BIAB#3 English IPA Update: Lessons Learned

After dry hopping for 10 days with Styrian Goldings, it was time to keg this today. I was hoping that it would be ready for Thursday for my Thanksgiving party, but that’s looking incredibly unlikely.

I learnt an important lesson with this beer that needs passing on. When you get a new thermometer (like my dial one) CHECK IT’S CALIBRATED!

I checked it before brewing California Steaming last week and found out it was under measuring by 4-5C. That means I was mashing 4-5C too high for this IPA, and it’s really affected the flavour profile. It’s got a good hop bitterness there, but there is a really strong malty character, which just isn’t suited to this style. It might mellow out a bit, we’ll have to wait and see, but I’m a bit disappointed with the first tasting.

Also, I’d been told Nottingham isn’t a good yeast for IPAs, but it’s all that I had in at the time of brewing, so I went along with it anyway. It has indeed stripped a lot of the hop character from the beer, but the dry hopping seems to have put some of it back to a certain extent, so I think I’ve saved it there.

Time will tell whether this will develop into a good beer, but unfortunately it’s certainly not an IPA. Hopefully tomorrow’s Bluebird Bitter Brewday will go better, recipe and pictures to come!

BIAB#4 California Steaming

I’ve been a fan of Anchor Steam beer for a while now, as a light alternative to my usual ales, but (in my opinion) a much better flavour profile than lagers. I’ve been thinking of brewing something similar for a while now, particularly attracted by being able to get a lager type profile, while fermenting around 15°C, which I can achieve with my equipment.

This was my first experiment with water treatment as well, so I’m hoping that all turns out well. On to the recipe, and then a few pictures of the brew day!

Recipe

Style

California Common – All Grain
Brewlength – 10.8 Litres into Fermenter

Fermentables

1.870 KG Marris Otter Pale Malt
0.450 KG Pale Crystal Malt
0.125 KG CaraPils Malt

Hops

15g Northern Brewer (10.6%) – 60 minutes
5g Northern Brewer (10.6%) – 15 minutes
7g Northern Brewer(10.6%) – 0 minutes (20 minute steep at 80°C)

Mash

Treated water with Gypsum and Magnesium Sulphate to match a Burton Pale Ale profile.
Single step infusion mash – 67°C for 60 minutes

Boil

60 minutes, 1/2 Whirlfloc Tablet added with 10 minutes remaining

Yeast

WLP810 San Fransisco Lager Yeast
2 Weeks Primary at 15°C

Brewday

This is a great, straightforward recipe, so the brewday was a breeze and went off without a hitch. The night before, I boiled the full amount of water that this recipe required, and left it uncovered over night before treating it with 1/4 of a Campden tablet this morning. That should take care of the Chlorine in there.

Sorry that some of the photos are a bit blurry, it’s been a dark dull day up here in Durham so the focusing wasn’t as sharp as I’d like!

Obligatory ingredient shot. Though I overshot my dough in temp a little bit, and in the manic stirring and attempted cooling of the water I forgot to take a photo at the start of the mash. After an hour, and a few recirculations with a measuring jug, I was left with a nice crystal clear wort:

After pulling the bag and letting it drain back into the kettle, I checked the pre boil gravity, and at 1.048 it was much higher than the expected figure of 1.038.

As a slight aside here, I’m trying out reusing the spent grain. I spread it onto a baking tray and it’s currently drying in the oven. If it’s a success, I’ll follow that up with a post of it’s own. Back to the beer, and as it got towards the boil, I had a great,full hot break forming on the surface:

After a 60 minute boil, I’d lost a bit more to evaporation than I’d thought. In with the IC. The wort was chilled to 80°C, then the aroma hops added and left alone for 20 minutes. Then the wort was brought down to pitching temperature of 15°C.

Over the last week I’d been reading up on wort aeration, and working out whether it’d be worthwhile investing in a pump setup. However, with the small space I’m dealing with, I consider everything on it’s own merits, and with a little searching around I came across this genius idea for taking advantage of the Venturi effect to aerate wort:

It’s basically my regular silicone hose, with a section of old syphon hose that I have inserted just below the level of the kettle. This smaller pipe causes a flow restriction which changes the pressure in the pipe. By having a small hole at the point of flow constriction (made with a drawing pin), as the liquid flows passed, it pulls in air and these air bubbles mix with the wort through the rest of the pipe.

I was a little sceptical at first, but I’m sold. This is the head of foam achieved purely from this simple bit of science:

It’s better than I’ve managed with agitation and/or stirring using my brewers paddle, so I no longer feel the need to get an aquarium pump. An added bonus is that this all takes place as the wort is transferred, so the yeast can be pitched straight away.

Interestingly, despite having a much higher preboil gravity than expected, I hit the OG on the nail at 1.048. Which I can only attribute to the extra evaporation that happened in the boil, or some incredibly dodgy temperature correction for these readings on my part. In either case, I’m happy that it got there in the end, though I only ended up with 9.5L into the fermenter rather than the planned 10.8.

Yeast pitched, wort sealed under airlock and it’s off to the water bath (I’ll be posting about these in the coming week) to hold the temperature steady at 15°C. (The other fermenter is BIAB#3 English IPA cold conditioning after a week of dry hopping. That’ll be getting kegged in the next couple of days!)

All in all, a very successful brew day and I’m looking forward to this one!

Bottling Stick: A Small Gadget That’ll Make Your Life Easier

It’s all too easy to get lost in the incredible amount of equipment that is available to home brewers  to perform one task or another in a world changing manner. Usually (unfortunately) many of them have exorbitant costs, and are simply cast aside as unnecessary luxuries. Particularly by a small space brewer like myself, when every bit of kit is considered not by cost, but by where I can fit it in the apartment.

That’s not what I bring you today. Today, I present the small, cheap, yet wholely revolutionary product that is the bottling stick. (aka little bottler).

It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, a simple press valve at the end of a plastic tube. It enables you to turn on the tap of your bottling bucket / fv (or syphon hose if you don’t have taps) and it will hold back the liquid until it is inserted into a bottle, pressing the bottom valve. That allows the beer to follow through, and once you reach the top, simply lift it a little, and the flow stops. Perfect to allow you to cleanly move from bottle to bottle. As an added bonus, I’ve found that in my 500ml swing tops, the stick displaces exactly the right amount of beer to leave appropriate headspace for priming. So stick it in, wait for the beer to make its way up the neck, and move on.

I mentioned above that it’s also known as a little bottler. This is a complete tap and affixed bottling stick assembly that you can buy, however I’ve found it beneficial to buy the stick, and attach it to the tap with some silicon hosing  to allow a little more flexibility.

I really really should have bought one of these things sooner. I’d been bottling for a couple of years before I did, and can’t believe how much easier it makes things. As another added bonus though, it has the same benefits (except the headspace) when I use it with my mini kegs now as well.

Simply put, great piece of kit that should be in any brewers arsenal. It takes no space to store and makes the huge chore of bottling at least a little more bearable.

Apartment Brewing Score: 10/10

Towards HERMS: New Bits of Kit

I’ve received a few key parts for my HERMS build today, and I’m getting excited about it, so I thought it was time for a post detailing my plans.

For those of you out there who don’t know what HERMS is, it’s a Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System. That basically means throughout the mash, the wort is recirculated through an external Heat Exchanger that makes sure the wort is the right temperature before being added back to the top of the mash. This gives excellent control to within 0.1C, and also opens up the possibility of doing step mashes and easily doing a mash out without direct heating and worrying about scorching grain or grain bags.

(over)Killing In The Name Of?

I’m sure there will be a few people questioning the logic of going to all of the effort (and slight cost) of doing HERMS for such a small scale BIAB operation like the one that I have going at the minute. Well, first things first, the whole mantra of apartment brewing is to create excellent beer in small spaces. So why not use these advanced procedures on scaled down basis if it allows for better beer to be made?

Additionally, I’m a bit of an equipment geek for things like this, and I enjoy tweaking and creating bits of kit that will improve my brewing, so I actually enjoy trying things like this out.

The Brains

The starting point for me is the brain of the HERMS, a temperature controller which will turn my heat exchanger on and off to maintain the desired mash temperature.

The key components for this are pictured here. A PID (left) which monitors the current temperature of the wort, and allows you to specify your desired temperature. A temperature probe (centre) which does the actual monitoring of the wort. Finally, a Solid State Relay (right), which will receive a signal from the PID when the wort is too cool, and then switch the heating element of the heat exchange on and off as required.

So this will all go into a project box over the next couple of weeks as work allows, and then I’ll finish up my Heat Exchanger and do a full write up on the system as a whole. All of these parts can be sourced reasonably easily from ebay and similar websites. I managed to get my second hand from a generous fellow brewer over on the excellent community that is Jims Beer Kit. Check it out if you haven’t yet, I’m ajclarkson over there!

BIAB#3 English IPA

I was hoping BIAB#3 would be the first where I could do a full picture post of the brewday on here, but the purpose of this brew was to introduce a friend to the processes of All Grain BIAB so he could see how it all worked. That meant I didn’t really have time to take the photos, maybe on the next batch.

The recipe is a pretty straightforward IPA with Target, Styrians and Fuggles using Nottingham Yeast as that’s all I had in. I also substituted the usual crystal malt for Carafa Special III, again, as it’s all I had in that could colour this suitably.

I also started on the long journey of experimenting with water treatments for this brew, very simply at first. I’ve noticed a metallic twang in a couple of my brews, and the water has a strong chlorine taste around here. So I boiled all of the mash water the night before this brew, and left it to cool, treating it with 1/4 campden tablet for 16 litres the next morning while I was setting up.

