Withered Dewlap Grape and Granary,My Beers Christmas came early…

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Oktoberfest!Oktoberfest!

Yes, it’s that time of year already. I christened my 5.5 gallon batch with a 1.8L starter of German Lager yeast, WPL830, yesterday at 5:00pm.

IngredientAmount
Munich Malt5 lb
Pilsner Malt5 lb
Vienna Malt3 lb
Hallertauer1.5 ounce (60)
Hallertauer.5 ounce (20)
WLP830 (German Lager)1.8 Litre

Everything went very smoothly. I treated my water with salts to boost the water profile (tsp epsom salt, tsp calcium chloride, ph stabilizer).  Mashed at 156 for 50 minutes. Got 2.8 gallons on the first run at 16 brix @ 140 degrees for a 1.078. Sort of confirmed by a hydrometer reading of 1.054 @ 140 degrees = 1.070 approximately. Second run at 1.25 gallons with 10.5 brix @ 142 degrees for 1.043, hydrometer 1.030 @ 142 for 1.046. Third run at 1.5 gallons at 6.5 brix @ 148 degrees for 1.020. And a fourth run of 1.3 gallons which was nearly water and I only used about a quart.  The pre-boil gravity was 1.056. I boiled for one hour. Cooled the wort to 63 degrees (which is the temperature of my basement where the starter had been sitting) and pitched. OG was at 1.050 which I’ll discuss in a minute. Hooked up to my handy-dandy Johnson control unit/heater set up and threw the fermenter in the refrigerator at 53 degrees. Now I’ll just wait for nature to take it’s course.

Per the above, I continue to have issues, for some inexplicable reason, with my gravities at OG time. I cannot understand how a wort with a pre-boil gravity of 1.056 can boil for one hour and come out at 1.050. That seems impossible. Water should evaporate and sugar should not. I confirmed with the refractometer which showed even lower. This is a source of endless confusion for me. I can understand if one over-collects on the sparge and then has too much water in the kettle, but I measured the pre-boil gravity… Regardless, I may have to take another tack and do some calculations on pre-boil gravity, evaporation rates, and so on to see if I can estimate the OG. But the fact that the tools reported something else is highly upsetting. In the end, I guess, it’s all about what the beer tastes like. But still.

Brew DayBrew Day

Two Brews and Some Crazy Notions

Recently brewed two clones: Founder’s Breakfast Stout and Stone Cali-Belgique. I’ve put the recipes in below, including the BeerXML files. 

Founder's Breakfast Stout BoyI just moved the two to the secondary last night. I added 2oz of Grand Cru to the Breakfast Stout and .5 oz of Cascade and 1.0 oz of Centennial to the Cali. Tasted both out of the primary and they were delicious. I used both a refractometer and hydrometer to see the gravity progression and to continue to test the comparison between the readings. Each seems to be on target coming in at around 1.018 and 1.016 respectively–and there’s still a bit more time in the secondary where some action will take place. I’ll bottle the Cali-Belgique for a wedding but keep some back for the All-American Homebrew Competition; a part of the Cincy Winter Beerfest.

I’m planning my next brew, which will be a Hopslam clone, and I may try to get it in before the All-American Homebrew Competition deadline, but it will be a very tight squeeze on this one. I went out to JW Dover’s homebrew store in Westlake yesterday to fill some of the holes in my inventory and had one fortuitous encounter and learned one thing I didn’t know–so it was worth the trip. First, I met the owner and proprietor Jerome Welliver and Tom ? one of the brewers who offered to provide me with yeast slurry from one of their brews. All I have to do is bring in a sanitized mason jar and they’ll fill it up. That kicks ass. I was looking for the 1056 in their yeast cooler and then I got to talking with Tom and he offered. For me this means several things: first, the slurry will be a big pitch, meaning energetic and complete attenuation/fermentation; second, it is second generation from a professional brewery; third, I hope it’s a connection that I can maintain. Second, in the grand scheme of things, what I learned is that Jerome is not only the owner and proprietor of JW Dover, but Black Box Brewing Company, which now owns the label for Crooked River and is brewing up their old recipes.

This also sparked in me two notions, one tempting the other possibly stupid. First, to brew one beer a week for the year. Don’t know if I can pull it off. But I’d like to try. I’m behind right now, but have the ingredients to brew the Hopslam and a Flanders Red, which I could so this coming week and it would put me on track for January. Second, I’m considering the Lenten trial of drinking only beer until Easter. I would be hoping to drop some pounds and let’s face it, beer tastes better than the Almased liquid diet. And besides: it’s beer! Three times per day.

