Saturday, July 21, 2007

Malt Kombucha Bottling and Tasting

Kombucha BottlingMy method for bottling is pretty simple. I put a funnel on top of a cleaned and sanitized beer bottle, then I add in some white sugar (normally I do 3/4 of a tsp per 12 oz, but despite using a bigger bottle I kept the same 3/4 tsp for this batch to keep the carbonation closer to that of regular beer) then pour kombucha in. I figure it isn't worth being careful and siphoning lime I do with beer because I will drink this long before oxidation would become an issue. I then leave the bottles out at room temperature for a week or two, during this time the yeast will produce CO2 which will slowly dissolve into the liquid to equalize the pressure in the head space. I then put the kombucha into the refrigerator until I am ready to drink it.

Tasting of my 1st attempt at malt kombucha

Appearance - The thin white head sits onto of a cloudy yellow liquid. It isn't chill haze, but bits of the kombucha culture itself.

Aroma - Plenty of sour vinegar (acetic acid) in the aroma, but it isn't enough to be sharp or offensive (to me anyway). Behind that is an earthy note along with some hay. It is similar to my plain kombucha (which I have failed to do a full tasting of).

Taste - Tip of the tongue wake you up acidity fades to a worty sweetness in the back of the mouth. As I continue to drink, the sourness fades a bit leaving a rather smooth flavor profile.

Mouthfeel - Mild carbonation with a medium-light body. Definitely a different effect than the spritzy carbonation and ultra thin body I normally end up with on my plain kombucha batches.

Drinkability/Notes - Not the tastiest beverage I have concocted, but it certain proves that this is a viable idea. Next time I think I will leave it for more than 10 days before bottling to try to get rid of the under attenuated flavor. According to my hydrometer reading the apparent attenuation was about 50% on this batch.

Straight Mo' Betta Bretta Tasting #2

Appearance - Starts out with some chill haze out of the fridge that goes away after the beer warms up. It is a beautiful orange-gold with a big creamy white head that fades fast.

Aroma - Starts out floral with a mild urinal, which is a big improvement over the last tasting. As it warms a bit of warm toasted bready malt comes through. There is also a hint of citrus which must be from the Brett because there were no finishing hops.

Taste - Lots of apple cider with a distant tartness. There is a hint of urinal here as well, but it is certainly a background note. The malt backbone is there without being sweet. Good balance, but I'd still like more sourness (hopefully my adjustments to the recipe the second time around will fix this).

Mouthfeel -Mild prickly carbonation, medium body. I think I could have gone with higher carbonation, still no sign that the Brett is continuing to attenuate.

Drinkability/Notes - This one is finally starting to turn the corner. Still pretty in your face funky, but it really has gotten much more pleasant. I didn't have to stop myself from grabbing another one, but I think this one could be doing really well in another few months.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Flanders Red Kombucha

Flanders Red is just about the only beer style that any acetic acid (vinegar) is considered acceptable. La Folie from New Belgium and Rodenbach Grand Cru often have a sharp acetic contribution, not too much unlike a nice kombucha. Thus an idea formed in my head, why wait a total of 18 months for my "traditional" Flanders Red to age when I can make a low alcohol copy in 2 weeks with my kombucha culture.

So after I bottled my first attempt at making malt extract kombucha, which seems to have gone very well, I decided to give it a shot. I brought 2 qrts filtered water up to 150 degrees and added 1 oz CaraVienna, 1 oz CaraMunich, and .5 oz CaraAroma (these three caramel malts will give the "beer" its characteristic red color, dark fruit flavors, and residual sweetness) along with 5 oz of light DME. I let it steep for 30 minutes before running my skimmer though it to remove the spent grain. From there my process was the same as any other kombucha (boil, cool, pitch, ferment, prime, bottle).

Fermentation has been going much faster and cleaner now that I have temps in the 80s on the kitchen windowsill, it is these same high temperatures that are stopping me from doing another batch of sauerkraut which likes temps in the mid-60s.


