Mash Apocalypse #1 (Batch #5)

This beer was our first “own recipe”. This is to say it wasn’t exactly designed or anything, it was, in a way, improvised. The name comes from the fact that this beer was made with all our left over malts. We didn’t plan anything,we just added EVERYTHING we had left. The only design came in the hops and the yeast. Here’s the recipe. Batch size was 19L.

Grain

  • 680 gr Maris Otter
  • 770 gr Pale malt (Finnish)
  • 820 gr Halcyon pale ale
  • 30 gr Melanoiden malt
  • 30 gr Wheat malt
  • 80 gr Munich malt type 1
  • 100 gr chocolate malt
  • 20 gr Crystal malt (75L)

Hops

  • 14 gr Nugget (60 min boil) Pellet
  • 14 gr Cascade (30 min boil) Pellet
  • 14 gr Willamette (15 min boil) Pellet
  • 22 gr East Kent Goldings (10 min boil) (Flower)

Dry hopping

  • None considered yet

Yeast

  • Safale S05 American Ale (Dry Yeast)

Mashing

The recipe specifies a 60 min mash at 68°C-69°C.

Boiling

60 min, normal boil. 10 min hot break boil before adding first hops.

Unusual/special ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon of dry irish moss as a clarifier
  • 1/2 teaspoon WLP yeast nutrient
  • Yeast rehydrated in a cup of pre-boiled/cooled water

Fermenting

  • Planned for 2 weeks

Pre-boil gravity was 1.035 which is roughly were the it was estimated. OG was around 1.040. This beer will most likely be quite low in ABV given the low amount of base malts, estimated ABV is around 3.7 and 4.0%.

Lessons learned

It was quite interesting to use dry yeast again. The yeast package suggested to just sprinkle it on the wort, but reading some forums I decided to re-hydrate it. I used pre-boiled water and StarSan to clean and disinfect the necessary cups and spoon for stirring. We had some trouble with the fermentation because it took a bit longer than usual to start. More than 15 hrs to start and around 24 hrs to become really active. I think that the problem in this case was that since our thermometer decided to stop working we overcooled the wort. While this is not a problem for the yeast, it probably took it a while to get to optimal temperature and start fermentation effectively. Next time we’ll try just sprinkling it, just to see the difference in reactions times.

Another interesting issue was the hopping. I’ve been reading on beer design, and while I’m not quite proficient yet I understood the process better. I decided to use Nugget for long boil bittering because of its high alpha acid content. The other hops were chosen based on low/medium alpha acid and aroma potential. The amount was decided based on previous recipe experience. Not much to do but wait and see how it turns out!

l8rs!

/R

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American Pale Ale (Batch #4)

Since we have quite a backlog of posts waiting this will be a fruitful writing day. This post relates the beer we made last Saturday. The recipe is an altered version of the APA that Palmer has in his book. The original recipe name is: “Lady Libery Ale”, some malts were changed, but otherwise the recipe is the same. Ingredients and process below. Batch size is 19L.

Grain

  • 3.2 kg Halcyon Pale Ale (Fawcett) Original recipe calls for “British Pale Malt”
  • 227 gr Crystal 60L (Actually 55L Finnish Crystal malt)
  • 227 gr Amber malt (Fawcett)
  • 227 gr Munich malt (Type 1) (Weyermann)

Hops

  • 14 gr Northern brewer (60 min boil)
  • 14 gr Cascade (30 min boil)
  • 28 gr Cascade (15 min boil)

Dry hopping

  • 14 gr Cascade

Yeast

  • WLP060 American Ale Blend (Original Recipe called for WLP001 California Ale) Changed due to lack of availability

Mashing

The recipe specifies a 60 min mash at 68°C but we did it for a bit longer since I forgot to hear up the sparge water.

Boiling

60 min, normal boil. 10 min hot break boil before adding first hops.

Unusual/special ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon of dry irish moss as a clarifier
  • 1/2 teaspoon WLP yeast nutrient
  • 1.2 litre yeast starter made with spray malt at roughly 1.040 gravity. 2/3 of the yeast were used, 1/3 was saved.

Fermenting

  • No specification but will be done for about 2 weeks
  • Secondary is still up in the air, it might be that we dry hop in secondary 15 litres and bottle the remaining 4-5 liters.

And that’s the recipe! this recipe was done with our new equipment (on which I will post later on, and in detail). The overall experience was good, no major problems, except with the shitty thermometer we have which has become completely unreliable. Other than that we got the aim OG which was around 1.044-45.

Lessons learned

No lessons per say… just realised the advantages of making a starter. This beer didn’t really require it since the gravity was below 1.050, but we made it anyways. I have got to say, its the strongest, fastest, most active fermentation we’ve had so far. It started in less than 12 hours and has been going on for almost 3 days. This kinda makes me think starters should always be made… but let’s see, it’s not always feasible to do so due to timing and general availability.

E.S.B Tasting (Batch #1)

This post is a bit overdue…

We had our first beer for the first time 1 week after bottling, and at that point it tasted really funky and green… I feared the worst! but after another week and then a bit more it got to be pretty good… ladies and gentlemen, Batch #1 E.S.B:

Batch #1 E.S.B

So!, I’m not a professional taster or anything, so I’ll just give you my general impressions on the beer and hopefully that will be enough. The final ABV content was theoretically 5.2ish%, but everyone who’s tried it thinks it has more as it gets you a tinsy bit tipsy after only a pint.

I’ll divide the comments into sections to make it clearer.

Color

The color came out quite nicely I think. This redish/orange which is nice to the eye. If anything I’d say it’s a bit too darkish, but overall its a pleasing color. The beer is quite hazy, but this is expected because we didn’t have a wort chiller at the time and we didn’t use any irish moss. It doesn’t really affect the outlook though.

Carbonation

The carbonation level came out quite good, it keeps a nice fresh bubbling for the duration of the drink. The only think lacking was the head. It has a nice thin foamy head but disappears quite quickly. But I guess that also kinda goes with the beer style, so its no big deal.

Aroma

If you ask Anni, she likes the smell, if you ask me I think its a bit on the tangy (grapefruity) side. Hops are perceptible, but not the nice aroma I’ve come to love. There is a light yeasty smell that disappeared the later we stored the bottles and the more we cooled them. Overall good enough for a first try.

Taste

The taste is where this beer didn’t disappoint. Its really bitter but not overwhelming, the body is heavy and lightly sweet giving a satisfying (if a bit overly filling) feeling. The hop bitterness really comes across and while it has a slight taste of the trademark yeasty homemade beer taste the beer is pretty damn good!…. for a first try. 🙂

Lessons learned

So, if I had to say anything about this first all grain brewing experience and the end result I’d say I’m quite satisfied. This definitely surpassed by previous malt extract brewing and unlike extract brewing I learned a LOT during the process. Based on my limited knowledge and experience the things I’d do to improve this same recipe would be:

  • Not do a mash-out, or do it in a more controlled manner. I think that in attempting to do a mash-out we went a bit overboard with the temperature and we might have gotten some tannins in the wort.
  • Add irish mosh or something similar to reduce the chill haze and make the beer clearer
  • Include secondary fermentation with dry hopping as the original recipe said, to provide better aroma.
  • Perhaps include a yeast starter to the fermentation stage to make for an overall cleaner beer.
  • Try other carbonation sugars to see how they affect the end result.

But yeah, all in all I’d say this beer is a success. It might not be a beer you can drink more than 1 or 2 of, but its definitely enjoyable.

Cheers!

An ambitious attempt for a third beer

Yo! This wasn’t meant to be the next post, but Anni has been a bit busy lately and I brewed (with some friends) this last weekend. So this post will be about the beer we brewed and the lessons learned.

