June 18, 2017: Amber Ale Brew Day

With a the vast majority of the house projects started since purchase completed, it is back to brewing beer! We are starting with our tried and true Alex’s Amber Ale. This recipe is dialed in and it is extremely consistent. That being said, some substitutions were made due to sourcing limitations on home brew supply shopping day. Specialty grains and hops were purchased from CO Brew in Denver.

Brew Record: BrewLog

Grain bill:

  • 10 lb 2-Row (domestic)
  • 1 lb Pale (German) << Substitution for domestic
  • 1 lbs C-80 <<Substitution for C-75

Hops (Pellet) and other boil additions:

  • 2 oz German Magnum 13.3% alpha acids (60 minutes) <<Substitution for Magnum
  • 2 oz Cascade 6.3% alpha acids 6.6% beta acids(5 minutes)
  • 2 oz Amarillo 8.6% alpha acids 6.5% beta acids (5 minutes)
  • 1 table Whirlfloc (5 minutes)

Yeast:

  • Inland Island INISH007 American Ale blend package date 5/30/2017

New Equipment:

Admittedly, making this many changes to the recipe is not ideal, but combined with the brew equipment changes, this just may be a disastrous day.

Our day started late because we didn’t dry fit any of the equipment. If we had done this, we would have realized we needed some extra parts to make everything work. This set back our day and resulted in the extension of some steps of the process.

The day was also a wee bit windy and the propane burners could not maintain the desired vigorous boil. Evaporation was reduced, resulting in a higher volume of lower gravity wort.

Efficiency:

 

Why the low efficiency? Our sparge was too fast. As seen in the gallery pictures, our brew space is set up under out deck on the some of the rare flat space on our property. We were unable to mount the sparge arm due to the low clearance and sparged through the vorlauf port. The fast sparge likely resulted in poor sugar extraction from the grain bed.

Other Issues:

We discovered the thermometer on the HLT reads 4 degrees high and the thermometer on the mash tun reads 4 degrees low. We completely undershot our target mash temp, but not nearly as bad as initially thought.

What the future holds

  • A brew shed. Currently our brew equipment is buried and it is a fight to set everything up. We could brew on the deck and have sufficient room for our sparge arm, but we would have to disassemble the brew tree to get it up the stairs. It would be nice to have a dedicated space to brewing.
  • Thermometer calibration
  • Purchased more valves. Goal was to use the whirlpool port on the boil kettle, but after thinking about the set-up, we realized we failed to purchase a valve that would help prevent the back flow of hot wort. This is a peril of failing to dry fit a new set up at least a week in advance.

Gallery

August 8, 2016: Amber Ale v. 3.0

As discussed in a previous post we have returned our Amber Ale recipe to the development stage (water chemistry, altitude, yeast strain, hop availability).

Stats:

  • Starting gravity: 1.065
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 75%
  • Final gravity: 1.004
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.11
  • Approximate IBUs: 90 (Rager)/68 (Tinseth)/67 (Garetz)/131 (Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner, ProBrewer.com, and Homebrewing.com IBU calculators.

Grain bill:

  • All grains Great Western Malting and purchased through More Beer.
  • 10 lbs 2 row domestic (#46080)
  • 1 lb 2 row pale (#45958)
  • 1 lb crystal 75L (#45744)

Hops (Pellet, * Whole cone):

  • 2 oz Magnum 12.4% alpha acids
  • 2 oz Amarillo 8.4% alpha acids
  • 2 oz Cascade* 7.9% alpha acids

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#0721160, mfg 6/8/2016)

Water:

  • The city of Loveland has great water. We will pass the water through an activated charcoal filter to remove any chlorine that may be present.
Wyeast 1272 propagation culture after refrigeration.
Wyeast 1272 propagation culture after refrigeration.

Procedure: Yeast was propagated in 1 L of media (0.5 c DME in 1L/~1qt water, boiled) in a 3L flask with stir bar that had been sanitized with boiling water. Media was inoculated from Wyeast Smack Pack. Propagation culture was grown at room temperature with stirring for 24 hours and was then lowered to 4 degree Celsius for 18 hours.

