February 28, 2016: Amber Ale 2 Ways

It has been a month since we last brewed, and we need to have the new beer ready before the previous batch runs out. Today we have two objectives.

  1. The inaugural brew on our new set-up and test the ice bath as an effective chilled water source for cooling wort.
  2. Test the effect on beer flavor of mashing in at ‘protein-rest’ temperature (~45 degrees Celsius) vs mashing in at conversion temperature (~65  degrees Celsius).

Objective one was completed rather successfully. The system needs further optimization, but overall, the brew day went very smoothly. We discovered we could not fit the brew stand through the gate to the back yard. So we brewed in the driveway. We met more neighbors in a few hours of brewing than we had in an entire month. We were able to cool 4 gallons of wort to 20 degrees Celsius with 5 gallons of water with 10 pounds of ice. The water out from the heat exchanger was added back to the ice bath. By the time the wort was cooled, the ice had melted, but no significant increase to the water temperature was observed. Got to love the isothermal nature of a phase change.

Objective two is to determine if a low temperature ‘protein-rest’ will affect the beer flavor/aroma/mouth feel. We are more concerned with residual B-glucanase activity. Depending on one’s school of thought, this enzyme might have been inactivated in the malting process during kilning, but there is anecdotal evidence that a low temperature rest may result in the break down of B-glucans. With any luck, the result of both experiments will be a drinkable beer. Recipe is listed below, with identical recipes used for each experiment.

Grain Bill: 12 lbs Domestic 2-Row, 1 lb American Pale, 1 lb Crystal 75 L

Hops (Pellets): 0.5 oz Magnum (12.1% AA) 60′, 1 oz Willamette (5.1% AA) 15′

Boil Kettle Volume: 7.5 gallons

Cellar Volume: 4 gallons

Yeast: White Labs PurePitch WLP002 British Ale

Experiment 1 Gravity: 1.0611

Experiment 1 Efficiency: 59%

Experiment 2 Gravity: TBD

Experiment 2 Efficiency: 59.5%

Experiment 1: Mash-in at 48 degrees Celsius and rest for 20 minutes. 2:1 water to grist ratio (w:w). Using the plate heat exchanger, recirculate wort to increase temperature to 64 degrees Celsius and allow conversion to proceed for 30 minutes. Sparge at 72 degrees Celsius. Boil for one hour, whirlpool. Fermentation temperature 20 degrees Celsius.

Experiment 2: Mash-in at 64 degrees Celsius and allow conversion to proceed for 30 minutes. 2:1 water to grist ratio (w:w).  Sparge at 72 degrees Celsius. Boil for one hour, whirlpool. Fermentation temperature 20 degrees Celsius.


  1. Experiment 1 mash-in temperature was a higher than desired, and conversion temperature was lower than target (67 degrees Celsius). To ensure that the only variable was the ‘protein-rest’, experiment 2 conversion temperatures were also modified.
  2. Experiment 2 the fly sparge became a batch sparge due to an airlock in the pump, thus adding another variable to our experiment.
  3. At the end of our sparge, the wort was tested. The reading was ~7 degrees Plato. There is still sugar to be recovered. We could slow down our sparge rate to increase efficiency of sugar recovery. This will also increase the recovery of undesirable compounds (tannins, polyphenols).
  4. We experienced a greater boil off than anticipated based on our experiences from a month ago. It should be noted that we had a much stronger boil an greater evaporation because we were not fighting the wind to keep a constant flame as we had to do our previous brew day.
  5. We used approximately 40 gallons of water to generate 8 gallons of beer.
  6. Fermentation started Monday morning.

February 18, 2016: Tasting Notes (Sunset Pale Ale, Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout)

First tasting of the beers was 2/13/2016. A second tasting was conducted on 2/18/2016. Of course we drank the beers between tastings! Check out this post for details for brew day and this post for details from kegging day.

Overall, we are pleased with the beers and continue to learn through the process.

Sunset Pale Ale:

2/13/2016 – Golden in appearance with a hint of red. Beer is cloudy. Excellent foam. Aroma was piney hop notes with underlying citrus. Drier finish that is bitter and slight astringent. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Paired well with food, especially foods with higher fat content (think cheese). Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Piney hop notes are diminished and there is now an oxidized character to the aroma. The chemical responsible for this character is trans-2-nonenal. Bitterness reduced and astringency increased. Tasting was done early evening.

Off aromas likely from oxidation due to a poor keg purge. There was also a significant amount of head space in the keg after beer was transferred in. Keg was also rinsed with chlorinated water instead of water passed through a charcoal filter. We will see if any aromas that could be attributed to 2,6-dichlorphenol. We also do not know what our water chemistry is at our rental; the chemistry could impact the flavor and stability of the beer, and may impact the pale ale style more significantly than others. It is fun operating in the blind.

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout:

2/13/2016 – Dark brown, almost black in appearance. Excellent foam that was very stable. To borrow from wine tasting, the beer has ‘legs’ and coats the glass after swirling. Aroma contained roasted, chocolate and coffee characteristics. No noticeable hop character. Sweet and bitter characters with a silky mouth feel. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Beer is drinkable, and is filling. Gravity reading and %ABV need to be redone – it feels like it has and ABV higher than 5.5%. Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Aroma similar, perhaps with a hint of hop starting to come through. No major differences between tastings.

February 12, 2016: Sunset Pale Ale and Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

This is a continuation of the home brew we started January 31, 2016.

Fermentation was finished by February 5, 2016. The couple days intended for the diacetyl rest stretched into about four. After sampling the green beer to obtain a gravity reading, we dropped the temperature to 2 degrees Celsius to facilitate chill haze formation and precipitation. After letting the beer rest a couple more days, we plopped Alex in front of the electronic babysitter while we sanitized and carbon dioxide purged our kegs and transferred the beer. All calculations were performed using the tools found on Brewer’s Friend.

Sunset Pale Ale Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.059

Final Gravity: 1.0265

%ABV: 4.33

IBU: 61

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Original Gravity: 1.090

Final Gravity: 1.0484

%ABV: 5.51

IBU: 76