I noticed a few posts on the Facebook group a while back asking about good can kits for weissbiers. I remember trying a couple a few years back and not being that impressed. They were OK, but not what I was after, and one seemed to rely on the raspberry flavouring to take away the ‘home brew tang’. Weissbier kits aren’t that cheap as can kits go, and it got me to thinking that you can brew a good weissbier using dried malt extract (DME) for only a few pounds more than you’d fork out on a so-so kit. Plus, extract brewing is easy and fun and opens up a whole new world of creativity in brewing, and the results are usually very good.
Although it’s called ‘wheat DME’, it’s actually only about 50% or 60% wheat in origin, the rest is barley. This happens to be a good ratio of wheat to barley for classic Bavarian hefeweissbiers.
The following is a quick and easy recipe that makes up around 14l of hefeweissbier and uses a minimal amount of extra equipment (most of it should be on hand in the kitchen anyway). I made something similar a couple of years ago and was very happy with how it turned out, and I brewed this one recently. I originally thought I’d get 16l of wort at 1.048 but it ran up short at 14l. You could ad another 250g of DME (light barley is fine) and another gram of hops for each addition to give a further four bottles of beer fro basically the same effort.
There is also an optional stage which can be built in if you want to do a ‘mini-mash’ to improve the beer’s colour and body a little, but the basic recipe is presented on its own here. The ingredients are also ‘scalable’ – you can halve them and make half as much (but you might want to lower the hops by a gram).
Light Wheat DME 2kg (you can get this for c. £7 per kilo)
Hallertau Hops 100g (around £3)
Dry weissbier yeast 11g (around £2-£3 get the best you can afford)
Water c. 15l (can use cheap supermarket packaged or boiled and cooled tap water)
A note about hops: a hop’s bitterness is measured in alpha acid percentage and this varies from harvest to harvest and region to region (as well as variety to variety). The weights of hops used in this recipe are calculated on the basis of hops with a 2.9% alpha rating. Frankly, it won’t make a huge difference to this brew, but you might want to use the calculation at the end of this recipe to determine the precise amount of hops to use. Note too that adjustments only really need to be made for the first addition of hops – these are the ones that provide bitterness; the later ones provide some flavour and aroma and that is not affected by alpha acid levels. Much. Discuss.
Another note about hops: wort gravity affects the ability for the acids in hops to isomerise (i.e. to be broken down by boiling into a state where they can dissolve into the wort). This will be a very high gravity, concentrated, wort to begin with (about 1.096) and so we are using a few more hops than if we were boiling the full brew length of 14l, which would have a specific gravity closer to 1.048.
1 x large (10l+) cooking pot which is safe to lift when filled with 8l of liquid
1 x saucepan
1 x sanitised strainer which can rest on top of your fermenter
1 x muslin bag
1 x measuring jug (sanitised)
1 x small sanitised stirring thing (thermometer will do if used carefully)
1 x large sanitised stirring thing (e.g. long handled brewer’s spoon or paddle)
1 x glass or dial thermometer
Your usual brewing kit – fermenter, hydrometer, siphoning kit etc. – all sanitised.
NB – I recommend batch priming when it comes to bottling, and if you’re going to do that you’ll need a second vessel big enough to hold the full brew length of 16l and a bit to spare.
Start heating 6 litres of the water in the cooking pot.
While this is heating you can weigh out your hops. These will be added in three batches:
1 = 15g
2 = 15g
3 = 30g
Once it reaches about 70C, remove from the heat and add 1,900g of the DME. The other 100g are held back for priming. Add the DME a little at a time as it tends to form lumps which then take ages to dissolve down.
Return to heat and add more water to make up to 8l.
Bring to a steady boil, but watch carefully that your wort does not boil over.
Once your wort is boiling, you can start timing down. You’ll be boiling for 75 minutes in total. The first 15 minutes are to let some of the proteins in the wort coagulate (and wheat is much more protein-rich than barley) which will help the hop alpha acids to isomerise more efficiently.
60 minutes (to go) – add the first batch of hops.
15 minutes – add the second batch of hops.
0 minutes – turn off the heat and add the final batch of hops.
Leave for 20ish minutes, preferably with the lid on.
Meanwhile you can boil the muslin bag in the saucepan for ten minutes to sanitise it.
You now need to chill your wort down to about the high teens centigrade.
Warning – hot wort is extremely dangerous. It will stick to your skin and can cause severe scalding. The utmost care should be taken when moving pots of hot wort, and make sure there are no children or pets around.
One way of chilling wort is to part fill the kitchen sink with cold water and then place the pan in it, swirling gently. You will need about three or four changes of cold water to bring the temperature down; more if your sink is small. You can also put a few bottles of the water in the fridge to chill them right down and then add perhaps 6l of this into the fermenter for the warm / hot wort to be poured into.
In the ‘hot side’of brewing – i.e. up until the wort is chilled – sanitation isn’t so important. However, in the ‘cold side’ – which is really once your wort drops below pasteurisation temperature of 72C – you should make sure that anything which comes in contact with your wort is sanitised.
