Aidan Curran

Author's details

Name: Aidan Curran
Date registered: 22 January 2015

Latest posts

  1. Fining beer with gelatin — 2 April 2017
  2. Does full volume mash affect maltiness and body of the beer ? — 7 September 2016
  3. Plum Wine 2016 — 5 February 2016
  4. Kettle trub in fermenter – could it actually be beneficial? — 30 October 2014
  5. Etching volume markings on brew kettle — 21 May 2014

Most commented posts

  1. The pasta maker grain mill — 17 comments
  2. Batch No. 6 – Aidan’s Slutty Red — 12 comments
  3. First batch of home brewed beer – from can to bottles — 8 comments
  4. Getting All Fancy! — 8 comments
  5. Recipe for first extract brew, a lot learned — 5 comments

Author's posts listings

Apr
02
2017

Fining beer with gelatin

This is my process for using gelatin to help clear my beer:

  1. Beer should be chilled to between 0° and 5°C (so that if chill haze occurs the gelatin will help remove it)
  2. Clean and sanitise pyrex jug, temperature probe, long handle spoon
  3. Measure out 2/3 cup cold water (can be pre-boiled and cooled) in pyrex jug
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of gelatin and stir and cover with cling film
  5. Optionally, leave for 20 minutes to bloom/rehydrate
  6. Microwave in 10-30 second bursts, stopping to stir and check temperature
  7. Aim to heat the gelatin to between 65°C and 70°C and hold for around 15 minutes in that range. Try not to go over 75°C.
  8. Dump the gelatin mixture into the beer. Gently/lightly stir, and return fermenter to fridge for at least 48 hours.

Sep
07
2016

Does full volume mash affect maltiness and body of the beer ?

I came across a very interesting discussion on the effect of full volume mash on the fermentablity of the wort and resulting maltiness and body of the beer in BIAB brewing on HomeBrewTalk.

My approach is to mash with about 2/3 of the water with 1/3 reserved for sparging. I have considered doing a full volume mash, which is the more traditional BIAB approach, but haven’t tried it yet.

Original poster, Bassman2003, who switched to full volume mashes noticed some beers lacking maltiness or body and asks ‘Do you think BIAB results in more fermentable wort? Do you find the need to mash a little higher? if so, how much higher?

The first response, from dmtaylor, is interesting – ‘If you find your beers are lacking in body, perhaps your efficiency is too high? Or your water too hard? Your mill gap too tight? Mashing too long? I’ve been mashing for only 40 minutes for the past 10 years with no ill effects because it’s a waste of time to mash longer than that for most styles (except maybe Belgians). If you mashed for much longer, like 75-90 minutes, this would certainly hurt body.’ His theory that mash length and efficiency affects body/maltiness is interesting. I am aware that the temperature is a major factor with a lower mash temperature producing more simple sugars and hence a more fermentable wort, but hadn’t considered mash length as important in this regard. My thinking was that mash length and/or efficiency was just about getting more sugars out of the grain and hadn’t considered whether the additional sugars tended to be biased towards complex unfermenatble sugars or the simpler more fermentable sugars.

Gavin C, chips in, ‘No alterations to recipe/mash profile other than the obvious slightly altered mash pH considerations are needed if doing full volume mashes’. He cites an experiment by Braukaiser on the topic of fermentability and mash thickness – ‘Contrary to common believe no attenuation difference was seen between a thick mash (2.57 l/kg or 1.21 qt/lb) and a thin mash (5 l/kg or 2.37 qt/lb). Home brewing literature suggests that thin mashes lead to more fermentable worts, but technical brewing literature suggests that the mash concentration doesn’t have much effect in well modified malts’.

Another fellow, wilserbrewer, mentions an approach that I think might be very practical and worth a go – ‘Another approach I have used, mainly to save heating time while making large batches, is to mash in with around 60% of the total water, then after 40 minutes or so add the remaining water to the mash at say 160 – 180 degrees, stir well, wait a few minutes, stir well again and remove the bag.’ I like the idea of this approach, it eliminates the sparge but does not alter mash thickness. Also this is very practical for me because I have to lift the pot onto the gas burner after the mash and this approach makes the weight that I have to lift more manageable.

