September 16, 2017: Apple Pie Brew Day

Ah, winter is coming. So it is time to brew before the weather is too cold and the wind is too sharp to monitor our brew kettle outside. The amber we brewed back in July kicked a couple of weeks ago and Jess had to bring a 1/6 home from work to fill the void (The Post Brewing Company, Big Rosie Porter).

This time around we are trying an oatmeal cream-style ale. Adjuncts will be apples and cinnamon added at secondary to provide some traditional apple pie flavors. A slightly higher mash temperature, closer to what one would expect of porters, will provide a sweetness on the palate due to unfermentable sugars.

Grain bill:

  • 7 lb 2-Row (domestic)
  • 1.5 lb flaked oats
  • 1 lb Maris Otter
  • 1 lb Caramunich I

Hops (Pellet) and other boil/whirlpool additions:

  • 0.5 oz  Magnum 10.8% alpha acids (60 minutes)
  • 0.5 oz Centennial 6.3% alpha acids (Whrilpool)
  • 1 oz Calypso 8.6% alpha acids (Whirlpool)

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 2565 Kolsch; Lot #: 0637206; mfg: 07/25/17

Brew Record: 20170916BR

Comments:

Check out the brew record linked above for the nitty gritty brew day details.

The mash tun has found a new home – a shop cart. The mash tun is very heavy and we struggled to lift it to the top of the brew tree in July. Better to leave it lower and use the pumps.

We lost more heat than we expected during mash-in. The mash temperature, which was 4 degrees lower than the desired target, will result in more fermentable sugars and a drier beer. Not the end of the world, but there will be some sweetness lost that would help emulate apple pie flavors.

Whirfloc was not added. It listed on the brew sheet, but was completely overlooked.

We also lost more volume to the bottom of the brew kettle – approximately 1 gallon. This is something to keep in mind for our future recipe calculations.

Malt can be used as prop on model train tables.

Efficiency:

72.9%, lower than the 75% for the Amber. These are significant drop-offs from what we experienced in Loveland. So what gives? An educated guess points to the water profile, with solid money betting on low calcium (check out this post on why water matters). A water testing kit may be on the to purchase list.

What the future (does not) holds

  • The brew shed has been postponed. We brewed in the mouth of the garage and kept the door open. The wind issues we experienced when we brewed the amber were eliminated and we were not overcome with propane exhaust fumes (woohoo!). So for the time being, money shall be saved and the brew shed will not be built.
  • Water analysis. Because if there is a way to be nerdier about home brewing, this is it.
  • Purchase more valves. Still needs to be done. The requisition department is slow.

Gallery

December 4, 2016: White Stout, version 2

With our brown ale cruising along, and the temperatures looking to be warmer, we decided to brew, in all likelihood for the last time in 2016. This time, we are revisiting the disaster that was our white stout.

Grain bill:

  • 15 lbs Maris Otter
  • 0.5 lbs Crystal 40L
  • 1 lbs flaked oats
  • 1 lbs flaked barley

Hops (Pellet) and other boil additions:

  • 1 oz Magnum 14.2% alpha acids (60 minutes)
  • 1 oz Crystal 4.8% alpha acids (5 minutes)
  • 3 oz cocoa powder (5 minutes)
  • 1 table Whirlfloc (5 minutes)

Additions at packaging:

  • Lactose (amount to be determined)
  • Coffee (much less than our last attempt)
  • Chocolate tincture?

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1058314, 11/09/2016 mfg)

    fermentation_ws2
    We cannot sing the praises of Wyeast 1272 enough.

Stats:

  • Starting gravity: 1.079
  • Brew house efficiency: 75%
  • Final gravity: 1.009
  • Approximate % ABV: 8.9
  • Approximate IBUs: 56.4 (Rager)/46.2 (Tinseth) as determined using the Brewer’s Friend Recipe Calculator.

Procedure Highlights: Our first brew with our new 20 gallon mash tun from SS Brewing Technologies! We cleaned manufacturing oils off according to instructions received with the mash tun (take apart that butterfly valve – it is well worth it). Things were going smoothly, until we realized, after we added our striker water, we were forgot to put the false bottom in. DOH! False bottom in place, we proceeded with our mash in.

Alex checking out the new mash tun.
Alex checking out the new mash tun.

A cooler day, we lost more heat from the strike water than anticipated on mashing in (part due to temperatures, part due to rectifying our false bottom oversight). We pre-heated our mash tun (as recommended by the manufacturer). Our strike water temperature was 77 degrees Celsius, our target mash in temperature of 69 degrees Celsius. Our actual mash in temperature was 65 degrees Celsius, 4 degrees shy of our target. We brought the mash temperature up by adding more strike water.

