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 »

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
17
2012

Time for a Toucan

A toucan brew is simply one done with 2 cans of pre-hopped extract. The Coopers Stout that I brewed last year tasted nice but I felt it lacked head and body. It was a bit on the light side and I reckoned it could benefit from more concentration. So it seemed an ideal candidate for a toucan. I did the toucan with a can of Coopers Stout and a can of Coopers Dark Ale and 500g of brown sugar as it seems like a popular toucan recipe on the AussieHomeBrewer.com forum, and it’s very simple – no steeping grains, no boiling hops. I was a wee bit concerned about the amount of bitterness which I calculated to be around 70 IBUs using the Kit & Extract Beer Designer, but was reassured on the forum that it doesn’t taste overly bitter especially when aged for awhile.

A Cunning Plan To Prevent A Messy Blow-over Continue Reading »

Dec
04
2011

Time to ramp up production!

I slacked off on the brewing during the winter, it seemed like I had an endless supply built up, but that ‘endless supply’ dwindled and was gone and I was spurred back into brewing action in October, brewing Batch #8. Then I brewed up Batch #9 last weekend, my first partial mash. But the thirsty days of summer are upon us already and so I had to do something about the pace of production. So time came to recommission my old extra fermenter, which I picked up earlier in the year to brew a sugar wash for distilling and a feijoa wine. And now for the first time I’ve got 2 fermenters going at the same time. Here’s what I’ve got brewing: Continue Reading »

Nov
25
2011

My Partial Mash Brewing Process

The next step in home brewing that I’m going to take is to do a partial mash. I’ve discovered a partial mash is actually quite similar to doing an extract brew with steeping grains. It just involves more grains soaked for longer time with a bit more attention to temperature and ratio of water to grain. And I don’t need any additional equipment, so really it doesn’t seem like a major step to make, but I’m writing up the process anyway in order to highlight the differences. Since it’s quite similar to extract brewing and I’m using the same equipment I’ll use my extract brewing process as a basis for this. Continue Reading »

Oct
18
2011

A review of my first 7 brews

I’ve documented the process of making my beers here but haven’t yet reported on how they all turned out so it’s high time for a bit of a review.

Batch 1 – Kit Brew – Mangrove Jacks Munich Lager

A special one because it was my first, but actually I think it was one of the best, if not the best, of the 4 kit brews that I’ve done. As with most kit lagers this is a ‘pseudo-lager’ as it’s brewed with an ale yeast, so, although not true to style, it is still a good beer and got very good reviews from friends who tasted it. Being a kit brew it is lightly hopped but none-the-less very tasty.

see also: process writeup, tasting writeup

Batch 2 – Kit Brew – Blackrock East India Pale Ale

This kit would disappoint anyone looking for an IPA because it is most definitely not an IPA in style. It is more like a lightly hopped kit pseudo-lager than an IPA. I brewed it with beer enhancer and made it up to 18 litres instead of the usual 23 litres to make it more concentrated. I would describe it as more malty than hoppy and none of the bitterness you would expect from an IPA. That said, it still was a good tasty beer, just a bit daft that they call it an IPA.

see also: brew night writeup, mishap writeup

Batch 3 – Extract Brew with Speciality Grains – All Cascade APA

My first attempt at extract brewing was a real winner. It tasted like a good beer that you would get from a micro-brewery. I think this might just be my favorite one to-date.

see also: recipe writeup, brew night writeup

Continue Reading »

Oct
17
2011

Batch No. 8 – Cascade & Amarillo American Pale Ale

Despite being over 6 months since I brewed an extract batch, brew night went more smoothly and efficiently than any of the previous extract brews that I’ve done (I must be getting the hang of this home brewing thing!).

This time I used the blender to grind up my steeping grain (Crystal 60) – not totally ideal as it gives an uneven grind (pulverises some of the grains and leaves others almost untouched), but I reckon good enough for steeping grains and a lot faster than pounding with a pestle.

The other interesting thing this time is that I uesd yeast that I harvested 6 months ago. It’s stretching it a bit in terms of how long yeast stored in the fridge is good for. I prepared a starter Friday night with the intention of brewing Saturday night but come Saturday there was no signs of any action out of the yeast. Continue Reading »

Feb
22
2011

Batch No. 5 – Nelson Amber Ale

I’m calling this one ‘Nelson Amber Ale‘ because it features Nelson Sauvin hops and I’m brewing it in Nelson. I used the handy Kit & Extract Beer Designer spreadsheet to work out the recipe quantities. It’s basically in the style of an American Pale Ale or an American Amber Ale, but more towards amber than pale since I used all amber malt plus a little medium crystal steeped grains. I used US-05 yeast harvested from batch no. 3. Fermentation started very quickly, within a few hours, and is still amazingly active – it’s been bubbling like crazy for 3 days.

Here’s the recipe: Continue Reading »

Feb
21
2011

Updated Extract Brewing Process

The second extract batch went smoother and quicker than my first one and the brewing process was much more relaxed and enjoyable. The biggest improvement in the process was changing my sanitiser from sodium metabisulphite to iodophor. The sodium metabisulphite requires 1 hour of air drying to work, iodophor just requires 1-2 minutes of contact time, so it’s a hell of a lot more convenient to work with as you can sanitise on the fly instead of having to carefully plan your sanitisation in advance.

