Latest Posts

Homebrew Ramblings 1

When I started writing this, I was sitting and waiting on the mash.  This was my first brew since my attempt at the Redneck RIMS.

I’m not trying that again. I don’t think it was smart to cobble together some stuff and do something that just made things more difficult.  I’ve been reading a lot, and a few posts on the Beer Simple Blog kinda got me to change from trying to make RIMS happen to just concentrate on making beer.

Last Sunday’s beer was inspired by Great Lakes’ Nosferatu. It’s an awesome beer.  I don’t brew clone beers, but I DO use clone recipes as starting points.  I changed the base malt to Maris Otter, and I’m using all Chinook hops.  I’m using Northwest Ale yeast, too.  When I initially typed this, I was in the mash and temps were looking good (154 – 155).  Unfortunately, there were other problems, but in the end, I have about 4.5 gallons of beer and I learned a few things for the next time.

Specifically:

  • Dried hope cones go into a bag, because despite what I’ve read in someone else’s brewing book, they don’t create a “filter bed”, they get stuck in pumps and plate chillers.
  • Better Bottles can’t handle 200ºF wort.  They tell us this, and we’d do well to remember.
  • Expect that pumps change how much water your grain “absorbs”.
  • Speaking of pumps, standardizing all fittings to one singular fitting (i.e. cam locks or tri-clamps) is probably a good thing to do.
  • Disasters will happen.  Even homebrewing should have a disaster recovery plan (backup pumping system, a backup method to chill wort isn’t bad either, backup measurement devices, etc.).

Cheers!

Homebrew Tool Calibration

I have issues.  Efficiency issues.  The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem. The second step is finding out who/where to blame the problem on!

This is the first in a series, although I do not know how long the series will be (until I fix the problem).

The most likely problem based on the sheer number of times I’ve done Internet research on this problem and had conversations with other homebrewers is the crush.  I’ve never wanted to accept this as the problem because my LHBS uses the same mill (that may have changed now that they’ve moved to being an actual brewery and don’t want to spend two hours milling grain).  However, I did my due diligence and accused asked them…

The Twitter conversation goes on longer, but the end result is to check everything.  So I did…

Temperature Probes

Three temperature measuring devices: a dial, a Javelin, and an old school floating thermometer.

Three temperature measuring devices: a dial, a Javelin, and an old school floating thermometer.

I compared the three at two temperatures and two of them (the dial and the Javelin that I normally use) at a third.  In ice water, the floating thermometer and the dial agreed at 34ºF while the Javelin read 35ºF when the battery was kept out of the ice water (while it is waterproof, I think it is better to keep the battery out of the water).  In tap temperature water, they all read 73ºF.  In near-boiling water (with the stove turned off), the dial said 194ºF and the Javelin said 195ºF (I didn’t try the floating thermometer).  I feel fairly confident that the Javelin, which I use the most, is close enough.

Hydrometer

My Alla Hydrometer.

My Alla Hydrometer.

My tap water (not distilled!) is at 0.999 SG after correcting for temperature, so we’ll go with 1.000. That’s a single-point calibration, which assumes that the hydrometer correctly measures throughout it’s range… which is a lofty assumption.

The second point was 15g sugar + 150g water, which by calculation should be 9.1º Plato, I got 10.2º Plato.  HOWEVER, my scale is only accurate to 1g, so the range is 14.5g – 15.4g sugar + 149.5g – 150.4g water.  This means that the calculated error could be anywhere from 8.8º Plato to 9.3º Plato.  So I’m reading about 1.1º Plato high there.

I did a third point as well.  30g sugar (29.5g – 30.4g) +150g (149.5g – 150.4g) water.  Should be 16.7º Plato in the range of 16.3º Plato to 17º Plato.  I got 15.8º Plato, 1.1º Plato low.  16.5º Plato is 1.068, 15.8º Plato is 1.065.  While this sounds like a lot, it isn’t, and I’ve been having problems on the order of 10 points (e.g. wanting 1.052 for 75% efficiency pre-boil and getting 1.043).

All this stuff seems so screwy (I tried the third point test twice) that I’m not considering this to be a done deal.  But I’m buying a few more hydrometers!

pH Meter

I admit that I haven’t been as nice to this meter as I should – I dropped it in wort and rinsed it off, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t waterproof.  But this thing is currently unusable.  I checked it using distilled water (pH of 7.0), my tap water (pH of 8.1) and tap water with cream of tartar dissolved in it – which creates a buffer at a pH of 3.6.

Dr, Meter pH Meter.

Dr, Meter pH Meter.

Front of the pH Meter.

Front of the pH Meter.

I believe this meter worked correctly once.  However, it no longer does.  If I calibrate it at 7.0 (distilled water), the 3.6 pH buffer solution from cream of tartar is about 4.6 – 5.7 (that’s a huge range!) and it sets my tap water around 9.2 (it’s alkaline, but it’s not THAT alkaline!).

I’m going to replace this, but for now I’m going to rely on calculations using John Palmer’s spreadsheet.

Next Steps

I’m going to reread How To Brew (just the section about mash tuns) to make sure I didn’t screw up the mash tun somehow (I probably didn’t, but you never know).  I’m going to redo the hydrometer test with at least two more hydrometers that I’m going to get this week (this is one of those things that we should have extras of anyway).  I’m going to replace my pH meter (I kinda implied that already).  I also may get a water sample to Ward Labs to see what my water is actually like coming out of the pipe.

Cheers!

Brew Day: Vampire Dust Pale Ale and a Mead

Yesterday (at the time of writing) was Mead Day.  Since I’m down to just a session wheat beer, I needed a pale ale, and I just wanted to make a mead.

Vampire Dust Pale Ale

Strike Water Additions

Strike Water Additions

Crushed malt

Crushed malt

Redneck RIMS setup

Redneck RIMS setup

Brewing went off with mostly few hitches except slowly hitting my strike temperature due to this redneck RIMS setup (to be documented further later).

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 44.9 IBUs 5.2 SRM 1.059 1.011 6.3 %
Actuals 1.054 1.01 5.8 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
American Pale Ale 18 B 1.045 - 1.06 1.01 - 1.015 30 - 50 5 - 10 2.3 - 3 4.5 - 6.2 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Brewer's Malt, 2-Row, Premium (Great Western) 11 lbs 90.72
Carapils (Briess) 12 oz 6.19
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L 6 oz 3.09

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Green Bullet 0.5 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 13.5
Citra 1 oz 15 min Boil Pellet 12
Citra 1 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 12
Citra 3 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 12

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Irish Moss 1.00 tsp 15 min Boil Fining

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
London Ale Yeast (1028) Wyeast Labs 75% 60°F - 72°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash In 148°F 60 min

My First Mead

This is the fist time I’ve attempted mead, and I tried to keep it as simple as I can:

Ingredients: 4 lb Orange Blossom Honey, water to make 1g, yeast, LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient and LD Carlson Yeast Energizer

Yeast: Lavlin 71b, 5g

Process:

Rehydrate yeast with 125 ml water and 6.25g LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient

Add all honey to fermenter, water to 1 gallon, mix well.  Pitch yeast.  Forget to add first SNA (oops).

34 Brix!

34 Brix!

2 * 2lb Orange Blossom Honey... from Ohio?

2 * 2lb Orange Blossom Honey… from Ohio?

Supplies. Putting the Mr. Beer into use.

Supplies. Putting the Mr. Beer into use.

Following morning: add first two SNA’s, mostly because I don’t have a way to measure to tenths of grams.

The SNAs should be 0.4g Nutrient and 0.2g Energizer each addition, at pitch and at each of 24, 48, and 72 hours post-pitch.

Vampire Dust Pale should be ready in 10 days or so, the mead will be a while.

Cheers!

My First Sour: a Flanders Red?

I’ve been wanting to do a few sours for a while, and recently purchased two Better Bottles for the purpose of one being a sour-only fermenter.  I’m merging two recipes, one is the on the Milk The Funk Wiki, which is the malt bill for The Rare Barrel beers.  Since it is only part of a recipe, I took the other part from the Flanders Red Solera recipe from the Bloatarian Brewing League (a Cincinnati homebrew club) – specifically the hopping, mashing schedule, and yeast.

Water

My base water is pretty close for a Flanders Red, just a tad alkaline.

Base Ranges for a Flanders Red

Base Ranges for a Flanders Red

The only adjustments are basically pH, so once I add a milliliter of Lactic Acid, it puts the water right in line with where it needs to be.

Adjusted Water

Adjusted Water

Recipe

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 17.1 IBUs 13.4 SRM 1.053 1.012 5.4 %
Actuals 1.046 1.01 4.7 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Flanders Red Ale 23 B 1.048 - 1.057 1.002 - 1.012 10 - 25 10 - 16 2 - 2.7 4.6 - 6.5 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pilsner (2 Row) Bel 8 lbs 71.11
Wheat Malt (Barrett Burston) 1.5 lbs 13.33
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 8 oz 4.44
Oats, Flaked 8 oz 4.44
Vienna Malt (Briess) 8 oz 4.44
Carafa II 4 oz 2.22

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Mt. Hood 1 oz 45 min Boil Pellet 6

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Lactic Acid 1.00 ml 60 min Mash Water Agent
Oak Chips 4.40 oz 7 days Secondary Flavor

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Roselare Belgian Blend (3763) Wyeast Labs 80% 55°F - 80°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash In 156°F 90 min

This is still in progress, and the oak is questionable at this point.

2015 Suburban Farm Report #1

Cascade and Tettnang growing well, Columbus and Centennial not far behind

Cascade and Tettnang growing well, Columbus and Centennial not far behind

The second year Cascade (front left), Centennial (rear left), Tettnang (front right), and Columbus (rear right) are coming along well. I’m a little concerned on one of the cascade bines, as it broke when I was trying to get it to train on the horizontal rope. Hopefully it can repair itself.

Hop Plant Expansion

This year I expanded to a full-ish garden. I ordered a Chinook plant from Great Lakes Hops.

Repairs and Other Stuff

My garden is raised a little, but it is not holding up.  I need to replace the 2x6s I used to build it with something stronger and more able to hold up.

Repair Needed

Repair Needed Towards the Back

The rain hasn’t helped.  This is as of 5/16/16, so only half of May is reported.  As shown in the graph below,

Cincinnati Rainfall in 2016 for KLUK. Data as of May 16, 2016.

Cincinnati Rainfall in 2016 for KLUK. Data as of May 16, 2016.

Data source, Average source.

I want to get some Jalapeno plants started, but I’m running late (May has been a busy month).  We just had a cold snap here (as I’m typing this), so I’m okay with not getting them into the ground.  But it will need to happen soon.

Cheers!

Hammerdown Brew Cup Soapbox

I entered four beers into the Hammerdown Brew Cup.  This is by far the most that I’ve ever entered into a competition.  These beers I feel really good about.

Revised_Hammerdown_BrewCup_BraxtonBrewingCo_Logo-01

Mesa Cerveza Vienna Lager

This is from a recipe I copied and adjusted from Five Blades Brewing.  The adjustments were because of my less efficient system and because my LHBS didn’t have Blackprinz (and I’ve never seen it there). I used Carafa III instead, which is a dark de-bittered malt.  The taste is slightly nutty, not at the level of a nut brown, though. I find it quite pleasing and it pairs well with Mexican (or well, Mexican-styled American) food.  There will be more of a blog post about this one coming soon.  Entered as 07A: Vienna Lager.

Don’t Pout Cherry Stout

This is a milk stout where I racked a gallon onto some canned cherries. While the base beer is just okay, the cherries make it taste quite pleasing. The base beer uses Carafa II, which doesn’t really have the roasty flavor of roast barley that I was looking for (the LHBS was out of roast barley when I was getting ingredients).  Entered as 29A: Fruit beer.

Brew United Kölsch

This beer has been talked about extensively before and it scored pretty well at Brew United. However, I’m not a huge fan of the beer and gave away copious amounts of this beer – everyone else loved it. So I’m seeking validation.  Entered as 05B: Kölsch.

Vampire Dust

Sometimes I just want to experiment. So I did. This is a pre-prohibition lager, but with Citra instead of historical hops. The BJCP 2015 guidelines specifically say that for pre-prohibition lagers, “a fruity or citrusy modern hop character is inappropriate” (57).  So entering it in category 27 (historical beers) would not have been the right thing to do and would have guaranteed a poor score.  Entered as a 34C: Experimental Beer.  Not guaranteed to place well, of course, as it isn’t really an experiment… well, yeah, it actually was.

Judging is on April 23. Cheers!

Kegs!

So last week this happened:

Three kegs getting hauled home!

Three kegs getting hauled home!

I spent an evening scrubbing – the kegs were reasonably clean inside, but the outside was a bit of a mess. PBW and an Ocello scrubbing pad were the tools of choice there.  I then proceeded to learn a few things, some of these will make it to a poster in my basement:

  • The black-handled keg has a different diptube
  • 3 pins = liquid
  • 2 pins = gas
  • The Pin Lock Socket is worth the exorbitant price tag
  • Keg lube is pretty important. It may not be totally required, but protect your O-rings!
  • Corny Keg in Cincinnati gets a five star review.  The prices are inexpensive compared to a lot of what I’ve seen out there.
  • Before putting a beer in one of these, it’s probably best to test these babies!

Testing

I did a fairly simple test – water!  After cleaning everything, I put about a gallon of water in each of the kegs, sealed, and pressurized to about 12PSI.  I wasn’t really trying to make carbonated water (else I would have let it go for several more days), but just wanted to make sure the kegs held pressure.  I did not leave the kegs hooked to gas during this.  I checked each of three or four evenings to ensure the kegs had enough pressure to dispense the water.  After the three or four evenings, I rewashed everything.  They’re ready for the Vienna Lager, which is not ready yet.

Cheers!

Down The Rabbit Hole of Water Adjustments

Where I got started on this subject

This all started when I saw a blog post on Practical and Low Cost Water Adjustments. The author there is pretty convincing on the importance of this. Following links from that site, I found this.  “Rerun” claims to live “just inside of Clermont County, about a mile east of Beechmont Ford”.  I happen to live 5 miles east of Beechmont Ford.  Our water in Clermont County comes from three sources and goes into a common distribution system (in other words, they’re all connected).

Coming Brew Day

I eat a lot of Mexican food (well, perhaps “Mexican inspired and styled American food”), and I know that two styles seem to work best: Amber Ale and Vienna Lager.  I decided to go with a lager since my fermentation chamber is going to become a keezer.  I happen to also see a traditional Vienna Lager on Five Blades Brewing’s website.

Due to availability, I had to substitute Carafa II for the Blackprinz,and carapils for carafoam (there is a lengthy discussion on the difference here).  I also added and extra half of a pound of Vienna to compensate for the slightly lower efficiency of my system.

Looking at my source water compared to what John Palmer’s spreadsheet says to use, I’m in range for most of the minerals except for being low on chloride and high on hardness (both calcium carbonate and residual alkalinity).

Source water from report with Vienna Lager ranges.

Source water from report with Vienna Lager ranges.

Water Adjustments

I got John Palmer’s water spreadsheet from the BrewLab kit website.  It’s an older version, an updated one is on the How To Brew website.  The spreadsheet is fairly easy to use – select a style (from the 2008 styles, not a big deal, really), input my source water info (the boxes are YELLOW), input my RA (I used 0) and my strike water (3.53 gallons).  I skipped dilution (left the rate at 0%).  The next parts – mineral additions, acid, and results all work together – I looked at where I wasn’t in the range – which was only chloride, and added a gram of a mineral that provides chloride.  That mineral is canning salt (NaCl, sodium chloride), so after adding a gram I noticed I was near the middle of the chloride range without exceeding the sodium range (up to 100 ppm).  I also saw that total alkalinity was too high (by a measly 3 ppm), but that kept the residual alkalinity up high (76 compared to 0-60) which appears to cause the beer to be darker than expected (and this is expected, as I think all my beers have been darker than I planned).  I added a milliliter of 88% lactic acid which reduced the total alkalinity to the middle of the range and the color to 7 – 14 SRM (the target is 10-16, the beer as planned is 10.4 SRM).

Finally, I went down to step 8, which is sparge water treatment.  I’m sparging with 6 gallons, so I input the recommended 4 ml of lactic acid for my sparge water.

In the end, 1 gram of canning salt (pure sodium chloride) and 1 ml of lactic acid to the strike water, and 4 ml of lactic acid to the sparge water.

Adjusted water minerals

Adjusted water minerals

I’m typing this on Saturday night and I brew on Sunday.  We’ll see how this works out.

Cheers!

Blogging Lull (but not a homebrewing lull)

I logged in to this blog today with the intent to post something.  I have five drafts started, but none of them are finished. And I somehow doubt that I’ll finish any of them soon.

Lots of stuff going on:

  • I bottled my first lager a few weeks ago
    I LOVE the flavor – it’s everything I wish American Lagers were.  It has a slightly sharp citrus flavor that makes me feel like it’s summer when I’m drinking it.  Unfortunately, it’s undercarbonated. I can’t seem to find any style for it in BJCP, so it might be in 34B or 34C in the next competition, because even if undercarbonated I think it’s worth getting some comments from the judges (especially because it’s clean). I have two more beers for that competition.  I’m absolutely going to get beers into this one since I missed the last one.

    Boring pic of yellow capped bottles of lager

    Boring pic of yellow capped bottles of lager

  • I bottled a black IPA
    I haven’t tasted this one in a carbonated form, but it took FOREVER to ferment.  I had issues with my mash temperature, I used lactic acid for the first time (to bring the strike and sparge water down to a pH of 5.5), fermenting initially stalled at 1.030 (from 1.062), and the temperature in my basement fell to 60º F.  Some of the tastes had a very harsh bitterness, but that fermented out (thank God!).  I think it’ll be good enough, but I’m not sure if I’m going to enter it into the next competition.

    Boring pic of red capped bottles of black IPA

    Boring pic of red capped bottles of black IPA

  • I chased a WHALEZBRO
    Local brewery MadTree released a BBA/Red Wine Barrel Aged Rubeus Cacao.  Given work meetings, a conference call, a run over lunch, it was tight but I made it… and man, I haven’t ran that fast on a training run in a long time!  The beer, BTW, was excellent!
  • Grain Absorption
    I learned to keep copious notes since I was having some difficulty hitting my mash temperatures.  I decided to log everything I could think of.  In looking back in the last few logs, I found that my grain was absorbing A LOT more than BeerSmith’s default 0.96 fluid ounces of strike water per ounce of grain.  In fact, I’m around 1.4720 fluid ounces per ounce of grain.  In searching for this on Google, this number is not out of line, but it does mean more sparge water (I find it slightly interesting, although not wrong, that it has no effect on strike water volume).
  • Mash Tun Modification
    Since I tend to feel like I religiously have a stuck sparge, I cut my mash manifold slots deeper and added a few more.  Of course because of that, I’m going to continue to monitor the grain absorption to see if I need to make on-the-fly adjustments.
  • Expansions
    I just looked on the “Where’s My Refund” tool and found that my Federal refund is due in a few days.  As soon as it hits the account, I’m buying kegs.  I’m also going to buy another boil tun (going with a 10 gallon instead of an 8 gallon).  Lastly, I’m going to buy a few more fermenters. The current one may become a sours fermenter.
  • Science!
    I ordered an inexpensive eBay China special microscope. It’s a waste of money.  I started a post, but I have a few things to do before it is ready.  The tl;dr: “buy a real microscope, don’t skimp on cheap crap from China”.  The other tl;dr: “You can’t see yeast with something you paid less than $20 for”.
  • MOAR BREWING!!!
    I have three or four or five things I want to brew, including an IPA (of course!), a saison, an American wheat (or maybe a hefeweizen), a berlinerweisse, and a Vienna lager.  I am going to run in to an issue with controlling fermentation temperatures and having a kegerator.  I have ideas, but nothing that I’ve done… yet.
  • This Weekend in Beer Drinking
    I may start posting something weekly about notable beers I’ve drunk. This could get interesting.
  • Running
    I’ve managed to keep my injuries at bay since before Christmas and I registered for the Moerlein Beer Series for the fourth year in a row.  I’ve made some changes nutrition-wise that may mean that I can keep things together (pun intended!) permanently.

Upcoming on the Blog

Happy New Years!

Everyone does some sort of sappy new year’s day post with some resolutions that they forget a few weeks later.

Yeah, this is resolutions

Yeah, this.

I’m going to be different – unlike last year where I actually had some resolutions, this year I have some things in progress.

Better Bottle Washer

As much as I want to move into kegging, like, NOW, I’m not – I’d rather be patient and do it right.  So I want to do something better for washing bottles that uses less water.

Bottle Washer Preview

Bottle Washer Preview

Mash and Brewhouse Efficiency

I have never had great mash or brewhouse efficiency.  This is something I am going to deal with. From my last five brews, my mash (extract) efficiency ranges from 54% to 73% (as calculated by BeerSmith). My brewhouse (volume) efficiency is worse, measuring 53% to 66%. I really want these in the 70s.   I am looking at potential changes to my mash tun (a cooler) as well as possibly getting a grain mill.

Sours

I think I said sometime over the past year that I was going to put off sours for a while.  I don’t know how much longer. There is something interesting about a Flanders Red or a Kriek Lambic or a Berlinerweisse.  This will likely be late in 2016.

The Pipeline

I just ran out of my IPA. I have a Kölsh, and an American Stout in bottles.  I have a pre-prohibition lager lagering and a black IPA I just brewed.  I have a very busy two weeks ahead and then I want to brew an IPA and then a cream ale. I’m going to try to have a pipeline so I buy less beer.  It’s not that I don’t like commercial beer, it’s that it can be quite expensive.  I do want to have a pipeline going so I constantly have a few beers ready to drink.

Cheers!