April 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Gelatin Experiment

This is the tale of two ESB's. Last brew day we did a 20 gallon batch so both Nick and I had 10 gallons. Coming out of the primary, both were pretty cloudy and lacked any clarity. Having been down this path before, I decided to add gelatin. However, since I had two of the same brews, I figured I would make an experiment out of it!

The idea here was to see if this gelatin stuff really works. For those of you who don't know, there are many who recommend the addition of flavorless gelatin to the secondary or to the keg to allow the beer to clear up. The process is pretty simple, you get some of the flavorless gelatin comes in single use packages. Make up one pack per 5 gallons in a small amount of water (much like priming sugar), let it cool to room temp and add it to the secondary. I have even heard that you can add it to the keg as well (but I've never tried that).

Either way, I decided to give this a head to head and this is what I saw 10 days after the addition:

On the left is the vessel that I added the gelatin to, on the right is the one without. As you can see by the carboy on the left, a lot of the traub that is seen sticking to the bottle is not in the brew anymore and make it clear. One important aspect of this is balance. The gelatin is finings and can have an effect on the flavor of your brew (as it is pulling some of the proteins and what not from the brew). Using this amount has worked for me in the past and I was pleased with the results. The only question I was left with was "does that stuff really make the difference?" and I think this experiment is pretty conclusive.

There are other ways to get similar results like dropping the temp down to the 40's on the brew and giving it a lot of time (this is more safe for the brew to stay in the secondary for a longer time anyway). This is an alternative for anyone that is repulsed by gelatin and what it's made of. Not me though. I am a non-discriminative eater, all animals are fair game on my pallet.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bottling Followup

After all of my problems with bottling, I decided to take the advice from some of the folks who so kindly submitted advice. I also spent some time reading back up on brewing basics. Sometimes in the heat of brewing bigger and better, we forget to cover the basics. Well this week was a good review.

What went wrong? Well first off, I'm not real sure. There were several problems; over carbonation, aeration, metallic flavors and made my beer an intense experience.

What did I change? Well just about everything. I now siphon the brew from my secondary into a bottling bucket and add my priming sugar. From here, I sanitize my spoon and give it a light stir to get things mixed up properly. After this, I bottle using the bottling wand that came with my original kit. I rinse my bottles after I sanitize them and before I add brew to ensure that there are no residual films or smells from the sanitizing solution.

Once I am done bottling, I remove the wand and add a hose to the bottling bucket that runs into my keg. This is in hopes of preventing any potential oxidation that could occur in this stage of the brewing. When the bottling bucket is empty, I close the keg and cap my bottles. Done.

As far as my over carbonation, I have moved from the 3/4cup of priming sugar I used to 1/2 cup (unless Beer Smith tells me to use more or less). I also have been using Beer Smith to determine how much to add in times of having an odd amount. For example, I only had two gallons of Alt and needed to bottle condition that. So I added the amount that Beer Smith told me to and it's prefect!

I have to say, it looks as though I may have worked my way through my bottling woes...for now anyway.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Batch or Fly?

A few nights back I had a great conversation with Ted to catch up on brewing. Ted was marveling at the massive new mashtun we were using and he had some practical questions about it. The one that stuck out to me was:

"Do you have something against batch sparging?"

While I have saught for the fly sparge that actually works, I have never stopped and asked myself if it's really worth all the effort. Perhaps I am totally focused on doing it just so I can say that I do it. Maybe it's the trickling water and the crazy hoisting of scaulding hot water that attracts me to the fly sparge like a moth to a flame, who knows.

All I know that it's time for me to take a step back and review the benefits and drawbacks of fly versus batch sparging. There is a great artile in BYO about this, but I would like to hear what you have to say, please make a vote on the survay (right side) and leave a comment. I'll do a follow up to sum up the stances.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

What the blog?

So here I am, two years and some change later, still writing on this brew blog. I constantly have to ask myself "why do this?" and after the last few weeks, I am reminded of the answer.

I started this blog in late 2005 after reading Blog! By David Kline (and a whole host of other authors) and wanting to understand what this whole "blogging" thing was all about. As I began to explore blogs, I was also really starting to enjoy homebrewing and was making some very good beer (extract). It suddenly dawned on me; what a perfect medium for a brew journal! A place where your readers can critique your methods, recipes and overall brewing. Because the author is accessible, the comments are conversation instead of static feedback and visitors can review the evolution and eventual conclusion of an issue. Brilliant!

In the processes of doing this, I have learned about many other bloggers out there, some of whom are the commenter's on this blog. I have exchanged beers with other bloggers and written about beers I have tried.

So why is this better than a BA forum? Well in short, it's community. While yes, you can get answers quickly in a forum, no one is following your body of work. No one can note long-term trends in your methods of why you brew how you brew. No one notices if you haven't posted in a long time (I noticed Grove had gone dark for a while and realized he's a Dad now). It's the quality and source of the feedback that makes the blogging community different.

I bring this up because this past weekend, things really came full circle for me in my original objective for this blog. I took a recipe for an ESB I had done previously and made adjustments that were suggested to me by Bad Ben, commenter and fellow blogger, to make a second iteration of my ESB. In the comments for this brew, I had some very good observations where Glibbidy and Kevin where they noted the process of running off my mash was potentially going to give me a hot aeration. This led me to revisit the question of hot aeration and decide to make a slight adjustment on my process to avoid this potentially problematic step. Simple and was made possible my blog.

Further, these past few weeks have allowed me to have my beer tasted internationally! Alan, Ted and Brad were all part of the first (and not last)beer blog off. This one was for the ages. The battle over the Mason Dixon line was had between yours truly and the fellas at Monday Night Brewery. While both Alan and Brad gave the edge to MNB, Ted gave me a glimmer of hope with a single win. The guys at MNB even made a video of the tasting:

The point of this post is to thank everyone that has made this blog work. It's been a pleasure getting comments and feedback. The exciting thing is that most of the comments have blogs themselves so I can in turn comment on what they do. I would also like to extend a big thank you to everyone that participated in the brew off, even the bane of my existence; MNB.

I hope you keep reading. Cheers!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pushing the limits

This was the first weekend brewing with the NEW 100qt mash tun. While there is still a lot of work to be done on this hoss, we figured we would give it a test drive the old fashioned way; put her to work. We decided the best way to do that was a 20gallon batch of Mother's ESB.

This time around, I took the advice of Bad Ben and made some changes to the recipe. I replaced the chocolate malt with biscuit and dialed down the hops by about 10IBUs. I also cut out the dry hopping. This is what the recipe wound up looking like:

Mother's ESB - Round 2
Brewer: Travis & Nick
Asst Brewer: Meatball
Style: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 20.50 gal
Boil Size: 24.57 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated Color: 12.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

39.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 82.19 %
4.20 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)Grain 8.85 %
3.25 lb Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) Grain 6.85 %
1.00 lb Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 2.11 %
2.00 oz Target [11.00 %] (60 min) Hops 18.0 IBU
1.50 oz Brewer's Gold [8.00 %] (60 min) Hops 9.8 IBU
0.50 oz Liberty [4.30 %] (60 min) Hops 1.8 IBU
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold [8.50 %] (15 min) Hops 3.5 IBU
0.25 oz Liberty [4.30 %] (15 min) Hops 0.4 IBU
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold [8.50 %] (1 min) Hops 0.3 IBU
1 Pkgs London Ale (Wyeast Labs #1028) [StaYeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 47.45 lb
Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 12 gal of water at 164.2 F 150.0 F
Batch Sp 1 - 10gal at 168f
Batch Sp 2 - 5gal at 168f
Target preboil OG was 1.043

First off - The Mash tun - No need for words, just take it in. That's 47lbs of grain in there.

Picture below is the run off. We were concerned with the potential of anything in the false bottom that might not have come out in rinsing so we ran everything through a screen. It worked out pretty well.


1st addition - 12gallons at 166f mash settled in at 154f for 75min - 19brix (1.077) runoff gravity
Sparge 1 - 10gallons at 168f the mash settled at 155f - 14brix (1.055) runoff gravity
Sparge 2 - 5 gallons at 172f mash settled at 156f - 11brix (1.043) runoff gravity
Total water - 26 gallons

Those are two 5 gallon pots, one with 5 and the other with 3. The brew kettle (15gal) had the rest in it. The big pot was where we added all the hops. In order to ensure that everything was distributed properly in the end, we poured the other two pots in to the big pot as space permitted.

In the end the new mash tun gave us just under 20gal of brew at 1.060 - 73% efficiency! Pretty good for a first run at this. All was not totally perfect with the process though. The pressure inside the tun pushed out on the walls and cause a little steam to leak out of the handle area. It's a lot of pressure on the cooler so we're going to have to consider putting something around it for stabilization.

Over all we were very pleased with the process and so far with the results. The new tun has a lot of potential and may allow us to brew more beer while brewing less frequently. Bryan was over for his second shot at homebrewing. It was a great success and due to the high price of DME, he is ready to make the dive into all-grain.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

100qt Cooler - phase 1

This time around, Nick wanted to do this "right" so we were going to do this in two phases so as to avoid some of the cobjobbery of the past. The plan here was simple; replace the plug that came with the cooler with a 1/2in ball lock valve and attach that to a PVC false bottom.

Fist off the logic behind PVC over copper. While to date, copper has been the primary false bottom for me, two major factors contributed to the move to PVC - price and workability. Copper has gotten pretty expensive in the last few months so I have been less inclined to use it than in the past. Also, the problems we have had with the soldiering have led me to think that I am not much of a plumber.

