I’ve been thinking about my next homebrew being a Belgian Strong Dark Beer. In the research process, I found two Chop & Brew Episodes, and both use dark candi syrup. Since I’m tight (a little) and since it’s basically sugar, I decided to make my own.
Off to the interwebs, I found a post by Mad Fermentationist that mentioned a Ryan Brews post in the comments. Looking at the Ryan Brews page, I used pickling lime and DAP (yeast nutrient, I used LD Carlson, which I had on hand).
I only scaled the recipe up, so I used:
1 pound sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pickling lime
1 tsp yeast nutrient
I brought it to a boil and held it to around 280º – 300ºF for 40 minutes. After that, I removed it from the heat, let it cool for a few, and added 1/3 cup of water and stirred it in to make it a syrup.
The two things I will do differently next time:
- Dissolve the lime and dap in the water before adding it to the sugar. I had a lot of large flakes that I think (operative word!) are from the lime.
- Use a better thermometer setup. My grill thermometer was reading 280º for a while including in boiling water, so I hope the thermocouple isn’t ruined. I’m letting it dry and will test it later. Edit a few days later: the thermocouple is saying 129º while sitting next to the food thermocouple reading 73º. I’ve ordered a replacement!
Cleanup of this stuff isn’t too difficult, the best way is to boil everything, even if you don’t make it to a boil, very hot water can dissolve the sugar/caramel.
So after the low mash efficiency last few beers AND my perception (note 1) of low mash efficiency in my last beer, I started looking at water more.
After looking at my options, I found a page on Braukaiser, and ended up purchasing an aquarium test kit that tests GH, KH, pH, NO2, and NO3. The NO2 and NO3 are unnecessary for brewing, and I had 0 ppm for both of those anyway. Using the spreadsheet and my 180ppm measurements for both GH and KH, I found Ca = 51 ppm and Mg = 13 ppm.
That’s not too different from my old measurements:
Ca: old 54, new 51
Mg: old 13, new 13
The two interesting differences are alkalinity and pH.
Alkalinity: old 123, new 180
pH: Old 8.1, new 7.5.
The total alkalinity is a concern – that’s the ability of the water to buffer changes in acidity. And my pH is lower than expected. So I may not have had the wort in the proper pH range. This could be why I’ve had efficiency problems.
That being typed, I need a good pH meter. That’s really the only point that I came to after all this.
Note 1: I initially thought that I had really poor efficiency, and there is a problem somewhere in my measurements… particularly not taking a pre-boil gravity. I have the first running and the second running and the OG, and I determined a potential amount of sugar in the two runnings and it may be okay. The real problem was that I had far too much strike water and didn’t make any adjustments. I DID figure out that if I use Denny Conn’s method, I can safely assume his assumption that 10 pounds of grain absorbs 1 gallon of strike water, because mine is a hair over that.
On to the next beer!
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.
- 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.).
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…
@HamBrew807 we sit right about 74-75%
— Paradise Brewing (@paradisebrews) August 12, 2016
The Twitter conversation goes on longer, but the end result is to check everything. So I did…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
Brewing went off with mostly few hitches except slowly hitting my strike temperature due to this redneck RIMS setup (to be documented further later).
|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 %|
|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 %|
|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|
|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|
|Irish Moss||1.00 tsp||15 min||Boil||Fining|
|London Ale Yeast (1028)||Wyeast Labs||75%||60°F - 72°F|
|Mash In||148°F||60 min|
|Download this recipe's BeerXML file|
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
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).
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.
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.
My base water is pretty close for a Flanders Red, just a tad alkaline.
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.
|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 %|
|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 %|
|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|
|Mt. Hood||1 oz||45 min||Boil||Pellet||6|
|Lactic Acid||1.00 ml||60 min||Mash||Water Agent|
|Oak Chips||4.40 oz||7 days||Secondary||Flavor|
|Roselare Belgian Blend (3763)||Wyeast Labs||80%||55°F - 80°F|
|Mash In||156°F||90 min|
|Download this recipe's BeerXML file|
This is still in progress, and the oak is questionable at this point.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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!
So last week this happened:
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!
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.
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).
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.
I’m typing this on Saturday night and I brew on Sunday. We’ll see how this works out.