Piety and scholarship under Lupulos.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First all grain batch

I did my first all grain batch yesterday. Let me begin by saying that all grain is way easier than you can imagine. Its reputation for difficulty must be a hangover from days when you had to do all the calculations by hand. Nowadays, tools like hopville.com make it a snap.

I designed a recipe called Santa Ana Garden. There's a lemon tree in front of the Santa Ana house I stayed in and I made lemonade from it once. The citrusy hops I placed in this one (including Amarillo, which means "yellow" in Spanish) evoke that memory.

The grain bill is fashioned after McDole's Pliny the Elder clone.

Some notes on the recipe:
  1. I put 1oz Cascade in the mash itself. There is growing popularity for this method as a way to infuse the beer with more flavor and aroma without adding bitterness. Though the science is not well understood by beer nerds, the idea is that the sub-boiling mash temperatures allow the hop flavors to be more fully extracted into the wort before boiling off, and they'll tend to keep throughout the full boil.
  2. I used some yeast collected from Bell's bottles as described earlier in this blog
  3. I'm using a method to keep the primary fermenter cool, since the apartment was in the mid 80s for most of the weekend. Warm temperatures for fermentation cause serious off flavors. I put it in a cooler in the closet and fill the cooler with water. I put ice packs in in the morning. I've measure the temperature at various times and the water temperature is about 67, which is ideal

And mistakes:
  1. I forgot to put the sugar in. Cane sugar is a way to build the alcohol and body of the beer without adding flavor or color.
  2. I did not calculate water loss in the grain bed correctly, and ended up with about 2 gallons of beer.
  3. I forgot to put Irish Moss in, so did not benefit from its coagulative properties and hence threw away more trubbed-up beer
Given the mistakes, I ended up with a variant recipe which I describe here. The loss of water means a higher gravity. Not the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mash tun take one

I built a mash tun today. I originally decided to use the directions here. However, those directions are pretty hard to follow since they seem to be written for mechanically inclined people. It also requires non-standard washers which were not available in any hardware store in my area (the author says to just expand a smaller one, but I have yet to talk to someone who knows how to do that).

I instead used the directions here, which were both easier and required fewer parts. I have:

  1. 5 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler ($22)
  2. 1/2' of 1/2" copper tubing ($1)
  3. a small rubber stopper ($1)
  4. a stainless steel mesh taken from a supply line ($5)
  5. a square head plug (Watts part A-737)
  6. 1/2" hose clamps
Most of this is straightforward. However, the supply line needs the ends to be sawed off. You then pull the hose from the center. I asked the guy at Fetch Lumber to help me saw off the ends of the supply line and he did with relative ease. I used needlenose pliers to pull the hose out and it took about 5 minutes.

Next, I would wash the mesh in some alcohol to get the oil off.

  1. I unscrewed the plastic spigot from the cooler.
  2. I jammed the stopper in from inside out. Make sure to go this direction so it can withstand the pressure. This took me 5 minutes of strenuous work. If it isn't hard to do, you may have a stopper which is too small, and will not get a good seal.
  3. I pushed the copper through the hole in the stopper. This was by far the most difficult task and took me about 10 minutes of pushing. I was drenched in sweat by the end
  4. I attached the head plug to the mesh using a hose clamp
  5. I attached the mesh to the copper using a hose clamp.
  6. I attached the vinyl tubing to the copper on the outside of the cooler
Here's a picture:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Future brew brainstorm

  1. "Raspblurry Stout": A strong stout with chocolate and tart fruit flavors like raspberry and cherries. Creamy feel (from oats?). Think Framboise raspberry over a deep chocolate stout
  2. "Pop-the-cap-puccino stout": espresso and milk stout, frothy head
  3. "Currant Affair": Dark, thin stout or porter with a sour dryness. Think cabernet over a dry chocolate malt base
  4. "Chocolate orange": Not really much of an orange taste but some aggressive, citrusy hops on a stout. No one does this. Would it work?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Extract twang

Home brewers often complain about 'extract twang' which vaguely describes the telltale off-flavors from extract brewing. It seems the main problem (aside from contamination) is boil size. The typical kit is for 5 gallon batches but the process involves a 3 gallon boil since most homebrewers can't boil much more. There are two negative consequences:

  1. The extracts are added to the boil portion and hence saturate it. The hops cannot be as effectively absorbed. This can be avoided, in part, by not adding half of the extracts until the end of the boil (long enough to sanitize)
  2. Water needs to be added to the wort in the fermenter to bring it up to full size, rather than being incorporated in the whole boil. If you did this with a curry sauce, I doubt it would be as flavorful.
These contribute to the extract twang. This is where the smaller batches are advantageous: you can do the wort as a full boil.

The yeast is stolen

I successfully harvested some Bell's yeast last night as per Palmer's instructions. I used the last inch of two Oberon bottles. Now it's time for a few more build up rounds.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Half-hearted Ale

I'm planning a Two-Hearted variant. Word is, Bell's uses the same special yeast for all of their beers and that it can be harvested since their beers are unfiltered. Recommendation for yeast harvesting is that you try with a low ABV beer, since higher ABV beers are generally not friendly to the yeast in the bottle and you end up with something mutated. I bought a 6er of Oberon and plan to do a yeast starter this week using the yeast from the bottom of a few bottles.

Two-hearted is a pure centennial beer. I am considering two brewing options.

  1. Ignore the grain side and just do light DME so that I can showcase the hops more
  2. Do an all grain batch
If the former I am titling the beer "Half-hearted Ale"; the latter, "Full-hearted Ale". The latter requires I build a tun by the weekend.

I am also going to add some Amarillo at aroma time to bring a little more citrus and complexity to the table.

Racked to secondary; comments

Racked to secondary a few days ago. For Diwali, I bought a smaller carboy. Apparently it is 3 gallons but seems to hold a lot more; it would be a perfect secondary for a 4-5 gallon batch because the head space would be minimal.

Diwali smells a bit strong and sour. My guess is the final volume was under 2G (my plan was for a 2.5 G batch but I did not add water after much of it evaporated). Consequently, this beer had a massive OG and will probably drink like a hopped up wine with ABV in the 15-20% range or higher.

Argentina had nearly the clear appearance I was going for and smelled like Blue Moon. I had a little taste and it was almost soapy from all the hops but I think it will be a nice flavor.

Dry hopped both. Unfortunately I did not label my 3 zip-locs of hop remnants and had to guess by smell. I'm pretty sure I was consistent: Amarillo to Diwali and either Columbus or Argentine Cascade to Argentina.

Both of these brews had massive IBUs and I am very curious to see the result. I am a little frustrated that they will probably need long conditioning with the high ABV and will not reach peak flavor for another month or more (quite longer than I am willing to wait to tweak the recipes).