Friday, February 27, 2009

Fermentation Friday - 2/09 - Cleanliness

Thanks to Matt at A World of Brews for hosting this months Fermentation Friday. Cleaning and sanitizing, I find, is fairly difficult to spell out in details. It's so routine, I never think about it. I guess I could easily wrap it up in only two steps...mild soap and Iodiphor.

Generally I'm pretty good about cleaning and sanitizing. I don't worry too much about it though. I'd say there have only been a couple beers infected, only in bottles. Over the years, my bottle washing has become utterly simply, but also has resulted in what looks like a very thin film on the inside. Trying to use the bristled scrub brush only makes millions of scratches in the film. I tend to throw out these bottles as they have been used countless times. My best guess is that the film is some sort of yeast/soap residue. My bottle collection has gotten smaller as a result of kegging.

I use a small dab of dish soap and a good rinse to clean most everything. After a bottle of beer is poured, its rinsed, a small drop of soap goes in followed by hot water. The bottle sits for the night(s) on the kitchen counter. They are then rinsed thoroughly with hot water, and ready for sanitizer on bottling day.

Carboys don't get cleaned until their final batch is fermented. They get a hot rinse and good scrub, and then sit bunged & inverted, with hot soapy/enviro-bleached water. Then it's scrubbed again and rinsed thoroughly with hot water, drip dried and ready for sanitizer on brewday.

I've never tried Starsan or any other cleaner/sanitizer. I really hate the feeling and white spots that OxyClean leaves. Iodiphor is really the only sanitizer I've ever used, cause it works. I'll use just shy of a full cap in 5 gallons. Then in the case of carboys and kegs, I'll pour out most of it into another vessel or sanitizing bucket. Then pour in more water to dilute the sanitizer by about half, slosh around and completely drain before filling with wort or beer.

I do use the minimum amount of sanitizing solution. Since bottling, racking & brewing usually coincide on the same day, I get to use the same sanitizing water for everything. Also, in the end, everything is cleaned with mild soap (with dedicated sponges, brushes and a special homemade scrubby sponge...cause no oils should get onto any equipment) or thoroughly rinsed, and then all small things go into the sanitizer bucket. So everything gets put away sanitized, and simply gets sanitized before use.

I'm really looking forward to reading all the other entries for this Fermentation Friday topic. If there are better practices or cleaners, it would be good to read about them.

Double Dark Scottish Ale

Here's the first of a series of beers called "Double Dark." There will be several brewed this year, and it simply means a stronger & darker version of the beer it replaces in the carboy. I'll be reusing each yeast strain several times, with the first beer being a low gravity session style, then the double dark brews, and finally something more imperial in nature.

In this case its a Double Dark Scottish Ale poured over the Scottish 70/-. Its going to be a bit stronger and a touch darker. It will have a well-rounded complexity from a nice variety of character malts. It starts out with a ton of Golden Promise pale malt, which the grains smelled more fresh than usual. I took the suggestion to add a bit of Brown malt to help the roasted quality, and then I threw in some Amber malt for some toasted notes. Debittered Belgian Roasted Barley sounded interesting and used relatively lightly. No sugar to dry this one out, so it should feel like a big brother to the Scottish 70/-.

Brewing this year has been more challenging for various reasons. It's been the largest batches to date while maxing out the 10gal mashtun capacity. Some equipment is getting old. And mostly because I have lots of confidence and come super close to having major problems...

a. immersion chiller almost sprayed everywhere at its connection point
b. mashtun volume was within an inch of overflowing
c. a boil over that wiped out the electric current in half the kitchen
d. temporary stuck sparge...gotta fix it right as its happening

The only thing whacked out about this brew was in lautering. I caught the lid closed, but it could have also been the weight of the grain bed. Since the majority of the first batch runnings was collect, I simply poured in the 2nd batch water and resumed with no problems. Spectacularly, the OG registered only one point above target at 1.058. This should be a sweet and malty brew!

Double Dark Scottish Ale

15. lbs. Golden Promise Malt
1.0 lbs. UK Crystal 80L
.75 lbs. Amber Malt
.40 lbs. Brown Malt
.35 lbs. Belg. Roasted Barley de-bittered
.60 lbs. CaraPils
.20 lbs. Flaked Barley

2.5 oz. Kent Goldings, 4.5%, pellet, 60+min
.25 oz. Kent Goldings, 4.5%, pellet, 5min
.25 oz. Kent Goldings, 4.5%, pellet, KO late

Wyeast 1728: Scottish Ale yeast cakes

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 2/24/09
Racked: just primary
Kegged: 3/6/09

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp Acid Blend, .75 tsp Chalk
2nd Sparge: .5 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp Kosher Salt, .25 tsp Epsom

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 158->154°F/60min
Mash Out Temp: 172°F
1st Batch Vol/SG: n/a

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: °F/°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: n/a

Pre-Boil Vol: 11.65 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.045
Boil Time: 90min
Post-Boil Vol: 9 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 77%

OG: 1.058
IBU: 27
Color/SRM: Dark Brown/15-19
Ferment Temp: 59-62°F

FG: 1.022
ABW: 3.78%
ABV: 4.7%

Monday, February 23, 2009

Leaky Vintage Faucets

A year ago from around this post date, I've been scoping out Ebay for vintage faucets and found some nice ones here and there. Passing them up, into a summer of virtually nothing of interest, I thought I'd never find any again. Then these beauties popped, and I watched them closely for almost a full week. By then my emotions were high and I was willing to pay a lot more than the winning bid.

