Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mill Run Stout - All Grain II

IBU__ OG1.045

After the poor body of the previous brew a Stout seems a reasonably strong ale to re-start from. Given the choice of 3 recipes, Eskimo Bob's House Stout, Pensans brewery's award winning Dark & Roasty and Palmers Mill Run Stout I've opted for the latter. The recipes are all very similar but I chose the Palmer recipe admittedly out of laziness because it's a 19L recipe and the other 2 are 23L. From the start I should have realised that the quantity of roasted barley in Palmers recipe is almost 1/2 that used in the other recipes.

Full mash: Marris otter pale malt, flaked maize, crystal malt & roasted barley
1hr single infusion mash @ 67oc
Fly sparge ~45minutes

Boil - First wort hopping
Hop additions at __ & __ minutes
whirlfloc tables @ 20minutes

Pitched yeast at 35oc
23L wort @ 1.035
as opposed to 19L @ 1.050
due to collecting too much wort and not enough reduction during the boil

After some recent slow fermentations I'm changing my tactics and going for a week in primary and no secondary fermentor. After a week the gravity is down to 1.013 which is my best (lowest) yet.

The Beer is a very dark brown, far from being black. Although it hasn't matured yet the flavour is pleasantly smokey and a bit nutty, not dissimilar to a very nice real ale stout I supped in the Malt Shovel tavern recently.

I will certainly try both Eskimo's recipe and the Pensans recipe in future which will be darker and I think will produce better results.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Hardwick Special Bitter - All Grain 1

First of all thanks everyone on the Home Brew Forum for all the great advice over the last few months, I'd never have got to this stage without y'all. My first all grain is an English Special Bitter that I've produced before with great sucess using extract and crystal malt. It's based on a Palmer Recipe but I've altered nearly every part of it so I feel it's ok to share.

19L recipe
3.0kg Maris Otter Pale
250g crystal
0.5kg Flaked Maize

35IBU total
17IBU - Northern brewer 60min 14g
11IBU - Goldings 30min 24g
7IBU - Goldings 15min 23g + werlflock tablet (free from H&G order)

mashed for 60minutes
15L strike water @ 74.5oc (ratio of 4L/kg)
69oc strike temp
64.5oc final temp

Photos here -

Doughing in

I pre-warmed the tun with 2L of boiling water poured through the top with a funnel. After doughing in there was initially a good few inches of liquid ontop of the grain but the grain swelled to accomodate this nicely. Could maybe fit in a double recipe at a squeeze?



A nice 45minute Fly-sparge where the 2 taps were essential for regulating flow.

The T-bar sparge arm worked nicely

Lauter water 13L @ 80.5oc
collected ~ 25L wort

Stong boil with rapid hot break dispersal. The burner is only 8.5kw but I run it flat out and the final boil volume was ~17L so I lost 7L (a whopping 28% reduction over 1hr)

Left it to rest for 15minutes before cooling. I'd already got the CFC going using a recirculating system based around a 5gal fermenting bucket and a £10 pond pump. This water wound up at ~ 40oc and I used it to clean the boiler out with.

Cold Break

There was a lot of cold break but I didn't see any hot break

Pitched the yeast @ 34oc (a bit warm)
Final Gravity @ 1.0467 (corrected to 15oc)
aimed for 1.047Smile

Will have to work out my efficiency sometime

cost= 11.3p/ 500mlExclamation
People were sceptical when I reported on here that MrWallis of the Pensans brewery had told me he could brew beer for ~ 20p/ pint Smile All I did was buy a 25kg sack of Maris otter from my local microbrewery for £20, the 20kg sack of flaked maize was £5 from a local horse feed shop.

can't wait to drink it

Results 8.11.06
Oh dear - the first all grain has had a few weeks in the fermentors, over a week pressurised and conditioning and it's not looking good. I probably should have kept more of an eye on it but now I find large amounts of suspended particles which I presume is that cold break gunk. I hoped I had left most of this behind when I racked into the 2ndary. The body, colour and the flavour are weak although the brew is definately alcoholic.

Will add some finings overnight and hope for the best (that means that the chunks don't turn out to be mould!)

Monday, October 09, 2006

BrewV - Porter (John Palmer)

OG1.054 IBU35
Somewhere between a brown ale & a stout this beer is perfect for using up some spare ingredients I had knocking around, mostly darker malt extracts I bought during my original mix and match purchase at the HBS. Loosely following the Porter-Palmer recipe with the addition of 250g crystal malt and using Challenger & Goldings in place of the American hops. The addition of crystal malt in previous recipes provided a vast improvement in flavour over straight extract beers adding a caramel flavour & better head. Before moving on to all grain brewing I thought I'd take the chance to try out a full boil for the first time. I feel that I can divulge the recipe for this one becuase I have completely adapted it from the published porter recipe all previous recipes are as per Palmers book.

Challenger 8% - 60minutes - 22g 21IBU
Goldings 5% - 40minutes - 23g 12IBU
Goldings 5% - 20minutes - 14g 5IBU

(19L recipe)
1.6kg diastatic malt extract
1kg medium spraymalt
0.5kg dark spraymalt
250g crystal malt - steeped

Procedure- Full boil 22L (19L final)
Given that this is quite a strong flavoured beer it's a good one to experiment with. I completely reworked the hopping, taking into account the new full boil gravity & different alpha acid% hops. I maintained the same boil shedule & IBU's. Unlike previous boils this has a schedule of hop additions (in 1hr count down fashion) of 60minutes, 40minutes & 20 minutes. This means I guess I'll get little or no aroma but some very strong flavour from the hops, the procedure inkeeps with the style of this beer.

As per advice from the HBForum (where I have learnt so much) it's best to dissolve the spray malt in the boil water whilst it is still quite cool and then liquid malt extract when it is really hot, mixing it in with a large whisk. The 8.5kw burner achieved a rolling boil within 20 minutes and I added the hops in cotton hop bags to keep them enclosed.

The only original ingenuity I used in this brew was with my cooling method, the counterflow cooler uses hose water to cool the hot wort which is let through the exchanger slowly. Blikman engineering claim the unit will cool 5gal of boiling wort to ~25oc in 20minutes. I purchased a small pond pump for £10 and used it to recirculate 5gal of cooling water (in a brew bucket) through the exchanger in order to dramatically reduce water wastage. The wort ran a little fast and was cooled to 40oc in ~ 5minutes. The spent cooling water was leaving the exchanger at a dramatic 78oc and left the 5gal body terminally at ~ 50oc -> perfect for me to clean the boil kettle & hoses with. In future I recognise that I will need more cooling water to cool the wort more effectively possibly 10gal.

For the 3rd sucessive brew (after topping up the wort to 19L) I pitched the yeast at 35oc and saw activity in under 10minutes. Overnight a healthy 2" krausen (foam head) grew with some agressive airlock activity. Hydrometer readings indicate that the brew is stronger than anticipated with a gravity od~ 1.060, this would be due to the additioal 250g crytsal malt .

Dark brown & very drinkable, a pleasant caramel flavour works well with the strong bitter tone. The beer has almost no nose. I could drink this beer all day & it could work well with mixed gas and a creamer nozzle (like guinness.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Progress - All grain & full boil

Some original goals complete. Over the last 2 months I've experimented with some different hop varieties, different malt extracts & a few different beer styles. Recently results have been very drinkable & since the first brew the process & calculations have become increasingly familiar and far easier. Now I've grasped the extract and hop utilization side of brewing it's time to complicate it a little further with all-grain brewing. Most of the beers I've made so far used mostly liquid extract and a bit of spray malt working out at ~ £0.65/pint, brewing with actual malt is far cheaper. Recently I constructed a 30L cool box mash tun & purchased a 25kg sack of crushed pale malt from the Great Oakley microbrewery; my aspirations to all grain brewing and particuarly the brewing of the more delicately flavoured lager beers (utilizing refrigeration) are getting closer to hand.

Equipment -
Since before I started all this brewing I somewhat ambitiously constructed a 50L boil kettle in the form of an adapted stainless steel beer keg & an 8.5kwatt propane burner (see equipment gallery.) I also purchased a Blikman Engineering Therminator (counter flow cooler) which I have been unable to use so far because the boil volume is often as little as 7L after the hours boil.* It seems stupid that I'm only carrying out partial boils of 11.5L in my 50L kettle but my intention has been to try out a few recipes until I find I can make a really drinkable beer.

Now I can start using the equipment properly. With all-grain brews there is no option but to boil the full brew volume whilst I can adjust the extract recipes to a full boil of 19L if needed (the actual boil volume would Ideally be 22L allowing for 10% reduction.) In a larger boil volume the hops are used more efficiently and so the quantity can be reduced. The kettle still provides enough room to produce 2 kegs per brew.

