April 2009

Yesterday I made Beer eight – All Fuggles Bitter. It’s a variation of my All Goldings Bitter recipe – slightly different steeping grains and more hops.

I kegged All Goldings Bitter on the 26th.  Before kegging it tasted great – malty with a hint of bitterness and hops. But after chilling down in the kegerator the balance has changed completely – obviously I won’t be able to have a bitter and IPA in the same fridge.

The taste when cold has left me not so impressed with AGB, but I have to remember that it’s at the wrong temp and I only started making it on the 19th April. It is still a very green beer and hasn’t had much conditioning time. I probably shouldn’t be drinking it at all! But I was so eager to taste it. The right thing for me to do now is probably to take it out of the fridge and leave it until I finish the IPA, then turn up the fridge temp – then it will have had time and it will be at the right temp.

Since AGB had just a hint of hops, over the weekend I added a hop tea with some more Golding to the keg. I also upped the hops on AFB to compensate.

All Fuggles Bitter

Boil volume: 3 US Gallons
Final wort volume: 6 US Gallons

Predicted OG: 1.035
Actual OG: 1.036 at 30 degrees; 1.040 adjusted to 15 degrees
Predicted FG: 1.009

1.5kg (3.3lbs) Extra-light DME (Muntons spraymalt)
0.5kg (1.1lbs) Wheat DME (Muntons spraymalt)
150g (0.33lbs) Crystal 60L
150g (0.33lbs) Crystal 75L
45g (0.1lbs) Muntons Black 550-600L

Fuggle AA4.7%: 60m 57g (2oz), 20m 28g (1oz), 2m 14g (0.5oz)
(For the Golding I used 48g / 18g / 16g.)

Yeast: S-04

IBU is tricky to calculate – it really depends on which utilisation method you calculate with. Tasty Brew gave me an IBU of 47 for this, based on me adding all the DME at the beginning – but other calculation tools give lower levels. Also, I split the DME addition – adding 1kg of extra-light at the beginning and the rest of the DME before the 20m hop addition – so I’ll get better utilisation. I did the same split for All Goldings Bitter and that wasn’t bitter enough, so what’s important to me now is learning how IBU numbers taste for a certain calculator and utilisation method rather than looking at the numbers as gospel.

Incidentely, I screwed up by leaving the 20m addition in for 5 minutes too long. And that caused me to forget the Irish Moss.

It was fermenting away like crazy this morning – a very good sign. When asking which hops to use for making a British bitter, everyone suggested both Golding and Fuggle, but most people indicated Fuggle as their preference. It will be good to taste them side by side. 

Current bucket status:
1. Brewferm Kriek with cherries (racked onto cherries on 25th April; looks like secondary fermentation is finished)
2. Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA (started 27th April)
3. All Fuggles Bitter (started 29th April)

Once again I find myself with full buckets and impatient to make more…

Popped cherries

Popped cherries

With all the excitement of the kegerator at the weekend, I forgot to update on Beer five, the Brewferm Kriek kit.

The Kriek finished fermenting the middle of last week. Taste at the moment leaves a lot to be desired – very bitter and little cherry taste. Brewferm say the kriek should spend 6-8 weeks bottle conditioning before being consumed so it’s possible the taste may improve, but I doubt it, so I decided to bottle just a little of it and rack the rest onto cherries. There are only 9 x 190ml bottles of this little kriek, one of which has already found a home elsewhere. Six of those bottles are Coke bottles – Cherry without the Coke :)

After phoning around various places, I found tinned cherries in National Azabu (no frozen cherries anywhere) so made a trip there to get them. As a bonus, they have huge boxes of Oxi-clean on special at the moment – it’s probably still more expensive than Costco, but I’m glad I don’t need to waste the day on a Costco trip.

The tins actually contain far less cherries than I expected – about 250g of 480g if my memory serves me right. I poured the contents of four into my spare primary and then racked the beer on top (no need to boil the cherries since they’ve already been pasteurised).

I expected with all the extra syrup and cherries for the remaining yeast to spring into life and for the fermentation to go wild, but very little happened for a long time. Only two days later did secondary fermentation really become active. Last night I took a sample to do a hydrometer reading – it now stands at 1.020 (it was 1.010 when I bottled) but the taste is much improved, almost like Belle Vue Kriek now.

