Saturday, February 17, 2007
His website is: http://www2.parc.com/emdl/members/apte/
After reading about and listening to his description of the “$1 Homebrew Barrel" I decided to make two and use them on a Flanders Red and a Lambic I brewed last summer. Those two beers still have a few months/years of aging in front of them so I can't give a definitive evaluation of their flavor, but the last time I sampled them they were both doing well.
The “$1 Homebrew Barrel" is pretty simple, take a tapered piece of oak (like an unfinished chair leg from Home Depot) cut it off, toast it over a flame, wrap the middle with Teflon tape and jam it through the neck of the carboy and into your beer. According to tests Raj has run the oxygen transfer rate of this system is similar to that of the large (20,000 L) tanks Rodenbach uses to age their sour red. Because of how large these tanks are their surface to volume ratio is very low meaning that they transfer less oxygen to the beer than smaller (55-65 gallon) commercial wine barrels and far less than the (5-15 gallon) barrels some homebrewers use. The other advantage of the system is that they are far cheaper to make and require virtually no maintenance.
However, I ran into several problems while using the system:
1. The wood swells after absorbing wort/beer. This makes removing the oak from the neck of the bottle very difficult, and dangerous since you are stressing the glass carboy. In my case I actually cracked the neck of the carboy that the Flanders Red in in, rather minor so I just left the beer in there and wrapped the neck with electrical tape for reinforcement. Picture
2. When pressure builds up faster than it can diffuse out of the wood beer is forced out through the wood. This can happen either because of a strong secondary Brettanomyces fermentation or because the temperature of the carboy rises causing CO2 to come out of solution faster than it can diffuse through the wood. This is an annoyance and can also lead to poor sanitation, in my case after some liquid got out it allowed mold to start growing on the bottom of the fridge that the carboys were stored in.
Despite these difficulties I think that this is a good system that could be great with just a couple of tweaks.
I have personally stopped using glass, it posses the risk of suddenly breaking and it can be pretty heavy when full of beer. As a result I now use Better Bottle, so that is what I used for my project. The manufacturer of Better Bottles claims that they are impermeable to oxygen, but that claim is still up for debate in the homebrewing community.
I started with a trimmed and toasted oak chair leg prepared just as Raj described (cut to about 7 inches and toasted over the flame from my turkey fryer). I then took the rubber stopper and used a knife to cut a new hole near one edge for the airlock. I then used the knife and slowly whittled/twisted/gouged a large hole starting near the other edge and going just passed the original airlock hole. This took about 20 minutes, but really wasn't that difficult once I got the hang of it. There is a small gap in one spot between the stopper and the wood, I will seal this with some food grade silicone sealant.
Friday, February 16, 2007
The mash was:
9 lbs Maris Otter
.75 lbs Vienna
.75 lbs Crystal 40
@153 for 60 minutes
then I did a mash out @ 168 for 15 minutes
After the sparge I boiled all of the wort I collected for 60 minutes. After the main boil was complete I repeatedly took one gallon out of the boil kettle and brought it back up to a boil and added a single variety of hops (all leaf hops from freshops.com) in an attempt to hit around 46 IBUs to balance out the 1.062 OG.
1st Cascade 6.5% AA 1 oz @ 13 min = 45.3 IBU
2nd Amarillo 9.5% AA .875 oz @ 10 min = 47.1 IBU
3rd Centennial 10.7% AA .75 oz @ 10 min = 45.5 IBU
4th Columbus 15.8% AA .625 oz @ 8 min = 46.5 IBU
5th Simcoe 11.1% AA .75 oz @ 10 min = 47.2 IBU
The human palate is only accurate to about 5 IBUs (plus the formulas we use are just estimates), so you just have to get close to eliminate any impact that different IBU levels would have.
Each batch was then chilled and poured into its own jug with some dry US-56 yeast.
After a week of fermentation each jug got 3/8 oz of the same hop used in the boil as a dry hop.
Cascade: Pine, citrus, a classic
Amarillo: Big citrus, smooth
Centennial: Tastes a bit oxidized or something, almost English
Columbus: Herbal, dank
Simcoe: Pine, fruity
This experiment also marked my first appearance on Basic Brewing Radio give the show a listen for more detailed tasting notes here.
-Rogue Brutal Bitter
-Bell's Two Hearted
-George Gale's Prize Old Ale
In addition some brewpubs will do single hop IPA/APAs series to educate people on the different hops varieties.
Sauerkraut seems like it is easy enough for just about anyone to try. At its core it only requires two ingredients, salt and cabbage and about 10 minutes to prepare. In the right ratio salt draws moisture out of the cabbage and protects the good lactic acid bacteria (including our friends Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus which are both used in the production of sour beers) from other microbes that want to invade. After the cabbage is salted you simply apply a weight to the top of the cabbage and wait a few weeks for the magic to happen.
Other spices (juniper, caraway), fruits (apples) and vegetables (onions) can be added to the sauerkraut for flavor or texture, but for this first try I'm going to stay basic.
I sliced up 2 heads of regular green cabbage (3 lbs, after removing the stem and outer leaves) and mixed with 34 grams of kosher salt (2.5% by weight). Then I pressed the salted cabbage into a large Tupperware container put the lid from a smaller container and used a water filled mason jar to weigh it down.
I used Iodophor on the container and lid, but only soap and water on the knife and cutting board. Sanitation is important in making sauerkraut, but it is not as crucial as when making beer because the cabbage is covered in natural yeast and bacteria anyway and the salt is there to protect the fermentation.
After 24 hours the liquid drawn out by the salt was only half way up the cabbage. So I poured a brine made of 2 tsp of kosher salt and 1 pint of water onto the cabbage.
After another 48 hours the mixture was putting off enough sulfur aroma to cause me to move it out of my room and into a cabinet in the kitchen. I wish I had a cellar.
After about a week the distinct smell of sauerkraut was apparent. I had to top off with more brine because it had started to evaporate. I suspect that my rig is getting caught and not efficiently putting pressure on the kraut.
After another week I took a look at the kraut and there were several small, blue colonies of mold floating on top of the brine. This is not a serious issue as they are simply on the surface. I took the weight (mason jar) out and skimmed off the mold, replaced the weight and put the rig back on its shelf.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
My process was rather simple, I made 6 gallons of pale, moderately-hopped wort, that I then chilled and put into separate fermenters. I then took five interesting sugars (Dark Soft Candi, Dark Candi Syrup, Amber Candi Rocks, Homemade Caramel, and Muscovado) along with white table sugar as a control, each sugar was boiled with a little bit of water (to sanitize and make it easier to incorporate) and then added to the wort in its own fermenter. I then fermented, conditioned and bottled each batch. The result was six surprisingly different batches from one mash.
The only big disappointment from the group was the white sugar, because I did not have enough room in my fermentation fridge or enough small fermenters the beer ended up tasting boozy and rather unpleasant. In general there is nothing wrong with adding refined white sugar to your beer, I have used it as up to 20% of the fermentables, with good yeast management and temperature control the beers did not come out cidery or unpleasant.
James at Basic Brewing Radio was kind enough to have me on to discuss this experiment and taste the beers. If you have any interest in listening to James, Andy, Steve and me drink and talk about the individual batches give the podcast a listen here or www.basicbrewing.com/radio or search for it on iTunes.
Basic Tasting Reults:
White – Cidery, hot, rather unpleasant
Dark Soft Candi Sugar – Complex, rummy, caramel
Dark Candi Syrup – Dark, rich, full, thicker, complex
Amber Candi Rocks – Clean, fruity, lets the base shine through
Homemade Caramel – Sweet, full, dark, caramel
Muscovado – Rummy, brown sugar
Sugar Experiment (Dubbel)
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.47
Anticipated OG: 1.062
Anticipated SRM: 11.9
Anticipated IBU: 23.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes
9.00 lbs. American Pilsener
1.22 lbs. Experimental Sugar
0.75 lbs. Cane Sugar
0.75 lbs. Maris Otter
0.50 lbs. Aromatic Malt
0.25 lbs. Vienna Malt
1.50 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker @ 85 min.
0.63 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker @ 17 min.
White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale
Dough In 15 min @ 135
Sacc Rest 45 min @ 145
Intermediate 14 min @ 163
Mash out 15 min @ 168
7/2/06 3 cup starter made with DME and nutrient, no activity the next morning. Full activity by the following day, a bit concerned how long it took, but it should be fine.
Brewed 7/5/06 by myself
Briess Less Modified Pils used as the base as B3 was out of Belgian Pils
1 base beer with 6 different sugars added to make 6 one gallon batches: .75 lbs of cane sugar added to boil and 3.25 oz (16.25 oz/5 gallons) of each sugar boiled with water and added to one fermenter for each batch.
Amber Hard Candi 1.056
Dark Candi Syrup 1.058
Dark Soft Candi Sugar 1.060
Homemade Caramel with DAP 1.057
Table Sugar 1.056
Brew went well, had some minor temp issues during the mash. The white sugar and candi rock batches got more trub in them than the others. Beer turned out a bit under gravity, probably as a result of not boiling down to a low enough volume.