I’m particuarly keen to continue with the English Special Bitter recipe and develop it further. Using the originally specified “Target” bittering hops, this same hop combined with Goldings is that used to make my favourite beer – Frog Island “Natterjack” (microbrewery Northampton UK.) Further to this I know what % the beer is and that it's made with pale 2row malt and malted wheat. My aim is to create something similar to this beer by matter of trial and error with these ingredients. I can even recover the same yeast because with bottle conditioned beers it is possible to culture it from the sediment in the bottle.

With other recipes such as the IPA's I'd like to repeat them and try out various hop varieties, I do love a good Pale Ale such as Green King and Sierra Nevada. Once I've got the hang of mashing grains, fruity wheat beers will be on the menu also.

*I have read in published scientific papers that the ideal boil reduction is 10% of the wort volume during the boil, this allows for sufficient coagulation of proteins etc and this is why often a powerful burner is desirable.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

BrewIV - India Pale Ale (J.Palmer)

OG 1.062 IBU~59
As you can see the IPA is a bit stronger than traditional British Bitter in both alcohol and bitterness, this was originally intended to preserve the beer better as it travelled to India. Steeping 250g crystal malt as before and using malt extract, this brew is essentially the same procedure as the English Special Bitter (previous brew) but gives me the chance to use some different hops.

Bittering Hops: Challenger (8%) instead of Nugget (12%)
Aroma: Goldings(5%)
Dry Hop: Goldings (5%) (in secondary fermentor)

Procedure -
11.5L partial Boil
cooling by dilution to 19L
(steeping see English Special Bitter)

Diastatic malt? I like the fact that liquid malt extract is cheaper than the spray malt but I prefer spray malt because its easy to weigh & handle. The cincinnati pale ale used 1/2 and 1/2 spray and liquid but I won't be doing that again because spray costs so much more. They only had the diastatic liquid malt at the Local Home brew shop (LHBS) and the colour is <15 whilst the light I usually use is 8-12, the price is the same and essentially its the same stuff so no problem. The recipe calls for slightly more than the 1.6kg can so I made up the rest by splitting a bag of spray malt.

7g of Youngs GP yeast took well overnight with a good inch of krausen the next day. The brew vigorously fermented for 3 days and then slowed. Lessons learnt though i'm giving it a couple of more days in the primary before racking it into the 2ndary fermentor. For some reason since I started steeping crystal malts the 2ndary fermentation is taking a lot longer. This beer as with the ESB is spending a long time at 1.020 with CO2 being produced and the yeast actively in suspension.

I've chosen to dry hop in the 2ndary instead of adding the Goldings in the last 5minutes of the boil. This is an option in Palmers recipe and I figured that this will better suit my personal taste & my nose.

Results -
Strong in both bitterness & alcohol. Harsh & unpleasant with no fruity qualities that might otherwise redeem this brew. The problem could be a result of poor quality dry hops. Will make a good mixer for Shandy.

8.11.06 - Apparently stronger beers take longer to mature. Now it's had a good month to mature this beer is tasting pretty smooth. Definately redeemed its-self.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Brew III - English Special Bitter (J.Palmer)

OG 1.047 35IBU
Since the last beer I've moved up a step from just using malt extract to steeping some grain. Steeping grains are commonly known in the UK as crystal malts, these grains have already had their starch converted into soluble sugars through mashing and then they have been roasted to dry/ partially caramelise the sugars. I'm using crystal malt to try and make up for the dry flavour of the previous beer as this should add more complex & unfermentable sugars as well as some fresher grain flavours. The only additional skill you need is being able to work out the infusion temperature using Palmers straightforward equations i.e. You will need to steep the grain at ~75oC to extract the sugars and so you need to know what temperature 1L of water needs to be so that when you add it to 250g of grain (@ room temp) you end up with the correct temperature.

Bittering Hops: Target (10%) substitued with Northern Brewer (11%)
Aroma Hops: Goldings (5%)
Addition of 250g crystal malt

Procedure -
11.5L partial Boil
cooling by dilution to 19L

To steep the 250g of crystal malt I used 1L of water at 77 oC for 1/2 an hour, with the malt contained in a cotton bag (otherwise used for hops.) Assuming the grain is at room temp ~ 20 oC then to achieve the right temperature 1L of water needs to be 84.3 oC. In practice this worked out well and the mixture took up most of a 2L jug and evened out at 79 oC, insulated with a few towels. Steeping grain like this is a nice step towards all grain as it is simple lautering and the calculations are a good introduction.

I pitched just one 7g sachet of Youngs GP brewing yeast and there was activity within the hour. As before the brew fermented agressively for the first 3 days and then I racked it into a secondary fermentor. After a week in the secondary fermentor the gravity is still 1.020 so I may have racked from the primary a little early, I'll just have to wait a bit longer. I cannot currently see a need for yeast starters or wort oxygenation but I'm sure this will change when the brews get bigger. I read that pitching rates do have an effect on beer flavours.

Results - One to repeat :)
Clean flavoured, dark, hazy, sweet with a rounded bitter flavour. Even after nearly 3 weeks in the 2ndary
this beer is little below 1.020 gravity, gradual activity was evident during the first 2 weeks particuarly. The haze is odd considering I added the steeped wort from the crystal malt at the begining of the boil which proceeded to be very fierce. Final boil volume was down to ~ 7.5L from 11.3L and 10% reduction is industry standard. I waited nearly 20 minutes for the hot break and I'm not sure if it came or not as the boil was still very frothy. During the hot break the proteins in the boil that form the haze should be completely denatured, I could have problems here because the brew is so concentrated? The great thing about using the corny's as 2ndary fermentors (see my equipment) is that once fermentation is complete all I have to do is take off the gas post/ blow off tube, pressurise & draw off ~250ml which includes any yeast sediment (+ finings if added) then the beer can be conditioned / drunk directly from the same corny. Unfortunately I still haven't managed to let it mature for long.

Brew II - Cincinnati Pale Ale (J.Palmer)

This recipe is early on in the book and is suggested as a first attempt at brewing with extracts & hops. A pale ale is a good place to start as it has a relatively strong flavour. OG1.045 30IBU

Bittering Hops: Nugget(12%) substituted with Goldings (5%)
Aroma Hops: Cascade(5%) substituted with Saaz (3%)
Dry Hopping: Saaz (in 2ndary fermentor)

Equipment -
The recipe is a partial boil and so you only need a 11.5L pot to boil in before diluting the brew up to 19L in the fermentor. Remember to use cotton hop bags in the boil kettle- they save a lot of time trying to seive out the hops from your wort. For a fermentor I use a 30L wine fermentor with an airlock in the top & I use a corny keg as a 2ndary fermentor. There is no need to use an airlock on the corny it's already equipt' for a blow off tube using a gas connect and a length of tubing with its end submerged in water (I find a demijohn is perfect.) The small amount of sediment left in the corny after fermentation has finished can be drawn off in the first 1/2 pint from the keg and disgarded.

Procedure -
In addition to the instructions in Palmers book I followed some great advice I've picked up from the internet. Using 2 fermentors is straightforward enough, the beer should ferment vigorously for a few days, the recipe states 10 days but this IPA fermented agressively and virtually dry in 3 days flat. Once the fermentation shows signs of slowing transfer the beer into the 2ndary fermentor essentially leaving behing the large quantity of yeast in the bottom. This yeast if the beer were to be left on it for a long period can often begin to die and cause off flavours.

It's common to dry hop IPA’s to produce nice floral smells so I added 1/2 oz saaz in to the 2ndary fermentor in a hop bag (cotton.) After the fermentation had finished completely (after another week) I added Finings, these make the yeast clump together and fall to the bottom of the fermentor. 24hrs later I sucked off the sediment and transferred the beer into another corny using a jumper of 2 black connects joined by 30cm of pipe. Here I used a gas system to pressurise the beer to 5psi for storage/ maturation which should be a minimum of 2 or 4 weeks.

Results -
Great colour, good foamy head, dry taste, stong hopp flavour but lacking the floral nose I wanted. My deduction is that the varieties of hops I used weren’t quite right. I've since found out that Goldings are essentially British aroma hops and make great British bitters. Saaz are continental lager hops and again are commonly used as aroma hops so I got the use right but they aren't really the right flavor for this IPA style. I will try this IPA again in exactly the same way but I will use Northern Brewer (11%) or Target (10%) for the bittering hops and Goldings for the aroma hops.

The Dry taste is my major criticism and is a result of the yeast using up most/all the sugars in the wort, this might be common with extract beers possibly because they contain virtually 100% fermentable sugars but I can't be sure of this. This could be in small part due to my yeast choice too as my safale ale yeast 300ml starter jar failed and so I had to pitch some saflager yeast for the first 24hrs and then some Youngs Ale yeast the next day when I got to the HB shop.

