Brew Day: Fluffernutter Sammie Stout

Set up to brew.

Set up to brew.


Finally! For the first time in 7 months, I brewed some beer! I created this recipe months ago and tweaked it some, but just didn’t want to brew again until I was able to control my fermentation temperatures. I have had ongoing issues with over-carbonation and I have had some off-flavors, particularly with darker beers…some are metallic or just very one dimensional. I have addressed everything I can, except fermentation temperature and yeast selection. For this sweet stout, I decided to go with Wyeast 1968. Optimal temperature range is around 64 to 70F. So, instead of my normal household room temperature of around 72F, with wort temps reaching 75 to 78, I now have a small chest freezer with controls to regulate the temperature. I have it set at 63-64F. I’m hoping this will at least help the flavor of the beer. If it helps with the carbonation issue, too, then that would be awesome!

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.

Small chest freezer. Perfect fit for a single carboy and a blow-off container.


I did have to make some minor changes based on homebrew shop ingredients availability…nothing major. Brew day went very smoothly, except for mash temperature climbing to 160F, instead of 155F. With about 25 minutes left, I removed the insulation/lid and started stirring to lower the temperature. With 10 minutes left, it was down to 156-157.

Brew in a bag...the "mash in".

Brew in a bag…the “mash in”.

My understanding is that the effect would be less fermentable sugars and possibly a little sweeter finish. I also added lactose with 10 minutes left in the boil. The end of the boil was fine, except the OG was high. I have a feeling that the lactose is not figured into the refractometer/hydrometer readings, because otherwise, it looks fine.

The boil is done.

The boil is done.

As a result of being able to drop the temperature to 71-72F, pitch the yeast and drop the carboy in a 64F fermentation chamber, the “take-off” for the yeast was barely noticeable 20 hours later. There was just a ring of bubbles around the top inside of the carboy. Now, at about 26 hours, there is audible bubbling and more visible signs of fermentation.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

Controls to convert the freezer to a fermentation chamber.

My concerns, at this point, are whether or not I added enough peanut powder to be noticeable in the final product, and if the vanilla planned for secondary will give the marshmallow flavor. A couple little sips of the wort towards the end of the boil did not really convince me on the peanut powder…and what IS marshmallow flavor? Marshmallows are basically corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla. I’ll investigate some more and see if peanut powder can be effectively added during primary or secondary fermentation, as well as exploring the marshmallow flavor a bit more. If I make changes, I will definitely update the recipe. For tonight, it’s reading, while the fermentation builds.




Brew Day Belgo Paleo

Ready to Brew!

Ready to Brew!

Brew Day! I’m actually writing this on the day after, but it was a long day. I had to help prepare for my older daughter’s baby shower and, after brewing and planting several things in the garden, I had to go help with the clean up. I was sore and tired last night!

First, I want to address the fact that I have had an ongoing problem with overcarbonation in several of my brews. Most have been darker beers…stout, porter, Scottish ale; but that may not necessarily have anything to do with it. I’ve tried backing down on priming sugar, extending the fermentation period, careful sanitizing procedures. I have been wondering if maybe the equipment I’m using or the bottles may need replacing or heavy duty cleaning, rather than rinsing and sanitizing. Before this brew, I soaked EVERYTHING in a solution of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda…carboy, buckets, utensils, hoses, siphon, airlocks and stoppers. Before I bottle, I will soak the bottles in the same solution, run them through the dishwasher (including heated drying cycle), and sanitizing. If this batch winds up overcarbing, I will have NO clue what to try next. Keeping my fingers crossed.

The recipe I brewed is a Belgian Pale Ale called Belgo Paleo and it sounds pretty good. It uses Green Bullet hops for buttering, Tettnang at 30 minutes and Saaz at 15 minutes and dry hop. The yeast is a packet of dry Safbrew Abbaye.

Pellet hops

Pellet hops

I followed my usual brew day procedures, with one exception: I used my new stainless steel wort chiller for the first time!

