Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Infection False Alarm

I opened a two-week-old bottle of batch #11, my Hefeweizen, only to have it overflow all over the counter!

Yes, my first gusher. A 'gusher' is, as you probably guessed, the term used when your beer is overcarbonated and spills out when uncapped. To be a true gusher, you can't have shaken, dropped or frozen the beer beforehand, and it doesn't really count if it only lasts a couple of seconds. A real gusher will pour out what seems like an endless amount as time slows down and you think about all the beer you're losing.

What the hell went wrong? Carbonation was calculated perfectly. The beer was refrigerated. My sanitation was as good (read: paranoid) as ever.

I recalled that my refractometer measurement had put this beer's FG at 1.006 - pretty damn low, but I figured it was just a super active yeast. Furthermore, the yeast used in this batch was a repitch from a previous batch.

My thoughts went immediately to a gusher infection - wherein wild yeast invades your beer and starts to ferment the stuff that your normal yeast won't ferment. When this happens, your beer continues to ferment down to the point where it is nothing but alcohol and water, continuously producing CO2 until your bottles eventually explode from the pressure.

I started to freak, and assumed that I had gotten wild yeast in my WLP300 when I washed and bottled it. To test my hypothesis, I opened up a bottle of batch #12, the Pliny the Elder clone I brewed with a repitched WLP001: GUSHER.

At this point I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I open one more bottle of pliny and two more bottles of hefeweizen, all gushers. I of course drank them, which left me in a less than clear state of mind. Did you expect me to commit alcohol abuse? I think not.

The next day, with a clear head, I start doing some experiments to find the problem. If the infection came from yeast repitching, there shouldn't be an infection in batch #15 or #13, but there would be in #14. If the infection was in the fermentor, it would be in #11 (the hefe), #12 (pliny), #14 and #15 (brewed in the same fermentors as #11 and #12). If it was in the bottling bucket, then #13 would be infection free (and thus have a normal FG) until bottled.

It was then that I discovered that my refractometer readings were off. By a lot. Normally, you can get a gravity reading of fermented wort with a refractometer if you plug it into BeerSmith along with the OG. The problem is that when double checked against a hydrometer reading, the refractometer reading was coming up 1 plato short. Consistently.

Thus it was that I thought my hefeweizen had 88% attenuation and my pliny had 93% attenuation. When I added 1 plato to their FGs and plugged in the numbers, the hefe went down to 75% and the pliny went down to 85% - both normal. Batch #13 also matched the hydrometer's reading perfectly if 1 brix was added.

Note: the refractometer reads OGs perfectly, so I'm not throwing it out. In fact, I may keep using it for FGs if it is consistently off by 1, because I can just add 1 - duh.

So, if the 'infection' didn't cause my beers to overattenuate, why did it cause gushers? Well, apparently it didn't. A pliny I put in the fridge the night before poured perfectly (and tasty, if a little grassy). A hefeweizen I poured several days later after refrigerating for a night also came out very nice (and also the palest beer I've ever managed to make!).

It turns out that because CO2 dissolves better in cold liquids, it is possible to get a gusher simply because you didn't refrigerate your beer long enough. This doesn't explain why my first bottle gushed, but it may have been inadequate mixing in the bottling bucket. I guess I'll never know.

I learned several lessons here - double check your FG with a hydrometer, even if you have a refractometer, refrigerate your beer adequately, make sure your priming sugar is 100% mixed in on bottling day, don't open your beer any earlier than two weeks bottled and RELAX. I learned these lessons the hard way so you don't have to!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #16 Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

I finally tried Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA and I was floored. It has an incredible hop character, strongly pine-y and resin-y with hints of citrus. It is balanced by just enough malt sweetness to combine with the hops to create a candy-like, vanilla, date, cake sort of flavor. However, it is dry enough to not be cloying. It has a very similar character to Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Green Flash Imperial IPA, but way drier. Where Hop Stoopid is thick and chewy and Green Flash is sweet to the point of cloying (I could barely finish the bottle), Union Jack manages to hit the same level of complexity without becoming overpoweringly sweet.

I immediately sought out a clone recipe and found that The Brewing Network did an episode of Can You Brew It on Union Jack. Huzzah!

Episode here.

It turns out to be a pretty complicated recipe.

The flavor is primarily tons of Cascade and Centennial in the boil, followed by a whirlpool aroma steep of more Cascade and Centennial, followed by two huge dry hop additions.

The mash is done really low (145) to dry out the beer, but then they use WLP002 English Ale yeast to maintain some residual sugar. Their mash is also a double infusion, where they raise the temp for the last 10-20 minutes to make sure it is fully converted.

Even their fermentation is complicated, requiring that you pitch at a low temperature and keep it there until yeast growth is complete (a day or so), probably to minimize ester production by the english yeast, then raise the temp (but still not too high).

The main thing I learned when making this beer is to always use a hop bag and make sure it is tied off super tight so no hops come out of the top. Holy shit was it a disaster!

The centennial I got from MoreBeer was not fully pulverized. Instead of a thick hop sludge, I had a chunky mass of hop leaves. Some got out because I didn't tie off my hop bag well enough and the hops clogged my siphon. I ended up just dumping the whole pot into the fermentor because I couldn't siphon it all out.

I also had the bright idea of dry hopping without a bag (note: I used a bag for batch #12, my last dry hop experience, and it was fine). I ended up losing close to a gallon of beer due to absorption by the hops and spigot clogging. To avoid losing even more, I ended up pouring from the top of the keg through a sanitized strainer into the bottling bucket. Bottling took forever.

I will never go without a hop bag again. I don't care if you get better extraction, or more flavor, it isn't worth the hassle.

Here's my recipe, immediately followed by the original 6 gallon CYBI recipe.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Water: Chlorine, Chloramine and Chlorophenols, my nemeses

I hate chlorine, and you should too.

Most municipal water is treated with chlorine or chloramine to kill bugs. This helps to guarantee that the stuff that comes out of your tap won't kill you. The problem for brewers is twofold: deadly organisms can't survive in beer anyway, and chlorines can do bad things to the flavor of your beer.

Chlorine isn't so bad. Chlorine is volatile, and will leave your water pretty easily. You can either boil your water to remove it, or you can just let it sit out overnight. Furthermore, you can taste the chlorine in your water; no nasty surprises.

Chloramine is stealthier. You can't taste it or smell it. You won't know it's there unless you read your city's water report. You can only see if it you fill a large, white container with a very large volume of water, and even then it is  a very faint blue-green color that you might not even notice. Even worse, chloramine doesn't dissipate as easily. In fact, that's why cities are using it now: it is more likely to stay in your water, so they can use less and be sure that it keeps killing things all the way to your house. However, this means that it won't come out of your brewing water as easily as chlorine would.

Even if you don't use chlorinated brewing water, chlorine can get in your water if you sanitize with bleach and don't rinse adequately. Don't use bleach, just use a proper no rinse brewing sanitizer like Star-San.

If it is soooo hard to remove, why bother? The problem is that yeast produce special compounds called 'phenols'. Phenols are okay in certain amounts and in certain styles. They give Belgians and Hefeweizens much of their character, for example. Phenols can have a spicy, plastic-y, medicinal or clove-like flavor. You definitely don't want too much of that in most beers, *especially* the medicinal, band-aid like flavor.

The problem is that yeast eat chlorine and chloramine and produce 'chlorophenols'. These phenols have extremely low taste thresholds; you can taste them even if they exist in only a few parts per billion. Your beer will have a difficult to define 'sharp' or chemical flavor, and usually a plastic or band-aid aftertaste, like you just stuck your nose into a first-aid kit. If the amount is low enough, you might only be able to taste it when you burp.

My first batch ever used tap water. I used it as top-off to a Mr. Beer Classic American Blonde kit. After two weeks carbing, the first thing I tasted was green apple (acetaldehyde, generally a sign that you used too much simple sugar in your beer and haven't let it age long enough to compensate). The second thing I tasted was medicine.

I started using spring and distilled water, and the problem went away. Starting with my first all-grain, however, I decided to go back to using tap water. I learned that Campden tablets (sodium metabisulphite) could be added to remove chlorine and chloramine at a rate of 1 tablet per 20 gallons, so I used 1/4 to 1/2 tablet per batch. I did the same thing on all future batches: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Then I cracked open batch 8, and had an unpleasant surprise. Yep, medicine burps. My friend swore he couldn't taste it, but there was no sign of the taste in batches 2-7, while batches 8-10 all have it.

Blah blah blah, TLDR, so how do you deal with it? Here are your options, in order of cost:

If you're using chlorine, put all your brewing water in a big container (bottling bucket, mash tun, whatever) and let it sit for a day or two before using it. This does NOT work with chloramine. Cost: None.

Use one campden tablet. Do not bother cutting it in quarters. They say you only need a quarter tablet for 5 gallons, but look how well that turned out for me? There is no harm in using a full tablet, and these things are dirt cheap. Let it sit for at least 5-10 minutes before brewing, or a few hours, or all night like I do. Cost: Pennies.

Buy an activated carbon filter. By all accounts, this thing is the ultimate solution. Activated carbon removes chlorine and chloramine if you run your water through it at a very slow rate, between 2 and 5 minutes per gallon. Start your water flowing at 5 minutes per gallon (experimentation and experience will let you know what that is), set a timer for half an hour or so and come back when it beeps. The guys at MoreBeer use this method on our EBMUD water with good results, and I decided to just go for it instead of worrying constantly about my water. You have to use an activated carbon filter, not a 'brita' or 'pur' filter, and you should NEVER run hot water through it. Cost: $42.95 for the first year, $8.25 for replacement filters every year after that.

Use RO water from your grocery store. I'm sure you've seen the big water vending machine inside or out in front of the grocery store. They usually charge between 30 and 50 cents per gallon and either sell RO (Reverse Osmosis) or 'spring' water. RO water is extremely pure and lacking in minerals, so if you go this route for all grain, make sure you add brewing salts to make up for it. Cost: I use about 8 gallons per batch, and brew a batch per week. If I brew around 45 batches per year and buy my water at 35 cents/gallon at Safeway, that comes out to $126 per year. I also need to buy and store a big plastic jug to carry that water in (two, technically, since they only hold 5 gallons each).

You can also install your own RO system in your kitchen. These are generally expensive, require a lot of setup, and a lot of space for the system itself and the water tank. This is probably cheaper in the long run than bottled water, and is worth it over a carbon filter if your tap water has too many minerals in it or tastes disgusting. I'm not 100% sure if RO removes chloramine.

TLDR: Remove chlorine and chloramine from any water that touches your beer or brewing equipment - that includes sanitation water, just to be safe. Dont' sanitize with bleach. Remove chloramine with 1 campden tablet per 20 gallons or (preferably) an activated carbon filter at a very slow flow rate. I use the MoreBeer filter and a tablet in every batch now. Remove chlorine by letting it sit out a day or two, or any way that works to remove chloramine.

If I can beat this chloramine problem, that's one foe down. All that will be left is temperature control, evaporation rate consistency and fermentation temperature control.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Water: Evaporation Rate Again

I've been having a really tough time getting a consistent post-boil volume on my all-grain batches. My evaporation rate is inconsistent batch to batch despite using the exact same boil time, process and equipment.

For example:

Evaporation test with water: 5.9 quarts in 90 minutes.
Batch #13: 4.1 - 4.2 quarts in 90 minutes, so I ended up with 13.75 quarts instead of 12.
Batch #14: 0.6 quarts in 15 minutes, which is about 3.6 quarts in 90 minutes.
Batch #15: 5.8 - 5.9 quarts in 97 minutes, which is 5.4 - 5.5 quarts in 90 minutes.

All done with the same Winware 5 gallon pot on the same burner of my electric stove, and even adjusted to the same location on the burner within a millimeter of error. Humidity is generally about 55% here, and the temp has been around 72 on every brew day.

The only thing I can think of that is different is boil volume. More water in the pot takes more energy to maintain a vigorous boil. Given the anemic BTUs generated by my stove, the more water there is the less vigorous the boil will be, and thus less evaporation. Let's follow this line of reasoning:

Evaporation test: 18 boil volume, 5.9 loss in 90 minutes (maybe longer, I didn't get a warning when the water hit boiling since my stupid thermometer has an auto-shutoff 'feature'). This also may have included cooling loss, though. Plugging into BeerSmith actually gives 20%/hour, 5.4 quart loss, 0.5 qt cooling loss. Doh! Real result is 18 to 5.4.

Batch #13: 18.5 boil volume, 4.15 loss in 90 minutes. This is an anomaly; it is way too low.

Batch #14: 8.2 boil volume, 3.6 loss in 90 minutes. You'd expect this to be higher, rather than lower, if the 'vigorous boil' hypothesis is correct.

Batch #15: 16.9 boil volume, 5.4 loss in 90 minutes. Consistent with the original evaporation test, but with a lower boil volume.

I'll keep taking samples until I get something that actually works. For my next batch, I'll try 17.5 quart boil volume and an assumption of 5 quarts evaporation in 90 minutes.

Batch #16: 17.75 boil volume (higher than expected due to less loss to grain than predicted by BeerSmith), 5.64 loss in 90 minutes. Will try 17.9 boil volume next time.

Batch #17: 17.88 boil volume, 5.85 loss in 90 minutes. Will try 18.2 boil volume next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #15 Munich Madness Oktoberfest Ale

I recently brewed up a Mr. Beer Oktoberfest Vienna Lager kit, batch #9. Like all Mr. Beer kits, this isn't a true to style beer, but rather a hybrid of Oktoberfest and Vienna Lager brewed with an ale yeast. I brewed it with a Nottingham ale yeast, a quarter lb. of Crystal 15, 1.5 lbs. of DME and 6 oz. of Booster. It turned out really great, even though it has only had two weeks to carb/condition, and has me itching to do a non-kit version of the same style.

The biggest difference between Vienna Lager and Oktoberfest is that an Oktoberfest generally has a Crystal malt presence and more hope character. Another obvious difference is that commercial examples of Vienna Lager are very difficult to find. Negra Modelo is a good example that I enjoy, and Trader Joe's sells a decent one that is brewed by Gordon Biersche. 

In contrast, Oktoberfest is a German lager and is brewed by several German breweries, including Spaten, Paulaner and Ayinger. Oktoberfest lagers were brewed in March ('Marzen') for consumption during festivals in the fall ('Oktoberfest'). 

Whichever way you go, you'll get a clean, malty, dry beer with a focus on malt and a roasted flavor. It goes down easy with a dry finish that makes you want to drink more. I find this style to be the most refreshing of the 'darker' beers one can find.

My main problem is that brewing lagers is a pain in the ass - one that I don't find to be worth it. Why invest in a brewing refrigerator and spend 2-3 months lagering your beer when you can get something that tastes just as good or better by using an ale yeast? True, it might not be true to style, so you may not want to enter it into a competition, but the end product will be just as drinkable.

Below is the Oktoberfest recipe I plan to use from Brewing Classic Styles. The original recipe is for 6 gallons at 70% efficiency, but I've scaled it to 3 gallons at 85% efficiency. The hops are tweaked slightly based on advice in Designing Great Beers, which says to use 0.75 oz of flavor hops and target an IBU to Gravity ratio of around 0.5. I'm also trying to get rid of around 40 grams of Hallertau I have in the freezer.

Finally, I substituted the WLP029 Kolsch ale yeast instead of using the WLP820 Marzen yeast. The WLP029 is supposed to give a clean, lager-like flavor that works well in this style. It supposedly creates a bit of sulfur early on, which goes away with aging. I'll be fermenting lower than normal, around 65 if I can, but I'd like to avoid getting too much diacetyl in the end product.

Below is the BeerSmith brewsheet for the recipe scaled to my equipment and efficiency, followed by the original 6 gallon recipe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Recipe: #14 English Apple Ale (or Graff, if you prefer)

There's this great little brew pub in Anchorage called Moose's Tooth. I visit it at least once every time I'm visiting family in Alaska. Back before I was a beer geek, I loved their Apple Ale, and would drink 3 pints of it and get completely messed up. It wasn't a cider, but it had a great apple flavor balanced with a decent body, residual sweetness and malt flavor.

That beer stuck with me so much that it was the first thing I thought of when I started brewing. I knew that someday I would make a delicious apple ale. Well, I had no idea I would progress so fast. In the mean time I've learned to appreciate dozens of different beer styles, become a hop head and moved onto all grain brewing.

That doesn't mean I left behind my 'dream' of brewing an apple ale. This type of fruit beer is really rare. Seriously, try searching for advice on brewing an apple beer. I'll wait.


Back yet? You either found a bunch of terrible recipes that are more like a cider than a beer, a bunch of advice on making fruit beers with everything BUT apple, or you found this thread. Can you tell me what the SG of apple juice is, or what the best apple juice to use is? Hop levels? Beer style (please, not an American Wheat with apple flavor added)? The Graff thread is probably the single best resource for making an apple beer, if you can stand to read all of it. It is a great starting point, though.

So, it took me a while to craft what I thought would be the right balance. Most 'graff'' recipes are ciders with a slight bit of malt - I didn't want that. This needed to be a beer drinker's beer that just happened to also taste like apple. I knew I'd want lots of apple flavor, so I had to use at least a gallon of juice. However, I knew I'd want some residual sweetness, body and lots of malt flavor, which apple just wouldn't give me. To counteract the dryness of the juice, I went with lots of crystal malt, a little CaraPils, and the WLP002 English Ale, which leaves residual sugar and gives a good ester profile.

Perhaps most importantly, I was going on a camping trip that weekend and needed something that would be quick to make. Conveniently, I had a Mr. Beer Englishman's Nut Brown Ale HME can sitting around. I picked up a couple pounds of DME to finish it off.

Fermentation was absurdly active. FermCap wasn't enough to keep at least half a quart of beer goop from spilling out through the top, even when fermenting at a cool temp. Krausen didn't drop for a week. FG hit a perfect 1.013, though - not too low, not too high.

It has definite apple flavor, but it is smooth and subtle and blends well with the malts. Hop presence is subtle and also blends well - I was definitely worried about having hops that conflicted with the apple flavor. Also, tannin level started out high (from the apple juice) but seems to have settled out. I assume it was because I used unfiltered apple juice - if they were extracted from the grain, they would probably have been permanent.

When making this beer, remember this advice:
  • Use pasteurized juice, with NO added flavor or sugar. 
  • Don't boil the juice; keep it sealed until it is ready to top off. 
  • Watch out for high krausen, overflow or exploding fermentors. 
  • Don't use aroma or flavor hops; stick with bittering, and no more than 10-20 IBUs. You can use late additions in a future recipe if you're feeling adventurous.
  • Go for a dark, rich style with lots of maltiness but no roasty character. No porters, no stouts. An American Amber or a Nut Brown Ale are both good choices.
  • Use a dark crystal for a complementary flavor along with wheat or CaraPils for body & head retention. 
  • Don't use too much apple juice, or you will end up closer to a cider; two gallons of juice per 5 gallon batch is a good amount, but you can adjust to your taste.
Here's my recipe. I aimed for 11 quarts but ended up with 11.1 quarts. I also added some Crystal 15 which I *normally wouldn't have added*. However, I had it sitting in the freezer and wanted to get rid of it. I've since discovered that I'm not a huge fan of Crystal 15, and would leave it out in the future.

If this turns out decent, I'll probably refine it and maybe create an all grain version, or at the very least an extract + hops boil.

Apple Brown Ale / Graff
Fruit Beer

TypeExtract Date: 5/13/2011
Batch Size11.10 qt Boil Size: 8.20 qt
Boil Time: 15 min Equipment: Brew Pot, Full Boil All Grain (5 Gallon)

AmountItemType% or IBU
1 lbsDME Golden Light (Briess) (4.0 SRM)Dry Extract16.37 %
1 lbsDME Sparkling Amber (Briess) (10.5 SRM)Dry Extract16.37 %
1 lbs 3.4 ozMr. Beer Englishman's Nut-Brown Ale HME (20.2 SRM)Extract19.80 %
6.4 ozCrystal/Caramel Malt - 15L (15.0 SRM)Grain6.55 %
4.0 ozCarapils (1.5 SRM)Grain4.09 %
4.0 ozCrystal/Caramel Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)Grain4.09 %
2 lbsApple Juice (6.0 SRM)Sugar32.73 %
1 PkgsEnglish Ale (White Labs #WLP002) Yeast-Ale
Beer Profile
Est Original  Gravity1.070 SG Measured Original Gravity1.070 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.013 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.013 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.37 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 7.45 %
Bitterness: 17.1 IBU Calories: 315 cal/pint
Est Color: 14.0 SRM Color:
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type:
Corn Sugar
Volumes of CO2:
70.2 gm
Carbonation Used:
Keg/Bottling Temperature:
70.0 F
Age for:
28.0 days
Storage Temperature:
70.0 F

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All Grain Brewing: Grain Crush and Efficiency

When brewing all grain, there are two things that will affect your efficiency more than anything else: grain crush and sparge technique. Grain crush affects your conversion efficiency while sparging affects your sparge efficiency. I'll be talking about sparge technique later, because grain crush is far and away the most important.

The finer your grain is crushed, the more easily the water and enzymes will reach the starchy goodness in the middle of your grains. A whole grain will go mostly unconverted, or require many hours to convert. Grain flour will convert in minutes. The ideal is to get somewhere in between these two extremes.

100% efficiency is attained by crushing the grain to flour in an ideal 'laboratory' setting. This includes the husks, and produces disgusting beer. Tannins are enzymatically extracted from the husks, and traditional sparging is impossible.

A bad crush, where about half of your grains are still whole, will probably get you about 50% efficiency. This was the case in my first two all grain batches, where I was lucky to get over 55% even though I mashed for over two hours.

Adjusting up and down between fine and coarse crushes is a tradeoff between higher efficiency versus difficulty sparging. Fortunately for us, we don't do traditional sparges in Brew in a Bag mashing. The problem in a traditional sparge is that if your crush is too fine, water won't be able to flow evenly through the grain bed. If you're lucky, you will get uneven rinsing. If you're unlucky, the sparge will get stuck. You'll have to mix everything back up, vorlauf again, and try again. You'll end up with so much extra water you'll have to boil for 3 hours. This sucks pretty hard.

When doing BIAB, we 'sparge' by soaking the grain bag in hot water for ten minutes and draining it. We repeat this as many times as we like to achieve maximum efficiency. Sparges don't get stuck. That means we prefer a very fine crush. Flour is fine, as long as you mix it in thoroughly so you don't have balls of dough. There is danger of shredding the hulls if you use certain types of mills, crush too fine, or use something like a food processor or blender to crush your grain. Remember, you are *crushing* your grain, not grinding or blending it!

If you have your own grain crusher, adjust your grinding plates so the endosperm (center of the barley grain) is crushed very fine (many small pieces, or some flour). Don't create too much flour, because it becomes hard to mix in. 20-30% flour is okay. Also don't let your hulls get too small or shredded.

If you crush your grain at your LHBS, ask them to adjust the mill to its finest setting. Then, run it through twice. The second crush won't make it any finer, but it will make 100% sure that no whole grains made it through.

After asking my LHBS to adjust the crush (someone had messed with the mill without them knowing), my efficiency jumped from 58% to 90%. I've since seen efficiency as high as 93-95%.

(Mike McDole mentioned this on one of the brewing network podcasts a while back. He likes his grain crushed very coarsely, and he said that MoreBeer had its grain mill set on the "Tasty" setting for a while. I couldn't stand it!).

All Grain Brewing: Boil Trub and Boil Volume

Recipe size used to be simple. If I wanted to make 2.5 gallons of beer, I designed a recipe for that amount, boiled however much water I wanted, and topped off to 10 quarts with distilled water. I hit my OG every time and ended up with exactly 10 quarts in the keg. I'm learning more and more that it isn't so simple.

First off, when doing a full boil, there is no top-off. Sure, if you end up with less than intended you can top off a little, but you can't go the other way - if you have too much water, you can't just make it disappear. You'll end up with beer of a lower gravity.

Which brings me to number two, evaporation rate. This is tough. Evaporation rate differs based on how long you boil, the temperature, humidity and pressure of the room you're in, the pot you're using and what you're boiling. I suggested in an earlier post that you test the evaporation rate of your pot with water, but that is only an approximation. Beer wort will evaporate at a lower rate in practice than what you measured from your water test.

Let's say you have your evaporation rate down. After your boil, you have exactly 10 quarts of wort. Are you really going to dump all of that in? Hell no. You've got hops in there, absorbing up all your water. That isn't coming out. If you're doing all grain, you have *tons* of break material (reminder: cold break is the gray-ish material that separates from your wort when it cools). That break material should mostly stay in the pot if you can help it.

All in all, you'll be lucky to get 8.5-9 quarts of your boil. Sure, you could dump in all 10 quarts, but then you'll end up with more fermenter trub, which brings me to number four...

Fermenter trub. Stuff is going to fall out of your beer and settle during fermentation. When you rack to secondary or a bottling bucket, that material won't come with it, and your total volume of usable beer will be less. At this point, if you're doing a 10 quart all grain batch, you will probably have about 8 quarts, or 2 gallons.

The solution is usually to just make more beer. Design your recipe for 12 quarts (3 gallons). After your wort has cooled, remove as much boil trub as you can. You can either strain it out somehow or let it settle and only rack the clear wort into your fermenter. This means leaving 1-1.5 quarts in the kettle, and 10.5 quarts in the fermenter.

The method I use is to first create a whirlpool in the kettle while it is still hot by stirring the wort immediately after the boil and adding the aroma hops. Once the wort cools, break material and hops will tend to settle in the center in a cone. Then I transfer from the edge of the kettle, since most of the trub is in the center. I siphon from the kettle into a sanitized bucket. Then I allow the trub to settle out for an hour or two, or until I have at least 10-11 quarts of clear wort. With most beers, the difference between the trub and the clear beer will be very obvious. Tilt the bucket back to get the trub away from the spigot (make sure the spigot is sanitized!) and rack from the bucket to the fermenter with some tubing. Make sure, using the markings on your bucket, that you get at least 10 - 10.5 quarts in the fermenter. I generally end up with 2.5 gallons during bottling when I use this method.

Yeast: Pitching Rates

Common wisdom is that you can't pitch too much yeast. This makes sense, because long delays before fermentation conjure of images of the brewing boogeyman: infection. After browsing homebrew forums for days, you'd be forgiven for thinking the best option is to make the biggest damn starter you can and pitch a quart of slurry every time.

I'm here to tell you that's bullshit.

First of all, if you follow good sanitation practices and don't brew outdoors during a hurricane, infection problems are minimal, regardless of how long it takes fermentation to start.

Second, your yeast need to reproduce to create many of the esters you expect in your beer. Sure, in an Pale Ale you might not care, but what about a Weizen?

I learned the hard way today that you can pitch too much yeast. My all grain bavarian weizen, based on Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles "Harold-is-Weizen" recipe, doesn't taste like a hefeweizen. Because I pitched too much yeast slurry from my last batch (only about half a cup to a cup in total), the yeast didn't create enough of the banana and clove esters that represent the style. The result is a dry, refreshing and mostly tasteless brew.

All is not lost! The beer itself is well-made - it just doesn't taste like a hefe (or anything, for that matter). More like an American Wheat. The solution is to add fruit extracts! I figure I'll add a fruit extract to a third of the batch, another extract to a third of the batch, and try the last third without extracts. The extracts will be added at bottling time, on a per bottle basis. I need to experiment with the proper amount, probably by tasting small amounts of beer with different amounts of extract in them until I like the taste. I'll choose between cherry, raspberry, apricot and strawberry.

Friday, May 6, 2011

All Grain Recipe: #13 Stone Arrogant Bastard Clone

So I was listening to JZ's Can You Brew It? podcast and, after just finishing up a previous clone, I thought I'd try one of their clone recipes. The first thing that came to mind was Stone's Arrogant Bastard, a hoppy, malty, delicious and super drinkable (for its ABV, anyway) beer. The problem was that they had deemed it 'not cloned' on the CYBI episode I listened to a few months back.

Lo and behold, they had a rebrew, and it was good! I whipped out BeerSmith and started calculating faster than you can spell 'inebriated'.

The episode is here.

Here's the recipe, scaled to my system. Unfortunately, my evaporation rate was way lower than my tests had predicted. The recipe is *designed* for 12 quarts. Please remember that before you try replicating it!

I messed up quite a bit here, not just with the evaporation rate. I also accidentally used Simcoe for the bittering additions instead of Chinook. Arrogant Bastard is (according to CYBI) a SMaSH recipe: Single Malt, Single Hop. The malt is Special B, a Belgian crystal malt that gives a very rich, raisin-y flavor. The hop is Chinook, which I think tastes very strongly of pineapples.

I also wrote down the recipe wrong, scaled it improperly, mashed a degree or two too high and overall just missed my OG and FG by a ton. The important thing is to use 90% 2 row, 10% Special B, only Chinook hops, OG of 1.066 and ABV of 7.2%.

This brew was also my last time doing a triple sparge. I found that double sparging works just as well and requires less work. I found no evidence of tannins in any brew where I triple sparged.

In fact, I messed up so much that I'll post the original 24 quart, 70% efficiency recipe from the show after this one. I went back and made sure the recipe is 100% correct.

Here is my recipe, followed by the original 6-gallon recipe.