Monday, May 25, 2015

Sanitation or: How I came to love cleaning kegs

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a bit obsessive about sanitation. I have my brewing mentor Bill C to thank for that! 

A couple months ago the AHA (American Homebrewers Association - you should join if you're a homebrewer!) sent out an old article about a DIY keg and carboy washer. I recently came across an old sump pump in the shed at Casa del Nesto... 
Flotec 1/6 HP Submersible Pump

...and decided it could serve a much better use than as a retired door stop. 

My pump, a Flotec 1/6 HP Submersible Pump, was quite a bit taller (and more powerful - grunt, grunt!) than the one used in the AHA article, so I had to make some modifications. If you are making your own, I might suggest a smaller pump - 600GPH should be adequate, maybe a pond pump. 

For my uses, I suppose I could have just bought larger buckets (75 liter/20 gallon would have worked) to accommodate the larger pump, but I wanted to keep it cheaper than just buying a fully assembled system from MoreBeer. Which works great if you don't have the DIY chops - use my affiliate link if you want to buy your own!

Here is what I put together, if you can do it with fewer adapters, I don't want to hear about it! I put it together with what I could find at MoreBeer and Home Depot (sorry all my international friends, all sizes in US Units). Since I had the pump, buckets, trash can, and several of the fittings already, I was able to put this together for about $40. 

Materials (from the pump end moving up)
1/6 HP/1200GPH submersible pump
3/4" Female Garden Hose Thread to 3/4" FPT brass adapter
3/4" MPT to 3/4" slip PVC adapter
3/4″ PVC pipe (2" - buy a single 2 ft section and cut to size)
3/4″ cross fitting
3/4″ PVC pipe (3.5" X 2 - buy a single 2 ft section and cut to size)
Two 3/4″ caps
3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer
1/2″ pipe (buy a single 2 ft section and cut to size)
1/2" slip to 1/2" MPT adapter
Full pattern 1/2" FPT spray nozzle

Removable keg fitting cleaner: 
3/4″ PVC T fitting
3/4″ PVC pipe (2" - buy a single 2 ft section and cut to size)
3/4″ PVC pipe (2.5" - buy a single 2 ft section and cut to size)
3/4″ slip to 3/4" FPT PVC threaded elbow
3/4" MPT to 3/4" Male Garden Hose Thread brass adapter

I cheated a bit since this was cheaper than buying the parts to hook up to a keg individually. Here is what it consists of: 
3/4" Female Garden Hose Thread to 3/8" barb brass adapter
4 feet tubing - 3/8" ID and 5/8" OD
2 feet tubing - 1/4" ID and 1/2" OD
Beer and CO2 ball lock quick disconnects with barb fitting
plastic T adapter
6 worm clamps

To this MoreBeer Keg Rinser, I added a little extra feature with the following items...
Hose Cleaning Adapter
3/8" tubing
4 worm clamps

And Finally: 
Two 5 gallon buckets - 1 orange and 1 white
50 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck trash can (I think the square profile of this one is helpful)

Here is the basic setup: 
Nesto's Neato Keg and Carboy Cleaner
There are some sections of this cleaner that you want to be able to add and remove, so don't go crazy and use PVC primer and cement on every fitting! You might be able to get away with no cement, but my pump is strong enough that it will blow off the caps if I did not ;) Don't ask me how I know that. 