All 5 special sugar batches were fermented in 1 gallon jugs in a 66 degree fridge, while the white sugar batch was in a 5 gallon fermenter in my approximately 72 degree closet. 30 second shoot of O2 added to each batch (except white which just got a good shake) 4 hours in. All 6 with activity by the next morning.
The next day up to 68, the following 70
7/12/06 Syrup down to 1.012 (79% AA) (I assume the others are similarly done fermenting) not a particularly good flavor, sort of grainy with some spicy/banana flavors, not much contribution from the sugar. I lowered the fridge to 50 degrees to drop yeast/crap out of suspension.
8/4/06 Bottled with 5/8 oz corn sugar per batch.
White 1.009 (White)
Dark Soft 1.009 (Soft)
Dark Syrup 1.009 (Syrp)
Amber Rocks 1.008 (Rock) (Forgot the priming sugar syrup on this batch so I added 1/2 tsp corn sugar per bottle added)
Caramel 1.018 (Carm)
Muscovado 1.008 (Mus)
Friday, February 2, 2007
Kombucha appeals to me because it is much faster and easier to make than funky beers, in addition it has almost no sugar and less than .5% abv, so I can feel good drinking it whenever I want. I grew my culture (left) from a bottle of what I felt to be the best kombucha I had in Denver (Tea Chi), but there are commercially available cultures that require less work if you are so inclined or if you can't get a bottle locally.
The finished product can vary greatly depending on your culture. Some are clean and sharply acidic, but it should come as no surprise that my favorite brand had plenty of funk (in particular our old friend Brettanomyces). The tea doesn't have too much impact on the finished drink, it serves primarily as a nutrient source for the culture (and as such it can't be left out in favor of other flavorings).
Here is my basic recipe:
Take it off the heat and soak 2 tea bags or 2 tsp of the tea of your choice for 15 minutes (the longer brew time extracts more nitrogen and nutrients),
Dissolve 2.5 oz of white sugar into the tea
Cool to 70 degrees
Pitch your culture and about 10% of the previous batch to lower the acidity.
The culture needs oxygen, so just put a paper towel over your container and hold it in place with a rubber band.
After two weeks of fermenting in the high 60's the kombucha is ready to bottle
At that point I put the bottles into the fridge and they are ready to go
Sanitation is not as important as it is with beer fermentation because with kombucha not only do you already have multiple microbes working together in the culture but also it is open to the air so some microbes are going to get in there regardless of your sanitation.
The next step in my process is to build up a big enough mother culture so that I can start splitting off daughter cultures to begin playing with. In particular I hope to find out if the culture is able to do its thing in the presence of hops...
Thursday, February 1, 2007
I started home brewing about 2 years ago after taking a class called “Beer Brewing and Appreciation” during my Senior year of college. Quickly I realized that while it was pretty easy to get my hands on a good brown ale, stout or IPA it was much harder and more expensive to get the more eccentric beers. After about a year of making relatively traditional brews I started to brew more interesting and complex recipes.
This log of my brewing activities will hopefully serve to help other people who like me have a fascination with weird yeast, sour beers, and all other things fermentable. As time goes on I hope to cover not just beer but the entire scope of home fermentation including hard cider, sauerkraut, sourdough, kombucha, ginger beer plant, yogurt, cheese and I'm sure I'll find others.
Brettanomyces (Brett) was originally discovered and recognized as an important flavor contributor in the late 19th century in barrels of Stock Ale in England. Since then it has been identified as an important component in beers such as Orval, Rodenbach and any Lambic you can name. It has the ability to break down some long change starches that (Saccharomyces, brewers yeast) cannot. But despite this advantage it is slow moving and thus generally relegated to scavenging the scraps left over after the primary fermentation.
Thus came the idea from breweries like Pizza Port and Russian River, "Why not let Brett take the lead and ferment a wort of its own?" Not only did these two breweries prove their point that Brett can be used as the sole fermenter but also through their craftsmanship they proved that it could make some outstanding beers. Pizza Port was first with Mo' Betta Bretta which used Brettanomyces claussenii and got an acidity boost from having a portion of the wort soured by lactobacillus while the rest of the wort boiled. Russian River used bruxellensis and lambicus along with lactobacillus in the fermenter.
My batch was inspired by a comparative yeast test done by a homebrewer named Sebastian on the BBB. It uses Brettanomyces claussenii, descended from that original strain found in stock ale and the least funky of the Brett strains. It is known for being more fruity and less goaty than the two strains more common in Belgian breweries bruxellensis and lambicus. It was also fermentened with ambient temperatures in the low 80s, which is much higher than you would ferment almost any brewing yeast with the exception of the Saison Dupont strain.
