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.

October Pale Ale

After a bit of a brewing absence (over 5 months since I last put down a brew) my stocks were running low so it was time to brew. I went for my favorite beer type, a good hoppy American style Pale Ale, but with all NZ hops so a New Zealand Pale Ale to be more precise. I used a little Pacific Gem for bittering addition and then 100g each of Waimea, Riwaka and Motueka for the flavour and aroma additions with some set aside for dry hopping. I targeted a 4.75% ABV as I’m finding the stronger beers that I’ve brewed recently a bit too much. I broke my hydrometer so running a bit blind on actual numbers but I’ve brewed enough to trust that it will come out pretty close to the calculated numbers. The addition of a ball valve to my brew kettle made transferring from kettle to fermenter a lot easier. Fermentation was a bit slower than usual to kick off – no action until second morning after. One theory, it could be due to lack of aeration of the wort, I relied on the splashing action of pouring the wort into the fermentor instead of giving it a good shake as usual.

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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.

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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:
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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.
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EZY Blonde

Most of my recent beers have been rich, strong and hoppy beers. So I brewed this one to have a lighter easy drinking beer in my lineup of beers. The base is a blend of pilsner and pale ale malt with a little wheat and carapils for body/mouthfeel, head retention and a little biscuit to add another malty dimension. A good dose of late addition Motueaka hops should add some nice hop flavours/aroma while bitterness level is kept to a pretty low 25 IBUs.

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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.
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Midnight Stout

This is more or less the Foreign Extra Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles with Fuggles hops instead of Kent Goldings. The wort tasted realy nice and chocolatey so I’m expecting good things. I used 3 sachets of Coopers kit yeast as I didn’t have any other yeast on hand. Pitched at 22C and targeted fermentation at 18C. Fermentation took off like a rocket – it was already bubbling when I checked it in the morning (less than 8 hours after pitching). I brewed it at night (I usually do my brewing at night) hence the name Midnight Stout.

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Homegrown Apple Cider

We had a bumper crop of apples this year so I decided to make a 10L batch of cider to use them up. We extracted the juice using an electric juicer. The apples were a combination of 4 different varieties – Egremont Russet, Prescilla, Granny Smith and Initial. I added campden tablets and let it sit for 24+ hours to sanitise the juice. The following day I boiled up the sugar, yeast nutrient and malic acid in 250ml of water to sanitise, cooled it and added it to the must and pitched the cider yeast. The yeast nutrient is needed because, unlike a malt wort, an apple must does not have all of the essential nutrients for healthy yeast development. The malic acid is used to add some tartness.

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Marchfest Waimea Saison

Taking part in the Marchfest Brew Zone brewing demonstrations

Taking part in the Marchfest Brew Zone demonstrations

I brewed this at the Marchfest Nelson Beer Festival where I was one of twelve brewers brewing up a batch of beer in the Brew Zone brewing demonstration area. What a great day out that was! I really enjoyed chatting and sharing my knowledge with the people interested in home brewing.

The Waimea hops were assigned to me at random as the theme of this Marchfest was a random hops draw. We had the range of Mangrove Jacks dried yeasts to choose from. I picked M27, a Belgian Ale/Saison yeast strain, since I figured we’d be dealing with warmer temperatures and lacked a temperature controled enviornment for the beer’s first night. So that lead to me trying out the Saison style for the first time. This style ferments out to a very low gravity – some sugar is included in the ingredients to assist with that goal and fermenting temperature is very warm (from high 20s up to 32C).

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2014 Hops Harvest Ale No. 2

I should have called this brew Hops Stew!!!  1.75kg of fresh hops in this brew – pure hop madness! I had to work hard just shove all those hops into the kettle, stuffing them down into the thick hops/wort porridge either side of the imerssion cooler coils. No bag this time, there is no way I could have fitted them in if I used a bag in the kettle due to the constriction of the wort chiller. Instead I sanitised the bag in starsan and used it to line the fermenter when I dumped in the hoppy wort, then pulled out the bag to remove the hops material. Of course there was a serious amount of the precious hoppy wort soaked into the large volume of hops cones so I had to get a bit unorthodox and get my hands (washed in starsan) involved to squeeze out the wort which I added back into the fermenter.

I was a little concerned at the lenght of time my rehydrated yeast was sitting for before pitching (it had started to expand), so in addition to the rehydrated yeast I sprinked some more dry yeast on the wort as a fermentation insurance policy.