On the subject of mash PH Gavin C notes ‘Thinner mashes are more dilute meaning all other parameters being equal they will have a higher pH than a thicker mash’ and ‘an often overlooked method to increase a mash pH is to mash thinner’.

Brulosophy also has done an experiment on sparge vs no sparge. The results of this were somewhat inconclusive. The sparged beer was noticibly more hazy and 14 out of 26 testers were able to detect a difference. 7 out of the 14 preferred the sparged version. Overall though it seems the differences in the final beer were quite minor.

There are so many variables in brewing but luckily I’m not too much of a perfectionist or it would drive me insane. I tend to go with the practical, easy, approach that gets good results and as a result of this discussion I will be trying out the approach mentioned by wilserbrewer, that is to mash with usual volume but add the extra water towards the end of the mash in lieu of sparging.

Feb
05
2016

Plum Wine 2016

Some notes on my plum wine making for 2016 (learnings for next time)

Fruit – picked approx 60kg of fruit – 4 times my harvest of 2012 (the last time I made plum wine). The tree was loaded this year. I picked the ripe plums between 5th and 12th Jan, that’s later than usual for the plums to ripen. I ended up discarding about 25% of the fruit due to being smushed, broken skin, not ripe enough – made jam and cordial with some of that.

Batch 1 (started 12 Jan)

  1. washed approx 20kg fruit in bath of warm water & washing soda (sodium carbonate) – not sure of ideal qty
  2. rinsed fruit in bath of cold water
  3. slit fruit with sharp knife to make easier for mashing
  4. mashed with potato masher
  5. added 4 campden tablets crushed and mixed in warm water
  6. let sit over night and added pectic enzyme next morning (best to wait at least 8 hours as SO2 retards action of pectic enzyme)
  7. separated juice from pulp – not easy! First tried my large BIAB bag but not easy to squeeze liquid out. So then did smaller batches in a muslin bag. Messy and time consuming – don’t recommend this approach again – just ferment on the whole fruit instead. Ended up with 13 L of pulpy juice.
    • SG: 11.5 Brix
    • PH 4 approx (litmus paper)
  8. Used chaptalization calculator to determine how much sugar to add. Added 1.4kg sugar dissolved in 1L of hot water. This brought Brix up to 18.5 but my desired Brix was 21. Added 400g more sugar which brought Brix up to 20 and left it at that.
  9. Added 12g yeast nutrient and 1 yeast activator tablet crushed. The latter was probably unnecessary but I had them on hand so why not.
  10. 13 Jan: Pitched 2 pks of Vintners Harvest VR21 Yeast. Pitched dry as recommended in the yeast instructions.
  11. Added more 2L plum juice after fermentation had kicked in
  12. Added 5L wine from batch 2 on 20th Jan
  13. 5 Feb (day 23) – racked to glass carboy

Batch 2

The approach used for batch 2 worked out less troublesome and quicker so recommend this method for next time – i.e. ferment on the whole fruit instead of trying to separate the juice from the fruit

  1. Prepped the rest of the fruit approx 30kg over 2 nights (14th and 15th Jan) and placed it into my 50L stainless steel brew kettle (with bazooka screen in place).
  2. Removed 2L juice from tap on kettle and added to batch 1. SG was 11 Brix.
  3. Added 2.3 kg sugar & 5L water. The Brix was now up to 20. Also attempted to check SG with hydrometer but too much solids to take a measurement.
  4. Pitched 2 packets of dried yeast ( VR21 – same as batch 1)
  5. Fermented for 5 days in ss kettle. On 2oth Jan transferred wine from kettle into fermenter – 24 L into batch 2 fermenter and 5L to top up batch 1 fermenter. The wine poured freely from the tap on the kettle leaving mostly solid fruit residue behind. Liquid losses were pretty low and it was a lot easier than trying to squeeze out the juices so I recommend this approach for next time I make plum wine.Measured SG at 1.012.
  6. My written notes were a little disorganised – I added 2.3 kg of sugar & 2 L water on 20th Jan when I transferred the wine from SS kettle to fermenters. I thought at the time that I had not added sugar to batch 2 but according to 3. above I had!

