Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You can go all grain: or.... How to rule the world from your stove top:

If you brew on your own, how should you brew?  What is the most fun?  What makes the best beer? and what can you do on your own to make the very best beer with the most affordable equipment? Well if you are like me, you have an enthusiasm for brewing, you would literally brew 3 or 4 times a week.  Brewing is not a chore that you enjoy occasionally, brewing is your relaxation.  Cleaning doesn't bother you.  Bottling doesn't bother you.  It is all an escape from other pressures in your life, and the end result is hand crafted delicious beer.  And I am here to tell you the most affordable way to brew, and the most efficient, is to do small batch all grain BIAB no sparge on your stove top.  If you've been brewing extract, you probably own everything you need.

When I brew on my own, I brew small batch.   I brew 2.5 gallon batches of beer.  Usually I brew 2.75 gallons and try to bring 2.25 gallons to package. So calling it 2.5 gallons is a misnomer.  It packages 2.25 gallons.  That is a case of beer.  I try to use minimal equipment, the less equipment, the less cleaning.  I brew in a bag utilizing the no sparge technique, When the grain bill is high OG, I generally partigyle my batch. That means I get 5 gallons of beer from a single brew day.   I use a small stainless wort chiller, in an ice bath. I bag my hops to reduce trub space. My fermenters are cake icing buckets I got from the bakery at Walmart. There is a bulb seal in the lid, so they are air tight. They are FDA approved and BPA free. To aerate I pour the batch back and forth between the kettle and the fermenter 3 or 4 times. To ferment I choose forgiving yeast, or I choose a yeast that benefits from higher temperatures. I do not generally control fermentation temperatures on small batches.  I probably should, but I have 1 small refrigerator/fermentation chamber and it is used for lagers.

Batch one boiling, Patigyle mashing away!
Two 2.5 batches from one grain bill!
Once I started brewing small batch, I found that I brewed a lot more than most people, usually 2x a week.  That is a huge reason my beer is so much better than most home brewers.  I brew more often.  I have more practice.  And I started producing more beer, with less stress,  Bottling became easier.  It is no big deal to bottle one case of beer.  Sanitation became no big deal,  I can easily lift and clean any of the things I use to brew small batch.  I can easily carry the fermenters around and place them on the counter.   I find that I can brew any style of beer easily at 2.5 gallons without any loss in quality.  One gallon batches of beer are not nearly so forgiving but I make them too sometimes for recipe development and to brew something fun or weird.

To keep costs down on small batch I look for style appropriate bittering hops that have high alpha acids.  (Example when I brew my English IPA I use Admiral or Target for bittering).  I think about the cost and expense of brewing a lot. I often brew batches that feature high alpha acid hops.  like my Two Hearted ale clone, or my Zombie Dust Clone.  These hops save you money by the very fact that they are higher in AA%.  My local home brew store sells hops by the 1/10th of an ounce.  So, I buy them there.   I adjust them up a bit because they are exposed to oxygen at the LHBS.  If it is a special hop centric beer, like my dIPA I order pre packaged hops in 1 ounce packages.  These are flushed with nitrogen and provide you the very best freshness.  I like BSG, they have been good to us, but I am also a fan of YCH Hop Union.  Both companies offer pre packaged hops.

I often re use my yeast cakes by planning several brews on one yeast cake, increasing the OG with each batch.  I do not truly wash yeast. I do a modified wash where I collect some of it in a mason jar, I let it settle. Alternatively, I pour off almost all of it into the new batch leaving behind only the chunky gross stuff in the bottom.  I get crazy fast and complete fermentation using this method.  An example, With Safale S04, I make a Centennial Blonde followed by an English IPA and finally by a Scottish Ale. With Safale US05 I make a Cream Ale, followed by a Bells Two Hearted Clone, finally a double IPA.   This saves you a lot of money. Specialty beers are made with yeast harvested from our larger batches of beer.  Learn to wash yeast, it will save you a lot of money.   There are so many videos on yeast washing.  Here is my favorite.  His approach is very similar to mine.

Crushing your own
malt saves you a lot.
And improves your
beer dramatically.
I get my grains in bulk,  We brew a lot. So grains don't last forever, and I brew a lot on my own, but if you search around at your local home brew stores, you will find that you can get a bag of two row for about $35.00 to $40.00. Even a bag of Munich or Vienna will only be about $50.00 with no shipping. I also have been known to toast my own grains and make my own crystal malt.  But for small batch there is really no need, it is so affordable to grab the specialty grains at the local home brew store.  I like Rahr, Weyermann, Cargill, and Muessdoerffer, oh and Dingeman and Warminster... and and and...

The process is straight forward.
  • The day before brew day 
    • I dechlorinate the water with 1/2 of a  Campden Tablet.
      • That is all you need for de chlorinating your water
    • I crush the grains
  • On brew day
    • All of the water goes in the pot
    • The water is treated to adjust the pH.  
      • I am a fan of Five Star 5.2 stabilizer for small batch
      • I am a fan of Acidulated malt for small batch pH adjustments
    • The water is heated lid on to strike temperature
    • My false bottom/cake rack is put in the kettle
    • The grains are placed into the bag and lowered into the water
      • After 5 minutes I check my pH, if it is too high, I add some acid malt to lower it.
      • I don't even crush the acid malt.  I just add .1 to .2 lbs to get the pH corrected.
    • The heat is turned off once the grains go in.
      • I step mash a lot, but that will be handled in a later post.
      • I also have a valve on my kettle, so I can recirculate with a pitcher if I want. 
    • The grains are recirculated or stirred every 15 minutes, and the lid is left on during the mash.
    • I don't care if I lose a couple of degrees, and you shouldn't either.  
      • It really doesn't matter if your mash falls from 152 to 146 F. 
      • If it falls too much, turn on the heat and stir, but undershoot your target temp. 
    • At the end of the mash it is just like any other batch of beer. 
      • Bring to a boil
      • Add hops
      • Add extras
      • Chill (ultra fast on a small batch)
      • Aerate 
        • I aerate small batches by pouring them back and forth between the fermenter and the kettle (which I rinse out first)
      • Pitch yeast
        • You may not need an entire package of yeast. 
          • You can seal up the rest and use another time. 
      • Ferment -  if I need to keep a small bach cool, I ferment it in a laundry tub. 

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