Monday, October 24, 2011

Efficiency Experiment: The Results Show

As planned, I did my efficiency experiment this past weekend and I think I found my culprits. I double milled my malts to ensure a good crush. I mashed with 1.5 qts/lb. I ran off my first runnings and measured them so I could hit my sparge water volume perfectly. I got my pre-boil volume perfect. I boiled for an hour, and added hops on schedule and lost exactly 1 gallon to boil off which is what I wanted. I hit 80% efficiency (measured pre and post boil).

When I went to fill the conical... not even enough volume to register on my measurements (which start at 4.5 gallons.) I topped it up with a measured 1 gallon of water to see where I was at, and hit 5 gallons on the nose. I lost 1.5 gallons of wort to my hops and kettle! I had been chatting with Denny Conn about my issues as well and he said that he figures about 12oz of beer lost to 1oz of hops. I had 7.5 oz of hops (5.5 whole, 2 pellet) and that would give me roughly 3/4 of a gallon lost to hops, and 3/4 gal lost to keggle pick up tube. That brought my efficiency down to 60%.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Efficiency Experiment

As stated in a previous post, my efficiency on my last batch was shotty. I took a look at all 11 of my all grain brews and the efficiencies I've had, and they are always jumping. My first batch, a Black IPA, I got 66% from 13# of grain, using US Pale base malt. The second, an English Bitter, I got 83% from 8# of grain, Marris Otter base. The third and fourth, both Wheat beers, I got 76% from 19#, on a split batch, 65% Wheat, 35% Pils, batch 5 was a sour of the remaining wort from that mash, in which I hit (I assume) about 78%. Batch 6, a Saison, was 70% from 9.75#, Pils base. Batch 7, same day, a second Saison, 76% from 8.25#, Pils base & 25% Rye. Batch 8, a Mild, 72% from 8#, Munich I & Victory base. Batch 9, a Lambic, 75% from 11.5#, Pils, Vienna, and Wheat. Batch 10, same day, a Fresh Hop IPA, 68% from 13.5#, US Pale base malt. Batch 11, a Brown, 62% from 14.5#, US 2Row base. As you can see, there isn't any real consistency in my efficiency, so I decided I need to actually get the process refined and find my efficiency. I will be conducting an experiment to find out my volume losses and efficiency.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spontaneous Fermentation Update

Awhile back I did a time line blog of the yeast starters I was making from the wild yeast and bacteria living on the skins of wild blackberries living in my neighbor's yard and from locally grown organic peaches. The brew day has come and gone, and I thought I would fill in the specifics and update on how the beer has progressed thus far.

The recipe:
6.25# Pilsner Malt (54%)
2.25# Vienna Malt (20%)
2.00# Flaked Wheat (17%)
1.00# Caravienne (9%)

90 minute boil
FW Hops 0.4oz Styrian Bobek 3.8AA pellets
15 min 0.6oz Styrian Bobek 3.8AA pellets

10 min 1.50z Cake Flour
5 min 1tsp Coriander, Crushed

Mashed 60 mins @ 152*F
Sparged w/ Boiling water

5.25 gals
OG 1.057
FG 1.002
IBU 10
ABV 7.2%

I mashed at 152*F, I was shooting for 154, but added too much cold water when I was too hot, and it cooled it down too much. I sparged with boiling water to try to extract as much sugar as possible and even some tannins as well. At the end of the 90 minute boil I added some cake flour for extra dextrins and starches for the Brett to chew on over the long fermentation. I cooled it as usual and ran it into the fermenter. I added the 2 starters to it whole, all the wort, fruit, bacteria, yeast, a couple ants, everything. I didn't aerate it since oxygen feeds bad bacteria, and inhibits Lacto growth. It looked kind of stratified until the next day as the different parts were layered, wort, trub, break material, fruit, starter, etc.

After a few days I noticed some odd activity. There was no krausen, but I had used S-Foam, and foam inhibitor, so it is quite possible that it was fermenting and not putting up a krausen. I did notice lots of little tiny bubbles shooting up and feeding a fluffy foam at the top though, and I assume this was from the Lacto working since it releases CO2. Another day later and I saw the wort churning away like any other beer fermentation, so things were going good.

I let it go for a few weeks with out tasting it, and finally on week 3 I gave it a taste. Nice, light, clean tartness, clean fermentation, no off flavors, mild funkiness, slightly fruity, not much oak character, gravity was 1.005. Quite happy with it. I tasted it again 1 week later and the oak is starting to show some; I will be watching this since I don't want it to be too oaky. If it gets where I want it I am going to rack the beer off, remove the oak, and add the beer back to the trub, yeast, and fruit for longer conditioning and funkdifying. So far I am very pleased. I even used the yeast to ferment a cider.

NOTE: This beer took 1st place in Sour Beers and won BEST OF SHOW in February 2014 at the KLCC BJCP comp.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Keggle Fittings: Hop Taco, Pick Up Tube, and Sight Glass

This weekend I fit my keggle (15.5 gal keg converted to use as a kettle) with a few things to make it easier to use. I added a sight glass, and fixed my hop taco and pick-up tube that had failed in a previous brew session. These items were not too difficult to add since the keggle I got from an ex-homebrewer was already fit with a ball valve for draining which was threaded on the inside for easy addition of the pick-up tube, and it was already fitted with a threaded female port that had a hole in it making for a simple sight glass addition.

The most difficult aspects of adding the sight glass were finding the pieces to fit it with and drilling the hole at the top of the keg for the eye-bolt. I was trying to fit this keggle with a sight glass for as cheap as possible. The cheapest way was a nylon 1/2" male thread to 3/8" barb elbow, but that won't work with the boiling wort, so I had to go with brass, which doesn't have such a piece. This lead me to make a piece from two separate pieces, which is still difficult, and more costly. I ended up getting a brass elbow 1/2" male thread to 1/2" male flare, and a 1/2" female flare to 1/2" barb. This made for an easy addition with a little plumbers thread wrap to make the seals water tight (I didn't initially add this and then had to pull it all apart and add it after it leaked). I then added a length of 1/2" high temp vinyl tubing, and attached it through an eye-bolt to a 1/2" barb to 1/2" solder fitting so that it is opened at the top to avoid a vacuum in the sight glass.

Installing the eye-bolt was a difficult feat. I had numerous sizes of drill bits and planned to step it up as I went. The first, and smallest bit snapped off after making a small dent. The next size up snapped off as well. The next size up was too large to work properly. The second one to snap had broke off at the perfect spot to still fit into the drill and have 1/4" still showing, so it had no ability to snap again. After about 35 minutes of drilling with this broken bit, and stopping to dump the yeast on the conical for my Brown Ale and add the dry hops while my arms and drill took a rest, I switched out the battery and drilled for another 5 minutes and finally broke through the wall of the keg. Next I stepped it up 3 times. At this point I had one more bit left, my largest one, which was the size I needed to get the eye-bolt through. As I drilled through the keg it ate away at the bit and wore it down as opposed to opening up. I finally got the bit through, and between its work and the kegs work on it, I was able to twist the eye-bolt in and throw away the bit. I pushed the tubing up through the eye-bolt which had a nut on both sides of the keg to keep it in position, and then I pushed the 1/2" barb to solder fitting down into the tubing and through the eye-bolt which made for a very snug fit. Just for good measure I slid a hose clamp up the tubing and attached it under the eye-bolt to ensure proper fitting. I pulled the hose taught, cut it to the proper length to fit on the elbow to hose barb fitting, and then attached it with a hose clamp.

After an over night check for leaks, I calibrated it the next morning. I added a gallon of cold (hot would 1) be a waste of energy, and 2) have a higher volume since hot water is expanded and thus makes for a slightly higher volume) water at a time until it showed inside the tubing. It didn't show until 5 gallons, which will be fine for final volumes, but will not help figure out my first runnings and ensure that I have the correct sparge water, so I will be measuring quart-by-quart up to 5 gallons on a wooden dowel that I have so that I can measure my lower volumes accurately as well. After I reached the first mark, I measured out 1/2 gallon of water at a time and added this to the keggle, marking every full and half gallon on the vinyl tubing, all the way up to 15 gallons.

This sight glass will now let me accurately know how much wort I have collected from the mash, and how much I have post boil and chilling so I know how much I lost to evaporation, and once I move it into the fermenter I will know how much I lost to trub, hops, and keggle dead space (keggle volume minus fermenter volume).