The wort was oxygenated for 40 seconds prior to pitching the yeast slurry. The yeast starter culture was cold crashed after approximately 14 hours of growth in 10% DME (w/v) media. The cold crash was to arrest metabolism and settle the yeast so excess liquid could be decanted.

After a eight days in the primary fermentation vessel (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermentation vessel and kept at approximately 19 degrees Celsius (ambient temperature) for 72 hours. At the time of transfer, the beer was dry hopped with 1 oz of Great Northern Brewer hops (7.6% alpha-acids) in an attempt to increase the aroma profile. The beer was sampled after 72 hours and no acetaldehyde character was detected; there was an improvement in aroma and flavor after the dry hopping. Mouth feel is still thin. Lactose will be added at packaging to determine if this issue can be corrected. The fermentation vessel was then transferred to -2 degrees Celsius freezer for the cold crash.

Comments:

  • Sweet wort boil volume was high due to an excessive amount of sparge water used.
  • Our efficiency was similar to our last two amber ale brews (brew 1 and brew 2).
  • The wort is darker than anticipated; premature panic set in. Beer turned out to be lighter than feared. Grain bill will be left alone.
  • If it hasn’t be obvious with our last few posts, WYeast #1272, American Ale II is becoming our go to work horse.
  • Lower mash in temperature resulted in over attenuation during fermentation. Sampled beer during gravity checks, thin mouth feel and poor hop character. Next time we brew this beer we need to ensure our actual mash in temperature matches our target.

November 20, 2016: Brown Ale v. 1

With a rather delicious Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter and fine Alex’s Amber Ale on tap, we decided to brew a new beer. Survey said – Brown Ale!

Grain bill:

  • 8 lbs 2-row domestic
  • 2 lbs Crystal 75 L
  • 1 lbs Caramunich III 60 L
  • 0.5 lbs chocolate malt
  • 0.5 lbs flaked oats

Hops (Pellet):

  • 0.625 11.1% alpha acids (60 minutes)
  • 1.25 oz Crystal 4.8% alpha acids (5 minutes)

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1455294, 10/20/2016 mfg )

    Another beautiful fermentation profile from WYEAST 1272.
    Another beautiful fermentation profile from WYEAST 1272.

Stats:

  • Starting gravity: 1.044
  • Brew house efficiency: 75%
  • Final gravity: 1.005
  • Approximate % ABV: 5
  • Approximate IBUs: 22.9 (Rager)/23.0 (Tinseth) as determined using the Brewer’s Friend Recipe Calculator.

Procedure Highlights: A cooler day, we lost more heat from the strike water than anticipated on mashing in. Our strike water was heated to 76 degrees Celsius, 7 degrees our target mash in temperature of 69 degrees Celsius. Our actual mash in temperature was 67 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees shy of our target.

The wort was oxygenated for 40 seconds prior to pitching the yeast slurry. The yeast starter culture was cold crashed after approximately 14 hours of growth in 10% DME (w/v) media. The cold crash was to arrest metabolism and settle the yeast so excess liquid could be decanted.

After a eight days in the primary fermentation vessel (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermentation vessel and kept at approximately 19 degrees Celsius (ambient temperature) for 72 hours. At the time of transfer, the beer was dry hopped with 1 oz of Great Northern Brewer hops (7.6% alpha-acids) in an attempt to increase the aroma profile. The beer was sampled after 72 hours and no acetaldehyde character was detected; there was an improvement in aroma and flavor after the dry hopping. Mouth feel is still thin. Lactose will be added at packaging to determine if this issue can be corrected. The fermentation vessel was then transferred to -2 degrees Celsius freezer for the cold crash.

Comments:

  • Sweet wort boil volume was high due to an excessive amount of sparge water used.
  • Our efficiency was similar to our last two amber ale brews (brew 1 and brew 2).
  • The wort is darker than anticipated; premature panic set in. Beer turned out to be lighter than feared. Grain bill will be left alone.
  • If it hasn’t be obvious with our last few posts, WYeast #1272, American Ale II is becoming our go to work horse.
  • Lower mash in temperature resulted in over attenuation during fermentation. Sampled beer during gravity checks, thin mouth feel and poor hop character. Next time we brew this beer we need to ensure our actual mash in temperature matches our target.

