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Smaller amount of brett imparts more flavors. Fact or myth?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by od_sf, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010


    I keep hearing that pitching a smaller amount of brettanomyces in secondary and therefore "stressing" the yeast makes the yeast work harder, which in turn imparts more "bretty" flavors to the beer.

    Is there any hard evidence of this?


  2. Below is something that OldSock (who really knows his Brett) posted in a past thread:

    “Increase compared to what? Compared to no Brett? Adding Brett to secondary after a clean primary fermentation certainly produces Brett character, especially when pitching more aggressive strains. Brett doesn't really need fermentables to produce its character, even if you pitched it into a perfectly dry wort it would go to work on all sorts of other compounds if there were no malt sugars/dextrins. Adding Brett to primary most likely just allows more reproduction, which eventually results in more character.

    I don't really buy the "stress" argument. In my experience the amount of Brett character is much more dependent on strain choice, wort composition, primary yeast strain, how long you leave it in primary (autolysis) etc.

    Greg Doss of Wyeast did an experiment he presented at NHC in 2008. He found a much higher sensory rating from fermenting a beer with 3787 and then pitching Brett, compared to pitching the two together for primary.”

    OldSock likes this.
  3. Greg Doss had samples. The one with an expressive primary yeast had the most "Brett" flavor. Theory was that there were more esters for the Brett to work with to produce the funk.
  4. Phenols are the bigger issue than esters when it comes to funk as far as I am aware. That's what the PDF Greg put together for that presentation seems to suggest as well.
  5. OK, that was a few conferences ago and things get a litttle fuzzy. Will introduce myself in Philly if I see your nametag.
    OldSock likes this.
  6. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010

    Naugled likes this.
  7. In my experience the Brett pitching rate doesn't play a large role in the final flavor profile (assuming we are talking about classic secondary fermentation). A really low pitching rate will slow the Brett's progress, but eventually you'll get a similar character.
    od_sf likes this.

  8. My experience backs this up--

    Once I brewed a Belgian Golden using WLP530 (FG1.014), and at bottling racked two gallons onto dried apricots and added the dredges from an Anchorage bottle. It sat in secondary for 3 months and then I bottled it last August. The last bottle I tried (the others are cellaring) was in Sept and was INTENSLY bretty... in a bad way. Like apricot scented hairspray. I'm hoping it comes together with some age. I really like a strongly goaty beer, but the paint thinner thing is too much for me.

    I also just started drinking an APA on Brett that I brewed late in November that got Orval and Brux dredges along with WLP007 in primary (FG008). It was in primary for a month before I bottled it and has only been in the bottles for 6 weeks now, so it is still quite young for a brett beer... but it is amazingly tasty. Nice, mellow, earthy funk that is very apple and pear like. The brett presence is very similar to Logsdon Seiozoen Bretta, less the peppery Saison yeast contributions.

    Although the two beers were brewed in very different styles, the outcomes totally support Oldsocks quote above:

    -The smaller pitch was a mellower result,

    -The beer with the brett added along with the primary sacc strain has a much mellower funk than the beer with the brett added in secondary,

    -The very phenolic belgian (WLP530) developed much stronger brett characteristics than the clean APA (WLP007),

    -The beer with more unfermentable sugars (the belgian) developed much stronger brett funk than the dry APA,

    -Both beers had different strains: a very "sweaty" one from Bitter Monk and more fruity ones from Brux and Orval, and both made for drastically different end results (which expressed many similar characteristics to their parent bottles).

    One of the things I was going for in the recent APA on Brett was a smooth, more subtle brett profile that would compliment fruity american hops... kinda like an american, more hoppy Orval. I read that brett is said to be funkier when it has esters and phenols to work on, so I used a cleaner yeast than I would have hoping that the lack of phenols and esters would keep the brett in check-- and so far it is exactly what I hoped for. Straw, pear skins, lemons, and slightly farmy/ dewey funk.

    OldSock likes this.
  9. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010

    Thanks for the info OldSock. Yeah I'll be pitching the brett in secondary after 4 weeks in primary on Wyeast 1214. My bag of 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis will be almost 3 months old by the time I pitch it, so I was trying to figure out if I should do a starter for the brett. Looks like it won't hurt to do so.
  10. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010

    Excellent info, thank you!
  11. I don't think you need to. Wyeast packs start with something like 20-30 times as many cells as the White Labs tubes. You certainly won't be underpitching, but a lot of brewers stressed healthy cells. Might be worth getting the cells going, but not pitching the whole starter.
  12. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010

    I plan on doing a 1 littler starter, get it going for 48 hours or so, cold crash for a few hours, and decant. Sounds reasonable? Any opinions regarding using a bit of yeast nutrient at start of boil on a brett starter?
  13. yinzer

    yinzer Savant (395) Pennsylvania Nov 24, 2006

    I think that I've brought this point up before, but has anyone thought about doing the secondary under pressure? Doesn't most lambic brewers use coolship>fermentation tank>barrel sealed w/a bung?

    I'm going to try this soon. Well no coolship. But let Saccharomyces ferment out, maybe one week. Then do a CO2 pushed racking into a corny making sure that I get all the trub. Then pressurize the corny to a minimal amount and let the pressure build on it's own. It might be best to check the pressure ever so often.
    JimmyTango likes this.
  14. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (685) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member Verified

    I would not pitch the whole starter. 1 main reason: that yeast is outrageously priced, make a starter, pitch some of the decanted yeast, add more starter wort and keep that strain going for a pure Brett B 100% ferment in the future. I wouldn't pay that much for yeast to use it once.
  15. yinzer

    yinzer Savant (395) Pennsylvania Nov 24, 2006

    I just don't think that 48 hours is enough time to propagate Brett cells and properly cold crash. And it seems that Brett doesn't like to be cold crashed either. You might just be taking one step forward and another step back.

    If you're worried about cell health, the smack pack will get them beefed up.Then no need to decant.

    If you don't want to pitch the whole pack I'd just let the packet swell pitch some into your wort and the rest into a small starter.
  16. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Verified

    I could be wrong, but I don't think Wyeast Brett packages contain a nutrient pouch. Not that there's really much inside of the regular smack pack pouches anyway.
  17. yinzer

    yinzer Savant (395) Pennsylvania Nov 24, 2006

    Could be, thanks. But if it doesn't then I'd be even less worried about three month old Brett.
  18. I hard bungs on my sour barrels after things slow down, but it risky in a non-permeable fermentor (I've done it to year-old better bottles without issue). Keg should be pretty safe, but you could generate a lot of pressure from a .010 drop. Our expereince has been that barrels, even bunged, end up with less residual carbonation than a beer aged in glass or plastic. There are some brewers who claim bottle conditioning and pressure help to bring out the character of Brett, but I don't know if this really replicates the barrel fermenting of a lambic. Interested to hear your results!
  19. od_sf

    od_sf Savant (430) California Nov 2, 2010

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone.