You have spent days perfecting your first beer recipe, and now it’s time to taste your results. You pop open the cap of the bottle, hear a delightful hiss and see good carbonation. You then pour out your brew and admire the frothy creamy head, sparkling clarity and rich colour. You are mesmerized by the aroma of the fragrant bouquet which has a hint of fruity esters along with a nice balance of hops and malt.
Now, you come to the final moment of decision. You take in the first sip, only to find that something is wrong – what’s it? Sadly, your beer is watery and thin. What went wrong? Why aren’t you getting the firm and smooth mouthfeel? Worry not, here in today’s post; we show you all that you need to perfect the mouthfeel of your brews.
What is the Body of the Beer? A Definition
To put it simply, the body is the sensation you feel on your palate when you drink a beer. It’s the viscosity, fullness, and feel of the beer. In simpler terms, it refers to the thickness and mouth-filling properties of the brew.
The term mouthfeel and body refer to the same and are interchangeable.
What makes up the Body of the Beer?
There are plenty of components that make up the body of a beer. Some of the main elements include proteins, dextrins (unfermentable sugars), beta-glucans, neutral alcohols, carbon-di-oxide, and foam.
Is the Mouthfeel and Flavour Same?
No. The mouthfeel doesn’t refer to the flavour of the beer. The mouthfeel aka the body is often referred to using these descriptors – light (thin), heavy (full), rough, smooth, firm, vinous, watery, proper, bland, dry, neutral, and sweet.
Apart from these, two other characteristics refer to the mouthfeel. They are:
- Astringency – It’s a dry, puckering sensation that you feel when you drink the beer. This shouldn’t be confused with the flavour.
- Alcoholic – While this is often considered a taste, when it comes to the mouthfeel it refers to the warming sensation you get when you drink the beer. Beers that have a higher concentration of ethanol and other alcohols usually give an alcoholic mouthfeel.
Another factor to note here is that certain beers like American lagers are considered light bodied. That doesn’t mean they are watery. On the other end of the spectrum are beers like imperial stouts and bock beers that are full-bodied.
How to Add/Reduce the Body of your Beer?
The mouthfeel or body of the beer is what keeps your brews from tasting like carbonated drinks like champagne. Two main factors play a crucial role in adding body to the beer. These factors are what make a pale ale crisp and an imperial stout heavy.
Let’s take a closer look at both these factors:
- Grain Bill
This refers to the total number of grains used in the beer making process. Different grains add different flavours to your drink. Apart from regular grains, certain grains are primarily used for adding body to the brew. They are known as body enhancers and add dextrins to the brew. These dextrins are unfermentable and add body to the beer.
Even a small amount of dextrins, around 100 – 200 grams for every five gallons, is sufficient to add required mouthfeel. Some of the popular body enhancers are Dextrine Malt, CaraFoam, and CaraPils. Body enhancers just add extra body to the beer, but don’t alter the flavour in any way.
Alternatively, you can use other grains like wheat malt to add body to your brew, but these add flavour also. Wheat malt imparts a sweet, bready flavour to the beer while adding extra body. Hefeweizen is a popular type of beer that is made using wheat malt.
Crystal malts are another grain that adds body. But, it also adds partially unfermented sugars to the brew, which increase the final gravity of the drink. Crystal malts impart a distinct sweetness to the brew, while also altering its colour.
Flaked oats are another great option to add a rich mouthfeel. They are mainly used in oatmeal stouts. However, don’t add more than 30% of flaked oats to your grain bill, as it makes the brew gummy.
Flaked rye or rye malt is similar to oat malt, but the flavour profile is different compared to oats and wheat. Rye adds a spicy flavour to your beer, similar to rye bread.
If you are looking to reduce the body in your beer, then you can use highly fermentable sugars like honey, table sugar and so on. The sugar will ferment completely, thereby adding more alcohol, which has a lower specific gravity compared to water. Fermentable sugars don’t make a beer sweeter. On the other hand, they make it drier.
- Yeast Selection
Apart from the grains, the yeast you use also plays a crucial role in determining the body of the beer. When look for the perfect yeast, make sure to consider both the flavour and the attenuation number of the yeast.
The attenuation number is denoted as a percentage and lies between 68 to 85%. This denotes the total amount of sugar that will be completely fermented into alcohol. The unfermented sugars left back by the yeast are long-body chains that add to the body of the beer.
Yeasts that have a lower attenuation number will leave more number of sugars unfermented, thereby making the beer full-bodied.
Other Factors that Impact the Body of the Beer
Clarifying Agents – If your beer has large protein molecules in it, then it can be hazy. To eliminate haze, you can add clarifying agents like gelatin, Irish moss, Polyclar, isinglass and so on. However, ensure that you don’t overuse clarifying agents as it can alter the mouthfeel.
Filtering – When you filter your beer, you reduce or strip away the haze, flavour, head retention and body. Avoid using micron filters that are too fine.
Now, that you are aware of all the factors that impact the body of your beer, you can play around with these components till you get the perfect mouthfeel.
Cheers to better brewing!