Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brewery Upgrades

Assembled Monster Mill
I've been spending the last couple of weeks upgrading the brewery instead of brewing.
1. Grain Mill - I got a Monster Mill MM-3 which has (3) 6" rollers. This provides a larger rolling area (6" instead of the usual 4") and 3 rollers instead of 2, which has the advantage of flattening/softening the grain kernel in the first roller and then the second pair of rollers crushes the grain. This method allows for a better crush and causes less damage to the grain.. I bought the hopper and base that the company sells so I didn't have to spend build it myself. I'll be getting a drill motor to power the mill.

Oxygen tank with aeration stone
2. Oxygen Tank - For the sake of safety and better yeast health and fermentation, I purchased an oxygen tank, regulator and was given an oxygenation stone. This will allow me to inject mostly pure oxygen into the wort, rather than shaking the daylights out of the wort (and myself) in an attempt to infuse the air in the headspace of the carboy into the wort. The shake method only can get about 2-4ppm of oxygen into the wort, when 8-10ppm is actually needed for proper yeast health, which injecting compressed oxygen into wort allows the the brewer to achieve. The oxygen is also significantly cleaner than the air in the headspace. A primary concern was the safety factor involved in shaking a carboy with 6 gallons of liquid weighing about 50lbs. If the carboy is dropped, it becomes a giant grenade with the annealed glass shards exploding, propelled by the pressure of the liquid inside. This also allows my wife to brew entirely by herself since the heavy lifting is eliminated.

Stir plate in action with 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flask

3. Stir Plate for Yeast Starters - I was given a stir plate recently and I just purchased a couple 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flasks (see picture right). The stir plate keeps the yeast in constant suspension in the wort, allowing for fast growth of the yeast cells. I just need to hit it with some O2 then turn the stir plate on and let the yeast grow. This will allow me to grow a large enough yeast population to pitch the correct amount of yeast into the wort. I've essentially been underpitching yeast from a vile or dry packet. Yes, the beer will ferment and turn out fine, it just may create some off-flavors due to poor yeast health since the yeast will get stressed trying to ferment so much wort with a small cell population of yeast. Between oxygenating at proper levels and creating yeast starters to grow sufficient yeast to pitch, I should see significant improvements in my beer.

Inside view of Monster Mill

The three roller mill - yes there really are three
rollers there, I just didn't take a photo from the side.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grains have arrived!

I picked up my shipment of 250 lbs of grain today. 150 lbs of American 2 row and 100 lbs of British 2 row malt. Time to get down to some serious brewing!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beer Judge Certification Program Review Class

Liz and I are in the middle of 12 week Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) review class. This has been the best learning experience I've had in the world of beer. We've had the opportunity to try dozens of beers in many different style categories that we've never had and maybe never would have had. I tried my first true Weizen (Weinhenstephaner Hefeweissbier) and Weizenbock (Schneider Aventinus) this last week that were truly incredible! (these are pronounced with a "V" - ie Vy-zen).

The class brings in experts from both the homebrewing and professional brewing world. We've had several award winning homebrewers present topics and this last week we had the owner (Jim Crute) of Lighting Brewery in Poway stop in and contribute to the class. I finally feel like I really understand decoction mashing after Jim's thorough explanation of it. I never quite understood decoction, since the grains are boiled, which I assumed would extract massive amounts of tannins. He explained that is essentially an old-wive's tale (old brewer's tale?) and tannin extraction from grain husks only occurs when the pH becomes basic (over 7.0), which mashes are not.

What was really interesting was comparing our tasting experience with the Schneider Aventinus two days prior to the review class where we tasted it again. The first beer we had in our own taste test was absolutely incredible, creamy, caramelly, clove, a bit of bubblegum. The second beer that we tried during the review class was damaged in some way. It was tart and slightly sour - almost like a very light Flanders Red - clearly something wrong with it. I was glad to have tried the same beer two days before so I knew what it was supposed to taste like, otherwise I would've thought that a classic Weizenbock tasted like a Flanders Red!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dark Side of the Moon - Black IPA Tasting Session

I changed up the recipe slightly on my black IPA - going with Midnight Wheat in lieu of Carafa II de-husked. Overall, a very clean drinkable black IPA, light-medium body with some slight astringency. Perceived dryness likely coming from very slight astringency. The head retention is really outstanding, persisting through entire tasting session and never fully dissipating. I need to dry this beer out and eliminate the astringency. Finished at 1020 gravity, should be down around 1012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Mash Paddle

With the new year here, I thought I should finally upgrade my mash paddle/wort stirrer. I bought a 3/4"t x 3 1/2"w x 3'l piece of maple. I opted for maple for it's strength and it doesn't present the possibility of leaching tannins into the wort like oak might. The blade of the baddle is 1' long leaving a 2' handle. The handle is 1 1/4" wide and the whole paddle has a 1/4" round-over routed into it. The handle is the same width as a typical framing handle and it's very comforatable to hold. I needed to create some holes in the blade so that it can pass through the grains easily. Most people simply drill 1" holes into it, but I figured I don't need that much material removed from the blade, so I decided to make it classy and scroll saw my name into the blade. I can't wait for my next brew day to test it out!