If you know me personally, and more specifically, if you know my personal beer tastes, you’ll know that I’m particularly fond of Imperial IPA’s. Given spring and summer are getting close and we have some beer plans we need to work on in the coming months I figured it was a good time to make an attempt at one of my favourite styles of beer.

The recipe used was the Hannah’s Ambrosia IIPA obtained from the Homebrewing for Dummies book. I changed some hops and malts due to availability and scaled it down a bit since we don’t have big enough equipment to brew a full 19L batch. The following recipe was obtained by the BrewMate software and scaled down to 15L.

Grain

  • 5.36 kg Maris Otter malt
  • 716 gr Pale malt
  • 178 gr Melanoidin malt (Replacement for DMC Aromatic malt)
  • 178 gr Amber malt (Replacement for DMC Biscuit malt)
  • 178 gr Carapils malt
  • 178 gr Wheat malt

Hops

  • 89 gr (reduced to 80 due to Alpha acids) Centennial for 60 min
  • 44 gr Cascade for 10 min
  • 44 gr Centennial for 10 min
  • 44 gr Willamette for 10 min
  • 22 gr Mount Hood for 10 min (Replacement for homegrown Cascade/Liberty  blend)

Dry hopping

  • 22 gr Centennial (time not specified, but will be 10 days)
  • 22 gr Willamette (time not specified, but will be 10 days)

Yeast

  • WLP002 English Ale

Mashing

The recipe specifies a 45 min mash at 68°C but I did it for 60 min, the strike water was a bit too hot when the mash started, so I decided to leave it a bit longer.

Boiling

60 min, normal boil. 15 min hot break boil before adding first hops.

Unusual/special ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon of rehydrated irish moss as a clarifier

Fermenting

  • 7 days in primary
  • 16 days in secondary

That’s it for the recipe… as you can see the amount of grain used was huge, around 7 kg, the hops were also quite “abundant”… more than 200 gr for a 15L batch is a bit overboard; but I’m a hophead so I’m not so worried.

One particular issue with this beer was the aimed OG of between 1.09 and 1.1 (≈9.x ABV), which is considerably high. This “forced” me unto a new project, namely, a stir plate. I’ll make a post on the subject later, but suffice to say for the moment that it’s a device that allows you to double or triple the amount of yeast cells produced by a yeast starter. The starter was maintained for 48hrs before being put in the fridge for decanting on brewing day. Palmer and Nachel suggest that yeast starters be made for any beer over 1.045-1.050 OG. It allows the yeast to not be overwhelmed by the amount of sugars and enables the yeast to finish fermentation.But yeah… this is a subject on its own which we will address later…

Lessons learned

Ok… I have to admit this was an ambitious beer for a 3rd full grain batch… but it was also a very educational attempt. Just the amount of grain brings up new challenges. Some of the problems and lessons are listed below:

  • The strike water volume has to be carefully chosen so that it fits in the pot for example, likewise, the sparge water might be less than the amount used in normal mashing
  • Sparging should also be done slower and left longer to drip, the grain can hold huge amounts of wort, so if you’re too impatient you’ll waste a considerable amount of wort
  • Huge amounts of grain produce huge amounts of grub so you might want to consider filtering
  • Huge amount of hops merit the usage of hop bags, if not you’ll end up wasting a couple of liters of wort (unless you have a proper false bottom or filtering system)
  • High gravity beers might require 2-3 step yeast starters, plan well and use a starter calculator if necessary

Those are the lessons I learned this time. The cost of these lessons?

  • Shitty mash efficiency (OG of 1.072-1.076)
  • Barely 15L of beer in the fermenter with about 2-3L of grub

As I said previously, this was an ambitious beer for the 3rd try, but I don’t regret trying it, it taught me big lessons in one day.

Special thanks to Ville H., Ville A. and Antti P. for dropping by and helping/keeping me company.

l8rs!