Hopefully that will help a bit!

So the recipe:

Style: English IPA
OG: 1.053
Expected ABV: 5.3%

Brew Length: 10.8 Litres into fermentor.

2.250 kg Marris Otter
0.070 kg Wheat Malt
0.030 kg Carafa Type III

Mash Temp: 66C for 60 minutes

18g Target (11.1%) at 60 minutes
12g Styrian (5.3%) at 15 minutes
1/2 Whirlfloc Tablet at 15 minutes
10g Fuggles (3.8%) at 0 minutes

1 pack Danstar Nottingham Yeast (Rehydrated)

7g Styrian (5.3%) dry hop after primary
7g Fuggle (3.8%) dry hop after primary

It’s currently in the primary and the early smell and taste were very promising, I think this could turn out to be a really nice beer! Hoping that it will be quite good young in the kegs to further the demonstration of how great All Grain brewing is!

Update: A couple of things went awry with this brew, see the update post for information about a couple of things I learned through this brew.

BIAB#2 Belgian Christmas Ale

Christmas is always a big family occasion for us, so I thought this year I’d brew up something special to add to the occasion. I knew that I wanted to brew something with at least a Belgian influence to it, but I also knew that by the 15th of October when this was brewed, I’d already left it a little late for something big.

So my solution was to take inspiration from a forum posted recipe and simplify the malts used to hopefully reduce the ageing time needed for this beer.

It was also my first time using a liquid yeast. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to throw any old dried english ale yeast at this one, I was looking for that fruity Belgian character that only comes from the right fermentation. Also, I’ve been wanting to give it a try for a while now, so why not with a special Christmas brew!

The trappist blend from White Labs seemed perfect, and I believe is the yeast of choice that many use to make Chimay clones, which will be coming up soon on my list of planned brews!

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Final Brew Length: 10L

2.280 kg Marris Otter Pale
0.500 kg Crystal Malt (60L)
0.225 kg Biscuit Malt
0.022 kg Mittelfruh Hops (5.3% AA)
1/4 Whirlfloc Tablet
WLP575 Belgian Trappist Blend Yeast

Mashed for 60 minutes at 62C

All 22g of the Mittelfruh Hops were First Wort additions, then the Whirlfloc Tablet was added with 10 minutes left in the boil.

120g Sugar was added at flame out to bring the OG up to 1.058

As advised with this yeast, I started the fermentation at 21C and then upped the temperature ~1C each day until I hit 28C.

It was in primary for 10 days, reaching 1.012 as a final gravity before being mini-kegged with 15g priming sugar per keg.

It already tasted drinkable straight out of the fermentor, so I’m hoping for great things come Christmas! Now, ideally I’d have bottled this as  the Belgians typically have a higher level of carbonation than traditional english ales, and that’s a lot easier to achieve in a bottle. However, I’m probably going to have to transport 20 pints of this to my parents via train, so I’m thinking the mini-kegs will be a little more manageable!

 

BIAB#1 Oak Whisky Stout

This was the first BIAB that I did using my basic equipment. I’d never done a stout, either kit or extract, and I was dying to have a play with some oak ageing so this is what I came up with.

It’s a pretty standard Irish Stout Recipe, but in secondary fermentation I added some Medium Toast Oak Chips which had been soaking in Jura Origin Whisky for a couple of weeks, and let the Stout sit on top for 14 days to try and infuse some of that wonderful flavour into the stout. I’ve actually just bottled this one today, and it already tastes wonderful, but it’s got quite a harsh alcoholic edge (I’m guessing from the whisky!) so I’m hoping that will mellow with a couple of months in the bottle.

Anyway, onto the recipe:

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Final Brew Length: 9.26L

1.700 kg Marris Otter Pale
0.224 kg Roast Barley
0.224 kg Flaked Barley
0.148 kg Carapils
0.112 kg Amber Malt
0.112 kg Chocolate Malt
0.045 kg Carafa Type 3
0.019 kg Target (11% AA) Hops
1/4 Whirlfloc Tablet
1 Pkg Nottingham Ale Yeast
30g Medium Toast Oak Chips soaked in 110ml Jura Origin Whisky for 14 days

The mash was 90 minutes at 64C, I used the oven for temperature control on this one, but since have realised towels and sleeping bags work out much better!

The boil was a straightforward schedule, all of the Target went in as First Wort Hops, then the Whirlfloc tablet was added with 10 minutes remaining.

The OG was 1.058.

Nottingham Yeast rehyrdated and pitched. This was left in the primary for between 2 and 3 weeks due to my hectic schedule, then was racked to secondary over the oak chips for a further 14 days.

Bottled with a batch prime of 45g of dextrose and will age for a couple of months.