New stainless steel wort chiller

New stainless steel wort chiller

I didn’t have to buy 8 bags of ice this time! I set up the chiller with hoses and kept it in a bucket of sanitizer until ready to use. I put the chiller in the kettle for the last 15 minutes of the boil, to sanitize it.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to manage leak-proof connections and a little water sprayed into the wort. It was right after flame-out, and I’m hoping it didn’t ruin the batch. I wrapped the connection in paper towels and the dripping happened away from the kettle, instead of into it. The chiller worked like a champ and my wort was down to pitching temp in under twenty minutes.

Most difficult part of the day? Pouring the wort from the kettle (actually, a S/S stock pot) through a funnel into the glass carboy. Next time, I’ll use a siphon! Should have aerated it well, though! And it’s a good thing, because the oxygen tank I have connected to an aerating “stone” evidently had the valve knocked open somehow and the canister was empty.

Ready for fermentation to start.

Ready for fermentation to start.

So, pitched the yeast and put on the airlock. There was action late last night and I heard that the Abbaye yeast is aggressive, so I switch the airlock to a blow-off tube set-up …

After fermenting 24 hours.

After fermenting 24 hours.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

Blow-off tube and wrapped to keep light out.

…and wrapped the carboy with a blanket to keep out light. The wort chugged all day today and is doing well, I think. As of tonight, about 32 hours after pitching the yeast, the bubbling has slowed slightly to once every few seconds.

Update: Steinpilz Gose: my brewbuddy came by and got the balance of the gose into a keg and is going to force carbonate it. I’m going to stick a couple of bottles in the fridge and we’ll compare when ready. Looking forward to that!



Brew Day! Steinpilz Gose

Dried porcini mushrooms, salt , hops (Willamette), and acidulated malt.

Dried porcini mushrooms, salt , hops (Willamette), and acidulated malt.

This has the potential to be really good, if I get it right…but it may sound pretty gross. I’ve brewed a beer today in a German style that is relatively obscure, but making a big comeback. The style is called “Gose” and is pronounced “goe-zuh”. Rather than go into a lengthy description, here’s a link that covers the history and details very well:


If you just want the brief version, it’s a beer made from barley and wheat malts and has a slightly sour and salty taste, usually with coriander. No, that’s not the most appealing description; but it really is quite good. Very refreshing. Every drink makes you want to take another! So, here’s where I push the limits even more: mushrooms! Instead of coriander, I’m flavoring my gose with dried porcini mushrooms. In German, porcinis are known by the name “steinpilz”, so, my beer is Steinpilz Gose. Stay with me now…the slightly salty/sour flavor, I believe, will go well with a savory pairing like the earthy flavors of the dried porcinis. I did a little tasting ahead of time…lighter beer with  few drops of porcini “tea” added. Actually, it was interesting and tasty! The trick will be getting the balance right. I want an earthy background note…not an aggressive flavor that would readily be identified as mushroom.

There are a few ways that I have read about to achieve the savory/sour component. Traditionally, lacto bacillus is used at some point (which varies, depending on who you ask). Another way is to create a sour mash ahead of your brew day…a little involved for my skill and equipment profile. And the lacto can be tricky, too. I settled for the use of acidulated malt.

I brew using a method referred to as “BIAB”, “Brew In A Bag”. The “mash-in” step is pretty standard…the milled wheat and barley malts are brought up to 149F and held there for 60 minutes.

Wrapped in a blanket and a "survivior" blanket to hold mash temperature.

Wrapped in a blanket and a “survivior” blanket to hold mash temperature.

Instead of draining the grains and going on to the boil, however, the acidulated malt is added and the temperature held at 149F for an additional 45 minutes. The reason for doing this is that the acid in the acidulated malt could inhibit saccharification (the conversion of starches to sugars. After the second mash step, the brew proceeds as normal.