For getting the wort out of the keggle into the fermenter I fit the keggle with a pick-up tube and hop taco. The pick-up tube is a length of 3/8" copper tubing that curves down towards the bottom and through vaccum force will draw all the wort from the keggle through the ball valve into the fermenter. The pick-up tube is attached to a 3/8" female flare to 3/8" compression fitting. This initially screwed onto a 3/8" male thread (into the keggle ball valve) to 3/8" male flare, but on my Brown Ale it lost its vacuum. The way that it originally was set up didn't work well since it was attached to a hop taco (more to follow on how to make one) which makes it difficult to turn and remove, and if it is not connected perfectly the pick-up tube could be pointing up or side ways instead of down. To fix this issue I added a 3/8" female flare to 3/8" female flare piece that allows the flares to free spin on their own until tight. Now it is fit to the pick-up tube and free spins onto the keggle fitting allowing the pick-up tube and hop taco to stay in the position they should be while I spin the other flare onto the threads and tighten which gives me perfect position and seal, and ease of removal for cleaning.

The hop taco is a mesh screen that slides over the end of the pick-up tube to keep hops and even some trub from clogging the tube or going into the fermenter. To make it I bought a stainless steel strainer and removed the mesh from the frame. I then folded this in half and "sewed" it closed using copper wire, stainless steel wire would have worked easier and what was supposed to be used per the instructions from the creators, but I couldn't find any and was in a rush so I used copper. I "threaded" the wire through the mesh and pulled tight using needle nose pliers. I left an opening in the top middle for the pick-up tube to slide inside. I also put a few short pieces of copper wire through this section and left them dangling so I could use a hose clamp to keep the hop taco from sliding off the pick-up tube.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Broke Down Brown

Seeing as the leaves are changing, the sun is mostly gone, the days are shorter, the skies are gloomy, the temps have dropped, and everything is wet here in Eugene, I took a look at my brews. I have a Mild in the bottles, as well as a Fresh Hop IPA. I have a partigyle Wee Heavy & 70- Scottish Ale planned for early November, and an Imperial Stout / Oatmeal Chocolate Stout partigyle planned for early December. So I have 2 beers ready that need to be consumed quickly, and the next brews won't be ready to drink until mid to late December; I thought it would be nice to have a nice, dark, smooth, malty beer to snuggle up to on the cold, gloomy fall evenings. I wrote up a recipe for a Brown Ale with American Two-Row, Abbey Malt for maltiness, lots of Pale Chocolate Malt, a healthy dose of C60, and some Flaked Barley to give it a nice smooth mouth feel. Gave it generous additions of Nugget, Zues, and Amarillo hops, and its set for some dryhopping this weekend. But then... where did the name come from?

I had my buddy over to help me brew, and we did it after work on Friday (late start). I worked up the water additions and everything on this one. We let the strike water heat while we ate dinner, then doughed in... wait a second... I forgot the additives I spent 3 hours figuring out! Go to measure them out... wait a second... my scale just jumped from 0 grams to 4 grams... it's not measuring accurately! Pinch of this, pinch of that... fingers crossed!

Set the Brew Timer on my smart phone... wait a second... it keeps stalling, the timers went off as they should, but I had no way of knowing how long had passed, nor how long was left!

I added the sparge water at almost boiling to the mash to try to get up the temp for the sugars to move more fluidly... dumb mistake... now this is a no-sparge!

Collected our wort and fired up the burner... just about 195*F I notice there is no longer a flickering under the pot... wait a second... out of propane!

Hooked up the second tank and commenced to boil. Added all my hops, everything is going good. My buddy, a new father, had to take off while we were chilling, so I was going to drain the kettle myself, no problem since I usually brew solo anyways. Everything is sanitized, draining from the Keggle into the conical perfectly. Check my OG, 1.061, just right! Clean up my stuff and then look at the fermenter... wait a second... the volume is at 4 gals and not moving anymore! 2 gals short!

Look inside the keggle and... wait a second... the pick up tube stopped working! Tried to get it working to no avail. Sanitized my hands and un hooked it, tipped it up, still nothing. Sanitized a strainer and removed the hops. Still nothing. Sanitized a mason jar and drained it by hand, one scoop at a time. Got to 5.2 gals @ 1.061... wait a second... that's only 62% Efficiency!

I ended up boiling a pot of water, and after cooling, added it to the conical to bring the volume up, the gravity and the IBUs down.

Needless to say, I think you know why the name is Broked Down Brown!