Monday, May 27, 2013

All Grain Brewing Process

Our local home-brew club decided to do a club wide learning type activity.  It's basically a how am I brewing with everyone starting out with similar recipe specs (malt, hops, and yeast) and brewing like you would normally brew. Everyone should be taking detailed notes so the other members can provide advice on improvements to your process or learn what you did to get that perfect pint.  I decided to augment my notes with photos/video to capture the process in more detail than simple stats can convey and if everything turns out tasty I can easily help someone else understand what I do.  This is mostly a procedural post without a lot of the why that went into the decisions on what the targets were.  Keep in mind there's a hundred ways to skin a cat and this is just my (current) process, and with that we're off.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Partial Mash Brewing Guide

The image above of the cooling down of a partial mash boil in the kitchen sink full of ice likely brings back fond (or frustrating) memories for brewers of when they first got started.

Why Partial Mash?

Most brewers are introduced to the hobby by wandering into a local home brew shop and getting a starter equipment kit (normally under $100 USD depending on what's included), and an extract recipe kit to use with that equipment.  The most basic of the kits are cans of pre-hopped liquid malt extract with an extra bit of fermentables in the form of dry malt extract.  These are very easy to use (basically sanitize everything and mix with warm water then pitch the yeast) and generally produce a drinkable product for very little effort.

On the other end of the spectrum are the all grain brewers that perform a mash on malted barley and convert their own sugars to a fermentable state. Boil the full volume of wort, design recipes in software to style guidelines, and all sort of other things that require an incredible amount of effort compared to the extract kits.

Somewhere in the middle of these two is the partial mash brew.  Originally I viewed it as a step between the simple extract kits and the full commitment to all grain that was simply another step in the process.  I personally only did around six partial mash brews (and only two extract brews before that) before jumping to all grain.

Recently however several friends have shown interest in the hobby but don't quite want the full commitment of purchasing the equipment and keeping up with the details for an all-grain brew day (around 7-8 hours for my setup).  So they would try a simple extract kit from the local shop with the plastic bucket economy equipment kit.  Sure enough they loved having their own beer to drink at home but wanted more control over the process/beer that wasn't offered in extract kit form factor.

This is where the partial mash shines, great control over the process (relative to extract), wider selection of styles, low equipment costs, and a much shorter time commitment for each batch.  With the addition of a small amount of specialty grain to the extracts that contain many of the fermentable sugars you can achieve the body and depth that's often missing from extract only brews.I am actually a very big fan of the partial mash process now for the casual brewer. Not everyone needs a miniature commercial brewery in their basement, and truth be told you can make incredibly good beer with the process.  The guide below lays out the general process of completing a partial mash kit I purchased for this post.

More after the Jump

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Late Mash Additions

Wait a minute did I mean late hop additions?  Nope, some grains can put off a bit of a sharp flavor when going through a mash that can really show up in the finished beer.  My tastes in particular pick something up I can only describe as acrid when using black patent malt to ad a bit of roast/color.  Looking for ways to counteract this I thought about steeping the black patent separately but thought that my be a bit of a hassle to execute on brew day.  Wait, how about adding it right before the end of the mash so it's just in for the sparge?  It works out pretty well although I'm not 100% committed to doing this all the time (sometimes roast with a little bite is just what you need) it can help you get the flavor/color you want without going overboard.

This is during the brew process for the  Cascadian Dark Ale that was posted the other day.


1.  Mill the Black Patent Separately, Obviously you Can't Add Later if You Don't

2.  Sprinkle on the Top of the Mash Before the Vorlauf

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Frozen Yeast Bank - Part 2

Link to Part 1

In part one we covered preparing the vials for the frozen yeast bank with glycerine and a pressure cooker standing in for an autoclave.  Part two will cover getting the yeast into the tube and the freezing process.  The better your procedure here the better the chance that you get a good culture into storage that will survive for a long time.

In this example we'll be using some washed yeast from a fermentation.  Ideally you would want to pull yeast from your starter since it hasn't gone through a fermentation of an actual beer with hops, trub, and greater chances to have infection present.  This is just what happened to be on hand for the example.  If you haven't washed yeast before look it up, it's way easy and will give you options for reusing yeast a few times in shorter windows. 