Update (April 2016)

Racked on 3rd April. Both batches very clear. Just a small amount of sediment/lees in both cases. Taste is ok but quite sharp – will need back-sweetening. Batch 2 is tasting the least sharp which is another tick in favour of fermenting directly on the fruit. Racked batch 1 into plastic fermenter, added oak staves. Racked batch 2 to glass carboy (full up so very little head-space).

Update (July 2016)

I bottled batch 1 (the one I had in plastic fermenter with oak staves). I treated it with campden tablets potassium sorbate to kill off the yeast, left it for a day or 2 and back-sweetened it, then bottled it. It tastes pretty good, a bit sweet as it took quite a bit of sugar to balance the sharpness. (I need to find my notes and fill in amount used!) A little sediment made it into the bottles so appearance is a bit cloudy. Perhaps if I take more care when racking batch 2 I can end up with clearer result.

Batch 2 is left to bulk age for longer in the glass carboy.

Oct
30
2014

Kettle trub in fermenter – could it actually be beneficial?

I used to strain out the trub with a sieve when transferring the wort from the kettle to the fermenter but on one brew I got lazy and just dumped it all into the fermenter, every last bit of trub – hot break, cold break, hops debris and every single drop of liquid and solid material that was in the kettle. The result? Great beer, nice and clear, no off-tastes that I could tell. After that I never went back to attempting to prevent trub from making it’s way into the fermenter. I’ve been getting good clear beer and have made some of my best beers since then.

So when I came accross a blog post detailing experiments done on this – The Great Trub exBEERiment – I read it great interest. The article refers to a reasearch study done on the impact of kettle trub on levels of isoamyl acetate (banana) and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover) compounds. Surprisingly, the study found the that wort with the most trub actually produced a beer with significantly lower levels of these compounds! The author details his own experiment and discovery that the beer fermented with the kettle trub actually came out significantly clearer than one that had the trub carefully removed.

So why do brewers go to the trouble of seperating out the trub by whirlpooling, straining etc? I guess most brewers would assume that doing so will improve the clarity and reduce off-tastes but now it seems that not only is it not the case, but the opposite may actually be true.

I’ll keep on doing it my way, trub and all, but now with the knowledge that it’s not just a lazy shortcut but something in my process that may actually be beneficial to my beer.

May
21
2014

Etching volume markings on brew kettle

I added permenant volume markings to the inside of my brew kettle using a simple electrolytic acid etching technique that I discovered on the Home Brew Talk forum. Here’s how I did it:

1. Mark 10 litre volume increments in the kettle using electrical tape. I measured the water volume accurately by weighing it (1L = 1Kg). The side of the kettle needs to be dry for the tape to stick so I carefully dried it to the water line with paper towel and then line up the electrical tape with the water line.

_P1010617 Continue Reading »

May
13
2014

Brewing Checklist

I find it very helpful to use a checklist to make sure I don’t miss out any key steps in the brewing process and to track the important brewing data. This is the checklist I use:
Continue Reading »

May
12
2014

BIAB All Grain Brewing Process

This is the process that I use for brewing all grain beer. I used to do this in the kitchen as a split boil in smaller pots before I got my new 50L brew kettle and a gutsy gas burner. But now that I have better equipment it is a much smoother process and it doesn’t steam up the whole house since I do the boil outside on the deck. I use an electric urn as a HLT for heating strike water and sparge water.

Prep prior to brew day

  1. Print out recipe and double check all ingredients
  2. Make sure equipment is clean and available:
    • grain bag
    • brew kettle
    • sufficient gas
    • immersion chiller
    • fermentor and fermentor parts
  3. Crush grains

Brew Day

  1. Put water for mashing grains on to heat up in brew pot or HLT. Use at least 3L per kg of grain OR determine water volume from brewing calculator. I usually go with a wetter mash and less water for sparging. For an average grain bill I use 22L.
  2. Continue Reading »

Apr
24
2014

How I started a nanobrewery in Venezuela!!!

I found this fascinating story on a homebrewing forum. Venezuelan brewer, Daniel López, tells a great yarn about overcoming the challenges he faced making craft beer in his country. It was published in 6 parts which I’ve reproduced here. The English is not perfect but that just adds colour to the story, giving it the authentic feel of a story being told by a Spanish speaker.

