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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.

http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/295261/fluffernutter-sammie-stout

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.

 

 

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Wort Chiller

Staiinless stell wort chiller

Staiinless stell wort chiller

It has taken me this long…like, a year and a half, to get a wort chiller; but I finally have one! Hopefully, no more bags of ice. I’ll need some accessories…hoses for incoming water and discharging water. Eventually, I could get a pump and recirculate, but that’s quite a bit more money…and I think I would have to chill the water after the first pass through, so wouldn’t that mean back to ice again? Time for more research. I may never have the room or the money for a state of the art brewing rig, but this is a nice addition! This one is stainless steel, as opposed to copper. Most agree that differences in temperature conductivity are minimal, and the S/S version is easier to keep clean and doesn’t oxidize over time. Looking forward to the next brew day!

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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:

http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/Gose.html

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!

 

 

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Merry Christmas and Starting a Half Gallon of Cider

Some yeast and some cider.

Some yeast and some cider.

It’s been some time since I have brewed or fermented anything…holidays and vacation have taken so much of my time! I was grocery shopping today, however, and I bought a gallon of White House brand “Fresh Pressed” Apple Cider (not from concentrate, “all natural”, from whole apples, pasteurized, etc., etc.). My daughter likes unfermented apple cider, some I’m splitting this gallon and fermenting the other half. It cost $5 for the gallon, so I’m not too worried about this not working out. Here’s what I’m doing:

In one 1/2 gallon growler, I’m putting a 1/4 teaspoon each of pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and a little under 1/2 gallon of the cider. In the other 1/2 gallon clear carboy, I had stored  in the refrigerator, some recovered East Coast Ale yeast. I had never gotten around to draining the wort off of it…but I don’t think it’s worth trying to ferment into beer. What I have done is removed it from the refrigerator and added a couple tablespoons of honey.

Tomorrow night, I’ll see what’s going on. If all goes well, the yeast will activate, I’ll pour off the wort, and add the yeast slurry to the cider. Another 24 hours will show me if it’s going to ferment. I’m not sure how the East Coast Ale yeast will do with cider…I hope it works and I find out!

As for other project updates, the East Coast Cascade American Amber is interesting. The initial taste was a little dank and had a slight astringency in the finish. The carb has come up nicely and the astringency is almost completely gone. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s very drinkable and tasty. The Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale IS amazing and has been well received by all who have tried it. Finally, the robust porter and it’s coffee version were not promising at first. Passable, but not really what I was hoping for. Another couple of weeks in the bottle and I was pleasantly surprized that it had turned out to be pretty darn good, after all. Cheers!

 

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Day 147 Bottling Fermented Ginger Beer, Picking Crab Apples, Wine & Cider Updates

 

10 bottles of a fermented pain the the butt ginger beer!

10 bottles of a fermented pain the the butt ginger beer!

This little project has been a real pain in the butt! From the heating pad to off the heating pad. From adding Champagne yeast to moving it on the heating pad and overheating it and killing the yeast to pitching more yeast…yadda, yadda, yadda. And the SG doesn’t make sense…it’s went from 1.061 to 1.030 to 1.34 to 1.036…and then it reads 1.022 and starts floating up, slowly,  to 1.036. I even tried my back up hydrometer and it did the same. I’m tired of screwing around with it. I decided to bottle it and be done with it. My best guess is that the ABV is around 3.0 to 3.25%, but who knows?! Tomorrow night I’ll check the carb and pasteurize the bottles if they are ready. The gallon yielded 10 bottles and I may have to sacrifice one for the carb check.  Whew!

The wine continues to chug along very regularly. I opened the lid and stirred down the bag of crushed grapes. There was lots of sparkly effervescence and the color is a bright red, but not a deep, dark color and certainly not clear. It appears to be right on track, though.

Stirring the wine...snap, crackle, pop!

Stirring the wine…snap, crackle, pop!

My neighbor that has the remaining crab apple tree called and told me to come pick some more today, because they are having them pruned tomorrow and the ones that are easy to reach now will be gone. So I took a 5 gallon bucket over and almost filled it. Based on yesterday’s 2 gallon bucket weighing almost 13 pounds, I’m guesstimating that I have around 30 pounds…quite possibly more.

Big bucket o'crabs!

Big bucket o’crabs!

Maybe I’ll get around to weighing them tomorrow. I may need to find a more efficient way to extract the juice…my little countertop extractor can only handle so much.

As for the batch of cider already underway…

About 3 gallons of wine in the back and two gallons of cider in the front.

About 3 gallons of wine in the back and two gallons of cider in the front.

…I’m waiting for the Edinburgh Ale Yeast starter to be ready. I stuck it in the refrigerator tonight and should be able to pour off the DME “wort” and pitch it in the morning. I’ll get the OG before adding the yeast, throw in some cinnamon and cloves…maybe a little molasses, if it can stand it. Pink Cripps and Crab Apples. I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

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Day 131 Making My First Starter!

 

I’m planning on purchasing supplies tomorrow to make a Citra Saison and attend a “class” put on by SouthYeast Labs. So this evening, I’m trying to make a yeast starter from the Belle Saison yeast that I’m hoping to have successfully harvested recently. I prepared a small wort using a half cup of old liquid extra pale liquid malt and a quart of water. I boiled the wort for ten minutes. The SG is about 1.045. After the boil, I cooled the wort to about 85F and transferred it to a sanitized half gallon carboy, into which I had sprinkled about a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Of course, all utensils are sanitized.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

Small batch of wort plus a little yeast nutrient.

The next step was to pour off much of the liquid from the jar of harvested yeast, give the remains a swirl, and add the yeast to the wort. I then used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the wort for about a minute. [Edit: I know know that I should oxygenate BEFORE adding the yeast to keep from breaking up the yeast buds. Thanks, SouthYeast guy! And the SG shouls be between 1.032 and 1.040…mine was a bit over.]

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

Oxygenating the wort, after pitching the yeast.

I then installed an airlock and moved the carboy to a heating pad set on “low”…the same temperature at which the beer will be fermenting. This is supposed to help the yeast acclimate. A short time will tell if the yeast harvest was successful.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

Ready for a little yeast building on the warm heating pad.

The day before I brew, I plan to cold crash (refrigerate) to get the yeast to flocculate (fall out of suspension), so I can pour off most of the starter wort and pitch mostly yeast (This limits the impact of the starter wort flavor on the beer). I hope this process is successful. I’m a bit anxious…new milestone!

1:00 a.m.  The starter bottle seemed a little cool to the touch, so I wrapped the heating pad around, it like a jacket, so it gets more surface area contact. I also drew off a sample of the Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus and ran it from the little sample glass to a 12 oz beer glass, back and forth a couple of times to open up the aroma. Nice color, good nose and it drinks like a nice wine in it’s uncarbed state.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

Sample of Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus held to the light.

8:30 a.m.   following morning. Encouraging sign…airlock activity on my starter! Now the question is: How do I determine the number of yeast and if I have enough to pitch a 5 gallon batch of beer? Sanitized my oxygen hose and gave the starter about a 30 second infusion.

7:15 p.m.    Sanitized a cap and around the top of the starter carboy and replaced the airlock with the cap, loosely. The starter went into the refrigerator to cold crash. The procedure is supposed to cause the yeast to flocculate (fall to the bottom). So, now the question is: Did enough additional yeast form or should I repeat this step tomorrow and push my brew day back?

12 Noon third day: decided to use some new knowledge from a yeast class and see if I can give my harvested Belle Saison yeast a stronger growth cycle. I have made a new starter wort, added a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient and chilled it down into the mid 80’s F. I oxygenated the new wort. Drained most of the previous starter wort and pitched the yeast into the new wort. I also grabbed a second washed yeast jar from the fridge and drained most of the water off of it, swirled and pitched that yeast. This new batch is in my new flask with sanitized foil on top and set on the heating pad on the lowest setting.

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Day 91 Brew Day, First All-Grain, Brew in a Bag!

Brew in a Bag (BIAB), all-grain.

Brew in a Bag (BIAB), all-grain.

Today was my first experience with an all-grain brew! I took a class and got supplies a couple of weeks ago and today was a beautiful day for brewing. I probably wouldn’t get another chance for a couple of weeks, so I went for it.  Everything went surprisingly well. The target temperature for the mash in was 150 F. That was supposed to be accomplished by adding the grain to the full volume of water ( 6.25 gallons) heated to 158F. The temperature actually went to 155 and didn’t get down to 150 until the last 15 out of 60 minutes with no heat on.

The set-up.

The set-up.

I dunked and drained the bag a few times. The refractometer showed an SG of around 1.042…supposed to end up at 1.053, so I was a little worried. I put the bag back down in and raised the temp to 168F  to mash out.

Saccharification...ooo!

Saccharification…ooo!

Next, I cut the flame and allowed the bag to drain well…SG still looked low.

Drain the grain.

Drain the grain.

I went ahead with the 60 minute boil and hop additions at 60, 15, 5 and 1 minutes. I also added 1 teaspoon Irish Moss with 15 minutes left to boil. With the concentration from the boil, the SG was up to about 1.062.

Boil.

Boil.

I did the ice tub chill-down of the wort and it went reasonably quickly. I rehydrated the dry yeast in water while I finished cooling the wort. I then transferred the wort to a bottling bucket for primary fermentation. I wound up with just under 5 gallons. I added water to bring it up to about 5-1/2 gallons and the FG nailed the 1.053 target! (Using my hydrometer and correcting for temperature.) The sample was malty/sweet (which will convert) and very tasty. It actually separated pretty quickly and the wort is a nice color.

Nice color in the sample.

Nice color in the sample.

I put the sample in the fridge to look at/taste again later. I pitched the yeast at about 1:45 pm. Over the next few hours, I did not see any action in the airlock and I noticed a small drip around the spigot. I decided around 7:00 pm, that I should go ahead and transfer to another bucket, since efforts to tighten the spigot did not stop the leak. I took advantage of the opportunity to aerate some more in the process of the transfer. I also realized that the temperature in the house had gone up to 77F, so I turned on the A/C. Crossing my fingers that I get some action overnight. I am a little concerned with the temperature fluctuations. The wife will complain about the house being too cold and how much it costs, when she gets home from a business trip in a couple of days. Then the temp will go up again. The yeast’s  upper range is up to 71F  for fermentation temps, ideally. It could have an effect, but it should be ok, at worst. (I hope!)

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