With PVC we will glue, cut and puncture with 1/2 of the effort and time of copper. Plus the PVC we got is rated at over 180f so it should hold up without a problem. So we're off:

First off was taking out the plug and putting in the ball valve. It turned out that the hole that was left from the plug was 3/4in instead of the 1/2in we planned on so we used a 3/4in pipe (2" in length) that was threaded on both sided to fill the hole.

We ended up using copper fittings that drew down the 3/4in to 1/2in for the ball valve and for the part that was going to connect to the PVC.

Sealing was obviously a big part of this and it's an imperfect science at best. The key to sealing is to keep an open mind. With this we had a gasket on the inside and one on the outside. It leaked so I removed the one on the inside and used some gasket making stuff and it is now sealed. To test it, I put 5 gallons of water in over night. About 1tbs of water leaked out over the 12 hrs so I figure that' "good enough for government".

Finally Nick built the PVC false bottom. The design is pretty self explanatory and he used a dermal tool to make the cuts for draining holes. All the parts are glued and the whole thing sits inside of the other PVC fitting that is connected to the copper. We are waiting on gluing that until we know that the whole thing is going to work properly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bottling and me; a hate, hate relationship

Since I have started doing "stuff" with my beer that I brew, I have begun to notice the need to revisit one of the more basic aspect of brewing; bottling. For me it's a rather contentious relationship. When I got into brewing, it was to have beer on tap. Nothing more.

With my recent misadventures in actually drinking the beer that I was bottling, I have noticed a significant difference in the product I get out of the tap and what I get out of the bottle. At first, I realized I had problems with oxidation. That was easy enough to solve, but now I appear to have problems with carbonation and with a metallic off taste.

First off, the way that I bottle is I take the brew from out of the secondary and put it into the keg. I add my 3/4 cup dex at this point. Once it's all filled up, I put some CO2 pressure on the keg to make sure it's sealed and shake enough to mix the dex and the brew. After this I use a party tap with a filling wand to fill the bottles. Easy enough.

There are a few holes I was able to locate in my process that may have caused the problems I am having;

1) Too much dex- For my latest brew, I dialed it down to 1/2 cup
2) Not rinsing - I use one-step and supposedly you are supposed to be able to do everything in "one step", but this might not be true as I have been doing that and I have flavor problems
3) Party tap - There might be something between the party tap and the wand that is causing an off flavor. I think the way to test this would be to resort to the bottling bucket

I am open to suggestions on anything that might be causing me problems here. I am going to slowly address each of these issues and see where I stand. Hopefully it's nothing serious because the beer I have been kegging has been good. Technically the bottled beer should be no different.

While so far it appears that I am the "loser" in this battle, the guys at MNB were kind enough to share their credit card information on their video so that I can get some of the parts that I need to make my brewery complete; it's mighty big of those guys to do that.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What beer pairs with humble pie?

As many of you know, I have been at war with the guys at Monday Night Brewery (or MNB as they are now officially called) and like all wars, it hasn't been pretty. I would like to begin by putting to rest the rumor that Bryan Adams is a member of Hezbollah. While his lyrics certainly raise the question of his commitment to the United States and it's war on terror, there is no physical evidence that links him to the leadership of Hezbollah.

I've come to this bit of a humble ending to my war with MNB due to the taste off we had. While MNB tried to butter us up with beer glasses and an awesome stout to go with the Swashchuckler IPA they sent us, I have to admit that without a doubt, (gulp) their beer was better.

Nick and I started off with the Swashchuckler and poured it into a pint glass. It poured a deep gold color with an off white head. IT started with two fingers of head and kept it's head for a good amount of time. I got a nice smell of pine and citrus on the nose, the pine sets in before the citrus, but it rounds out to a great aroma.

Once the head settled, it left a healthy amount of lacing in the glass. The taste was really dominated by the bittering hops bite. It finished clean and didn't linger, which was nice, but the hops were a dominant player in the mix.

Overall this was a great experience and if I were to make any recommendations, I would say to dial down the hops a little to let the malt profile stand out a little more.

With our Lagunitas clone there was a melon smell on the nose, a lighter color, more of a straw than a gold, and a white head. The problem came in the taste. There was a distinct metallic flavor that we picked up in the brew.

Bottling has been a loosing battle with me as of late, but I hope that this is not the case with all of the beers I sent out. In the end, the metallic flavor died down a little bit, but never enough to make the beer really appealing.

The Swashchuckler IPA took us hands down. I am now looking for recommendations on what beer pairs with crow for the main course and humble pie for desert. I am guessing that a nice Double IPA might wash down the crow and perhaps a barley wine for the humble pie?

Seriously though, they have a great start to a beer there, it could use a little fine tuning, but the malt profile was great (when I got into the beer a little more) and the nose it awesome. Congratulations from the Nick and I go out to the MNB crew. Cheers!