Just having a conversation with a good friend about getting more body in beer. He was homebrewing and commented, his wheat beer didn’t have enough body. So, he felt more bitterness came through, taking the beer out of balance.
We got to talking about how he could improve the body/mouthfeel of the next batch. I realized I’d never discussed this before in article so, here we are…
An article about getting more body into beer. It’s an offshoot, I guess of my article on “Brewing a Balanced Beer”. Where we look more closely at hops.
There are several ways brewers can approach this particular subject and apply it on a brew day. We’ll take a look at some of the more popular approaches here.
If you’ve your own ideas or methods, which aren’t covered in this post. Feel free to comment below. As I say there are many options available, I’d need to write a book to cover them all.
Please note: When it comes to malts, I’ll say check with your maltster several times here. As malts of the same name, such as “Munich” are not always created equally.
The properties of the malt from company to company vary, depending on the processes used and parameters set.
It’s All About Texture – Getting More Body in Beer
We’ve all drank beer we thought was “thin” or “watery”. When it comes to putting a recipe together, often texture is over looked. People concentrate on aroma and taste, at the expense of texture.
Especially now, for many in the craft industry, hops are all the rage. We’re constantly getting new hop varieties, it’s not the same for malt.
Although I predict in the next 5-years, we’ll see a shift in malts available in countries like the US. With the rise of small craft maltings, like Sugar Creek Mill.
I’ve always been a grain guy, thinking how malts and other adjuncts affects the texture of the final beer.
Getting More Body in Beer – Malt Choice
If you’ve read a few of my articles, you know I come from a lager background. My first port of call for lighter beers and lagers, is the use of Carapils or Carafoam®.
Most maltsters, say you can use up to 40% these malts in a grain bill. I generally use between 5 to 10% to get the effect I want.
In Lighter Beers and Lagers
My current house “pilsner” which isn’t really a true pilsner, at only has 23 IBU’s (International Bitterness Units). Has 5% Carapils in the grain bill. I’m on the lighter side of Carapils use, to keep the beer “balanced”. As say I’m brewing the lager with low IBU’s.
Please note: Not all Carapils are created equally. Breiss makes a Carapils with a suggested usage rate of 2 to 3%, with a maximum of 10% suggested. So, please check with your malt supplier first.
Briess Carapils, is a crystal malt and “glassy”, which is different to the maltings of many European suppliers. They all though, fall into the dextrin malt category, which maltsters produce to improve body, head retention and mouthfeel of a beer.
These malts add resistant dextrin’s, proteins, non-starch polysaccharides, and other substances to wort. At the lower end of usage rates, they don’t affect attenuation of the final beer too much.
However, as I said earlier in the article, please check the characteristics of malts with your supplier to get recommended usage rates. Plus, how it may affect attenuation of the final beer.
In Sessions and Ales
In these beers you can use Carapils at higher percentages. However, Munich malt is a much-used beer body-builder too, especially for sessions and ales. You can use a large percentage of Munich malt to make up your grain bill, even up to 100%.
However, again please check with your malt supplier. As not all Munich malts are created the same. Some Munich malts can’t be used as a base, lacking the diastatic power (amount of enzymatic starch conversion potential).
The amount of Munich malt used in the total grain bill; depends on the beer style you’re brewing. In bocks and double bocks, Munich can make up the majority of the malt bill.
Normally with most ales, using between 5 and 12.5% Munich malt in your grain bill, provides plenty of character plus, adds to the body.
Another malt brewers turn to for body, is Vienna malt. Now this malt can, and is used as a base malt. As maltsters generally kiln Vienna malt for less time, than Munich malts.
Vienna Malt – Getting More Body in Beer
Vienna is sweeter and has a milder maltiness, it sometimes be described as “grainy” too. Its color is between 6 to 9 EBC (2.7 to 3.8 Lovibond).
Whilst Light Munich is around 12 to 18 EBC (5 to 7.2 Lovibond) and Dark Munich 20 to 25 EBC (8 to 10 Lovibond). The flavor of Munich is more intense being rich, biscuity and malty.