Inspired by SebastianP's Brett C
2/17/07 Down about 1 point to 1.009, getting really nice and fruity. Looks like there isn't much more fermenting to be done, should be ready to bottle soon.
2/19/07 Added a couple of grams of US-56 dry yeast to one of the jugs. I wanted to add it a few days before bottling in case it was able to eat a point or two of sugar that the Brett could not. I want to see how the traditional yeast affects the carbonation process and if it will alter how the beer ages.
2/22/07 Bottled, in two weeks I will crack some bottles and see if the batch that got US-56 got carbonated faster and if it tastes any different.
2/25/07 Got impatient and took out a bottle of the US-56 spiked batch. Moderate carbonation, very fruity. Still not very tart, and the yeast made it taste muddier than it had the last time I tasted it.
3/3/07 The straight Brett batch is pretty nicely carbonated. The flavor is great, lemons, lightly tart, clean, fruity. Pretty clear until the second pour when the yeast gets stirred up (Brett doesn't flocculate as well as most Saccharomyces). Should be really good in another few weeks once full carbonation is reached.
The acidulated malt in the recipe was intended to replace a slight pre-boil Lactobacillus souring that was used in the original recipe. Brettanomyces takes lactic acid (which makes yogurt tangy) along with ethanol and turns them into Ethyl Lactate (fruity, buttery). If I used an adequate amount this ester should lend more complexity to the beer.
I aerated Mo Betta' with 60 seconds of pure oxygen, which is considerably more than my first Brett brew got. More oxygen dissolved in the wort at the start of the fermentation is supposed to cause the Brett to produce more acid.
This batch is also being fermented 20 degrees cooler (low 60's ambient) than the previous batch, which should force the Brett to ferment slower and theoretically create more interesting fermentation byproducts.
What I'm trying to say is this beer should be considerably funkier than my first 100% Brett brew.
The photo was taken less than 24 hours after pitching, apparently pitching onto a yeast cake gets a fast start even with wild yeast.
Mo' Betta Bretta
Batch Size (Gal): 4.75
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.50
Anticipated OG: 1.061
Anticipated SRM: 4.9
Anticipated IBU: 10.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69 %
Wort Boil Time: 125 Minutes
8.50 lbs. Belgian Pilsener
1.00 lbs. Belgian Munich Malt
0.75 lbs. CaraFoam
0.75 lbs. Flaked Oats
0.50 lbs. Sauer(acid) Malt
6 grams (.2 oz) Magnum Pellets @ 50 minutes
1 Servomyces @ 10 min
.5 Wirlfloc @ 10 min
White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii (yeast cake)
Profile: Pale, Low Hop
Calcium(Ca): 65.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 7.5 ppm
Sodium(Na): 15.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 50.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 96.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 23.0 ppm
Single Infusion for 60 minutes at 151
Oatmeal boiled for 10 minutes with 1/2 gallon water to gelatinize before mashing.
The Sauer Malt was added at the start of the sparge so it wouldn't interfere with the mash pH.
Cooled to 63 degrees and oxygenated for 60 seconds while racking onto the yeast cake from the first Brett brew.
2/8/07 1.014 Not much funkier than the first brett brew, but it does have a little more sourness. Still pretty cloudy, not sure if that is just the oats or if it is the Brett.
2/11/07 Transferred 2 gallons to 1 gallon jugs for secondary, and 2 gallons on top of cherry puree (1 lb dried Montmorency cherries heated with Luigi Bosca Resera Pinot Noir to cover to 160 and steeped for 15 min, drained and then pureed with about 1 cup fresh wine.) The beer with the cherries quickly turned bright red.
2/12/07 Decided that it was a waste to leave the 1/4 gallon of SebastianP's Brett C in a fermenter alone, so I poured it into the Cherry fermenter. Gravity of the straight batch is down to 1.010 if the residual liquid in the yeast cake is any indication.
2/17/07 Sample of Cherry carboy gravity at 1.010, looks like any sugar the cherries added is gone. Light pink color with a mild cherry/funk nose, should smooth out as time goes by.
2/18/07 Added some US-56 to one of the plain jugs, looking to see how it effects carbonation and flavor in the finished beer.
2/28/07 Transferred off the cherries, still 1.010. Plain batch is tasting great and is down another point to 1.009.
3/10/07 Bottled, 2 oz of sugar for the 2 gallons of plain. The plain had 4 bottles "bottle hopped" centennial, mt hood, sterling, and simcoe. The cherry got about 2.25 oz of sugar for 2 gallons, the sugar colored slightly because some got caramelized on the sides of the pan.
4/17/07 Tasting of the cherry/wine half
7/21/07 Tasting of the plain half