Archive for the ‘tutorials’ Category

Packing Bottles

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

packI just got my first bottles from trading this years batch of Deschutes Abyss in and I’m really excited about the beers I received. When I cracked open a bottle of this years Abyss to try I had plans to trade only 2 or 3 bottles of my half case, but my disappointment in it means more may be traded. Anyways here’s what I got from KCHophead. For two bottles of Abyss I received:

an ’09 Harvest Dance from Boulevard Brewing, an ’08 Reserve Barlywine from Schlafely, and a bottle of his Schlafely Tripple Clone that he brewed.

Sadly the Tripple didn’t come off well. Not sure if it was oxidized or what, but there was a heavy metallic flavor throughout. The other flavors were good though. Thanks KC. I plan on letting the other bottles age, so I’ll tell you what I think when I crack them.

This was my first beer trade, but not my first time shipping something heavy and fragile. I learned alot from this trade though both through shipping and receiving and figured a basic rundown is needed for people.

First off people over complicate the process in an attempt to prevent any damage to their bottles. There are two main things to consider though. Safeguarding the labels and glass (some people collect them) and safeguarding the contents.

Safeguarding the glass and labels is simple. Wrap the bottles in bubble wrap and then bag them. I just used old plastic shopping bags. One thing to make sure you do is tape every wrap. If you wrap the bottle in bubble wrap then tape it in place. If you bag the bottle tape that in place. If the bag and bubble wrap slip you can loose protection, or allow packing material up against the bottle which can cause damage to the label or glass.

The contents are a different thing to protect. The bag you used to safegaurd the label will keep contents contained if they spill. Last thing you want is a call from FedEx or UPS saying that they can’t ship your package because of some mysterious liquid seeping out the box. Also any spills will not soak the labels of other bottles. In terms of packing material I’d say it comes down to preference. In middle school science class our group won the egg drop project using the simplest design because we followed a simple principle. The goal of packing material is to isolate the bottles from the sides of the box and create a dense environment around the bottles. This provides cushioning, but also, because of the dense packaging distributes any jolts or shocks through the entire box rather then into the bottles. I used peanuts to pack because it was cheaper to buy a bag of those then buying enough newspaper to stuff the box.

If you safeguard the bottles and contents then your trades will show up in great condition. And even with bubble wrap and peanuts it is cheaper then $5 to package your bottles. For a good beer an extra $5 is worth it though.

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.

The Cost Of Homebrew

Friday, May 1st, 2009

money_stackPerhaps the thing that’s gotten the most strange looks and questions is when I tell people I save money when I homebrew. Apparently no one believes that brewing your own can save you money. But the truth is it really can. My beer may not always be as cheap as a sixer of Budweiser, but it can definitely be cheaper then those craft beers in the store. Take the current summer rye I have bubbling away right now. The ingredients cost around $35 dollars for a 5 gal batch of 5% abv beer. That comes out to around 75 cents per a bottle. However I doubled the water in this batch in order to try and achieve a small beer of around 2.5% abv this has lowered the cost of this beer too around 35 cents a batch. How much does your Bud Light cost per a can? and I promise this has more flavor.

My Summer Rye doesn’t have alot of specialty ingredients though, so how does a bigger beer like my Rose Red compare? Well it came out to around $1.25 per a bottle, or $7.50 per a sixer. Not really that bad considering. Even if making recipes isn’t your thing it still can be cheap. Last time I was in the local brew shop I failed to find a 5 gal kit beer over $50, and these were nice, but spendy, kits like Rogues Dead Guy.

So we now know how much a batch costs, so what about start up? This is the part that intimidates people the most. After all where does one start? Do I need a glass carboy or a plastic food grade bucket for a fermentor? What about a pot? Do I need a propane burner like the guys online say? What is all grain? What is a lauter tun? Do I need a lauter tun?

As you can see it’s overwhelming when you start looking for equipment. Want to know a secret though to creating a free homebrewing kit? Back when I first started brewing consisted of the largest pot I had at the time (less then 3 gal), and several 2 ltr soda bottles for fermentors. There were no thermometers, hydrometers, bubblers or the like. But how this all worked is another post.

Let’s say you want something a little more substantial then the ghetto setup I started with. Let’s say you want to start where most hobbiests start, extract brewing using your cook top. For a pre-packaged starter kit your looking at a starting cost of around $50 to upwards of 2 or 3 hundred dollars. So what are the basics you need for your kit? For a person just starting you will need at least the following. Bottles aren’t listed since you probably have some lying around from all those beers you’ve purchased at the store.


•3 gal pot (5 or more would be better)
•5 gal food grade plastic bucket with a lid that has a spot to insert a bubbler
•racking cane
•siphoning tube
•capper and caps
•bottle brush

Optional things that will help

•bottling wand
•wort chiller

If one were to scavenge their undamaged fermenting buckets from restaurants then you could theoretically have a brewing kit for under $50 easy. Considering how much other hobbies like golf, cycling, and the like cost brewing is a cheap hobby. Combine that with a good beer  that you made for cheaper then the cost of a sixer at the store and one can really appreciate the savings of brewing your own beer.