Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recipe - Double Chocolate Stout

I'm going to attempt to brew this on Thursday night and start it fermenting before I leave for Mexico. I had another recipe but had trouble finding barley malt syrup at a reasonable price. I found this one in a few different places and all the reviews seem good. I like the large amount of grains used in this one.

Dark brown, roasty, malty smooth, with a distinctive chocolatey finish 

6 lbs. dark malt extract 
1 lb. domestic special pale malt 
1 lb. medium crystal malt 
1/2 lb. roast unmalted barley 
1/4 lb. chocolate malt 
1/2 lb. oatmeal 
1/2 - 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (add to end of boil) 
1 oz. Northern Brewer (bittering) 
1/2 oz. U.K. Fuggles (flavoring) 
No finishing hops (add cocoa instead) 
1 pkg. Windsor Ale Yeast (or White Labs English Ale or Wyeast #1968) 
1 pkg. Bru-Vigor (yeast food) 
3/4 cup corn sugar (priming) 
O.G. - 1.049 
F.G. - 1.012

I will not use the oatmeal that this one calls for because I have read that you can only use oatmeal in an all-grain full mash brew. I am only on my second recipe and I am still using a partial mash method of steeping grains. Also, I will use the mauri ale yeast without yeast food rather than the Windsor ale yeast and the bru-vigor.

Although there are a lot of grains in this recipe, I don't believe a partial mash extracts very much sugar from the grains. There are many ways to properly determine this, however, I don't know how efficient my partial mash is. I assume it will not be as efficient as the homebrewers that posted this recipe, but at the same time, I dont want to mess with a recipe when I am this inexperienced.

My calculation of 1 litre - 3.2lbs of extract would mean this recipe calls for 1.875 litres of dark malt extract. SO - to keep things simple, I will just round up to 2 litres. 

The bittering hops should always be added at the beginning of the boil just after the hot break, and I will add the flavoring hops with 10 minutes left. The cocoa replaces the finishing hops and will be added when the brew is removed from the heat.

If any other home brewers happen to stumble upon this blog, I would love some advice and some tips.

I'm looking forward to tasting this one.

American Brown Ale is Bottled

I'll keep this one short and sweet-

There was no further drop in gravity during the secondary fermentation. The beer still has a strong "off taste" (kinda bitter) that doesn't linger. Hopefully that goes away while it matures and carbonates in the bottle.

The beer was transfered to a bucket for bottling where 3/4 cup of dextrose was used as a priming sugar. Bottling went smoothly but the sanitation process of the bottles seemed like an eternity.... I do not enjoy the sanitation part of homebrewing.

here are a few pictures from bottling day:

Transferring to the bottling bucket - priming sugar already added

The bottle filler worked very well and wasn't messy at all. - I am used to bottling carbonated beer at the Brew Kettle and you have to deal with quite a bit of foam over.

The capper

Capped bottles and the test jar for a hydrometer reading

A little taste for myself. What a nice dark looking beer, it will look even better with a nice frothy head on it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brew Scheduling

I sat down with the calender and tried to come up with some sort of brewing schedule to maintain a constant beer supply in my fridge. This would have to satisfy my thirst for delicious home brewed beer while at the same time trying not to make myself appear to be be a raging alcoholic. I eventually settled on a three week delay between batches, this delay may have to be adjusted as this thing continues on. Most likely, the delay will be shortened.

A four week brew cycle goes as follows:
Day 1 - Brew the beer
Day 7 - Rack to the secondary fermenter
Day 14 - Bottle Beer
Day 21 - Wait
Day 28 - Drink

This should coordinate well with my wifes menstrual cycle.

If I were to start a new batch every two weeks, I would be bottling batch 1 and brewing batch 2 around the same day. Putting three weeks between batches gives me something to do on day 28. I just hope that 50-60 bottles of beer is enough to get me through three weeks.... I might have to go to the beer store around day 35-40.

Amended brew cycle adding batch 2:

Day 1 - Brew batch 1
Day 7 - Rack batch 1 to the secondary fermenter
Day 14 - Bottle batch 1
Day 21 - Wait   brew batch 2
Day 28 - Drink batch 1 and rack batch 2
Day 35 - Bottle batch 2
Day 42 - Brew batch 3 and notice batch 1 is gone .... contemplate switching to a two week delay between batches....