Part I

Hi to all, this is the history of how i became a home brewer and how i make my nano brewery here in Venezuela. I think that this can help some homebrewers to reach their beer dreams ;D .

I will try to write in English but maybe it will be some errors in my writing, because my English is not perfect, so I hope that you can understand this post.

My name is Daniel López, right now in 2014 I have a little microbrewery (or nano brewery) here in Venezuela, the name of the brewery is Old Dan´s, you can find us in twitter as @olddans.

The idea of write this history in some way is to share with others brewers my dream of make good beer in Venezuela and build from nothing a microbrewery, I think that I will write in parts and post it here one part at a time.

When, why and how all started

Back in 1995 I think that make beer in your house it was something impossible, I think that only big breweries has the equipment to make this wonderful drink, this is the most popular drink here in Venezuela ( 83 liters of beer per capita in a year), in that time my father works in a international organization here in Venezuela, and he has to travel a lot, in one of his travels he find in a bookstore in Quito, Ecuador, the Dave Miller´s Home brewing Guide and Karl F. Lutzen Brew Ware (great books to become a home brewer and build your own stuff). These book inspire my father to make beer here in Venezuela, this idea was one of my father’s dreams, in the next 2 years my father read all the books and find another lots of book, make a big research about the making beer science.

In this time I was finishing my high school studies and prepare to begin my university career as a biologist, so in that moment I prefer to drink the awful commercial beer find in Venezuela than make my beer. I never imagine that several years later I will begin my brewery.

In 1997 I make a vacation trip to the US, and in that time I bring with me a Hydrometer, 3 airlocks, 3 rubber stoppers, a bottle capper and a few books. My father think that find the ingredients in that time in Venezuela it will be an easy task, but no, it was the greatest mistake in his brewing career. After a year of looking all over the country for the ingredients my father decide to put away the home brewing project.

Thirteen years passed and all the stuff that I bring to make beer was in the bottom of a box, in that time I always talk to my friends about make home beer as an interesting topic in some conversations, but I really never think to start home brewing in all that time. But this talk whit the friends it was an important point in all these story.

In September of 2010, one of these friends that lived in Ireland brought me a great gift, 500 gr of saaz flower hops and 4 packs of dry yeast, these was a special moment because after these, my life change in an excellent way.
Continue Reading »

Mar
04
2014

Craft brewers to share secret to a good pint

The following article appeared in the Nelson Mail newspaper on 4th March 2014. It’s about the upcoming Marchfest beer festival, where I’ll be one of 12 home brewers giving a home brewing demonstration.

Marchfest-homebrewers

The home brewers who will be doing brewing demonstrations at Marchfest 2014 (I’m 3rd from left)

In what might be described as a beer lover’s heaven, 12 home brewers will make beers simultaneously at Nelson’s MarchFest.

Organiser Mike Stringer isn’t sure if it has been done before but he’s not short of volunteers.

While the craft beer and music festival will have 16 regional craft breweries offering their beers to festivalgoers at Founders Heritage Park, the 12 home brewers will show enthusiasts there how they, too, can make good beers.

Mr Stringer said he started out using a homebrew kit and it was only when he searched on the internet trying to get better results that he saw others taking brewing to the next level.

“Some people are used to what their old man did or what they did at university unaware that they can take a different approach. We’re trying to get that awareness out there.

“If you really get into it you can spend thousands on equipment but you can just as easily and effectively improvise solutions and still make fantastic craft beer,” he said.

Eleven Nelson home brewers will each do an all-grain brew, using malt, barley and hops in the same sort of process that commercial breweries use, and another will do a partial mash using a malt extract, some grain, adding hops then doing a mini-boil.

Mr Stringer will also demonstrate making beer using fresh wort kits from Mapua’s Golden Bear Brewery.

At the last MarchFest he and a few others demonstrated home brewing and had beer enthusiasts dropping by looking for ideas on how to get started and find out what was involved.

This time the home brewers will be in the centre of the event by the Granary with their demonstration going between noon and 4.30pm.

He said home brewing was growing in popularity.

“It’s incredibly popular and getting more so. We have Nelson as the craft brewing capital in New Zealand, and people are well aware hops are grown in this region.

“The fact I am able to put a shout out asking 12 people to go to the effort of bringing their kit and making a brew shows how keen they are to share their knowledge.”