A significant difference in the process this time was the yeast preparation. Last time I rehydrated dried yeast, this time I had some yeast harvested from the last batch so I had to make a starter for it the day before. By the way, I found some helpful videos on a website called billybrew.com for how to harvest yeast and how to make a yeast starter.

So here’s the new improved process:
Continue Reading »

Feb
04
2011

Thar She Blows!

The Coopers Stout kicks out one hell of a big foamy krausen:

To deal with this mess, I pulled out the airlock cleaned and sanitised it, cleaned off the mess off the lid and stuck the airlock back in. It’s still foaming out of the airlock a little bit but under control.
Continue Reading »

Jan
14
2011

Third Batch Fermenting – first foray into hops and grains

This one is going to be interesting, I’ve got my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. That’s because when I tasted the wort, it was a bit, well, scary. I totally realise this may not mean anything but the wort from my previous two batches actually tasted good but this time I tossed out my OG samples after a little taste. But the first two batches were pre-hopped kits so it might not be a good comparison. This time the wort was very bitter and had a very concentrated hops taste. So I’m hoping this is normal and that the fermentation process will turn it into a nice tasty American Pale Ale. Otherwise I’ll probably be more inclined to stick with the pre-hopped kits, they are a lot less work and I have already got great results – my first batch is a very nice drop and it hasn’t even fully aged yet. Continue Reading »

Jan
11
2011

Extract Brewing Process

To make sure that I don’t miss anything important for my first extract batch and end up running around like a chicken with it’s head chopped off, I have written up my process in advance. This process is my version of the extract brewing process based on best practices that I gathered from various sources and tailored to suit the ingredients and equipment that I have available. Continue Reading »

Jan
10
2011

Froze my beer in the fermentor!

I had read about it happening to others (John Palmer relays his experience freezing his lager in How To Brew), so I didn’t cry when I discovered my frozen ale as I was about to bottle it this evening. But I surely did have to abandon hope of bottling it tonight. I had all my bottles sanitised and my priming sugar boiled when I went in to the fridge to lift out the fermentor of beer that I had been cold crashing for 5 days. I didn’t like the solid look that I saw from the outside and sure enough when I opened the lid, here is what I saw:

Arrgh! It's FROZEN!!!


Continue Reading »

Jan
06
2011

My very first bottle of my own beer!

This evening I cracked open my first bottle from my first batch (Mangrove Jacks Munich Lager). All I can say is WOW, I’m impressed. This hobby is going to be with me for a long time. I’ve had some previews of what it might taste like – all those SG samples, and my mate Andy’s batch of the same beer. And it was nothing like any of them. The gravity samples were interesting and I actually enjoyed them but they were heavy from all that yeast (not to mention flat and warm). I found Andy’s batch kinda like a good malty lager – I compared it to a Macs Gold. But my was nothing like a Macs Gold, it was much more crisp and bitter, more along the lines of a Steinlager Classic only much more dry and bitter. I think if there was any complaint it would be that it is overly bitter, but I like bitter and I think that will mellow a bit with age. Interestingly my wife commented that she liked it but it seemed a bit one-dimensional to her and I think I know what she means – I reckon it’s because it’s so crisp, dry and bitter. (In all honesty I think the fact that I brewed it myself adds a bit to my enjoyment of it.) But it is also much more of a lager type beer than I thought it would be, having brewed it with the kit standard ale yeast and considering that it’s looking a bit darker/redder than typical lager. Continue Reading »

Jan
06
2011

Recipe for first extract brew, a lot learned

As I wrote in my previous post, I have decided on brewing an American Pale Ale and had picked out my ingredients but I hadn’t a recipe to follow. So I turned to the forums to get help coming up with the recipe. After a lot of discussions back and forth on the forums (especially this thread), I came up with a recipe that I have confidence in and I had learned a heck of a lot about home brewing. Continue Reading »

Jan
03
2011

Planning my first extract batch

I am now planning my 3rd batch with batch 1 bottled and batch 2 still in the fermentor. I have yet to taste any finished beer but it is time to get prepared to brew my next batch. (As I mentioned in the previous post, brewing beer is a bit like growing a garden). And my next batch will be another step in the learning process as I take on an extract batch. The difference between extract brewing and kit brewing is that you use unhopped malt extract and do a boil to add in bittering and finishing hops at different times during the boil. I will also use some speciality grains to add an additional dimension and fresh flavour to the beer. Continue Reading »

Dec
27
2010

A new batch brewing

Brewing beer is a bit like growing a garden – it takes time, so you need to plan ahead and then wait patiently for the fruits of your labour. So even though I’ve just bottled 20 litres of beer, it will be weeks before it’s ready for drinking and months before it reaches it’s prime, so in the meantime I’ve got to sow the seeds for next batch. While my first batch was fermenting I had already purchased supplies for my second batch. I went to Bin Inn (the only place in Nelson that sells home brewing supplies) to pick out something to brew next and got a can of Blackrock East India Pale Ale and some BrewCraft beer enhancer (English Bitter No. 70).

The night after bottling batch 1, I got to work on getting my IPA kit brewing. Despite having absorbed a lot more information and tips about brewing since the first time around, it did not exactly go as smooth as I’d hoped. Continue Reading »

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