April 2017


Woke up and crafted a recipe online over coffee. Got out the grain mill and drill and ground the grain. Weighed the hops at breakfast. Run a quick rinse cycle through the Zymatic. Then attached the keg and started the recipe.

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Then in the shower and out for a ride on the bike.  Nice basket, huh?

Back home I had the MacBook Pro pointed at the Z with PhotoBooth over the brew progress webpage.

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As the boil progressed I sat in a local soba restaurant and enjoyed Green Tea Soba with Vegetable Tempura while watching the Z move through the hop additions on my phone.

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Just after 1 I returned home to start the chill cycle. Whirlpool (which I didn’t do for this Pils), chill, transfer to fermentation vessel, and cleaning are the areas where it’s back to hands on deck.

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This time I finished at 4, which was 2 hours 45 minutes. And that time sucks. But at the moment I’m primitive-chilling in iced water – which not only takes forever but extends the cleanup. I’ll work out a way to speed that up. Today I also had to build a blow-off tube to allow me to ferment in keg. And cleaning – well, is there a magic pill for that apart from just being more efficient at it?

Putting things in perspective: I made a beer with less than 3 hours hands on time. And I made two beers in one weekend – I can’t remember the last time when I could have been bothered to do that! It was just too much work. So pretty pleased today!

 

 

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Zymatic Brew 2. I clean, I checked, and I almost brewed the house down. But dammit I missed something.

In this case what I missed was taking out and cleaning 4 rubber stoppers that I thought were quite happy where they were, not bothering anyone. But attention seekers that they are, they went on a huffy fit and overflowed.

I learnt/realised three things about the Zymatic today.

Firstly, it’s a finicky little bugger. The slightest micromillinanometer gap in a rubber stopper can cause trouble way above its’ pay grade. There needs to be a routine before every brew where you open every nook and close every crevice and smack every cliche. Get a piece of grain stuck in a non-Zymatic system and you slow things down. Get a piece of grain stuck in the Zymatic and you screw a brew.

Secondly, it’s back end heavy. When (if) it works as planned, it’ll do the mash and boil – but whirlpooling, cooling, transferring (I would never brew in the keg used for a Zymatic brew, it has so much crusty gunk), cleaning – that all remains, and it’s still a lot of work. Still, better than the pre-Z time.

Thirdly, I’m on learning curve of a whole new process here. It still needs to be made efficient.

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In this brew, I decided to keg whirlpool. I’ve read that the Z isn’t great at hoppy beers, and whether true or not, I didn’t want this beer coming out “meh”. This will be my first real Z beer and it better be good.

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The way to get hop aroma, I’ve read, is to whirlpool. In a non-Z brew, the hop additions keep contact with the wort even after flameout. But in the Z they don’t – because the Z no longer passes wort through them. Hence the way to get hop aroma is to whirlpool in the keg – either when cooling or to cool to a specific temp, then whirlpool

So into the keg went this ebay contraption. For double safety – not wanting to clog anything as the gaps at the top are quite large – leap hops went in hop socks before being placed inside.

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Hi-tech cooling  followed.

I wanted to ferment this with US05.  However I stupidly repurposed the fermentation chamber as a hop freezer to free the family freezer and now I’m not allowed to reverse the decision. And it’s getting too hot to ferment without temperature control.

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So I decided to embark on a first. I decided to ferment in a keg, in the keezer. To do so I’ve upped the temp to “UK levels” of luke-warm 12-15 decrees.

I don’t particularly like fermenting in the keg – I’ve absolutely no idea how much I collected; getting sample is a pain; and at this temp it’ll be longer before I fermentation completes and I get to taste my first Z beer. I need to get my fermentation chamber back.

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An exciting day yesterday – my Picobrew Zymatic finally arrived! My grand plan to “Make Brewing Fun Again (TM)”

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It didn’t all quite go according to plan day 1, however.  First the initial deep clean using the supplied dishwasher tablet left massive amounts of residue which took ages to get rid of.

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Then I cut the plastic keg seal that goes on the keg during brewing – not a big deal but annoying.

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But the repeated kick in balls came when I started brewing and the machines started foaming at the mouth.  I went around about 5 cycles of Drain -> Exit Brew -> Wipe clean -> Check and tighten everything -> Restart Mash -> Watch the foam come out again 10minutes later -> Drain …

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Eventually I figured that I’d probably mashed enough to get some conversion and I skipped to the boil. The ingredients for this first brew came with the machine and I supplemented the 10 and 5 minute additions with Citra pellets.

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While the boil proceeded trouble free, I bottled up the Coconut Stout I’d been “dry hopping” with coconut, and tracked the Facebook post about my foaming issues on the Pico User group on Facebook. Given it was around midnight on a Saturday night / Sunday morning during an Easter holiday, I wasn’t getting any reply back from Picobrew. To be expected when you’re living in Asia, I guess.

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From the Facebook group and from the amount I eventually collected, I’m guessing I didn’t add enough water. If that’s the issue then fantastic, because it’s easy to solve.

A number of people also said that they experienced foaming first time but not after that. Again, if that’s my experience, great.

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By the time the brew was finished and I was onto cooling and cleaning, I was knackered and I just wanted to get to bed.

So not a successful first brew, but I’m hopeful – and a little nervous – that the second will be better and the machine will live up to its promise of making my brew days easier and not more hassle!

When I started brewing, it was with amazement that I could actually make beer. And I did. And the first beer I made I threw down the sink it was so disgusting.

But I learnt quickly and soon made beers I loved more than commercial beers. I built a fermentation chamber, bought a beer server, and went full blown equipment crazy.

I went from simple to complex. I was doing everything – grinding my grain, mashing in a mash tun, cooling that was past the ice(bag) age with a pump and a plate chiller – and it was fantastic. I was making delicious beer.

And then it went from fun to being a chore. The novelty wore off.

My brew days were longer. I could no longer brew without dedicating a day.

I was spending less time on recipes and more on process.

But I kept with it. Kept with it for years. That’s the way we brew, right?

Recently it came to a head though. I realised: I don’t enjoy this anymore.

I enjoy the formulating of recipes and seeing how they turn out. But I don’t enjoy the length and mendokusai-ness of the process.

After 50+ brews, I feel I know how to control mash temps. I know how to hop. I know how to cool.

I don’t feel I need to prove it to myself over and over.

I don’t want to lose a day of my life every time I brew.

I want to concentrate on recipes and in enjoying the beer I brew.

I want brewing to be fun again.

So….

 

It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that I forgot my login details!

Does anyone still follow blogs these days? The chances of anyone still following this one are pretty slim I guess!

I’m now up to beer 533, which means 22 beers since I last posted – a figure I can barely believe but which certainly explains the increase in my waistline! 

Currently brewing is Shakespeare Stout clone infused with 800g of toasted unsweetened coconut:

The last time I made a Coconut Porter/Stout was back in 2009 so I’m really looking forward to this one.

I have big plans for brewing this summer. More on that coming soon. In the meantime, if there’s anyone who found this blog who is looking for information on home brewing in Japan, Beer in Japan has just updated their resource page: Homebrewing in Japan – Beer in Japan