Getting the water amount right has been a little tricky for me, but I wound up with 5-3/4 gallons of wort, after the boil. The original gravity is substantially higher than the target, though…1.054 instead of 1.045. Not a huge deal…more alcohol, but I just wonder why? Was I supposed drain and remove the first round of grain and just mash the acidulated malt? (As opposed to adding the acidulated malt to the existing grains and mashing ALL of them for the additional 45 minutes.)

Anyway, chilled the wort, aerated it,

Aerating with an oxygen "stone".

Aerating with an oxygen “stone”.

and pitched the German Ale/ Kolsh yeast. There’s not a lot of headspace in the carboy…I’ll have a blow-off tube ready, just in case.

About 5-3/4 gallons in primary fermentation.

About 5-3/4 gallons in primary fermentation.

When it’s done, I think a friend of mine is going to keg half of the batch to see how that compares to bottling. I’ve had an issue with overcarbonation that I can’t seem to figure out. My beer hits an optimum point and then, another month or more, and they start to get overcarbed. I’m looking forward to seeing how that “gose”! (Sorry.)

Update 2/22/15: Had to install the blow-off tube this morning. I guess those yeasties are happy!

Blow-off tube...yeast is chowing down!

Blow-off tube…yeast is chowing down!




Brew Day! Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout

"The Con"

“The Con”

I prepared yesterday by purchasing my ingredients, getting my propane tank refilled, and buying 7 bags of ice.  The first thing I did was activate the “smack pack” of yeast that I used in this batch. It’s recommended to do so, 3 hours in advance of pitching. I’m brewing Yooper’s Oatmeal Stout, a recipe highly rated by several brewers and created by a brewer and moderator at the Home Brew Talk website. The recipe can be found at:   http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f68/yoopers-oatmeal-stout-210376/

The yeast is Wyeast British Ale II (#1335) and my batch is dated Dec 10th, so it’s very fresh!

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

Wyeast British Ale II (#1335)

It is supposed to supply 100 billion cells. The next step was setting up “The Con”. Basically, a table, a chair, the propane, burner, strike water and all the supplies/equipment…and a cup of coffee.

My local home brew supply shop was able to pretty closely duplicate the ingredients for me. I used 10 oz of Thomas Faucette Pale Chocolate Malt in place of the “Crisp”, Bairds 70-80L for the Caramel/Crystal Malt 80L, and Breiss for the 350 SRM Chocolate Malt. I also upped my Maris Otter to 8 lbs to satisfy my recipe builder program’s efficiency number estimate. (Brewer’s Friend) One other thing: I split my hops into 1 oz at 60 minutes and 1 oz at 30 minutes. Brewer’s friend estimated the IBU’s would be too high if I did 2 oz at 60 minutes.

For the process, I used the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method that I have be doing since early last Spring. I heated my water to 159F and added my grains. I stirred to break up all the dry balls. My poor long plastic spoon needs to be replaced by a mash paddle! (Santa?) I turned off the burner and wrapped the pot with a blanket and a “space blanket” to try to maintain the temperature.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

Wrapped for temperature retention.

After 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and it had dropped to 154F. I gave the mash a burner boost, but overshot it up to 162F…rats!

Steeping grains, BIAB.

Steeping grains, BIAB.

I stirred constantly for a few minutes, but the temp wasn’t dropping very fast, so I added approx. 24oz of cold Culligan bottled water. I had the mash temp back down to just above the target 156F with 25 minutes to go in the mash. I wrapped it all back up again and it finished right on target. I hope the variation didn’t hurt too much.

I “tea bag” dunked & drained the grains a couple of times.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

Tea bag dunk and drain.

I also do a “modified sparge” that I have pictured in my journal before…I missed taking a photo this time. Basically, it’s a bottling bucket and tubing set up on a tall recycle container and I drain the water, in this case 1 gallon water at 167F, over the grains. The idea is to rinse additional sugars from the grains. Then I made sure the grains were well drained and squeezed out as best as I could, without burning myself. (I later added the grains to my compost container…I still have some in the freezer for making doggie treats.)