Furthermore, most brewers believe 2-row Munich is smoother and sweeter than 6-row varieties, which are “grainier”.
So, Munich or Vienna? Well, depending on beer style; you might opt for one over the other…or even use both.
I make a smoked lager as a core beer. The bill is made up of; 27.4% Light Munich, 32.8% Vienna and 30.2% Manuka Smoked malt, from Gladfield’s Maltings, with small percentage of chocolate (for color) and some Swaen Light.
I find this malt bill ensures the smoked malt doesn’t overpower the beer plus, gives the right mouthfeel and still feels “lager like”.
Everyone who tries this beer is surprised how smooth it is plus, smoked malt makes up 30% of the grain bill. The use of both Munch and Vienna malts allows the beer to be balanced.
The Choice of Yeast – Getting More Body in Beer
This is all about attenuation. The level of attenuation is difference between the starting (SG) and final gravity (FG) of a beer, expressed as a percentage of the starting gravity.
Please check the link for a handy calculator, to calculate ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage, as well as the apparent attenuation.
Every yeast supplier can give you the attenuation range of a yeast. Please note; attenuation is also affected by the processes during the brew day too (more on this later). However, the choice of yeast does influence the finishing gravity, of the beer.
For example, a widely used dry ale yeast is US-05, produced by Fermentis. It has an apparent attenuation range of 78 to 82%. This is a strong attenuating yeast, used by many brewers to make their house IPA.
Then you’ve Northwest Ale 1332 by Wyeast, which has an apparent attenuation of 67 to 71%, much lower than US-05.
If you brewed a batch of 12° Plato wort, split it and used these two different yeasts. The resulting two beers would be different, to say the least.
US-05: 12° Plato -> 2.4° Plato = An apparent attenuation of 80%
Northwest Ale 1332: 12° Plato -> 3.7° = An apparent attenuation of 69%
The difference in final gravity is 1.3° Plato.
Yes, the flavors produced by each yeast are different. However, with more residual sweetness, many drinkers would perceive the Northwest Ale beer to have “more body”.
More sweetness -> Perceived as more body in the beer
Mash Temperatures – Getting More Body in Beer
We said earlier, processes on brew day can also affect the body of the final beer.
Brewers can increase their mashing-in temperatures, to lower the amount of fermentable sugars in the final wort. The rule of thumb is the higher the temperature, the less fermentable sugars produced.
So, temperature control during the mash affects the body of the finished beer. When brewing, the mash temperature is generally between 62.5°C and 68° C (145°F and 158°F).
The range for most beer styles is between 65°C and 67°C (150-154°F). Within this range you produce wort, yeast can easily ferment, whilst retaining a medium body.
My house lager if mashed in at 65°C, reaches my target final gravity of 2.3 to 2.5° Plato. This produces a beer with a nice body, without being too sweet or dry. Here’s are some pictures of my house lager below.
At the lower end 62.5°C to 65°C (145°F to 149°F), you produce highly fermentable wort, which the yeast can readily work through.
The beer will be drier, one beer style I sometimes brew is a Saiaon. When I make this beer, I’ll often mash in at 63°C, as it’s appropriate to style.
However, it’s a little nuanced, when brewing higher alcohol beers. As when producing higher ABV (alcohol by volume) beers, the alcohol also provides some sweetness.
So, if you brew is a “super” saison, (7 to 9% abv) with high a ABV, it may taste a little sweet even with a low final gravity…but I digress.
When you mash in at the 68°C to 70°C range, it’s for beers meant to be sweeter. There will be more residual sugars in the final beer. Sweet stouts and Scotch ales are generally mashed in at higher temperatures, for example.
Going Too High with Your Mash Temperature
Right, I’m going to let you on in a little secret. I sometimes mash-in at over 70°C (158°F) for a couple of my core beers. In fact, I hit 72°C (161.6°F) for my German Wheat…which I actually brewed today!
The consensus is, your mash temperature should be below 75.5°C (168°F). If you reach or go above this temperature; the enzymes used to convert the starches in the grain to sugars, will be destroyed.