We’ll see. I’m looking forward to heading out to Black Box Brewing this week to pick up the slurry and brewing up a Hopslam clone.

Recipes:

Breakfast Stout

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Breakfast Stout
Brewer: Tom Hayes
Asst Brewer: 
Style: American Stout
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) 

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.00 gal      
Boil Size: 5.72 gal
Estimated OG: 1.093 SG
Estimated Color: 57.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 64.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
13 lbs 3.2 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        74.66 %       
1 lbs 6.4 oz  Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                    Grain        7.92 %        
1 lbs         Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)                Grain        5.66 %        
1 lbs         Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)                Grain        5.66 %        
8.0 oz        Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)    Grain        2.83 %        
5.3 oz        Carafa III (525.0 SRM)                    Grain        1.87 %        
4.0 oz        Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)           Grain        1.41 %        
1.10 oz       Nugget [13.00 %]  (60 min)                Hops         37.3 IBU      
2.50 oz       Williamette [5.50 %]  (30 min)            Hops         27.6 IBU      
2.50 oz       Williamette [5.50 %]  (0 min)             Hops          -            
1.50 oz       Chocolate, unsweetened baking nibs (Boil 1Misc                       
2.00 oz       Kona Coffee (Secondary 1.0 weeks)         Misc                       
2.00 oz       Sumatran Coffee (Boil 10.0 min)           Misc                       
2.50 oz       Chocolate, Dark Baker's (Boil 10.0 min)   Misc                       
1 Pkgs        American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)          Yeast-Ale                  


Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 17.68 lb
----------------------------
Single Infusion, Full Body
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp     
60 min        Mash In            Add 22.10 qt of water at 170.5 F    158.0 F       
10 min        Mash Out           Add 8.84 qt of water at 196.6 F     168.0 F       

Cali-Belgique

BeerSmith Recipe Printout – www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Stone Cali-Belique IPA
Brewer: Tom Hayes
Asst Brewer:
Style: American IPA
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) 

Recipe Specifications
————————–
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 5.72 gal
Estimated OG: 1.076 SG
Estimated Color: 6.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 64.9 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
————
Amount Item Type % or IBU
13 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 92.86 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 7.14 %
0.64 oz Pearle [8.00 %] (90 min) Hops 16.3 IBU
0.43 oz Magnum [14.00 %] (90 min) Hops 19.1 IBU
1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops –
0.50 oz Chinook [13.00 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops –
2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] (15 min) Hops 29.5 IBU
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Belgian Golden Ale (White Labs #WLP570) Yeast-Ale 

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 14.00 lb
—————————-
Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min Mash In Add 17.50 qt of water at 162.5 F 151.0 F

Blichmann TherminatorBlichmann Therminator

Plate Chiller Heaven

The next piece of equipment that I’d like to type about is my Blichmann Therminator plate chiller and accompanying pieces of equipment.

I have to say, first, from a purely emotive perspective: I love the Therminator.  I used a more traditional wort chiller for several years: the old copper coil submerged in the brew kettle.  I didn’t like the coil because: 1) it took forever to cool the wort (and wasted water); 2) if I didn’t tighten it properly, water leaked into the wort; 3) you had to submerge it in boiling wort to sanitize it; 4) it was a pain in the ass to deal with the thing sticking out of the brew kettle and it interfered with the whirlpooling of sediment.

I also tried other approaches to cooling the wort.  Often you’ll read suggestions for an ice water bath, etc., which to my mind takes too damn long if you’re truly attempting to get a cold break. As I said, I have tried other approaches, which culminates in my telling yet another embarrassing story of my brew past.  There was this one time… Seriously, it was in the middle of winter, a foot of snow, near zero temperatures outside.  I thought: why not?  Took the old brew kettle, full as it was, outside and plunked it down in a snow bank.  I went inside, cleaned up, and plopped down with a frosty pint and started watching a movie with my wife.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the blinds and threw up the sash.

I’ll spare you the bit about the moon, for all was blackness to my eyes at that point: five gallons of future joy stained the snow like blood after a winter battle.  Yes, I learned that night that snow melts unevenly–or that heat dissipates unevenly–or that something does something unevenly.  Outside I picked-up the now empty brew kettle from off its side, along with the lid, and trudged back into the house utterly forlorn. For a month I had to watch my very young daughter point at the black ice and listen to her say, “there’s daddy’s beer.”

