Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ghetto Brew: Affordable advanced brewing! The mash tun.

This is the beginning of a new series on counterbrew about affordable Advanced Brewing.  In this series well try to show you all some common sense affordable methods for advanced home brewing.

Ok... I get it...I've said it before... I understand... you want the shiny bling...the mirror polished stainless $15,000.00 brewing system and the 14 gallon glycol controlled uni-tanks... I get it... really I do.  You've drooled over photos of some basement in some far off state or province that has been turned into a miniature temple of fermentation.   You imagine (wrongly) that if you just had that level of brewing equipment, you would win 5 Ninkasi awards in a row, and the whole world would know of your brewing excellence.

Brewhardware's pre wired rims tube
set up. Just add a pump.
And you can call me a grumpy old curmudgeon... but I don't really want any of that stuff any more. ( Maybe I should say I don't want more of that stuff...In full disclosure I have a gas fired, mirror polished, medical grade welded, 10 gallon recirculating system with a pump, tri-clover valves, built in thermometers, acid etched sight gauges, and false bottoms...I rarely use it. It is in fact in storage right now. Part of it may be at Jakes... I may change it over to a Rims Tube  system in an effort to continue to minimize oxygen ingress with out the use of chemicals.  There is a follow up post on LODO coming soon. )

For the most part I brew small batches on the stove top.  So when I think about a brewing system, I only want easy to clean equipment that improves my final product.   And I want to continue to brew a lot.   Which means small batch.   I want variety.   Which also means small batch.  Basically, I want to brew a lot.  And again that means stove top small batch.

Don't get me wrong I like shinny brewing equipment as much as the next guy.  I've spent literally hundreds of hours over the years drooling over systems.  I am especially attracted to the High Gravity brewing systems, Blichman Engineering, Brausupply, Clawhammer Supply, and especially to Colorado Brewing Systems.  But alas, I have yet to win the lottery.  And even if I did win the lottery, I'm not convinced I would buy one of these systems (see above, I would probably just add a Rims Tube from brewhardware.com to my 5 gallon system). Heck, I may add one of those anyway.   But unless I win the lottery, I'm not buying more expensive brew gear.     Especially, when I can make advanced gear at home for a fraction of the cost.  On our brew crew we are very proud of focusing on what really matters, and we can make the equipment we need for advanced home brew mashing.  That's right, I can make great equipment, and you can to. 

Fancy Gear, is no substitue for experience and
knowledge.  No amount of money spent on
equipment can make good beer if you don't
know how to brew!
You see i know the truths...I have read the secret ancient tomes... I possess the ethereal mystical knowledge of the brewing art... and I will share it with you. 
  • Its the brewer not the equipment. 
  • There is no substitute for sanitation,
  • Fermentation is eminently more important than wort production.  
  • Fresh quality ingredients are more important than recipe design. 
  • Simple is usually better
  • Packaging matters, oxygen can ruin finished beer.
  • Brewers make wort yeast makes beer, yeast vitality and health are of paramount importance. 
These are the things that matter.   If you are focused on wort production above all else, your beer will suck, well maybe not suck, but it wont be as good as someone who focused on sanitation, yeast health / vitality, and on fermentation control. 

So how do I go about making great beer on the stove top, or with out spending a fortune?  Well I think I have figured out what will work for me, and I will share it with you in hopes that it will work for you as well.  Or in hopes that it will inspire you to create your own small batch system.   I also have figured out what I can afford, and what any serious brewer can afford.  (in follow up posts I'll be showing you how to make a boil kettle, a fermentation chamber, and a stainless fermenter...affordably.

My goals.  Super easy to clean.  Minor infections are the bane of the home brewing world.   I can not tell you how many times I've tasted a beer that was slightly off.  Still pretty good, but just not everything it should be, not the taste the brewer was trying to produce.  The brewer would swear it was due to stale malt or a change in the recipe, or a slightly different mash temperature...   But you and I both know the real flaw was probably a lack of complete cleaning and sanitation.  Some minor infection didn't ruin the beer but certainly competed for the resources of the desired outcome.  Or there was some weird flavor left over from poor cleaning.  In an effort to keep the system easy to clean I am eliminating pumps and limiting valves.  I know this may sound shocking to you all, but when you think about it you don't really need a pump. Pumps are convenient, pumps are kind of cool. But pumps are also places where minor infections can hide. And I don't know any of the world's great large breweries that use recirculating Mash systems (although they do all use pumps to move wort around). I do know a ton of them that use mash paddles.  The whole point of stirring or recirculating is making the enzymes more effective, enzymes are proteins they only work when in contact with starch.  So stir your mash.  It really doesn't matter if you stir or recirculate.   And please don't give me the clear wort argument.  Numerous studies, prove that (with the exception of light lagers)  crystal clear wort is meaningless.  If you are producing a light lager or a beer that needs clear wort, there is no law that says you can't vorlauf (even when you are doing biab style or no sparge.) 

Other goals for the system are that it hold temperature well, reduce oxygen ingress, and that it will allow me to step mash.   I am generally a no sparge brewer.  And I am often a step mash brewer ( at least with my Belgian Inspired beers).  So I need an easy way to step mash as well.  

For me the best solution is a 5 gallon cooler as a mash tun.   I use a brew bag as a filter, which allows me to crush finer, which means I maintain decent efficiency even with no sparge brewing, usually 76.4% (which I think you would agree is awesome for no sparge in a cooler)

But there is a problem with a cooler mash tun.  You have to open it to stir.  And you have to open it to do an infusion step Mash. Well have no fear brewing nerds, Old Uncle Dave has the solution for you. I'm going to show you all how I modify a cylindrical cooler mash tun in order to accomplish all of the goals set out above.  And you probably own 90% of the tools you'll need.  And the materials you need are cheap at your local big box hardware store.  Here is what you need.
  • A 5 gallon (or 10 gallon) cylindrical mash tun with a screw on lid (they're thinner)
  • 1 1/2" PVC Female Trap Adapter with Nut and Washer, Hub x Socket $2.59
  • a 1 1/2" hole saw.  (any big box hardware store will have this)
  • A large funnel  or better yet Your LHBS
  • A worm clamp - Your LHBS
  • 2' of  1/2" inside diameter silicone tubing - Your LHBS
  • a #10 stopper - Your LHBS
  • A large brew bag, I have lots of these from Wilser, BrewBag, and my LHBS 
  • A stainless steel 8" drip pan as a false bottom ( make sure it is stainless steel not chromium or painted, stainless won't be quite as shiny as chromium)  Any big box will have these. 
So here is the finished mash tun. With the port on top. The port has a mash paddle sticking out of it... with foil wrapped around it.  A waterproof digital thermometer probe goes down into the wort.  My awesome daughter bought me a 13" fast read long probe, so I can take temps at different places in the mash as well through the port.  So far so good.  I'm on my 16th brew with it and it is performing well.  We are getting right at 76% ever time.  If I extend my mash to 90 minutes I get over 80%.  Despite what you have heard; iodine is not a good test of mash conversion, and mash length does matter somewhat.  With apologies to the short and shoddy crowd (who I really enjoy), a 90 minute mash will always create more conversion and fermentability (thinner beer).  Well be posting on using time of mash as a component in excellence soon. 

Here's how it works.  I strike at 12 degrees above my target temperature.   Every 15 minutes i stir...with out opening the lid, that's it.  If I need to step mash I add a funnel with a silicone tube attached and I pour boiling water through the port.  It fits even with the mash paddle in place.

When I am done... I drain into the boil kettle.  Shocking right?  If I'm making a very high gravity beer I have to sparge. When this is the case, I lift the bag, set it into a colander, squeeze/press, and then rinse the grains.  Simple affordable mashing without temperature loss.   You don't need a $5k brewing system, you just need common sense. 

I realize I am kind of a knucklehead, but I think I am right on point with this one...We are focused to much on things that don't really matter.   We are focused on the active part of brewing, we are focused on those halcyon days in the garage with friends brewing beer.   And that is great, but we need to be focused on cleaning, and on making good healthy yeast starters.  (I have some crazy theories about the absolute importance of yeast health that well be tackling soon).  We need to be focused on fermentation temperature control, and proper aeration of wort at yeast pitch.  If you can't make a yeast starter and you want a $1000.00 wort production machine your priorites are wrong.  If you can't control fermentation, and you want a $1000.00 wort production machine, you're nuts.   If you aren't kegging yet... well that comes before fancy wort machines.  If you aren't fermenting in stainless steel, that comes first.  You get where I'm headed here... there's lots to handle before a wort machine.

I'll close by saying, as always, there are no homebrew police, brew how you want to brew.  It is all about having fun making beer.   Cheers!

On our next brew I'll post a picture of the funnel in place during a step mash.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Room Temperature Marzen with Cargill Idapils and Meusdoerffer Munich

Sorry for the lapse, life got busy. Have
no fear we're back.
One of my favorite things about home brewing is that there are no rules.   You can brew the beer you want to brew, the way you choose to brew.  You can add hot peppers to cream ale, or use all Vienna malt for a pale ale. You can even add ridiculous ingredients to a stout... like lobster or oysters. It's your beer, do what you want.  And although there are always opinionated trolls on the internet who are more than willing to tell you that you are doing something wrong, there are no brewing police.

A couple of weeks ago we set out to make a Marzen for consumption later in winter.  I realize we were late to the party and that we should have made it a long time ago.  But like you, our lives get busy.  Like you we have jobs and families and sometimes we don't get around to brewing something, or at least posting about brewing.   But things are settling down now, and we should be posting again weekly.  We will be starting a series on advanced ghetto brewing soon.  In it we will show you easy and more importantly affordable ways to step mash, decoct, control fermentation temperatures, aerate, make starters, and naturally carbonate your beer.

Yeast produces CO2, Ethanol, and Glycerol.
But also lots of esters in different combinations
Depending on it's own genetics. Ethyl acetate,
Isoamyl acetate, Isobutyl acetate
Being prominent in fermentation. 
Right now my fermentation chamber is full of tailgate beer.   Cream Ale, Centennial Blonde, and Dry Stout.   So we are making and fermenting this one at Mark Anthony's place.   And MA doesn't have a fermentation chamber.   So we are fermenting at room temperature.   A lot has been said over the past couple of years about lagers at room temperature.  Let me assure you, this is not a best practice.   If you can ferment in cool controlled temperatures, you should.  But if you can't that doesn't mean you shouldn't brew a lager.  It won't be gross, a lager yeast puts off less ppm of esters than an ale yeast, even when you ferment at higher temperatures. They just happen to be lager esters.  In fact, I often use 34/70 at room temperature for a blonde ale, cream ale, and even some IPAs. So just go ahead and make the damn thing, and use a lager yeast that can handle room temperatures, there are many of them on the market.


With the growth of German styles there has been an increased demand for and discussion about malt selection.  Remember, the most important thing in malt selection is freshness.  And when most of your malt comes all the way from Germany... that means most of your malt was subject to the harsh conditions of shipping all the way from Germany... on a boat, on a train, and on a truck.  So malts that have been shipped from overseas have been subject to all kinds of temperature swings.  Not a huge deal for malt, but still an area of concern.  Foreign Malts... they may be awesome, they may be crap, you just don't know until you brew with them.  So for my base malt, in every recipe that calls for Pilsner, I always use at least half North American Malt.  I like Idapils  by Cargill.  I just want to make sure that a good portion of the grist is fresh.   In truth, for lots of recipes, Idapils is my base malt.   I can't explain the bready, slightly sweet aroma and cracker like taste.  You really need to try this one for your self.  So while I do use some European malts, they never make up the majority of my grain bill. I'd rather use fresh North American Malts, where I know I will get good conversion and great flavor. 

So if you don't have fermentation control, don't let that stop you, go ahead and make a lager at room temperature, or just make a swamp cooler with a laundry tub, some frozen 1 and 2 liters, a fan and some dish towels.  Easy lagering, no big investment. In truth a used mini fridge and controller will be about the same price as the other items I just described, but you probably have most of the stuff you need for a swamp cooler.)  Alternatively, find a cool place in your basement.   A swamp cooler with a fan can easily hold your fermentation down to lager temperatures.   

The key to brewing a a room temperature lager is yeast selection.  Any yeast that is called a "steam beer" yeast, or a "california lager" will work just fine.   Personal favorites are WY2112 and wlp810.  I have made many lagers over the years with steam beer yeast.  And they all turned out just fine.  You can also use Saflager 34/70 or WY2124.  I haven't tried the L05 by Imperial yet, but I may at some point.  In truth, I generally just use Fermentis 3470. It is crazy reliable, and a great attenuator.  I know the guys at Brulosophy have done several xbrmnts with 3470.  Their most famous, they fermented it at 70 F.   But in truth we were doing the same thing in the 1990's.   Full disclosure, we didn't really know any better.  We knew we needed more lager yeast to get a good healthy fermentation, but most of us didn't know we needed specific temperature control.   And the beers turned out just fine. 

Digression warning - I for one believe that the home brew world has gone crazy with expensive gadgetry. You can literally spend thousands on brewing equipment. But before you do, ask yourself, should you? My brewing mentor used to say,  "it's the brewer... not the equipment, and if it is hard to clean...it sucks...no matter how cool it seems" (miss that guy and his wisdom).  We are about to embark on a series called "advanced brewing ghetto style"  In that series we'll be showing you that you can brew even the most advanced styles with out spending a fortune.
equipment. I know guys that have spent over 10K on their home brewery.  And their beer... isn't any better than ours... In truth not usually as good as what we brew.  Which brings me back to the word's of my brewing mentor...

But today, today we were making a "steam marzen", here is how we did it.  We chose Liberty for the hop because it is so similar to a noble hop and we had lot's of it on hand.   We also are trying the Mangrove Jack's yeast for the first time.  We'll let you know how it turns out.   The malts are all Cargill. 

The recipe:
Method: All Grain 
Style: Märzen
Boil Time: 60 min 
Batch Size: 3 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 3.75 gallons 
Boil Gravity: 1.043 (recipe based estimate) 
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)
Source: Counterbrew 
1.053
1.011
5.53%
18.47
13
5.57



Fermentables
AmountFermentablePPG°LBill %
3 lbAmerican - Munich - Light 10L331049.2%
3 lbAmerican - Pilsner371.849.2%
0.1 lbAmerican - Chocolate293501.6%
6.1 lbTotal   
Hops
AmountVarietyTypeAAUseTimeIBU
0.6 ozLibertyPellet4Boil60 min18.47
0.2 ozLibertyPellet4Boil0 min
Hops Summary
AmountVarietyTypeAA
0.8 ozLibertyPellet4
0.8 ozTotal  
Mash Guidelines
AmountDescriptionTypeTempTime
3.6 galStrike at 165Infusion154 F60 min
Starting Mash Thickness: 2.4 qt/lb
Other Ingredients
AmountNameTypeUseTime
0.6 tspYeast nutrientOtherBoil15 min.
1.2 eachWhirflockFiningBoil10 min.
Yeast
Amount:
1
Attenuation (avg):
79.5%
Flocculation:
Med-High
Optimum Temp:
64 - 68 °F
Starter:
No


Target Water Profile: Recipe: Lunatic Fringe
Ca+2Mg+2Na+Cl-SO4-2HCO3-
1501080150160220
Kcmo water. 
1 Camden
5 g calcium chloride
.5 table salt acidify to 5.6 pH before dough in.
The day began with water adjustments, like always.   We can get away with using city water for any amber to dark beer, Mash in was spot on.   The mash went as expected.  By the way, do you like our ghetto advanced mash tun?  An up coming post will show you how to make one.  We are averaging 75% mash efficiency with it on a 60 minute mash and 82.5% on a 90 Minute mash.  On this brew day we decided to do a decoction for the mash out step.  Decoctions are not strictly necessary.  But they are fun and we are among the brewers who are convinced that decoction adds a certain flavor that you just can't get from a normal brewing process.  We also enjoy some of the traditional processes.   We are guys who find brewing to be relaxing.  We don't stress out while we brew.   We have all brewed enough batches that we really know what we are doing and how to react to anything that may come our way.   On this day our mash fell by 4 degrees over 60 minutes... no big deal we'll just do a decoction.  
The boil was uneventful.   No boil over or other shenanigans to report.   A lot of you turn your brew kettle in to a magma like cauldron... boiling hard and always at full power.   To you I say... why?  You don't need to boil at full power, just above a simmer is just fine, it will still evaporate and concentrate your flavors, it will still break down proteins, and hop utilization will still be fine.  In fact there is a phenomenon called boil shock, which we will cover in a subsequent post.   It takes a while to get used to a gentle boil but once you do, you will never go back.   This beer is currently lagering.  Can't wait to try it soon.     When it is done, we will of course post updates with tasting notes.     The good news, we're back, and should be posting regularly again.   Sorry for the lapse. Up next a couple more brew days, and then we will all embark on Advanced Ghetto Brewing. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MC2 IPA with Cargill 2 row

John and I set out to make an ipa using two of our favorite hops and some of our favorite grains... On a week night.  On a stove top.  Yup we brew small batch to.  I know you're all more accustomed to seeing us brew 10 gallons in the garage, but we enjoy brewing and stove top makes it possible to brew any night of the week.  From the time I got there till we were all cleaned up was. Just over 3 hours.   Not too shabby. And we watched basketball, and we tried some sours.  All in all a good week night.

Our goal was to make an ipa with much of the flavors we enjoy from an New England ipa, but with out the cloudy murky appearance of the same.   We wanted a flavorful malt background but The Malt would not be the star of this recipe. We chose a combination of 2 row malt,  Cara/Crystal 40 and a little bit of wheat malt. But not enough wheat malt to make it cloudy or murky. The Malt we chose was all Cargill.  
Cargill Two Row Barley is a blend of Metcalfe and Copeland Barley.   Some Maltsters want you to believe that barley from a single plant (Harrington) species is superior to a blend.  But think that through sports fans.  Harrington is a 22 year old varietal.  Newer and better grains have come along. Metcalfe and Copeland are just as enzymatic and field hardy as Harrington, but they simply taste better.  Harrington is very neutral.  No doubt Harrington is still excellent for producing lager.  But we find that the flavors from Cargill two row are superior and we continue to have fantastic conversion and extraction from the Cargill grains.  Our mash efficiency was excellent.  John got a fancy new gas stove, so we were off on our brew house efficiency, no big deal we added 1 lb of extra light dme, and we ended up with an extra .23 gallons of wort.  Our IBUs will be a little lower, but this thing is 79 IBUs and almost all of it late.   We can afford to give a little there.  The moral? These things happen your first time using new equipment.  But we are experienced and prepared, and we knew what to do.

Here's the recipe. 
Style - 21A American IPA
2.75 Gallons at 75% efficiency
1.058 OG
1.011 FG
9.67   SRM - Morey
79.49 IBUs - Raeger

The grain:
4.00 lbs  Cargill Two Row
0.25 lbs  Cargill Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs  Cargill  Cara 40
10 ounces of Cane Sugar

The Hops
.4 ounces of Columbus at 40 minutes
.5 ounces of Citra at 5 minutes
.5 ounces of Mosaic at 5 minutes
.5 ounces of Citra Whirlpool for 15 minutes starting at 180 F
.65 ounces of Mosaic Whirlpool for 15 minutes starting at 180 F
Yup thats' the super cool small
batch mash tun with a port for
stirring the wort!
.5 ounces of Citra Dry hop for 3 days
.5 ounces of Mosaic Dry hop for 3 days

Yeast 
Brew day starter of Fermentis S04 - 9 g of yeast in .5 liter of water with 50 grams of DME.  Or just rehydrate during brew day with goferm. 

Mash 
152 F for 60 minutes - stir every 15 minutes
168 F for 10 minutes - stir and let rest for 10 minutes

Ferment at 65 F for 7 days then raise to 70 F to let it finish strong.  Dry hop with 3 days to go!

Fermentis s04
100% of the time, it works
every time!
Small batch is a great way to spend an evening.  Brewing small batch gives you more variety.  Yes, you will need some different equipment, no it isn't expensive. Check back for upcoming posts on Affordable Advanced Home Brewing.  If you haven't tried Cargill, let your home brew shop know they should get some.  If you haven't used Fermentis S04 in a while, give it another try it is excellent stuff.  The dry yeast from Fermentis gives us consistent reliable performance.    



Saturday, May 5, 2018

Make wine... because chicks dig it... Master Vintner Pinot Noir

Happy Big Brew Day 2018... I'll be posting about Big Brew in a subsequent post!

I know most of you come here for beer knowledge.   I know most of you love beer.  Hey, I love beer to.  I've been in this hobby for 28 years.   But this hobby is not really just the beer making hobby.  It is the fermentation hobby.  The skills you have learned making beer apply to other fermentables as well.  With the skills you have learned brewing you can make world class Bread and Pizza,  Fermented Pickles, Cheese, Cider, Mead... and Wine. 

Most of you also make Mead, and Cider... but not Wine.  And I think I know why.   Wine has a certain je ne sais quoi, an unidentifiable aura.   There are entire libraries of books dedicated to wine.   There are people who spend their entire life studying wine.  They enjoy tasting wine and smelling wine and trying to pick out the subtle flavors and aromas.  You can make a fortune, by finding words to describe wine in a way that others have never thought to say.

 If you like to try to pick out the subtle fruit flavors of a NEIPA, you would probably enjoy doing the same with a Pinot Grigio, a Pinot Noir, or a Syrah.  There are so many people who love wine, and who enjoy tasting different wines.  And there are a whole bunch of snobby idiots who think "wine love" is a symbol of refinement, achievement, and fine breeding.  They are quite simply Jerks.

Wine making and trading doesn't have to be snobby.  Making wine doesn't mean you have to join the local snooty patooties at some expensive exclusive club and argue about the merits of the 1961 Petrus vs. the 1982 Latour.    You can still be a beer guy and enjoy wine as well.  The best thing about home brew... there are no rules.   

And there is a benefit.   Chicks dig wine!  It's a fact.   Most chicks (forgive me ladies) enjoy wine more than beer.    In my scientific research (wine tastings) your SWMBO will find you significantly more attractive and even tolerable if you make some wine.  Alas, my SWMBO is gone.  It's my fault, I should have made more wine...

Over the years I have made hundreds of batches of wine and over 800 batches of beer.  I've also made some cider, and some mead, and pickles. I have made wine from fruit, and from grapes.  And it is always fun.   Making wine from grapes is a once a year thing for me.   I go to the LHBS and order 90 - 120 lbs of grapes.  I use their destemmer and crusher.   There are 30 to 40 other wine makers there, there are horderves, and loads of beer and wine to try.   The rest of the year, I make wine from Fruit (frozen berries) and from Kits.   I have used every major manufacturer.   I have settled on two manufacturers.  One by preference (Master Vintner), and one because it is what my LHBS carries (winexpert)  Both make excellent wines.   

My preferred wine Kit manufacturer is Master Vintner.  Every single wine I have made by them has been excellent.  The customer support is fantastic.  If you post a question, Tim (the curator)  will actually get back with you.   The website is great, and loaded with information.  And the prices, are much more reasonable than other manufacturers (about $70 for a basic kit). 

Now compared to most people I am an advanced wine maker.  I have the gear to test for sulfites, and acid (not pH actual acid), I have a pump and filter (somewhere in storage).  I have a large primary fermenter dedicated to wine, big mouth bubblers with spigots, and loads of glass carboys. (you don't need all this stuff it's just fun).  Compared to my sister and brother in law I am a GOD OF WINE...I am Bacchus himself.  But they wanted to learn to make wine and so, being a beneficent wine god... I agreed to teach them.  I contacted Tim at Master Vintner just looking for advice on teaching others to make wine, and he said "why don't I send you a Weekday Wine Pinot Noir. You can make it and tell me what you think."   What do I think?  Free wine and the fun of making wine... hell yeah, that's what I think.  And so the adventure began... teaching my sister and brother in law how to make wine.  I should point out that the Weekday Wines kits are only about $50 bucks.  So they are as affordable as the lesser quality kits that you see on Amazon. 

The kit arrived, we already had all the gear we needed.  But if you need gear to, they have a $99 starter kit,   The kit instructions are easy to read and very straight forward.   Much better than the others I use (although in fairness the other major producer has "reimagined" their instructions recently, and they are now much better).  