Tasting Notes: Alex’s Amber and BVIP

We brewed our Imperial Amber Ale October 29, hoping to replicate the success of our August brew. The clarity was decreased slightly (okay, it is still a pretty clear beer, just not so clear that you can read a car’s license plate through it). Changes between the brews were

  1. Cascade went from whole hops to pellets. We wanted pellets originally, but our local home brew shop did not have pellets in stock when we brewed in August.
  2. Went from 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc to 1 tablet. This may be the cause of our clarity issue, since too much Whirlfloc can be a bad thing in regard to clarity.
Alex's Imperial Amber on the left and the Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter on the right.
Alex’s Imperial Amber on the left and the Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter on the right.

We are still very happy with Alex’s Imperial Amber. Hop aroma contributes a floral/citrus character; there is also malt and a dried cherry component to the aroma profile. Due to a over vigorous boil, our yield was slightly reduced, so all we can do is enjoy a home brew and make some more.

If we manage to brew this for a third time and achieve similar results, a good beer brewing streak will be established.

We brewed our base Imperial Porter recipe October 22 hemming and hawing over the addition of vanilla and bourbon. We decided to go for it and added vanilla beans at secondary fermentation and bourbon at packaging (~68 mL bourbon/gallon beer).

We did our initial tasting while we were both suffering head colds and were disappointed in how it turned out. Not much roasted character, hardly a hint of vanilla, and just tasted thin. Then our sinuses cleared, and what a difference a clear nose makes.

The roast character was immediately apparent, the mouth feel was fuller. The vanilla was more present, but there is room to add more. The bourbon mellowed nicely after a week with the beer; next time we brew this beer we want to impart bourbon character without adding bourbon or aging in a barrel (bourbon barrel pieces in secondary?).

The porter had a third taster. The HVAC guy saw our brewing equipment in the basement and got to jawing with Dave. Turns out the HVAC guy loves porters and was more than happy to taste test ours. He likes a little more vanilla character (we concur), but overall enjoyed the beer.

We are very happy beer drinkers with both of these beers.

August 13, 2016: White Stout

This recipe was adapted from Experimental Homebrewing. This recipe will require us to expand our techniques in making a cacao tincture and adding lactose at packaging. Ingredients marked with a * were substitutions from the published recipe.

Grain bill:

  • All supplies were purchased at Hops and Berries in Fort Collins, CO. Grain suppliers varied.
  • 14 lbs Maris Otter
  • 0.5 lb Crystal 40L
  • 1 lb Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb Flaked Barley

Hops (Pellet):

  • 1.25 oz Target (UK) 11.1% alpha acids*
  • 0.75 oz Crystal 4.8% alpha acids

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1318 London Ale III (#0829188, mfg 7/6/2016)

Specialty Ingredients:

  • Defatted cacao extract (4 oz raw cacao nibs soaked in 6 oz Kirkland vodka for 24 hours, strained, placed in freezer to solidify fat for removal)
  • Cold brewed coffee extract (1 c. ground coffee soaked in 3 c. water overnight, strained)
  • 0.75 lb lactose dissolved in 3 c. boiling water.

Stats:

  • Starting gravity: 1.062
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 66%
  • Final gravity: 1.016
  • Approximate %ABV: 5.9%
  • Approximate IBUs: 67.7 (Rager)/60.9 (Tinseth)/33.2 (Garetz)/69.2 (Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner, ProBrewer.com, and Homebrewing.com IBU calculators.

Procedure:

Yeast was propagated in 1 L of media (0.5 c DME in 1L/~1qt water, boiled) in a 2L 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 15 hours and was pitched directly into the cooled, oxygenated wort.

Strike temperature was 75.5 degrees Celsius. A ~2:1 water to grist ratio was achieved with 12 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 67.7 degrees Celsius, which was the desired 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.

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. Target pellets – 60 minutes; Crystal pellets, and 1/2 tablet Whirlfloc – 10 minutes. 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. The hopped wort was oxygenated via an oxygen tank for 60 seconds. The yeast propagation culture (~800 mL) was pitched into the Speidel fermenter. The fermenter was placed in an incubator that was set to a maximum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.

Primary fermentation was approaching completion at approximately 100.5 hours. Acetaldehyde was detected around 64 hours and was less noticeable at 100.5 hours. Green was transferred to secondary fermenter and was kept at 70 degrees Celsius for approximately 48 hours. The fermenter was then chilled to -2 degrees Celsius which will help precipitate proteins and any remaining yeast cells. The cold incubation proceeded for two weeks since we were traveling for vacation.

Fermentation profile of the white stout.
Fermentation profile of the white stout.

The beer was then transferred to a 1/3 keg. Also added to the keg were the specialty ingredients listed above. The keg was sealed, pressurized to 30 psi, and then rolled. Pressurization and rolling was repeated once. Tasting notes will follow.

