September 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Smashed Pumpkin Ale

Tis the season for a nice harvest pumpkin ale! This weekend Nick and I are going to be brewing our first vegetable beer.

Nick is in charge of preparing the pumpkin. He is going to cook chunks of 15 lbs of pumpkin for a while, peel the skin off and make it all into a chunky, loosely held together pumpkin mash.

Saturday, we will break out the pumpkin and add it to the mash like an adjunct. I have added rice hulls to the mash to hopefully prevent a stuck mash because I guess the pumpkin is pretty thick. Nick said that he has heard that brewers loose a lot of volume in traub with these beers, but I am assuming that must be when it's added to the boil because if it's in the mash, it shouldn't change the traub volume dramatically (at least I think, any input would be greatly appreciated).

So here is the recipe as we have it now:

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 12.00 gal
Boil Size: 14.84 gal
Estimated OG: 1.041 SG
Estimated Color: 17.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.0 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

0.50 lb Rice Hulls
12.50 lb Pilsner
5.40 lb Wheat Malt, Ger
2.20 lb Munich Malt
0.75 lb Roasted Barley
0.40 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine
0.25 lb Carafa III
2.00 oz Mt. Hood
1.00 oz Hallertauer
0.36 lb Brown Sugar, Dark
0.25 lb Maple Syrup (pure)
**1 Pkgs American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) and London ESB

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 22.00 lb
Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Mash In Add 6.88 gal of water at 170.5 F158.0 F 45 min
Mash Out Add 2.75 gal of water at 196.6 F168.0 F 10 min

The .36 lbs of brown sugar is 1cup. 1/2 cup of maple syrup. 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice mix (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace)

**I have proposed that since we have two yeasts that we are considering reusing, one of us use the ESB and the other the American Ale. Then, since they are both from the same batch, we can observe the characteristics of the two yeasts head to head.

We are using a pretty basic single infusion so this should not be a big deal. Since Nick is preparing the pumpkin, we should be able to brew in our normal time.

Sounds like a fun one, cheers!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Loose Change

So since we are not brewing this weekend and I don't foresee myself doing any fun beer projects, I figured I would do a single post about a bunch of random odds and ends. Later this week I will post up the final recipe for the Pumpkin Ale Nick and I are going to brew up this weekend.

So here we go:

First, I have probably mentioned this in a previous post, but the Old Balls Ale is going strong. The pictures below are from when I took it from secondary into the keg. As you will note, there was some really odd "stuff" on the bottle that had me a little concerned at first, but in the end the beer was fine so it must just be traub or something.

The Old Balls Ale is hands down one of the best beers I have ever brewed. You will note that I used a double decoction on this brew as a way of dealing with raising the temperature in the process. I think the decoct gave the beer a very distinct, but complete malt profile. You can definitely tell that some of the malts were caramelized during the decoct and it made for a great beer.

I bottled up a couple of bottles of this to take to a competition because I think this one will do well and I am interested to hear what the judges will have to say.

This brings me to the second point of loose change, my first beer judging came back!!! Though I didn't place or get any awards (except the participation ribbon pictured below) I did get some really valuable feedback.

The beer that was judged was the California Common I brewed called Californication. All of the feedback I got said that the recipe was kind of bland and lacked character. Both judges recommended stepping up the hops and putting some more punch in the grain bill.

After getting the forms back, I revisited my recipe and noticed how simple it really was. It probably could use some spicing up. Although I have to say I really enjoyed it and I think it's a great session beer.

Finally, today I made some adjustments to my kegging setup. When Nick was over, he mentioned that I might get better cooling if I piped something directly from the coolest place in the fridge (the freezer) to the fan. We made some minor adjustments at the time, but I decided to go all the way and duct tape it all into place. This is what I have now.

You will also notice that I filled the fridge with foam insulation. This was also one of Nick's suggestions. He said that it would help keep the temperature where I want it if I fill the empty space. Ben from Ben's Homebrew has suggested this as well. We will see if all these changes work.

That's it for now, cheers!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sunday, Brown Ale Sunday

Well it was really Saturday, but who's keeping track?

So today we brewed a 10 gallon batch of American Brown Ale. I am leaning towards doo doo brown ale, but we will see if that will end up as the name. We started this morning at 7am and pitched at 12:30 making it a 6 hour brew day (with cleanup). Not too bad.

This was the first time I have had a fellow brewer so I was pretty fired up. With a 10 gallon batch it's a must. There was no way I would have been able to lift the kettle on my own. For the second time we hit all the vitals for this recipe (1.041 pre-boil OG, 1.051 pitching OG) and got through all the heat infusions without a problem.

One thing that caused a problem was that the sparge arm I just made had some "technical" and engineering issues. First off, because of the way that the sparge sat under the water reservoir, the hose kinked causing a pretty light flow. The engineering issue was caused by the fact that I used a chunk of garden hose that could leave funky flavors in my brew. Not the end of the world, just some tweaking.

Now for this brew we used American Ale yeast from Nick's last IPA batch that he just bottled last night. To increase the volume that we were working with, Nick boiled up some corn sugar and made a little starter. We split the starter this morning into our buckets are we are hoping that it works out.

This is the largest batch that I have done with this larger brew kettle and we had a boil over early on in the brewing. This was something I never would have imagined, because the kettle is so big, but it did. No big deal though a little time to rest and some cleaning of the propane burner and we were as good as new.

This was an American Brown Ale recipe I made up:

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 10.50 gal
Boil Size: 13.12 gal
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 25.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

20.50 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 80.4 %
4.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 15.7 %
0.75 lb Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 2.9 %
0.25 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 1.0 %
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50%] (60 min) Hops 30.3 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50%] (30 min) Hops 7.5 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50%] (15 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops -
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50%] (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops -
American Ale Wyeast

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 25.50 lb

Mash In Add 7.97 gal of water at 170.5 F154.0 F 45 min
Mash Out Add 3.19 gal of water at 196.6 F168.0 F 10 min

Overall I was quite pleased with the brew day. We hit all of our times and temps as well as gravity readings. Other than the boil over it was a pretty flawless brew session.
This was Nick's first shot at all-grain brewing. He is kind of new to brewing in general, but as a science teacher, he should take to it quickly.

Good stuff. Cheers!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Box and Tap (the final chapter)

So with out revisiting the background of all this, first there was a box and then there was a tap, and now there will be a box and tap together.

This idea is all the result of a great post I saw from my friend Ben at Ben's Homebrew. I have to thank him as always for the awesome innovation that I get to fuck all up in my upstate half ass way.

Here we go.

First off, I had to cut two hole in the bottom of my fridge to have the cold air flow two and from in. Ben used a tool that he said does this very early. I couldn't find anything like this and (considering the holes had to have 3" PVC pieces in it) I could not find something to drill a hole that big. So I did the next best thing. Tin snips. They worked great. I drilled a hole big enough to get the tin snips in and never looked back. It was a much easier process than I anticipated.

After getting the holes in the metal cut out, I had to get the foam insulation and the plastic from the inside the fridge cut. Initially I was using a box cutter for this, but it was a real pain so I used the sawzall, much easier. In the end, I had two holes with PVC coming through them.

After those hole were drilled I had to drill the same sized holes in the top of my box. This was a lot harder than I thought, it was not easy to line up (but I am not known for 'exact measurement' so I probably made my own problems). But in the end, it wasn't anything a little insulation from the basement couldn't fix.

You will note below, on the right is a computer fan that I am using to circulate the air from the mini fridge into the box with. The other picture is below the mini fridge what the view is from the box to the mini fridge.

Finally I had to get CO2 into the box. I also had to get a manifold for the CO2 distribution. I did this with yet another visit to harbor freight. I picked up a 4way splitter for a air compressor and some brass barbs. I picked up three ball lock valves and was ready to go.

This is a very simple manifold that does the trick. The manifold gets fed from the CO2 tank and has three ball locks that connect to the barbed fittings. Everything is 1/4". I used the thread sealing tape that I also used for the ball lock on the mash tun.

Once I had CO2 going into the box and a line going out to a tap, it was imperative that I test it to make sure that it was going to pour a glass of brew. As you can see here, the test was successful.

When it was all said and done, two of the three taps are ready to go, I need to work out some logistical issues with the cold plate and how the external keg is going to work, but I am in no rush with that until I get another couple kegs.

Upon Ben's advice, I placed a fan to blow on the back of the fridge. It's really working hard to get down to an equilibrium temp so it's important that I make sure there is plenty of air circulating.

It's not cooling all that quickly, but it's going. In a few days it's gone from 65f down to 56f. Ideally I would love to have it at a steady 52f, but I am questioning if that's going to be possible. it's not bad now though.

If you click on the image below you can see a drawing I did of how the finished product would work. Though it is wacky, I have to say I am pretty fired up that a) it's functional and b) it was a lot easier than I anticipated.

I think in my old age I have started to do a little more planning and a little less "I have 3 hours free, I should totally re-vamp my system" which has produced some better products. Either way I am always looking towards the next step in my gadget empire. I was reading some of Adam's posts about chest fridges and couldn't help but dream. I think I am going to stop and smell the flowers for a little while with this on though, plus the wife is quickly noticing my many beer projects and starting to ask questions. It's time to come out of the basement, for a few weeks anyway.


Mash Tun 2.0 - Sparge Arm

So now that I have a nice new false bottom for my mash tun, it's time to go ahead and make a sparge arm that works. No more shower heads, no more hoses with holes in them. It's time for the real deal.

After working with the copper on my false bottom, I decided to go ahead and make a sparge arm out of copper. It was pretty easy to work with and only took me an hour or so to get all put together. The supplies were actually quite reasonable as well. The copper was only like $3.99 and all the little parts were $.59 a piece. Total I would say it was about $10.

As you can see from the pictures above, it's a pretty simple design. There are 3 T's all in the middle and 4 corners. Everything is 1/2 inch again. the square is 6" x 6". This makes two 6" long pieces on the sides pictured and 6 2 3/4" pieces (something like that) that fit the T's together.

As you can see from the pictures, I used a 3-way connector to make a PVC support bracket for the sparge arm. It's pretty much that simple. Cut 3 chunks of 1/2" PKC and connect them via a 3way connector. The sparge arm is pictured with rope holding it in place, but I wound up using a coat hanger. If I get a butane torch and some solder, I will make the end of the sparge arm into a hook shape so it will attach to the PVC, but this will work for now.

If you reference back to the picture at the top, you will notice that I put 1/2" rubber hose over the copper. I did this via bruit force and hot water. I am not all that confident in this aspect of the setup, but as I type this, I remembered that there is a chunk of garden hos I have been planning on using for something that might work AWESOME for this. We will see.

either way, I ran water through it, works fine. I did the vinegar thing I had reference in the previous post. Things should be pretty good. Here is the shopping list:

2' Copper 1/2" tube (should have gotten more, luckily I had some left over) $3.99
4 Corner pieces $2.20
3 T's $1.79
PVC 3 way $.20
3' 1/2" PVC (Had it, but it ain't expensive)

Total - Umm, ~$7

Feel free to shoot me a note if you have any questions.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mash Tun 2.0 - False Bottom

So as always, as soon as I have something all dialed in, I get the itch. In this case, it was to build a copper false bottom like the ones I have seen online.

Now as much as my "bazooka screen el chepo" is working, there are obvious limitations and I can't help but feel like I am leaving something back in the mash tun at the end of the day. This little project is hopefully going to change all of that.

Now to start, I am going to review the tools and the costs that are associated with this project. This is actually a great little project for new home owners (me) and apartment folks. the reason that I say that is while this project does require some random tools, they are all inexpensive and are good to have (assuming you don't already). I say this because when I moved into our new house, I had no tools. So every time I would go and work on my beer projects, I was usually buying parts and tools. This is why with every project I try and say "do I need this?" and make something that makes sense for me. In this case, it was easy:
Hacksaw $2.50 (harbor freight)
Extra blades $4
Pipe cutter $5
5' of 1/2" copper $8.50
4 copper corners $2
4 copper T's $2.80
Cooler - Had it, but anywhere from $18-$25
Ball valve or hose nozzle - $5

So, for this project, I was making a 10" by 10" false bottom for my mash tun. So I cut the 5' copper into 4 10" pieces. After doing this, I would put the copper tube into my vice and put one of the T's on the end (so I knew where to start cutting). Next I hack sawed 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through the tube with the cuts being 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart. I actually started doing 1/4" apart (below right) and moved to 1/2" (below left) because it was needlessly time consuming with a hacksaw to do all this.

After making the slices in my long tubes, I cut 6 more pieces 2 3/4" long. These will be the pieces between the T's. I made three hacksaw cuts in all but one of them and pieced it together.

Next I had to come up with a way to connect this to my spout from before. To do this, I used a very small piece of hose (I think it was from my racking cane, but I don't recall the exact size). This connects to a smaller piece of copper coming out of a hole in the side of one of the 2 3/4" pieces I cut (the one without the slices). These are all held in place with screw tight rings.

Finally to get the whole thing up to snuff I spent a lot of time cleaning it. Obviously you don't want copper in your beer, though it will improve your Hugh, it's going to hurt coming out the other side. With my immersion chiller, the directions I found said to soak it in vinegar, so since this is copper, I did the same. Better safe than sorry.
Now I considered doing the soldering, but noticed that a few of the people I saw on the new did not do this. the more I thought about it, I realized that it was not really necessary. You see, it's sucking in liquid and not grain. That's what you want right? Why make it water tight then if you want liquid to get in? Makes sense to me. If anyone has experience in this, I am open to suggestion, but I am going to at least try it this way.
In the end, this is it. I tested it and it's tighter than a dolphin's butt-hole so we are a go!!!

When I started to drain it, the flow was slower than with my bazooka screen knockoff, but I have a feeling that the flow will be consistent and pull from a broader area of the mash. that's the hope anyway.

Next up, a real deal, no holds bard sparge arm!!! This is a long time coming and this one is hear to stay.