Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mixed Berry Cider

Brewday: 03/02/15

The last cider was a hit at Christmas. Semi-sweet and delicious. This go around, I let me wife decide which cider kit we would make. She made the wonderful choice of Mixed Berry. She had a fun time mixing all the ingredients, and I love having such a pretty brewery assistant. 

We went again with the Cider House Select kits by Brewer's Best. The kits make 6 gallons, but my kegs will only hold 5 gallons, so ours will be a more concentrated batch. The kit estimates the final abv at 4.7%. 

I didn't cover process in my last post, though I did post a video, so I'll briefly give you a run down. 

Step by Step:

  1. Heated 1.5 gallons of water to around 150 deg. Poured into sanitized fermenting bucket.
  2. Cut off top of ingredients bag, removing flavoring, sweetener, and yeast packets from pouch.
  3. Emptied cider concentrate into bucket and stirred well. 
  4. Added 2 lbs of corn sugar (dextrose) and sweetener packet, stirring well to incorporate all ingredients. 
  5. Topped off to 5 gallons with cold 45 deg tap water. Stirred. Temp rested at 82 deg, still too high for yeast.
  6. Put on sanitized bucket lid and airlock, and left outside on balcony for 1 hour to bring temp down to 73 deg. (February in Minnesota has evening temps in the high 20's)
  7. Pitched packet of dry yeast.

Couldn't be more simple. Moved fermenting bucket into
Cool Brewing Fermentation Bag with two 16 oz frozen water bottles, and left in the "fermentation corner" of my apartment for the yeast to do it's thing. Temp in the bag by morning was a consistent 68 deg. We live on the 3rd floor of our building, and ambient temps in the apartment even in winter can fluctuate from low 60's to high 70's, so the bag is necessary. The water bottles will be swapped out twice a day, which gives me reason to check out the airlock activity and temp. Last time I made a cider, there weren't too many bubbles coming through the airlock even though it was totally fermented out in 7 days. Though not in the recipe instructions, I added 1/2 tsp of Wyeast yeast nutrient as an extra precaution. I don't know how long those kits sit on the shelves at room temp, and the yeast packets aren't refrigerated inside the cider concentrate packages. Didn't rehydrate or make a starter, cause the last one didn't need it and the directions didn't mention it. I figure when in doubt, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.007
ABV: 6.2%

Fermentation Update: 03/10/16

Airlock activity had stopped completely. Took a gravity reading, got down to 1.007. Smelled amazing. Tasted the sample and really liked it. Not too dry, a bit of sweetness. The Mrs is going to go crazy over this thing. Has a nice hazy a slight raspberry color. Cold crashed it in the keezer. 

Cold Crash Update: 03/16/16

Been pretty exhausted this week, so let it cold crash for longer than I'd planned. Don't really see anything wrong with that. Smells very cider like now, even more so than last week. Added the packet of mixed berry flavoring and gelatin. Two more days in the keezer, then I'll keg it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Nut Brown Ale

Trying a new layout for the recipe. Thanks to Brülosophy for the inspiration.

Brewday: 12/25/15

Extract with specialty grains kit from Northern Brewer. First, the numbers.

5 gal60 min13.75 IBUs19.58 SRM  1.044   1.012 4.3 %
Heated 4 gal of 2x filtered water in the kettle to 160. My in-laws have a filtered tap on their kitchen sink. The water runs through a filter and softener in the basement, then up to the 2nd filter under the sink. I have no idea about the water chemistry of their area, but so far it's made 3 really good batches of beer.

Added steeping grains, down to 156. Let steep for 20 mins. Down to 154. 

0.25 lb UK Chocolate
0.25 lb Special B
0.25 lb Biscuit
0.25 lb US Special Roast

a very full kettle

6 lb Amber LME - 60 mins
1 oz UK Fuggles hop pellets 3.8% AA - 60 mins
1 tablet Whirlfloc - 15 mins
Killed the heat, whirlpooled, and set kettle in metal bucket for ice bath. Emptied the ice maker to get down to 83 in about 25 mins (cold garage). Forgot the double-mesh strainer at home, so dumped kettle into 6 gal fermenting bucket to aerate and further cool the wort. Let the hop sludge setting, then poured into a 6.5 gal Big Mouth glass carboy. Topped with about 1.5 gal of cold water to bring volume up to 5 gal and bring temp to 72. I ended up with a SG of 1.045.
Pitched the entire 1.2 liter starter of Wyeast British Ale 1098 that I made up the day before.

Brought the carboy home and put it into the Cool Brewing fermenting bag to hold at 68. By morning, there was a healthy krausen.

12 hrs post pitch

Added 1/2 tsp of gelatin (re-hydrated) on 1/04/15, once FG had been achieved. Krausen had fallen back into the beer and it smelled like a brown ale. Put in keezer to cold crash at 40 deg for 2 days before hooking up to CO2.

Day 12

After 3 days at 25 psi. Serving at 10 psi.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

First Hard Cider

Brew Day: 12/09/15

My wife really loves hard cider, and I'm learning to really appreciate it as well. So to keep harmony in our house and have a wonderful beverage over the holidays, I decided to test my cider "skills". I use the terms skills lightly as this is my first hard cider I've ever attempted.

I visited my local homebrew shop, Northern Brewer, and picked up a cider kit by Brewer's Best. The kit makes 6 gallons, which I will rack into a 5 gallon keg. I only have 15 days until Christmas, so my goal is to have it ferment out completely and be force carbonated in time for my in-law's Christmas eve party.

Fermentation Update: 12/16/15

Due to the heat given off by fermentation, I decided to use my Cool Brewing bag after day 2. We're on the 3rd floor of our apartment building which makes the ambient temp, even in December, in the low 70's. Using frozen water bottles, which I swapped out twice a day, I was able to keep the fermentation temp in the upper 60's. If I had 2 liter sized frozen bottles, they would've lasted 24 hours before being changed but we don't drink much soda, so we didn't have any empty 2 liters around. Gave me another excuse to check on the cider each morning/evening.

Bag resting underneath the table.

To show how much room is inside.

No fermometer on the bucket, just put a fridge
thermometer in the bag to watch temps.

I'm not going to list the entire recipe. You can see that HERE, but I did record my process. Below is the video I shot in my kitchen while following the kit's directions and generally trying not to make a mess of the place (that apple concentrate is sticky stuff). But first, here's the numbers:

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.004
Actual ABV: 5.4%

Watch on YouTube by clicking HERE

Christmas Serving Update: 12/25/15

The keg carbed up nicely in time for Christmas day. 4 of the 6 people in attendance really liked it. One of the nay-sayers doesn't like hard cider, and the other one is just figuring out what drinks she likes and wanted something sweeter. I'll call those figures a win. It was suggested we do a side-by-side with the Angry Orchard we had in the basement fridge, but by the time dinner was over, we were too stuffed and already fighting off a cider, beer, port buzz.

I added 1/2 tsp of gelatin once FG had been reached and let it sit 2 days before kegging. It came out nicely clear and bubbly.

Have you tried gelatin in your beer or cider? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Temperature Testing

Thanks to Craigslist and the abundance of local homebrewers here in Minnesota, I've been able to procure a few new pieces of equipment. Today I am testing them to see how well they hold temperature.

Cool Brewing Fermentation Bag

The folks at Cool Brewing came up with an insulated bag design big enough for carboys and fermenters that can keep the fermenting wort cool by the use of frozen water bottles. It's big enough to fit a 6 gal carboy and the airlock and fit plenty of frozen water bottles. I filled up a 6 gallon carboy with 5 gallons of water, and took advantage of the chilly MN weather to cool it rapidly to 70 (room temp). Then I put the carboy into the Cool Brewing Fermentation Bag with one 12 oz bottle and one 32 oz frozen water bottle, as that's all I had frozen at the time I decided to do this experiment.

After 16 hours, I checked on the temp and it had come down to 64, and the ice bottles had melted. If I were to swap out the bottles, I'm confident I could keep it at that temp for as long as I needed to. Seems well made and water tight. This will be getting some use with my next batch.

48 Liter Picnic Cooler ~ Mash Tun

Also a Craigslist find. The original owner created a spout using a 3D printer (pretty cool!) and installed a stainless braided hose which will help stop the grain from flowing into my boil kettle. After getting some heat resistant tubing and ball valve from a local plumbing supply store, my new mash tun is fully operational.

I heated up 4 gallons of water to 170 and poured it into the mash tun. After giving the water a brief stir, I was down to 164. This will help me to understand and calculate how much heat loss I will get when transferring strike/sparge water. I closed the lid and let it sit for 60 mins, after which I was down to 155...a 9 deg drop. Too much. 