I know at 72°C, I’m getting close to this cut off point, but I’m using a particular yeast. The yeast in question is WB-06 by Fermentis. It’s not a true Wheat beer yeast, but produces lovely banana notes at higher fermentation temperatures.
The issue is this yeast is a Diastaticus yeast. Which simply put, means it eats/works through sugars, regular beer yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cannot. If I were to mash-in WB-06 at 65°C (149°F), it’d ferment down to a final gravity, which is too low.
I like my German Wheat to have some body, Especially as I’m brewing in Shanghai, China where the people have a sweet tooth. The upper end of final gravity for a German Wheat according to the BJCP guidelines is 3.6° Plato (1.014).
If I mashed in at 65°C, then my final gravity (FG) could be as low as 1.7° Plato (1.006). It’s too thin, for what I want from this beer and wouldn’t be too style.
I know 72°C seems high, but it leads to the final FG I’m targeting for a balanced beer for the local market. There’s more body and some residual sweetness to the brew, which balances out with the banana notes I’m aiming for.
Getting More Body in Beer – Sulfate to Chloride Ratio
Chloride ions tend to add “maltiness” to the beer. Which can be perceived as more body/mouthfeel by the drinker. Sulfates tend to accentuate hop flavors and bitterness.
The Sulfate to Chloride ratio is the proportion of sulfate (S04) ions in parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/l) to the concentration of Chloride ions. You divide the sulfate by the chloride ion concentration.
Please note: In some brewing references, they use the chloride to sulfate ratio, which is the same thing, but inverted.
In the sulfate to chloride ratio; a proportion of 1:1 (or 1.0) is considered a balanced beer. So, neither malt or hop character is accentuated.
Ratios below 1, generally leads to more malt character and perceived body/mouthfeel. Furthermore, as a rule, brewing water, has chloride levels between 0-250ppm, while the range for sulfates is 50-250ppm.
Although, for some beers such as lagers, levels can be different.
To help you figure out salt additions for your brew, I’d recommend the Brewers Friend Basic Water Calculator. It’s also worth noting going to high with either addition, can lead to harsh final bitterness in your beer.
A ratio of 50:50 isn’t the same as one of 500:500.
Cellaring – Brewing Processes Often Overlooked
Some beers are supposed to be clear, although in modern craft brewing, we do see more hazy beers. I’m old school; and like to make my house IPA to be clear.
In fact, clarity makes my IPA stand out. As you can see by the comments below, I received from a friend who tried my house IPA, at a pub yesterday.
Now when you clear a beer (I use SB3 from AEB to clear my IPA), you shouldn’t overdo the use of clarifying agents. Over fining can cause haze, just as under fining can leave haze.
Beer haze is mostly caused by large protein molecules, you use clarifying agents like isinglass, Irish moss and gelatin (used by homebrewers) to drop them out.
If you use too much however, it’s possible you could drop out some of the medium chained proteins which promote body and mouthfeel.
Furthermore, filtering beer to reduce or eliminate haze, can also strip out body, flavor and head retention too. It’s why I opt to fine my ales (instead of filter them), using bench trials to figure out correct dosage.
Here is a good guide by Murphy’s and Sons on bench trial processes.
Getting More Body in Beer – Conclusions
As I said at the beginning of this article, there are many methods you can use to get more body into your beer. We’ve discussed some of the main ones here.
As there are more brewing experiments done, and research published, we learn of newer methods all the time.
That’s the beauty of brewing is; five brewers would approach making a beer, five slightly differently ways.
My main methods for getting more body in beer, tends focuses on mash temperatures and the yeast used. “Apparent attenuation” range, is the first metric I look for, when deciding which yeast strain to use in a new beer recipe.
Whatever methods you use, every time you brew, always keep detailed notes. These will be the records you refer back to, when tweaking a recipe. Brewing is a life-long journey…take it one brew at a time.
I hope you found this article useful, if you’ve any follow-up question feel free to comment below or send me a message. My email address is:
Furthermore; please email me if you’ve a brewing project, you need assistance with too. I’m happy to discuss brewhouse plans anytime.
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