Skip to content

Straight Forward Robust Porter (now with Espresso!)

November 25, 2012

*Updated 1/12/13


I enjoy dark beers, certainly some more than others.  One style that is oft overlooked is the Porter.  For the uninitiated, there are two types – Brown and Robust, and I personally feel like there aren’t many well made commercial examples.  The difference between the two is essentially that a Brown Porter should be smooth and chocolatey – only slightly bigger than a brown ale.  A Robust Porter, on the other hand, should have a healthy note of roasted malt – almost like black coffee.  Go too big, and you’ve got yourself a Stout.

This winter, instead of getting fancy with a winter spiced ale (I don’t really care for) or strong belgian (I do like), I decided to make a straight-forward Robust Porter, which should last a bit longer on draft than my normal offerings, but will hit the spot on a cold Buffalo evening.  In addition to a nice roast character, I designed this recipe to provide a light breadiness and background notes of chocolate and caramel.

This is actually my first Porter and the only real concern I have is with the recipe.  I researched and wrestled with how much roasted malt (nice, coffee-ish roast character) and black patent (harsher, true roast flavor) to use.  I also chose a new yeast, Wyeast 1187 Ringwood, which I kind of regret.  I learned after the fact that it has the highest diacetyl (buttery flavor compound) production of all wyeast strains.  A proper diacetyl rest (yeast breaks it down) should take care of things, but it makes me a bit nervous.  In the end, I think I got what I wanted, but only time and tasting will tell.

More after the jump…


While I’m going back to basics a bit as far as the recipe is concerned, I wanted to use this brew as a skill-honing exercise and ensure a flawless brew.  I was extremely careful with my strike, mash, mash out and sparge temperatures.  I did a large yeast starter, chilled to 65F post-boil and maintained a fermentation temperature of 65.  I cut no corners and perhaps most importantly, I built a full water profile, monitoring the pH at all stages of the brew.



Water profiling is new to me, but I’m getting the hang of it.  My near complete lack of a chemistry education/background was a bit of a hindrance, but I’ve figured out my cations, anions, residual alkalinity, and the like.  I now have a pretty solid understanding of how and why all of these things matter to a beer.  There is a particular importance when it comes to dark beers, as the various roasted grains are fairly acidic and need to be neutralized by more alkaline strike and sparge water.

My brewday did go about as well as it could have, and it was certainly due to my amplified attention to detail.  I hit 83% efficiency, which I attribute to a flawless mash, which came in at 155F and 5.3pH.  From now on, I expect to take this level of care with every beer.  I take a lot of pride in the beer that I make and strive for constant improvement.  I consume so little of the beer I make, that I want to ensure that I’m putting my best foot forward with every beer that my friends, family and fellow brewers drink.


It’ll be another couple of weeks before I drink this one, but I’m very optimistic at this point.  I’m hoping that this can serve as a good base to work from in the future.  I’d like to try variations where I infuse with spices and/or coffee.


Here’s the recipe (and water profile):

Robust Porter
12-B Robust Porter
Brewed: 11/17/12

Size: 5.25 gal
Efficiency: 83% (measured)
Attenuation: 72.0% (estimated)
Original Gravity: 1.063 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.016 (estimated)

Color: 26.24
Alcohol: 6.21%
IBU: 36.6

Water (all in ppm):

Ca:75  Mg:10  Na:21  SO₄:45  Cl: 37  HCO₃: 100


  • 9.0 lb Canada Malting 2-Row Malt
  • 1.0 lb Biscuit Malt
  • 0.5 lb Caramel 80°L
  • 0.5 lb American Chocolate Malt
  • 6 oz Roasted Barley
  • 3 oz Black Patent Malt
  • 3 mL HopShot – Boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Fuggle (4.8% AA) – boiled 5 minutes
  • 1.0 ea Wyeast 1187 Ringwood yeast (stepped up into 1L starter)


  • Mash @ 155 (1.25 qt/lb ratio)
  • Mash out @ 170
  • Batch sparge (water slightly acidified)


  • Radiohead – The Bends, Hail to the Theif


  • Brewed on a Saturday afternoon, by myself. Really took my time, brew went off without a hitch.
  • Chilled to 65℉ and pitched a large starter at high krausen.  Despite this, it took nearly 24 hours for the fermentation to really kick off.
  • 11/23 – fermentation activity slowing, krausen has dropped.  Definitely smell the diacetyl and will be giving the yeast plenty of time to clean it up.
  • Very concerned about diacetyl levels.  Emailed my homebrewing club for suggestions on maximizing the yeast’s diacetyl breakdown.  Suggestion was to heat slightly, to around 70F and agitate daily, to maximize yeast contact with the beer (ringwood is fairly flocculant and create a pretty compact trub at the bottom of the fermenter).
  • Followed these instructions daily, for 2 weeks
  • 12/11 – no longer much, if any, diacetyl in the nose.  Kegged, purged headspace and set regulator to force carb
  • 12/12 – stole a little taste.  should be a tasty porter, although I already have some impressions as to how I’d tweak this one (more bitter, a little more roast, a little maltier).  Have the updates in mind and will plug into my brew software once I have a few proper pours of the finished product.
  • 12/28 – So this turned out to be a pretty decent Porter, I actually find it to be fairly similar to Southern Tier’s, but with a little more diacetyl.  While it isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good for a first pass with a major mistake (the yeast).  I’ll be taking another stab at it in the future with a few tweaks.
  • At this point, about 1/4 of the keg is gone.  I decided to try something fun with the remaining beer.  Today, I swung by a good local coffee shop and ordered six shots of espresso.  Brought them home and added all six shots to the keg.  I sealed it back up and purged the headspace.  Will give it a few days to settle and homogenize, but I did take a small taste.  The espresso seems to mute the diacetyl and bump the roastiness.  While it doesn’t really taste like an espresso beer, it did a nice job of covering up some of my …insecurities.. with this beer.

From → brewday

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: