This is my sahti recipe adapted for typical homebrewing equipment. I have refined it based on my own taste, various brewing experiments and conversations with renowned sahti masters. Thus this is not a classic family recipe, but nevertheless it produces a good example of today’s Finnish homebrewed sahti. The recipe comes with plenty practical farmhouse brewing tips which largely apply to brewing of koduõlu, gotlandsdricke, maltøl and kaimiškas as well.
In this text I will concentrate on practical brewing issues. For a full account on sahti, including more brewing tips and recipes from renowned sahti masters, please check my book Viking Age Brew: The Craft of Brewing Sahti Farmhouse Ale.
You’ll also find plenty of additional information at BrewingNordic. For a general overview of brewing traditions, read Sahti and Related Ancient Farmhouse Ales. If you are interested in brewing historical beers, see History of Farmhouse Ales to learn how sahti relates to medieval ales or viking age ales. Brewing Sahti in Pertunmaa is a fine example a sahti master brewing with a family recipe.
For more practical brewing tips, see my guides Brewing With Juniper, Spruce, Fir and Pine, Guide to Kveik and Other Farmhouse Yeast, and Raw Ale Brewing Techniques and Recipes.
Brewing sahti is not difficult, but it requires a mindset different than modern brewing:
- Sahti is a very process driven beer, and the old techniques are the key to success. Proper ingredients alone won’t yield authentic results.
- Modern brewing equipment can be easily fitted for the old brewing processes. Wooden vats and kuurna would certainly look cool, but stainless steel won’t rule out ancient brewing techniques.
- Some modern brewing practices need to be ignored. Modernizing the process based on current brewing knowledge often leads to modern tasting and less authentic sahti. Some techniques may sound like a recipe for disaster, but trust me, I have tested these things.
- Homebrewed sahtis are extremely varied. Although I consider my sahti recipe typical, very different examples exist also.
Grains, Juniper, Hops and Baker’s Yeast
These tips will help sourcing the ingredients:
- To my mind proper sahti can be brewed without sourcing exactly the same kind of malts, yeast and juniper ingredients the Finns are using. Farmers have brewed with what they got and so can you.
- Most sahti brewers use Finnish Sahti Malt as their base malt. Viking Malt produces this proprietary barley malt blend principally from Pilsner malt and smaller amounts of specialty malts. However, any combination of Pilsner, Vienna or Munich malts will make a good sahti. My own favorite blend for sahti is ¾ of Pilsner and ¼ of Munich.
- Most sahti recipes include 5–10 % Finnish dark rye malt called Tuoppi Kaljamallas. This unique toasted or lightly roasted malt (color unit is around 180 EBC) adds color and lends a soft taste of dark rye bread. This malt is hard to get outside of Finland but you can toast a similar malt at home, see my guide Toasting Rye Malt. In the past, I have recommended caramel rye as the best substitute for Kaljamallas. These days I prefer home-toasted rye.
Although it is not a caramel malt, the best widely available substitute is perhaps caramel rye malt.
- Sahti gains its juniper flavor from branches which give woodier and more needle-like taste than berries. Most sahti folks prefer delicate juniper character, and none is always better than too much. In fact, if sourcing branches is difficult, I recommend brewing without juniper. Not even all the Finns are using juniper today and the National Sahti Competition has been won with a juniper-less sahti.
- The taste of branches may vary significantly depending on number of things like species, location and tree gender. In traditional sahti regions the species Juniperus Communis of subspecies Communis. Other species may look and taste very different, but I see no problem in using them as long as the branches are edible and taste good. Bear in mind that some juniper species may be toxic.
- Berries are an acceptable substitute to branches, although the flavor difference is noticeable. 6 g of berries added to the mash is a restrained starting point for a 20 L batch.
- Traditionally juniper branches are laid as a filter on the bottom of the lauter tun, but with a modern brewing setup this can be difficult to do. Adding juniper branches to the mash is an easy shortcut for flavor. In the mash surprisingly small amount is needed: 10 g of branches for 20 liters of sahti gives noticeable yet delicate taste.
- I used to add a small amount of hops to my sahti, but then I noticed that sahti folks like my sahti better without any taste of hops. Thus I no longer use hops in sahti.
- For authentic sahti you need baker’s yeast, or a traditionally maintained house yeast culture. Brewer’s yeast would produce good ale, but that would not be sahti. In my opinion, a traditional home-cultured kveik can be considered sahti house yeast, as explained in Is Kveik Authentic Yeast for Sahti?
- Suomen Hiiva’s fresh compressed baker’s yeast is by far the most popular sahti yeast, but it is difficult to obtain outside of Finland. On the other hand, Finnish and Estonian farmhouse brewers have tried many European baker’s yeast brands and they generally seem to be suitable for fermenting farmhouse ales. I advise to try your local brand of baker’s yeast.
- Baker’s yeast may contain small amount of lactic bacteria, which is usually the reason for souring of sahti. Nevertheless with the methods outlined below sahti should withstand souring for several weeks as the traditional farmhouse brewing techniques have evolved to combat bacteria.
Sahti Brewing Process
These notes will clarify some of the choices I have made in the sahti recipe:
- Traditional brewers usually mash for 5–9 hours by raising the temperature slowly from hand-warm to hot. This method reflects the past of wooden mash tuns, lack of thermometers, and less ideal homemade malts. I have simplified the procedure to three steps (60–70–80°C) and to about two and half hours. This method seems to take most out of today’s commercial malts, but if you want to mash in the most traditional way include steps at 40°C and 50°C and mash for at least five hours.
- This sahti recipe makes a raw ale, that is, neither wort nor mash is boiled. I know from a personal experience that brewers who have read their brewing books would like to add a short boil for sanitation, but that really isn’t necessary. I have fermented raw ales several times with brewer’s yeast and not a single time the ale has gone sour.
- Farmhouse ales were once fermented at hand-warm temperatures, but then the house strains were adapted to such temperatures. For baker’s yeast I recommend the range 18–25°C which is fairly typical among Finnish brewers. The lower end gives maltier sahti while the higher end emphasize fruity and spicy flavors.
- Sahti should be moved promptly to cold when fermentation begins to calm down. Most brewers do this before fermentation is completely finished, and slow secondary fermentation may continue in the cold up till serving. This method protects effectively from souring and staling, but it takes some practice to master. With rustic baker’s yeast sahti may also taste better when still sweet and slightly unfermented. Thus the finishing gravities of homebrewed sahtis are often fairly high, as in the sahti recipe below.
- You may also ferment to finish, but still transfer the ale to cold without a delay. As soon as yeast drops out, lactic bacteria may have its chance.
- Sahti is not carbonated intentionally, but it may have some fizz from the secondary fermentation.
To avoid sourness, staling and gushing ale, bear in mind these tips:
- Because sahti can still ferment in the cold storage, it is usually stored in containers which allow checking and releasing pressure. Farmhouse brewers typically use plastic canisters and PET bottles. Swing-top glass bottles can be used, if pressure build-up can be prevented with certainty. Sahti can be kegged and pushed out with carbon dioxide, but for authentic low carbonation avoid storing sahti under pressure.
- To avoid souring sahti should kept cold at all times until serving. Sahti stores best at 32–54°F (0–12°C) – the colder the better. Above 59°F (15°C) the ale can go sour even in a half day.
- Even if sahti does not sour, it loses its freshness sooner than modern ales. Drink fresh. Plan your brew with a peak moment in mind and consume within few weeks.
Sahti Recipe for 20 Liters
Original gravity: 1.097 (23°P)
Final gravity: 1.034 (8.5°P)
Alcohol by volume: 8–8.5 %
7 kg Pilsner malt
2.4 kg Munich malt
0.6 kg Dark rye malt (Kaljamallas, home-toasted rye malt or caramel rye malt)
10 g of juniper branches
25 g fresh compressed baker’s yeast or 10 g dry baker’s yeast
Mash grains at 60°C for 45 minutes using 2.3 liters of water per kilogram of grain. Mix juniper branches into the mash. Raise temperature to 70°C for 45 minutes, and then to 80–85°C for 15 minutes. Begin lautering, and recirculate until wort runs clear. Sparge with 80–90°C water until 20 litres of wort is collected. If using immersion chiller, insert it in the beginning of lautering into hot wort to sanitize the chiller.
Chill the wort to fermentation temperature. Dissolve fresh compressed yeast into a small amount of cold water, or rehydrate dry yeast in 40°C water. Pour the whole wort into fermenter – since wort is not boiled there is no trub. Add yeast and ferment at 18–25°C until fermentation begins to calm down. Depending on the yeast and temperature, this takes 1–3 days. When sahti still tastes sweetish, but not cloying, move fermenter to cold. If unsure, check if the gravity is in the range 1.034–1.038.
Cold condition sahti for 7–10 days and then rack into containers. Store cool at all times and release the pressure occasionally if necessary. The ale is ready in 10–14 days from the brewing – as soon as bulk of the yeast has settled.
September 5, 2021: Added a recommendation for substituting Kaljamallas with home-toasted rye malt.
December 31, 2021: Added a comment about fermenting sahti with kveik.
64 thoughts on “Sahti Recipe and Farmhouse Brewing Tips”
I would like to add an off-hand comment regarding mash temps. The 2 lowest steps @ 40 & 50C are very important if the desired final beer (i.e sahti) is to contain a noticeable phenolic taste-aroma. Mashing for an extended time (1hr or more) at or below 50C helps release the hydroxycinnamic acids (ferulic and p-coumaric) that, after yeast activity, contribute to the the spicy-clove flavour of a beer.
If you skip the low temp rests then the resulting sahti will most likely have far less of the clove flavour that is said to be a characteristic of the style. For homebrewers looking to mimic that typical sahti flavour and unable to buy the Finish baking yeast, then any good hefeweizen yeast should be able to contribute the similar (but not identical) banana-spicy flavour profile.
That is true, the mash temperatures around 40–50 C will enhance phenolic flavors. The lower mash temperatures will also break down highly viscous beta-glucans, which is important if the grist contains large amounts of rye malt or unmalted grains.
Phenolic flavors are typical for sahti, but the also the brewer-to-brewer variation is enormous and some sahtis can have little phenols. Finnish fresh compressed baker’s yeast is somewhat similar to weizen yeast, but just far more rustic.
Definitely agree on the huge variation of flavours possible for sahti. That’s why different brewers with differing mash schemes can have a huge impact; with some clove bombs, others spicy-banana and others fruity-banana only. And that’s before adjusting for water, grist and juniper differences between brewers as well.
The yeast question is an interesting one, as baking yeasts by default are capable of excreting large(r) amounts of acetic and succinic acid than respective brewing yeasts. These acids are vital to dough rheology properties. One wonders if some of the more dry-tart versions of sahti aren’t spoiled by LAB at all, but simply the result of that particular Finish baking strain.
A question I pose to an experienced sahti brewer-connoisseur. Overall, do the Fins typically allow home brewed sahti to bottle referment/condition to any degree, even in those PET bottles? or is it always served near flat? Finlandia and Lammin’s commercial versions are bottled with no condition, but I know fresh home made sahti from the keg can still be a bit lively if drunk in time. I often wonder about those home brewers that bottle it.
Since nobody has commented this question of carbonation I’m answering it myself. Today most sahtis are flat, but some brewers like a little fizz (similar to real ale) caused by secondary fermentation in the cold. This fizz is more apparent if sahti is served where it is brewed. When these brewers rack sahti to new canisters or bottles for transportation, this fizz is lost and sahti becomes flat.
Historically sahti wasn’t always flat, because it was scooped into a wooden cask while still slightly unfermented. Old texts describe how sahti was ‘kicking’ in the cask, although there were ways to prevent higher pressure. The first pints from the cask were at least sometimes frothy, and the last pints might have been flat, much like with real ale.
Thanks for the informative website.
About cold conditioning after fermentation: is it beneficial to drop the fermentor temperature as low as possible? We have a temperature controlled chest freezer, so I’m wondering if I should drop it near 0C to help with conditioning. Would this be better than, say, 7 degrees?
People who produce a lot of sahti, either commercially or at homes, seem to prefer 0-5 C. So, I think that it is ideal range for both conditioning and storage. Some renowned masters drop to 0 C.
I’m curious as to anyone’s thoughts on the use of Eastern Red Cedar in lieu of juniper branches / berries as an alternative for us North American folks. They’re supposed to be in the same species as juniper. I’ve had varying levels of “success” with my brews using these branches. I’ve found they impart a flavor which could be best described as extreme woodiness or even dirt. The sahtis I’ve drank young (still fermenting) are actually quite tasty but they don’t tend to do well after even brief bottling. Perhaps it depends on when they are used in the brewing / fermentation process or possibly other factors?
I’m curious too about the flavors American junipers branches. Finnish sahti brewers Pekka Kääriäinen and Markku Pulliainen said that the aromas and flavors of American junipers can be very different from the Nordic trees, even if the species is Juniperus Communis. Kääriäinen has been brewing collaboration sahti in three different locations in the United States, and he said that every time the flavor has been woodier and more piney than the Finnish juniper.
The “shelf life” of sahti depends especially on storage temperature and above 10 C sahti can go off even in few days.
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. I’m planning on minimizing the amount I use for future brews or just using real juniper berries. I have enjoyed the flavor of beers I’ve made with spruce. Would using spruce branches and needles with some juniper berries still make it an authentic sahti?
Nordic farmhouse brewers usually don’t use spruce branches, but I can imagine that if a sahti brewer would land on a place where juniper doesn’t grow, she or he might as well use spruce or birch branches. The flavor would be different from Finnish sahti, but on the other hand, sahti tradition is founded on using local ingredients. Enormous diversity of brewing techniques is typical for sahti as well. So, in this extended sense spruce would be “authentic”, especially if the flavor is kept subtle. Anyway, sahti is more about malt and yeast, and seasonings are used in a very restrained manner. If you like the flavour of spruce, go for it!
Agreed on the use of local ingredients. I think using juniper / Eastern red cedar as a mash filter only should keep the flavor subtle enough. And I can always use spruce and just call it a spruce beer. Thanks for your thoughts!
Also, I’ve read that people have had success with non-Finnish bread yeast. Are you aware of any taste comparisons that have been done between sahtis with Finnish baker’s yeast and those with other types of baker’s yeast?
Thank you for a great recipe, I feel you are right in this historical beer (maybe my roots tell that to me :))
Sorry, i do not undestand – should I put the fermenter under water look (no access air)?
The traditional brewers cover the fermentation vessel with a newspaper, cloth or a loose lid during the most vigorous fermentation, and then move the ale to closed containers when fermentation calms down. I close the fermenter loosely without an airlock for the vigorous fermentation, and then attach the airlock when fermentation ceases. In this way I don’t have transfer the ale to the storage vessels so soon, and I get less sediment into bottles or canisters.
Greetings, I am very happy to discover your excellent and informative website. I am third generation American Finn home-brewer learning to brew Sahti with mixed results. One thing I have discovered is that once fermentation has visibly subsided it’s important that I rack the Sahti off the yeast to avoid an overly tart result. About 5 days rather than the 3-5 weeks I am accustomed to for other styles. But this is likely in part due to using wheat ale yeast strains and modern equipment. I have not yet tried using bakers yeast, primarily because I do not have a local source for fresh baking yeast. I am wondering if dry baking yeast would be an acceptable substitute?
Kippis! Yes, with sahti it is best to proceed promptly with the fermentation. It is best to cool the ale without delay after warm fermentation and then also rack sahti off the yeast to final storage containers soon. I normally rack sahti to bottles and canisters as soon as most of the yeast has settled, which is usually is after 5-7 days. Sahti shouldn’t need long maturation times and you can start serving it as soon as most of the yeast has settled. Dry baker’s yeast works well for sahti and even here in Finland some traditional brewers use it. I have tested several European dry yeast brands and they all seem to produce good sahti, although none of have produced hefty banana aroma typical for the fresh Finnish baker’s yeast.
Some sahti makers’ advice is to leave the sahti on the yeast bed for increased shelf life. Conventional homebrewing wisdom seems to swear by the name of the krausen as a good thing for beer. Why do you prefer to rack sahti off the yeast sooner rather later?
Sahti will probably store longer with yeast but large amounts of yeast make also transportation and pouring sahti more difficult. Besides, more sahti is lost to the yeasty dregs (or somebody drinks yeasty bottoms). So, with early racking I can get sahti into drinking condition sooner, and taking sahti with me is easier. Early racking also means that a small amount of yeast remains in sahti. I think there is a balance: a small amount of yeast in sahti can add a nice rustic flavor but obvious yeastiness is unpleasant.
I have just completed a batch of sahti using pilsner and munich malt with a small percentage of rye and oat. Based on your website input I scaled back the juniper, using only several branches in the mash but also 10-12 crushed berries in a twenty-minute boil. The American juniper has imparted a nice, moderate gin-like flavor. Weinhenstephaner yeast has provided a balanced banana/clove flavor. I don’t know if this is anything like true Finnish sahti but based on research I feel like I am on the right track, My next batch will be fermented with bread yeast. When I was in Finland eight years ago I unfortunately did not know about sahti. My loss, perhaps I will have to plan another trip so that I can sample the true Finnish sahti! There is a local brewery in my area that brews what seems like a valid sahti. Kippis!
I can imagine that judging the taste of sahti is difficult if you haven’t tasted sahti before. I have the same problem with some other traditional Nordic ales. Anyway, if your process is right and your sahti tastes quite different from a modern beer, you are certainly on a right track. Thick viscous mouthfeel from proteins and residual sugars is certainly a hallmark of sahti.
Quick question. I have a bunch of Vienna malt, would it work to use just this with a little chocolate rye malt?
I have brewed many good sahtis with just Vienna malt and small amount of dark rye malt. Even 100 % Vienna malt would make excellent sahti, but many brewers prefer to add small amount of darker malts for reddish brown color. Chocolate rye malt is much roastier than Finnish dark rye malt (known as Tuoppi Kaljamallas) but it will work, if used for 1-2 % of the grain bill. Higher amount of chocolate rye will add a sharper edge that takes away from smoothness and drinkability typical for sahti.
Thanks for this article. I know Sahti is usually not boiled but have you experimented if the boiling introduces any flavor changes? Bringing the temperature up to rolling boil for just a couple a few minutes should kill all the nasties and do wonders for long term storage of sahti, hell it would even do wonders for the health of the drinker and how often he needs to run into the toilet to empty his bowels the next morning. 🙂 But is it true sahti anymore as far taste is concerned? Also can you make a Sahti like beer with BIAB (brew in a bag) method? I have been thinking about this, instead of Kuurna I could just add the juniper branches on the strainer that I lift my bag on after mashing to drain back into the pot.
When I started brewing sahti in 2004 I used to boil the wort for ten minutes. Then I noticed that skipping the boil gives flavour closer to sahtis brewed with old family traditions, and anyway boiling is not needed for sanitation. Boiling the wort removes proteins and that will change flavour and mouthfeel. Raw ale from unboiled wort tastes more nourishing, has fuller body and smoother mouthfeel. With few minutes of boiling the change is not probably dramatic, but every minute of boil shifts the flavour closer to modern beer. Raw ale probably goes stale sooner, though.
Sahti can be brewed with BIAB method but in my opinion it is not the most optimal method for sahti. BIAB works best with thin mashes, but in sahti the mash needs to be thick because the wort is not concentrated by boiling. Then, BIAB lacks the wort recirculation step and that gives fairly turbid wort and this turbidity stays in the wort if there’s no boil.
If you were to brew sahti using just a single infusion mash (plus mash out), what temperature would you choose? Sorry for the heretic question.
Actually this is not a heretic question. Some very traditional farmhouse brewers in the Nordic countries mash with a single infusion. These brewers tend to use high mash temperatures, such as 70-75°C. If there’s no mash-out or wort boil, high temperatures are certainly beneficial. But if you can do a higher mash-out rest, you could mash-in with 66-68°C. Personally I always start the mash with a temperature below 70°C, for both modern and traditional beers, because I find that the beer tastes better that way (I guess this is related to amount of dextrin).
Are berries always left on the branches? I thought I read somewhere that they were sometimes taken off because of their bitterness?
Some traditional brewers want to avoid green unripe berries but think that ripe blue berries in the branches are ok. Then, some brewers myself included do not mind including also green berries. The green berries increase the flavour and perhaps also bitterness. If the branches have lots of them, I would reduce the amount of branches.
Thank you very much, I thought I had seen the advice to remove them when they documented a Voss brewer making farmhouse but didn’t know about Sahti.
in your book you mention 12g of juniper branches, what made you decide to higher the amounts ?
Good question! 10 g of juniper branches for 20 liters creates a very restrained flavor that is typical for today’s sahti. Lately, I have bumped up the juniper character above the average levels because I like the flavor of juniper branches.12 g for 20 liters gives the right amount of flavor for my palate – still fairly delicate but some sahti drinkers might find it a bit too sharp for their taste.
Hi Mika, this is an absorbing read, thank you! I’m seriously considering brewing sahti using dry baker’s yeast. How much baker’s yeast would you recommend I pitch in a brew length of 23 litres?
Hi Colin! Around 8 grams of dry baker’s yeast for 23 laters would be a fairly typical pitch rate.
Hi Mika, great Page with a lot of good informations. Thank you for that work. One Question: Have you ever tested a short and easy 67°C Mash for 60 Minutes as Brewers use it for simple styles like Pale Ales? Should work i think?
Also one-hour single infusion mash will work but it will give much lower extraction efficiency and less beer from the same amount of grains. See my story Brewing Sahti at The Ale Apothecary – we brewed sahti with a two-hour mash at 66–68°C.
Because sahti is a high gravity beer without wort condensing boil, the amount of sparge water is small. Longer mash and higher final mash temperature will extract more sugars with a small amount of water. I also like to raise the final mash temperature above 70°C so that the hot wort will sanitize the surfaces it touches.
Very good article, very helpful. Can I use kveik yeast instead of baker’s yeast?
Within the European Union, commercial sahti is regulated by the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed appellation and it states that sahti is “fermented using baker’s yeast or harvested yeast”. In my mind, original farmhouse kveik (that hasn’t been cleaned in the lab) counts as harvested sahti yeast. Before commercial baker’s yeast sahti brewers had their house yeast maintained with methods similar to kveik. This can be a matter of debate if someone is selling kveik-fermented sahti in the area of the European Union.
Nowadays, I usually ferment my homebrewed sahti with kveik. I like the flavor and kveik is easier to handle than baker’s yeast. So, go ahead and brew sahti with kveik! Selling this kind of beer under the name sahti in the EU might cause some issues, however.
Thank you for your answer, I only brew beer for “home use”. I have non-commercial strains:
Stranda, Hornindal, Framgarden, Espe, Jovaru, Wollsæter, Skare.
Which two would you choose and why? (I plan to divide into two fermentors)
Hi! I haven’t used all those farmhouse yeasts, but I would probably choose Skare and Espe. I like my sahti very malty with soft fermentation character. Skare is very good for that. Espe has really nice soft fruitiness that seem to go well with malty ales. Framgarden seems to be a bit more expressive but I’m sure it would make a very tasty sahti.
Hello I decided to make a birthday beer since I reckoned that was the best time for brewing a Sahti. I did a long (6 hour) step mash in a brew in a bag with a bit of difficulty but success nontheless. The wort came out rather milky, couldn’t recirculate since I didn’t have the equipment necessary to do that so the sweet milky wort went directly into the fermenter. Used bakers yeast as you recommended but I wasn’t sure where I got the yeast from since it’s been forever since I last used it for proper baking but when fermentation took off vigorously I got an instant whiff of ripe banana so I guess the yeast is close enough to the Finnish strain. The problem came when my Australian summer temps hit about 24 Degrees C inside the house so I put my carboy in the coolest room I could find. One and a half days later I saw fermentation slugging so I immediately casked it and put it in the fridge but I reminded myself to have a taste of the beer while it was still fermenting and before it hit the fridge. It was still cloudy similar to the looks of Estonian Pihtla and tasted very rough and yeasty. I am just not sure whether it’ll turn out well after that too warm of a fermentation. Do you reckon from your experience and your personal knowledge that I should wait for the long haul of cold conditioning or should I just throw it all down the drain?
I advise continuing cold conditioning and taste occasionally. Likely it will smooth the flavor and remove yeastiness. Although sahti is usually drunk very fresh, sometimes 3-6 weeks of conditioning makes it better, especially if the fermentation flavors are rough or the ale tastes dry. Sahti can look very hazy right after fermentation and baker’s yeast can be slow to flocculate. Brew in a bag method usually makes cloudier sahti and may give slightly more rustic flavor but nevertheless, it should produce good sahti.
Some traditional sahti brewers ferment at 24 degrees Celsius and it should not be a problem. Usually, abundant fermentation flavors work better in a fairly sweet sahti.
I have cold conditioned this for about three weeks and had a full glass of it for tasting. The yeast flocculated and the beer had the haziness and colour that I saw in the photos of Sahti glasses on Larsblog. Aroma is definitely very ripe banana with no head and low carbonation. Taste was very unusual (no yeastiness) with a definite taste of alcohol strength but a wonderful sweetness in banana flavour and enough body to leave an impression. After several sips I really started to like this beer. Lars Garshol was definitely correct in saying that raw ale has a very unique flavour differing from modern boiled wort beers. I added juniper berries instead of branches for the infusion but I got no juniper taste or aroma from the glass, but I do reckon it’s playing a background role in the flavour. As a pale ale and stout drinker I found this challenging at first but very delicious afterwards. Thank you for this recipe! Whilst my lager drinking friends won’t like to share a pint of this with me I know for sure that I’ll be brewing and drinking every litre of this beer in the future. Cheers!
I’m glad that the cold conditioning worked out well! These kinds ales taste so unusual that it may take awhile to get used to the flavor. But that is also part of their charm.
I made a small batch of Sahti. I mashed in the traditional method (as much as possible). Even did the 40-50-60-70-80C steps. But then what I did after that was split the batch. One half was heated to pasteurize temperature, chilled to pitch temp and put into fermenter as expected with the yeast. But with the other half, I added some Chinook hops (most piney and resinous out there in my opinion) then did a modern boil, chill and to fermenter. That is my “safety lever” in case the true Sahti doesn’t work out well. Haha. I bought juniper berries from the local store and added to mash, along with some juniper branches that I found near me. Thanks for documenting this, Mika. It was a fun brew day and experiment for me.
My pleasure! It nice to hear people brewing traditional Nordic ales around the world.
Mika, thanks for the great article! My fermentation appears to have stalled at 1.048. Should I pitch more baker’s yeast, or chill what I have?
Some traditional sahtis have that high final gravity but it gives a very sweet beer. It probably a good idea to add more yeast. Adding yeast works much better if it is allowed to begin fermenting in a starter before adding to the fermenter. Another option would be stirring the yeast in the fermenter back to work but it is very uncertain if it starts fermenting again. If you brew often, you can also chill this batch now and blend it later with dryer ale.
Thanks! It isn’t bad at 1.046 now, but I am going to try another shot of yeast to see if it will drop 10 more points.
Aloha, This is great information! Thank you. But, where can I find Kaljamallas? Everything I read says it’s not exported out of Finland. Thank you.
Hi Kim! As far as I know, Kaljamallas is not exported. However, you can make your own Kaljamallas by toasting pale rye malt in a kitchen oven: preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay a thin layer of malt onto the baking sheet. Toast at this temperature for 30–45 minutes. When ready, the grain kernels should be chestnut brown inside and taste like toasted nuts. Stop toasting before the kernels taste like coffee.
Recently I have been testing this method and it seems to work very well. So far I have been recommending caramel rye malt as a substitute for Kaljamallas but this kind of self-toasted malt is much closer to the original. I’m going to publish a Brewing Nordic story about this when I have made more tests.
About to attempt a brew of Sahti here in south Texas, what water profile would you recommend?
Hi Matt! I think good sahti can be brewed with various kinds of water. If you have the option I recommend a water with fairly low mineral content. That’s what sahti brewers usually have.
thanks to your great articles I wil try to brew my first sahti, (even if I have never tasted an original sahti), because I would like to create a beer with strong and recognizable juniper flavor (this is the reason why I have found your site, I was not looking directly to sahti recepies). I am planning to use branches and berries in different ways in the same beer, because as you have mentioned earlier, it can give a rich flavors for the beer, but I am not sure about the amounts – above you wrote 10-12g of branches if I put them into the mash altogether with the grains (wich means 1.5-2 hours for approx 1 branch), but in other articles you suggest to make an infusion for 2-3 hours with a ten-liter bucket of branches (measured without compressing) before mashing in the grains. Or did I misunderstand something?
I am planning to create an infusion with 14,5 liter of water and ~10 liter of branches for 2 hours in the range of 70-80 C. Then take out the branches (and use them later for sparging water as well) and mash in 6.5 kg of grains to the juniper infusion. After lautering I will raise the wort temperature to 80 C for 10 minutes (sanitation reasons, just to be sure), while I add ~5g of juniper berries and some hops as well for a moderated bitterness. After fermentation I am planning to add 10 g of crushed and blanched berries.
What do you think about this? Is it enough/to much of juniper flavor?
