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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Way too long... NO CHILL Centennial Pale ale featuring Cargill malts...

Ok so this year has been tough.  Two of our team had babies, I got a promotion, Mark... well Mark was already living the busy life of KC's most eligible bachelor.  So we haven't been as active as we normally are.

But that doesn't mean we haven't been brewing.  WE HAVE.   We just haven't been posting about it.  Recently we brewed a Belgian Blonde with Raspberries, A BDSA (with Dingemans...Post coming) and an American Light Lager that should be great once it finishes lagering, we also brewed a raspberry kolsch, and several pale ales.  We have continued our sour projects as well.   But now life is calming down a bit.  So it is time to hit the blog and hit it hard.  In upcoming weeks you will see blogs on our raspberry Belgian blonde,  BDSA, a tripel, a spiced winter saison, and on our version of an East Coast India Pale ale.  So we are getting back after it in a big way, hoping to finish the year strong.

But tonight, tonight is about a classic grapefruity Centennial India Pale Ale, with a twist.    Tonight we keep it simple and we make a basic American classic.   Our recipe has changed and grown from it's original simplicity but the heart of the recipe is still beating strong.    A basic american india pale ale, inspired by an american classic, Centennial IPA.  But when it is me and Mark, we never leave well enough alone.   We always do something to push the limits and learn.  So classic Amerian west coast IPA made with East Coast IPA techniques.  Tonight we brew hazed and confused.

In keeping with our desired classic out come, we are keeping tonight's brew day simple.   Just a single sachrification rest,  with a sparge rinse.  Brew in a bag, straight forward and easy.   And we are no chilling the beer. The point?  You can brew a beer on a week night, on your stove top.  We are making 2.5 gallons of the beer. 

We started the evening by drinking some wine I made as we got set up for brewing.   If you make beer but you don't make wine, you are really missing out.   I don't profess to be a sommelier, but I use Winexpert and Master Vintner kits to make wine that friends (1 of whom is a sommelier) assure me is fantastic stuff.   I like it, they seem to love it.  It's a win / win.  I have made 20 or 30 different kits over the years (and some actual all grape wines) they have all been really good.   My favorites winexpert kits are California Trinity White, and Diablo Rojo ( I leave out the K pack).  My favorite Master Vintner kit so far is the weekday Pino Noir.  I am making the wine makers reserve Moscato right now.  Should be great by spring.  If you think about it, you are really in the fermentation hobby.  If you can make beer you can easily make wine, cider, mead... pizza, cheese, or even fermented pickles.

The most interesting thing about our brew?   We are using a blend of 6 row and 2 row malt from Cargill Malts  That has become our go to.   You may ask why?  Well first off, I would argue that 6 row is delicious and people should use more of it, but more importantly, because 6 row has more diastatic power than two row.  Diastatic power is measured in degrees linter.  The Linter scale is a measure of a malt's enzymatic ability to reduce complex starches into sugars.   Where as most two row has about 100 degrees linter (up to 110) ,  Schreier™ Six-Row Pale has 145 degrees linter.   It is just way more potent stuff.  In theory it can convert it's own starches and upto 45% additional starches.

As brewer's we have all but forgotten about diastatic power.   All modern base malts do a pretty good job converting themselves. But there was a time when diastatic power was a major component of our recipe planning as home brewers.  I will admit it isn't such a big deal any more.  But it is nice to know your grist is well designed for success.  I would also add that 6 row malt tastes great.   What does it taste like you ask... well it tastes like 6 row.  I perceive it as more cracker like, and maybe a little sharper.

So we set out to brew an easy week night IPA with the no chill method.    When you brew a no chill hoppy beer you need to make some adjustments to your hop schedule.   The hops will be in contact with the hot wort for much longer than a standard batch.   So basically, just back your flavor and aroma additions up by 20 minutes or so.  Those methods have been covered, and covered again else where, so I wont belabor the method here.  I will say, Brewersfriend and Beer Smith both have settings for no chill.  We generally do a bittering charge and then nothing until the flame is off and the wort is cooling.   We hit a five gallon no chill with 3 to 4 oz of hops when the wort gets to 190 F.  This was a 2.5 gallon recipe and we used, 1.75 oz of hops for the "chill" addition.  This beer will get an additional 2 oz of dry hops.

Since this was an easy brew night, we used 5.2 stabilizer for our water adjustment.   The pH stabilized at about 5.34, hot, so probably around 5.5.  I'll take it, not bad for tap water and no real water adjustments.  As always the smell of the Cargill grains was amazing...just some how more, than the other grains we sometimes use.   We boiled for a full hour.  When you "no chill"  you have to be aware of potential DMS.  The easiest precaution is to boil hard for 60 minutes.  Also a good idea for any brew with lots of 6 row malt, it has a bit more sms, the precursor to the dreaded dms.

My favorite thing about this method, is you really can brew on a week night.   We ended up way overshooting our gravity ( probably due to the 6 row malt )  so we ended up brewing 3 gallons of IPA.  We originally planned for only 1.5 oz of hops in the "chill", but ended up adding an additional .25 of Centennial, and .25 of Equinox.   Should be a grapefruit bomb, can't wait to try it. update:  it has been over a month since brew day.  The beer was exactly as planned.  It was hazy and totally grapefruit...citrus... juicy... great stuff.   This may create controversy, but I am now clear... I prefer traditional IPAs.  Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed the haze craze... but I really dig a bitter, citrusy, grapefruity, crystal clear West Coast IPA.  

Stay tuned more posts coming up.  And more Belgian Inspired Brews.  AS we head into spring, we will be making some lagers for spring and summer consumption. Can you say decoction neighbor?  I know you can...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The easy method...Countertop 3 Vessel...

Everything you need to make great small batches of beer!
Ok, today I roll out what I have been doing for sometime now. My super easy counter top 3 vessel brewing method.  This astonishing development in home brew, this amazing technique is... well OK it isn't exactly new.  In fact, it has been around forever and  is about as easy and traditional as home brewing gets.  As I get older... an unavoidable fact of life... I find my desire to make huge batches of the same beer waning.  Sure, we still brew 10 to 15 gallons as a team, but when I brew on my own I tend to brew 2.5 gallon stove top batches.  After SWMBO and I split up, I moved into a tiny apartment. (literally the same size as our master suite)  That was part of the motivation to make more small batch.  Not surprisingly the quality (which was already good after 27 years of brewing) has reached a very high level.  So much so that I'm considering returning to competition.

This hobby can get out of hand,  you owe it to
yourself and your friends to stay responsible.
It's the best way to promote and protect home brewing.
For me small batch just makes sense, I mean what the heck do I need 4 cases of Belgian Strong Ale for?  No one needs that much beer on a regular basis...if you disagree, I think you need to think about how much beer you are consuming.  I know what you'll argue... "I have lot's of friends I give lots of beer away..." sure so do I.   I still make 5 - 10 gallons every month.   I just don't make 20 to 40 gallons any more. We never talk about the dark side of our hobby, forgive me for a moment, it's going to get a little dark, but every now and then I have to bring us back to reality.  Guys seem to want to make bigger and bigger batches at home...I know a guy who can do 3 Bbls  In his garage... why?   what the heck does anyone need to make 93 gallons of beer for?  I've also know many guys over the years who could not handle this hobby.  This year alone I know of a couple of guys who were turning into full blown alcoholics... they both had to quit brewing to get their lives in order.   So, yes I am clear... no one needs to make 93 gallons of beer at home every weekend or even every other weekend.

So for me,  I tend to brew 2.5 gallons on the stove top.  Up close and personal with my wort and my boil... it has been awesome.  I also find that I am brewing about 6 recipes over and over again.   Risen Pale Ale, Centennial Blonde Ale, Centennial IPA (Bells two hearted), Cream Ale, Raspberry Wheat, and Chocolate Milk Stout.   Every now and then I let the yeast cake inspire me to brew something else... I actually use lager yeast for my cream ale, so occasionally the yeast gets reused for a Schwartz Bier...or a Honey Bock.   Every now and then the stout yeast becomes a honey brown...But mostly when I brew on my own, I brew stuff that anyone would enjoy.  That lets me brew almost every weekend.  Certainly every other weekend.  The beer I make is approachable for beer muggles.  It is easy to give away (with one rule, "bring me back rinsed bottles").

Like everyone else I have been caught up in the Brew in a Bag phenomenon.  And like everyone else I recognize its ease and accessibility.  It is a great method.  I think it, along with partial mash (which I will never stop defending) is a fantastic method for making beer.  BIAB is probably the best way for a newb to start doing all grain brewing.

Brew bag as a filter!
But I am not a newb.   I am currently 28 years and over 800 batches into this hobby.  I am an experienced... aging, curmudgeony brewer.   And well, to be honest... I like 3 vessel brewing.   I enjoy it.   I like step mashing, I like batch sparging, heck I even like vorlauffing.  With my counter top system I can control my wort exactly how I want, and I can do the things I enjoy.  And isn't that what brewing is all about.  Having fun and making the best beer that you can make?

So here is my current set up.   You will notice I have eliminated anything that is hard to clean,  I have minimized valves, there are no thru wall
thermometers, no sight glass,  no pumps, and no re-circulation ports.   If I need the wort to whirlpool or to move, I get out my spoon and stir it.  As I have said before although spoons are a new technology, I am confident they will catch on. 
  • 5 gallon round cooler mash tun
    • Brewers Best Mesh Mash Bag filter
    • 3/8" Ball Valve
    • Floating mash thermometer
    • Long probe digital thermometer.
  • 5.5 gallon stainless steel kettle
  • 4 gallon stainless steel HLT
That's it.   Less than $200.00 worth of equipment for a lifetime of brewing fun.   And with my set up I can make 2.5 to 5 gallon batches of beer.  I still own larger pots.  I still  own a ridiculous propane burner, (12" 231K BTU), I still can do large batches,  but for the most part this is what I use to brew.

Now... the big question... my process.   Most of the recipes I brew are medium original gravity beers.  I rarely brew anything over 1.070.   So I adjust the mash water calculations so that my sparge is around 1.25 to 2 gallons.  I batch sparge.   I always do a mash out step, always.  I often do a 3 step mash (146 F, 156 F, 168 F) This is the practice for beers I want to have attenuate very dry.   I know what you're thinking... the self appointed step mash champion doesn't always do a 4 step mash or decoction?  well no, no I don't.   After 27 years of brewing, I know when to do a complicated step mash, and when not to do a complicated step mash.   The truth is I use mostly Cargill base malts and grains and the quality is so high, I just don't always need to do a step mash.    Here is an example of a mash for my american pale ale... Risen...  which is just a good ol fashioned early 1990s all cascade pale ale (Think New Albion).  NOTE: I always use reverse osmosis water, and I always make adjustments.  I have been using the Brewersfriend water program, but I also like EZ water, and BruNWater.  I shoot for 5.2 pH, and a balanced profile.

5lbs of grain
Strike 2.5 gallons of water at 162 F (72.2 C 9.5 L) stabilize at 154 F.
Mash out - Infusion of 3.5 quarts (3.2 liters) of water at 211 F (100 C)
Sparge with 5.75 quarts (5.44 liters)  of water at 170 F (76.6 C)

Do you know how fast you can heat 2.5 gallons to 162 F (72.2 C 9.5 L)?  Even my crappy stove can do it in less than 20 minutes.  It is so much faster to brew this way.  And you are up close and personal with your brew.   It's right there in front of you.  On the stove top, on the counter top.  You can smell it, you can taste it.   I still take all of the same measurements as before.  pH, temperature, gravity, and taste impressions.  I still write everything down in my brewing journal.  But somehow, I have more control, I'm able to correct things.  I always use fresh never opened hops.   I always calculate the hops with the correct AA% and adjust my additions.   One thing you will need if you are doing a lot of small batch is a gram scale ($6 - $14) at Wal-Mart.   Grams are just far more accurate than ounces or tenths of an ounce.   

With a minor modification
two 3 gallon carboys will
fit in a mini fridge.
My mini fridge died.  So I need to get a new one for my fermentation chamber.   I prefer to ferment in Glass.  Two of the common 3 gallon glass carboys will fit into a mini fridge with very little modification.   Right now, it is early winter, and the space beneath my big window is stable at 63 F.  I kinda got lucky on that one... So that's where I am fermenting.   But soon I will get a new mini fridge and do a post on how I modify it for fermenting.  It is really easy to do.

For now I am bottling, force carbonating in two liters, and using 2.5 gallon cubes.  Alas, my keezer is in storage.  I just don't have room in the apartment.  As we head toward contest season I will have to go ahead and make a mini keezer so that I can bottle from the keg.   But I am loving small batch so much I may sell my old one and switch to 2.5 - 3 gallon kegs exclusively.

So that is what I am doing.   I have a strong desire to make more crystal clear perfectly fermented beers.  I think I am kinda over the murky IPA thing.   I appreciate them, and they are delicious.  But for me... I prefer to be able to read through my beers...   I guess time will tell if this approach is as excellent as I suspect it might be.   It's certainly faster, it's certainly more engaged.   And I am still having a blast brewing beer.  Cheers. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Raspberry Belgian Blonde... with Cargill Malts... Oh yeah we're BACK!

Allegement des Framboises
So this year has been busy.  Promotions at work, families growing,  team members moving.   Brewing as a team has taken a smaller role in our busy lives.  It's not that we haven't been brewing, we have.  Recently we have brewed a Centennial Blonde, a couple of pale ales, and an American Light lager, that will be fantastic after it lagers.   Our sour projects are continuing and coming along beautifully.  But actually brewing what we brew, "staying in our lane"as it were and doing some crazy decoction or step mash... well that has had to wait.   But this Saturday, the wait ended.   We gathered in the brewery (John's Garage) to brew our ridiculous Raspberry Belgian Blonde Allegement des Framboises.  If you have never tried this recipe, cancel your next brew, get some Dingemans Pilsner malt, and some Fermentis BE 256, and get ready to step mash.

This is the real Belgian Grain that you have been looking
for.  Your search is over.  Dingemans is the real deal.
We have been so honored by the many of you who have supported us and brewed our beers over the years.   This one has been a favorite.  And you can expect many more Belgian Inspired Brews coming up.   In the next weeks you'll see a tripel, a BDSA, a Saison Noel, and a Belgian Amber.    Like I said we are staying in our lane, complicated step mashes and decoctions coming up.   We are also planning some fun IPAs that are cooled partially with frozen grapefruit juice, and mango juice respectively (with special thanks to Basic Brewing where we got the idea).   But today is all about the cross over beer.  The beer that is loved by soccer moms and craft beer nerds alike.   I present... Allegement des Framboises.

Allegment is a Belgian Blonde, it is pretty darn fantastic without the Raspberries, but it takes on a a whole other character with the fruit.   It is also amazing with Peaches.   Something about the esters of the BE-256 and the fruit just goes so well together.  We have tried other Belgian style yeasts,  like White Labs 530 (our go to for BDSA) and Imperial Monastery, but honestly they are too estery for this beer.  We want a hint of fruity esters and cloves... not a punch to the face.   We find that with BE 255 we can control the esters with our step mash, creating more or less of a desired flavor by modifying our step times.

Yes, this is a decoction mash,  yes you will have to do some math but brewersfriend step mash infusion calculator makes that easy.  Yes, our brew day was 5 hours long.   5 hours of awesome fun and craft brew sampling with other brew nerds is a fun way to spend a Saturday.  And yes there are more ingredients, see below.  We generally rack onto thawed frozen raspberries, and then use raspberry extract to round out the flavor.  Yes, we generally secondary age this beer.    All the crazy stuff we do pays off in a elixir that is worthy of an offering to Ninkasi herself.  We do a fairly basic water adjustment, you are shooting for about 60 CA, and about 95 Chloride.  For us that is John's tap water mixed with 5 gallons of RO water and 1.25 G of Gypsum, and 2.5 G of Calcium Chloride, but you will have to calculate your own water adjustments.  If you need help, send a message, we try to respond.

And yes for Belgian inspired beers, the grain you choose matters.   We use, love, and promote Dingemans Pilsner from Cargill.  Ask for it by name.  It will make all of the difference in your Belgian inspired ales.  All of Cargills malts have been fantastic.  But this one... well this one is particularly fantastic.   It is the real Belgian malt you have been looking for.   You can use what ever Belgian yeast you prefer, but we recommend Fermentis Safale BE 256.   We have tried Wyeast and WhiteLabs with varying degrees of success.  If you choose liquid, please get fresh yeast.  It really loses viability quickly.

