Monday, March 30, 2015

An Electric Turkey Fryer... dang near my dream rig.

Very excited that my brew partner just used a sales bonus to get us a 30 quart electric turkey fryer.   These things are awesome, and cost way less than a fancy E BIAB system.

There is only one problem with them.   They only have a 1650 Watt heating element.  They take a long time to heat up and struggle to create a rolling boil.   But I remember a professor in college proving to us that if the kettle was well insulated enough... a single candle could bring a gallon of water to a boil.

So we are thinking we are going to fill the void between the wall of the fryer and the pot with either high temperature mineral wool or 1 part Portland cement, and 5 parts per lite.  That should make this thing rock and roll.  Haven't completed the calculations yet.  But the bottom line is the unit can boil water right now, and with some basic modifications a rolling boil should be easily achieved.   This thing should be a beast for extract and partial mash as well.  update:  no insulation needed, the thing worked like a charm.   It's a beast for BIAB, Partial Mash, and extract. 

The slow heating is actually good for the mash, we'll start doughing in at about 130 and set the temp to 150.  That should be the equivalent of a brief protein rest, and should really help with lighter beers where we want perfect clarity.

This idea was inspired by this youtube video.

The guy who made the video, Karl,  owns homebrew depot in Wasau WI.   if you live in the area patronize this guy.  He is loaded with common sense about home brewing.   Just go there and ask for Karl.  He'll set you straight.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Common Sense Brewery Spending

Today's post:   Is dedicated to the guys who have spend 5-10K on their home brewing set up.

Did you know you could buy a 1-3 BBL Professional set up for less money?

Just think about that...

5-10K  for a 5-10 Gallon rig.  That is what some home brewers are spending more on their rigs, which have 1/8th of the capacity of a commercial set up.  The kind that brewpubs and small craft brewers use.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

All Grain Split Boil? Sacrilege

So I have some awesome brew sessions coming up.   Something you should know about me,  I am the only male (save the cat) in a home with not 4, not 5, but 6 females.  That's right 6.   It's no wonder I brew beer.  There are nights when the Kardashians, and the 19 kids... are so overwhelming that even the cat needs a home brew.  Lot's of women in my home....

This fact is salient for another reason, 6 is a lot of mouths to feed.   So when ever I can I look to save money.   One thing I can do to save money and make better beer is make all grain beer when ever possible.


"You can't make all grain beer in your kitchen, unless you are doing a pico batch.   We the overlords of home brewing tradition have decided that pico batches are kinda cool so you can make those, but no, we can not allow, we will not tolerated 5 gallon all grain batches in your kitchen.  It wont work.  A team of  tradition enforcing magic gremlins will come and sprinkle DMS on your beer"


Some brewing traditions are great.  Some are crap.   As I have said before, your wort doesn't know if it is being boiled in two different kettles.   Or 3, or 4 for that matter.   Although the math gets kinda tricky when you have 3 differently sized pots.  

But I have a large mash tun, that was free, a 7 gallon plastic bucket, and two, 4 gallon pots.  So I'm gonna make some all grain cream ale, and some all grain raspberry wheat.   And then soon after I'm going to brew up some 20 minute Pale ale at full volume in 2 different 4 gallon kettles.   Stay tuned for recipes, and procedures.   I'll post pictures and recipes, and process notes so that you too can do this.   I also have to add a ball valve to my mash tun, because trying to control the flow of the wort with a tube is dumb.   So Ill post some stuff on that too.

Remember you can learn to make world class beer in your kitchen, with just a few more items than you have now.    Remember also that the place to spend money in this hobby is on temperature control of your fermentation.   You're goal is fermenting beer, not just producing wort.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Some Actual Facts about Home brewing

You can make great beer in your Kitchen: 

The beer doesn't know where it is being brewed.  There is no magic in propane burners, there is no extra flavor gained by using Submersible heating elements.

Beer is really pretty simple.  Your goal is to ferment the maltose (and other sugars) that come from your grains and extract in such a way that you produce something delicious to drink.  Or at least interesting to drink. 

You can do that in your kitchen.   For too long new home brewers have used partial boil of extract kits to get started in home brewing.   The single greatest change you can make to improve your brewing is... temperature controlled fermentation.  (got you there didn't I?) But coming in at a close second is switching to full volume boils.   "But I don't have a large enough pot?  But, I don't have a turkey fryer... but but but"  Take your excuses and shove them in your... closet.   Go buy another 4 or 5 gallon pot.   They're $22 at Walmart.   You spent more than that on your ingredients.  

Split your extract batches in 1/2.   3 gallons in one pot, 3 gallons in another pot.  Believe me the extract doesn't know it is in two pots.  Split everything right down the middle.  The extract, the hops, the adjuncts... all of it.  You will see an immediate improvement in your beer.  It will be cleaner, less melanoidal flavors.  (twang)  Your hops will actually bitter the way you want them to bitter the beer.   With two pots, partial mash full volume boils become very possible.  And that is when you will really start making excellent (competition worthy) beers.   I defy anyone to drink a well made full volume boil partial mash and tell me it isn't awesome. 

Oh one more thing,  You do not need to do 60 or 90 minute boils for most of your beers.  You only need to boil long enough to meet your hop schedule.   More to come later.   Of course for a DIPA you may need to boil for a full 90 Minutes.  But for a cream ale? or a raspberry wheat?  What are you thinking?   And Please don't talk to me about DMS when you aren't using 6 row or Pilsner Malt. More to come later. 

A Return to Common Sense Home Brewing

It's time.  In fact, it is long past time for a return to common sense in home brewing.   It is time for a focus on the things that actually matter.  I understand this is a weird way to start a blog entry, but it sums up where I am with this hobby I love.   It is my core philosophy, and it was inspired by a conversation I had recently when getting ingredients at my LHBS.  The conversation went something like this

Me: "hey brewer X, how have you been?"
X: "good good, times are a little tight, you know we have 2 in college, and the oldest just had a baby..."
Me: "that's awesome congratulations"
X:  "Thanks,  so yeah, I have to brew up some cheap beer for a while"
Me: "How are you brewing now? all grain?  Do you still have your gravity system? Did you put your eHERMs on hold?"
X:  "No No... the Basement brewery is all tricked out... eHERMs,  super grain crusher 2000, ceiling crane for grain removal, even put up subway tiles... you should come check it out... I've spent a fortune on it lets brew sometime"
Me:  "yeah, sounds like fun"
X:  "so how are you brewing now?"
Me: " Still doing partial mash split full volume boils in the kitchen"
X:  "I don't know how you can do that man... doesn't that take forever?"
Me:  "about 3 hours"
X:  " Oh...uh... really?  3 hours? that's not too bad..."

Times are tight, and the guy just spent 10-15K on a home brewery.  To my knowledge he has never won a single award, and although his beer is very good, it was very good before he built the basement brewery.


I will proudly stick to the things that matter.  Full Volume Boil with common sense.  Correct Mash temperatures.  Correct Fermentation Temperatures, Correct Pitch Rate of Yeast.  I will proudly avoid weird grain or hop bills.   I will comment on each of these thing in days to come.