Kvass is a traditional Russian beverage made by soaking stale rye bread in warm water and then fermenting it (how thrifty). There isn't much fermentable sugar in this preparation so the ABV is only around 1%, because of this it does not keep well for more than a few days. East End Brewing did a draft only version that they supplemented with a mash to give it a higher OG which gives it a longer shelf life and boosts the flavor. Since this is a pretty oddball batch I opted to make only 2 gallons.

I bought a loaf of organic Jewish Rye from my local Whole Foods, I then left it out to stale for 1 week.

The morning of my brew I tore up the loaf and combined it with about a gallon of 170 degree water in my cooler mash tun. I put the cover on and left it alone until I got back from work.

I poured the bread "goo" into a metal strainer to separate out the "juice." I got about 3 quarts of light-yellow starch liquid.

I did a small mash of pale malt, rye malt, and brown malt. I only did a 30 minute boil and added 2 quarts of the bread juice with 5 minutes left in the boil.

I chilled the wort and then pitched half with American Ale yeast and half with Red Star Highly Active dry yeast. The bread yeast started visible fermentation first, but gave off some unpleasant aromas (sulfur, meaty).

I sent an email to East End asking for some details on how they used the bread yeast, I heard back after I brewed, but I will certainly put the info to use in future batches. The head brewer Scott told me that they pitched only 2 tbls of dried Red Star yeast in 15 barrels (465 gallons)!!!! 7 gram yeast packets have 2 1/4 tsp of yeast, so that means my pitching rate was 25 times higher than his. This may explain the yeasty smell that is emanating from that half of the batch, but hopefully that is just a passing aroma.

Luckily after about a week the extremely yeasty aroma left. I took samples of both batches after 10 days, both were very nice. The 1056 batch was almost too clean (not much character), while the bread yeast half was very nice (bready with a mildly spicy Belgian character).


Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 2.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 4.00
Anticipated OG: 1.037 Plato: 9.23
Anticipated SRM: 9.1
Anticipated IBU: 9.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 51 %
Wort Boil Time: 30 Minutes

3.00 lbs. Golden Promise
0.75 lbs. Rye Malt
0.25 lbs. Brown Malt

0.38 oz. Czech Saaz @ 30 min.

Bread Yeast/Wyeast 1056

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC
Profile known for: Where I live

Calcium(Ca): 45.2 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 8.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 13.8 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 49.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 28.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 86.3 ppm

pH: 7.60

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest - 60 min @ 147

Brewed 7/11/07 With Kyle

Steeped 1 loaf of stale organic Jewish rye bread from WF in 170 degree water (used cooler) for 12 hours. Boiled down wort to 1.75 gallons and added 1/2 gallon of bread water extract. Bread juice was about 1.012, tasted like wet rye bread. 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient added. Cooled to about 90, then divided into 2 4 L jugs and put into the freezer at 65.

In the morning I gave each 30 seconds of O2. One jug got ~1/5 a package of 1056 and the other half got 1 gram of red star highly active yeast.

7/21/07 Bottled each half with 7/8 oz of corn sugar. 1056 FG = 1.008(78% AA), Bread Yeast FG = 1.012 (68% AA)

7/28/07 Tried a bottle of the 1056, seems fully carbed. Nice bready flavor, solid.

Both came out well, the bread yeast half is more interesting and almost has a Belgian twang. The bread yeast half came out a bit over carbonated.

9/15/07 Tasting notes. Turned out to be a great session beer with the bread yeast and 1056 halves being very similar. The bread yeast gives it a slight Belgian character, but both a bready and easy drinking.

Brett Pale Ale

I did this one about a month back, recently tried the first bottle, but I want to give it a few more weeks to settle down before posting a review. I had my worst efficiency ever (54%), which necessitated 1 lb of light DME being added to the boil. After I brewed this batch I traced the problem to too wide of a gap on my mill, since tightening it I have had brewhouse efficiencies around 70%, which I am fine with.

