Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yeast Harvesting and Washing Process

Here is a second in my series of homebrewing tutorials, with this post focusing on Yeast Harvesting and Washing. I've recently begun harvesting yeast from the primary fermentation vessel and either storing it or racking freshly brewed wort directly onto it. I blogged about this here, where I stored harvested Safale 05 yeast from a IIPA and re-used it on a Black IPA, and directly pitched a Saison onto White Labs WLP565 that remained in the carboy from the previous Saison.

Today, I harvested the WLP565 that had been used on two batches and washed some White Labs Cal Ale 001 that I received from a local brewery that had been harvested from a stout. This was the first time that I washed yeast in preparation from storage/re-pitching. I ended pitching this yeast into my Saison (after harvesting the Belgian yeast from the Saison) to attempt to dry out the Saison even more.

Re-using your Yeast; Harvesting and Washing Process
Yeast harvesting and washing is a very simple process. It seems daunting at first and there are many opinions on how it should be done, to which I'll add my own here. I'll leave the debating of which way is better to other people that feel their cause is worthy enough to be argued.

There are two ways to re-use yeast: 1) pitch freshly brewed wort onto the yeast cake that remains in the fermenter from a previous batch or 2) harvest and store the yeast for future use. Word of warning if you're choosing to re-use your yeast: If your first batch was contaminated in any way, then don't reuse the yeast - you'll spoil two batches instead of one!

Method 1. Re-use the yeast cake.
This process is the simplest and easiest way to re-use. To do this simply perform the following:
1. Plan your brewing sessions so that your first batch is ready to be racked off into a secondary fermentation vessel or bottling bucket on or near brew day. Note: It's ok for your wort to sit on the yeast for a little while after fermentation is completed, but don't wait too long, or your yeast will start to self-destruct, reducing its life and viability and resulting in some off-flavors in the finished beer.
2. When your second (fresh) batch of beer is brewed or being brewed, rack the first beer off into another vessel. This exposes the yeast cake and trub at the bottom of your fermenter.
3. Simply rack your fresh (cooled) wort into the primary fermenter, on top of the yeast cake. Note: You don't need to clean your vessel, as it should already be sanitized from the previous batch.
4. Aerate as normal, and your done.

Method 2. Harvest and store the yeast.
Harvested yeast (dumped into sanitized vessel from primary
The second method is more involved, but it allows you to store your yeast for an extended period of time and use it on future batches weeks later. Note there is another method that I won't discuss here, since I haven't done it, but a homebrewer can also "top harvest" yeast during fermentation from the krausen head formed. Apparently, more viable yeast can be harvested at this point.
1. Rack the fermented wort (beer) off into another vessel.
2. Dump the yeast into a sanitized container.
From this point you can proceed in two ways. I'll start with the simplest first.
1. Pour the harvested yeast into a sanitized mason jar or container with lid. (I used an old yeast container).
2. Tighten the lid down, then loosen slightly to allow the yeast to breath.
3. Store in a refrigerator (not a freezer!).

Second option: Yeast Washing
Washed yeast with foil over it to protect from contaminants
falling into it (container next to it is what it is stored long
term in.

This method allows the homebrewer to clean up the yeast sample and store more actual yeast, rather than yeast trub, and wort.
1. Boil filtered water for 5 minutes to sterilize the water.
2. Cool the boiled water to near the same temperature as the harvested yeast to avoid shocking the yeast is either too hot or cold water (if your water is over 100 degrees, you'll likely destroy the yeast cells). I would recommend doing this well in advance so you can move quickly between the steps to avoid contamination from occuring.
3. Pour the sterilized water over the harvested yeast.
4. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a refrigerator for several hours.
5. The heavier trub will settle to the bottom, the yeast will settle to the middle layer, and the water/wort mixture will be on top.
6. Pour off slowly the water/wort solution into the sink
7. Pour the yeast into a sanitized container and store refrigerated as described above.