MarchFest, Saturday, March 22, Founders Heritage Park, information and tickets online marchfest.com

Jan
07
2014

Alas, no plum wine this year either!

After having my crop of plums demolished by the birds (and my procrastination) last year I was determined to harvest enough plums this year to make another batch of plum wine. So as the plums were starting to ripen I had the idea of putting up some netting over part of the tree that I could access by climbing up the tree. Unfortunately I decided to take action on this idea after a few ciders had diminished my sense of caution. So up into the tree I climbed with netting in hand. I was up fairly high in the tree, about 15 ft, and I attempted to cross over onto another limb. As I committed to cross over, the stump of a branch that I placed my foot on gave way and down I went. Time slowed during the fall, it felt like a couple of seconds, enough time to think oh shit this not going to be good and how stupid of me. I whacked my back on a wooden fence before hitting the ground. I didn’t hit my head so remained concious and was able to call out for help but unable to move although, to my relief, I could wiggle my toes. I got taken by ambulance to the emergency department and spent the night in hospital. Fortunately there were no obvious serious internal injuries or bone breakages so I came off lucky from what could have been a whole lot worse. So the birds got all the plums again this year. Maybe next year I’ll come up with a safer strategy to beat the birds to them.

Dec
09
2012

A bad batch, a good batch and a change of plan

My Amarillo Ale is not tasting good so far, it has a harsh astringent taste, not really drinkable, at least at the moment. I did get a bit of this type of taste from the Hope Ale that I brewed previously, but with a bit of time that taste disappeared and beer became quite good (actually managed to get a bronze award in a local homebrew competition). In this case though it is much more severe, but still I’m not dumping it yet, I’ll give it a chance to see if time will heal it. I had one of the more experienced local homebrewers who is also a beer judge try a sample and she thinks it may be an infection. She also detected something in the Hope Ale so we came to the conclusion that my harvested yeast may have been to blame. The yeast I pitched in the Amarillo Ale was harvested from the Hope Ale. So, for the moment, I’m giving up on the yeast harvesting and sticking with new packets of yeast for each batch.

On a more positive note, I have high hopes for the batch that I bottled last night, a dark IPA that I call Shot In the Dark. It tasted quite amazing at bottling time, roasty, malty and hoppy all at the same time. The dark malts hide the hops a bit because there was a hell of a lot of hops in it but it didn’t taste super hoppy to me, just hoppy. I’m looking forward to trying it again in 3 weeks time.

I’ve been busier than usual with the beer production. After bottling last night, tonight I brewed up another batch. I had a porter planned, recipe and ingredients all ready to go. But at the last minute I decided I had a more urgent need to knock out another Skinny Blonde. Summer is upon us and this is just such a great thirst quenching summer beer, the porter can wait.

Aug
23
2012

Freedom Of Information Act Invoked For Obama’s Beer Recipe

Did you know that they brew their own beer at the White House? The beers include White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Porter and White House Honey Blonde Ale. All three use honey from Michelle Obama’s White House garden.

A home brewer has formally requested recipes for the beers made by White House staff under the Freedom Of Information Act. Here’s a copy of the request: Continue Reading »

Aug
13
2012

First All Grain

I just finished my first attempt at an all-grain brew tonight. The process was similar to my partial mash process except no malt extract was used. Due to the restrictions of brewing on top of my stove and available pots, I went for a smaller batch volume of 13 litres. I think it all went fine but the proof will be in the drinking. It will be very interesting to compare this with my previous partial mash batch which was a similarly hopped pale ale.

I mashed 3kg of grain, which I crushed in my converted pasta maker grain mill, in a bag in my 20L pot with 9 litres of water. I was shooting for a mash temp of 68C but the temp had actually crept up into the low 70s by the end of the mash due to me leaving the inner ring on at the lowest setting. Next time I’ll leave it off and see how well the pot holds the temp wrapped in a towel and ski jacket.

I batch sparged in my 12L pot with 7 litres of water poured over the top of the grain in the bag. Then I mixed the runnings in the 20L pot and got about 14 litres. I split these between 2 pots for the boil. My SG was 1.049, giving me a brewhouse efficiency of around 73% which I believe is quite decent for this type of mashing process.

