Newbie homebrewer needs help on grain bill for Imperial Stout

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Robinogn, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. Robinogn

    Robinogn Initiate (0) Jun 12, 2018 Norway

    Hi guys and girls!

    Been an avid beer drinker for years and have finally taken the step into home brewing. I have two brews under my belt now, and have been reading and getting a lot of helpful information on this forum(Thank you!), so it's about time I registered and started posting here myself!

    I have decided that my next brew will be an imperial stout (I am aware that I might be over biting off more than I can chew here, but I decided to try), and I have been playing around with a grain bill for a while now. I've been looking at recipes and forums trying to understand what the different grains bring to the table, and from that I've tried to put something together. It would be really great to have some more experienced guys like you look over it and give me some feedback. I like imperial stouts with a bit of sweetness, a bit roasted (but not too much) and I love notes of flavors of chocolate, caramel and coffee.

    5gal batch - OG 1.101 - FG 1.025

    (71%) 15,45lb Marris Otter
    (8%) 1,75lb CaraMunich II
    (8%) 1,75lb Flaked Oats
    (4,1%) 0,9lb Chocolate Malt
    (4,1%) 0,9lb Roasted Barley
    (3,4%) 0,75lb Dark Crystal 80L
    (1,1%) 4oz Special B

    Do I have to little roasted malts in this, or is it fine? Anything you would swap out for something else? Any feedback is much appreciated!

    I was also considering adding cacao nibs, but I don't want it to stand out like chocolate has been added, more like it's just a subtile part of the flavor. In such case, how much would be appropriate? I have also played around with the idea of splitting the batch and adding raspberries to one part after tasting the Cigar City 110k OT batch 6 and completely loved it!

    Push_the_limits likes this.
  2. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,438) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Just my opinion, I don't think you need Maris Otter. It's a rich enough beer already. I reserve M.O. for milds, bitters, and Scottish ales that are lighter in gravity and can use some extra depth of flavor.

    I would get rid of the Special B, and swap the crystal 80 for crystal 60 and increase its volume by the 4 oz. currently allocated to Spec B. Remember, you've got a lot of Cara II in there, that's 45 Lovibond.

    I'm not sure you need oatmeal either, but OK, and your roasted malts looks fine.

    I'd hold off on cocoa nibs until you've brewed the beer straight and figured it out first.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,758) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I think that grain bill will produce a fine Imperial Stout.

    Permit me to address a few other matters.

    I would suggest that you use dry yeast – two packets. I would suggest Fermentis US-05 but choose any yeast that suits your fancy here.

    Make sure you keep your eye on the fermentation temperature since high gravity brews tend to produce a lot of heat during fermentation. Try to ferment in the mid-60’s F.

    A high gravity beer like an Imperial Stout will improve with age. Drink a bit (a few bottles) earlier on just to see how it is doing but reserve the bulk of your drinking for ‘down the road’ (e.g., 6+ months of aging).

    Best of luck with your Imperial Stout.

    NorCalKid likes this.
  4. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (51) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    Marris Otter is a fine base for a stout though I prefer Golden Promise myself. You'll need to pitch a healthy dose of yeast so like Jack said pitch 2-3 packets of dry yeast or make a starter if using liquid. I like to add a little sugar 3-5 days into fermentation on my big stouts to help keep the yeast from stalling out.

    I'd taste the beer before adding cacao nibs. If you feel it needs more chocolate flavor go ahead and add it. I usually use 1-2 oz.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  5. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,475) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    @Robinogn I'm pretty sure @JackHorzempa is referring to the temperature of the wort during fermentation, and not the ambient (air) temperature. That's the way most of us would read it...just wanted to make sure that you do too. Pretty much any wort will get warmer than ambient during fermentation (which is an exothermic process), but a big beer like this is going to get even warmer.

    And IMO just for the record: An all grain Imperial Stout (let alone a split batch with various additions) is pretty effing ambitious for a first beer. I recommend against it, and instead would recommend getting the basics down with a simple low/mid-gravity style. Maybe an extract batch.
    Eggman20 likes this.
  6. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (371) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    If it were my beer, it's not and that is really important, but if it were

    • Less is more.
    • Special B is not a great malt but it will steal the show. I would not use Special B at all.
    • Oat is not needed. It is lost in this big beer.
    For anything Imperial, no matter who brews the beer, you will need
    • A plan for your yeast. If you pitch yeast and expect it to work perfectly you will be disappointed.
    • Know your IBUs. Perceived bitterness requires a fair amount of experience, especially if you are using roasted malt.
    • Patience. New brewers typically want to brew as big a beer as possible. Experienced brewers know big beers can become a muddled mess. Expensive too. After this consider make a few pales and IPAs.
    • Cheers
    VikeMan likes this.
  7. Robinogn

    Robinogn Initiate (0) Jun 12, 2018 Norway

    Thank you guys so much for the feedback! Amazing how helpful this community is :slight_smile:

    Here comes a few more questions and comments, and in the bottom of the post is the updated grain bill. If you take the time to help me out I will be forever thankful, and if not I would also understand :slight_smile:

    -What IBU-range would you guys shoot for with this grain bill? Any suggestion on types of hops and when to add?

    -My LHBS doesn't have golden promise, in that case, would you stick to Maris Otter?

    -I put the flaked oats in there because I've read that it helps with head retention, but I've also read that you can get some unwanted earthy tones from it. Would it be better to swap it out for some other unmalted grain? For now I cut down a bit on the oats and added to the base malt.

    - @NeroFiddled I followed your advice on getting rid of Special B and adding 4oz of crystal, also swapped it for crystal 60. I cut down some of the Cara II as after reading more about it I understand that it might give me a bit too much residual sugars. Does this look better, or should I keep it like I had originally planned?

    - @JackHorzempa thank you for the advice! I was planning on using us05, but because I can't brew until next week, but want to get started somehow I was planning on building a big starter out of one pack of Safale us-05. According to the pitch rate calculator a two step 2L starter would be enough. That would result in 1.15M cells / mL. Should that be enough? I do not have any equipment for aeration, so I would just be shaking the wort. Could it work, or should I look into buying O2? About the temps for my previous two brews (highest gravity was an ipa at 1.069) I had the fermenter standing in a waterbath, and I added frozen bottles of water whenever the temp went above my target temp. I guess this fermentation will be way more vigorous, so maybe this is the time to get myself a fermentation chamber? I found tons of old fridges that people give away for free if you come get it, so shouldn't be a huge cost.

    - @VikeMan I have a sticker thermometer on my fermenter. Will this be somewhat correct, or should I assume the temp of the beer is way higher than this? I have also measured temperature in water bath mentioned above, and with my very limited knowledge of physics, I would think that the heat from the beer should be evenly distributed within beer and water?
    As for your warning, I do know that this is pretty ambitious, and I think I will take your tip about not splitting the batch into consideration. It is however not my first batch, it will be my third. Not that that's a huge amount of experience, but I already brewed a light wheat beer and an IPA, and I just can't refrain myself from trying as imp. stouts are so friggin' delicious!

    Updated grain bill:

    16.55 lb United Kingdom - Maris Otter Pale 74%
    1.55 lb Flaked Oats 6.9%
    0.9 lb Chocolate Malt 4%
    0.9 lb Roasted Barley 4%
    1 lb Crystal 4.5%
    1.45 lb CaraMunich II 6.5%
    22.35 lb Total

    Once again; Thank you guys so much for the help! I would by no chance have made anything even resembling beer without all the information you guys share on this forum!
  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,475) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    My experience has been that the temp of the wort is often a couple degrees higher than what the fermometer says. But sometimes they are right on. I suspect there's some assumed differential built into the (adjusted) scale itself. At any rate, I wouldn't assume "way" higher, but I would assume the difference to increase as wort temp increases.

    You will have ice in the water bath. The water near the ice will be colder than the water that's not near the ice, and much colder than the wort. Your wort will be making heat as fermentation progresses.

    My bad. You did clearly state that.
  9. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (51) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    I'd aim somewhere between 60-70 IBUs myself.

    Marris Otter works just fine. If you want to lower cost you could use 2-row and not have too much difference.

    Flaked Oats are just fine in a big Stout. In fact KBS uses a lot of flaked oats in it and no one seems to complain about it.

    1.15m/ ml should be enough yeast. Theres a certain amount of estimating that goes on with yeast counts in a package so I usually aim for 1.25 to be safe. You should have plenty of oxygen if you give it a good long shake (I usually dump it in the fermentor to help as well). I'm not using O2 yet and my beer always turns out just fine. Thats something to look into much further on down the line.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  10. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (371) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Briefly some thoughts.

    Ask any and all questions. No problem. Every one of the experienced brewers have been there and made the mistakes. So do not be shy.

    Magnum is a high AA hop, readily available, keeps pretty well and is very neutral. That is to say when you need to get IBUs and not a lot of aroma Magnum is a really good hop to use. I might go for 70 IBUs, depending on your SG. 90 minute boil addition and that is all. Calculate your IBUs, your wort will be very dense and that has a big effect on utilization.

    22+ pounds of grain is really tremendous. You might not be able to get all that into your cooler. This is going to be a real challenge. Truthfully, many of us would be quite apprehensive trying to handle that many pounds of grains. You are really really expecting a lot. But, brew and learn!
    (And while most brewers look down on DME, many experienced brewers are not at all against using a portion of DME to get the gravity up to where it belongs.)

    Additionally, expect your SG to be off. A quick way to ruin a brew is when you need to make changes on the fly. Everything changes when you aren't getting the expected gravity. Again, brew it. Learn it.

    Oxygen. Yes. You are 1, making wort. 2, bittering wort, and most of all 3, this is an exercise in yeast management.

    Get through these parts then we can move to packaging.

    And have fun. Be patient. Don't rush.
    Eggman20 and riptorn like this.
  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,475) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Never, ever rush. Unless you pop a bucket lid airlock grommet into the wort. If that happens, immediately plunge your hand and arm into the wort to retrieve it. Then follow up with an is-my-beer-ruined post, preferably with lots of question marks and exclamation points in the subject line.

    Seriously though, I agree...

    JrGtr and Push_the_limits like this.
  12. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (436) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

  13. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (99) Jan 10, 2018 California

    I brew about 99% IPA’s but the one RIS I have right now has had benefited hugely from just a few months at lager-ish temps(40f) All said and done in the keg. Give it time to mature once done.
    Push_the_limits likes this.