Washed Yeast from a Cake

More after the jump

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cascadian Dark Ale

Cascadian Dark Ale
Cascadian Dark Ale
American IPA
Type: All Grain Date: 3/10/2012
Batch Size (fermenter): 10.00 gal Brewer: Chris Vaught
Boil Size: 12.44 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Keggle and Cooler
End of Boil Volume 11.44 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 10.00 gal Est Mash Efficiency 75.2 %
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Taste Rating(out of 50): 45.0
Taste Notes:


Amt Name Type # %/IBU
25 lbs Golden Promise (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 86.2 %
2 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.9 %
1.00 oz Magnum [12.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min Hop 3 20.8 IBUs
1.50 oz Magnum [12.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 4 28.4 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [4.90 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 7.7 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [4.90 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 6 5.9 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [4.90 %] - Boil 15.0 min Hop 7 3.8 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [4.90 %] - Aroma Steep 5.0 min Hop 8 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg California Ale (White Labs #WLP001) [35.49 ml] Yeast 9 -
2 lbs Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 10 6.9 %
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days Hop 11 0.0 IBUs

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.071 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.046 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.011 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.9 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 4.7 %
Bitterness: 66.6 IBUs Calories: 151.6 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 39.2 SRM

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge Total Grain Weight: 29 lbs
Sparge Water: 7.24 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 33.75 qt of water at 159.1 F 148.0 F 75 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun, , 3.62gal, 3.62gal) of 168.0 F water
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: Bottle Volumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 12.08 oz Carbonation Used: Bottle with 12.08 oz Dry Malt Extract
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 F Age for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Storage Temperature: 65.0 F


Created with BeerSmith

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Frozen Yeast Bank - Part 1

To go along with the last post on yeast starters I thought it would be a good idea to introduce the frozen yeast bank.  This is not only a good way to always have plenty of yeast strains on hand but is also a very good way to save money if you brew quite often.  A standard liquid yeast strain is around $8.00 USD and even then those should normally be grown up in a starter anyway.  This method allows you to purchase one of those liquid cultures and use it many times.  As a side benefit you can keep limited edition strains that are sometimes released on hand when they are no longer commercially available.  Lets start with the equipment required. Flyguy's Homebrew Talk Frozen Yeast Bank Thread thread is where I got a ton of information on how to do this and it's a great read.

-Small glass vials with a good sealing top that can be frozen and stand up to the heat of a pressure cooker (cynmar lab product 115-27910 is what I selected)
-Some pipettes (I got mine on, the ones I purchased were graduated plastic 4ml
-Some food grade glycerine (also

Glass Vials from cynmar and the glycerine from amazon
-Something to hold the vials when they are in the pressure cooker, I used a beaker for most of these but you can also use several glass mason (canning) jars.

Vials staged in a beaker

-A pressure cooker, 15psi so that you can get up to 250°F is recommended. Read the instructions and follow them as these things can be very dangerous if used incorrectly.

-A small cooler and ice packs to go in your freezer.  A soft side small lunchbox sized cooler is a great option. This is to keep the yeast temperature stable during the auto defrost cycles most freezers have. (covered in part 2)

Optional (i.e. cheaper) Version - During each step in the process I'll  highlight a cheaper alternative if possible.  It likely won't be as clean (relatively speaking it will be the difference between sanitized and sterilized) but should work with the caveat that you will have a slightly higher chances of something going wrong due to an infection.

Procedure after the jump:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yeast Starters

Good pitch rates with healthy yeast is one of the biggest steps anyone can take to making better beer.  The Mr. Malty site has a pitch rate calculator and tons of information on using yeast well.  This post will  cover making a starter for a batch done a few weeks ago from an old smack pack of yeast.

1.  Prepare some wort, I use dried malt extract (DME) in a concentration that will come pretty close to matching the design of the beer, 1.040 in this case.  Simply measure (by weight if you can, and you should be) your DME for the volume of the starter you plan on making and bring it to a boil  on the stove for a few minutes.  Hops are not needed here.

2.  Cool your wort down to pitching temperatures, I aim for below 70 °F for ales.  Just like your actual batch of beer make sure everything that touches the wort or yeast from here on out is sanitized.

Cooling the Wort in a Small Ice Bath
Flask Full of Start-San