I never drink stout and I’m lactose intolerant, so I figured the first beer I would brew on the new brewing plan should be a milk stout with loads of black patent malt and lactose. All that lactose sugar will make the final beer pretty sweet. It should be a sweet, malty beer; totally different than all those APAs and IPAs I’ve brewed in my illustrious brewing career.
I bought some Maris Otter LME from William’s Brewing for the base malt. Maris Otter is a British pale malt. It has what people call a ‘biscuity’ character to it compared to American grown malted barley. William’s was the only place I could find Maris Otter LME for sale. Everyone has those cans of John Bull Maris Otter LME, but I am pretty suspicious of canned LME shipped from overseas. I don’t see how it couldn’t be overheated on the ship voyage. It’s just got to be stale.
I was going to use regular light LME, but Jamil strongly favors Maris Otter, especially so for English style beers like stouts. Who am I to argue? It certainly can’t hurt to try it out either, especially on a beer that is malt focused.
For specialty malts I’ve got some black patent, crystal 80L, and some pale chocolate, all darker than what I normally use and in larger quantity. I’m pretty excited about it even though they all smell like coffee – something I never drink.
I made a 2L starter of Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale on Friday morning while Jonathan napped and Stephanie went shopping. I actually put 2 packs of yeast in the starter. The original yeast I bought had been accidentally frozen, so I bought a second package as a backup. I don’t think I really needed it since both of the packs inflated at about the same rate after I activated them, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
I did a couple of new things with the starter this time. First, I added 5 drops of foam control before boiling. I had switched to boiling my starters in a regular kitchen pot and then transferring them to the flask for cooling in order to stop boil overs. It’s nearly impossible to boil something in those full Erlenmeyer flasks without it boiling over. The neck is so small that even a little foam quickly rises over the top. I hate boil overs. It smells bad, gets the flask really sticky and dirty, and makes a huge mess of the stove. The separate pot worked, but I had to sanitize the flask and figured it would be more sanitary and easier to clean to have everything occur in one pot. Well, the foam control worked fairly well, but not perfectly. It definitely didn’t foam up, but the liquid still rose in the flask from the bubbles caused by the boiling. So it boiled over again, but just a little and was definitely my fault. I turned up the burner to speed things along towards boiling. I was impatient. Leaving the burner on low got the wort to boil and keep things safe on the boil over front. Next time I’ll be more patient waiting for the boil to start.
I cooled the starter wort down to pitching temperature in the sink in an ice bath and pitched the 2 packs of yeast. The second new starter improvement was pure oxygen aeration. After I pitched the yeast, I aerated the wort with oxygen through a .5 micron stone attached to the end of some sanitized tubing. I let the oxygen run for about a minute. There was some foaming, but the foam control was again very helpful. The oxygen tank is from the welding section of Home Depot and the regulator and stone are from More Beer.
I was home all weekend and swirled the yeast starter religiously. Jonathan watched.
Sunday was brew day. I put the starter, which had slowed down considerably, into the refrigerator around 6am when I woke up in order to get the yeast to drop to the bottom of the flask for later pitching.
I set up the outside portion of the brewery and put 6 gallons of water into the brew pot for boiling. I filled the pot with tap water from a white potable house attached behind my house. I fill up two empty one gallon water jugs from Kroger three times and pour them into the brew pot.
While the water is heating, I also heated up one gallon of filtered tap water to 155F on the stove in a stainless steel stock pot we normally use for spaghetti or soup. I used filtered water from the refrigerator for this gallon, but I’m too lazy to do it for the other 6 gallons. I steeped the specialty grains in a grain bag in the 150F water for 30 minutes. I was sure to mash the grains around with a spoon while immersing them to guarantee that there were no dry stops in the grain ball. After 30 minutes the temperature had dropped to around 138F; not great. The temperature is supposed to stay around 148-150F for the entire 30 minutes. It was the first time I had steeped my grains in the appropriate amount of water. Normally I just steep the grains in the full 7 gallons of water in my brew pot, but after reading up on steeping I decided it was better to do it with less water on the stove top. I’ll have to find a better way to keep the temperature stable during steeping. My current plan is to use a small drink cooler we have at the house for steeping. Anyway, the water was pretty much jet black when I was done.
I added the wort from the kitchen to the brew pot outside, stirred in the LME, and cranked up the fire. The temperature was about 180F. Pre-boil gravity was 1.054; target pre-boil gravity was 1.051. I had a bit of a hard time getting the wort to boil. It was a windy day and the flame kept jumping out one side of the brew pot. I added the EKG pellet hops in a nylon hop bag clipped to the handle of the brew pot at the start of boiling. I’m normally not a fan of English hops like EKGs. They are too ‘earthly’ tasting and I prefer the crisper taste of American hops. There is only a bittering hop addition for this recipe, so there wasn’t much else to do except wait the 60 minutes for the boil to be over. I continued to have trouble keeping the boil going strong due to the wind. I ended up letting about 65 or 70 minutes for the boil because of this, which turned out to be fine.
Chilling was very easy as the tap water is still pretty cold. I cooled the wort to 64F before transferring to a sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. Original gravity was 1.063; a little over the target gravity of 1.060. I poured the liquid off the yeast cake in the chilled yeast starter and pitched the yeast into the wort. I meant to use my new oxygen tank and stone to aerate the wort with some oxygen, but I totally forgot until I was at work the next day (today). There’s always next time. Noticeable fermentation started within about 2.5 hours of pitching. Even without the oxygen aeration, I think I had some good yeast this time from a good starter. At least the yeast had oxygen then. I’ve got the carboy sitting out in the living room, which is 66F. I assume it’s a little warmer in the fermenting wort. I wish I was able to use my refrigerator for fermentation, but it’s full of other things at the moment. My living room is a stable temperature I have found with some testing, and 66F is reasonable. We’ll find out soon enough.