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!



Day 81 Racking the Blondes!

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

Racking from PFB to secondary glass carboy.

I started off the day with some cleaning and sanitizing chores and had my blondes racked to secondary before 10 a.m. I opened the box with my new 6 gallon glass carboy in it, took it out, washed it and sanitized it. Next, I fitted it with the nylon brew carrier and prepared an airlock.

For the strawberry blonde, I sanitized around the airlock and I prepared a hose to fit the spigot (primary fermentation was done in a bottling bucket). With the strawberry blonde on a table and the new carboy on the floor, I attached the hose to the spigot and dropped the other end down in the glass carboy. Next, I removed the airlock from the lid of the bottling bucket, so a vacuum would not be created. I opened the spigot and let the strawberry blonde flow into the carboy.


I do like seeing the liquid in the glass…last time was with my little pineapple experiment, “Pineapple Tinker”…which is still bottle conditioning. The convenience of the spigot on the bottling bucket is nice, but siphoning isn’t so bad.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

Strawberry blonde, racked to secondary for clarification.

The strawberry blonde has an interesting pinkish color to it; however, it is very murky at this point. I am very interested in what the beer will look like when it (hopefully) clears. I did manage a sample to double check the SG and it is dead on 1.010 according to the hydrometer, so that should be an FG of 1.011 with adjustment for temperature, assuming no further fermentation in secondary.  Never one to pass the opportunity to taste a hydrometer sample, I indulged to further educate my beginner’s palate! The flavor is…interesting, at this point. I would not expect a burst of fresh strawberry flavor. It definitely tastes of fermented fruit…sort of  a musty, winey flavor. From what I have read from other’s experiences, I’m hopeful that this flavor will clean up and back down a little with clarification and bottle conditioning. I do get some hop bitterness, but not overpowering…it’s there right at the front and then again in the finish. I think I’m getting kind of a strawberry jam-like aroma…nice.

The trub in the strawberry blonde PFB looked nasty…but then, they always do. This batch with the strawberries, though, was weird…it was like a strawberry vampire had sucked the color out of them!

Mmm...fermented strawberries!

Mmm…fermented strawberries!


After some cleaning chores to finish up the strawberry blonde process for today, I turned my attention to the “Plain Jane” blonde. For this one, I prepared and sanitized another 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket (PFB) and airlock. I also sanitized a hose and my siphon, since there is no spigot on the PFB’s. When I opened the bucket, the plain blonde was, not unexpectedly, more clear than the strawberry blonde.

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

Plain Jane Blonde in PFB

I siphoned into the new PFB and noted that the color looked good. Being an extract brew, it is a dirty blonde…but who doesn’t like their blonde to be dirty? (Ahem) Moving along. I am missing my little racking tip that helps keep the end of the siphon tube off of the bottom of the bucket, so I had to be careful not to pick up any trub off the bottom. Thankfully, the trub (lees?) was pretty thick and settled. Would it be the correct use of the terminology to say that the trub had excellent “flocculation”? Anyway, siphoning was a snap and i was able to drag my finger through about 1/3 to 1/2 in sludge on the bottom without the path collapsing on itself for several seconds.

Plain Jane trub

Plain Jane trub

I did not want to waste any of this beer on hydrometer sampling, since it’s only about a gallon and a half, but it looked and smelled good. Sealed the lid and installed the airlock and finished my clean-up duties.

I’m betting that the strawberry blonde will take longer to clear than Plain Jane, but I will probably wait to bottle them both at the same time, for convenience. Stay tuned! Next brew will be a Chocolate Milk Stout with Costa Rican cocoa nibs and husks and lactose.

7:45 p.m.   Drinking a Citra Citrus American Wheat. This has got to be my greatest addition to the world of brewing to date! Everything is just right…aroma, color, bitterness, citrus …everything. This one MUST be done again. Soon.

Citra Citrus American Wheat...oh YES!!!

Citra Citrus American Wheat…oh YES!!!