Monday, March 31, 2008

Round 2 - ESB vs. American 2

Entering the second round after only 10 days of first round action. And some action it was. Both strains gave a great performance, and showed off their distinctive personalities. London ESB gave off larger bubbles, and though the krausen foam was just as large, it didn't seem to exhale as many air-locked bubbles. It also tried to finish earlier, so it got a couple spins to loosen its clumpy yeast cake. In the end it really settled out good and clear.

The American 2 strain performed with much more vigor. Wildly swirling around, it looked like it was boiling in carboy. Finer sized bubbles succumbed to strong currants on there way to the foamy surface. Simply amazing! Exhalations slowed but never really seemed to stop. Also, a 2 inch thick and creamy foam head never wanted to settle back into the beer, and it remained pretty cloudy at ten days.

Each batch was packaged into ten 12oz. bottles (with Cooper drops) and the rest kegged (3gal each). Please look back to Round 1 for their ending stats.

Round 2 already showed signs of fermentation within 1 hour on their yeast cakes. After five hours they were both fermenting wildly with considerable krausen foam. Eventually the ESB started to settle down, while the American 2 built up even more milky/top-cropping yeast, and decided to blow out of the airlock late the next day. It continued to blow off slowly through the night. photo coming soon

This round is very similar with malts and color. The gravity is a couple points higher, and it was mashed similarly to the first round. The hops however, were increase at both bittering and aroma with one additional ounce. The separation of additions was also increased, with only two aroma addition at 15min & knock out. The hop presence is definitely more pronounced with the ESB getting Phoenix/Saaz and American 2 getting Glacier/Saaz blends. The Saaz has a soft aroma with only 2.3 alpha acids which should provide a good balancing effect with the stronger English aroma hops.

Grains

12. lb. Organic 2-row Pale
1.0 lb. Crystal 120L
0.5 lb. Crystal 80L
.75 lb. Victory Malt
.75 lb. CaraPils


London ESB

Hops
.50 Columbus, 12.2%, pellet, 60min
.10 oz. Phoenix, 10%, pellet, 60min
.40 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, 15min
.40 oz. Phoenix, 10%, pellet, 15min
.60 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, KO
.60 oz. Phoenix, 10%, pellet, KO


American 2

Hops
.50 Columbus, 12.2%, pellet, 60min
.10 oz. Phoenix, 10%, pellet, 60min
.40 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, 15min
.40 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, 15min
.60 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, KO
.60 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, KO


Brew Day Stats


Brewed: 3/30/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 4/11/08

Water Adjustment:
.75 tsp acid blend & 2.5 tsp gypsum in strike water
2.5 tsp gypsum in 2nd sparge water

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.5-5.6
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 154°F/1hr
Mash Out Temp/Time: 171°F/10min

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/Temp: 5 gal @ 180°F/172°F

Pre-Boil Vol: 5 gal each
Boil Time: 60min
Post-Boil Vol: approx. 4 gallons each

Color/SRM: pale-amber/14-16
Ferment Temp: 68-72°F

ESB
OG: 1.055
IBU: coming soon
FG: 1.015
ABW: 4.2%
ABV: 5.25%

Amer. 2
OG: closer to 1.053
IBU: 47
FG: 1.013
ABW: 4.2%
ABV: 5.25%

Navigate to
the other posts
in this series...


Intro
Round 1
Round 3
Finals

Friday, March 21, 2008

Round 1 - ESB vs. American 2

This is the first round of a number of split brew sessions. London ESB is going head-to-head with American Ale 2 to win my preference as a good pale ale yeast strain. It will be a lot of fun finding out how they perform over a few rounds. Read about the break down of this experiment here.

For the first round, the beer style and hopping is a session-like English style bitter/amber. It may be a little light on the bittering hops, but should allow the yeast's fermentation characteristics to be more noticeable. The next rounds will either be higher OG's and/or higher IBU's. Below there is a list of grains for the main mash, then separate listings of hop schedules, followed by brewday stats. Check back in about 1-1.5 months for the final results, or there may be a special post highlighting the results of all these brews.