What do you think about Espe Kveik in this situation?
(Plan details: 20 liter, OG: 1077, FG: 1020; 4.2kg Pilsner+1.2kg MunichII+0.7kg Smoked+0.4kg Cararye; Mash-in: 68C 45 min, 2nd: 72C 30min, mash-out: 78C 30min)
Thank you very much,
Hi Gergely! You understood things correctly and your recipe sounds good. It will give strong juniper flavor but the juniper should not taste overpowering or sharp. My juniper beer recipes are based on my experiences with local Finnish juniper. Your local juniper might taste different and you may need to adjust recipes for that. Your current recipe is a good starting point.
When you are looking for strong juniper flavor it is better to use juniper infusion rather than add branches to the mash. Adding branches to the mash is a simple shortcut that works when the juniper flavor need not be strong.
Thank you Mika, I hope this experiment will end good, or at least enough good to be a good starting point for futher attempts.
What an incredible volume of information . . . and all in one place.
I’d love to give this a shot but I want to scale down the recipe. I saw a video of someone online who used this recipe but scaled everything down to make one gallon. He still added the full 10 grams of yeast though. Was that a mistake on his part? It seemed to come out okay but why wouldn’t you scale down the yeast? The math works out to about 2.25g yeast for one gallon of sahti. What is your recommendation?
10 grams of yeast for a gallon of sahti is an overkill. Probably the person who scaled the recipe down did a typo. For sahti, a good starting point is 1 gram/liter of fresh baker’s yeast, 0.5 g/L of dried baker’s yeast, or 0.25 of dried kveik.
I’m confused. If you’re adding 2.3 liters of water per kilogram of grain and you have 10 kgs. of grain (7 Pilsner, 2.4 Munich and .6 rye) that’s 23 liters. This recipe makes 20 liters. I know that you’ll lose some of the liquid during the process, but 3 liters? And if that’s the case, how is there room to add sparge water? Do you lose more than 3 liters during the cooking of the wort? I am obviously new at this and my confusion is based on a lack of experience. Please forgive me. Thank you for such an amazing post and for this helpful information.
When you mash with 10 kg of malt and 23 liters of water, the malt will absorb around 10 liters of water (depends on brewing system but typically one kilogram of malt retains one liter of water when you start to lauter). During lautering you need to add around 7 liters of sparge water to get 20 liters of wort.
I just came back from a trip to Finland and brought some fresh Suomen Hiiva yeast with me to use for Sahti production at home. Do you have any knowledge if it’s possible to freeze those yeast for later use? Usually you can’t freeze commercial brewery yeast without killing them (unless you make glicerin solution), but many people freeze regular baker’s yeast and use them successfully later for things like pizza dough and some regular cooking stuff. And afterall Suomen Hiiva are just a specific kind of baker’s yeast, so maybe they would be suitable for freezing too?
Hi Osk! I have heard that some Finnish sahti brewers freezing the fresh compressed Suomen Hiiva baker’s yeast. It seems to work but some sahti brewers are suspicious about this method. I haven’t tried freezing and I suspect that it can risk yeast health even if the yeast doesn’t die.
Does this recipe look right? I’ll be trying this for the first time this month.
– [ ] 3 lbs. 14 oz. Pilsner Malt
– [ ] 1 lb. 5 oz. Munich Malt
– [ ] 5.3 oz. Light Rye Malt toasted at 350° for 30 minutes
– [ ] 2.5 g Juniper Sprigs
– [ ] 2.5 g Dry BAKER’S Yeast
– [ ] 1.5 gal. Water
– Add grains and water to pot and simmer at…
– 100° for 1 hour
– 120° for 1 hour
– 140° for 1 hour
– Add juniper sprigs
– 160° for 1 hour
– Strain liquid from grains and pour 2.25 gal 168° water through the grains to remove all sugars from grains.
– Let cool to fermenting temp. (65° to 75°)
– Add yeast to a little warm water mixed with a teaspoon of sugar and let yeast activate for 20 minutes or so.
– Pour into wort, cover with airlock and ferment for 3 days or until it stops/ slows dramatically.
– Cool immediately to almost freezing and bottle/drink.
Hi Vic! That sounds like good way to brew sahti. It takes some practice to get the igh original and finishing gravity typical for sahti but that is a good starting point.