Beer seven: Green Scottish West Coast Flasher IPA

Last night I did my first partial mash – another attempt at an IPA. This is a version of the Green Flash West Coast IPA featured on the Jamil show. I’ve taken the recipe posted by Nathan here, the guy who created it for the show.

I’ve copied the hop schedule identically but converted it to partial mash using the grains that I have at home – I don’t have the exact grains in the recipe. I’m also using a 3 gallon batch rather than 6 gallons. I used various online calculators to adjust grain, DME, and hops quantities to match the range of the original recipe.

The original recipe calls for these grains:
14.00 lbs Pale Malt (2-row) America
1.31 lbs Crystal 40L America
1.31 lbs Carapils Dextrine Malt

I replaced these with:
1kg (2.2lbs) Base Malt EBC3.3
1kg (2.2lbs) Ale Malt EBC6.6
0.3kg (0.66lbs) Carared 20L
2kg (4.4lbs) Extra Light Spraymalt DME 19th May 2009: Typo here. Actual was about 2lbs – need to confirm later!

The base and ale malts I ordered from Homebrewing Service when getting Starsan. Instead of crystal 40L I had the choice of carared 20L or crystal 60L, I decided to go for the carared because it’s about two weeks old now (so needs to be used soon) and because my base malts are probably darker than the original recipe (hence using a lighter crystal).

Hop schedule is:
90m: 9g of Simcoe 12.9%
60m: 5g each of Zeus (Columbus) 16.4% and Simcoe.
30m: 5g each of Zeus, Simcoe.
15m: 13g each of Zeus, Simcoe.
10m: 16g of Cascade 7.2%
1m: 9g each of Zeus, Simcoe.

After 7 days it will be dry hopped with 9g each of Amarillo, Centennial, Zeus, Simcoe, and optionally 4g of Cascade.

This is the process I used for the stove top partial mash – I’m using 3 pots, one 16L, one 7L, and one 4L. (My process was based on this guide – I didn’t have two large pots so I improvised.)

1. Heat 9L of water to 71 degrees in the 16L pot then add the grain bag with all the grains. Use heat where necessary to keep temperature around 67 degrees for an hour. I stirred this quite often during the hour to improve circulation.

2. After an hour, take out the grain bag and let it drain through a colander into the 4L pot (the grain stays in the grain bag, I just placed the bag on the colander). Pour the hot wart from the 16L pot into the 7L pot and then heat 6L of water in the 16L pot. When at 73-80 degrees, put the grain bag into this water and leave for 15 minutes. Again I circulated often. About half way through I applied heat to raise the temperature back to 67 degrees.

3. Pour the wort from the 4L pot into the 16L pot and then put the grain bag on the colander again, to drain into the 4L pot. Add the wort from the 7L pot to the 16L pot and start to boil. When the grain stops dripping, add the wort from the 4L pot also.

At this point I took a sample to do a hydrometer reading and work out efficiency. The Tasty Brew calculator had given me an expected gravity of around 1.052 for a 75% efficiency at 11.5L. I got 1.046 at 35 degrees, which is 1.051 adjusted to 15 degrees. I think I had a bit more water though, maybe 3.25G or more – difficult to tell because my pot doesn’t have markings, but I was pretty near the rim.

Since I think I had more water, I wanted to try to calculate efficiency myself.

My rough attempt at ppg efficiency based on 3.25G is:
Efficiency = gravity (51) x gallons (3.25) / lbs of grain (5.06) = 32.7ppg.

According to How to Brew, 30ppg+ is the range to shoot for, so I’m in the right ballpark – not bad considering I don’t have any specialist equipment.

Another way to calculate efficiency is look at the theoretical maximum fermentables you can get out of grain. 46 points is the theoretical maximum and I used 5.06lbs, which gives me a max of 232.76.

For 3.25G, I would have an efficiency of 51 x 3.25 / 232.76 =  71.2%. Not too far from the 75% used on Tasty Brew. I really need to get a pot with markings.

4. Add the hops as per schedule. Before the 15M addition, I took out the hops, stirred in the DME, and when melted and boiling again, returned the hops with the 15M addition. I should have added Irish Moss here but forgot!