Comments:

  • The specific gravity was lower than anticipated. During our boil, we reduced the vigor which then reduced the evaporation and thus concentration of the hopped wort. However, comparing the total Brix of the sweet (114) and hopped (91) worts, the hopped wort was approximately 20 points lower than expected. It is possible that our volume was larger than estimated, indicating that we reduced the heat too dramatically during our boil. This may result in higher DMS concentrations.
  • Acetaldehyde was released by the yeast, as determined by the ‘cidery’ smell during fermentation, noted around 40 hours. The aroma was less noticeable around 60 hours.
  • The fermentation was slower than expected. Yeast strain attenuates 70 – 75% and finishes slightly sweet (WYeast Technical Bulletin).
  • Initially lactose amount was 1 lb, but was reduced due to the under attenuation observed and the yeast characteristic of finishing slightly sweet; we were concerned of having the final product too sweet.

What’s Water Got to Do With It?

Our temporary yeast propagation and laboratory set up in the kitchen.
Our temporary yeast propagation and laboratory set up in the kitchen.

After a five month brewing hiatus we are preparing to brew! We decided that our Amber Ale, is going to be our inaugural Colorado brew. We last brewed this in March 2016 in Davis, CA. We were happy with the recipe we developed and already have the complete grain bill. We went to Hops & Berries South in Fort Collins to pick up yeast (Wyeast 1450) and hop pellets (Magnum, Cascade, Amarillo). It quickly became clear that we would have to deal with some unintended modifications to our recipe. Here are some of the recipe and environmental changes that we will be attempting to compensate for. Beware, this post is biochemistry heavy.

Recipe changes

  • Hops & Berries was out of Cascade pellets, so we purchased whole cone. This is going to lower our utilization rate because the lack of processing means the lupulin glands (source of bittering and aroma compounds) were not ruptured. When we last brewed this recipe, the Cascade pellets were added when heat was removed; with the expected lower utilization rate, the whole cone Cascade will be added with five minutes left in the boil.
  • Hops & Berries also sold out of the the WYeast 1450, but offered WYeast 1272 American Ale II as a substitute. 1450 is a blend of three different yeast strains, of which 1272 is one. According to the knowledgeable staff at Hops & Berries, 1272 will result in a drier finish than 1450. Increasing the mash temperature may help counteract this flavor characteristic imparted by the yeast. The flavor profile (contributions of esters, higher alcohols) of this yeast also tends towards dark fruits, such as dried cherries.

Water

This is the biggest change to our brewing. The water in Davis, CA was ‘hard’, alkaline (pH 8.2), and filled with various metals (arsenic, boron, manganese, hexavalent chromium). This link will take you to the Davis, CA water chemistry report; check out all the notifications of ions exceeding limits. The water analysis of Loveland, CO (bonus points for having a quick link on the city services website for those who rely on water quality and composition for their craft) indicated soft water, approaching neutral (pH 7.4), and few metals reported.

Why the difference in water quality? During the time we were there, Davis’ water source was multiple wells. Each well’s mineral composition is based on what is leached from the rocks, soils, and human activities in the area. If you follow the link provided above (Davis water), you will see that the values for various analytes fluctuated widely. Loveland’s water comes from reservoirs filled by snow melt from Rocky Mountain National Park. Compare the Davis and Loveland analyses. The water in Loveland in consistent month in and month out for the period it was tested. We are so glad we are not drinking water from Davis, CA anymore.

What do we predict the effect of the change in water is going to have on our beer? From personal experience, the water in Loveland tastes and smells much better than the water in Davis. That will immediately eliminate off odors and flavors from our beer that are from the water. Less chlorine will reduce the possibility of chlorophenols forming; these compounds can impart a medicine or band-aid like aroma and flavor. Loveland’s lower water hardness (less calcium and magnesium) may have a negative impact on enzyme activity (calcium stabilizes and activates alpha-amylase and magnesium is a cofactor for a variety of enzymes in yeast). However, the lower pH of the Loveland water may improve enzyme activity, negating the negative effect of low calcium concentrations. Overall, we think the differences in water chemistry are going to be a net positive for our brewing in general.

Altitude

Our elevation in Loveland, CO is 4984 feet, which we are going to say is close enough to a mile high (5280 feet). So why do we care that we are a mile high? At sea level water boils at 100 degrees Celsius and the boiling point decreases roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius for every 500 feet elevation gain. So, at Loveland’s altitude, the boiling point of water is approximately 95 degrees Celsius.

Why do we care about water boiling at a lower temperature? The off flavor dimethyl sulfide (DMS). DMS has a low threshold (easy to detect) and has an odor of canned or canned creamed corn. Not usually a flavor that is found in beer style descriptions. Please bear with the next paragraph; it is heavy in biochemistry and brewing science to provide the necessary information which will help convey the impact water’s lower boiling point.