Thanks to all who voted on my poll, and anyone who actually reads this. I have decided that batch 2 will be a Chocolate Stout and there is only one reason why. Batch 3 will not be ready to drink until around May 22nd, and a heavy stout is more of a winter beer which would not be a great in June.... don't let that fool you, because I will drink any beer any time of year. If I brew it as my next batch, brew night will hopefully be Thursday April 1st, which is the day before we leave for Mexico, this means it will be ready to drink around May 1st. If I don't brew it now, I will probably not try brewing a stout until the fall.

So I apologize for those of you that wanted to try my Pale Ale. You will have to wait until June.

Dates to look forward to:
April 1st - Brew Day - Chocolate Stout
April 10th - Brown Ale ready!
April 24th - Brew Day - Pale Ale
May 1st - Chocolate Stout ready!
May 22nd - Pale Ale ready!

Batch 4 to be announced.

** disclaimer ** None of these dates have been approved by my wife, therefore, dates are flexible.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Racking Day

I woke up Saturday morning and put the kids in front of the TV with some toast, after they were settled in, I made my way to the brewery. (furnace room) I was excited because it was time to rack my beer to the secondary fermenter, this would be the first interaction with my beer since brew day which seems like ages ago....... I am getting so thirsty.

I removed the lid and had a peek, the beer has a great dark brown colour and I could see some gunk collected around the inside of the bucket just above the fluid level. This is no doubt evidence left from the krausen, indicating that a very healthy fermentation had taken place.

Kräusen, also spelled "kraeusen" or "krausen," prounounced "KROY-zen," is a beer-brewing term that has two definitions in that context.
1. A 
method to carbonate beer in which wort is added to the fermented/finished beer to carbonate.
2. The foamy, 
meringue-like head that develops during the initial stage of beer fermentation.

The primary fermenter with the bung and airlock in place.

First view of the beer after the lid was removed.

I used the auto-siphon to transfer the beer from the primary to the secondary which is a glass carboy. The auto-siphon is easy to use, one pump and the beer was flowing strong. The bottom of the siphon is setup so it will only pull through liquid and none of the sediment, I found that I had to hold it very steady, because every time I moved it, it would suck up quite a bit of sediment. I have learned my lesson, and will be more cautious with future use of the siphon. I was very shocked again at how much sediment or gunk, or ... I don't know what it was that was left at the bottom.

The auto-siphon at work.

Lots of shit left in the bottom.

The bung and airlock was put in place on the glass carboy and I was very shocked that the carboy was not filled to the top. My calculations from brew day tell me that I used 28 liters of water and malt extract - the pail was also filled to within a few inches of the top. This pail is 30 liters and I wanted to make sure there was room for the krausen to rise. The glass carboy is 23 liters, which is 5 liters less that what I thought I had in the primary fermenter. I realize that some of the volume is left behind or lost during the boil, during the straining into the primary, and during the racking to the secondary, but it shouldn't have been more that 5 liters? This one leaves me puzzled and I will revisit  this on bottling day to see if I need to add more water to the primary fermenter for my next batch.

Glass Carboy - secondary fermenter, note the volume of beer is quite low.

In my brew day post I talked about gravity and potential alcohol. I set a small amount of beer aside for a gravity reading and tasting. The beer had a very nice fruity aroma and tasted quite good. It was very smooth with a slightly bitter or hoppy aftertaste, I also thought I could taste the alcohol, or that something was off. Keep in mind this beer has only been fermenting for a week and is not carbonated yet. There is still another week of aging and maturing in the secondary fermenter, plus two weeks in the bottle. Also something to keep in mind is that I don't have the best palette or ability to pick up on certain flavors from different malts and hops. If you know me, you know I like to try a lot of different types of beer, and I simply know if I like it or not. I will be relying on my friends and families true and honest opinion of my brews if they dare sample them with me.

Official Moonstone Brewery sampling glass. (purchased from Robert Simpson Brewery)

The original gravity of the beer on brew day was 1.048, or a "ten forty eight" in homebrew lingo, this showed a potential alcohol level of 6.2% - This is very common for an ale and is what the original gravity should be because no fermentation has taken place. Fermentation is simply yeast turning sugar into alcohol. Another reading was taken on racking day and it read 1.014 which is a potential alcohol of 1.8% - To calculate the actual alcohol content by volume, you subtract the original gravity from the final gravity. so after one week of fermentation, the beer contains 4.4% alcohol. I expect that in the next week, a little more fermentation will take place and increase this slightly.