5. Continue with schedule, then cool, transfer to bucket, top-up, and pitch rehydrated S-04.

The whole partial mash process was actually pretty simple – the only point where I fell down was cooling the wort (not much cold water to add and a freezer full of hops so I couldn’t make ice!) I actually found doing partial mash to be more relaxed than steeping since I have time during the mash to prepare other things.

Starting gravity turned out to be 1.078-80, bang on the 1.079 predicted by Tasty Brew (FG is predicted as a rather high 1.020). Since Tasty Brew uses 75% utilisation and I got the predicted values, I guess I hit 75%

When taking the hydrometer reading before adding the DME, it dawned on me that if I was making a bitter, I could do a full mash this way – 1.046 is quite high for an ordinary bitter. I should do a full mash and see how it turns out.

I finished the night off by transferring Beer six (All Goldings Bitter) to a keg. I forgot to purge oxygen with CO2 before transferring but I think it should be OK. We don’t purge when we rack to secondary, right? This leaves me with one bucket free again – time to think about Beer eight!

New kegerator

New kegerator

The kegerator arrived on Sunday and I spent the entire day rearranging my apartment to be able to fit it in.

There’s no doubting that it’s cool to have a dedicated keg fridge, but one thing I wasn’t expecting was the noise – it sounds like having a freestanding fan running constantly. I’m going to have to try opening up the fan section and see whether that thing is replaceable. Even just cleaning the fan might make a difference.

If you look closely, you might notice the top is slightly higher at the back and the front – that’s because I unscrewed it to get inside and clean and see how it works. I’ve not screwed it back on properly yet. The bad news is that I cut myself several times on the steel – ouch! But then I cut myself opening a pack of headphones this morning, so I may just be clumsy.

The good news is that the whole tap section unscrews and there’s a big hole down into the fridge. A quick search on Google revealed that Beverage Factory sells double faucet shanks that fit into a single shank hole for $85, so without much effort I could potentially have two taps – one for each 5g keg I can fit inside. That was just a quick search so better options may be available.

First thing I need to solve is the noise though. If I can’t solve it, I may try to sell on the unit to someone who can place it somewhere where the noise will be less intrusive – it could even be used as a fermentation chamber. I don’t know yet whether I’ll sell on or not but my apartment is open plan and any noise spreads easily, and I don’t have the space (eg, a spare room) to place it elsewhere. If you’re interested, let me know – just in case I decide not to keep it!

With the kegerator arriving and rearranging the apartment, I didn’t get time to make any beer this weekend. In fact I didn’t even get time to finish returning my apartment to livable state! I even had to buy new shelf units for the kitchen since I couldn’t fit the old ones in after putting in the kegerator.

I’ve made some decisions about how I’m going to progress my brewing.

Firstly, I’m going to start making 3 US gallon batches instead of 5-6 US gallon batches when I’m experimenting, especially with IPAs. If I make something not great, I don’t want 5 gallons of it hanging around (like I have at the moment). I can always brew more later.

Secondly, I’m going to start partial mashing. With smaller 3 gallon batches, I’ll be able to partial mash with about 1kg (2.2lbs) of grain using this method (very similar to steeping, actually).

Thirdly, my next three beers will be another bitter (from tasting so far, All Goldings Bitter seems like my best so far), an IPA, and a porter. I’ve not decided the recipes for these three yet but for the bitter I may do an All Fuggles Bitter version of the All Goldings Bitter recipe – either a 5-6 US gallon extract or a 3 gallon partial mash.

Fourthly, I’ve worked out a way to brew through the summer! With the purchase of the kegerator, I was thinking of returning my fridge to the role it was built for – being a food fridge! – but yesterday I remembered that the temperature within the fridge was around 10 degrees when I first put the keg and CO2 tank in, before I turned up the cooling. 10 degrees is the perfect temperature for brewing pilsner! So even though I’m not a big lager fan, this summer I’m going to try brewing some.

