Mar 12 2017
Jan 23 2017
A dark ale for dark times…
Based on a beer that I made in 2014 – Fuggles Gem Dark Ale (which was based on Hobgoblin). Similar base but with Willamette hops (the American version of Fuggles) instead of Fuggles and Pacific Gem. Came out good, can’t remember if it was as good as the Fuggles Gem though.
Dec 22 2016
A Saison with a hint of kaffir lime and chilli.
Got this one really clear by racking to secondary, then racking again at bottling time. Made a tea with 7 kaffir lime leaves and added to secondary after some taste testing to make sure it wasn’t going to be too over-powering. Soaked a chopped up thai chilli in hot priming sugar solution to get the chilli. Aimed to keep kaffir and chilli subtle.
Sep 07 2016
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.
Sep 05 2016
First use of new grainmill and new grainbag. Big gain in efficiency: 93% mash efficiency compared to typically around 80% with old bag. Old bag was under-sized for pot, new one is plenty big so better able to mix grain and water, also temp appears more even.
Retroactively named this one ‘Swamp Monster’ due to it’s murky appearance. A lot of sediment and it being a bit over-carbed churns it all up. Not the prettiest but tastes pretty good.
Jun 05 2016
Inspired by some interesting posts on Brulosophy.com I tried out a new ‘express’ approach to brewing – short mash (30 min), short boil (25 min), short final hops stand (5 min). This resulted in a nice short brew night and I didn’t notice any downsides apart from a small loss in efficiency so I think I will be taking this approach again in the future.
Feb 05 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)
- washed approx 20kg fruit in bath of warm water & washing soda (sodium carbonate) – not sure of ideal qty
- rinsed fruit in bath of cold water
- slit fruit with sharp knife to make easier for mashing
- mashed with potato masher
- added 4 campden tablets crushed and mixed in warm water
- let sit over night and added pectic enzyme next morning (best to wait at least 8 hours as SO2 retards action of pectic enzyme)
- 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)
- 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.
- Added 12g yeast nutrient and 1 yeast activator tablet crushed. The latter was probably unnecessary but I had them on hand so why not.
- 13 Jan: Pitched 2 pks of Vintners Harvest VR21 Yeast. Pitched dry as recommended in the yeast instructions.
- Added more 2L plum juice after fermentation had kicked in
- Added 5L wine from batch 2 on 20th Jan
- 5 Feb (day 23) – racked to glass carboy
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
- 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).
- Removed 2L juice from tap on kettle and added to batch 1. SG was 11 Brix.
- 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.
- Pitched 2 packets of dried yeast ( VR21 – same as batch 1)
- 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.
- 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.
Dec 21 2015
Pitched this onto the yeast cake of the previous pilsner. Managed to chill the wort down to 12.5°C by pumping ice water through the immersion chiller. Due to pitching on yeast cake there was a very short lag time – obvious fermentation activity within 12 hours (at 12°C).
Result was just ok – tasted fine, slightly sweet/malty, not much bitterness and despite an extended lagering period quite a lot of sediment ended up in the bottles resulting in a cloudy appearance.