Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beer is bottled

So, my first all-grain batch is a wrap.  I let it ferment for about a week and checked the gravity.  It was down to 1.012 which was just a little higher than I wanted.  I decided to let it go another week and then some.  I bottle it today and got about 19-liters of finished beer at 1.010 FG.  It tastes quite good, bitter, but not overwhelming.  It has a nice nutty taste and I’m really curious to see how it will carbonate up and taste at refrigerated temps.

Mild Mannered Ale

At some point, I really want to start harvesting yeast.  I pitched a 1.5 liter starter on this beer and it fermented out quite well.  It really is amazing that you start with a single vial of yeast and what you end up with at the end.  The flocculation on this yeast was really great and I was able to rack-off almost all of the beer without sucking up any yeast.  Here is what was left.

Lots of yeast!

I recovered almost 4-cups of yeast from the fermenter that I really hated to pour down the drain.  But, I just don’t have a good way to store it right now.  Hopefully later, I can get a canning setup and start to sterilize some jars and same some yeast from beer to beer to start and lower my costs a bit.  Next report:  How it tastes!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First all-grain beer (well, almost…)

So, I’ve been away from the blog for a while.  I’ll try to keep things current a little better this year on what is going on.

As discussed in one of my previous blogs, one of the regulars on HomebrewTalk (HBT) posted a method for all-grain brewing on the stovetop.  Typically, people that tackle all-grain brewing, have a little more space than an apartment including a large, outdoor propane cooker, a couple large pots for boiling water and a cooler to use as a mash tun.  Not having all this space, outdoor cookers and coolers, I tried the simpler approach detailed above.

When I was in the US over Christmas, I brought back lot’s of ingredients and a few supplies to make beer.  To all those that ask, YES, I can buy the stuff over here, but it is not as easy and honestly, the availability of items here in Europe (at least what I’ve found) is not as great as what is available in the USA.  Home brewing is just not as popular here.

So, I picked a good  English mild, Brown ale-type recipe from the HBT archives.  Since I was not able to get all my pale malt back from the US, I was a little short on the recipe…hence the “almost” in the title of the blog.  I did end up using about 1/2 pound of dry malt extract to get my gravity where I wanted it.

So, I loaded all my information into my Beersmith software and adjusted quantities a bit to keep the color, OG, IBUs and other parameters correct for the style.

The recipe started as “Mild Mannered Ale” by Orfy on HBT and I tweaked it a bit.  Thanks Orfy, I don’t know you, but the recipe looks good.  Here is the final recipe I used:

  • 5-lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 1-lb Carmel/Crystal 80
  • 4-oz Carmel/Crystal 10 (because of not enough C80)
  • 4.5-oz Chocolate Malt
  • 0.5-lbs Light Malt Extract (late edition with 15min left)
  • 0.87-oz Fuggles (60 minutes)
  • 0.87-oz Fuggles (15 minutes)
  • 1-tsp Irish moss (15 minutes)
  • 1-vial Whitelabs WLP005 British Ale yeast

I actually started this beer on Sunday with a yeast starter.  Since I am forced to ship my liquid yeasts in from the US and who knows how well they have been stored, I have started doing starters for all my batches if nothing else but to verify the health of the yeast on 2-liters of beer without risking 5-gallons of wort.

Yeast starter

I use a small 3-liter water bottle that I got here in Paris to do my starters.  This starter was started Sunday, so it is about 3-days old in this picture.  You can tell it is “done” because the beer has cleared and all the yeast is settled to the bottom waiting on more food.

Before pitching this yeast starter, I decanted about 1/2 of the liquid, shook vigorously and then pitched the rest into my fermenter.

To get started, I used Beersmith to calculate my water temps and volumes of water.  I had just 6.5-lbs of grain, so I chose 10-quarts of mash water, giving me 1.53 qt/lb of water-to-grain ratio and heated that up to 166°F.Strike water coming up to temperature After hitting my temp, I shut off the burner, configured my LARGE mesh bag and added my grains.  I was shooting for 153°F and hit it I think.  I got my  new SST thermometer while in the USA for Christmas.  All was great except the two thermometers would not agree.  My older floating thermometer reads about 6° high, so I wasn’t sure which one to believe.  I need to calibrate this later with my thermocouple to see which one is correct.

153-degrees is the target

I held the grains at temperature for 60-minutes.  I mostly kept the cover on, but would open it about every 10-minutes to check my temperature.  A few times I added some heat with the burner and also added some ice cubes to keep my temperatures where I wanted them.  I saw as high as 166°F on my floating thermometer.  Time will tell if I killed the enzymes.

I moved my mash tun to the back burner and started heating up my sparge water.  The plan was to do a large “batch sparge” where I remove all the grains from the mash tun and simply dunk them in the sparge water to remove the final sugars.

Mashing and heating up the sparge water

Going on the advice of the HBT article, I chose 18-quarts of sparge water as the more I used, the higher my efficiency should be.  While I was doing the process, I thought I had really messed up with the quantity of water I had to boil, but it really turned out okay.  After mashing for 1-hour, my sparge water was up to temperature and it was time to commence with the process.

Draining the grains

I  drained the grains as best I could and then sent them to the sparge water for a 10-minute rinse.  I was shooting for a sparge of 170°F, so I heated my water to about 180°F.  SpargingIt worked out pretty well.  I mixed them every couple of minutes and tried to keep them “rinsing.”  Remember, the goal is to get the last bit of sugar out of the grains.  After this step, drain the drains again and compost or discard.  I live in an apartment, so I discarded them in the trash.  Just take a look at those first-runnings!  Nice, rich, thick wort.  I meant to measure the gravity of this, but it was too hot and I didn’t want to waste any!

Man, that is some nice looking wort!  After that, pour the first runnings into the second sparge water pot and combine the first and second runnings.  At this point, you’re making beer like normal, bringing to a boil and then starting your hop additions.  So, I was using my tape measure to calculate the volume of my boil and this is where I started getting worried.  As I measured the diameter and depth of my wort, I was calculated 26-quarts, or 6.5 gallons.  I was a little worried that all of this was not going to fit into my better bottle.  So, I boiled for 15-minutes before starting the clock on my 60-minute boil.


At the “official” beginning of the boil, I added 25-grams (or about 0.87 ounces) of Fuggles that I picked up in London last fall.  My last experience making beer with an Octane IPA (a Midwest recipe), I just threw all the hop pellets into the boil.  With my small funnel and strainer setup (see below), that caused me a LOT of trouble trying to get all the beer into the fermenter.  Lovely leaf hops!So, this time, I decided to use a hop bag to contain most of the mess.  And, since these hops are leaf hops, it kept the mess to a minimum.  I think I’m going to use a bag from now on.

With 15-minutes left in the boil, I added the Irish moss and the last batch of Fuggles.  Also, since I was a little short on grain and I had opened a bag of dry malt extract, I figured I would just use it up.  So as not to make the beer darker than I wanted, I just added it at 15-minute before the end for “late extract addition.”  I finished out the boil, threw on my sanitized lid and moved the entire container to the bathtub.  Since I’m in an apartment, I’m trying not to accumulate too much equipment, so I don’t have a heat exchanger for cooling my wort.  I find that 1-hour in a cold water bath tub (filled as high as it will go) does the job.  It uses a lot of water, but it works and that is all I have right now.

Checking temperature for pitchingNext,  moved back into the kitchen and verified my temperature.  It was about 70°F, which is about right.  I used a 1-quart, Pyrex measuring cup to transfer the wort from my boiling pot to my fermenter.  Once the level gets down to about 1/3, Here comes the mess--I need my larger funnel!!I usually tip the whole thing into the fermenter.  This is where I made my huge mess because I’m pouring into a 4-inch funnel.  I bought a nice funnel from Midwest supplies over Christmas, but the damn thing was too big to get into my luggage.

I took one sample to check my gravity and it looked good.  My target according to Beersmith was 1.038, which is at the high end of the style guidelines for a Mild, but that’s okay.  I ended up with 1.040 which is pretty close for my first all-grain beer.  Hit my OG target on the nose: 1.040The only thing I “worry” about is if I didn’t convert all the starch to sugar, would the gravity reading be the same?  The beer cleared during the mash which for me, means that the starch was converted to sugar, but I’m not sure.  There is so much stuff floating around in there, it is sometimes hard to tell.  Time will tell I guess.  But, if everything goes as planned, this beer should finish out to a 3.5% beer which should be a real nice drinking beer that you can enjoy a couple without worrying about how  you’ll feel the next day.  In other words, it will be VERY different from the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA that I’m sipping on right now!  I love this beer, but it packs a wallop!

As I described above, I made a 1.5 liter starter on Sunday with Whitelabs WLP005.  It has completely fermented out the limited sugars I gave it and had settled out nicely in my water jug.  I decanted off about 1/2 of the liquid and then put the lid on the jug.  I shook it up vigorously and then pitched everything into the fermenter.  First nightI setup my blow-off tube and left the beer in the kitchen over night.  My previous experience with using yeast starters is that the yeast are ready to go NOW and they don’t waste any time.   My last IPA I made created quite a mess in my bedroom after I pitched a 2-liter yeast starter in overnight.  I had a blow-off tube setup, but it couldn’t keep up with the volume of foam coming out of the top of the fermenter and made a mess of my floor and walls.  mess..It cleaned up okay and no permanent damage wasmore mess. done, so I count myself lucky.  The pictures don’t really do it justice.  Check back here to find out how the beer finishes up and the taste results!  Thanks for reading.  -Matt