The precursor to DMS is S-methylmethionine (SMM), which is produced during barley germination. Without germination, we would not have malt, so we cannot eliminate germination to decrease SMM. At 100 degrees Celsius (boiling point at sea level) the half-life of SMM is approximately 40 minutes. Thus, after 40 minutes, approximately 50% of SMM present would be converted to DMS. If one was boiling with vigor for 60 minutes, then 65% of SMM would be converted to DMS. DMS will be volatilized during a vigorous boil, carried off by the vapors, and will not be present in the wort (which would carry over to the beer).

95 degrees Celsius, the half-life of SMM increases to 80 minutes. So to convert 65% of the SMM to DMS, boil time would have to be increased to 2 hours. A longer boil time will increase evaporation, increase the Maillard reaction, which will increase melanoidins (flavor and color components) and potentially caramelize more sugars. Compromising and setting the boil time to 90 minutes would lessen evaporation and Maillard reactions, but approximately 45% of the original SMM amount would remain. Which could then be converted to DMS during the whirlpool stand. Without a vigorous boil, the DMS will not be volatilized and will carry over into the finished product. It’s just complicated.

Summary

We are going to just brew and see what happens. Likely modifications will be a higher mash in temperature and a 90 minute boil. Everything is about compromise. We have multiple variables changing in this brew and will find out if our compromised produced a decent beer in approximately one month.

Here’s a picture of the WYeast 1272 American Ale II starter culture under the microscope after 24 hours. A reward for reading that science geek out that proceeded the summary.

Wyeast 1272 American Ale II starter culture viewed under 800x magnification.
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II starter culture viewed under 800x magnification.

 

March 15, 2016: Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter

It was Tuesday! Jess was in class, Alex was in daycare, the sun was shining, and Dave took full advantage to brew. The selected beer was a simple Imperial Porter from Experimental Homebrewing (Beechum and Conn, pg 122) as a combination dry malt extract (DME) and grain brew (see below for malt extract/grain bill).

The milled grains were steeped at 70 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. 6 lbs of DME was dissolved and the sweet wort was boiled for 60 minutes. Hops additions were at 4o and 10 minutes. Wort was cooled to 20 degrees Celsius and the wort was inoculated with a 1.1 L of a 36 hour starter culture. Wort was aerated with oxygen for three 30 second intervals. The Speidel 30L HDPE fermenter was transferred to a 20 degree Celsius incubator. Original gravity was 1.083.

Graph of specific gravity of Imperial Porter wort.
Graph of specific gravity of Imperial Porter wort.

During fermentation, specific gravity readings were taken at approximate 12 hour intervals and graphed. The final gravity achieved by fermentation was 1.010, reached by Thursday evening. On Saturday, we decided that we would transfer the Imperial Porter to a secondary fermenter and add vanilla bean (usually we just use our keg as our bright tank). Bourbon will be added at kegging, so the final beer will be a Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter.

What went well?

  • The starter culture gave led to a vigorous fermentation. Happy yeast make good beer.
  • Our set up. Everything went smoothly on Dave’s second brew on the system. Hoses weren’t falling on the ground and everything was consolidated in a single location.
  • The extract kit with specialty grain steep was easy. Doesn’t mean we are giving up whole grain, but when you need to save some time or perhaps your mash tun isn’t quite big enough to handle doubling the grain bill, DME as substitute for the base malt is easy.
  • Taking the gravity at intervals. It is nice knowing how the fermentation is progressing.

What went poorly?

  • Missed capturing some information (hop alpha acids %, weights, yeast lot number, amount of water used) but we are working on a spreadsheet to capture all the data. Yes, there are programs, but why go electronic when there is good old paper and pen?
  • Not that this went poorly – we are just going to have to wait ~ 2 to 3 more weeks before we can taste. Patience. Bah!

Recipe

  • 6 lbs DME
  • 2.75 lbs Munich Malt (10L)
  • 1.6 lbs Brown Malt (70L)
  • 1.38 lbs Chocolate Malt (350L)
  • 1 lb Crystal Malt (120L)
  • 0.5 lb Crystal Malt (60L)
  • 0.75 oz (?) Magnum Hop Pellet (40 minutes)
  • 0.5 oz (?) Progress Hop Pellet (10 minutes)
  • Whirlfloc (10 minutes)
  • 2 vanilla beans, scrapped (into secondary) and chopped (into secondary)
  • 375 mL Bourbon (into keg)
  • Yeast: Wyeast 1056