Bucket status at the moment:
1. Brewferm Kriek – finished primary fermentation at 1.010 (as per kit specifications).
2. All Goldings Bitter – half way through fermentation at 1.012. It’s still fizzy to taste so fermentation is still going on – hopefully it will get down to 1.010 or 1.008.
3. Empty

Completed beer status:
1. Lager kit: Bacteria free but so bad I wont even drink it. Takes like Bass Pale Ale but worse.
2a. Whispering Wheat kit with wheat DME: I only bottled 10 of these. They taste kit like but they are drinkable.
2b. The above dry-hopped with orange peel, coriander, and nutmeg. This is my favourite of the beers I’ve made so far.
3. All Centennial IPA: This was a my first non-kit beer, but it turned out disappointing. The hop taste is too deep and intense with little aroma except sweetness. I think dry hopping would really liven it up but it’s in bottles. I may experiment with pouring some into a PET bottle and adding a little hop tea – see whether that rescues it.
4. Triple Cock(-up) IPA: Black Rock East India Pale Ale kit with DME. Since I added hop tea to the keg, this has actually become OK. It’s a bit light because of the kit origins, but its drinkable.

This weekend in-between rearranging my apartment to fit in the kegerator, I hope to bottle some of the Kriek and rack the rest onto cherries, and to fill the empty bucket with a new beer – most likely an IPA since until All Goldings Bitter has finished fermenting, I can’t really be sure whether the recipe worked.













I’ve had a hard time finding a fridge which will fit two kegs and a CO2 tank – and even if I did find one, I’d need to pay 10,000+ yen delivery. At 17,800 yen + 11,200 yen delivery + quite possibly tax and auction fees, this is a bit more than I wanted to spend – but isn’t it fantastic? And it should hold it’s value – I should be able to pass it on when I leave Japan.

It’s a commercial unit. The inside is 39cm wide x 48cm deep x 90+ cm high – easily enough for two kegs and a CO2 tank (the shelf inside is removable). It includes a regulator and a connector for local beer (I wanted one of those anyway) and although there’s only one tap, I’m sure I’ll fix that over time! Quite possibly I could get 4 x 3 gallon kegs in this, maybe 5.

Beer servers usually get bid up into the 30,000 yen+ range at the moment. I got lucky – this wasn’t in the beer server category on Yahoo auctions, which means that I didn’t have anyone bidding against me. A good tip for using Yahoo auction for anything beer server related is to search for ビールサーバー and ビールディスペンサー instead of using the categories. This returns a lot more. In exchange for this tip, don’t bid against me please! If you see an id starting “em_” as the bidder, that’s me – so hold your bidding!

Not brewing beer to buying kegs and a kegerator in exactly 6 weeks – is that a record for anyone? ;)

The hop tea made a big difference to Beer four (Triple Cock(-up) IPA). It’s now at the level where it’s enjoyably drinkable and I’m very happy with that!

Two deliveries arrived the morning. One is my new regulator from Yahoo Auctions, the other is Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. I want to do some brewing this weekend in the primary that I have free, before the summer hits. I’m currently formulating the recipe for an IPA. I don’t think DGB will have much input into this beer – I’ll barely have time to scratch the surface of Designing Great Beers before brew day – but it should help with future brews.

Beer five (Brewferm Kriek) has finished fermenting. I’m toying with the idea of bottling half and then racking the other half onto some cherries to see how much difference they make. It’s only a 11L kit so I don’t have much leeway though. The Kriek need 6-8 weeks bottle conditioning so it’s going to be a long time before I can try it!

The carbonation wasn’t the disaster I thought it was. After venting the keg once and reducing the pressure to pouring pressure, Triple Cock(-up) poured out sweet. Not perfect carbonation, but not bad either.

However despite dry-hopping there’s still not much taste and aroma. It’s better than before and it’s drinkable, but not something I’d want to drink an entire keg of. So this morning I made hop tea – boiled about half a litre of water, placed in two tea-bags (empty, bought from the 100yen store) filled with centennial leaf (about 4g in each), boiled them for a few minutes, and then let the tea cool. While the cooling was going on I took the keg out the fridge, vented, started to take off the lid… and heard a splash as the lid o-ring fell in the keg. O-ooops!

I tried to fish it out with the plastic ladle I use for mixing wort but it was too short. Rather than stick in my arm (not sanitised + damn cold in there), after pouring in the tea and hop bags, I used the o-ring from my other keg and resealed with that (then purged oxygen, etc).

I have a few days before I need to use the other keg. If the ring isn’t fishable by then I’ll need to take more drastic measures – such as transferring to another keg.

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