When you’re ready, take your sanitised muslin bag and stretch it over your sanitised strainer. Rest this on your sanitised fermenter, then carefully strain the contents of your cooking pot into the fermenter. Hopefully the hops will help form a filter bed and catch most of the trub (the coagulated proteins and other bits) but don’t fret if some gets through.
Top up the wort to 14l (or 16l if you added the extra DME). At this point you want plenty of oxygen in your wort (this will enable your yeast to multiply rapidly and then get stuck in to fermentating your beer) so feel free to add the top up water with plenty of splashing, and then take your big stirrer (sanitised) and give it a good stir, again with lots of splashing. Aim to have about 2 inches / 5cm of foam on top of your wort post stirring. Put the lid on the fermenter and get ready to prepare your weissbier yeast.
If you just sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort, half the yeast cells die immediately. This is a waste of yeast and also has an impact on how quickly your wort starts fermenting. A few minutes’ effort now will see a faster, healthier fermentation, plus your beer will be ready a little bit sooner.
I was lucky enough to attend the UK National Homebrew Competition and the good folk at Mauribrew sent a bunch of dried yeast to give away – long date (2016) too. I came away with five packs of the stuff and I’m never going to get through it so I’m happy to post a pack to the first five people to inbox me via the Facebook group, PROVIDING that they have a UK address to post to. One pack per person and when it’s gone it’s gone; no alternatives will be offered and no correspondence entered into. Anyway, here’s how to rehydrate it:
Boil some water in the kettle.
Pour about 150 ml into the sanitised jug, cover this with the tinfoil.
Cool the water, again by placing the jug in a sink of cold water, until the temp drops to a bit under 40C (if you don’t have a thermometer the bottom of the jug should be ‘hand hot’, i.e. distinctly warm but not painful to hold). This won’t take very long.
Sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the water (do not stir at this point), cover with the foil again, and leave for 10 minutes or so.
Stir with your small sanitised stirrer then cover again and leave for another five minutes.
‘Pitch’ (i.e. pour) your happy and hydrated yeast into your wort and give it another good stir.
Ferment at about 18C. It should be ready to bottle after about eight days, but check that the gravity has dropped to about 1.010-1.012 and stayed stable for a couple of days.
I’m probably going put mine in a Corny Keg once I’ve brewed it, but if you are bottling I recommend batch priming rather than adding carbonation drops or dextrose to your bottles. Partly because batch priming is better practice and most brewers find they don’t look back, but also you can use the remaining wheat malt to prime this way, keeping your beer true to the German purity laws (if you’re bothered about that).
Add the 100g (115g if you’ve brewed 16l) of DME to about 250ml of warm water in a small saucepan, stir to dissolve it and then boil it for 10 minutes to sterilise it. Switch off the heat, cover the pan and leave it to cool (or swirl it in a sink of cold water to speed this up).
Siphon your beer into the sanitised secondary bucket that you’re going to bottle from, and about half way through carefully pour in your primer, avoiding splashing as far as possible. Once your beer is all in the bucket, take a sanitised long handled spoon or other stirrer and carefully, slowly but thoroughly, stir the beer for about 30 seconds. You’re trying to distribute the primer evenly through the beer but without splashing it (the priming solution is heavier than your beer and will hide at the bottom given half a chance).
Bottle away! After a week or so in a warm place you can leave it somewhere cooler to finish conditioning. Try to keep you hands off of it for as long as possible if you can (six to eight weeks) if you want really good beer to impress your friends and family.
Optional Extra Step
You can improve your beer a little with the addition of a ‘mini mash’ before you add the DME. This will give a certain depth of colour and will improve the mouthfeel of the finished beer.
You will need a clean muslin bag and about 60g of a suitable malt – I’d recommend a Munich malt of some sort, and make sure you buy it crushed. You will also need a thermometer.
Heat your liquor to 66 degrees.
Add the malt, tied up loosely in the muslin bag, and check the heat is about 65C. Remove the pan from the heat, put the lid on it and perhaps wrap some teatowels or similar around it. Check the temperature after about 10 minutes and return it to the heat and bring it up to about 67 or 68 degrees before taking it off the heat and covering again. You should notice something leaking out of the bag; it’s the starch being turned to soluble sugars by the enzymes present in the malt – you are mashing! After another 20 minutes remove the grain bag and drain as much of the sugar as you can into your wort. Put your rubber gloves on and give it a careful squeeze if you like.
Then add the DME and continue the recipe from that step.
Final note: If you want to up the gravity then you’re better off using more DME rather than adding dextrose. The specialty weissbier yeast acts on the ferrulic acid in wheat malt and eventually converts this to the compound 4-vinyl guaiacol which gives weissbier its distinctive clove character. Simply adding sugar will just make for a drier beer; it will not make it a ‘bigger’ weiss.
Hop addition adjustment by alpha acid:
Weight of hops to use = (specified weight of hops in grams x specified alpha acid in %) / actual alpha acid in %