Strike temperature was 80 degrees Celsius. A ~2:1 water to grist ratio was achieved with 11.5 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 68 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees below target. Mash out was conducted at 77 degrees Celsius. Sparging was a combination fly/batch and was conducted at 75 degree Celsius until the volume of sweet wort in the boil kettle was approximately 9 gallons. Hydrometer reading of the last wort remaining in the mash tun was 4.0 Brix.

Samples of sweet wort (left) and the last runnings from the mash tun (right).
Samples of sweet wort (left) and the last runnings from the mash tun (right).

Sweet wort was brought to a vigorous boil and boiled for 90 minutes. All hop addition times are listed as time remaining in the boil. Magnum pellets – 60 minutes; Amarillo pellets, Cascade whole cone, and 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc – 5 minutes with 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc. After whirlpooling and allowing the trub to settle, the hopped wort was cooled to 20 degrees Celsius with a counter-flow plate chiller with a recirculating ice/water slurry. Liquid was decanted from the settle yeast culture until a total volume of 500 mL was achieved; the settled yeast was suspended in the remaining liquid and the yeast slurry was pitched into the Speidel fermenter. The fermenter was placed in an incubator that was set to a maximum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.

Yeast 29.5 hours post inoculation.
Yeast 29.5 hours post inoculation.

Primary fermentation was complete after 72 hours and the diacetyl rest was allowed to proceed for 48 hours. The green beer was

then transferred to secondary fermenter and will be allowed to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. The fermenter will then be chilled to -2 degrees Celsius which will help precipitate proteins and any remaining yeast cells. After the cold crash, the beer will be transferred to a 1/3 keg and pressurized to 30 psi, rolled. These steps will be repeated. Tasting notes will follow.

Specific gravity and pH profile during fermentation with WYeast 1272.
Specific gravity and pH profile during fermentation with WYeast 1272.

Comments:

  • In order to achieve a faster fermentation start, we will likely shorten the propagation time for the yeast. At 24 hours, the yeast has likely entered stationary phase and may be exhausting glycogen stores due to the depletion of fermentable sugars from the media.
  • We started taking pH readings! Unfortunately, we forgot a reading at time point zero and did not take readings at our last two samplings. We will test the final pH of the beer.
  • Our brewhouse efficiency increased 10% compared to our last brew day. Possible explanations are the different water profile in Loveland, CO or a larger sparge volume. The water profile could have resulted in improved enzyme activity which increased the amount of fermentable sugars available to the yeast. A larger sparge volume would have extracted more sugars from the mash, increasing efficiency.
  • The 94 hour time point sample had a strong aroma, best described as ‘cidery’. This is the result of acetaldehyde released by yeast. The yeast, if reasonably healthy, will reabsorb it and scrub the green beer of this off flavor. Happy yeast makes great beer.
  • The estimated alcohol content takes this out of Amber Ale territory. Maybe a Red IPA? Looking forward to tasting this beer.

April 26, 2016: Tasting Notes – Amber Ales, Belgian Blond, and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter

Wanted to provide updated tasting notes on the dry-hopped Amber Ales, Amber Ale version 2, Belgian Blond, and the Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter (VBIP). The Belgian Blond and VBIP were initially tasted during the height of allergy season and the only thing that could be determined with any certainty was beer was being consumed. The dry-hopped Amber Ale was first tasted in mid-March prior to dry hopping. Under attenuated, under hopped, these beers were almost undrinkable. We combined the kegs and dry-hopped with 2 oz of Amarillo pellets. Finally, the Amber Ale version 2, brew day was discussed here. In a perfect world the tasting notes would have been posted two weeks ago, but clarity issues existed.

VBIP: %ABV – 9.8, IBU – data not captured

Aromas of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Mouth feel is creamy. Roasted flavors with hint of vanilla and bourbon. No alcohol burn despite ABV.

Belgian Blond: %ABV – 4.9, IBU – 10

Aroma is phenolic, reminiscent of cloves. Flavor is dry, slightly astringent, with phenol character. Color is darker than expected, and is very similar to the amber ale in color.

Ambersv2
From left to right: dry-hopped amber ale; amber ale version 2.0

Dry hopped Amber Ale Combination: %ABV – ~4.79, IBU – 41

Aroma is citrus, with orange being prevalent, and malty. Sweet, but not as cloying as it was prior to dry hopping.

Amber Ale, version 2: % ABV – 6.3, IBU – 100

Aroma is citrus and malt. Flavor is sweet, with lingering bitterness that is not unpleasant. Some chill haze. Tasting notes were delayed due to microbiological haze (yeast). During transfer to the keg, some yeast was siphoned off from the secondary fermenter. Took a couple weeks for yeast to settle and to be purged from the fermenter (poured and dumped pints until clarity improved). Remaining haze is chill haze as concluded from the observation that the beer becomes clear as its temperature increases. We are pleased with this beer.

Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0
Yeast responsible for microbiological haze of amber ale, version 2.0

March 26, 2016: Amber Ale v. 2.0

Back to beer! After reliving Abby’s (the RV) mechanical breakdown issues in couple of posts we decided that we needed a drink. So it seemed logical to post about our Amber Ale, version 2.0. The grain bill on this recipe is the same as what our previous amber ale brews, with increased hops, single temperature mash, and a new yeast strain.

Stats:

  • Starting gravity: 1.055
  • Final gravity: 1.007
  • Approximate %ABV: 6.3
  • Approximate IBUs: 100

Grain bill:

  • All grains Great Western Malting and purchased through More Beer.
  • 10 lbs 2 row domestic (#46080)
  • 1 lb 2 row pale (#45958)
  • 1 lb crystal 75L (#45744)

Hops (Pellet):

  • 2 oz Magnum 12.4% alpha acids (#45958)
  • 2 oz Amarillo 8.2% alpha acids (#46117)
  • 2 oz Cascade 6.8% alpha acids (#46014)

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1450 Denny’s Favorite 50 (#0742020, mfg 1/20/2016)

Water:

  • pH of water was determined to be 8.2; 57 g of gypsum was added to 47L of water in the hot liquor tank which decreased the pH to 7.7

Procedure: Yeast was propagated in 1 L of media (0.5 c DME in 1L/~1qt water, boiled) in a 3L flask with stir bar that had been sanitized with boiling water. Media was inoculated from Wyeast Smack Pack. Propagation culture was grown at room temperature with stirring for 72 hours and was then transferred to a 4 degree Celsius for 24 hours.

Strike temperature was 74 degrees Celsius. A ~2:1 water to grist ratio was achieved with 11.5 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 63.3 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees below target. Mash out was conducted at 76 degrees Celsius. Mash was fly sparged at 79 degree Celsius until the volume of sweet wort in the boil kettle was approximately 8 gallons. Hydrometer reading of the last wort remaining in the mash tun was 5.0 Brix.

Sweet wort was brought to a vigorous boil. Magnum hops were added at 60 minutes, Amarillo hops added at 5 minutes with 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc, and the Cascade hops we added at heat off. After the trub settled, the hopped wort was cooled to 20 degrees Celsius with a counter-flow plate chiller with a recirculating ice/water slurry. Cooled wort was aerated with 90 seconds of oxygen through a sinter. Liquid was decanted off the top of the settle yeast, and the yeast slurry was pitched into the Speidel fermenter and left to ferment at room temperature.

Primary fermentation was complete after 72 hours and the diacetyl rest was allowed to proceed for 24 hours. The green beer was then transferred to secondary fermenter and allowed to stand at room temperature for 72 hours. The fermenter was then transferred to -1 degree Celsius for 6 days prior to kegging.

The amber ale was transferred to 1/3 keg and pressurized to 30 psi. The keg was placed on its side and rolled for approximately 2 minutes. The keg was then pressurized to 30 psi again and rolled for 5 minutes. The keg was pressurized once more to 30 psi and placed in the kegerator. We hope to have tasting notes in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Comments:

  • We whirlpooled twice. We did not double check the position of the boil kettle outlet, and had to turn the kettle to prevent the hoses from pinching. In turning the kettle, we disturbed the trub and had to repeat the whirlpool. This may result in a DMS problem in our beer.
  • Fermentation was conducted at room temperature because the incubator was occupied by the Belgian Blonde and Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter being cold crashed.
  • Vigorous fermentation was observed, complete attenuation reached in 72 hours. We did a much better job collecting well spaced hydrometer readings to determine gravity. For our next batch we will also take pH readings to track the fermentation progress. More DATA!