I failed to leave the beer to mature (recommended >4 weeks) after I racked it from the secondary. The only way around this I think is to start a routine of brewing every couple of weeks on a designated brew day i.e. Monday, so that I’ve got several beers on the go at once i.e. one in primary, one in secondary etc & so theoretically each batch eventually gets time to mature before drinking.

Getting the Ball Rolling - John Palmer

To get the ball really rolling I read as much as I could on the internet for a couple of months, then I took the plunge and invested in a decent brewing book. After some advice from a UK web forum – see links – I bought John Palmers How to Brew. This is a real “tome” and fundamentally tackles the hows and why’s of homebrewing beer encompassing some deep science. The book takes you on 3 steps from brewing with malt extract then moving into steeping speciality grains such as crystal malt (to create a more authentic flavour) and finally into all grain mashing. There aren’t a lot or recipes in here but they are excellent recipes and cover all the popular beer styles, by the time you’ve understood the book you’ll be more than well equipped to confidently make your own recipes.

My own aim is to brew some fine Lagers once I’ve eventually got the hang of all grain brewing.

A Good Start

Starting off making Bitters using malt extract is a good idea for several reasons. The beer can be fermented and matured at room temperature and great bitters can be made using malt extract which is straight forward to work with. The stronger flavours of bitters mean that it’s more forgiving, you are more likely to achieve a drinkable beer even if you make a few small mistakes.

Basic Skills & Calculations

Working out hop utilisations is essential. GCSE maths will get you through the straightforward calculations. The reason this is so important is that quite often, particularly with American recipes, the hop variety specified can not be found and a substitute has to be made. The substitute will nearly always have a different Alpha Acid content (% AAU) and so the weight of hops you use will have to be altered to make up for this.

To keep things simple I decided to stop fighting it and stick with using the recipes often “old fashioned units,” each of Palmers recipes makes 5 US gals and this is fortunately the same as 1 Cornelius 19L keg so it suits me fine. Converting weights and measures all the time is one of the most likely sources of confusion/ mistake in a recipe so I decide to just follow the units in the recipes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brew I - Lessons learned

I've been brewing fruit wines since my father took the hobby whilst I was a child. I remember being fascinated by what he was up to, probably because it was like some kind of mad science experiment with all the vivid colours in clear glass demijohns and mystical bubbling arilocks. I performed a few brews in the form of mostly Strawberry wines and Elderberry wines and had varied sucess. I still have some elderberry in the rack that I made when I was 12 years old and its certainly among the best wine I've ever tasted, or certainly made at least.

Beer was always a bit more adventurous a bit more mysterious and complicated, with many wine making books including recipes but no real confidence inspiring reasoning behind the beer brewing process. I attempted one 20pint brew from a Boots Lager kit using granulated sugar to make up the gravity as instructed on the packet. The result was horrendous..... but to be fair I really didn't know what I was doing and so since the age of 15 I stopped homebrewing and pursued other interests.

During my Biology & Microbiology Degree @ Warwick University UK my interest in brewing grew again in the form of a new challenge. I was oringinally looking at producing large quantities or ginger beer and searching for recipes etc on the internet. These searches obviously turned up a lot of beer making websites. These mostly american sites were an inspiration, here people have proudly posted photos and descriptions of their home breweries with often plans, recipes & all the detail involved. I realised that most of the equipment can be home made, is relatively cheap and that brewing beer although can be achieved by somebody with only a small amount of scientific knowledge could pose a vast challenge to somebody like myself wanting to get into the hows and why's of this fundamentally microbiological industry.

Brew I
I borrowed my mothers 2gal jam pansion, recovered an old boots pressure barrel (which cost me £2.50 at a car boot sale) and bought a fermentor for £10 from Wilcos. So I was ready for my first brew using simple malt extract. The intelligent thing to do I know now would have been to visit my local home brew store and buy a simple canned kit to start off with which with the addition of extra malt extract (never add sugar) would have produced me a very drinkable first beer. Instead I went to the homebrew shop, bought a bit of everything including some assorted packs of dried hops which at the time I had no clue about and went about bodging some recipes I found on the internet. The result was drinkable but not the bitter that it was planned to be. It was a dark stout through using a can of dark malt and ludicrously over hopped as I had guestimated my hop weights instead of working out the AAU's and kettle utilization of the hops bitterness.
Trial and error - often the best way to learn. I learnt a lot in this first brew and most of all about dispensing the beer. The pressure barrel is useless without a compressed gas system! The best option I found was I bought a "stainless steel tyre valve" and bolted it into the top, using this with a hand held CO2 bicycle tyre inflator to pressurise the beer.