Fermentation was a bit hot on this, in addition the pitching temp was high due to the 80 degree water that my chiller is now running on. Both of these problems have since been dealt with as I have a temperature controlled chest freezer!

Brett Pale Ale

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.88
Anticipated OG: 1.063
Anticipated SRM: 7.1
Anticipated IBU: 41.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 54 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

4.50 lbs. Pilsen (2 Row)
4.50 lbs. Golden Promise
1.00 lbs. Generic DME
0.44 lbs. CaraVienna
0.44 lbs. Wheat Malt

0.75 oz. Magnum @ 45 min.
0.50 oz. Cascade @0 min.
1.00 oz. Crystal @0 min.
0.50 oz. Cascade Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Crystal Dry Hop

0.50 Unit(s)Wirlfloc @ 15 Min.(boil)

WYeast 5110 Brettanomyces anomalus

Water Profile
Profile: Pliny the Water
Profile known for: Great big IPA's

Calcium(Ca): 76.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 13.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 9.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 133.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 56.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 26.0 ppm

pH: 8.29

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest @ 152 for 60 minutes

Brewed 6/02/07 with James

Mashed with 2 gallons of distilled, 1 gallon spring water (plus mineral adjustments). Fly sparged with adjusted spring water. Collected 5.75 gallons pre-boil, 1.032 gravity was way too low, so I added a pound of extract. Flameout hops were added after cooling had been running for a few minutes. The chiller only got it down to 84 before I pitched onto the cake from the 1st Brett A beer. Fermented at ambient DC apartment temperatures.. that is to say in the mid-high 80's most of the time.

6/11/07 Gravity down to about 1.007 after correcting for temp and hydrometer. The beer is clear with an almost artificial orange color.

6/24/07 Transferred to secondary with loose dry hops. Flavor is a bit rough, hopefully the hops will help.

7/01/07 gave it a few days at 55 to help settle the hops and Brett out.

7/07/07 Bottled with 2.5 oz of corn sugar. 3 gallon yield.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Homegrown Hops

My second year hop plants are doing well in Massachusetts. My mother sent me these pictures, Cascade is the taller plant, Willamette is the shorter plant. Last year I only got about 1 oz of wet (undried) hops from both plants combined. Hopefully this year I'll get a big enough haul to at least get a full batch with them.

In this picture you can see all of the little spiky buds, each (barring infection, bugs, and mistreatment) will turn into one hop cone. I am hoping they will be ready to harvest in a month when I'll be back in Massachusetts for week vacation, but they probably won't be ready until a few weeks after that.


My first attempt to combine kombucha and beer is underway. I used the same 2.5 oz of sugar (in this case pale malt extract)to 1 quart of water recipe that I use with standard kombucha, in addition I left the tea out. The tea is normally included partly for flavor and partly to provide a nutrient source to the yeast/bacteria because white sugar is pure sucrose. Malt is not a pure sugar so it should contain give the culture plenty of nutrition.

As you can see the culture (at the bottom) has grown quite large since the last photo I posted of it, and fermentation is generally visible within 24 hours of pitching.

It remains to be seen if the yeast and bacteria that make up the kombucha "mushroom" will be able to utilize the more complex maltose that makes up the bulk of malt extract. It will be about 2 weeks before I have a taste test for this one, but I am really looking forward to it. The next step will be to split the culture and try adding hops.

Tasting Notes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Yet another Media conquered by the Mad Fermentationist

Well maybe not conquered, but at least entered. I have a couple quotes in the July-August issue of BYO in a great article written by James Spencer (Basic Brewing Radio/Video). I may also get a brief mention in Zymurgy sometime in the near future as part of an article of the Brett beer swap I participated in (mentioned in 2 Brett Tales).

Sorry for the lack of interesting posts and experiments recently, between moving and the heat I haven't had the effort to continue the breakneck pace I started with. Rest assured though, I have several Brett anomalous experiments in the works and another round of my sugar experiment almost ready to go.

The article is now available on-line for anyone who is interested in reading it.