Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rules For 10 Gallon Batches

You've been there. Well, if you have a system capable of 10 gallon batches you may have been there. You've done the 5 hour brew day, pitched your yeast and waited (somewhat) patiently for the yeast to do it's work. You then wait another week or two for maturation. Finally it's time to try your latest concoction, low and behold, it's underwhelming.

Maybe you haven't been there, but I've been there more than I like to think about. Now I'm stuck with 10 gallons of a beer where all I can think about is how well it didn't turn out. So the following are a set of rules and/or questions I ask myself before brewing 10 gallon batches.

  1. Is this a tried and true recipe? If not by me than someone I trust?
  2. How well do I like this style normally? Do I really want 10 gallons of it?
  3. Will I be aging any of this beer?
  4. How fresh are the ingredients I'll be using? Am I cleaning out the refrigerator? If so it's probably not a good idea for a 10 gallon batch, old ingredients can make a beer underwhelming.
  5. Will the style last a few months?  Is it a NEIPA that needs to be drank right up or a Barley Wine that will last years?
So there it is. But really, the important ones I think about first are number 1 and number 4. You should know it's a good recipe and that you're using fresh ingredients that will yield good results. If you have both of these just one of the others is enough for me to brew that 10 gallon batch. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Summer Time Brew Days

A typical brew day lasts around 4 hours which breaks down something like this:

  • Heat mash water and crush grain- 20 minutes-ish
  • Mash 1 hour
  • 30 minutes left in mash start heating sparge water
  • Mash out - 10 minutes.
  • Vorlauf and sparge - about 15 minutes
  • Heat to boil and boil + clean mash tun - 75 minutes
  • Chill 20-30 minutes
  • Transfer, pitch and cleanup - 15 minutes
Watch a lot of old BrewingTV episodes and many other homebrewing video podcasts during this entire process and drink anything on tap.

That's pretty typical for early spring, winter and late fall in N.Y. I spend a lot of time waiting for things to happen as many homebrewers do. I usually drink too much, listen to music, or watch TV.

The late spring, summer and early fall are a different story. I manage my brew days much more efficiently when the weather is good. Because while we all love brewing, it shouldn't be a reason to neglect our other responsibilities. This is a typical summertime brew day.

  • Heat mash water and crush grain - 20 minutes
  • Mash 1 hour
Now while the grains are mashing I do one of several things.

  • Weed wack and mow my lawn
  • Small home repairs ( I patched the roof of my barn last time, cleaned my lawn furniture the time before that)
  • Care for my hops
  • Exercise
  • Clean my motorcycle/cars
  • etc....
You get the idea. Mashing is no longer a time for twiddling my thumbs, watching football or getting drunk. It's time I can use to make sure I'm getting things done.

The same goes for the boil. I set my timers for hop additions on my phone and I do chores until that timer goes off, make my hop drop, then set my next timer and continue my chores. I'm still around in case something were to happen but I'm not wasting time.

 My homebrew club members have often asked how I find time to brew as often as I do, well this is part of the trick. If my wife has plans for us on Sunday I don't skip brewing on Saturday to get my chores done, I weave brewing and chores together.

While this does make for somewhat of an exhausting day it hasn't killed me yet and I feel like I accomplished something at the end of the day. Plus I have 5-10 gallons of beer to show for it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Mash Tun = Better Efficiency

I'm not sure what about my new mash tun is responsible for delivering better efficiency but I expect it just holds temp much better than my cooler mash tun did, especially since the cooler was so warped.

When I ran into some extra cash in March this year I used a small portion to buy a Chapman 15 gallon stainless insulated mash tun.

Since then I've had to adjust all my recipes for improved efficiency. I went from 70% to 76% efficiency and this is the only piece in my setup that has changed. I even get that with 11 gallon batches.

I have noticed that as long as the temperature outside is above freezing I don't lose even 1 degree with this tun. If it's quite cold out (25F and less) I'll lose about 2 degrees in an hour, pretty damn good.

The features I absolutely love:

  1. This tun has a hanger for the lid that doubles as fixed position holder for the lid. I can't tell you how many times I knocked my old tun lid on the floor or had to go looking for it.
  2. Thermometer - I did not have a thermometer on my old tun so I had to open it up to check temps. This small addition is very convenient and I love it.
  3. Recalculation Port - Even with 11 gallon batches I was still picking up the hot liquor kettle and dumping it into the mash tun because holding the hose in place with a clamp always seemed to make a mess. Now I  use my pump with quick disconnects and I have one less risk point during my brew days. My back is also thanking me.
  4. Cleanup - It may seem silly but this tun is super easy to clean and doesn't stain like my old tun did. It has a lip on the bottom that's a nice grip for pouring soap and water out, just another small but nice feature.
  5. No leaks! I was constantly dealing with small valve port leaks on my cooler tun. Not once with this baby.
  6. It's stainless so it should be my last mash tun purchase. I have built 2 other mash tuns up to this point and I don't think I'll ever need another new tun.
The things I don't love:
  1. Price - While this was the most inexpensive insulated stainless tun I could find it was still $370. I could build 4-5 cooler tuns for that price.
Sorry, that's it. There are really no other negatives to this mash tun.

If you have some expendable cash and are in need of a new mash tun i would definately recommend this tun. I love mine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Real Ale


Lately I've been on another low abv kick. I like to drink multiple beers, I'm not a 1 or 2 and done sort of guy. This causes a couple problems of course. One is inebriation, the other is weight gain. My average homebrew runs around 6-6.5% abv which can land around 250-300 calories a bottle. That's significant when you're drinking 4,5,6789 of them.

My experience with English Ales

The above has lead me to researching English ales, more specifically real ales. I've made plenty of porters, stouts and even English Barleywine but only one ESB in the past that turned out far too malty. So I made another attempt but this time an Ordinary Bitter. This was a pretty well balanced beer but it lacked the firm bitterness of the style. I think I did three things wrong.

  1. I used an even ratio of calcium chloride to sulfate with RO water. I should have used 3:1 sulfate to calcium chloride like I would for an American IPA
  2. I used an intentionally low BU:GU ratio because I'm not a huge fan of super bitter beers. I used .63 instead of .83. I'll adjust for this next time
  3. I used too much crystal malt. 7% c15 and 7% c55. I should have kept the total of both to less than 10%. In the future I plan to use 1 crystal malt, a darker variety, and keep it to 7% of the grist. I think that will help lean the balance toward bitterness.

The new recipe: Trimmed Down Bitter

Batch Size 5.5gal
OG = 1.032
ABV 3.3%
IBUs 27.6
SRM 9.8
BU:GU .864

  • 8.5 gal total RO water
  • 3/4 tsp gypsum (about 8g)
  • 1/4 tsp calcium chloride (about 3g)
  • 1/8 tsp epsom (about 1.5g)
  • 92% Thomas Fawcett floor malted maris otter
  • 7% Bairds British 135/165 crystal
  • 13.3 IBUs Challenger @ 60min
  • 10.3 IBUs EKG @ 25min
  • 3.9 IBUs EKG @ 5min
  • 2oz EKG @ flameout (in place of  cask hopping)
  • 1 pkg London Ale III
  1. Mash grains with 3 gallons of RO water and salt additions for 60 minutes
  2. Batch sparge / mash out with remaining water @ 170 for 10 minutes 
  3. vorlauf
  4. Slowly sparge into kettle. Should take about another 10 minutes to collect full volume. The 10 minute mash out and slow sparge improved efficiency for batch sparging.
  5. Boil for 60 mins, cool and transfer to fermenter, aerate, then pitch yeast.
The final method I'm going to use to improve and make my english ales more authentic is to cask them when I have an event I can share them and get rid of it quickly enough . So I spent way too much money on my homebrewing hobby and bought a pin cask.

Since I've never casked a beer, I brewed a porter to practice with before using it for my homebrew club's next meeting. Tonight I move the still fermenting porter into the cask. I checked it last night and it was about 75% through fermentation so it will go into the cask with finings and a fresh 200ml of wort to naturally carbonate it in the cask.

I'm also stealing this idea and building a cask jockey box this weekend. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Coconut Porter Dry Coconutting And Sample Tasting

I'm making a coconut porter. The base is a porter I've brewed several times now. I actually have the recipe locked and after 5 years of brewing it's only the third recipe I consider unchangeable. It's perfect for adjuncts because it's not too roasty or hoppy. It's english style, slightly chocolaty with very low esters so it's an easy drinker. I most recently used it for a vanilla porter and that turned out fantastic.

I've read several articles on the best way to add coconut to beer. I've also tasted a few samples and there seems to be a couple ways to make the flavor really stand out. One is to use a shit-ton of coconut, like 2lbs/gallon. That seems extreme. Another I gathered from tasting and that's to use a tincture or spirits barrel aging to enhance the flavor. The best coconut beer I ever had was aged in a rum barrel. I had that side by side with the version not aged it the barrel and it was like night and day.

Some people said to lace it through the entire brewing process (mash, boil, secondary), others say to roast the coconut and still others say to use sweetened coconut. With all this advice there's only one way to find out what really works and that's through trial and error. Here is what I did and some partial results. I'll be sure to post final tasting notes on this beer.

I brewed my porter per my normal process and added 1lb of unsweetened organic finely shredded coconut at knock out. After 1 week of fermentation I roasted 3 lbs of coconut in the oven at 300F making sure to turn it frequently (about every 4-5 minutes) to make sure it wouldn't burn. I stuffed all of that into a sanitized hop bag (I don't think it would filter out well).

Before adding the dry roasted coconut into the completely fermented porter I drew a sample to see how the 1 lb at knock out affected the beer. Unfortunately it didn't seem to add any coconut to the beer. The sample tastes exactly how I remember this beer tasting after fermentation and before carbonation. Slightly chocolatey very smooth and delicious but no coconut. Next time I do this I'll triple the coconut at knock out, hopefully the dry roasted coconutting will add some of the flavor I'm looking for. It it's not to my satisfaction I have another 4 lbs of coconut and I'll continue with a second dry coconutting.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tilt Hydrometer Formerly Brewometer Review Part 2

I wrote my first review of the Tilt about 7 weeks ago after my first brew with it. I've brewed about 6 beers since then so I think it's time to write the follow up and my final rating.

I now have 7 brews with the Tilt under my belt. I've calibrated it to the best of my ability without anymore extensive instructions than the Tilt Guide provides, which is none.

The Good

  1. It's simple. There's nothing diffult about Tilt. You sanitize it, install the app on a compatible device, copy the Google Docs sheet template, configure the app to use the template and away you go.
  2. It's clean and elegant. There's no charging ports or wires. It's a solid unit that has auto-on and auto-off. All you have to do is clean & santize then drop your carboy. You don't have to plug it in. You don't have to configure wifi on it. It's a solid smooth unit that's easy to wash.
  3. It just works. Not once have I had to reconnect it to the bluetooth device or fiddle with it because I dropped it in the Carboy and it's not showing in the app. Nope, it just works.
  4. It's relatively cheap at $120. The beerbug started at $250 or $300, it's now $200. No way I'm paying that to track a single fermenting beer. The Tilt is nearly half the price. You can buy multiples of differnt colors and track them all at the same time. Wicked!

The Bad

  1. At some point I'm going to have to change the batteries. Probably pretty soon because I brew so much. Not a huge negative but I'm sure it won't be fun.
  2. F.G. accuracy. No matter how many calibration points I enter into the Tilt i can't get it to match my glass hydrometer's F.G. The O.G. is spot on but F.G. needs correction, kind of like a refractometer but not as bad. It's usually only off by .002 SG, I can live with that.


By a fucking Tilt. Seriously, if you're considering a device that allows you to watch your beer ferment , this is the one to buy. Accurate temperature and gravity readings and ease of use sell me on this device. Not to mentions the stacking ability when you buy multiple colors. I haven't ordered my second Tilt yet but I will when there's room in the budget.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Simplifying Homebrewing - Grains

I recently purchased 12 - 1 gallon PET storage containers to hold my adjuncts and grains. I live quite a distance from the nearest homebrew supply store and since I'm not very good about planning my brew days I keep quite a few grains on hand. I thought 12 containers would be enough to hold the various bags of grain in my storage locker but I was just plain wrong. So now I'm going to attempt to outline what 12 grains I should have on hand that will allow me to brew the most variety of beers. I could just buy more containers but since I'm trying to be more budget conscious, and I have a limited amount of space I thought I would try this route.

Frequently Brewed Beers

I should probably start with a list of beers I know I brew repeatedly. That will help pick some of the grains to keep on hand.

  1. Panhead Supercharger Clone - About 2-4x/year.
  2. IPA 2x/year
  3. Hefe 2x/year
  4. Saison - 2x/year in the summer
  5. Brown Ale - 2-3x/year
  6. Porter - 2-3x/year
  7. Stout - 1-2x/year (Includes RIS)
  8. Barley Wine 1x/year
  9. Winter Warmer 1x/year
  10. Belgian Dark Strong 1x/year
  11. Munich Dunkel 1x/year
  12. Doppelbock 1x/year
  13. Sours 4x/year (Includes Kettle Soured)

Base Malt

I keep a 50lb bag of Briess 2-Row for my base malt but have found recently that I'm brewing a lot of English beers and I keep buying 10lb bags of Marris Otter. I'm contemplating a complete change to Marris Otter but it's going to mess with my brewing budget. 2-Row is $50, I think Marris Otter is more like $65 a bag.

Crystal Malts

I'm a huge fan of cherry and dark fruit flavors in my beers so I definately want Special B, British 135/165 and C120. The supercharger clone used c20 and honey malt so those are a must.

  1. Crystal 20
  2. Crystal 40 - Layering in Brown and amber ales
  3. Crystal 80 - Layering
  4. Crystal 120
  5. Crystal (british) 135/165
  6. Belgian Special B
Well there's half the containers just in crystal malts. After black malts there won't be much left. I could cut out the crystal 40 if I find I'm frequently missing something else but I think I can make this work.

Black Malts

My porter uses carafa II or midnight wheat, I like the wheat better. The stouts use chocolate and roast malt. If I include a black patent type malt I'm screwed for much else. I need a flaked barley for quite a few of these darker beers, especially if I ferment with a highly attenuative yeast it sort of rounds the beer out, so I'll leave off the black patent for now.
  1. Midnight Wheat or Carafa Special
  2. Chocolate Malt
  3. Roasted Barley

Other Malts

My stouts and porters also call for either flaked oats or flaked barley for some creaminess. If I have to choose just one I'll go with flaked barley, I think it adds a little more body with the creamy mouth feel.
  1. Honey Malt
  2. Flaked Barley
  3. Biscuit/Victory
Biscuit malt is good for layering in several types of beer. The munich dunkel, browns, porters and stouts all benefit from some biscuit malt. 

I left out wheat malt which I use quite frequently between the wheat beers and sours but those are beers I usually plan out a bit. They are seasonal like the Barleywine, BDS, Winter Warmer and Doppelbock.

I'm sure this list will change over time as my brewing tastes change, or I realize I missed something I use quite frequently.