You should only use primer/cement in three assemblies after first making sure it all fits in your setup.
  1. Cement the 2" section of 3/4" PVC pipe that goes into the 3/4" MPT to 3/4" slip PVC adapter (the one that screws into the brass adapter that goes on the pump outlet). DO NOT cement the side of the 3/4" pipe that goes into the removable keg fitting - you want to take this in and out. 
  2. Cement the pieces on the side of the 3/4″ PVC T fitting - the 2.5" section of 3/4" PVC pipe and the 3/4" elbow. Cement the 2" section of 3/4" PVC pipe going from the top of the T fitting. DO NOT cement the other side of this 2section of 3/4" PVC pipe going into the cross fitting. 
  3. Cement all joints on the two sides of the 3/4″ cross fitting and cement the 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer to the cross fitting and the 1/2" PVC pipe that goes into the reducer. I chose not to cement the top side of the 1/2" PVC pipe that goes into the 1/2" slip to 1/2" MPT adapter because I want to be able to take that section on and off depending on what I'm cleaning. 
The keg fitting is inserted above the pump and diverts cleaning solution to a pair of keg fittings. This is a very nice idea from the original design that ensures your dip tube and gas tube get nice and clean! To this fitting, I added this little section... 
Hose cleaning adapter
It has a plastic ball valve, so that I can connect hoses and clean them at the same time as I'm doing my kegs. I still have to work various adapters to fit all my different size hoses, but it's a great little addition. When I use this, I simply feed the hose back down into the bucket. 

You might be wondering what this T-section if for...

It is there as a support for the inverted keg to sit on while being cleaned. Here is where my pump size bit me a bit. As you can see in Matt's original design, his kegs can sit down in the bucket and rest nicely. 
Matt's Keg and Carboy Cleaner
My kegs and carboys don't fit nicely inside the bucket... 
Carboy on the cleaning assembly - note that the keg fitting is not installed
so I came up with this...
Carboy cleaning

Keg cleaning
Using the Keg and Carboy Washer
Fill the orange bucket with about 5 liters (1.5 gallons) hot PBW solution, and the white bucket with 5 liters of water. It should be enough to immerse the pump inlet fully with a bit to spare. I always use colors on my buckets so I can easily keep track on what is in each - orange for PBW, green for Sanitizer, and white for water. 

A 15-minute PBW wash. If washing a carboy, place the bucket, pump and assembly without the keg fitting into the trash can. Carefully place the carboy on the cleaning wand and get it balanced so it will drain into the bucket. Then plug your pump in and watch the magic... or go do something else! If washing a keg, insert the keg cleaning fitting, place the cleaning assembly into the trash can, attach the quick disconnects to the keg...
Cleaning assembly quick disconnects
... and place the keg over the cleaning wand and get it balanced so it will drain into the bucketI find it most efficient to do all the PBW cleaning I need to do first, then move on to rinsing with water. 

For a 1 minute water rinse. Remove the entire assembly from the orange bucket. Give a quick spray with water. Move the entire assembly into the water bucket and let 'er rip. You can also do a Sanitizer rinse for your kegs if you feel like it. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to get more out of your Braumeister and make some Special Saison

All brewing systems have their idiosyncrasies, strengths, and weaknesses. One that our Braumeister system has is the amount of grain that can be used. Our malt pipe...
BM20 Malt Pipe
 ... can hold 4.5kg (10lbs) according to Speidel, but most owners have found that you can fit about 6kg (13lbs) pretty easily and up to 7kg (15.5lbs) if you are patient and know some tricks. As far as the water goes, you need enough water to fill up the mash pipe and still cover the heating coil. Here's a diagram of the system. 
Diagram of the Braumeister

Here's a little video of the Braumeister in action. You can see that the malt pipe. where the grain is, fills up with water and it spills over the side where it fills up the space outside the malt pipe. 
Initial flow after mash in
You need a minimum of about 21 liters (5.5 gallons) of water. We might explore the minimum water amount some other time, but for now we will look at the maximum amount of wort we can get out of the Braumeister. For a regular size batch of 19 liters, you actually start with 30 liters of water. If you could fit 7kg of grain in the malt pipe (a difficult task!) you would end up with an Original Gravity (OG) of 1.077. With a good fermentation, you would end up with an 8% ABV beer. Not bad, but sometimes we want more... more beer and/or more alcohol. 

We started the day with 6.5kg of grain for our malt pipe...
Mash in - it's pretty full!
... and 34.5 liters of water. 
Now THAT'S a full mash tun!

We finished the mash with 27 liters of wort, which we boiled down to 21 liters. With the addition of 1.36kg (3lbs) honey, 0.91kg (1lb) Belgian Candi sugar, and 1.36kg (3lbs) of Pilsner liquid malt extract to get to a gravity of 1.112!!! But we're not trying to make a 12% ABV beer today. 

We had the dilution water ready (boiled, then cooled, with brewing salts already added to get pH right). We added it right after we put our immersion chiller in. Our Original Gravity was 1.066, just .001 off our target, and we got 37 liters out of our Braumeister (almost double the normal batch size!) in order to fill up two fermenters and do a side-by-side fermentation with two different yeasts. 

When we made our Northeast Kentucky Breakfast Stout, we did a double mash day to make 38 liters of wort. It was a long day! Our brew today used a single mash and we were done in 6 hours - a normal length brew day. 

We're using the conical for the regular Saison batch and the Speidel 30l fermenter for the Wyeast Mt Adams Blend (I'll write about that another time), which has Brettanomyces - so it goes on the wild side of the brewery. I just pitched the yeast a couple hours ago. Here's the recipe...

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Special Saison (2.2)
Brewer: Ernie et al
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Saison
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 29.62 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.92 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 38.00 l   
Bottling Volume: 35.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.067 SG
Estimated Color: 9.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
5.58 kg               Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)            Grain         1        54.3 %        
0.39 kg               Munich Malt (7.8 SRM)                    Grain         2        3.8 %         
0.33 kg               Wheat Malt (1.8 SRM)                     Grain         3        3.2 %         
0.20 kg               Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                      Grain         4        1.9 %         
0.17 kg               CaraMunich 60 (60.0 SRM)                 Grain         5        1.6 %         
30.00 g               Magnum [10.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           6        19.9 IBUs     
18.00 g               Cascade [5.60 %] - Boil 15.0 min         Hop           7        3.3 IBUs      
1.00 tsp              Wyeast Nutrient  (Boil 10.0 mins)        Other         8        -             
0.50 Items            Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 5.0 mins)         Fining        9        -             
25.00 g               Hallertauer Mittelfruh [2.70 %] - Boil 1 Hop           10       0.2 IBUs      
17.00 g               Saaz [2.90 %] - Boil 1.0 min             Hop           11       0.1 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Belgian Saison Blend (White Labs #WLP565 Yeast         12       -             
1.0 pkg               Mount Adams Blend (Klickitat) (Wyeast #) Yeast         13       -             
1.35 kg               Pilsner Liquid Extract (3.5 SRM)         Extract       14       13.1 %        
1.36 kg               Honey (1.0 SRM)                          Sugar         15       13.2 %        
0.91 kg               Candi Sugar, Amber (36.0 SRM)            Sugar         16       8.8 %         

Mash Schedule: 00_BM20, 5 Step, Saison
Total Grain Weight: 10.29 kg
Name                               Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Ferulic Acid Rest                  Add 34.50 l of water and heat to 40.0 C 40.0 C        20 min        
Protein Rest                       Add 0.00 l of water and heat to 56.0 C  56.0 C        15 min        
Saccrification - Beta              Add -0.00 l of water and heat to 62.0 C 62.0 C        30 min        
Saccrificatin - alpha              Add -0.00 l of water and heat to 68.0 C 68.0 C        15 min        
Mash Out                           Add -0.00 l of water and heat to 77.0 C 77.0 C        20 min        

Sparge: If steeping, remove grains, and prepare to boil wort
Test of max volume. Added approx 15 liters of water that was treated for pH and boiled. Added right after I put chiller in. Filled to 41.9cm, approx 38.5 liters. Will need to test how much volume the chiller coil displaced to see what volume was. Left 1liter in kettle trub. 

Filled Speidel a little too much, ~21 liters. So I assume about 16 liters in conical. 

Created with BeerSmith 2 -

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dubbel down on flavor!

Belgain Dubbel. It's a style rich in brewing tradition. Some of the finest examples are from Trappist breweries - Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay, etc. And back in March, the cooperative brewed our own interpretation of the style which was just bottled. 

In February, my homebrew club, DOZE, announced a club competition in conjunction with Black Diamond Brewery. Almost any style of beer was allowed - no sours or barrel aged beers - but you had to use one of four yeasts: WLP 001 (California Ale), 007 (English Ale), 530 (Abbey Ale), or a lager yeast. Given the 41 we got at NHC Sacramento from Annie Johnson on our Premium American Lager, maybe we should have entered that, but I wanted to test out a dubbel recipe to see if it would be a good candidate to go into our bourbon barrel next. 

I combined ideas from Jamil Zainasheff's Black Scapular Dubbel in Brewing Classic Styles and a Westvleteren 8 clone recipe from, a supplier of Belgian style candi syrups and sugars. Check the end of this post for the recipe. The grain bill is very simple, just Pilsner and Pale malts. Many Belgian style beers add sugars to increase alcohol content, add color, and promote a dry finish. In this recipe, we added Belgian Candi Sugar to boost the alcohol and dry finish and's D-180 Candi Syrup to get the nice dark color with some hints of red. 

Eastern Priory 4
Brew day went well with this beer, we exceeded our gravity target (1.072 vs. 1.063) , so the beer with be quite a bit stronger than a typical dubbed - almost 9% ABV. Fermentation progressed well, we started at 18C (64F) and raised it 1C per day until 25C (77F). Fermentation finished at 1.007 and we chilled it down to lager at 10C (50F) for five weeks before bottling. 

It's a nice rich beer. Malty sweetness with a full body, but it still finishes pretty dry. There is a nice mix of esters - dark, dried fruits - and phenols - some clove and pepper. There is a little hop flavor from the nice whole leaf Hallertauer Mittelfrueh and the pellets of Styrian Goldings used. 

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Eastern Priory 4
Brewer: Ernie et al
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Belgian Dubbel
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 27.23 l
Post Boil Volume: 21.53 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 20.70 l   
Bottling Volume: 18.95 l
Estimated OG: 1.069 SG
Estimated Color: 17.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4.08 kg               Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)            Grain         1        65.5 %        
1.13 kg               Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         2        18.1 %        
17.00 g               Northern Brewer [9.60 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop           3        19.6 IBUs     
6.00 g                Nugget [12.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           4        9.2 IBUs      
22.00 g               Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.70 %] - Boil  Hop           5        5.0 IBUs      
15.00 g               Styrian Goldings [2.50 %] - Boil 15.0 mi Hop           6        2.2 IBUs      
0.68 kg               Belgian Candi Syrup, Dark [Boil for 15 m Sugar         7        10.9 %        
0.34 kg               Candi Sugar, Amber [Boil for 15 min](75. Sugar         8        5.5 %         
1.0 pkg               Abbey Ale (White Labs #WLP530) [35.49 ml Yeast         9        -             

Mash Schedule: 00_BM20, 4 Step
Total Grain Weight: 6.23 kg
Name                               Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Beta Glucan Rest                   Add 31.02 l of water and heat to 40.0 C 40.0 C        5 min         
Saccharification - Beta Amylase    Add 0.01 l of water and heat to 65.0 C  65.0 C        80 min        
Saccharification - Alpha Amylase   Add 0.00 l of water and heat to 72.0 C  72.0 C        10 min        
Mash Out                           Add -0.00 l of water and heat to 77.0 C 77.0 C        15 min        

Sparge: If steeping, remove grains, and prepare to boil wort
Combo of BCS Black Scapular and Westy 8

Raise ferment temp from 18C to 25C over a course of one week.

Crash to 10C and lager for 1 month at 10C (50F) when done fermenting.

Created with BeerSmith 2 -

Friday, April 10, 2015

On to Nationals!!!

Just a quick note. Results from the Sacramento region of the National Homebrewers Conference came out today and two of our entries will continue on to the national finals!

Our Weizen was the best in its subcategory (Weizen/Weissbier) and #2 overall in the German Wheat and Rye Beer category. 

Our McIntosh Blueberry Cider was #1 overall in the Specialty Cider and Perry category. 
McIntosh Blueberry Cider

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nightmare on Barley Street (Part 2)

I wish I had taken the time for a few photos of how bad the black crud was. You'll just have to take it on faith or ask Hirendu, who helped clean up that fateful Saturday morning.

Safety first! For all these steps with increasingly caustic cleaning solutions, I wore safety goggles, a mask, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves

I did two overnight soaks in Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW, available from MoreBeer via that link!), which took a decent amount of the burnt grain off, but there was still almost 50% of the coil covered with hard, nearly impossible to remove burnt sugar and protein.

Next I moved on to ammonia. 
I put 1 cup (236ml) of ammonia in a Pyrex measuring cup in the Braumeister. You don't pour it in, you put the measuring up and let the vapors work. I got a hint from a user on the Braumeister forum (thanks McMullan!) to add an additional container of just boiled water to help out. I covered the top with cling wrap and covered that with the Braumeister lid. 

Next day, I put on my mask, glasses, and gloves and carefully removed the cup of ammonia. I let the ammonia gas diffuse and then scrubbed the coil with a white scrubby for a while. Although I was able to get some additional crud off, there was still a lot left. With an inspection mirror, I could see that the bottom of the coil was heavily caked with the burnt mess. I had to take the element out to be able to get at the mess better. 

It is actually somewhat difficult to take the element out in the BM20, so here is a primer with pictures to help you through it if ever needed. I didn't take pictures until I put things back together, so... SPOILERS... you'll notice the heating coil is already clean, but I'll get back to that story. 

To start with, I unplugged the heating element, pump, and temperature sensor from the controller and removed the controller so I had room to maneuver. The pump and heater plugs have gaskets, make sure you catch them.

Controller with cables unplugged

Rubber gasket for STAS200 plug
I didn't see anything fall out of the temp sensor, so hopefully I didn't lose anything  Make sure to make note of the direction of the temp sensor pins. The plug is keyed, but the pins look fragile enough that you could bend them if you mash it in wrong. 

Temp sensor plug
Next I took apart the plug for the heating element. You unscrew that silver screw in the middle of the body and unscrew the plastic nut on the end of the body. Note the order of the stuff - plastic nut, metal washer, rubber gasket. The body of the plug is jammed onto the termination block pretty tightly. And there isn't much slack from the wires, so you only have a little bit of slack to expose the termination block.

Heater plug

Plastic nut on heating plug
Termination block for STAS200
Once the termination block is exposed, you unscrew two tiny (!) screws to remove a collar (already removed in this picture). Unscrew the two screws in the plastic body and you can pull the two blue wires out. The larger gold screw can remain in place. Being an electrical engineer in a previous life, I had carefully marked each wire as it came out and realized at this point that it probably didn't matter much, as this is a heating circuit. But I did follow my markings when reassembling in case there were specific spacing issues.

Once the plug was disassembled, I could now thread the box wrench I had over the wires and onto the two nuts on the bottom side of the tank which hold the element in place. They had some kind of thread lock on them and have heat shrink tubing that both make them a little tight. I warmed with a hairdryer (thanks paulg!) which helped a bit. And once I loosened them a bit and frayed the heat shrink tubing, I verrry carefully cut away the outer layer of heat shrink tubing, taking care not to cut the inner wire.

One of the nuts is in a pretty easy place to get off, but the second was in a heck of a tight spot. Here is the tougher of the two.
The tough nut...
With the placement of this nut behind one of the legs, I didn't have much room to work with and didn't have quite the right combination of ratchets and extensions. So I ended up just using a box ratchet I had and taking it one click at a time and finally got it off. 
It is helpful to use a wrench to hold the nut in place on the inside of the tank while you loosen the nuts from the bottom of the kettle. When you put it back together, you need that wrench to make sure the coil is centered in the tank. If you don't, you can bend the coil so it's touching the sides, which I'm sure would not be a good thing.

Inside, there is a washer and the nut you've been using to keep from twisting the coil all over the place.