There is nothing super difficult about making wine.  It really is easier to do than extract brewing.  If you are reading this you are probably a brewer.  You already know how to be clean and sanitary.  The only difference in the production of wine is that you have to be clean and sanitary from the beginning.   Many wine makers use sulfites to sanitize, but your regular Starsan will work just fine.  Although, with wine I usually rinse it out after it does it's voodoo.

Master Vintner Kits come
with everything you need!
The next step,  Add the bentonite.  Make muddy water.   Yup, the first step in making crystal clear wine is almost always making muddy water.  Bentonite is a gray, clay powder.  It is used in wines as a clarifier. It has a negative electrostatic charge. (static electricity) This negative charge along with hydrogen bonding, causes suspended particles in the wine to cling to it as it settles to the bottom of the fermenter.

After that the process is easy.   You add the juice concentrate, fill to the specified amount with water, add your oak (sawdust), pitch your yeast, add your air lock, and wait.  That is it.   You just made wine.  

Now unlike beer you will need to rack the wine once or twice.   For making wine, I always use fermenter's with spigots.  But a sanitized auto syphon will work as well.   

The instructions tell you when to rack off of the lees (trub for you brewers).  This kit was started at 1.089, we racked the first time at 1.020.  The wine was already clearing up nicely.  Now there is one small change we made,  we wanted an off dry "young pinot" So when the wine hit 1.009 (the next night) we went ahead and stabilized it and began the degassing and clearing (fining).   But again, I am a little more advanced and I knew exactly what to do to get the result we wanted.   The kit instructions tell you to ferment it all the way out (.998) WHEN YOU ARE JUST STARTING IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.  

So I mentioned degassing.  That is one specialty piece of equipment you may need to get.  You have seen them before at your local home brew store.  You just sanitize, and attach them to a drill.   They knock the CO2 out of the wine, which helps it clear up and stabilize.  

We then waited another 2 weeks and bottled.  A corker is included in a basic kit.  I happen to have an italian floor corker, which can do wine or champagne bottles.  It is a minor investment if you make a lot of wine.  Mine was $50 bucks 20 years ago, but you can still get them for about $70.  My niece likes to make and apply labels to our wine.  She called this one "Peace out Pinot".  I call it awesome.  

Testing, recording, and
evaluating is part of
the fun!
The color is garnet to purple, it is ruby to garnet in the light fading to violet at the edge. Beautiful.  The wine would fade to a brick red if it aged, as the blue compounds denatured.  But this wine won't be aged.  Awesome aromas of berry jam (blackberry and ripe raspberry).  The flavor is also vigorous berries, balanced by a nice oak presence and good mouth feel. exactly what you want from a young Pinot Noir.  There is no chocolate or tobacco aroma or flavor in this one, but that is ok, that is what we were going for all along.   It will be perfect for sitting by the lake and watching boats go by.  

So, start making wine.  It is fun, and delicious, and it makes you a much better brewer.  The things you learn making wine apply to brewing more than you probably realize.   And remember chicks dig wine.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pineapple Milkshake NEIPA - Brew Night

So last night Mark Anthony and I gathered at his place to take another shot at a NEIPA.  This recipe and brewday night were informed by our past attempts including our recent hazed and confused brew session.  In our hobby learning and developing as a brewer are best informed by trial and error.  You can and probably should read about the hobby.  This and other blogs give lots of great information.  There are hundreds of books that inform you about the hobby.  Certainly, there are two really excellent magazines about it.  You can and should watch videos about brewing.  There are lots of great videos on brewing on youtube.  Some of them are actually by really excellent brewers who actually know what they are talking about.  Some of them should be avoided.  But nothing will inform you like actual experience brewing- both with success and failure.   And there is no substitute for lots and lots of practice.  Practice is the main reason I am such a fan of 2.5 - 3 gallon stove top batches.


I love this hobby.  I have for years.  And over the years, I have developed some best practices that work well for me.  Many have been learned through trial and error, many through study.  Many in my case by having a mentor who taught me so very much.

So why am I digressing about learning and experience on a brew night post?  Where the hell are the photos of the grain and wort?  Where's the freaking recipe?  Well, because we nailed the brew night last night.  It wasn't perfect, but our experience and knowledge was able to overcome the problems that we had with the brew day.

Last night we brewed a session pineapple milkshake NEIPA with centennial, citra, and mosaic.  3.3 gallon batch.  Here is the recipe.

3 gallon batch
1.048 OG    1.013 FG  ABV 4.63  IBU 47 Rager   SRM 10 Daniels  65% Efficiency

Fermentables
3 lbs 6 Row - Cargill (love this malt)
8 oz Flaked Oats - Quaker
8 oz Cane Sugar (late) - C&H
5 oz Cara 60 - Cargill
4 oz Wheat Malt -  Cargill Malted White Wheat
1/4th LB - Lactose
(the sugar from the 46 oz of pineapple sugar, for me the calculation was about 6.6 ounces of sugar)

The Hops
1 oz at 15 Centennial 10% AA
.5 oz Whirlpool CITRA 12 AA% 15 minute whirlpool starting at 175 F
.5 oz Whirlpool MOSAIC 11 AA%15 minute whirlpool starting at 175 F
.5 oz Dry hop CITRA CRYO 25.2 AA% at high krausen
.5 oz Dry hop MOSAIC CRYO 24.2% AA% at high krausen
.5 oz Dry hop CITRA CRYO 25.2 AA% days
.5 oz Dry hop MOSAIC CRYO 24.2% AA% 3 days

The yeast - Wyeast British Ale 2 1335 - why? Several friends have reported excellent results for this yeast in this style.  We are aware it is a departure from London Ale 2.  We'll report back on results. going to ferment at 66 F.

The mash - Full volume, no sparge at 153 F

The water - NEIPA profile- balance the calcium and the chlorides for us we were about CA 125 and Chloride 175.  That gives the desired "soft mouth feel".