So, plate chillers are good.

Features

The other that I’ve seen (on Morebeer) is the Shirron plate chiller, which is about half the price of the Therminator.  I’ve not tested or used them all, so I can’t speak to the best features or disappointments of the class of products–Blichmann does have test results on their site, but of course: It’s their site.  I picked it up the Therminator from the grapeandgranary in January, 2009, for $199.95.  At the same time I also picked up the Blichmann Thrumometer.

According to Blichmann, the Therminator is:

  • Identical to those used by commercial breweries
  • Can chill 10 gallons in 5 minutes
  • Is Ultra compact
  • Easy to clean and sanitize
  • Uses garden hose thread connections
  • Saves water
  • Comes with a heavy duty mounting bracket

Use

There are other features listed on the site.  The Therminator is pretty straightforward: you have a connector labeled WORT IN and WATER OUT. The connector sizes are different for each channel–so, the WORT only connects to WORT, and WATER to WATER. There is a mounting plate that is attached by bolts on the back. I don’t think I’ve ever chilled 5 gallons of beer in 5 minutes, but certainly less than 10 minutes.  However, I’ve not tested the throughput of the flow of water that I’m using.  Blichmann’s site states that it uses 5 gallons per minute.  It has to be pretty close to that, though, as I’ve filled up two 7-gallon fermenting bucket 2 times (4 times/28 gallons) with the water that goes through the Therminator.  I dump the water in the washing machine; in the summer sometimes I dump the water in the garden.  In terms of compactness, it does not take up much space and it is easily placed in a fermenting bucket filled with sanitizer or, as the Blichmann site says, in a pot to boil.  The thread connectors are quite important as, once you have the appropriate connectors for your hoses, everything fits together easily.  I had to go to a hardware store and pick up an adapter for the kitchen faucet and I created my own WORT IN and WORT OUT hoses by picking up the appropriate threaded connector accessory kit.  The ease of this made me feel pretty stupid after I had already ordered the Backflush hose, which is simply another piece of hose with the garden thread connector on one side and the quick connector on the other.

In use, I connect the barb valve in the Brew Kettle to and ID hose with the quick connect on the opposite end.  This connects to the WORT IN connector on the Therminator.  I connect the other ID line with the quick connect on it to the WORT OUT side.  This hose has the Thrumometer in the middle to gauge the flow temperature of the wort as it comes out of the Therminator.  The ID line flows directly into the fermenting bucket.  I connect garden hose connector one to the faucet and the opposite end to the WATER IN on the Therminator; likewise, garden hose connector number two to the WATER OUT and the opposite end is just an open ID line into a 7 gallon bucket for collecting the water.  Often there is some adjusting of the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet because, believe it or not, I’ve actually had instances where the wort coming out of the Therminator is too cold for an ale yeast starter.

Thrumometer

The Thrumometer is an instrumental tool, I think, for monitoring the temperature of the water coming out of the process. I always have a digital thermometer in the wort to ensure that the reading is on target and it generally is; though sometimes there will be variance in how hot the temperature of the wort is when it initially comes out and once the plate chilller has been active for a bit.  The Thrumometer is an inline measure and it’s pretty passive, but it works.  The tool itself measures temperatures between 88 degrees and 58 degrees.  It is made of aluminum and has a black temperature gauge that changes color as a temperature is reached: the color moves between black, to dark blue to bright green when the constant temperature of the wort settles.

Backflush Hose

The Backflush hose is important.  After I’ve aerated the wort and pitched the yeast and the beer is safely and happily snugged away, I take off the WATER OUT hose from the previous process and connect the garden hose connector of the Backflush to it.  I take off the line from the barb valve to the WORT IN as well, and then connect the quick connector of the Backflush hose to the WORT IN of the Therminator.  In essence, the Backflush hose is connecting the WATER side of the Therminator to the WORT side.  I heat up the water from the faucet and let it flush out the Therminator, which is generally pretty full of hop sludge and other break material.  I then move the WORT connector to the WORT OUT and repeat the process, flushing in reverse.  I’ll do this a couple of times to clear the Therminator and then I’ll dunk it in a sanitizing bucket while I clean up.

Conclusion

All-in-all I’m pretty pleased with the Therminator plate chiller, and while I can’t speak comparatively to other plate chillers in how they compare, the Therminator is a big step up from the traditional coil wort chillers and definitely beats ice bathes and snow banks.