September 29, 2017: Apple Pie Update

Fermentation Record: 20170929FL


Fermentation log details when we added apples, cinnamon, and dry hopped our oatmeal apple pie cream ale (brew day post).

What is with the funky fermentation profile? To conserve wort, a refractometer was used for the first few days of fermentation. We forgot brewing 101 where the refractometer is only good for wort. The alcohol that is present once fermentation starts throws off the values. Day 5 we used different equipment.

The cinnamon aroma is strong, but it does not come through in the flavor profile. The Pink Lady apples are delicious for eating, but when we brew this again – Honey Crisp is the way to go. This was our original plan, but the apples were neglected on the stove and the sugars went past caramelization to ash. Of the apple varietals the local grocery had, Pink Lady was the choice we made.

The flavor of the beer is close to what we wanted, but not quite there. Because we were low on mash temperature, it is a drier beer than desired. A higher mash temperature would have resulted in a residual sweetness that would better evoke apple pie.

Sent this to cold crash – looking forward to transferring it to a keg, carbonating, and drinking in a couple weeks.

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)


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

Brew Record: 20170916BR


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.


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.


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)


  • 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.



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.


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?


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

    We cannot sing the praises of Wyeast 1272 enough.


  • 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.


  • 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.

October 29, 2016: Amber Ale

We are attempting to replicate our success from out last Amber Ale brew.

Grain bill:

  • 10 lbs 2-row domestic (Hops and Berries, Fort Collins, CO)
  • 1 lbs 2-row pale
  • 1 lbs Crystal 75L

Hops (Pellet):

  • 2 oz Magnum 12.4% alpha acids, pellets
  • 2 oz Amarillo 8.2% alpha acids, pellets
  • 2 oz Cascade 6.5% alpha acids, pellets


  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1001271, mfg 9/27/2016)


  • Starting gravity: 1.070
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 73%
  • Final gravity: 1.002
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.798
  • Approximate IBUs: 108.1 (Rager)/109.5 (Tinseth)/11.4(Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner and IBU calculators.

Procedure Highlights: We transferred our strike water to the mash tun using a silicon hose and lost less heat than we had anticipated. The end result was we mashed in at 73 degrees Celsius. We quickly added ice and brought the temperature down to 67 degrees Celsius, which was lower than our target of 69 degrees Celsius.

The wort was oxygenated for 45 seconds prior to pitching the yeast slurry. The yeast starter culture was cold crashed after approximately 18 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.

Fermentation profile for our Amber Ale. Such happy yeast!
Fermentation profile for our Amber Ale. Such happy yeast!

After a week in the primary fermenter (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermenter and kept at approximately 19 degrees Celsius (ambient temperature) for 48 hours. The beer was sampled and no acetaldehyde character was detected. The fermenter was then transferred to -2 degrees Celsius freezer for the cold crash.


  • A vigorous boil resulted in a lower volume of sweet wort.
  • Our efficiency was similar to the last time we brewed our Amber Ale.
  • The lower volume of sweet wort resulted in a slightly higher original gravity (1.070 vs 1.065). This resulted in an approximately 0.7% increase in ABV.

October 22, 2016: Imperial Porter

We have returned to our Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter recipe that we enjoyed in California. We are looking forward to this beer and hope we aren’t disappointed.

Grain bill:

  • All grains were purchased at Hops and Berries in Fort Collins, CO.
  • 12 lbs 2 row domestic
  • 2.75 lbs Munich 15L
  • 1.5 lbs Brown Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 120L
  • 1 lb Crystal 60L

Hops (Pellet):

  • 0.375 oz Northern Brewer 7.3% alpha acids
  • 0.875 oz Chinook 11.9% alpha acids


  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (#1005271, mfg 9/27/2016)


  • Starting gravity: 1.080
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 85%
  • Final gravity: 1.015
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.316
  • Approximate IBUs: 39 (Rager)/27 (Tinseth)/38(Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner and IBU calculators.


  • 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.
Brew day set up!
Brew day set up!

Procedure: Yeast was propagated in 1.2 L of media (1:10 DME:water) in a 2L flask with stir bar that had been sanitized with Star-San. Media was inoculated from Wyeast Smack Pack. Propagation culture was grown at room temperature with stirring for 16 hours.

Strike temperature was 78 degrees Celsius. A ~2.5:1 water to grist ratio (L:kg) was achieved with 22 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 69 degrees Celsius, 1 degree above target. The mash was fly sparged at 74 degree Celsius until the volume of sweet wort in the boil kettle was approximately 10 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. Chinook – 60 minutes; Northern brewer, 1 tablet Whirlfloc – 10 minutes. After whirlpooling and allowing the trub to settle, the hopped wort was cooled to 19 degrees Celsius with a counter-flow plate chiller with a recirculating ice/water slurry. The hopped wort was oxygenated. The yeast starter culture was immediately pitched into hopped wort.  The fermenter was placed in an incubator with temperature monitoring only, until 22 degrees Celsius  was reached. Temperature control was then set in cooling mode, with 20 degrees Celsius being the maximum temperature.

Fermentation profile of some very happy yeast.

After a week in the primary fermenter (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermenter with 5 oz vanilla beans, split and chopped. During fermentation, diacetyl character was noted at time points 28 to 51 hours, but was not present afterwards. The fermenter was kept at ambient temperature (19 Celsius) and was then cold crashed. The beer will be transferred to a keg, where bourbon will be added.


  • The shorter propagation time resulted in a beautiful profile. Happy, healthy yeast make great beers! We are definitely staying with a shorter propagation time.
  • We are now tracking temperature. More data!
  • Our brewhouse efficiency was a whopping 85%. Looking forward to trying to replicate this efficiency.
  • Our boil was not as vigorous as desired, resulting in a larger fermentation volume. We expect our original gravity would have been higher with a more vigorous boil (more evaporation, less volume, more concentrated sugars).

Tasting Notes: White Stout

We cold crashed our White Stout just before we left on our Pacific Northwest adventure. A slower than expected fermentation and a fixed departure date for our trip resulted in us shaving time off of secondary fermentation/beer maturation in order to cold crash the beer before we left. Good things do not come from rushing yeast.

A rather turbid white stout.
A rather turbid white stout.

The aroma is overwhelming one of coffee, to the point of a strong chemical profile. There is underlying hint of malt and acetaldehyde (not surprising considering the rushed secondary fermentation). There are no hints of chocolate on the palate or in the aroma profile. For flavor, Dave thought the white stout tasted cidery. Jess picked felt that the coffee profile masked the cider character. It is also quite turbid. After microscopic review, no yeast was observed.

So where to next? We are dumping this beer (our first dump ever). We will remake but with modifications. The coffee will be reduced greatly and the cacao nibs will be allowed to soak longer in alcohol to extract more of the chocolate flavors. We may also add the nibs to the secondary fermentation. Additionally, we will reduce the amount of lactose added to compensate for less bitterness. And we won’t rush the yeast, and may choose a different strain next time. There is a potential good beer here, buried under some mistakes.