The brew night was really relaxing and pretty much free of any major problems.  We made our water adjustments and heated the water to the strike temperature recommended by Brewersfriend.  But somehow I screwed up my settings on my equipment profile.  Rather than telling the software that I loose 7 degrees F upon mash in, I told it I loose 3 degrees F on mash in.  So we were sitting at 149 rather than 153 F.  What do you do?  Well you have a couple of options.  You can do nothing or you can bring the temperature up somehow.  With our cooler mash tun, increasing the temperature by flipping the switch is not an option.  So we did what we do when we miss; we used the calculator on brewersfriend to calculate an infusion.  And used the water that would have been for the mash out addition to bring the temperature up to the correct rest temperature.  No big deal.  We were only planning on 65% efficiency and no sparge so skipping the mash out is really not a big deal for us.  We also could have pulled a decoction, something you have seen us do many times.


Here is the point: experience and knowledge are your real tools on a brew day.  Not fancy fancy equipment.  Not your computers (although they are really important). Experience and knowledge.  And you get those by brewing... brewing a lot.

Other best practice steps we took?  Well we used a brew bag as a mash filter.  We used 1 camden tablet to remove chlorine and to scavenge off additional oxygen.  We used aluminum foil as a mash cap.  When we stirred, we stirred gently.  As you all know I am skeptical about oxygen's effect on mashing, but on the other hand I am not going to invite extra oxygen into the game.  We also bagged our hops.  There is no reason to increase hop debris in your wort.  We chilled this one in the sink with ice water.  We knew it would chill quickly with the addition of the frozen pineapple juice.   We were at pitching temperatures in 20 minutes.

And most importantly we are getting the 2.5 - 3 gallon no sparge system dialed in for upcoming contest season.  Can't wait to taste this beer.  The wort samples were amazing.

The beer is now happily fermenting at 66 F.  The beer should be ready for packaging in under a week.  It is a session beer.  So I will wait 24 hours after it reaches terminal gravity, and package immediately. 

Next Up?   John and I have something up our sleeves for this weekend.   Stay tuned.  Then in about 2 weeks I will be showing you all how to make an apple ale, easy partial mash delicious...Graff.  The LODO part 2 post is coming soon.

That's all for now brew nerds.


Friday, January 5, 2018

LODO - the new crazy craze ...kinda...

Every now and then a new craze hits home brew.  Sometimes good, sometimes goofy but always there are elements of truth and of bologna.  Such is the case with the new craze in home brewing... Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewing, or LODO.   It is the current source of both hope and controversy in the home brewing world.  Normally we focus on beginning and intermediate brewing concepts here.  And to be truthful, this post has been in the works for a long time as we worked through the science of LODO and how to present it to you all with as much common sense as we can muster.  You will be thrilled to hear that this is the first of 3 posts on LODO.  The second will dive deep into the science of malt chemistry and our ultimate conclusions will be supported not only by actual chemistry but also by some heavy hitters in the world of brewing science and home brewing.  The third will show our process changes associated with lodo.  The very fact that there is a 3rd post tells you that we do, in fact, accept some of the claims of the Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewers

It should be stated as always, homebrewing is about having fun and making great beer.  There is not one and only one way to brew.  Brew how you want to brew, in whatever way makes sense to you.  I will now also tell you that the LODO disciples are guys who love the same hobby you love.  They are trying to share something that has worked for them, and I believe they are well meaning, if sometimes misguided.

So what is Low Dissolved Oxygen Brewing (LODO)?  Basically the proponents of LODO brewing assert that oxygen is the enemy of quality brewing, especially in German style lagers.  The proponents of LODO claim that as little as 1 PPM of dissolved oxygen in your mash can rob your malt of that special "German" taste.  They call this special taste the "it" factor.  In support of this claim they quote a great old brewing text by Professor Wolfgang Kunze (originally written in the late 1950s and published in 1961) of the Technical Institute of Dreseden and the VBL Institute.  The text has been updated many times over the years, and the work of Professor Ludwig Narziss.  I have read most of Kunze, and almost all of the Narziss that I can find online. Ich kann kein Deutsch mehr, aber ich lese es immer noch ziemlich gut (I can not speak German any more, but I can still read it pretty well, if I have the time). And these texts clearly do state that limiting oxygen is a good brewing practice.  They especially suggest limiting oxygen exposure to finished beer, a point upon which we can all agree.  They rightly point out that many breweries do all they can to limit oxygen ingress throughout the boil.  Sadly, Herr Kunze died last January so we can't simply ask him for his input.  To this end the LODO guys say you should pre-boil your strike water and add potassium or sodium metabisulfite to scavenger off any and all remaining oxygen in your brewing liquor.  (Why do they say this?  well one of these German Professors said that sodium metabisulfite can aid in scavenging additional oxygen from mash water, and from sparge water.)They recommend a closed mash system with as little exposure to oxygen as possible. (again recommended and agreed upon by virtually the entire industry as a good practice)  And only gentle stirring or recirculation, and recirculation return below the mash cap or submerged (again recommended and agreed upon if you feel the need to recirculate. )

The proponents of LODO brewing also say that you should boil gently to avoid additional oxygen ingress during the boil.  And finally the proponents of LODO brewing recommend that you should ferment in an oxygen free environment and then package your beer prior to full attenuation (spunding) in order to naturally carbonate and allow the very active yeast to scrub out any additional oxygen, also known to be a great technique that has been largely forgotten by home brewers.

Finally, the LODO guys say you should ferment your lagers on the cool end, and that there is essentially no diacetyl conditioning needed if you have pitched a large enough healthy enough yeast starter.

So this may surprise you but I think most of their recommendations are valid.  Valid, but not absolutely necessary to make great beer.  There is certainly nothing wrong with limiting oxygen ingress during the mash.  It is even considered a good practice.  Boiling gently (just above a simmer) also makes some sense to me.  There is such a thing as "boil shock", although you could argue that the chemical components created by shock are necessary to achieve certain distinct German flavors.  Adding more sulfites to a beer... Well this makes no sense to me at all just to scavenge off more oxygen.  Dr. Charlie Banforth, the professor of brewing and malting at University of California at Davis, had this to say about adding sulfites, "Sulfites in the mash are to be avoided, yeast will reduce it to sulfide and you will end up with an egg-y aroma in your beer.”  (credit Brulosophy 4/10/2017)  Dr. Charlie Banforth of UC Davis also has said on multiple occasions that a quality fermentation will clean up and or fix almost all issues with HSA.  But what if it didn't have to? What if you never created any hot side aeration issues?  Recently the LODO brewers have been recommending the use of a "trifecta" of water treatments related to oxygen composed of sulfites, ascorbic acid, and bretan b.  I am excited to learn more about the chemical effectiveness of Brewtan-B. For the time being we have not completed any testing or real research on it's effectiveness.

