Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Extract Excellence; The Extract Apocalypse 3 batches VIDEO ACTION

MA Prepping for a big brew day!
Friday night was the extract apocalypse.   The entire team was back together for an evening of brewing, revelry, and merriment.  On this evening we would be headed back to our brewing roots, we would be brewing 3 batches of extract home brew.  Three glorious, wonderful IPAs.  15 Gallons of hoppy goodness.  And we would show you, our readers, that you can make great beer at home with extract.

3 Hoppy Extract kits ready for Action
Most of us got our start in home brewing with extract kits.   Most of us began this near obsession with a box of cryptic ingredients from a home brew store.   And most of us eventually made the switch to all grain, preferring the flavors and cost savings of this method.   But most of us also have wondered "now that I know what I am doing... how awesome could I make an extract kit"  After all, we all know someone who makes award winning beers with extract.  But how awesome can we make it?

We have set out to answer that question in our recent series on extract excellence.   We were armed with 3 IPA kits from NorthernBrewer. We had the Karma Citra,  the Grapefruit Pulpin, and the Dead Ringer kits.  Northern Brewer kits are great, and we're so proud to have them as a partner here at Counterbrew.  Now most of you know who Northern Brewer is, but just in case you don't.  Northern Brewer is the largest home brew store in North America, and has one of the best websites you will experience.  They also produce brewingTV.  (Which has provided so many of us wonderful wasted hours on YouTube.) We set out to use the techniques we have learned in the Extract Excellence series.   Full volume boil, late addition of extract, pre-dissolving your extract,  rousing the yeast for full attenuation, and using yeast nutrient.

Fonzie in the rain, where's Ritchie Cunningham?
This brewing evening was a blast.  It was a stormy rainy night, and it was hot and humid in the garage.  But we didn't care.   For three of us it was back to our roots,  Jake, John and I have done many extract batches.  For Mark Anthony it was a whole new experience, he started with partial mash and brew in a bag.  So this was his first time ever making an extract batch of home brew.

Campden Tablets

The night before we brewed John treated all of the water we would need with campden tablets to purify the water and to remove chlorine and chloramine.   It is a pretty straight forward process.   we were using 19.5 gallons of water total, so it was as simple as crushing up two campden  tablets and splitting it up between the water.    Normally we would make a yeast starter as well, but John realized we were out of DME... so we decided to just re-hydrate and use a little extra.

On brew day the storms were rolling in. We decided to have each guy handle a batch of beer, with me floating between the batches.  John was using the beast 231 K BTU banjo burner.   Jake was on his old turkey fryer, and MA was on the Cajun injector.   All three systems did a great job.   But it is no surprise that John was finished first.

The first thing that we did was bring our treated water (brewing liquor) to temperature.   When you do an extract (kit or your own)  the first thing you tend to do is steep grains.   Grains steep anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.  We put them in as the water is heating and pull them as the water approaches 170 F.  We do not want to extract tannin from the grains and we have not treated this water for pH.  So letting the water get above 170 F would be a risky move.   As they are steeping we occasionally poke at them with a spoon and stir them around.  

After the grains steeped for 20 to 30 minutes and when the water reached 170 F,  we pulled the grains and squeezed the grain bags into the wort.   It was now time to use one of our most important tricks to making great extract home brew, pre dissolving the wort.   We pre dissolve the wort in a separate pot so that we have no risk of scorching our extract in the kettles.   The next video is dark, but John gets his point across well.  We also use some of the hot water to get all of the extract out of the containers it came in.   Great tips that keep your extract from scorching or even getting too dark.  But one thing you have to accept is that extract will be darker than all grain brew.   It is just the nature of the beast.

late extract addition
After mixing up the extract off of the heat, we add one gallon of it to the boil kettle.   We save one gallon for a late boil addition.  That helps the extract keep from getting too dark.   So we add in one gallon and head to a boil.   You need some sugars and some proteins in a wort in order to get hop utilization.   So in an extract you want full volume boil, and you want some sugars so that the hop oils have something to stick to.   We do not reduce the hops when we make extract, even though we are doing full volume boil and getting good hop utilization.

Hop soup
We have found over the years that the hops are always a little too low on an extract kit.  Once you are to a boil, an extract batch is a lot like all grain.   Follow your hop schedule, make your fining and nutrient additions, and chill.  But for us there is one key difference,  we add the final gallon of dissolved wort with 10 minutes to go.  Yes you lose your boil for a couple of minutes.  But don't worry it will come back, just pause your timer and start again when it boils again.   Alternatively you can add some as the batch is boiling, a little here and a little there.  But you are risking making a darker beer than you had intended to make.  

Jake's odd method for checking
the OG of a beer.
Sometimes we bag the hops, sometimes we just throw them in.   There is really no right way to do hop additions.  Both ways work fine.  John chose to just add his in.   Jake and MA bagged their hops. Johns batch looked like hop soup,  It will all settle out in fermentation.   John really had no choice, since he was brewing on the keggle, and we don't have a bag big enough to reach down to the 5 gallon level in the keggle.

At the end of the boil each batch was chilled with our jaded hydra.   Ground water temps are above ale temps right now, so we could only chill to about 74 F.   But John's basement is at 66 F.   So we just set the batches in the basement to finish coming down to fermentation temperatures.   The batches were pitched the next morning after a brief aeration.

John nailed his initial gravity of 1.050 coming in at 1.048.   Jake was shooting for 1.064 and got 1.060.   Mark Anthony was shooting for 1.055 and got 1.050, but also produced an entire extra gallon of wort.  So he clearly actually got some sugars from the steeping.   The Cajun injector heats much more slowly than the other kettles.  So the steep was much longer.  What we think happened is that he actually extracted and mash converted sugars from the steeping.   Because with an extra gallon of wort his numbers should have been much lower.

Jake and John will stay on top of rousing the batches and making the nutrient additions to make sure these batches have every chance to attenuate as much as possible.  And we will of course report back to you all about how these beers turn out.    I'm looking forward to trying these.   They were darker than their all gran versions.  But not crazy dark.  I think they are going to be excellent.

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