I checked the pre-boil specific gravity with my refractometer and it was 1.041…on target. I transferred the wort to the bottling bucket to measure the volume. It was right to the rim, which is 7 gallons.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

measuring the pre-boil wort in a bottling bucket.

I poured the wort back into the brew pot and re-lit the burner.


The boil was good…added 1oz of Willamette hops pellets at 60 minutes got a vigorous boil going.


I missed my 30 minute hop (also 1oz Willamette )addition by 5 minutes, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. Post boil SG was 1.066 amd the volume looked a little low, so I added 1/2 gallon cold Culligan bottled water and immersed the brew pot into an ice water bath.

Ice water bath to chill.

Ice water bath to chill.

I used 6 bags of ice and managed to get the temperature down to 72F in less than 25 minutes. A copper coiled wort chiller would be nice, though. (Uh…Santa?!) I checked the OG with both a hydrometer and refractometer. The hydrometer sample was 69F and the reading was 1.055. The refractometer was 1.056. After correcting the hydrometer reading for the sample temperature, the readings agreed at 1.056. I transferred the wort to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation and aerated it with oxygen for two minutes…

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

Hydrometer sample and oxygen stone aerator.

…and then pitched the yeast and sealed the lid.  The volume in the bucket appears to be about 6-1/2 gallons and is close enough to the top that I decided to go ahead and set up a blow-off tube, just in case. Now we wait for the yeast to start partying! According to the estimates, I’m almost dead-on the numbers. I should finish within about .05 of the ABV percentage projection.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

Wort aerated and yeast pitched.

When primary fermentation is done, I plan to split the wort and use 2 gallons to make a gingerbread version. Need to research those additions. I do plan to include some freshly grated ginger root. It really made a difference in my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale, evidently. I had some guys at the local home brew shop taste it and the one I think has the most experience picked up on it right away. I assume the other componants will be ground ginger, ground cinnamon, vanilla (bean or extract?) … maybe some molasses? Not too much, though. It is fermentable and I found that a small amount really made a nice difference in a cider that I did earlier this year. Okay…updates as needed to follow!

Update: As of the next morning, there was no noticable activity. I sanitized around the lid and opened just enough that I heard some fizziness. I resealed the lid. By a few hours later, I could hear a regular chugging in the overflow liquid. So…things are good!





Day 168 Brew Day! Partial Mash with Cascade Hops Experiment

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

Ingredients for an experimental partial mash brew, with DME, grain steep and whole frozen hops and dried hops.

I have a friend whose son started planting Cascade hops in her garden four years ago. This year, he got a job at a brewery, out of town and wasn’t going to be around to harvest the hops. I was invited over to pick some. Fresh hops! What to do, what to do? I wasn’t ready to use them. I had never used fresh hops before and had no clue how to handle them. Thinking that the best thing was to have them as fresh as possible, I vacuum sealed them in canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

Jar of whole hops that was vacuum sealed and frozen.

I subsequently heard from a number of people that freezing fresh hops was not a good decision. They would likely become soft and slimey. Flavor was a  big question. One recommendation was to keep them frozen right up until putting them into the boil. So, that’s what I did…right into a little nylon bag and tossed right into the boil.

Some time later, my friend said I should come pick some more. When I arrived this time, instead of big, green cones, most of the hops were drying and turning brown. In addition, it was misty that morning and the “dry” hops were damp. I brought them home and put them in a large cardboard box and put them in the attic to finish drying. After several days, they were nice and dry, but I was concerned about the browning. They had plenty of appropriate aroma, though.

Since I have recently finished up some projects and had some Dry Malt Extract (DME) and a couple kinds of yeast on hand, I decided to try a smaller batch of beer and use some of each of the styles of Cascade hops, vacuum sealed frozen and vacuum sealed dried. I worked on a partial mash recipe and created an American Amber Ale that I’m calling Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale. The yeast is a White Labs East Coast Ale yeast.

Boiling with the bags of hops...this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Boiling with the bags of hops…this is just after the 15 minute addition.

Eastern Cascade Waterfall Ale (American Amber, Single Hop, Partial Mash)

Batch size 3 gallons, 30 minute steep, 30 minute boil


3 lb DME-Pilsen, boil 30 minutes

8 0z DME-Light, boil 30 minutes

1 lb American-Caramel/Crystal 60L, Grain sock steep 30 minutes @150F in 3.5 gallons strike water


0.5 oz Cascade Fresh/Wet (Note: I used frozen, vacuum sealed in a jar.) Boil 30 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf,  Boil 15 minutes (in nylon bag)

1 oz Cascade Dried, Whole/Leaf, Dry hop (in nylon bag) in secondary, 5 days


Irish Moss (fining) Boil 15 minutes

Yeast: White Labs East Coast Ale Yeast, 1 vial, Optimum temp. 68-73F, 72.5% attenuation    (Note: I used harvested yeast and prepared a starter.)

Original Gravity: 1.053,      Final Gravity: 1.015,       ABV 5.04%     IBU (tinseth) 36.99     SRM (morey) 12.69

After the boil, I chilled to 68F in an ice water bath and tranferred to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation. I had a little under 3 gallons of wort, so I added enough Culligan bottled water to top it off to 3.25 gallons. The plan is to have 3 gallons to bottle after racking to secondary. I aerated with an oxygen stone for 2 minutes (or you could agitate/rock for 5 minutes).  Yeast pitched and fermentation bucket sealed and an airlock was installed at 1:05 pm.  As of 8:30 pm, signs of activity were evident in the airlock, though not aggressive. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the pitch rate. That’s one area (of several) that I have had no experience with figuring out.

Initial impression was positive…no weird or off flavors or aromas were noticeable. Color is a nice brown; perhaps a little darker than I anticipated, but all the indicators match the American Amber style, according to my recipe calculator. I did hit my Original Gravity (OG) number pretty closely. The recipe calls for 1.053 and I measured mine at 1.055 on my refractometer. Good brew day!

One update: the Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale has been in the bottles for 11 days now. I opened one of my two test bottles, at room temperature, and poured a small sample. The sample looked clear and, frankly, the aroma and flavor are amazing.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Finshed the chilled bottle later.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale sample.

I recapped the bottle and stuck it in the refrigerator for later. I did open and drink the rest of the bottle tonight and my assessment stands. It is low on the carbonation, though not flat.  I hope that the carb will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

Update on the Eastern Cascade Waterfall: By 8 pm, there was sign of action in the airlock, but it was slow. By the morning after brew day, the airlock is happily chugging away, so my yeast starter appears to be a success!

Update 10/30/14: Eastern Cascade Waterfall Amber airlock action is slowing to a crawl. Probably going into secondary Sunday. Might just get it bottled by middle or end of next week. Lots of choices for Thanksgiving this year!



Day 154 Brew Day! Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Samhain label...no artist to credit, but it's beautiful!    Not for sale, so I guess it's okay.

Samhain label…no artist to credit, but it’s beautiful! Not for sale, so I guess it’s okay.

After I picked up a new oxygen canister and some bags of ice, I set up for brewing my Scottish Pumpkin Ale that I’m calling “Samhain”, which is the Celtic version of Halloween and is pronounced “so-win”.

