21: Hops Of Mass Destruction IPA (e)

My 4th Zymatic brew was a reworking of one of the best beers I ever made and one of my early beers – Hops of Mass Destructions – which was a Ruination IIPA clone. “Baby Ruin,” I named it – being a more sessionable version of HOMD/Ruination – and by geeze did it live up to its name.

It was almost a completely successful brew – but then in the last minute of the chill cycle the Zymatic foam trap exploded shooting the middle spindle into the air (narrowly missing my face) and hot wort onto the ceiling.

Of my brand new house.

The photo above is of the ceiling. The photo below is of the foam trap minus the flying spindle.

I, of course, reached out to Picobrew.

The only thing that I can think of is something was preventing it from venting.

Make sure that you aren’t running a prolonged chill cycle, because of the physical properties of the sugars at lower temps you’ll start getting a lot of foaming.
Something had to have been causing the spindle to stick to the disc and sealing it off there’s no way that enough force should have built up for this to happen, but the keg seal should have popped before it was able to launch it far enough to hit the ceiling.
Unless you’re brewing with dynamite, are you brewing with dynamite?


In my 3 years with the company and hundreds of brews on a Zymatic I’ve never seen, nor even heard about this happening.

So I’m unique. Sometimes it’s good to be unique. Other times. I’d rather pass.

I have a query back to Pico on suggestions to prevent this in the future, but haven’t had a reply back for the last 4 days (which does include the weekend). While their reply is reasonable, I’m amazed such force could build up. The keg seals I have (which the foam trap goes into, like an airlock) are an extremely tight fit so definitely won’t pop to relieve pressure.

I was running a 30m whirlpool through cage and keg hops (the hops being in a 300 micron container) before the ice bath chill – but then plenty of others do that too, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the chill cycle through the machine is a bad idea – it just creates too much foam. In this brew I actually reduced the duration of the chill cycle by setting target to 30C rather than 19C (the default). So I need to work out what I’m going to do about that. Overnight chill isn’t really an option for an IPA.

In the meantime:

1. