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Day 38 Airlock Slowing on Dry Stout (and tasting some stuff!)

8:30 am   The airlock on my Dry Stout batch is slowing to about a bubble every 10 seconds. Getting there! Another 2 or three days and it should be ready to rack to bottle. I’m debating racking to carboys first for clarity. I probably will…let it sit for a few hours and then add priming sugar to a clean bottling bucket and rack on top of that and bottle the stout. I’m thinking Christmas is too early to drink this one…New Year’s Eve is going to be a little early too. I think sampling will begin in mid January.

2:00 pm   I checked intervals between airlock bubbles on the stout in primary fermentation and both times I counted exactly 37. Odd number to come up with, but there ya go. Note: Everything I read says that airlock bubbles are not an indication of fermentation and that the only way to truly tell your beer has finished fermenting is to check the specific gravity. If it hasn’t changed in two days, then it’s ready. Personally, I can’t help but see the airlock bubbles as a pretty good indicator. I really don’t want to expose my brew to open air any more than necessary. If the SG is in expected target range once bubbles have subsided for a couple days, I feel pretty confident.

3:30 pm   Opened the flip top test bottle of cider batch #4. I thought I heard a little release when I popped the top, but I could not detect any carbonation in the small sample that I poured. The sweetness and flavor are very nice, though. I guess I can let it go for awhile before I check it again.

8:30 pm   Well, it IS Friday night, so I decided to pop a top on a Fawlty Brown Ale. It has had another week in the bottle since I last tried one. It was in a back room, where the temperature was in the upper 60’s and the bottle felt cool, so I went ahead and opened it without additional refrigeration. The carbonation has definitely increased and I think the beer is quite good. More time won’t hurt, but it’s good.

Fawlty Brown Ale...carbonation is better this week.

Fawlty Brown Ale…carbonation is better this week

11:30 pm   Alright, the kids are at sleepovers and I shouldn’t have to go anywhere; so, I pulled out a bottle of Watson’s Cyser. (If I had used the right terminology on the label, it would have been “Watson’s Cider”…say it again…I know; funny, right?)

Watson's Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

Watson’s Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

This cider has actually got positives and negatives. The positives are that it retains some sweetness and some crabapple character and the carbonation is about where I like it. The negatives are that I left a little too much sediment in the bottling. I don’t mind the lack of crystal clarity, but the lees are allowing a bit of a yeasty flavor. IMAG2000Getting it just right is trickier than I thought! I need to rack longer for clarity, but not ferment the sugar all the way out and completely lose the yeast; otherwise, it won’t carb. The experiments are interesting, but I’m glad they aren’t huge batches!

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Day 36 Brewing Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Extract, grains, oats and hops for Dry Stout

Spent grains and oats

Spent grains and oats

Wort, after grain steep

Wort, after grain steep

The boil was good…no problem with the malt extract and the only hop addition was at the beginning (60 minutes). I moved the wort to a sink with ice water and brought the temperature down to 90F. Poured the wort into a bottling bucket and topped off to 2-1/2 gallon…maybe a little over. I was making sure that I wasn’t measuring the foam, but I may have gone slightly more. The recipe estimated that the OG would be 1.043 and I got 1.036 @72F, adjusted to 1.037 for calibration. This should be a pretty low alcohol brew. The recipe came up with 4.1%. With my lower OG, mine would be 3.54%, if I reach the estimated 1.01 FG.

Last few minutes of the boil

Last few minutes of the boil

I am pleased with the color and the flavor. Now it’s up to the yeast to work its magic! I’m using Safale s-04 yeast. The recipe doesn’t specify and the guy at the brew shop said s-04 would be fine and it is also what I use for some ciders.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

Just over 2-1/2 gallons fermenting, not counting foam.

I pitched half of a packet of the yeast in and sealed it/airlocked. I should have 5 to 7 days in fermentation.

On another topic, I gave the bottles of cider batch #4 a tip upside down and a swirl. Thinking it might wake up the yeast, if there’s any left. That was yesterday. Today, I opened my test bottle. No sound. Poured a very small amount into a glass and resealed the flip top. Color looks good and taste/sweetness are great…but…no carbonation at all. I have read that sometimes it happens 4 or 5 weeks after bottling, so I’ll keep an eye on it. If it never carbs, it will be a nice still cider. I wonder if I could use it in a SodaStream? Hmmm.

Last night, I also opened my first test bottle (ever) of crabapple cider.

Tiny Bubbles!

Tiny Bubbles!

test bottle, cider batch #1

test bottle, cider batch #1

This one was the tester for cider batch #1…what eventually came to be known as Sherlock’s Cumber, Batch #1. This bottle was primed with Munton’s CarTabs, which I did not use on the full batch. This bottle was dry and had a little less carbed than I prefer. I would have liked it more if it had be a little more “crisp”. Not bad for a first batch though. We’ll try some more at New Year’s Eve and see if the bottles primed with priming sugar are any better.

10:15 pm Stout progress: there is pretty aggressive bubbling in the airlock. It goes of about every 9 seconds, but when it goes, it perks several times. This is only my second time brewing beer and first time using the bottling bucket for fermentation. Cider batches and other beer batch were fermented in a 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket and they all seemed to bubble at increasing, then decreasing intervals, but not with the vigor being experienced this time. Just single bubbles in the past. I guess it could be due to the size of the bucket or the type of beer. Whatever the reason, it seems to be fermenting nicely.

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Day 26 Two Gallon Stout After Thanksgiving, Pitching Cider #4

Went to Atlantic Brew Supply today. They are off of Hillsborough St. and closer to me than American Brewmaster. While I will take advantage of American Brewmaster when they open in Cary, Atlantic Brew Supply seems to be a much bigger operation. They also have their own brewery, an onsite brew thing for home brewers one Saturday a month and will loan a burner set-up and sell the “recipe of the month” ingredients for 1/2 price. The guy that helped me was laid back, but knowledgeable  and very friendly and helpful. The grains are bulk and priced by the pound…those and a grinder are self service (or they will help). I was pretty impressed.

I bought a small bottle of a no-rinse sanitizer to try, some Safale s-04 yeast and the ingredients and recipe for a Dry Stout. I’ll make the stout after Thanksgiving. Tonight, I’m going to add some honey to cider batch #4…maybe 1/2 cup…since I was a little short on sugar. I’m also going to add some water, maybe a gallon, since I had extra juice. I’m going to separate the cider into two primary fermentation tanks, each with about 1-1/2 gallons of cider, so I can eventually rack at least 2 full gallons. Once they are separated and the honey is added to both with the extra water (heated to dissolve), then I’ll pitch the s-04 yeast. More on that later.

8:00 pm     Followed my plan and opened the PFB on cider batch #4, removed the pommace bag and squeezed the juice out of it. I had sanitized a second PFB, an airlock, some measuring cups and a spoon. I put 4 cups of hot water in a measuring cup and added    4 oz of honey and stirred to dissolve it. I added the honey water mixture to the cider.  I then divided the cider equally between the two buckets. To each, I added another four cups of water. I checked the OG and it was 1.034 @ 70F. Adjusted is 1.035. That seems a little weak. Maybe I raised the volume of liquid too much. I think I’ll add some brown sugar. I did go ahead and pitch the           Safale s-04 yeast, 3 grams in each bucket.

Okay, I added 8 oz of brown sugar to each PFB and stirred well. Checked the OG again and Bucket #1 is 1.052 Bucket #2 is 1.048 at 70F. Adjusted for temp and hydrometer calibration to 1.053 and 1.049.  The flavor is now sweet, but the apple may be a little weak. We’ll have to see how it ferments. I haven’t liked the idea of adding apple juice concentrate (thawed from frozen), but it may be necessary to get some apple flavor back.

Tomorrow might be a good day to go ahead and bottle Cider Batch #2 and try out one of the bottling buckets. Prime with priming sugar…no tablets!!! I’ve done 1/2 teaspoon per bottle or 1 oz per gallon (so about 1-1/2 oz for this batch). Using the bottling bucket, I think I’ll use the option of adding the priming sugar to the bucket. Name…name…name…”TARDIS Cider. Bigger on the Inside.”  I like it.

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