/R

Priming and bottling the E.S.B

Alright! as promised… this is the short (hopefully) post on priming and bottling.

I have to say, this has got to be the most annoying part about brewing, and as far as I’ve read, I’m not the only one that thinks so. Fortunately I think this is mostly due to our equipment and not so much to the actual act of priming and bottling. So!, first things first, check out the following pic.

Pre-bottling

Pre-bottling

In the photo above you can see our equipment prior to bottling. On the left you can see some bottles, some are clean, some are not. then to the right of that you can see the caps, the siphon and the cap placer. All the way to the right you can see the fermenter with the pre-carbonised beer. On the bottom you can see our brewing pot. Since we don’t have a bottling bucket at the moment, we used the pot to both disinfect and prime.

The pot filled with disinfectant was used to fill the bottles and then rinse them. Since it’s StarSan, we didn’t really need to wait for it to dry and we just bottled that way. Once we had everything ready and all the bottles lined up in the disinfectant pot we started preparing the primer.

Priming

Priming as many of you probably already know, is the act of adding some more fermentable materials to the pre-bottled beer to enable a bit of extra fermentation. This extra fermentation is not so much to create more alcohol as it is to carbonate the beer. That is generate a bit more CO2 in the bottle and create the bubbles, the head (Proteins and lipids also affect this though) of the beer and its general fizziness. There are two ways to do this: the old way, and the better way.

  • The old way.- basically add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. The advantage of this is the capability to bottle directly from the fermenter, the disadvantage is that your pouring solids into a bottle, possible inequality in the distribution, and its generally annoying.
  • The better way.- Having a bottling bucket (or similar) use a liquid solution with fermentables and mix it equally with all the beer.

The amount of fermentables depends on the type of fermentable used. In our case, since we used table sugar we used around 90 grams boiled in 2 cups of water, then cooled it a bit. The normal amount for a 19L batch is around 114 grams, but we had a 17L batch, so we made some “on the fly” estimation and put 90. This mixture was put at the bottom of the pot we were using as a bottling bucket. After this was done we started siphoning the beer from the fermenter to the bottling pot. We avoided any stirring and rough transfer to avoid oxidation. You can see part of the transfer in the following pic.

Filling the bottling pot

Filling the bottling pot

Once the pot was full we used a large spoon (disinfected of course) to mix in the mixture, carefully avoiding oxidation. As I recall, it is suggested to leave this sitting for around 30 minutes before bottling, but since we were in a hurry we decided to go ahead and do it.

Bottling

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get any good pictures of the actual bottling as this required both of us to be helping in handing the bottles over. The basic process is quite straight forward though. It is only required to put the siphon in the bottling bucket(pot) and start siphoning into bottles. Since we didn’t have a filling tube we had to pinch between bottles… it was very messy. In the end though we managed relatively fine. We filled 20 swing top bottles which saved a lot of caps and helped my patience. The other 20+ bottles were capped with a very old, very annoying tool. We broke one bottle and had some troubles, but in general we managed to bottle ok. We now have a bottling tube so hopefully next try will be better.

Storing

The bottles have been stored now for 1 1/2 weeks in a dark place. This Sunday will be the official trial and we’ll see how bad or good it came out. Expect the first evaluation post at some point next week.

Oh! I almost forgot…

Final Gravity! we took a measurement before bottling and we got the FG around 1.010. This means we got an ABV of around 5.2%. I got this calculation with an online calculator, I didn’t feel like doing numbers at that point.

Next post will be about our second beer recipe. Anni will post that at some point this week or next. See you then!

/R

The wort chiller

We were planning on writing about the priming and bottling of our E.S.B, but we’ve been a bit busy and we haven’t downloaded the photos from Anni’s camera. This will be an intermediate post on wort chilling.

As both Anni and I mentioned in our last posts we didn’t really chill our beer after boil and prior to fermentation. We just used a cold water bath and cooled it over the evening. This last week however, we made our own wort chiller!