    Fermentation_AmberAle2
    Graph of Amber Ale, version 2.0 specific gravity over the course of fermentation.
  • We discovered that our freezer became unplugged during the cold crash. We don’t know when, the fermenter did feel cold to the touch.
  • IBU values are higher than anticipated. Unfortunately, we do not have the equipment to perform an accurate assessment. We will have to determine during tasting if we decrease our hop additions.
  • The microscope is a fun tool. The picture below is yeast at 6 hours post pitching. The yeast looked happy. Happy yeast makes good beer.
WY1450_20160326
Yeast from our Amber Ale version 2.0, 6 hours post pitching.

March 20, 2016: Tasting Notes – Amber Ale Update

Two temperature mash on left, single temperature on right.
Two temperature mash on left, single temperature on right.

So an update on our poor, under-attenuated amber ales. We have been discussing dumping them because we are going to need the kegerator space. However, they earned a reprieve when 1. our bitter chocolate oatmeal stout keg kicked and freed up space and 2. we decided to make a vanilla bourbon stout that will need to be racked for 10 – 14 days. So, the amber ales survive!

We decided to see if anything has changed in the past week since our first tasting and we were pleasantly surprised! The picture doesn’t do the clarity justice (a light box will be added to the to be purchased list), but the beer is clear! Especially the single temperature mash. We are also pleased the quantity and stability of the single mash foam. These two beers were poured within a minute of each other and the picture taken within a couple minutes of pour. The flavor of both beers is still sweet and under-hopped. The two temperature mash has a drier finish hidden under the residual sweetness.

So what to do next? Since their dates with drain destiny have been placed on hold, we might as well dry hop the amber ales and see if they improve.

March 13, 2016: Tasting Notes (Amber Ale Two Ways)

This is a continuation of the home brew we started February 28, 2016.

Fermentation was finished by March 3, 2016 and we sampled the beer to obtain the gravity reading. We then dropped the temperature to -1 degree Celsius to facilitate chill haze formation and precipitation on March 4, 2016. We transferred to kegs on March 7, 2016 after Alex went to bed.

We tasted the beer on March 13, 2016 with Jesse, a friend and classmate.

Amber Ale Two Temperature Mash Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.0611

Final Gravity: 1.027

%ABV: 4.46

IBU: 41

Amber Ale Single Temperature Mash Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.0663

Final Gravity: 1.0298

%ABV: 5.12

IBU: 41

Notes:

  • The final gravity it is clear we did not achieve full attenuation (~1.015).
  • It is not surprising the aroma is very malty with very little hop aroma.
  • Color is amber with a hint of red. Two temperature mash may be a bit darker.
  • Beer is cloudy.
  • Both beers live up to their malty aroma in flavor and are sweet. Very little hop bitterness is evident.
  • The two temperature mash is dryer than the one temperature mash, but with the poor attenuation, difficult to distinguish.
  • They are not bad . . . but they aren’t exactly good. Both beers are an excellent example of how bitterness from hops make beers drinkable by balancing the sweetness.
  • Beers are drinkable if done in small amounts. Should not be paired with sweet foods.
  • Single temperature mash is preferred.

Plan of Action:

Jesse talked us out of our panicked throw the kitchen sink at the next brew and got us back to a place of logical thinking.

What we know: poor attenuation, acetaldehyde aromas during fermentation, hint of diacetyl in finished beer. Yeast were pitched directly from the pure pack (no starter) and aeration was done by shaking the fermenter. We used WLP002 (British Ale yeast)

What this points to: Unhappy yeast because of lazy home brewers. Which is frustrating because we were careful in other aspects of our experiment.

What we will do for the next brew:

  • Use a starter culture. ~1.5L for a 19L fermentation.
  • Consider aeration of the wort with an aeration stone and oxygen (we just got a new oxygen tank).
  • We will hold off on any bittering hop additions on the theory that the sweetness is overwhelming the bitterness.
  • We will add more aroma hops at the end of the boil.
  • We will take more frequent gravity measurements to better track fermentation.

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.

Observations: 

  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.