So why the controversy?  Why do you have frustration with the LODO guys? It sounds like you like a lot of what they say...

Don't act like a Troll....
Well, the biggest frustration I have with the LODO guys is that they all seem to be unified under the banner of "LODO or die".  They all have the same motto-"do things exactly as we suggest, or what you do won't work... and our ideas can therefore not be criticized".  I have had one explain to me that despite my 27 years of brewing and considerable experience with contest, and limited experience with professional brewing.  That I was an "idiot" for not brewing LODO, and that I should probably find a different hobby...trolls suck, And aren't really very common in our hobby.   ( I should say not all of the guys act this way.  Brian, techbrau and Ancient abbey have been very helpful and patient with my questions and they didn't even know I was the one asking them...) Normally, when someone says "do things my way or your results are invalid", I would recommend running away as if your hair is on fire.  But with LODO I am intrigued.  I know some of what they recommend works. I don't believe that they are lying about the results. And several Brewers whose opinions I absolutely Trust are praising the technique.  So we have to glean from their learning techniques that will work for everyhone. 

But, I'm still somewhat skeptical.

Repeated experiments and exbrmts show that beer drinkers can not identify a batch where Hot Side Aeration (HSA) was intentionally created versus a batch where HSA was intentionally avoided.  The LODO guys claim it is more than just HSA, they have coined a term called HSO (Hot Side Oxidation).  They claim that HSA/HSO is more than just the creation of trans-2-noneal precursors (the cardboard flavors associated with oxidation).  They claim that oxygen can also react with the pleasant malt related phenols of grain.  And I think that they are right, kind of, (wait... what?  what do you mean they're right kind of...).  Well I am skeptical that 1 ppm of oxygen would have a deleterious effect on your home brew.   I am also skeptical that any staling caused at 1 ppm is with in the human taste mechanism to identify.  After all staling compounds are not self replicating viruses or bacteria they're mostly modified phenols (guaiacol and 4-methylphenol primarily, with some vanillin) When the phenols pick up an additional oxygen molecule they do change chemically.  They no longer taste the same.  They don't however spread like wild fire through your mash. 

The guys at brulosophy were also skeptical,  so they did what they always do, they put it to the test.  In a recent xbrmt over at brulosophy, they followed the LODO process exactly.  Comparing a LODO to standard home brewing practice brought meaningful results.  The tasters could in fact tell the two beers apart.  They could identify the odd beer out, but here's the kicker- most people preferred the beer brewed with normal brewing processes, not the LODO beer.  And they preferred it by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. Obviously, the reaction of the LODO community was not favorable.   They sited all kinds of process improvements and possible problems with the xbrmt.  But as far as I could tell Brulosophy nailed it.   It is fair to say that any process change needs several batches to get really dialed in, and to produce similar results.

So I remain skeptical.  But I'm not skeptical about oxygen's long term effects on beer storage stability and beer packaging.  We've known for a long time that dissolved oxygen has negative impact on beer that has been packaged.  We've known for a long time and we can display this knowledge with actual scientific results.  And after reading a lot of Kunze (btw the electronic edition was over $100.00) and everything by Narziss that I can find on the internet I can assure you that most of their comments about oxygen have to do with finished beer and packaging.  But Kunze does suggest low oxygen mashing as well, and even suggests Nitrogen gassing of the grist, and a nitrogen gas cap of the mash, at one point in the text.  And both consider it a good practice to avoid oxygen at all points in the brewing process.  Further, in researching this post I was able to confirm that not just many, but most of the Bavarian breweries take steps to remove and limit oxygen in their mash.  Many employ degassing towers, some use a mechanism that vibrates the brewing liquor to remove dissolved oxygen from the strike water prior to dough in.   None that I could get to respond admitted to using any kind of sulfite in their brewing liquor (only 2 responded).

I have long suspected the improvements that LODO brewers see in their beer is due to process improvements.  In other words, the careful process they begin following (a careful process meant to reduce dissolved oxygen) is the actual reason for the improvements in their beer.  LODO brewing requires concentration and careful process.  And concentration and careful process always results in better beer.  The LODO guys on various groups and forums seem to be truly truly excellent, and precise brewers.  These are the guys that really want to learn the chemistry, the guys who know exactly how much they lose in their systems, these are the guys who can tell you exactly the heat gain in bTu from firing their system for 1 minute.  That may be why their beer improves so much... Or they might be on to something... I kind of think that it is both... they're definitely damn good brewers (any one who specializes in German styles is usually pretty good, cause it is really damn hard to do well) and they are on to something.

And I suppose if I'm truly being fair I should mention that the fantastic advances they have made (revived)  in packaging also plays a role in the improvement of their beer.  I for one believe that reviving keg spunding and bottle spunding is a great contribution to the home brew scene.

But on the other hand I have to realize, I am now, and I kind of always have been a low dissolved oxygen brewer... I do a no sparge infusion step mash with almost everything I brew.  And that means I boil over half of my water.  I often use tap water and just add a little calcium chloride to get close to where i need to be.  When I do that I almost always pre-boil the water and add 1 camden tablet.  Why? because it's what we used to do... so I still do it.  When I combine this practice with decoction mashing, I will admit I notice an even maltier taste.  So empirical evidence tells me that there might be something to this whole LODO thing.  The most perfect German style beer I have had in the past couple of years was very similar in process to the low dissolved oxygen brewing process.  John, Beth and I triple decocted a Munich Helles.  We had pretreated the water with K-Meta (camden or potassium metabisulfite) to take out any chlorine.  And in a sheer accident we brought our strike water to a boil and had to chill it down to strike temp.   You might remember the post, John was injured, so a pregnant Beth stepped in and helped with the brew day... but that beer... that beer was amazing.