The recipe is a modification of a Scottish Ale recipe from a member at www.Homebrewtalk.com. I put the recipe together like this (but note the changes as I brewed!):

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale

Original Gravity: 1.068 Final Gravity: 1.019 ABV (standard): 6.49%

IBU (tinseth): 30.47 SRM (morey): 19.58


Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %

14 lb United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale 38 3.75 73.7%

1 lb American – Caramel / Crystal 80L 33 80 5.3%

0.75 lb United Kingdom – Brown 32 65 3.9%

4 oz Molasses 36 80 1.3%

3 lb Dry Malt Extract – Light 42 4 15.8%***

19 lb Total


Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5 Boil 60 min 19.79

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 60 min 8.91

0.5 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5 Boil 5 min 1.78

Hops Summary

Amount Variety Type

1 oz East Kent Goldings Pellet 5

1 oz Fuggles Pellet 4.5

Mash Guidelines

Amount Description Type Temp Time

5.5 gal BIAB Infusion 158 F 60 min

2 gal modified sparge Fly Sparge 168 F —

Other Ingredients

Amount Name Type Use Time

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted 30 minutes at 425F,  Boil 15 min

29 oz Pumpkin, canned, roasted Other Secondary 0 min

2 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Spice Boil 0 min

1 each Vanilla Bean, split Flavor Secondary —

2 oz Vodka, to soak vanilla bean Other Secondary —


White Labs – Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast WLP028

Attenuation (avg): 72.5% Flocculation: Medium

Optimum Temp: 65 – 70 °F Starter: Yes

Fermentation Temp: 70 °F Pitch Rate: 1.25 (M cells / ml / ° P)

393 B cells required (Guess…I have no experience calculating this.)


Method: Corn Sugar CO2 Level: 2.4 Volumes

Target Water Profile: Cary Town Water

Method: BIAB

Style: Holiday/Winter Special Spiced Beer

Boil Time: 60 min

Batch Size: 5 gallons (fermentor volume)

Boil Size: 7.5 gallons

Boil Gravity: 1.045 (recipe based estimate)

Efficiency: 35% (brew house)*** 

Source: Matt Miller

Non-grain fermentables added at 60 minutes.

Irish Moss added at 15 minutes.


***So, there were a couple of issues that required some changes. The efficiency that was the default in the recipe builder for Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewing was 34%  and I evidently get double that.

Sparging...kind of.

Sparging…kind of.

Set up for a rigged "sparge". Seems to do the job.

Set up for a rigged “sparge”. Seems to do the job.

After the mash, I had an SG of 1.075, which was already better than projected and I had not yet added the 3 lbs of DME I thought I would need to add to the boil…so I omitted it entirely.

The process went smoothly. If anyone is interested, there are other posts that go through the process. The color is really nice!

Nice color!

Nice color!

Sorry the photos aren’t better…*someone* took my camera to use at a Demi Lovato concert and didn’t bring it back in time. I had to use my phone’s camera. I did chill the wort down to 76F, using an ice bath.

Ice bath chill

Ice bath chill

Then I pulled a sample, oxygenated the wort for 2 minutes using a sanitized oxygen canister and “oxygen stone” set-up and pitched my Edinburgh Ale Yeast (that I harvested from a previous batch of cider). I had prepared a starter for the yeast in advance and it was very active. I don’t have experience with “pitch rates”, but I believe I have plenty of yeast cells for the job. Since the volume I wound up with is about 6 gallons, in a standard fermentation bucket, and I have seen this yeast ferment very aggressively, I went ahead and set up a blow-off tube  to keep from fouling the airlock.  The yeast was pitched around 5:10 pm. As of 9:45 pm, I’m hearing a little action in the blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Blow-off tube.

Now, aside from the process, let’s talk about the sights, smells, and flavors! I made my own pumpkin pie spice blend, using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. I did freshly grate the nutmeg. Also, the ginger has been around along time, so I supplemented it with a little grated fresh ginger. I roasted a can of Libby’s Pumpkin, spread on some parchment paper, on a baking sheet, at 425F for about 30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it picked up a few dark spots from caramelization and lost a lot of water. I kept the pumpkin in a sanitized storage container until I was ready for it.

Roasted, canned pumpkin

Roasted, canned pumpkin

The wort took on a great brown color with a dark orange-ish shade to it. Really nice! And the aroma and flavor from the pumpkin and spices are very good, too. I think this is going to be a VERY good beer.