Both John Palmer and Marty Nachel explain how to make your own chillers in their books. The process is quite simple, the problem, at least from my perspective was finding the correct materials in Finland. However, thanks to our friend (and fellow homebrewer) Topi, we knew where to get the main component necessary. Before going on to source of material and end result I’ll explain a bit of the idea behind the wort chiller.

The idea behind the wort chiller is basically that of a heat exchanger. You have a looping coil of metal tubing through which you pump cold water. This cold water goes through the loop of metal tubing and cools the liquid its immersed in while getting hot. This water is then poured out of the loop while more cold water is pumped from the input. Think of a slinky made with tube and you’ll kind of get the idea. Ideally, the tube used should be minimum 3/8 inches in diameter(roughly 9mm) according to Palmer. While it doesn’t have to be made out of copper, copper is a bit more maleable than other metals so its easier to work with just using your hands and doesn’t require special equipment.

Now, going onto the results and how to achieve them. What we want to get to is something like whats shown below:

Wort Chiller

Wort Chiller

As you can see from the image above the input of the chiller starts at the top, then coils all the way to the bottom and then goes back up straight from the bottom to the exit. In order to bend the tubing I used a small pot as a reference. I didn’t want it to be too small and I didn’t want it to be too big, so I chose a pot that made a nice inner circumference in comparison to our mashing pot. Since the pot I used was quite short in height I could only wrap so much tubing nicely. The rest was a mixture manual bending and pot reference bending, that’s why the bottom part of the chiller above doesn’t look as nice. For the small bends I used a mug as support for the bending, I added some electrical tape to add some friction. I used this because if I had just used my hands I might have bent to narrowly and might have closed up the tube by accident.

As for the material used, here is the list:

  • 10m long 8mm diameter copper tubing (Polttoaineputki in Finnish), found from Biltema.
  • 10mm diameter plastic hose found from K-Rauta
  • 8-16mm clamps (Letkukiristin in Finnish) found from Biltema or K-Rauta

That’s all you need for the wort chiller, but you might also want to look into how to plug the hose to your faucet. For this I found two parts that were needed. I don’t know how they’re called in English, but they’re basically quick adapters that fit the faucet, I found the ones I needed from K-Rauta.

Notice that the diameter for the faucet connector might be different depending on the size of your faucet. So make sure you take it off and measure the diameter before you buy anything. Similarly, the hose connector was bought with the 10mm hose in mind, so you might want to buy that according to your needs.

Lastly, you might have noticed that the diameter of the copper tubing we used is only 8mm, contrary to the minimum suggested diameter from Palmer. This was merely a practical decision, it was the cheapest and easiest option available to us. In our experience it doesn’t really matter for small batches (<30 litres). We just used ours today and it worked like a charm! we cooled 20L of wort in about 30 min!

We’ll write another post soonish about our second batch of beer, and about the bottling experience with the first one. Stay tuned!

l8rs!

/R

What you need to brew

Making beer requires a bit more equipment than what you find in the average kitchen. As with any hobby, you can pretty much spend endless amounts of money on gear, but you can also get by with relatively inexpensive things.

What we have is somewhat of a compromise between the cheapest possible and easiness of brewing. We wanted a reasonable batch size, which we decided is around 20 litres. We went for the brew in a bag (BIAB) method, which saved us from having different pots for mashing, sparging and boiling. We also decided not to invest in a chiller at this stage and just see what happens.

So I’ll just go over what we have in approximately the order you need them in the process of brewing. Hopefully this is useful for those who are thinking about starting to brew their own beer.

Mashing:

  • A big pot, ours is 25 litres. We ordered it from German Amazon.
  • A brew bag. We got ours from Lappo.
  • Something to mix the mash with. We got a really big spoon from Brewcat.
  • Bringing the water to mashing temperature would have been possible with our kitchen stove, but we would not have been able to boil the wort with it, so we bought an inductive plate which we used for this step as well. Ours was this one. We chose it because it was the cheapest we could find.
  • For mashing we insulated the pot with an old camping mat and a sleeping bag. It worked surprisingly well. These we had already, but you can buy inexpensive ones at any supermarket.

Sparging:

Some sources say, you don’t need to sparge/rinse with BIAB, but we sparged through the bag anyway. For this you need an other pot to boil the sparging water in.

  • We bought a 10 litre pot for this. This was from the local department store, and it cost about 40 euros. We’ll use this for other things, like cooking and making cheese, so it was worth buying one. You can also use couple of smaller ones, or what ever you have available.
  • We used an oven grill to help, so we could lift the bag on top of the brew pot to put the water through. This we already had in the house.
  • A measuring jug was used to pour the water on the malts. This was also from the supermarket.

2014-02-01 16.14.36

Measuring:

You’ll be measuring things at several different stages during the process. I collected all measuring related equipment here under the same category instead of mentioning them at different stages. I hope this makes sense to you as well.

  • You’ll need to be able to measure the gravity of your wort to know if it has the right amount of sugars to get the alcohol percentage you’re aiming for. For this you need a hydrometer and test tube/jar. We already had a hydrometer. We bought the jar for it from Lappo.
  • Thermometer for mashing, boiling and chilling. We got a digital one from Brewcat. You can probably survive with a simpler one, or you can invest in a fancier one, which ever is your priority.
  • The downsides of getting a cheap one are, that the response time is a bit slow and the thermometer is not water proof.
  • Kitchen scale for weighing malts and hops. We already had one, it’s just a simple inexpensive one from the supermarket.
  • We also had a couple of measuring jugs, these were simple plastic ones from the supermarket. (We have 1 and 2 litre ones.)

Boiling:

  • Everything needed for this step was actually already used during the mashing.
  • As a reminder, you’ll need a big pot, something to heat it up with and a spoon or ladle to mix it with.
  • We also used mesh bags for hops, but this not necessary. They don’t cost much though, and make your life easier, so I would recommend getting some.

Chilling:

  • We pretty much skipped this step, so no insight on this yet.
  • We used our plastic laundry basket as a cold water bath for the pot. This wasn’t very efficient though, but from what we’ve heard, other homebrewers have managed to make good enough beer without a chiller. So while it is best to chill your wort, I don’t think it’s the first thing you need to worry about.
  • Well probably be attempting to make some kind of DIY chiller, and we’ll report back on it, when we’ve tried it out.

Fermenting:

  • You’ll need a bucket or a carboy to ferment the beer in. We already had a 30 litre fermenting bucket at home, so we just used that.
  • The fermenting beer will need some head space, so you can ferment approximately 25 litres in this size bucket.
  • Also a waterlock (to keep the air out, but allowing the carbon dioxide to go out) is needed. These don’t cost much, so we recommend getting a 3 piece one, because those are easier to clean.
  • After the wort has been chilled you need to be very careful with hygiene. So you need something to sanitise everything that touches the chilled wort, including the fermenter. We used Star San for this. It was also ordered from Brewcat.

Bottling:

  • We haven’t bottled the beer yet, so this is just based on what we’ve heard.
  • You need clean bottles. Preferably brown. Ask your friends or your local pub. Or drink a lot of beer, which ever you prefer.
  • You need caps and a capper. Any homebrew supply store will sell these. We already had some from Roberto’s previous brewing experiments.
  • The bottles also need to be cleaned and sanitised. You need a bottle brush, some washing up liquid and the same sanitiser that was used earlier.

I believe this is pretty much everything. I might have forgotten something. If that’s the case, please comment, and I’ll fix the post. Of course you can spend a lot more money on better equipment, but we’ve proven, that beer can be made with these. In my opinion it’s important just to get started, you can always invest more on your hobby later. Of course, if money is not an issue for you, just go ahead and splurge.

Happy brewing!

Anni