Hydrometer in the test jar.

Next Saturday is bottling day and the following Friday, Rachelle and I are heading to Mexico for a much needed vacation where I will be sipping Corona on tap for a week. I will be returning just in time to sample my first Brown Ale, Moonstone Brewery's historic first batch of beer. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This Waiting is Killing me...

My Brown Ale has been fermenting for only 5 days and I cant handle it. The aroma coming from the airlock bubbles is wonderful. It has been bubbling nicely and I am already certain this beer will be a great success. I will transfer to the glass carboy for secondary fermentation on Saturday. At this time I will take another gravity reading and sample some of the beer.... I think it's actually called beer now?

All this waiting has me thinking of my next recipe. I think I might act aggressively and jump right into my next recipe once the Brown Ale is bottled. This would mean I would have some Brown Ale ready for official tasting around bottling day for recipe number two.

I really want to do a stout, and its a toss up between a Chocolate Stout and a Sweet Stout. I have two recipes that I will need to tweak to ingredients that I have access to. When I notified my fans, they both agreed that I should try something a little more common or main stream such as a Pale Ale or a simple Lager. I have not read much about brewing lagers, so i can scrap that idea at this point, but I am willing to consider a Pale Ale.

Here's my choices:

1) Chocolate Stout - A noticeable dark chocolate flavour through the use of darker, more aromatic malt; particularly chocolate malt— a malt that has been roasted or kilned until it acquires a chocolate colour. Sometimes, as with Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and Rogue Brewery's Chocolate Stout, the beers are also brewed with a small amount of actual chocolate.

The recipe I found does calls for unsweetened cocoa, gypsum, and barley malt syrup, which can all be purchased at a grocery store. The rest of the ingredients are standard.

2) Sweet Stout - (sometimes called Milk Stout or Cream Stout) is a stout containing lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Because lactose is unfermentable by beer yeast, it adds sweetness, body, and calories to the finished beer. Milk stout was claimed to be nutritious, and was given to nursing mothers, along with other stouts, such as Guinness. The classic surviving example of milk stout is Mackeson Stout, for which the original brewers claimed that "each pint contains the energising carbohydrates of 10 ounces of pure dairy milk". In the period just after the Second World War when rationing was in place, the British government required brewers to remove the word "milk" from labels and adverts, and any imagery associated with milk.

This idea was inspired by the Pogues song Sally MacLennane, which, as I understand, was the name or type of stout that is no longer commercially produced. For this recipe i will need to find lactose powder and dark molasses. It also calls for a specialty grain black malt, which the Brew Kettle does not have, so I would just use additional roasted barley or add some chocolate malt.

3) Pale Ale - A beer which uses a top fermenting yeast and predominantly pale malt, is one of the world's major beer styles.

I would use the american Pale Ale recipe in my Homebrewing for Dummies handbook. This recipe calls for Spalt Hops. I will need to find a source for this because the Brew Kettle does not carry Spalt... or i could substitute with Saaz.

I will post a poll later and allow my fans to vote on my next type of beer to brew.

-Thanks to Wikipedia for the Beer descriptions.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Brew Day March 13th, 2010 - American Brown Ale

OK - So I weighed my malt extract on the bathroom scale and it came in at 6.6 pounds, exactly what the recipe called for, it seems the conversion i found was pretty accurate.

The first step is to steep your specialty grains. from my reading I have learned NOT to boil the grains as this will release unwanted tannins in to the wort and cause unpleasant flavours. There is also much discussion on forums about the amount of water to use. I went with 8litres of tap water from my house which I had to get from the outside tap that does not run through my water softener. The hardest part was getting the temperature right in the brewpot for steeping. It took me almost an hour to get the temperature at 170F. I have read to keep it between 160 and 170 ... i found it very difficult to get it much lower than 170 and keep it steady, so I went with 170F.

I loaded the Chocolate Malt, Carastan, and Roasted Barley into a steeping sock and dropped in the pot. I let this steep for a good 30 minutes.
Specialty Grains - 170g of each

The Grains loaded in the Steeping Sock

Grains steeping at 170F in the Brewpot

There are many varied opinions on the next step, however I decided to sparge anyway, I placed the sock in a colander and poured over 2L of cold water. From my research, this pulls the most possible color and flavor out of the grains as well as additional sugars for increased alcohol content. I hope this didn't pull out any unwanted tannins that could give my finished beer an overly bitter or unpleasant taste. The whole point of this project is a learning process anyway, so if the beer tastes like shit, then hopefully the alcohol content is high enough to get me drunk.