The new mill set up is
The brewday started, as always with lots of cleaning and preparation.  John milled the grains while MA and I cleaned.  And when you are brewing I suggest you clean everything that needs cleaning in your brewery.  Remember, if you don't like cleaning, you don't like brewing, you just enjoy making wort.    MA and I cleaned everything.  We went through a whole container of PBW.  But now everything is crystal clean.  We scrubbed, things soaked, we rinsed... it was great.

Crushing fine improves
John crushed the grains to .3 mills.  Like our new mill set up?  That is a corona mill mounted in a 5 gallon bucket with a 3 gallon hopper on top.  It can hold about 12 lbs of grain. (well it can hold more, but the bucket gets full, so when we redesign it there will be a larger bucket)  Dust free milling in half the time.   The idea came from Wilserbrew on Home brew talk.  We love our new mill set up.  And we crush fine.  It improves everything.   Those of you who have brewed this beer before may notice that we no longer add sugar.  The truth is we are getting 75.8% from no sparge brewing.  So why add any sugar to the beer?  It really doesn't need it.   Plus last time, the beer was a little high on alcohol aromas.  So we wanted to bring it down just a bit.

Your first steps will be thick... RDWHAHB
We then started our step mash.   As you can see from the mash instructions above, this is a complicated mash.  But infusion step mashing really isn't hard.  You pour boiling water into your mash.  That's all it is.   We used to have to step mash, now we do it because it makes better beer.  Beer with real mouth feel, beer with real head retention.  Can you make a meringue like head last on a beer with out adding tons of adjuncts?  We can... because we step mash.    The first step, the acid rest is always extremely thick, don't worry about it.   By the end, it will be very thin and it will flow easily.   With the help of the calculator on Brewersfriend we nailed our step mash.   Resting at each level for our desired time, and the furthest we were off on a step was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.   Pretty darn good.

Step mashing is so much more active than single infusion brewing.  I personally think it is just more fun.   This is the step where we were 2 degrees to high.  We were shooting for 132 to 134 F.  We ended up at 134 for most of the grist, but some spots were at 136 F.  No big deal.  We know from our post boil trub that we accomplished our goal of modifying proteins into medium length chains.  (UPDATE - the ol trusty long probe thermometer is toast- so we were probably spot on)  This is the step that really makes the difference in our beers.  The protein rest.  You see, we never ask sugars to do the job that should be done by proteins.   We use the proteins to create the head retention and to create the mouth feel that you can only get from a good step mash.

We had two more additions after the protein rest, and a schluss mash decoction to get to mash out. By then end of our mash, our wort was thin, the brewery smelled like heaven.  And our mout (wort) was digestable.   That is what you want when you are making a Belgian inspired beer.   By the way, the flavor of the wort was amazing, sweet, biscuit, toast, slight sourness from the acid rest (the yeast will turn that into awesome Belgian flavors)   This should be a great beer.

I know I have told you to take records while you brew.  But I really mean it.  Take good notes, keep records.   John documents our brew days in a brew journal he got.   I use my computer.  MA takes photos.  I can't tell you how many times the records have saved our bacon, or allowed us to figure out what went wrong or right.   It is also fun to go back and read your brewing notes from previous brew sessions and see what was going on.

Record your gravity through out the process.  You will quickly learn how your brewery operates, and what changes you need to make to craft the beer you want to make.  This is how you learn your system.  This is how you brew world class beer.  Learning and experience... there's nothing that compares to Learning and experience. 

The boil was uneventful, we boiled hard, hoping to destroy any long chain proteins that weren't modified by the step mash.   There is only one hop addition.   At the end of the boil we had 9 gallons of delicious wort.   We were shooting for 1.060.   We got... 1.060.   We will gain a couple of points from the sugars in the raspberries in secondary.   It was a great brew day.  Lots of fun.  And most importantly we're back.  So get ready for a whole slew of new posts from us.  We'll keep things rolling, and if you are ever in KC on a weekend, and want to brew with us, let us know.  We'd love to brew with you. 

Keep checking back.  We're brewing a tripel this weekend, our infamous "desir".   We have some cool stuff coming up on decoction mashing, and on how to correctly add spices to your beers... can you say Christmas farmhouse ale?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I think I may already own my dream brewing rig...

This is Marshal's (Brulosophy) old set up, but mine is identical.
I didn't have a picture handy, so I used his.  
If you don't read Brulosophy, well
start reading it today.
So as I have been responding to questions and comments about my recent post about using your head when brewing, it occured to me... I may already own my dream 5 to 10 gallon brewing rig.  I already know my stove top gear is ideal for 2.5 to 3 gallon batches.   This might be the perfect rig, or at least the rig that makes the most sense for me (and probably for most of you).   I have an old 48 quart cooler mash tun with a 3/8th" valve.  I have a bad ass burner (231K BTU 12" banjo) that I have had since the Clinton administration.   I have a Keggle,  and I have an electric turkey fryer. (it's getting harder and harder to find a 30 quart electric turkey fryer but you could also use a large coffee urn)   So all I really need again is a stand and some PVC tubing and some silicone for my sparge arm.  If I use my pump it will be more for vourlauf and temperature stabilization than for anything else.

PVC Sparge arm for my cooler mash tun. Pretty easy build
consistent rinsing of the grains. 
I used to own a huge gravity system we called the beast.  We made 30 gallon batches on it with out a single pump.  If our mash temp fell we didn't worry about it.  We knew another step was coming up, and that we would be adding near boiling water.  We made fantastic beer.  Balanced and malty, clear enough to read through.  And our beer had head retention and real mouth feel,  even if it was crisp and fully attenuated. I know the concept of mouth feel and crisp together is hard to explain to single mash step brewers, but think of a Pilsner Urquell.  It has mouth feel even though it is crisp and light.  You see a Pilsner Urquel doesn't ask sugars to do the job of proteins.  It is lovingly and carefully step mashed through a decoction process.  Long chain proteins are modified in this process into medium length proteins, melanoidal flavors are developed.   And that my friends you can not do with single rest mashing.   To get close you have to add more grains that are designed to mimic the taste of the authentic process.  So why not just do it right from the beginning.  In the old days if we wanted a dry ultra crisp beer like American lager or dry Irish stout we just changed our step mash in order to create a dry beer.   I still believe multiple step mashing is the control panel of wort creation.

My trusty ol Keggle and Burner
It might be time to take what I have learned over the past couple of years and apply it to my current gear.  So here is what I am thinking.  I prefer mashing in a cooler mash tun with a brew bag as a filter. I crush fine, and always get 75 to 80% efficiency.  I can get over 90% when I  slowly fly sparge.  But I want to do a kinda modified fly sparge. (basically, I am going to do a step mash but I will try to make sure I have 30% of the brewing liquor left for sparging.)  I always step mash.  (you all know my feelings on single temperature mashing). So with that in mind.  I am stealing bits and pieces of what I have learned from BIAB and 3 vessel to brew in the way that makes the most sense to me.

If you read this blog you have seen the
Cajun Injector countless times. 
So my electric turkey fryer will be my hot liquor tank.  My keggle and bad ass burner will be my... well my keggle and burner.   My old extract pot will be for decoction (the keggle is just too deep).  My trusty old blue cooler mash tun will be my mash tun.    I will be step mashing with up to 70% of the water.  To ensure that the wort temperatures even out I will be using... a spoon!  (Although the technology is unproven, I am confident that spoons for use in brewing will catch on. )  The remaining 30% of the water,  I will use for a modified fly sparge, like a sparge rinse but slower and more controlled.   I am going to try to keep my system short, even though I am 6'1" and two of the other team members are 6'4" or taller, shorter systems are easier to manage. So,  I am going to collect the wort in a graduated bucket (bottling bucket) and transfer it manually to keggle.  That way I can stop my sparge when I get to the volume i want to be at, or the exact gravity I want to be at for my boil.

We'll make the ol girl look
like this with some elbow grease!
Now, I may add some features to my brewing set up, like a thermometer for my keggle.  Just because it is cool to know where the temperatures are as you are cooling, and when you are almost to a boil. And a sight glass, to make volume determination easier. And a With this system and process I should come in around 75% to 80% every time, but this also allow me to fine tune my mash exactly how I want it.   And more importantly it gives me more connection to the brewing process.  The more hands on the better. The more focus needed the better.  That is what makes a great brewer.  Great brewers are focused and connected to the brew... every time. 

So yes, my decision is made,  unless I win the lottery,  I have what I need already.  And I'm guessing most of you have what you need as well. If you don't already have what you need, I'm guessing you can get what you need for less than $350.00 USD total.  You probably have most of what you need.  And anything and everything else you need you can get online, or at your local hardware store.  There is just no reason to spend a fortune on home brewing.  It is learning, cleaning, and actually brewing that will make you a great brewer, not equipment.   Lots of guys (and gals) have won big time awards on basic equipment.  The difference between them, and you... they really, really know what they are doing.   So, yes, I have my brewing rig already. I'm guessing you do to.   I know you probably surf the web and look at the awesome stuff that is now available.  My best advice is change how you surf.  Begin researching the awesome brewers who post their stuff to the web.  Begin learning about advanced brewing techniques, there is a reason last years brewer of the year did a ferulic acid rest... just saying.  There is a reason last years Ninkasi award winner does decoctions.    Not all of these guys would agree on everything, but by researching them you can learn what works for you.   That's all for now brew nerds...

Friday, July 14, 2017

OK Knuckleheads its time for some TRUTH again

This blog was launched years ago largely on the back of a blog post called A quick Rant.   Years later I find myself still saying and preaching the same things.  Listen to me round eye... you go brew how you want to brew.  If you want to make nothing but no boil hibiscus flower gose... then do that.   If you want to boil everthing for 90 minutes than do that.   But please use your heads about brewing.  There are some disturbing trends that I am noticing that I think need to be addressed. So, today I am addressing them... again.

1.)  It is all about the skill of the brewer not the equipment.  In the past couple of years there has been a near explosion of quality brewing equipment for home brewers.  And most if it is awesome.  Most of it will really help you make excellent wort.  But it will only help you if your recipe doesn't suck.  If you have great fresh ingredients. If you've calculated the correct amount of hops to add. If your process is solid.  If you know how to aerate.  If you can control fermentation temperatures.  If, If, If!  

This is a dream set up for almost all of us.  The electric brewery
sells everything you need to craft your own dream set up. But
remember you can make great beer with a cooler mash tun. 
If you are a brewer who prefers to step mash your beer, these systems are very appealing. I will admit that the idea of wort moving through tubes and then back into the mash tun is kinds cool.  I will admit I am still considering the purchase of one.  But, since I step mash anything and everything I brew, and I happen to own a stove and a pot and a spoon. I'm still not convinced they make much sense.  I can accomplish the same thing by adding near boiling water and stirring.  The effective cost to me...$0.  I already own a pot for boiling and a spoon for stirring.  Remember wort doesn't know it is being recirculated, enzymes couldn't care less.  You see the equipment won't do squat for you if your water profile sucks, if your grain is stale, if your hops are old, if your fermentation temperatures rage uncontrolled. And it won't save you from a lack of general skill and knowledge.  

Listen, you can probably get away with messing up one variable of your beer, and have it still be pretty darn good. (the Brulosophy guys are testing this).  But don't imagine for a minute that a fancy wort production machine will make up for abject failure in other areas of your brewing.  I've said it before, and I will say it again.  Wort production is less important than; great recipe design, water adjustment, aeration, fermentation control, and above all else cleaning.  So follow some common sense in making beer.  Your first big investment is of course your kettle, burner, and mash tun. But your second big investment should be fermentation related.  Remember, brewers make wort, yeast makes beer.  

Commit to 1 or 2 processes for the production of wort (we always step mash unless we are doing German beer, then we do a decoction step mash). Commit to a method of chilling your wort.  Commit to a method of yeast preparation (vitality starters for this guy). Commit to a method of aeration.  And finally commit to temperature controlled fermentation.  Most importantly we use quality fresh ingredients.

2.) You can not make great beer with crap ingredients.   It can not be done, do not dispute this point.  So I understand that you want to save some money and buy in bulk, and it isn't a terrible idea for your grains.  After all, grain is malted and kilned in part to preserve the grain.   But please understand that if you are entering a contest with 2 year old pilsner and you are hoping to win category 2B (Bohemian Pilsner) you're screwed if I show up.  Because I'm getting the freshest pilsner I can get.  (Probably from our amazing sponsors at Cargill) And I am lovingly, carefully performing a step mash decoction with out the aid of a recycling wort system. You'd better not try to use the remaining Saaz from the 1 lb bag you bought last year, cause I'm showing up with fresh nitrogen flushed Saaz from our friends at YCH.   And I can promise you I will get perfect fermentation with a brew-day starter of SafLager 34/70 carefully controlled in our fermentation chamber.  And forget it completely if you do not know how to adjust your water to the correct profile for a Bohemian Pilsner.

