Low Oxygen Brewing

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by OldBrewer, Apr 10, 2018.

  1. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Hi TheBeerery, I couldn't find a thread on low oxygen brewing in which to ask questions, so I thought I would create a thread for this topic and start by asking a couple of questions here.

    I really enjoyed your excellent article in the recent March-April issue of Brew Your Own magazine (Pages 78-83), and thought it was really well done and informative. It makes a lot of sense, especially for the more subtle-flavored beers like Pilsners, so I hope to incorporate some of these practices in my next Pilsner brew.

    I have a couple of questions:

    1) Your article advocated holding off on aerating/oxygenating the wort until the active yeast is pitched, in order to reduce oxygen damage to the wort, and that the active yeast when pitched would then become excellent scavengers for the added oxygen, reducing the length of time the wort is in contact with oxygen, yet still provide enough oxygen for the yeast. Since even active yeast would take some time to multiply enough to utilize the oxygen at a rapid enough rate, how soon after you pitch the active yeast should you start to aerate it? Should you let the yeast first multiply for some time, and in the meantime clean up any oxygen left in the wort before aerating/oxygenating?

    2) Your article also advocated underletting the strike water to your mash tun when mashing-in as opposed to adding the grain to the strike water. Wouldn't that result in massive clumping of the grain (grain balls) since no stirring takes place during this time, which in turn requires quite active stirring afterwards, which then re-introduces oxygen?

    Thank you.
  2. invertalon

    invertalon Devotee (437) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio

    In my experience, I have more dough balls than I did when pouring the grain in for sure. I just very gently stir beneath the surface once all the mash or sparge water is in, avoiding any splashing as best as posssible. After a few minutes they all work themselves out.
  3. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    It definitely seems worthwhile trying this way out, as in either case, gentle stirring, and avoiding as much splashing as possible, is required.
  4. drink1121

    drink1121 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2009 California

    I don't have BYO magazine. What is this theory on doughing in with little oxygen? Brulospohy "proved" hot side aeration wasnt an issue here: http://brulosophy.com/2014/11/18/is-hot-side-aeration-fact-or-fiction-exbeeriment-results/
  5. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (250) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

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  6. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    It gets a little complicated to explain, and I'm sure TheBeerery can explain it better than me. The doughing in is only one of many steps used in low oxygen brewing, in order to limit exposure to the entire brewing operation as much as possible. According to the article: "There are malt-derived phenolic compounds that exist and gives un-oxidized wort a distinctive fresh flavor. Controlling dissolved oxygen (DO) levels using several changes in the procedures preserves these fresh malt flavors in the grains by protecting them against oxidation."

    In our normal homebrew setup, oxygen is limited only to some extent, and the results are sufficient for most palates. With the low oxygen procedures, the DO levels are reduced to levels similar to those of some commercial brewhouses. By using these procedures, one can simulate that "fresh" malt flavor that you get when you drink a fresh commercial product. The difference accounts for why a homebrew always tastes like a homebrew and never seems to be able to completely clone the freshness of a commercial beer. This is much more relevant to beers with more pronounced subtle malt tastes such as in Pilsners, rather than to strong in-your-face tastes that mask or overwhelm the malt flavor such as double IPA's.
  7. drink1121

    drink1121 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2009 California

    thats why I put "proved" and not proved.
  8. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (250) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    Regardless you seem to be taking the experiment seriously or maybe I'm just not getting your internet sarcasm.
  9. drink1121

    drink1121 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2009 California

    I am taking it seriously but not as the law. no sarcasm.
  10. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (250) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    Gotcha. That's fair I just don't think with the small amount of tasters (12) it holds any water at all. This is just my opinion, I generally enjoy reading brulosophy.
    drink1121 likes this.
  11. drink1121

    drink1121 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2009 California

    without reading the article, can you put the author's theories in the same category though?
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  12. Soneast

    Soneast Crusader (799) May 9, 2008 Wisconsin

    All good questions. Might help to tag @TheBeerery so he sees this post.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    But the ExBeeriments are generally evaluated by a number (generally less than 20) of beer tasters. Do you discount all of the other stuff in brulosophy as well?:confused:

  14. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (250) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    No I generally just take them as entertaining experiments. Even at summary they still state they will continue doing things the "right" way.
  15. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (586) May 29, 2011 Florida

    Are there any commercial breweries that practice low oxygen brewing?

    I’ve worked at two breweries and have talked with a fair number of other commercial brewers, never heard of low oxygen brewing prior to this forum.

    Would be surprised if even 1% of all breweries in the US practice low oxygen (hot side) brewing. Would be even more surprised if this is a theme among the top level breweries (Tree House, Hill Farmstead, Toppling Goliath, Trillium, Side Project, etc) in the country.

    Would be interested to know of some commercial breweries doing this, cheers.
  16. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (250) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    most people on r/thebrewery openly discuss dissolved oxygen and how to avoid it.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  17. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    You would have to ask TheBeerery, but my understanding is that they don't consciously call their process low oxygen brewing. TheBeerery and others through highly technical documents and discussions with Brewmasters determined that their processes were of such a technical nature that they excluded oxygen in their equipment and processes far more significantly than we would as homebrewers. However there are many practical and not too difficult means available to homebrewers to reduce DO significantly, resulting in beers with much more noticeable "freshness" appeal.
    hoptualBrew and Prep8611 like this.
  18. thebriansmaude

    thebriansmaude Initiate (68) Dec 16, 2016 Alberta (Canada)

    Having experienced the very noticeable and incredibly shitty impacts of oxidation on the cold side, I am certainly curious about out it on the hot side.
    Prep8611 likes this.
  19. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (119) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    He's a little busy with some new toys. Subscribe and check out his videos.My lodo batch goes to lager soon and can't wait to see what the results are.

    Prep8611 likes this.
  20. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (586) May 29, 2011 Florida

    Not negating the importance of LO Brewing. I think it’s fascinating and will be looking to make some feasible changes to my process soon.

    Just curious about the commercial implications.

    But what it sounds like you are saying is that commercial brewers by nature are implicitly doing, to varying degrees, LO brewing and that homebrewers, due to our scale and unsophisticated equipment, must make intentional process changes to approximate commercial-level low oxygen levels.

    Did I get that right?
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    For those of you who are members of AHA there is a presentation that you can watch/listen to on the AHA website. I posted the below in another thread.

    It is a fact that HSA occurs during the brewing process. The fundamental question is: Does HSA impacts the flavor qualities of the resulting beer. If you are an AHA member I would recommend that you watch/listen to the presentation linked in the below message I posted previously.


    On September 13, 2017 there was an AHA online presentation by Ricardo Fritzsche entitled Hot Side Oxidation (HSO) – Fact or Fiction?

    For those of you who are AHA members you can watch an archived version of this presentation:


    IMO Ricardo did a very good job putting this presentation together and discussing the topic of Hot Side Oxidation (HSO)/Hot Side Aeration (HSA).

    As Ricardo mentioned during his presentation there is no doubt that HSO/HSA occurs during the early portions of the brewing process (e.g., mashing, transfer of the mash, etc.) but the fundamental question is whether this HSO/HSA genuinely impacts the flavor qualities of the resulting beer.

    There has been some scientific studies performed for the case of Pale Lager beers and the data of these scientific studies were part of the presentation. A number of brewing scientists were referenced including Professor Dr. L. Narziss, Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Wolfgang Kunze,..

    I have read a number of papers authored by Professor Dr. L. Narziss but I have read more papers from Dr. Charlie Bamforth and listened/watched numerous podcast discussions by him (e.g., Beersmith Podcasts). One paper from Dr. Charlie Bamforth that I would recommend is:


    I would encourage those of you who are members of the AHA to watch the archived presentation and decide for yourself whether HSO/HSA should be a concern for you in your homebrewing and whether implementing LODO (Low Dissolved Oxygen) techniques are worth the effort.

    From my perspective some of the takeaway messages of this presentation are:

    · All of the scientific data that has been obtained is for the case of Pale Lager beers. As Ricardo Fritzsche made mention a number of times during his presentation this data does not apply to non-Pale Lager beers (e.g., Ales).

    · There is disagreement among the various brewing scientists as to whether HSO/HSA is a genuine concern for impacting beer flavor qualities.

    · I have the most familiarity with Dr. Charlie Bamforth who has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and he has been a brewing scientist for many decades (first in the beer industry but since 1999 he has been at UC Davis and is the head of the Brewing Science program). His thoughts on HSO/HSA were summarized on page 40 of Ricardo’s presentation: “If the effect exists, it is small” and “Recommends that flavor stability be measured organoleptically”.

    Maybe in the future some brewing scientist will study the effects of HSO/HSA on beers such as ales and measure flavor stability impacts organoleptically.

  22. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (48) May 18, 2017 England

    I think it holds some water, but the strength of what you can read into it is limited. Firstly it's about a limited set of procedures, which seem representative of what normal cautious homebrewers would do to mitigate HSA but which LODO advocates would say go nowhere near far enough. Secondly it's for one recipe under one set of circumstances. Thirdly it compares relatively fresh beer rather than looking at long-term stability. And fourthly as has been pointed out it's a smallish sample size.

    On the other hand, even with a small sample I'd expect them to be able to pick up a sufficiently obvious difference, so it seems fair to say that for this sort of recipe, with this process, drunk reasonably fresh, the difference that normal HSA mitigation procedures will make is probably going to be subtle at best. Which is different from saying that detectable effects of HSA are definitely a myth, but it's still a data point.
    thebriansmaude likes this.
  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Another way to discuss this is from another angle: where is the proof that HSA will impact the flavor qualities of my homebrewed beers?

    Dave_S likes this.
  24. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Yes, that's exactly my understanding of the process according to the articles I have read. I wish TheBrewery could chime in and provide further clarification.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  25. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Another consideration is the acuteness of taste possessed by various testers. I know that some people can strongly detect flavors in some beers that others are totally unable to detect, such as melanoidins. It's perhaps comparable to color blindness, although color blindness is rare and possibly in tasting it is not as rare. I haven't seen any serious studies on this, and wonder to what extent it affects beer judges? We all know stories about beers being judged certain ways that seem inexplicable, unless that judge or group of judges perhaps had a different set of taste sensors. It also explains why some people cannot tolerate too much bitterness in beers, or too much sweetness in beers, while others crave it. There are numerous other flavor preferences that may relate to the 'color blindness' of certain taste sensors ('taste blindness'?).

    So it's very possible that the DO levels in beer might be very noticeable only to a smaller proportion of people. Thus the proof might reside in the chemical analysis, but not necessarily in the detection levels of all people.

    Thus the only tried and true approach is to experiment for oneself and see if it makes a noticeable enough difference. This I plan to do with my next brew, a Paulaner Premium Pilsner clone of sorts. I have made pilsners for many years and could never achieve that up-front malt flavor that you get in some commercial pilsners. Is it because of too much DO in my wort? Or is it related to some other variable. I can only experiment and see for myself.
  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

  27. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,470) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Taste thresholds for each compound that can be tasted do vary among individuals. Regarding melanoidins though...I'm probably as guilty as anyone for being sloppy with maillard product terminology, but melanoidins as a class of compounds are flavorless. There are, however, other maillard reaction products (other than melanoidins, that is) that do have flavor. I blame Weyermann (or whoever it was) for naming a malt "Melanoidin Malt." It would have been better to name it Maillard Reaction Product Malt, but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it. That, plus the fact that every kilned malt (not just "melanoidin malt") has some melanoidins and other maillard reaction products.

    DO, AFAIK, cannot be tasted. The problem with DO is that it oxidizes other stuff, and the oxidized compounds can be tasted. The fallacy that HSA can't cause oxidation because the boil eventually drives off O2 ignores the fact that oxidation begins as soon as there is O2 available.
    ssam, OldBrewer and Prep8611 like this.
  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Dr. Charlie Bamforth wrote the paper of: Bamforth, Charley W. "A Critical Control Point Analysis for Flavor Stability of Beer." MBAA TQ1.2 (2004): 97-103. Web.

    From the abstract of that technical article:

    “Furthermore, yeast is a powerful reducing agent that can eliminate carbonyls and, therefore, oxidation upstream may be of less significance than that downstream.”

    So while oxidative compounds can be created via HSA the yeast has the ability to ‘clean up’ those compounds during fermentation. The net result is those oxidative compounds no longer exist in the finished beer.

    ssam likes this.
  29. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    But my understanding from what I have read is that the oxygen damage to the malt can be done BEFORE the yeast cleans up the oxygen.
    Witherby likes this.
  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There is a lot of 'stuff' written out there.

    I choose to read (and listen) to what Dr. Charlie Bamforth states on the topic of HSA.

    Feel free to 'listen' to that other 'stuff'.

    ssam likes this.
  31. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,470) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Do you think yeast make transport mechanisms for every possible oxidized compound in wort, so that they can bring them all into the cell and strip their carbonyl group bonds?
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I'll send an e-mail to Charlie and get back to you.
  33. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Yes, there is a lot written, and of course I will read Bramforth's article. I'm not choosing any sides, just trying to get to the truth.
  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,718) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Getting to the "truth" is a challenging avocation.

    My recommendation is to get to the facts.


    P.S. If you are a member of AHA I would encourage you to watch the archived presentation I referenced above.
  35. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,470) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    It would be great to hear what he has to say about it. Perhaps you could also ask him about limiting factors (or lack thereof) in the reactions. e.g. at what point do the yeast stop processing oxidize compounds? I assume they're not doing it out of some desire to improve our beer.
  36. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (586) May 29, 2011 Florida

    Really appreciate this thread and the civil, yet adamant, pursuit of truth to make better beer. Cheers guys.
    OldBrewer likes this.
  37. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (187) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    I believe the answer is that the characteristic "low-oxygen" flavor can be found in Weihenstephaner, Guinness, and Budweiser. Link (PDF) here.

    Edited to add: Kirin, too.
  38. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (248) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Yes, of course the facts lead to the truth. I would like to watch the presentation, but unfortunately, I'm not a member.
    billandsuz likes this.
  39. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    This is the BA I enjoy. Nobody has anything to sell or some sky is falling scenario. Just super geeks in our element.

    My opinion of limited value usually gets back to the art of brewing. World class beers have been made for centuries, are being made today and will continue to be made in the future. A DO meter is a nice luxury and an understanding of the chemical reactions that occur is very useful, but brewers are still mostly janitors for the yeast. That's not going to change.

    HSA was not even a topic until relatively recently. It may even turn out to be beneficial in certain circumstances.
    OldBrewer likes this.
  40. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,470) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I think the consensus opinions about the importance (or lack thereof) of HSA have swung slowly back and forth over time. I'm pretty sure discussions on the pro boards go back at least 15 years.