A couple challenges added almost 2 hours to the day. The lid was on tight during the first sparge. This caused a strange vacuum, that compacted the grains and stopped the flow. We added about a gallon of the second sparge water to mix the grains, vorlaufed, and we were on track again. Then, while adding the first hop addition to the 2nd batch...American 2 ale, Matt mistakenly added the 2nd addition at the beginning. So I made an adjustment, and added only half the original 1/2 ounce of Pheonix bittering hops. Other than that, it was a good brew day, and the OG's were just a couple points above target.

Grains
11. lb. Organic 2-row Pale
1.0 lb. Victory Malt
0.8 lb. Crystal 80L
0.6 lb. Crystal 120L
0.6 lb. CaraPils


London ESB

Hops (IBU 39)
.50 oz. Pheonix, 10%, pellet, 60min
.40 oz. Kent Goldings, 6.3%, whole, 25min
.40 oz. Kent Goldings, 6.3%, whole, 12min
.20 oz. Kent Goldings, 6.3%, whole, KO


American 2

Hops (IBU 40)
.25 oz. Pheonix, 10%, pellet, 60min
.35 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, 60min
.10 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, 60min
.35 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, 25min
.10 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, 25min
.40 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, 12min
.10 oz. Saaz, 2.3%, pellet, 12min
.25 oz. Glacier, 6%, pellet, KO


Brew Day Stats


Brewed: 3/20/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 3/30/08

Water Adjustment:
.5 tsp acid blend & 2.25 tsp gypsum in strike water
2.25 tsp gypsum in 2nd sparge water

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.5-5.6
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 154°F/1hr
Mash Out Temp/Time: 172°F/10min

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/Temp: 4-4.5gal/172°F

Pre-Boil Vol: 5 gal each
Boil Time: 60min
Post-Boil Vol: 4 gallons each
Mash Efficiency: approx. 80%

Color/SRM: pale-amber/13
Ferment Temp: 68-72°F

ESB
OG: 1.052
IBU: 39
FG: 1.015
ABW: 3.9%
ABV: 4.86%

Amer. 2
OG: 1.052
IBU: 40
FG: 1.013
ABW: 4.1%
ABV: 5.1%

Navigate to
the other posts
in this series...


Intro
Round 2
Round 3
Finals

Monday, March 17, 2008

London ESB vs. American 2

Up next on the brewing radar is a slew of back-to-back split batches to find out how two yeast strains ferment similar batches of boiled wort. The results should be very interesting, hopefully leading to a solid understanding of their overall contribution and individuality.

Two 4 gallon batches will result from the runnings of one large mash. Each will have the same water profile, original gravity, and ferment side-by-side. Each will be hopped with different varietals, yet have a similar schedule and IBU level/ounces at each contribution. I don't mind changing the hops in a subtle way, because the yeast will still contribute a lot of character in these beers.

An important thing to remember when boiling split batches is to stagger them. As one batch is chilling, the final hop additions are added to the second batch. This prevents late additions in the second batch from becoming "muddy" or aromatically "lost." Since I normally brew with two pots, I tend to stagger them, or consolidate late additions into the larger pot. This has made a big difference in the aromatics of all my brews.

My experience with these Wyeasts is very limited. I've only used American 2 twice, a long time ago, with good results. I've never used London ESB. Already, in their starter jugs, each strain looks completely different. I've noticed most English strains have a "clumpy" nature and a "fluffy" look, with bubbles that form beneath the surface of the yeast cake, then carry a clump as they rise through the beer to the top. The American 2 strain seems much more fine and compact. Already, it looks like American 2 completes fermentation quicker, while the ESB remains slowly active.

Navigate to
the other posts
in this series...


Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Finals

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tips for Better Infusion Mashing

To follow up on a post about 3 methods of "doughing-in," I'd like to share some useful tips for better infusion mashing. It is important to pay careful attention to this stage in the process. Especially, keeping the grains "in-suspension" allows converted sugars to dissolve more completely in the surrounding water. Recording Ph and conversion readings regularly will take the mystery away and put you in the driver's seat when mashing. Below is a procedural list of tips based on a process I use that works.

