Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Keeping Your Fermentor Cool

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


Note to Oregon homebrewers. Tomorrow is your last day to turn in entries for the Oregon State Fair Homebrew Compitition.

Temperature is something many begining homebrewers don’t think to worry about, yet it is perhaps the most powerful beer destroying force out there. Many brewers who have been meticulous about things such as sanitation have found their beers end with a funky bubbel gum, butter, or other nasty off flavors. The sad thing about this is that fermentation temperatures aren’t that hard to control. With the hot August nights upon us though it seems appropriate to cover basic strategies. The first thing to keep in mind when considering your options however is that the fermentation temperature of your primary will be slightly higher then the ambient temperature of the room.

AC – One of the easiest and most expensive methods of controlling fermentation temperatures is to drop the AC to a temp of around 65° F. For most people this is a little silly. Most of us can not afford to keep our homes this cold throughout the summer. Some people however have a separate fermentation room with it’s own separate AC unit so that they don’t have to keep the whole house cold. If you have a spare room with a window and a window mounted AC unit then this option is much more affordable. Even with the separate room though this can be an expensive option.

Water Bucket– I can’t think of the actual name of this method. What it consists of is a large bucket that your primary will fit in, an old tshirt, and a floating thermometer. There’s not much to making this one. You just place your fermentor in the bucket and fill with enough water to reach halfway up the side of the fermentor. Then dress your fermentor with your tshirt or wrap in a towl. The towel or tshirt will wick water from the bucket to the top of the fermentor. Just place the thermometer in the water and use small amounts of ice to maintain a cool constant temperature in the bucket.

Refrigerator– If you happen to have a spare fridge then you can always stash your fermentor in there. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the fridge and adjust as needed.

Son of Fermentation – This is perhaps the most infamous of the DIY fermentation chambers, and the most cost effective of all the options. Here is a video from brewyourown4life where he guides you through his setup and mods he’s made.

Wax Dipping

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

from theweeklybrew

So yesterday I decided to seal up the beers I have cellaring with a nice coating of wax. Sealing bottles with wax is just an added precaution to help preserve the beer in case the seals on the caps fail (which they do eventually). Also it can be an easy way to keep track of what year the beers were cellared. This time I used brown. With next years batches I’ll use a different color. By doing this I’ll know what year I put the bottles up.

Judging by the curiosity of the family though I guess sealing stuff in wax just isn’t done much nowadays. Sad thing too considering how much fun it can be. I even made a little instructional video for anyone interested.

Wax Dipping Beer from 72mm Blogs on Vimeo.

Modifying A Recipe

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

beer-kitToday Davo left a comment wondering how you would downsize a recipe for a Mr. Beer kit. This really isn’t a hugely difficult thing to do, and if your having trouble because you haven’t done fractions since highschool then that’s what you have children for right? For those of us who try to avoid math whenever possible though I figured I should explain how to modify a 5 gal partial mash recipe (that means an extract recipe with some grains). Also some tips for spicing up your kits.

Changing Batch Size

Let’s take the “Uncle Fuggles Slightly Rye” I’m brewing right now, as we speak. The 5 gal recipe is as follows

1 lb Rye malt
.5 lb Biscuit malt
.25 British Crystal malt
3 lb Dry Light Malt Extract
3 lb Dry Amber Malt Extract
1 oz Fuggles for 60 min
1.5 oz Fuggles for 20 min
1 oz  Fuggles for dry hopping
Predicted OG 1.058, IBUs 37

Now we use 2/5 the ingredients for a 2 gal Mr Beer fermentor

7 oz Rye malt
3 oz Biscuit malt
2 oz British Crystal Malt
1.25 lb Light Dry Malt Extract
1.25 lb Amber Dry Malt Extract
.4 oz Fuggles at 60 min
.6 oz Fuggles at 20 min
.4 oz Fuggles for dry hopping
Predicted OG 1.055, IBUs 35

As you can see the math is easy, just multiply everything by 0.4 to get your weight, then convert it into an easier measurement ( lbs become oz). Also some creative rounding is needed to make the numbers easier. The rounding causes the OG and IBUs to not match up, but they are still close.

Spicing It Up

One thing I’m a big advocate for both in brewing and in cooking is making the recipe your own. With kits this may seem difficult, but in reality it isn’t. In fact kits are a great starting point for even experienced partial mash brewers (they don’t quite fit for all grain though). My Rose Red is a good example of a kit mod recipe. I started with a Coopers Wheat Beer kit and modified it with specialty grains, wheat malt extract, and spices.

One thing to always consider with kit brewing is hops. Many kits go lighter on the hops in order to appeal to a broader range of brewers. Adding a small amount of hops in at your boil and extending the boil to a full hour can give your beer a nice bitterness, or flavor if added near the end. Also dry hopping (adding hops to sit in the beer after fermentation) is another great way to give your beer that great hop aroma and take things up a notch. Just remember, most kits are prehopped, so don’t be heavy handed when adding them. Another great way to spice up beers or to raise your OG to a more acceptable range is with grains and malt extract.

Hope these tips were helpful. It’s time for me to go stir in my flavoring hops though, so I need to stop writing.

Washing Yeast

Friday, April 17th, 2009

One thing I’ve wanted to do for awhile is wash and use my own yeast. Sure it would only save me a few bucks every time I brew, but there’s something about it that seems fun. The problem was I felt like an idiot asking people how to wash yeast after having brewed for going on two years. Well after some research I’ve figured out how, and thought I might post a tutorial for anyone interested in knowing. In fact when I finish this batch of beer it might be cool to do another video.

So why wash and reuse yeast? Well for a lot of people the reasons are different. If you’re going to make another batch of beer the same day then you won’t have any lag time while the yeast start multiplying as there will already be a high concentration of yeast. Reducing lag time supposedly reduces off flavors and makes a better beer. Another reason is if you’re into recycling and self sufficiency then you’re eliminating the need to buy new yeast every time. Also I’ve heard some brewers say that over time the yeast will adapt to your specific brewing environment and help produce more consistent results. So if those reasons sound good to you then next time you siphon off your beer then take a bit of time to reuse your yeast.

When you siphon off your beer you’re left with what’s called a yeast cake in the bottom of your fermentor. Some people will just pitch straight on this. One of the issues though is that’s not just yeast in that yeast cake. There’s also something called trub that’s basically dead yeast, waste, and all sorts of gross stuff that’s settled out of your last batch. Personally the thought of pitching a different style of beer on the trub from a previous batch just doesn’t seem kosher. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t seem that way to me.

So once you’ve siphoned off your beer then you swirl the yeast cake to bring everything into suspension. If you don’t have enough liquid for this add 1/2 a cup or so of pre boiled water to help. Next pour the slurry into a mason jar and rubber band some plastic wrap over the top and stick in the fridge. After awhile it will break down into two layers. The bottom layer is the trub, the top is yeast. There will probably be a thin line in the middle made up of both also. Just carefully pour the yeast off into another container. If you want then repeat the process, then put an airlock on the container and stick it in the fridge. You can store yeast for up to a year, just be sure to make a starter if you plan on storing it.