extract until the last 15 minutes left in the boil.

Why Would You Hold Off With The Malt Extract?

If you end up boiling your malt extract for the whole hour boil you run the risk of caramelization of the extract which will cause a Maillard reaction.  This type of reaction will change the color profile and the flavor of your beer.

What Is A Maillard Reaction?

This reaction is a chemical reaction which occurs with amino acids and fermentable  sugars which are in the wort.  Now without the geek talk, it is a reaction that is caused when you use extract in a concentrated boil.

When using liquid extract or lots of sugars (Belgian candi sugar would be an example) you run the chance of the sugars collecting at the bottom of your pot and caramelizing.  The Maillard reaction actually accounts for most of the color darkening as well as some flavor changes.

If you’re making a porter of a stout, not really a big deal – color is not a key issure.  If you’re making a light color beer it will have an affect on the color.  It can also happen with high gravity (OG: 1.070+) beers because of the high ratio of sugar to water.

How To Solve The Problem…

I’m not suggesting don’t add malt for the 60 minute boil.  The enzymes do help increase the bitterness from the hops.  The suggestion is that you add 1/3 of the  amount of malt for the full 60 minute boil and then add the remaining for the last 15 minutes of the boil.  This also insures that the extract will be heated and any bacteria will be killed.

With a late addition to the boil, you will cause an increase in the overall bitterness of your beer.  There are formulas on how I know this, or you can take me at my word (It deals with hop utilization and gravity of beer).  A way to avoid this is reduce your bittering hop by 20%-25% for the recipe.  This potentially could screw up your old recipes that you’ve used in the past, so trial and error unfortunately is the best way around this.

Hope this helps, it should make a pretty significant difference for your spring and summer brews since they tend to be lighter in color anyways.  Good luck and BREW ON!


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