In researching the LODO claim further: I turned to the internet to see if any American commercial breweries use the LODO process.  And a quick search of the internet reveals that surprisingly yes... yes the best breweries on earth do try to avoid oxygen ingress in their brewing process. They limit it, but they no longer go to the lengths that the paper suggests, maybe they never did. So I suspect that there is something to this LODO craze.  As pointed out by another blogger who I enjoy "You may not appreciate the recipes of Anheuser Busch but it is hard to say they aren't one of the world's greatest beer manufacturers."  They make millions of barrels of Budweiser nearly identically worldwide.  Their process and products are meticulous.  And they go to some painstaking levels to limit dissolved oxygen in their brewing process, but they do not add sulfites.  When I asked the brewer that spoke with me about Brewtan-Bl, he said... "No comment".  So now I'm even more confused.  

A big part of me really wants this to be true; to have found the super top secret process that makes the best beer on earth.  But I remain torn.  I have seen many, many experiments that seem to show that HSA is not an issue for home brewers.  I have read an experiment where a guy used a whisk to almost constantly whisk his mash.  The results? No one could tell a difference.  So what the heck...

David Hume, dropping common sense!
So what are we supposed to think?  Is this LODO craze crazy?  Both sides have good points;  both sides make some sense.  Here's the problem I have with LODO and recent LODO trolling activities on various chat rooms.  Any time a group of people are telling you there is only one "right" way to do things, well, that is a problem.  A problem that means their general hypothesis is not valid.  Here is what I mean.  David Hume, the great British empiricist, postulated that a theory that cannot be disproved is therefore always invalid and purely empirical or academic.  "What?  Seriously dude?  We don't come to counterbrew for philosophy lessons, show us a brew day."  OK, I know, but bear with me.  When you try to do LODO and don't do it exactly as they suggest, they say you screwed it up.  When you do exactly what they say and the beer sucks they say it must be something else, you must have screwed up somehow.  The strength of a theorem is it's ability to be proven wrong.  If a theorem cannot be proven wrong, the theorem itself is wrong.  So there based on HUME I reject the notion that LODO is the supreme way to brew, but it is a way to brew. Probably a good way to brew.  

W. Kunze RIP, thank you for
your contributions to brewing.
There are certain things about LODO brewing that seem to be true beyond question.  Certainly the following statement is true- too much dissolved oxygen is not a friend of your mash, and ruins your beer after fermentation.  I'm not as convinced that this is an issue during the boil.  The chemistry doesn't add up.  It is also true to say that oxygen in packaging will shorten the shelf life of your beer and generally lower the perceived quality of the beer.  On the other hand it doesn't make sense to suggest that you would avoid oxygen at all costs and then oxygenate your wort.  Here is another thing that makes no sense.  The LODO guys do not recommend Fermentis 34/70.  The very yeast strain developed by Weinhenstephan Institute, albeit in a dry form.   This is a yeast that can multiply up to 10x without adding oxygen to wort.  That makes no sense at all.  You would think that if OXYGEN BAD NO OXYGEN GOOD, you would want a yeast that doesn't require oxygen.  So what the heck... what do we do?  Well have no fear sports fans.  We have some answers.  We will be taking some cues from LODO, and some from traditional brewing, and forming a reasonable approach to dissolved oxygen in home brewing, sort of a new best practices.  And we will be using LODO techniques to make a couple of lagers, and a Belgian Single in upcoming brew days. 

For now here is a realistic approach to managing potential oxygen damage to your beer.  The two main areas of concern for us are mashing and packaging.  And here is the general idea.  It is a good idea to be aware of oxygen in your mash and especially in your packaging.  It is probably a good practice to take some steps to limit the amount of oxygen in the mash.  It is absolutely a good idea to limit oxygen exposure to finished beer.  So here is some common sense.

The mash procedure changes: 
Like I said previously, we have empirical evidence that suggests that driving away oxygen during the mash is probably a good idea.  So we will be pre-boiling our wort water (hot liquor).  We will be infusion step mashing, and we will be decocting, especially anything German.  We will not be adding additional camden, unless we are using tap water, in which case we will use one tablet per five gallons crushed to negate chlorine (which would be boiled off any way but its what I've always done), and take advantage of the oxygen reduction.  As much as possible we will be doing no sparge brewing.  We will keep the lid closed on the mash tun as much as possible, and using a mash cap (in my case some aluminum foil).  We will be avoiding splashing of the mash.  We already underlet by lowering the bag into the strike water.  We will still stir our mash occasionally, but not vigorously. 

Yeast changes?  None.  Feel free to use Fermentis or Danstar.  After consulting with various yeast providers, we do not feel that this part of their advice is not correct.  I suspect that someone who helped write the "helles paper" had a bad experience with this yeast.   Especially feel free to use Fermentis 34/70.  It is probably the best lager yeast in the world.  But my opinion is only fueled by over 300 batches of experience with this yeast so I could be wrong...

Packaging changes.
When we brew as a team we usually bottle the beer.  We naturally carbonate so no major changes here.  We are just going to flush the bottles with a little CO2 before bottling.  When I brew solo, I will be bottle spunding my beers.  This is an awesome technique and development by the LODO guys and Kai (braukaiser) it is especially awesome for those of you who only bottle your beers.  (It is actually an old technique they have revived.)  I may use some of my 5 liter mini kegs for this because I am lazy.  I will be doing an entire post on bottle spunding for you guys.  Update, got 2 brewboxes for Christmas, will definitely be using them for this process, but following the bottle spunding recommendations. 

Thanks for reading this schizophrenic post.  It was for me to work out my thoughts as much as a post for all of you.

Additional thoughts on LODO...and additional information on LODO

Lowoxygenbrewing.com - Brian's site.  Full of excellent, albeit opinionated, information.

Germanbrewing.net-  this is where you can find the original post.

You want even geekier stuff...  Well, there is a whole additional post coming.  In it we will dive into the chemistry of the mash with guys from Cargill.  But if you want to read up right away, and if you can handle the.  science,   immaculatebrewery.com is an awesome blog.  It is very technical. But like brewing itself, the more you go to this site the more you will learn.  Eventually it will all make sense to you.

And finally accidentalis brewing, Matt always brings common sense to the party. He also gives some great advice for people to understand beer competitions.