Using the hydrometer sample, the OG came in at 1.083 and, if the attenuation rate is accurate, the ABV will be 7.91%; however, in my experience, the SG isn’t going to stop at 1.023…so, the ABV will likely be over 8%. And, this sample was also the basis for the flavor and color evaluations.

Hydrometer sample...settling a little.

Hydrometer sample…settling a little.

An update on the ciders and muscadine wine: the wine is basically bulk aging and clearing nicely. I’ll eventually rack it…maybe a couple more weeks, and let it go a few months, before I bottle it. The Caramel Cider made with crab apples and Cripps apples is pretty much bulk, aging as well. It did have a little airlock activity going on for a while after racking…not regular or often, though. It has almost stopped now, I think, so I’ll probably rack that a final time in about a week. Maybe bottling in two weeks. The crab apple, pear and Cripps apples cider…no name for it yet…is still bubbling pretty regularly in the airlock. It probably won’t be bottled for a month.

I think I’m learning that it pays to take a little extra time. Excess sediment in the bottom of bottles seems to be messing with my carbonation after bottles have been around for a couple of months. And I like my ciders to have very good clarity…not as huge a deal for all beers, but some. (For instance, wheat beers are actually supposed to be a little hazy.) So, slow down…get it right. Give it another week. It can only help!

Update: 9/15/14  Getting very good action in the blow-off on the Samhain Pumpkin Ale. It hasn’t fouled and it isn’t quite what I have heard some describe as “Rhino farts”, but it is almost constant bubbling.

Update:  9/15/14  Opened the test bottle of the caramel cider to see what it’s doing. No carb at all. The ABV is a hefty 10.89%, though and the flavor is nice. Color is good. Finished product will be more clear.  Alcohol may have pushed the Edinburgh Ale yeast past its tolerance…may have to explore options, if I want to carb.

Caramel Cider tester bottle...no carb; lots of alcohol.

Caramel Cider tester bottle…no carb; lots of alcohol.


Day 133 Brew Day! Citra Saison with Harvested Yeast Starter

Setting up for brewing

Setting up for brewing

This was an uncharacteristic brew day for me. I usually don’t brew on weekdays. Certainly not Mondays. But the starter I had hoped to pitch in a Citra Saison pushed me back a day. I have never harvested yeast and never made a starter before now and I was afraid that the starter was going to be too weak. I worked out a boost for the starter (see previous post) and moved the brew back a day.

After I got everything all set up and ready to go, I got my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) in place and heated my strike water, 6 gallons.  The goal was 150F…water went to 154F and I mashed in. The water only dropped 1/2 degree though. I turned off the heat and made a run for ice. When I returned, the temp was 150.2F. Over the next 45 minutes, I tried my best to maintain the target temperature of 150F; however, it was probably more consistently in the 153F range.

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and "sparge"

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and “sparge”

Here is where I will talk about my changes to the original recipe that I found online. First of all, I decided to do Pale Malt 2 row, instead of Pilsner. Two reasons: sale on Pale and 60 minute boil instead of 90 minute. (Some recommend Pilsner boil for 90 to reduce chance of off flavors.) Next, I added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss at 15 minutes left in the boil to aid clarity. I also realized that I had forgotten to buy 1 pound of Belgian Clear Candi Syrup…made a run to the closest brew shop, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. Aaaargh! So, I substituted a pound of raw North Carolina honey, instead (at 10 minutes left in the boil). I am also planning on adding a dry hop step to secondary. The recipe calls for Citra hops to be added 1/2 oz at 30 minutes and 1/2 oz at 10 minutes left in the boil. I am a big Citra fan, so I am going to add an ounce in secondary.

Okay, back to the procedures: After the 1 hour mash in, I did my usual “tea bag” style dunking and draining of the bag, using a large pizza screen over the pot for support. I then set up a bottling bucket with 2 gallons of sparge water at about 150F and used the spigot with some hose on it to do an improvised sparge. I’ve used this method that, as far as I know, I made up, a few times and I think it helps a little. This left me with a rather full kettle, so the boil was a challenge and had to be monitored pretty carefully.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

I set timers for my additions and all of that went well. Did my usual ice bath chill and managed to get the temperature of the wort down to about 90F, pretty quickly…good temperature for Belle Saison yeast.

Now, I wanted to use my glass carboy for primary fermentation, so I could have a visual on activity. The problem is getting 7 gallons of wort from a stock pot into a heavy glass 6 gallon carboy using a funnel. I struggled and spilled a bit, trying to figure out a grip and pouring into a small target that filled quickly. I could see that wasn’t going to cut it, so I poured about 3/4 of the wort into the bottling bucket I had used for the sparging, and then went through the spigot and hose into the carboy. Obviously, I was going to have too much wort, so, rather than toss it, I grabbed and sanitized a one gallon carboy and put the rest of the wort into it.

I used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the big carboy for two minutes and the little one for one minute. Between the refractometer reading of 1.048 and the hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature to 1.044, I’m  going to estimate 1.046 OG.* Rather than try to decant my yeast starter, I decided to swirl the flask to mix it well and pitch the whole thing…guesstimating some for the smaller batch. The starter wort used pale DME (Dry Malt Extract), so it shouldn’t hurt the flavor of the beer. The recipe doesn’t give a projected FG, but Belle Saison is pretty aggressive, so I’m betting on around 1.002 for the big batch. So, maybe a 5.78% ABV? I would be happy with that.

Here's the volume of wort I wound up with.

Here’s the volume of wort I wound up with and my flask of starter yeast.

I have no clue what to expect for the one gallon batch, because I’m going to add one pound of fresh cherries to secondary fermentation, rather than dry hopping it, and the sugar in the cherries will surely kick fermentation back into gear. I currently have the whole cherries in the freezer with some vodka. When it comes time to rack the small batch, I’ll crush the cherries into the vodka a little to release some juice and add it all. I’ll probably use a 2 gallon bucket that I use for ciders to do the small batch secondary, so I have a wide opening with which to work.

The recipe calls for a week each for both primary and secondary; however, my Hi-Nelson Saison needed a little over two weeks for primary and then a week for secondary. And the small batch may go longer in secondary. I’ll probably even rack the small batch to a tertiary stage to clarify once it’s off the fruit. Probably back into a glass carboy again so I can judge the clarity.

The big question mark is whether my yeast starter was going to work. The yeast was pitched at 3:15 p.m. and the carboys were set on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. At 6:30, there was no activity evident and the glass felt pretty cool.

Carboys on the heating pad.

Carboys on the heating pad. (Beside some Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and some Diet Root Beer (Truvia)

I upped the heating pad to medium and wrapped the carboys in a “Space Blanket”. By 9:30 p.m., they were both chugging along in the airlocks…not violently, but good, frequent bubbles every second or two. Success!!! Woo hoo!!!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket...now we're chugging!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket…now we’re chugging!

I cold crashed the hydrometer sample just to see what it looks like and how it tastes at this stage. Obviously malty and sweet at this point, but it seems like it will be nice and clean, light bitterness and the hops should shine through on the main batch and the Belle Saison should add a little spice and funk. The little cherry batch should be really interesting!

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

*I also let this sample come to room temperature and took another hydrometer reading. at 74.2F and 1.046, adjusted to 1.047, so that will be my new OG to go with. I read the hydrometer with no contacts or glasses and it was much easier to get a good read, so I feel confident with that figure. (An additional refractometer reading, of course, calls it 1.048, so…whatever!) Could be around 6% ABV…anywhere in that  5.75 to 6.05% range is close enough.

For the original version of the recipe, go to this link or cut and paste into your browser:


Always give credit where due!

Update: Okay…the following morning, the airlocks were fouled. I quickly set up blow offs and the yeast is going at it, big time! Definitely had enough yeast!