Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brew #55: German Pilsener

This is a straightforward simple pilsener with hopefully quite a bit of hop flavour and aroma. I just realize that I forgot to add the sulphates required to enhance the hop crispness. Not sure how much it'll matter as I'm sure it'll be fine anyway.

I added a little specialty malts to increase the malt complexity somewhat.

The plan is to brew a doppelbock in about two weeks that I then rack on top of the yeast cake from the pilsener. The Bavarian lager yeast is supposed to be very well suited for rich and malty lagers. Pitching on top of the yeast cake from another batch is a nice way to make sure that one has enough yeast for a healthy fermentation. That is important for strong lagers like doppelbocks.

The batch was brewed 2007-11-29.

German Pilsener
25 liters. All grain, batch sparge
11 EBC (Golden)
32 IBU
5800g Pilsener malt
150g Carapils
150g Aroma malt
64C, 60 min
76C, 10 min (mashout)
66% efficiency
20g Warrior pellets, 13.8%, 60 min
40g Hallertauer Mittelfrüh whole, 3.8%, 10 min
60g Hallertauer Mittelfrüh whole, 3.8%, 1 min
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager, 2 packs, production date 2007-04-30, 2.5 liter starter on stir plate
90 min
In the fridge at 9.0 to 10.5 C.

OG: 1.048 FG: 1.011 abv: 4.8%

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Magnetic Stir Plate

This is one of the better brewing investments I've made in the last year. The magnetic stir plate is very good at kick-starting the beer yeast. I typically create 2 liter yeast starters from a single pack of liquid yeast.

I have three erlenmeyer flasks, in 1 liter, 3 liter and 5 liter sizes. The 3 liter one can be seen in the photo above.

Creating the yeast starter is straightforward: Fill the flask with water from the tap. Put it on the stove, turn on the heat and wait until the water heats up. Then add 1 tablespoon of dried malt extract per dl of water. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Stir well and let it boil for about five minutes in the erlenmeyer flasks. This makes sure that both the yeast starter and the flask is properly disinfected. Cover the opening of the flask with aluminum foil or plastic wrap to prevent things from falling into the pristine wort. Cool it down to about 20 degrees C in a cold water bath before adding the yeast. Then spray the scissors and the opening of the yeast pack with a strong alcohol solution to make sure that no bacteria gets in contact with the yeast on its way to the yeast starter. Wait for the alcohol to evaporate before opening and pouring the yeast into the erlenmeyer flask. Finally, add the stir bar (make sure that it is disinfected) and put it on the magnetic stirrer. The stirring will provide the yeast with lots of oxygen.

It usually take a day or two before the yeast has fermented out the yeast starter.

Brew #54: Christmas Ale

Inspired by the upcoming season I've decided to make a strong and malty brew with a subtle hint of spices. This brew should be a nice sipping beer for Christmas. I suspect that it'll end up similar to an English Old Ale because of the muscovado sugar.

The yeast pack was smacked on Sunday and it had not really expanded fully when I made the starter wort on Tuesday evening. Anyway, after about 12 hours there were lots of activity on the magnetic stir plate. The yeast is known for its impressive capability of flocculating. After the fermentation was over large clumps of yeast where spinning around the erlenmeyer flask. When the stir plate stopped all yeast fell straight down to the bottom. Kind of cool, but I hope it ferments out my beer before deciding to clump together in the bucket.

The batch was brewed 2007-11-15.

English Old Ale
25 liters. All grain, batch sparge
63 EBC (Dark brown)
30 IBU
4000g Pale malt
1400g Amber malt
1000g Rauchmalz
830g Münchener malt
400g Crystal malt
300g Dark crystal malt
300g Special B
100g Pale chocolate malt
500g Billington's Unrefined Dark Muscovado Cane Sugar
6 cm cinnamon bark
1 small vanilla bean
68C, 60 min
76C, 10 min (mashout)
72% efficiency
40g Northern Brewer pellets, 10.0%, 60 min
30g Saaz pellets, 2.0%, 10 min
Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale Yeast, production date 2007-04-30, 2 liter starter on stir plate
90 min
Water treatment:
2 ts calcium carbonate
1/2 ts calcium chloride
OG: 1.081 FG: 1.024 abv: 7.5%

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Hop Stopper

One of the gadgets I got for my new brewery is The Hop Stopper. It is quite nice, but I have had some problems with it. It is being advertised as being able to remove both whole and pellet hops. Unfortunately it does not work very well with pellet hops when using an impeller pump. I'm sure it would work better with a different kind of pump though.

As you can see from the photo above the mesh is very fine and stops even the tiny fragments of hop pellets. This means that the hop pellet debris ends up as a thick layer all around the hop stopper restricting the flow of the wort.

Both of the times I have used it has clogged and has been almost impossible to get any wort out of the kettle, mainly because the impeller pump does not create a suction. I was lucky and in the end able to get most of the wort out by various means, but I had to leave a lot of it in the brewpot as it was impossible to get out the rest.

It is pretty clear that with my setup I must use only whole hops. I have not tried this yet, but I see no other option. As far as I can see that should work a lot better. In the worst case I'll just have to put the hops in a hop bag.

The primary reason for using the Hop Stopper is to avoid the hop debris from ending up in the plate chiller. Hop pellets shouldn't be much of a problem as long as the chiller is properly cleaned after use, but whole hops would be a nightmare.

I'll keep you updated once I get try it with whole hops in the spring.