Category Archives: process

Hop Shortage Ideas

With the ongoing hop shortage people are looking for other ways to bitter their beer.  Here’s an interesting idea from the East Germans as documented in the New York Times back in 1991.

“They convinced us that to be competitive, we had to brew under the German beer purity law,” Mr. Funk said. “And they created marketing and advertising concepts for our products. Before unity we used to put cattle bile in our beer to give it the bitter flavor of hops, which we couldn’t always get.” The brewery now spends $533,333 annually on advertising, compared with $6,666 under Communism.

Cattle bile does sound bitter.

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Rehydrating Dry Yeast with Dr. Clayton Cone

I came across this Q&A exchange between Dan Listermann and Dr. Clayton Cone regarding the proper rehydration of dry yeast and thought I would post it here. I haven’t had time to do any of the tests I want to do comparing dry yeast and liquid yeast, but I will certainly incorporate a comparison of rehydrated yeast and yeast sprinkled directly on the wort.


From: Dan Listermann
Subject: Yeast Hydration, Infusion Mashing and England

My question to Dr. Cone regards yeast rehydration. All the packages of
yeast contain instructions for rehydration yet they all ferment just fine
without it. I have to believe that such a procedure may be theoretically
beneficial, however it would seem to be margionally usefull at least on a
homebrew scale.

I own a home brew shop and a very common phone call is the ” My beer is not
fermenting.” problem. I go through the list of potential causes ( plastic
bucket lid leaks, too cold, ect.) About twice a week the caller will
indicate that he rehydreated the yeast. This is a strong signal that the
yeast has been damaged and will need to be replaced. I have come to the
conclusion that, since rehydration is not necessary to ferment beer
properly and there is a strong chance that the yeast will be damaged in a
botched rehydration, it is not desirable to recommend such a proceedure.
Just how important is rehydration and is it worth the risk?

Dan Listermann dan at 72723.1707 at


I appreciate your dilemma It is a universal problem for those that market
Active Dry Yeast.

Let me give you some facts regarding rehydration and you can decide for
yourself where you want to compromise.
Every strain of yeast has its own optimum rehydration temperature. All of
them range between 95 F to 105F. Most of them closer to 105F. The dried
yeast cell wall is fragile and it is the first few minutes (possibly
seconds) of rehydration that the warm temperature is critical while it is
reconstituting its cell wall structure.

As you drop the initial temperature of the water from 95 to 85 or 75 or 65F
the yeast leached out more and more of its insides damaging the each cell.
The yeast viability also drops proportionally. At 95 – 105 F, there is
100% recovery of the viable dry yeast. At 60F, there can be as much as 60%
dead cells.

The water should be tap water with the normal amount of hardness present.
The hardness is essential for good recovery. 250 -500 ppm hardness is
ideal. This means that deionized or distilled water should not be used.
Ideally, the warm rehydration water should contain about 0.5 – 1.0% yeast

For the initial few minutes (perhaps seconds) of rehydration, the yeast
cell wall cannot differentiate what passes through the wall. Toxic
materials like sprays, hops, SO2 and sugars in high levels, that the yeast
normally can selectively keep from passing through its cell wall rush right
in and seriously damage the cells. The moment that the cell wall is
properly reconstituted, the yeast can then regulate what goes in and out of
the cell. That is why we hesitate to recommend rehydration in wort or
must. Very dilute wort seems to be OK.

We recommend that the rehydrated yeast be added to the wort within 30
minutes. We have built into each cell a large amount of glycogen and
trehalose that give the yeast a burst of energy to kick off the growth
cycle when it is in the wort. It is quickly used up if the yeast is
rehydrated for more than 30 minutes. There is no damage done here if it is
not immediatly add to the wort. You just do not get the added benefit of
that sudden burst of energy. We also recommend that you attemperate the
rehydrated yeast to with in 15F of the wort before adding to the wort.
Warm yeast into a cold wort will cause many of the yeast to produce petite
mutants that will never grow or ferment properly and will cause them to
produce H2S. The attemperation can take place over a very brief period by
adding, in encrements, a small amount of the cooler wort to the rehydrated

Many times we find that warm water is added to a very cold container that
drops the rehydrating water below the desired temperature.

Sometimes refrigerated, very cold, dry yeast is added directly to the warm
water with out giving it time to come to room temperature. The initial
water intering the cell is then cool.

How do many beer and wine makers have successful fermentations when they
ignore all the above? I believe that it is just a numbers game. Each gram
of Active Dry Yeast contains about 20 billion live yeast cells. If you
slightly damage the cells, they have a remarkable ability to recover in the
rich wort. If you kill 60% of the cell you still have 8 billion cells per
gram that can go on to do the job at a slower rate.

The manufacturer of Active Dry Beer Yeast would be remiss if they offered
rehydration instructions that were less than the very best that their data

One very important factor that the distributor and beer maker should keep
in mind is that Active Dry Yeast is dormant or inactive and not inert, so
keep refrigerated at all times. Do not store in a tin roofed warehouse
that becomes an oven or on a window sill that gets equally hot.

Active Dry Yeast looses about 20% of its activity in a year when it is
stored at 75 F and only 4% when refrigerated.

The above overview of rehydration should tell you that there is a very best
way to rehydrate. It should also tell you where you are safe in adapting
the rehydration procedure to fit your clients.

Clayton Cone.

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Dry Yeast v. Liquid Yeast

I’ve been messing around with brewing mead and wine recently in addition to my beer brewing activities. It’s a veritable 24 hour brewing circus around my house with any free minute filled with fermentation of some kind. At the moment my living room smells like a fermentation room at a winery. Stephanie loves that kind of thing.

Anyway, wine and mead makers tend to use dry yeast as opposed to beer makers who tend towards liquid yeast. Older style beer kits that come in a can still include a packet of dry yeast (or so I’ve been told, I’ve never actually made one), but most contemporary recipes call for liquid yeast from Wyeast or White Labs. From what I can tell, most serious brewers are using liquid yeast and making starters to pitch into their wort in order to get a proper yeast cell count for a clean fermentation. There are a few yeast pitching rate calculators out there from Wyeast and from Jamil and some well read articles that serve as the guidelines for making and using starters.

Standard brewing practice also involves either shaking the crap out of the carboy to aerate the wort or using an oxygen tank and diffusion stone to dissolve pure oxygen into the wort. Yeast use oxygen to make lipids/sterols for their cell membranes. Healthy cell walls allow for better yeast growth and propagation, better uptake of nutrients, and better alcohol tolerance. Healthier yeast means cleaner fermentations and fewer off flavors in the final beer. There has been a interesting series of posts from Mike Flaminio on wort oxygenation on the Homebrew Beer Blog recently as well. The aim there being consistent, proper wort oxygenation as opposed to the blind process most of us follow that apparently leads to inconsistent over oxygenation. There has also been a long thread on the Brew Board about using very small amounts of olive oil in the wort instead of oxygenating it. Yeast apparently can uses the olive oil to synthesize the lipids/sterols they needs for their cell walls.

Wine kits just ask the wine maker to sprinkle a packet of dry yeast on top of the must to start fermentation. Some wine makers rehydrate their yeast prior to pitching, usually in Go-Ferm. There seems to be some debate in the wine making community about which practice is preferable, with a larger number of people taking the wine kit makers advice (from my limited reading and experience). According to Tim Vandergrift at WinExpert, the leading wine kit manufacturer:

“The real scoop on why kit companies don’t ask you to rehydrate: It doesn’t make any difference.

In the 6 US gallon (23 litre) volume, the 5-gram packet of yeast provided will ensure a quick and thorough fermentation with a quick sprinkling and nothing else.

It is technically true that re-hydrating gives higher viable cell counts–but only if you do it with perfect precision and accuracy. While there are a couple of pitfalls, the commonest one is temperature shear.

Since you have to rehydrate at 100F, in ten times the weight of the yeast in pure water, the yeast slurry will be fairly warm. If you pitch this re-hydrated mass into a must of 64F, the shock of the wildly disparate temperatures will kill a lot of those previously viable yeast.

In tens of thousands of trials, we’ve never seen anything approaching sub-optimal times for culture strength and subsequent fermentation.”

In either case, there are no starters and no oxygenation occurring, though wine makers do sometimes stir their must and/or leave the fermentation chamber relatively open compared to brewers in order to get more oxygen dissolved. These are some pretty divergent practices, so I’d like to know how or why this is the case.

I found a response to questions about starters and oxygenations from Dr. Clayton Cone at Danstar/Lalleland/Lalvin, a leading manufacturer of dry yeast, that I found pretty interesting. Basically he says that dry yeast come packed with the amount of lipids needed to triple the yeast cell count. After those lipids have been used up, additional oxygenation is required for healthy cell growth. For brewing a 5 gallon beer between 3% and 5% alcohol, no additional yeast or oxygen are needed apart from what is available in a single 11g packet. For higher alcohol content beer, you either need to pitch additional yeast or oxygenate to allow for yeast growth. I’m not sure what Danstar considers a proper pitching rate, so that is something I will have to investigate. I do know that Jamil recommends pitching about 10g of yeast on average for an average gravity 5 gallon batch in Brewing Classic Styles. [Edited per Jamil’s comment. Thanks Jamil. And as Jamil notes, batch size, OG, and yeast type are all variable inputs in the proper pitching rate – use his calculator to get precise amounts- I do.]

As a brewer, I’d prefer a higher pitching rate for higher alcohol beers so that propagation was mostly complete at pitching instead of trying to grow the yeast in the wort. That way the yeast can spend their time fermenting while in my wort instead of growing.

Dr. Cone mentions that Danstar grows their yeast along a different metabolic pathway than the one used by brewers that uses basically no sugar. Yeast propagated this way create very little alcohol. I assume this is done because it allows for more efficient healthy yeast production. When growing yeast in a starter, “no matter how much air you feed the fermentation, alcohol + CO2 are the main by-products. Your starter culture will have a much higher level of sugar [than the culture used by Danstar]. You will produce some cell mass but mostly alcohol and CO2 no matter how much air you add by stirrer or bubbles.” So starters increase cell counts but not in a way that is as effective as the propagation method used by Danstar. I guess that this also means that yeast grown in a starter, even under ideal conditions for a starter, is of a smaller amount and of potentially of lower quality due to the presence of alcohol and other less than ideal conditions.

So I guess my question is whether making a starter is an effective way to increase yeast cell counts prior to pitching or if instead it’s just a way to get yeast into active fermentation prior to pitching. Perhaps they generally make alcohol and CO2 and that starters are not the ideal environment for propagation even with the proper amount of oxygen. Buying 2 vials of White Labs yeast or 2 Wyeast Smack Packs is prohibitively expensive, especially given the increased cost of malt and hops. So I understand why people look for ways to grow their own yeast. But dry yeast is relatively inexpensive and prepackaged with the lipids necessary for healthy propagation and fermentation. Pitching a packet of dry yeast that cost less than $2.00 is definitely cheaper than pitching a starter made from DME, yeast nutrient, and a $6+ liquid yeast product – and that doesn’t count in the cost of the equipment needed to make starters (flasks, stir plates, etc.) or the time involved. If the metabolic pathways used by yeast from a starter for propagation produce lower quality yeast than the yeast from dry packets, that makes using dry yeast even more appealing. And if re-hydrating dry yeast generally makes no difference, all the better.

Of course liquid yeast manufacturers make a far wider variety of yeasts than are available as dry yeasts, so sometimes your options are limited.

I’ve never used a dry brewer’s yeast, so this is all just speculation at this point. I’m planning on trying out some dry yeast and comparing the results to equivalent liquid yeast from starters. I ordered 12 packets of dry yeast, 2 each of 6 different varieties, from Williams Brewing mostly because they are having a sale on dry yeast – 25 cents off each packet of dry yeast when you buy 12 or more. We’ll see what happens, but I am hopeful that I’ll get good results. If dry yeast is a reasonable or better alternative to liquid yeast and starters, maybe more people will start using dry yeast and more varieties will be made available. Or it might suck and I’ll go back to liquid yeast starters.

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Brewing Pale Ale with Colin

Jonathan and I went over to Colin’s to brew a 10 gallon all-grain batch of pale ale yesterday. I’ve never done an all-grain brew before (and neither has Jonathan), so I was pretty excited about it (Jonathan is 1 so he didn’t really express any feelings about it as far as I could tell). I’ve done a number of mini-mashes on my stove, but nothing that approached even 50% of the grain bill and certainly not the 20+ pounds of grain we used for this pale ale. I read about brewing all the time, so I am pretty familiar with all-grain brewing without actually having done it. The internet is bizarre like that. Colin introduced me to extract brewing about two and a half years ago and I watched him brew a hefeweizen before I made my first batch. Now he was about to show me all-grain brewing in action for the first time as well.

Colin had brewed a few 5 gallon all-grain batches in the past using one of those converted round Rubbermaid coolers he got on Craigslist as a mash tun. He said he got a stuck sparge every time he used it and always ended up having to drain the grain through a colander into the brew pot. Definitely not ideal. A couple of weeks ago Colin got a 100 quart Coleman marine cooler to convert into a monster mash tun (thanks Aubrey) so he could do 10 gallon batches and hopefully avoid stuck sparges. He removed the original drain in the cooler and replaced it with a nipple with a ball valve on the outside and a length of stainless steel braided water supply line with the interior tubing removed on the inside. The stainless steel braid acts as a manifold to allow sweet wort to flow out of the mash tun while keeping grain husks out of the boil kettle. It’s an easy and affordable way to make a mash tun invented by Denny Conn that many home brewer’s have used. I plan on making my own cooler mash tun in the future and I’ll post pictures and instructions when I do. In the meantime Denny has a walk-through of making a converted cooler and there are a large number of people out there that have documented their cooler construction. Google it and you’ll find plenty. Thanks to Denny for sharing the idea with everyone and thanks to all those people who documented their conversions. Home brewers really love to help each other out. It’s great.

Colin picked up all the ingredients on Friday. It turned out to be a bit of a task to get the hops we needed for the recipe. The recipe called for 2 ounces each of Horizon, Cascade, and Centennial. All Seasons limits the amount of hops you can buy and has a pretty limited selection due to the hop shortage. They also apparently limit the amount of a single hop variety they will sell in a week in order to stretch out their availability. I was told that they put out the hops for sale for the week on Thursday night so that they are available starting Friday morning. Colin got 2 ounces of Centennial. They didn’t have anything else that was a reasonable substitute for the other hops.

Colin works at the Yazoo Brewing Company, mostly on the bottling line I think. He ended up being able to get 2 ounces each of Simcoe and Cascade from Yazoo, which is awesome. Thanks Yazoo. I’ll buy a couple of extra 6 packs of Pale Ale to make it up to you. We decided to used the Simcoes as our bittering hop in place of the Horizons. I like Simcoe quite a bit. Yazoo has an IPA on tap in their tap room at the moment, Hop Project #6, that uses Simcoe and it’s delicious. There are enough citrusy, Cascade dominated IPAs and pale ales in the world. We need more piney Simcoe aroma beers in my opinion to mix things up a bit.

Before mashed in, we preheated the cooler with some near boiling water (but not so hot that is damaged the cooler, maybe 175 or so) so that we didn’t get a lot of temperature loss into the cooler. We brought 7.5 gallons of water to 168 degrees F and added that to the mash tun as our strike water. I poured the bag of crushed grains into the mash cooler while Colin stirred and Jonathan watched. We were aiming for 152 degrees F and ended up hitting about 149 instead. It was the first time using the cooler, so I think we got pretty close. Next time we should try 170 or so. Colin had some near boiling water on the stove we used to bring the mash temperature up to 150. We stopped at 150 because we didn’t want to think the mash out too much and figured 150 was reasonable. Then we waited an hour while Jonathan fed goldfish crackers to Colin’s dog Sam and we drank beer.

Here’s Colin stirring the mash just after I finished pouring the grains into the mash tun.

After an hour the mash was still at 150 degrees. So it looks like the cooler holds its temperature pretty well. We added a couple of gallons of 170 degree water to the mash, stirred it to get the grain into suspension and began taking the first runnings of sweet wort by just cracking open the valve. The first half gallon or so includes some grain husks and isn’t the clear wort you want in the kettle. We collected this wort in a pitcher and poured in back into the mash. This is called vorlaufing. As the wort drains and the grains compact, they create a filter bed that allows the liquid to drain to the bottom of the cooler and out the drain. You want to be careful when pouring the pitcher of wort back into the cooler. You don’t want to create any channels in the grains as they form a filter bed. Channels in the grains can help cause a stuck sparge, where the grain prevents the wort from properly draining. This is the reason why you want to open the drain slowly at first as well. After you get clear wort flowing, slowly open the valve all the way.

When the mash tun stopped draining, we checked the volume we had collected in the boil kettle. We only had slightly over 5 gallons, which is just over half of the almost 10 gallons we had added to the mash. The grains will absorb some of the water, but they shouldn’t be able to absorb half of the wort. Colin immediately guessed that the braid we were using as a manifold had come loose and was somewhere in the mash. He was right. He hadn’t attached the braid to the nipple in the cooler wall with a clamp thinking it was a tight enough fit without it. Without the braid in place, the grain had compacted around and in the cooler drain preventing any additional wort from draining. We considered draining the grain with a colander like Colin had done in the past, but decided to try to re-attach the manifold without disturbing the mash too much. I’ve read that hot side aeration is less of a problem for home brewers than commercial brewers since we generally drink the beer it has a chance to show the effects of oxidation. But no reason not to get things done the right way (and the easier way). We removed about a quarter of the mash into a spare pot and tilted the cooler enough to expose the inside of the drain. We cleared the clogged drain with a quick blast from the garden hose and Colin attached the manifold and clamped it down. We poured the removed grain back into the cooler and drained the remaining wort into the boil kettle. Disaster averted.

While this was going on, we had heated another 7.5 gallons of sparge water. You add this water to the mash tun to help rinse additional sugars out of the grain bed and into the boil kettle. When the sparging was complete, we had about 13.5 gallons of wort in the kettle (we were aiming for 14 I believe), and a grain bed that looked like this:

I almost forgot to mention that we added 1 ounce of Simcoe hops to the mash just for kicks. The mash smelled great; mashing smells so much better than opening some extract.

And so the 60 minute boil began.

At this point Jonathan was about to collapse. He was about an hour late for his nap, so we headed home with plans to come back when Jonathan woke up to help with clean up at least. Colin kept taking pictures and kept me up to date on how things were proceeding. Here’s where I wish I had that shed built in my backyard so we could be doing this at my house. Then Jonathan could go to sleep whenever he felt like it and I could keep on brewing.

Once the boil starts, brewing all grain is exactly the same as brewing with extract, so I have a lot less to talk about from here on out, but I do have plenty of pictures.

Like I mentioned somewhere at the beginning, we used Centennial and Cascade for the flavor and aroma additions and Simcoe for the bitter addition and in the mash. In go the hops.

Here’s a shot of the wort cooling. We used Colin’s immersion chiller in the kettle and mine in a bucket of ice water. We have both only done 5 gallon batches in the past, we neither of us had a large enough chiller for the amount of wort we needed to cool. Pre-chilling with ice seemed to work reasonably well.

Once everything was cooled, we transfered the wort to two 6.5 gallon carboys for fermentation. we pitched a 2L starter of 1056 in one fermenter and about the same amount of yeast cake Colin got from Yazoo in the other. I believe that Yazoo uses an English yeast. It’ll be interesting to see the differences the yeast contributes. Both carboys are currently fermenting away at about 67 degrees F in Colin’s chest freezer.

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Making a Yeast Starter

I was planning on brewing this past Saturday, but it never happened. I used the weekend to put a new paving stone sidewalk from my back porch to the alley instead. It looks awesome, but it didn’t produce any beer. I do hope that it will make for a flatter surface for brewing in the future.

Anyway, I made a starter last Thursday for the beer that didn’t happen and took some pictures. I think I’ll use it this weekend.

I always make a 2L starter for my 5 gallon batches. Making starters was one of my early brewing improvements, and I think it has really improved the quality of my beer. I know lots of people use the yeast pitching rate calculator on to calculate pitching rates (thanks Jamil from all of us for everything), but I just figure that a 2L starter is always going to be adequate for a 5 gallon batch. Maybe I’ll get more specific about my yeast counts in the future, but this works really well for me now.

First I take my yeast out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature. If it’s a Wyeast smack pack, I activate it. I then mix 2 cups of extra light DME with 1800 mL of water in a mixing bowl. No need to sanitize since everything is going to get boiled. DME has a tendency to clump up when it gets wet, so I use a whisk to break up any clumps and get the DME well dissolved. I’ve got some more stirring to do in this picture as you can see some DME clumps near the whisk. I also add some yeast nutrient according the manufacturer’s instructions.