How many times have you watched a YouTube video where the guys brewing didn't really know what they were doing, and they never mentioned how old their grain was, and they didn't utter a word about the AA% of their hops? And they are trying a brand new process they have never tried before... shockingly they miss their target OG, and then they blame the process and conclude it doesn't work.  Do yourself a favor, ignore those guy.  Remember the aspects that make quality beer, and keep your process consistent keep your ingredients fresh.   Do the same things every time, for that matter brew the same beer over and over again with great ingredients.   Commit to quality ingredients (if your LHBS doesn't have fresh hops, order them on line)

You can not make great beer if your brewery looks like this.
3.) FACT - most of the problems we face as brewers are because of a lack of cleaning,  a lack of understanding, or a lack of quality ingredients.   If you get even reasonable efficiency, your problems aren't because your wort production sucks.  It's because something else, or everything else, in your process sucks. Most common error?   Lack of sanitation.   So, best advice is slow down and clean everything.  Think carefully about every step of the process.   And again clean your stuff a lot.  I am known to grab a piece of gear and clean it while I watch TV.  My gear is pristine.

You don't have to spend a fortune on any particular step of the process to make great beer.  You do have to be clean.  You do have to think carefully about each step in the process.  Incidentally if you do want to spend a fortune, spend it on quality ingredients, temperature controlled fermentation, on water filtration, and on aeration.  Too many guys are focusing on the wrong things. Remember many of the equipment choices commercial brewers make are motivated in part by ease of cleaning.  They don't have the advantage of being able to easily carry and break down their gear.   They can't deep clean a mash tun while watching Sports Center.

4.) It's not a race.  They don't give out awards for brewing quickly. And why would you want to? Brewing is so much fun.   Just slow down and use your heads, yes I know you are busy.  Yes I know you need to carve out time to brew.  But remember there are no short. If you are serious about making world class beer, Clean, Clean, Clean.  Learn to adjust your water.  Build a mash tun and learn to do infusion step mashing.  Buy a brewbag for a filter, they are just better mash filters than false bottoms, or toilet braiding.  Those changes alone will improve your wort way more than a $2,000.00 wort machine.  (don't misunderstand me, If you are flush with cash go for it! If I win the lottery I'm buying all kinds of cool stuff from Colorado Brewing Systems and SS Brewtech )

For your German beers learn to decoct, it makes a difference.  Who cares if your mash takes 2 hours? It makes superior authentic German beer.  And please don't tell me you can make the same caliber of beer with a single sacchrification rest.   You CAN NOT so don't bring that weak sauce up in here. Only pitch healthy vital yeast.  Learn to make a starter, or at least a vitality starter.   Aerate your wort, so it can become healthy beer. And for the love of Sally control your fermentation temperatures.

Above all else have fun, RDWHAHB, and don't be a douchebag.   I have to suggest that you consider brewing beers that expose problems you are having.  Brew a basic Blonde,  brew a Cream Ale.  If you can, brew a basic lager.  And if you can't control temperatures on a lager, why are you worried about a wort production machine?   Once again for excellent brewing,  expenses related to water adjustment and temperature control should come before wort production expenses.

I write this today as much as a reminder to myself as I do a reminder to all of you.   I also see the fancy rigs on line and think how cool it would be to have one.   I also see the shiny stainless fermenters and think, "man that would be cool,a glycol controlled system in my basement."   But the truth is you don't need that to make world class beer, you can ferment in a keg, or in a stainless steel pot for much less.  You can literally purchase 4 kegs to ferment in for the price of 1 stainless fermenter, and with a keg you can ferment under pressure.   Just a reminder to all of you and to myself, stay clean & use your head.

UPDATE:  I was just thinking... Riddle me this batman, how come standard brew in a bag gets 80 -90% efficiency, and the recirculating units don't get anywhere near that.  You have to do all kinds of stuff to a Grainfather mash to ensure 75%?   Robobrew is no different.  Gash Slug reports 80% on his robo brew with no pump, and we're hearing reports much lower with the pump.   So yeah for me, I will keep my pot, and my spoon.  I will use my BrewBag and crush as fine as I can, No sparge in the cooler infusion step mash.