Despite good advice from some knowledgeable AHA Tech Talk respondents (who advised stainless Perlicks are the best...which I will end up getting one or two), I went ahead and bid for these vintage faucets. They were listed as separate auctions, so I wan't sure if I'd get them both. In the end, I was only the second person to bid on them, and was able to win them both at only $23.50 each. They looked brilliant in the listing, and except for some fairly deep scratche of character, they look brilliant in my hand. They're solid and hefty pieces as well, weighing in at 3.5 pounds each. They're big and impressive, but...

They LEAK! Not in one spot, but in three different places. If these old faucets can pour beer again, I will be a very happy brewer, and the host with the most. I've already drilled shank holes in my kegerator collar with these in mind.

I'm writing this because I'm looking for anyone who knows anything about this style of faucet, and how I might go about restoring them. After dismantling them for all the technical people I know, I've come to a few indications as to how they work, what materials the seals could be, and how to go about fixing them. But I'm not totally sure. I appreciate any accurate feedback on how to get these functional again.

First, I'd like to talk about how they work and what I believe the seal is made of. Please look at the photos, or visit my Flickr to see them better (click on photo).

The faucet flows when the holes line up, and passage opens up. Pull the handle, match the holes, beer flows and its all good. When they are fully assembled and under dispensing pressure, they leak constantly, but there is a definite "pour" when the holes match. There are holes drilled into the disc seals, but they are drilled in different places on each faucet.

They leak in three places. Through the down spout, through the threaded part that makes the seal compartment, and through the end where the handle is attached.

I can probably fix the leaks to the threaded part and the handle area, but it is the seal that's most problematic. They are worn down, and my first attempt at a quick fix is to cut a thin plastic disc that essentially closes the hairline gap between the discs.

I believe the seal material in the main body of the assembly is made of a certain kind of wax. Simply bees wax perhaps? It does have a solidity to it, but its also sort of soft and peels like a dense wax. It seems to have been poured into a hex form which keeps it from rotating and coming loose while assembled. There is a circular indentation where the other half of the seal comes in contact.

The material of the seal on the lever side looks the same, but seems to be more like a plastic rather than wax. But on one of the faucets this material has been stripped off, and the remnants do seem to scrap off like wax.

At first I thought it was made of leather, and now I think it could be a combination of wax and leather. When burning a tiny piece of the seal material, it did kindof melt a bit like wax and then a tiny crumble of charred material remained.

So, that's about all I have right now. I haven't done any real extensive research into them, which is fairly difficult to do. I don't have any knowledge of manufacturer, as there isn't any makers mark on them. Since they were sold as part of an estate sale, I would like to think they came from an old mansion in Florida that once was the home of a wealthy beer connoisseur. These taps could have been set up in the parlor/bar.

I really do appreciate any feedback
or a contact info.
Reach me here in the comments
or by mail...

Thank You

Monday, February 9, 2009

All-Grain to Extract & Recipe Conversion

I was asked by a reader about converting a recipe from all-grain to extract with steeped specialty malts. Since I am primarily an all-grain brewer, I figure it would be helpful to provide a resource of conversion here.

Steeping Specialty Malts

Specialty malts give your extract beer it's color, character, and added freshness. You can literally steep just about any malt, if you wanted, cause in home brewing you can try anything. However, there are some malts require a proper mash to convert the starches to sugars, like base malts and pretty much any one that's not kilned moist or roasted. Malts like crystal/caramel, roasted, toasted, aromatic and carapils can simply be steeped to release their rich flavors and aromas.

I recommend steeping all specialty malts in a 2-3 ply cheese cloth or special grain bag. This could be done with about 2 qt/lb at 145-165°F water for about 30-55 minutes. A low heat should be applied to keep the temp from falling. I like to periodically squeeze the bag(s) to get hot water circulating within, and this also keep the wort from getting too hot. Then, using hot water from a full tea/water kettle, pour through the grain bags & squeeze out all the malty goodness in intervals. I like to use a mounted colliander over the pot to hold the grain bag while pressing into it.

Sort-of off topic, but to continue with the procedure... pour in enough water to get your preferred pre-boil volume. Boil for about an hour with your bittering hops. Add all other hop additions at their specified times. Malt extract can be added at any point between 30 minutes and the end of the boil. It's probably beneficial to experiment with various extract boiling times to see where the malt profile is most enhanced. In the process of making extract, the producer has already boiled their wort long enough, so there is no need to do it again. Finally chill the wort to a certain point, and add it with pre-chilled bottled water, topping off the fermenter.

Malt Extract

There are several brands of malt extracts to choose from, and most are probably worth trying out. You can choose between the liquid/syrup or dried versions. They come in light, pale, amber and dark.