I racked it to secondary carboy after 5 days because I needed my main 30L fermenter for the Marchfest brew up, gravity was already down to 1.012.

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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.


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

2014 Hops Harvest No. 1

My mash temperature started off lower than anticipated. My strike water temperature was 71C but my mash ended up around 62-63C instead of the 65-66 I had expected based on the calculator. So I added 1.5L of boiling water after 15 mins which brought it up to 64.5C and another 1.5L after 60mins which again brought it back to 64.5C. I gave it a long mash time of 110 mins. Temp was 63.5C at end of mash. The lower temperature longer mash should result in a highly fermentable wort which, accourding to the theory, will help enhance the hops flavours.

I used a bag to facilitate removal of spent hops flowers. The bag was restricted to a small area inside the wort chiller. I’m wondering if this overly restricted their movement in the boling wort and reduced amount of oils extracted into the wort? I’m trying to think of a better approach. Last year I dumped them straight into the boil and strained them out when transferring into the fermenter. It took awhile dealing with the sheer volume of hops material so may not have ben most ideal solution. Maybe next time sanatise the grain bag, and insert into fermentor, then pour in wort and lift out hops? Definately worth a try!

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Restrained APA

The last 2 beers were intense hoppy IPAs with quite dark malts so for this one I went for something lighter along the lines of the APA recipes in Brewing Classic Styles. I kept hops basic with NZ Cascade for flavour and aroma and Pacific Gem for bittering. I had to restrain myself to only put in 100g of hops into this batch (the last 2 had more like 300g per batch), hence the name ‘Restrained APA’. This is my first beer brewed with my new gear – I’ve moved from the kitchen to out on the deck with a propane burner and 50L pot. My BIAB bag was made for a smaller pot but it did the job fine. In fact I found it an advantage having a smaller bag when it came to sparging in a smaller second pot.

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Working Title IPA II

My last batch turned out so good that I decided to make more of the same, but of course I had to make a few tweaks. Hop profile is modified a bit, I scaled back on the Citra a bit to allow some of the other hops to come through more. I also upped the Rye malt to see if I can notice what it does. And I took the extra step of rehydrating the yeast instead of sprinkling it dry.

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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.

Working Title IPA

This was a cobbled together kinda recipe. I chucked in a tin of Coopers instead of struggeling with a larger mash/boil size on my limited equipment capabilities. I have some Rye malt to experiment with so I just added a very small amount to see if it would do anything noticible, maybe impart a hint of spiciness. I used pilsner malt as the base grain because I have a quantity of it on hand. I went with fruity hops, Cascade, Citra, Nelson Sauvin, Motueaka. I used the Citra more sparingly this time as I learned from my Citra Pale Ale that Citra can be quite over-bearing.

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Southern Cross Pilsner

This was my first time doing a lager. I mashed for 8o mins because a longer mash time is recommended at lower mash temperatures. Temperature at start of mash was 65.7C and at end was 63.9C with no heating during mash.

Did a 90 min boil instead of the usual 60 since pilsner malt needs extra boil time to help reomve DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide) which is more of an issue in pilsner malts as they are kilned at a lower temperature.

This was also my first time rehydrating dry yeast. Normally I just sprinkle the dry yeast directly on the wort. Yeast count is more critical for cooler temperature fermentations so I decided to give rehydration below. I rehydrated in cooled boiled water at around 37C. I had read an online guide to rehydration suggesting to rehydrate at 40C but not over 40 as it kills the yeast. After I was done and dusted I checked the Fermentis spec sheet and noticed they recommended a much lower 23C for rehydrating S23 – quite a big difference! That got me a bit concerned but fermentation was active the next day – sooner than for most ales that I’ve done – so all looks to be fine. Next time I stay closer to manufacturers recommended rehydration temperature.

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Citra Pale Ale

This is my first brew with my new BIAB setup. I went for a small batch as a sort of trial run.

I intended to dry hop this beer but forgot. Anyway it had plenty of hop character at bottling.

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Hops Harvest Ale

Brewed with fresh picked green hops. Came third in Nelson SOBA Homebrew comp.

I used a lot of hops so there was a lot of wort absorbed into the hops. As a result target gravity came out considerably less than calculated. But still ended up being one of my better beers.

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