1. For dough-in/mash-in use Method #3: Grains over Water
2. Keep mashtun and grains at room temp before mashing (or other known temp)
3. Use an accurate thermometer (scientific)
4. Pour in strike water 6+°F above the strike temp (or more)
5. Allow water's temp to fall to the exact strike temp
6. Pour in grains steadily & evenly while stirring gently
7. Avoid stirring the mash in a way that forces grains under a false bottom
8. Attach a length of string to the end of the thermometer
9. Cover mashtun with thermometer inside and string under the lid
10. Check the temp after 5 minutes
11. If it is too hot, stir the grains by folding over
12. Close the lid with thermometer and check in another few minutes
13. One more light folding stir should get it perfect
14. Use a "slicing" technique to loosen mash every 15-20 minutes
15. Stir by slicing evenly and swiftly
16. Take a small sample every time it's sliced and cover immediately
17. Cool sample, and analyze Ph and conversion
18. When conversion is complete proceed with varlauf & sparge
19. Add mashout infusion water if batch sparging
20. Add sufficiently heated (170+) water if fly sparging


Other Tips

1. Increase the qt/lb ratio as the gravity goes up (I prefer thinner mashes if possible)
2. Know your water's hardness & chemical make-up
3. Check and record mash Ph for every beer (this info comes in hand over time)
4. Get to know your mash Ph at different colors (similar until very dark)
5. Condition strike water as necessary (Calcium, acid blend, etc...)
6. Condition mash-out and sparge water if preferred
7. Batch sparge for most brews usually lower in original gravity
8. Fly sparging may be easier with larger batches or higher gravities
9. Use reliable brewing software or equations for all infusions (vol & temp)
10. Make sure the grains don't compress, stir it into suspension
11. Avoid letting out heat while stirring, replace lid quickly

I feel like things are missing,
so more may be added later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Doughing-In with Infusion Mashing

Doughing-in/mash-in refers to the mixing of pre-measured crushed grains and heated water in order to sustain a constant mash temperature for a period of time. There are many variables to consider while doughing-in (grain weight, grain temp, mashtun temp, water volume, water temp). I'd like to take this time (brewing downtime) to write about how to reduce the number of unknown variables leading to a desired initial mash temperature in an unheated mashtun.

It seems as though many home brewers, new to all-grain brewing, go through as many as 3 methods before settling on the one that works best. I've gone through this trial period, and I think it exists because of what has been published and suggested on forums.

#1. Water over Grain: Pouring the grist into the mashtun, then pouring hot strike water over it. This method involves unnecessary variables (mashtun temp & ambiguous water temp). Following it will only result in inconsistency with every batch.

#2. Pre-Heated Mashtun: Initially, preheating the mashtun sounds like a good idea because it is an attempt to take away the question of mashtun temperature. I think it only adds more confusion. How hot are you getting the mashtun? Is it getting to the same temp every time? Plus, there is an additional volume of water to preheat. Ultimately there is still ambiguity in what the strike water temp should be.

#3. Grain over Water: Pour over-heated strike water into the mashtun, stir until strike temperature is achieved, then stir in grains steadily and evenly. This method excludes mashtun temp and water temp variables, and the only minor variable is the grain temperature. As long as you know the room temperature in your home, the grain will be very close to that.

"Grain over Water" takes all the guesswork out of planning and the brewday. I have used it with pinpoint accuracy, but will come out a little high on occasion. If the mash temperature settles too high it can easily be stirred and cooled. It's never fallen short.

Finding a good equation or infusion mashing software is important. Note that Tastybrew and Promash do not take into account mashtun temperature, so "Grain over Water" is the appropriate method when utilizing these applications.

It would be interesting to find out how many other methods brewer's have used. I would also like to know if this is helpful to you. If you have any questions, please ask.

Check out the following post about...
Tips for Better Infusion Mashing