Inside gasket and nut

And with all that taken care of, you can finally remove the heating coil from the BM. 
Clean heating coil!
See how nice and shiny mine is now, let's talk about the additional cleaning steps I used to get it in this condition. 

After taking the coil out, I did another round with ammonia and the element wrapped in two plastic garbage bags (an idea I found for cleaning my cooking grill grates) - again with the ammonia in a Pyrex cup. I didn't see an easy way to remove the heating element from the stainless coil (not sure you even can?) so I wrapped the wire portion of the element in ziplock bags and taped them up so I wouldn't mess up the wire as I put more and more caustic cleaners to the coil. 

The second round of ammonia didn't do much more, so I moved on to barkeepers friend (oxalic acid). I made a paste of it with water and rubbed it on. Let it sit for several minutes and started scrubbing. This did a little more to get stuff off, but it wasn't quite enough. Next I sprayed the coil with Easy Off Oven Cleaner (lye) and wrapped it in a garbage bag and let it sit for 3 hours. Unwrapped it and started scrubbing again. At this point I switched between Easy Off and BKF, rinsing in between. (Not being a chemist, I wasn't sure if mixing them was a good idea, or if it might just neutralize them both!) With about an hour of work and only my white brewery cleaning scrubbie I have a once again pristine heating coil. Some might have resorted to heavier mechanical means - sanding, stainless steel wool, etc. But I was wary of going down that route as it would have meant that I might need to do some significant touch up work to get the coil back to proper functioning. 

I have now tested it all out - pump, heating coil and temp sensor are all working perfectly!

I'm still not exactly sure what went wrong in the first place to cause the problem. The grain to water ratio was pretty average - 5.5kg of grain with 29 liters of water. I did use a different 2-row pale malt this time: Rahr, I usually use Great Western; it could have been something peculiar to that grain. A common issue for wort "fountaining" is the grain mill setting. I used the mill at my LHBS, which has been good for the last 20 brews, but did seem a bit floury this time (I'm not sure if I'm just thinking that because I had issues). Unfortunately, they do adjust the gap once in a while when they have issues with their own test brews and the retail store clerks don't always know what it is set for. I shall be careful in the future. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nightmare on Barley Street (Part 1)

Those of you from the Braumeister forum know this story already as I came on the forum last weekend in a panic. But let's go back to the start...

I wanted to try out a technique that several Braumeisters have tried out - an overnight mash. The idea was to mash in Friday night before I went to bed. The Braumeister would go through all the mash steps automatically and hold the wort at 77C until the morning when the cooperative would meet up to remove the malt pipe and start the boil. Splitting the brew day up into two segments would have me do a short segment in the evening - about 30 minutes to setup and mash in - and then our group would do a longer segment the next day - about 3 hours to boil, chill, and clean up. Splitting up the day like this gives us a short "brew day" while only requiring just a short investment the night before. Sounds like a winner!!

Although many breweries hold wort at mash out temp for up to a few hours as they prepare for a boil, I have not been able to find much science on the effect of holding the wort for several hours at mash out temperature. Theoretically, not much should happen in an overnight mash as the enzymes are fairly quickly denatured at 77C, but overnight mashers have typically reported higher efficiency (extracting more sugars from the malt) and slightly darker beers. I wasn't too concerned with these two effects as we were going to rebrew NestWeiser / Nod Light Lime
Nod Light Lime
Efficiency was already very high for this beer with the 2 hour saccharification rest, so I didn't expect an efficiency increase to be much or make a difference. And as far as color, since the beer weighs in at 3.9SRM (very light), I didn't think a little more darkness would cause a problem. 

Oh hubris, you are a harsh mistress! After 20 brews without even a hint of a wort fountain that some Braumeister users have had, I started the overnight brew on Friday after dinner. Without thinking much of it, I did notice how there seemed to be a bit more flour than usual in the cracked grain. 

