Homebrewing: Partial Mash Kolsch

Glass of homebrewed kölsch

Over the summer I decided that I wanted to brew a beer that everybody would like and something that would be fitting for hot weather. I also wanted to re-use the yeast for more than one batch of beer. This led me to brew a kölsch-style beer, a great summer beer and then I can re-use the yeast for my next batch, an altbier. Not so coincidentally, the May-June 2009 issue of Brew Your Own [subscribe] had an article and a few recipes for kölsch. At the time I was not setup for all-grain and I did not have easy access to Briess Pilsner liquid malt so I formulated my own recipe.

  • 5 lbs. light dry malt extract
  • 3.5 lbs. German pilsner malt
  • 0.5 lbs. Vienna malt
  • 2 0z. Hallertau hops (4.1% alpha) for 60 minues
  • Whirlfloc for 15 mintues
  • White Labs WLP029 – German Ale/Kölsch yeast

Light malt extra

Grains for the kölsch homebrew

As I do for every batch of homebrew, I began by making a yeast starter. The volume for this starter was 1.23 L including 7 oz. of dry malt extract, giving the starter a calculated original gravity of 1.059.

For the mash I followed the counter-top partial mash method that was described in an article by Chris Colby in the October 2006 issue of Brew Your Own magazine [subscribe]. With the empty grain bag already in the cooler, I filled the water cooler with 5.5 quarts of 160ºF water. Next, I slowly added the grains to the cooler, which would also go into the grain bag. I reached my target temperature of 149ºF. I let the grains mash for 1 hour and a began to recirculate the wort and then collect the first wort. Following the outlined procedure I sparged the grains by adding 168°F water for 5 minutes and then collected the second wort.

4 pounds of partial mash for kölsch homebrew

Both the first and second wort were added to water already boiling in the brew kettle. I brought the wort to a boil and added the 2 oz. of Hallertau hops. During the final 30 minutes I slowly added the dry malt extract. During the last 15 minutes I added Whirlfloc, a fining agent.

Whole hallertau hops

After chilling the wort and draining the brew pot into the fermenter, I discovered that I only had 15 quarts of wort so I topped it up with a little bit of water and also the yeast starter bringing my total volume to 5 gallons. Another step I always take before sealing the fermenter is to oxygenate the wort using pure oxygen passed through a porous stone.

Finally, I put the primary fermenter into my newly “converted” dorm-fridge fermentation box. As you can see in the photo, the clearance wasn’t quite enough for an airlock so I had to use a blow off tube. Using the fridge and my analog temperature controller I was able to maintain 60ºF throughout fermentation.

Homebrew kölsch with a strong fermentation.


Commercial versions are certainly better but I this recipe turned out very well, I’m enjoying the beer, and I made it myself.

Appearance. The head on this homebrew is white and foamy with tight bubbles and the head stays for an average to below average amount of time. The color is a yellow-brown light amber honey color. The clarity is hazy probably due to chill haze.

Smell. This kölsch has a very slightly earthy, spicy bouquet from the Hallertauer hops. It has a clean and sweet sweet aroma that I believe comes from both the malt and the yeast. The yeast and the grains also give it a lager like quality. The sweetness of the malt has almost a subtle white-grape smell. In summary, malty sweet aroma with a hint of earthy greenery.

Taste. I really enjoy the flavor of this beer. It has a sweet malty grain flavor balanced with a reasonable amount of bitterness to offset some of the sweetness. The hops, yeast, and grain combine to give a sweet yet earthy flavor with a crisp amount of bitterness. Quite delicious.

Mouthfeel. The final, 1.012, is a bit higher than I wanted but the starting gravity was also a little higher too. This makes the mouthfeel not as dry as I wanted. On the other hand it does not have too much body and the gravity is only slightly higher than the acceptable range of 1.007 and 1.011. It could also use a bit more carbonation so I’ll turn up the CO2 a little bit to fix that problem (after a few days).

Drinkability. This is one of the strongest aspects of this beer. The sweetness with some bitterness to balance makes this a pleasurable homebrew to drink. It is crisp and very drinkable for a hot day or a cool evening and for multiple in one sitting. Just like a kölsch should be.


  • Original gravity: 1.052
  • Final gravity: 1.012
  • Bitterness: 28-30 IBU
  • Alcohol by volume: 5.2%

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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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One Response to Homebrewing: Partial Mash Kolsch

  1. Matt Sweeny says:

    Looks like your carboy is filled with a black and tan.

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