So I drained the water, which took 5 minutes (I timed it). When draining, I took note of how much water would drain on it's own. The drain is pretty near the bottom, but not all the way on the bottom. I rolled up a towel to put under the end of the cooler opposite the drain, and I was able to get all but a quart of water out. I was happy with this and now know to add 1 quart of water to my strike water calculation to account for what's left under the water level of the drain. I reheated it on the stove back up to 170. Then poured back into the mash tun to get a 2nd reading. This time I put a thick quilt over the top of the cooler to see how much heat I can retain with the added insulation layer. After 60 mins, still a 9 deg drop. A friend gave me an idea to use a piece of aluminum foil over the eventual grain bed during the mash to help with heat loss. I'll have to try that. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the cooler.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Home Brew Beer Fest

Yes. Homebrew at church. Another reason why my church, Hope Community Church in Minneapolis, is awesome.

The men's group at church is putting together a homebrew fest in January, hosted at the pastor's house. I have entered my Scottish Spiced Ale in the fest. I would've entered the hefeweizen, but it's so good we may not have any left by late January. I'll be working on a Nut Brown Ale in the next few weeks, which might almost make an appearance at the event.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Scottish Spiced Ale

Brew day: 11/06/15

5 gal kit from Northern Brewer.

Heated 4 gal in the kettle to 160. Added steeping grains brought it down to 156. Steeped for 30 mins while we ate dinner. Down to 151; it was chilly in the garage (about 48), so it came down more than I expected. Pulled the grain bag out and let it drip while bringing heat back up to boil. 

Steeping grains: 1 lb UK Crystal 60L

3.25 lb Gold LME - 60 mins
1 oz US Goldings hop pellets 4.6% AA - 60 mins
3.25 lb Gold LME - 30 mins (trying to keep the coloring lighter)
1 tablet Whirlfloc - 15 mins

0.5 oz Mulling spices - 0 mins

Killed the heat, whirlpooled, and set kettle in metal bucket for ice bath. Took a 20 bag of ice to get down to 80 in about 20 mins (cold garage). Poured wort through the double-mesh strainer into a 6.5 gallon Big Mouth glass carboy. Lost a lot of volume due to hop sludge and boil off. Topped with about 2 gal of cold water to bring volume up to 5 gal. 

**Made an error in procedure. Took gravity reading after bringing volume up to 5 gal, so I diluted too much and found out it was 1.036. Was shooting for 1.046. Crap. Pitched a 1.2L starter of Wyeast Scottish Ale 1728, which I'd made the day before. Might end up with a pretty low ABV. Or maybe the yeast starter will eat through more sugar and end up with a lower FG. Only time will tell.

Put carboy in father-in-law's basement where the ambient temp is consistent around 65. My apartment has too many temp fluctuations during the day. I knew the yeast would be a vigorous foamer, so I attached the blowoff tube and instructed my father-in-law in what to do when blow off stops (sanitize and attach airlock). Total brewday time ~ 3.5 hrs.

After 48 hours, I was sent this photo of the ferm temp. Bits of yeast are seen floating in suspension while they do their business. 68 is right where I wanted it (65-70).

The recipe calls for 2 weeks in primary, 2 weeks bottle conditioning. 

Bottling: 11/21/15

Final gravity got down to 1.009, so all that hungry yeast didn't mind the low OG. Ended up with 41 12-oz bottles and 3 20-oz bomber bottles. Had two different cap types, so I used up the remainder of what I had. Might make opening the bottles into a game of beer roulette. I used the B caps on the hefeweizen as well, but who doesn't enjoy an adventure?! Tasted the hydrometer sample, and it is super malty with a slight sweet finish. This will be our Christmas session beer.

The Numbers:

Target OG: 1.046
Actual OG: 1.036
est IBU: 16.26
est FG: 1.013

Actual FG: 1.009
est SRM: 13.42
Final ABV: 3.54%

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hoppy Halloween Competition Results

I entered my Session American Pale Ale in the Hoppy Halloween Competition in Fargo, ND over Halloween weekend. I did not win, as the pale ale catagory (10A) was a tough one. Due to so many entries, there was only a 3% chance of winning. I did however receive MY BEST COMPETITION SCORE TO DATE32!!! 

Two judges tasted my brew and had similar, yet often conflicting, experiences. Example, one said it was astringent, the other said it wasn't; one liked the bitterness, one didn't. Both said more of a malt presence would help to balance out the beer better. I've posted a link to their scoresheets below. I followed the kit to the letter, how could I have added more of a malt presence? Let me know in the comments.

Judge #1

Judge #2

Pic from first tasting night. Wrong glassware for the
style, but it's all my father-in-law had at hand.