I used to try to mix DME into the water in my 2L Erlenmeyer flask directly, but it’s nearly impossible with all the clumping. Adding the DME on top of the water creates a plug in the neck of the flask and adding the water on top of the DME leaves a cake stuck to the bottom of the flask that eventually burns when you try to boil it. I gave up on mixing in the flask pretty quickly.

When the DME is well dissolved, I pour the wort into the flask, add 1 or 2 drops of foam control, and stick it on the stove over medium heat. I boil the starter for 15 minutes. Foam control helps prevent boil over, which is extremely easy to have occur with the narrow neck of the Erlenmeyer flask. I used to have boil overs all the time when I made starters. It makes a huge sticky mess on the stove that is a pain to clean up. The starter for the milk stout I recently brewed was my first starter using foam control. I still had boil over problems. The foam control keeps the wort from foaming up, but it doesn’t prevent large bubbles from forcing hot wort out the top of the flask. The trick for me was to keep the stove on medium heat until the starter is about to boil, then turning down the heat to low for a 15 minute boil. You could also just leave the starter on low heat and wait for it to boil, but it takes forever and I like to tempt fate.

After the 15 minute boil I cover the top of the flask with a piece of foil while wearing an oven mitt. I take the flask to the kitchen sink for a cooling bath to bring the wort down to pitching temperature. To conserve ice, I first run cold water over the side of the flask, then move it to a bath of swirling cool water, and finally to a bath of swirling ice water. I’m always amazed that the flask doesn’t break from the temperature shock, but that is what it is made to do.

Once the starter is down to pitching temperature, I add the yeast and move the starter to my fermentation location. I always ferment my starters at the same temperature as I will ferment the beer for which it is intended.

After active fermentation subsides, I move the flask to the refrigerator. The yeast will drop to the bottom of the flask and form a nice solid yeast cake. When it’s time to brew, I decant off the liquid on top of the yeast and pitch only the yeast cake into the wort.

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Brewing Milk Stout

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.

With 15 minutes remaining in the boil I added a Whirlfloc tablet, a Servomyces caplet, and my immersion chiller to the boiling wort.

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.

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Brewing Plans

One of the reasons I started this blog was to track my brewing so I could look back and see how I have improved, record how my beer turned out, and whatever I happen to be planning. I want to brew a beer from each of the BJCP categories so I get some experience brewing and drinking a variety of beers. So I think it will be interesting to track my progress.

When I first started brewing, I made a couple of batches of APA followed by a couple of batches of IPA. I think a lot of new brewers do this sort of thing. I brewed a style of beer I like and then I brewed the most extreme version of that beer I could. That’s part of the appeal of brewing — make what you like, make something you probably couldn’t buy (and if you did it would cost way more and be less fun). Once I had a few kegs of Rogue inspired IPA around the house, I realized I didn’t want to drink double IPA all the time. It’s good, but I wanted a session beer too.

I set out to brew more drinkable beer. I also wanted to try something that required a colder fermentation. I made a couple of batches of California Common Ale and a batch of Kolsch; they seemed to fit with my general preference in beer. Both tasted great and were very popular. I think we went through the 2 5 gallon kegs of California Common Ale in 2 weekends. The California Common was definitely my most successful beer.

About this time my son Jonathan was born and brewing took a break. We moved into a new house and I moved my brewery into the backyard.

I brewed an very good IPA for my friend Stuart’s bachelor party. I made an Irish ale that I over-hopped trying to use my some spare hops for which I had no plans. I decided again I needed something more easy drinking, especially when I was brewing so infrequently. A few weeks back I brewed an English bitter. I just kegged it yesterday, so we’ll see how it turned out soon enough.

Anyway, with limited brewing time I decided I needed to have a better plan for my brewing. That Irish ale was just so random and took so much work and baby wrangling that I knew I needed to really like all the beer I made. I couldn’t just throw some stuff together and see what happened if I wanted to be happy with my brewing. Like Alison said, I was having low beer self-esteem serving that Irish ale. I also knew that I had to keep it interesting for me. I didn’t want to brew the same kind of thing all the time.

I’ll be generally following the recipes and suggestions in Brewing Classic Styles. You can buy a copy from Amazon or your LHBS. I’ll start with the easier recipes, styles I haven’t made before, and things I want to try. We’ll see how it goes.

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