Close up shot of washed yeast
Washed yeast after pouring off water/wort liquid.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homebrew Names Used So Far

Here's a brief list of the names I've used for my beer batches for the record:

Pale Ale (extract version) - 1844
IPA - Chizzam!
IIPA (i.e. San Diego Pale Ale, Imperial, or West Coast IPA) - Damn Chizzam!
Imperial Oatmeal Stout - Pirate's Breakfast
Oatmeal Stout - Wenches' Milk
Rye Pale Ale - RPA

Kombucha Restarted

My first Kombucha batch showed no sign of life after a couple weeks and I began to think I did something wrong in the first batch. Sure enough, after a little more research, I found out I shouldn't have used Herbal tea for the initial fermentation. Rather, green or black tea should be used. Herbal tea is only used for adding flavor and nutrients after initial fermentation is complete.

I re-brewed the starter batch. this time using green tea. After about 1 week I began to see signs of life. A gelatinous substance formed over the entire surface of the container and is continuing to grow. My kombucha SCOBY or mushroom is now growing quite well. Hopefully in a few more weeks, I'll have a full mushroom to brew the first drinkable batch of Kombucha!

Kombucha ingredients with green tea this time!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Black IPA & Belgian Saison

This is how I usually start my brew day.
Filling up water jugs at the water station
near my house and trucking them back

We brewed up another 10 gallons this last weekend. In the fermenter now is our first Black IPA or "Cascadian Dark" and another Belgian Saison.

The Saison was the same recipe as the last one except this one, I added a tablespoon of coriander to start experimenting with adding ingredients to spice it up a bit. I also repitched directly onto the yeast bed of the previous saison. (White Labs WLP565 was used).

The black IPA used 2 row, Crystal 40 (the LHBS was out of Crystal 60), and Carafa II special dehusked grain as the darkening agent. I had intended to use Carafa III special dehusked, but again, the LHBS was out of it, which required that I change my recipe while at the store. Fortunately, I've been designing my recipes "in the cloud" on hopville, which allowed me to access it from iPhone and manipulate the recipe on the fly. I ended up using 1 1/4 lb of Carafa II instead of 1 lb of Carafa III. I repitched some harvested SafAle 05 from the IIPA I brewed a couple weeks prior.

The idea behind using the dehusked Carafa, is that it imparts less roasted flavors to the finished beer. A person should be able to close their eyes and drink a black IPA and not realize their drinking a dark beer.

1 Tbsp of uncrushed coriander seeds heading for the kettle.
Coriander seeds being added into the hop bag

Fermenter with yeast from previous Saison batch ready for racking chilled wort directly onto it.
Yeast bed in the fermenter!
SafAle 05 Yeast Harvested from IIPA pitched into Black IPA
(this photo is from when I first harvested the yeast, it was stored
in an actual yeast container for a week prior to using)

Beer babies - Saison and Black IPA
I didn't add a blow off tube to the black IPA and look what happened! Fortunately, I put a plastic pitcher upside down over it when I saw it getting close and contained it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kombucha Starter Batch

GT Dave's
Probiotics and enzymes are an excellent way to balance your digestive system. I usually take a liquid, dairy based probiotics (essentially concentrated yogurt) after eating too much or heavy foods. Probiotics are somewhat expensive though. Another great way to get probiotics, essential enzymes, and other detoxifiers is by drinking Kombucha. Store bough Kombuchas isn't cheap either though - in fact, for more expensive than probiotics. I did some quick research online and found out that it is actually very simple to brew your own Kombucha, especially for those with home brew set ups. The cost, if you're brewing large batches is probably somewhere between 10 and 20 cents per botle.

I found a great resource through The Mad Fermenationist for culturing a commercial Kombucha to begin making your own batches.