I had a little bit of trouble getting a good rolling boil in my 20L pot as the bottom of the pot has a concave center which I think makes it much less efficient on the ceramic electric stovetop. Later on in the boil, when the volumes had reduced, I ended up ditching it altogether and putting the extra wort into another 5L pot.

I cooled in ice water. It took 30 minutes to get it down to 16.5C, so I overshot a bit (22C would have been fine) and didn’t actually need to spend quite as long cooling.

I ended up with about 11L in the fermentor after evaporation loss so I topped it up with cold water to my 13L target. After giving it a good shaking to aerate, I pitched the US05 yeast that I had harvested from the previous batch.

Fermentation got off to a quick start – the airlock was bubbling and krausen had formed as soon as I checked it in the morning.

See the recipe and specs here.

Jun
16
2012

Plum Wine Bottled

I’ve just bottled the plum wine that I started making back in January. If you think the waiting in beer making is bad, try making wine! Five months until it’s even bottled, then a minimum recommended aging of at least six months. But as I do when bottling beer, I took the opportunity at bottling time to sample the product. And, well, I’ve got to say I’m pretty impressed at this point. Ok, it’s not the smoothest, finest wine but it’s more than drinkable in it’s current state. And if aging brings significant improvements, it’s going to be bloody good. The problem though is that it’s so drinkable right now that I reckon a lot of it’s going to be gone before the recommended aging period. Continue Reading »

May
22
2012

Homebrew Competition

I entered my first homebrew competition on Sunday 20th May. The event, organisesd by SOBA Nelson and held at the Sprig & Fern in Nelson, was relaxed and informal. There were 30 different beers, entered by around 15 home brewers. The beers were judged by the entrants so we each had a chance to try 30 different beers. The overall standard was very good, there were a lot of top notch beers. My personal favorites (apart from my own of course) were Jason Bathgate’s Manuka Black Cofee Porter, Stink Hammer IPA, Smoked Moose Knuckle Brown Ale and Adam Tristram’s American Pale Ale. I was actually more impressed with the standard of beer at this event than what was on offer from the pros at this year’s Marchfest. Also it was a great chance to meet and socialise with other local home brewers.

(Still from Matt’s video)

My beers didn’t place but they seem to have been quite well recieved by most people. I entered two recent batches, batch 13, Double Cascade Pale Ale and batch 15, Digital(ish) IPA. I actually thought the heavily hopped IPA had the best chance of placing but it was the milder Pale Ale that got the more favourible reviews.

The results of the competition are posted here. My entries were nos. 3 and 4. Here’s are the scores and comments I got (as best I could make out from the scrawl on the judging sheets): Continue Reading »

Apr
23
2012

The pasta maker grain mill

Proper grain mills can be expensive, especially here in New Zealand so when I found out that some home brewers were having success with converting cheap pasta makers into grain mills it seemed like something worth trying and I picked up one on TradeMe for $22. The rollers on a pasta maker are smooth and won’t pull in the grains so the first task is to roughen up the rollers. Reading through online forum discussions on this topic I learned that some people have disassembled the pasta maker, removed the rollers and got them knurled. But I also read about a much quicker and easier approach that also seems to work well and this is what I did. No need to disassemble, simply run a drill back and forth across the rollers and the drill bit will roughen up the surface of the rollers enough to allow them to bite on the grains and pull them through.

The next thing is to construct a hopper to feed the grains into the rollers. I’ve seen some examples online of fancy woodworking or metalworking skills being used to construct hoppers for the pasta grain mill, but again I opted for the path of least resistance – cardboard and duct tape!

And that’s pretty much it. The only other addition was a flat piece of cardboard to direct the crushed grains into a collection container. Here she is in action:

It can be powered with the hand crank that came with it, or by an electric drill.