Sparging the grain sock

The malt extracts were added as the brewpot was brought to a nice rolling boil. I almost had it boil over many times until the first dose of hops were added. This is the point when the kids became interested in what i was doing and offered to help. Piper found it strange that I wanted to cook hot beer and wouldn't rather have a cold one from the fridge. She might be onto something here since I wont be able to taste my brew for a month.

All the hops and the Irish Moss

Piper stirring the Wort

Nolan stirring the Wort

Boiling Wort

The boiling process lasted an hour and my beautiful wife was very patient as the smells of malt and hops filled the house.

When the Wort had a chance to cool a bit, I began pouring it through the colander into the primary fermenter. I was very surprised about the amount of leftover shit collected in the corander. I was beginning to think that maybe something went wrong.

transferring the wort to the primary fermenter

Look at all the shit that was filtered out.

The fermenter was filled almost to the top as I added another 14L of water. I removed about one cup of wort to mix with the yeast, I was told to do this to activate the yeast before adding it to the wort. After 10 minutes I did not see much happen, which worries me a little. While the yeast was activating I took a sample of wort for a hydrometer reading. The hydrometer showed that I had an original gravity of 1.048 which falls in the range for the original recipe. This shows a potential alcohol content of 6.2% - I really don't understand how this works and I will revisit it later at bottling time. I also tasted the wort at this stage and I was pleasantly surprised although it tasted a little on the bitter side.... again, I don't know if this tells me anything or what the wort should taste like at this stage.

Hydrometer in the test jar

I stirred the wort vigorously and then pitched the yeast, it was stirred some more before I closed the lid and put the bung and airlock in place. I will monitor the action over the next seven days as i lead up to the transfer to the secondary fermenter.

All in all it was a good experience and it makes me wonder if all this work and waiting will be worth it when i'm sipping my very own home brewed beer next month.

My First Recipe - American Brown Ale

For my first recipe I chose an award winning American Brown Ale from my Homebrewing for Dummies handbook. I had to make some slight substitutes for ingredients and I pray it doesn't taste like dirty bathwater. My two major concerns are first, is my calculation from dry malt extract to liquid malt extract and LME by weight to LME by volume correct? My second concern is using the proper yeast strain for the recipe.

Formula: 3.2lbs of LME = 1L of LME

but the recipe also called for DME so it first had to be converted to LME then to litres. .. here is the formula I used for that

DME > LME = weight of DME X 1.10

so - the recipe called for 6.6 lbs of Northwestern Light which I could not find so I will be using 2 lbs of pale malt extract. It also called for 1 pound of William's Austrailian Dark DME, so I will be using .35 litres of dark malt extract.

I found these formulas on various homebrewing forums, and I hope they are correct.

My next concern, being new to this, is how much effect the strain of yeast used effects the final beer? I have been reading a lot but find many different answers. This recipe called for a product called Wyeast #1007. I was able to find this at a home brew supply shop in Brampton, however, it sold for $9.99. I just ended up purchasing the standard ale yeast that the Brew Kettle in Richmond Hill sells for 10cents a gram - it's called Mauri Ale Yeast and it only cost me 90cents for the 9 grams I need. You can see why I chose to go this route and I will let you know if I made the right choice in a bout a month from now.

Today might be brew day if the kids will give me an hour or two .....

Here is my final recipe:

Malt Extract
2 litres of pale malt
0.35 litres of dark malt

Specialty Grains
6oz of chocolate malt
6oz of roasted barley
6oz of carastan

Bittering Hops
1oz Fuggles (60min)
1oz Northern Brewer (60min)

Flavoring Hops
0.5oz Fuggles (10min)
0.5oz Cascade (10min)

Finishing Hops
0.5oz Cascade Hops (2min)

9g Mauri Ale Yeast

6g Irish Moss

Primary Fermentation 7 days @ 65F plastic
Secondary Fermentation 7 days @ 65F glass carboy

I'm going to throw the malt extracts on the bathroom scale and see if my weight to liquid calculation is correct.