Here's how I did it, thanks to The Mad Fermentationist's instructions:
Ingredients - Tea, Sugar, Kombucha
(1) 16oz bottle of Kombucha (I used GT Dave's)
(1) Tea bag (I used Good Earth, but it doesn't really matter - the tea is simply there to provide nutrients to your body and the Kombucha scoby or mushroom)
(1) cup of filtered water
(3/4) oz of sugar  (21.26 grams or 5 teaspoons)
A container to hold it all in (I used a 16 qt clear container)
(1) Rubber band
(1) Paper towel

Stir in sugar to tea

Allow Kombucha to warm up to room temperature. Simply steep the tea bag in 1 cup of water, stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Place it in the freezer, until cooled to room temperature. Pour into the container, place paper towel over the container and wrap with rubber band. I sanitized the container just for safe measure, although probably not necessary. Store at room temperature (65-70 degrees). The Kombucha needs oxygen to allow the mushroon to grow, so don't put it in a bottle with an airlock. It should start culturing over several weeks, and periodically I'll add additional tea until the batch gets larger, and the mushroom forms and gets larger as well. I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Mix tea and Kombucha together

Cover with paper towel and rubber band

The Mad Fermentationist (Michael Tonsmeire) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bottlecraft - Review of New Bottle Shop in Little Italy

Meet BOTTLECRAFT: Little Italy's newest bottle shop. Acting on the tip of a friend, I ventured into Bottlecraft a couple weeks ago after having dinner in the area to check the place out. I was impressed by the array of beer from both local, national and international breweries. I came back in last night to purchase a few bottles of a particular beer style I could get more acquainted with the style before participating in a homebrew competition as a judge. I met the owner (Bryan) who gave me so tips on what beers to get, and then talked with one of his employees (Kevin) who had more expertise in the particular style I was looking for. Both were very informative, and I walked away with some amazing examples of this particular beer style.

Bottlecraft has a couple of great things going for them: Large selection of quality craft beers, very reasonable prices, and the ability to purchase single 12oz and 22 oz bottles of beer. This was particularly appealing to me, since I was trying to get beers from a wide range of breweries that exemplified the style. Rather than having to purchase all 22 oz bombers or 6 packs, I was able to select 5 12 oz beers of my choosing.

Bottlecraft also has another great feature - beer tasting flights. If I recall correctly, they had two flights yesterday - one was San Diego breweries, the other was Oregon breweries. I didn't have time to stay and try out the flights, but I'll be back for the tasting flights and more bottles! (Bottlecraft is located on India St in Little Italy between Hawthorn and Ivy.)

Double IPA & Belgian Saison

We decided to attempt a double brew day today and pulled it off remarkably well. I created a schedule for the day on Excel to plan out the day. I estimated that it would take 7 1/2 hours as opposed to the normal 5 1/2 hours to brew one batch (including set up/clean up). I was very pleased to see at the end of the day that I finished up the brew day 7 hours, 25 minutes! I guess working years in construction project management has helped me be able to put together an accurate schedule! There are some efficiencies that that I could be made to reduce it, but, that will involve more equipment and cost, so I probably won't act on that at this point. When I do start buying more equipment, it'll be to go to a larger (10 or 20 gallon system).

We brewed up our Double IPA or San Diego Pale Ale - Damn Chizzam! It seems to have turned out well, but my OG was lower than expected, I'm not sure why since my pre-boil gravity was right on target.

For the second batch, we brewed a Belgian Saison. A saison is normally aged for quite awhile, so I'll probably have some available in a month or two, then bottle condition (age) the rest. It should be a somewhat funky, light summer time beer. I'm not going to crazy with this batch. The recipe is essentially my Rye Pale Ale recipe (slightly modified grain bill), with a completely different hop schedule. The local home brew store was out of 2 of the 3 hop varieties I wanted, so I ended up with Northern Brewer bittering hops, Fuggles bittering/aroma, and Saaz for aroma. I used the White Labs Belgian Saison WLP565 yeast. From what I've read, most of the magic in a Belgian Saison is derived from the yeast strain. I'm excited to see how this one turns out!

I also tried an iodine test on both batches during the mash. It was interesting to see when starch to sugar conversion took place. Most of the conversion happened at the very end of the mash.

 Iodine Test
The iodine/wort turn deep blue/black on the initial test, showing incomplete conversion

In the middle of two batches, cleaning up the mash tun, boiling wort, and getting ready to chill

 Chilling away
The finished wort! Yes it's my beer baby!

Belgian Saison chilled

The two beer baby twins - fraternal twins :=)
Left: Belgian Saison, Right: IIPA Damn Chizzam! (already showing signs of fermentation after a couple hours)