For my recipes, I would recommend using pale extract for the majority, if not all, the fermentables. In this case the steeped character malts provide all the color and specialized flavors, and wouldn't really account for much sugar (see the small table below for gravity points for a lb of each malt). Though my experience is severely limited, I personally prefer Alexander's Pale liquid malt extract or Briess pale dried malt extracts for the base. I suppose small amounts of amber, dark or wheat extracts could enhance the flavor and color of your beer as well.

When converting an all-grain recipe to extract & steeps, swap out the base malts for your malt extract(s) of choice. I wont get into knit-picky details because you'll see links below to sources that spell it out in more detail. However, in general, you will multiply the base grain by a percentage (%) to get your pounds of extract.

Liquid Extract = .75 x Base #
Dry Extract = .6 x Base #

Beyond Barley

There are other malted grain extracts available. Among them are Wheat, Sorghum, Brown Rice & Tapioca. Since Wheat malt wont provide much of anything in your steep, other than starches and proteins, its best to use a portion of wheat malt extract in the base recipe. Also, gluten free beers can be made.

More informational sources...

BYO: "Extract to All-Grain and Back"
All About Beer by Ray Daniels: "Extract Conversion"
BeerSmith: "Converting All-Grain Recipes to Extract"

Thank you for visiting
Hope this is helpful
Feel free to add comments

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Scottish Ale 70/-

A couple session beers I'd like to brew better are light Scottish ales and an Ordinary Bitter. My 1st Scottish Ale was very simple, and turned out quite clean and easy to drink. It was also my first all-grain batch. Last year's Ordinary Bitter was pretty good, but it developed problems with my initial dry/keg hopping, and the small number of bottles developed an infection.

With this Scottish Ale, I wanted to do three things. 1. Keep the ABV low at around 3.5-4%. 2. Give a session beer style some richer flavors. 3. Give the beer some body.

This batch is probably very close to the cheapest batch yet. Only 12.2 lbs of malt, and 1.5 ounces of hops produced 10 gallons of brew. The ABV should come close to 4%.

The recipe is a bit complex, but I think it should produce a fairly clean flavor with some richness. I tried to boost the caramelized flavors by boiling 1.75 gallons of the first mash runnings down to about a half a gallon. This concentrated wort was poured back into the main boil near flame out. I'm hoping for some richness from this procedure as well.

The mash temp was quite high starting at close to 160 and then brought down to 157 for 50 minutes. This should produce a dextrinous wort that's less fermentable, resulting in some residual sweetness and body. Some flaked barley was also added to provide some body.

The hops are kept to a minimum in order to boost the malty core of the beer. A quarter pound of Turbinado sugar was also added to provide a touch of dryness.

I may try a few different packaging strategies. Bottle a couple gallons. Keg 5 gallons. Keg 3 gallons with very light keg hops and served "real" or "cask conditioned" by reversing the dip tubes, inverting the keg and simply opening the faucet & line-in to dispense the brew...never got around to trying it this time around, and finished it at a party in no time flat.

Scottish Ale 70/-

9.0 lbs. British Marris Otter
1.0 lbs. British Crystal 45L
1.0 lbs. British Mild
.75 lbs. Flaked Barley
.25 lbs. British Roasted Barley
.20 lbs. Amer. Chocolate Malt
.25 lbs. Org. Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar

1.5 oz. Willamette, 4.8%, pellet, 90min

Wyeast 1728: Scottish Ale

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 2/6/09
Bottled & Kegged: 2/24/09

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1.25 tsp CaCl, .75 tsp Acid Blend
2nd Sparge: .75 tsp CaCl, .5 tsp Epsom, .25 Kosher Salt

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.6 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.2
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 157°F/50min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 169°F/vorlauf
1st Batch Vol/SG: 6.65gal/1.052

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 180°F/174°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 6.35gal/1.014

Pre-Boil Vol: 13 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: n/a
Boil Time: Long Boil
Post-Boil Vol: 10 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 85%

OG: 1.040
IBU: 17
Color/SRM: Brown/13-15
Ferment Temp: 59°F

FG: 1.018
ABW: 2.3%
ABV: 2.9%

Cost: $27, .25¢/12oz., $1.52/6-pack

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Deep brown color with some haze that has cleared some with a lot of undisturbed time in the keg, a good light-tan head forms then diminishes to a very small presence of bubbles at the surface, no lacing.
Aroma: Sweet, dark caramel, fruity, hint of chocolate, smallest hint of vanilla.
Taste: A good amount of flavor for a brew at only 2.9% (met my expectation), sweet fruity and carmelized sugar flavors with a touch of roast, bitterness is low and just enough.
Mouthfeel: Light
Aftertaste: A sort-of tart finish (perhaps from the concentrated boil), so it doesn't finish as clean as I'd like.
Drinkability: Very high, it's very light, but has a moderate amount of flavor, easy to drink, and the color throws off a lot of first glance it looks deep and roasty/chocolatey, but it's more fruity and light.
Overall: A good session ale, however, I'd probably skip the concentrated boil because it's adding some tart off flavors a detracting from the cleanliness. Perhaps this boil method, not done so extremely, would accent a stronger beer better.