Within about 5 minutes of starting the mash, during the first step (10 mins at 40C), I had some problems with the gasket I use on the malt pipe. 
Braumeister malt pipe with gasket

I was still paying attention, so it didn't make too much of a mess, but wort started squirting out right between the gasket and the malt pipe. I stopped the mash and stirred well. In hindsight, I should have just aborted the brew at that point, but I forged ahead. I kept checking the mash for the next 2 hours and everything seemed ok, so I left the Braumeister and went to bed.

When I got up Saturday morning at about 7AM and went into the garage, I knew something was wrong. I smelled burnt grain right away and found a gigantic mess. At some point during the night, the gasket was breached completely and wort and grain sprayed out. Sticky wort was all over the garage floor and my motorcycle, close by the Braumeister. But the worst was that the Braumeister 
heating coil was caked with black, burnt grain. 

At first, I didn't know the extent of the mess. I started to clean up and put some cleaner in the Braumeister hoping that we could just discard the overnight wort and grain and restart for a regular, full brew day. But it wasn't to be. In a couple hours, we knew the day was shot and decided to cancel the brew day... all the while, still hoping we could maybe have things clean and ready to brew again in a couple days.

How wrong I was. Tune in next time for our hero's journey into the depths of despair while cleaning a heating coil.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some "New England" Cider

My absolute favorite apple is the McIntosh. You can't get very good ones out here in California, but Trader Joes has a pretty good McIntosh Apple Juice that I've used as the flavor backbone of our latest cider. We made this cider back in January and recently bottled it up. 

Now this really isn't a New England Cider. In addition to using New England apple varieties like McIntosh, New England Ciders are usually higher in alcohol and often barrel aged - so I only hit one of the three. I'm not messing much with my tried and true fermentable base cider - once again we start with Kirkland Fresh Pressed 100% Apple Juice. A nice clean juice without any additives. 

Added some yeast nutrient and fermented with Wyeast 1028 - London Ale Yeast. As long as you take care with making sure your yeast are happy, the London Ale yeast will rip through those sugars. Primary fermentation finished at 1.005, for a 6.5% alcohol cider. 

After adding some potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate to prevent any further fermentation, we added the McIntosh Apple Juice from Trader Joes. We tried out a new fining agent - Biofine Clear - along with Polyclar to clear the cider up. The two together did a fantastic job. We also added some Trader Joe's 100% Blueberry Juice to about half the batch for a blueberry cider. 

McIntosh Blueberry Cider
The regular cider has a nice tart finish, just like you get from biting into a McIntosh! The blueberry cider is a little sweeter, but has a nice balance of blueberry and apple flavors. I'm trying to come up with better names for my ciders, these two went into the National Homebrewer's Competition as Uncommon Cider and Blue Velvet... ugh. Help me!

Here is the recipe...

Common Cider:
Ingredients, Part 1: 
- Refrigerate 5 x 128oz ounce bottles (5 gallons) Kirklands 100% Apple Juice
- WY1028 - London Ale Yeast 
- Yeast Nutrient (Fermiad-O)
Ingredients, Part 2 
- potassium metabisulfite, potassium sorbate 
- ½ gallon Trader Joe’s McIntosh Juice
- Trader Joe's 100% Blueberry juice
 Part 1: 
- Let refrigerated juice come up to 15C
- Open 1 bottle of apple juice; check gravity (target 1.048 to 1.050)
- In fermenter, pour in 3 bottles of apple juice
- Oxygenate cider
- Decent yeast starter… Pour yeast in 
- Pour bottle 4 and 5 of apple juice into fermenter
- Ferment at 20/17C. Maybe raise to 21C if needed for clean up or to finish 
 Part 2 (In about 14 days): 
- Check for target FG of ~1.000
- FERMENTER CARB PROCESS: add potassium meta and sorbate per process
- 2 days later: add ½ gallon Trader Joe’s McIntosh Juice
- Stir to aid in mixing
- 1 Day later: Rack cider into KEG
- Taste test for sweetening, add more Kirkland juice as needed
- Add flavorings – blueberry 
- Finings
- Carb in keg
- Bottle