I milled a few kilos of grain for my latest brew this weekend and I was pretty pleased with the results. I think I got a pretty good crush. The operation started off well but did start to go a bit slow after awhile. I came to the conclusion that my rollers were not quite rough enough so I wasn’t getting a strong bite on the grains and they were coming through quite slowly. I gave up on using the drill after awhile and went back to the hand crank as I found I was just spinning my wheels with the drill bit when I wasn’t getting enough traction and the slower speed of the hand crank was more effective. I got through all the grain that I needed for the recipe but planned on doing some further roughening on the rollers at another time. Here’s an example of the crush: Continue Reading »

Apr
16
2012

Getting ready to do All Grain on the cheap

I’ll admit it, I’m a frugal home brewer. One of the original attractions to home-brewing for me was the cost savings aspect. But I notice a lot of home brewers get carried away by the hobby and spend a small fortune on all sorts of fancy gear. The home brewing experience for these gear obsessed home brewers turns into another avenue for excessive consumerism and materialism. If you worked out the total costs of some of these elaborate setups, I reckon some homebrewer’s beer ends up costing way more than the best craft beer you could buy. That would be a major ‘off-flavour’ for me. The fact that my beer costs a fraction of what I would have to buy it for is a great incentive for me and perhaps even does more for the perceived flavour of my beer than any fancy equipment could.

To date I’ve been brewing with a bare minimum of equipment: mostly just a 12L pot and and the original plastic fermenter + accessories kit that I first purchased to get into the hobby. With this minimum of equipment I’ve been able to make some pretty decent beer using extract and partial mash brewing methods, beer that I really enjoy making and drinking. Continue Reading »

Mar
06
2012

Brewing Software Review – BrewMate

Hey there, this post is a collaboration post with some other home brewing bloggers to review all the different brewing software applications that we use. Links to the other reviews are at the bottom of this post.

I came across BrewMate when I was looking for a free recipe calculator application. In the past I had played with the BeerSmith free trial version and then settled down on an Excel spreadsheet application called Kit & Extract Beer Designer which served my needs well until I started doing partial mashes. At that point I was considering buying a copy of the popular BeerSmith but first decided to have a look at some of the free brewing software apps available. Two of the apps that I looked at were QBrew and BrewMate. I found that either of those apps would have met my needs but I settled on BrewMate as it had more features, a nicer interface and has been updated more recently. Continue Reading »

Feb
22
2012

Working my way through a 28kg bucket of malt extract!

I found a local guy in Nelson that sells home brewing ingredients, Bill Fennell (website – ThatBeerPlace.com). I had a look through is his lists of supplies and the bulk malt extract caught my attention because it cost a fraction of what I usually pay for malt. The only snag was that it came in such large quantities, 28kg of malt extract is a lot of homebrewing! And liquid malt extract needs to be used up while it’s fresh so it’s not ideal to leave it hanging about for many months. Too much malt for me to handle in a short timeframe I thought.

Then some friends of mine decided to get into home brewing after tasting some of my beer. So I figured if we split a bucket between us it would be doable to use it up while it’s still fresh. Four batches each would see it all used up. So we ordered a bucket of Maltexo All Malt Light. I have 2 new batches in the fermentors now so I’m half way through my half. Here’s what I have brewing: Continue Reading »

Jan
20
2012

Plum Wine

In addition to brewing beer I’ve also made a feijoa wine and distilled some spirits last April and now I’ve just started a batch of plum wine. I made a small batch of feijoa wine as we have a feijoa tree that produces lots of fruit. It turned out fairly good, a bit like a white wine with distinct feijoa flavour, but to be honest I would prefer a good Chardonnay, although I have to say it went particularly well with Thai food. We drunk it after about 3-4 months and now that I’ve done some more reading up on wine making, I’m thinking it would probably have benefited from significantly more aging. Maybe I’ll try some more this year when the feijoas are ripe. Also in April last year I distilled some spirits. I got the loan of a small air still from a friend and fermented up a batch of sugar wash and distilled it out. This resulted in a neutral spirit with which I made into gin, rum and feijoa liquor and I’m also currently making some limoncello with the last of the alcohol from that batch. The rum was simply made by adding Still Spirits rum essence. It was OK but tasted a bit artificial to me. The gin was made by infusion of juniper berries and various other spices and was really good, better than standard commercial gin in my opinion. The feijoa liquor was really good too and I’m looking forward to seeing how the limoncello turns out.

Now on to the Plum wine. Our plum tree was loaded with plums this year and after asking myself what am I going to do with all these plums the obvious answer came quickly. After looking at some plum wine recipes online this is what I came up with: Continue Reading »

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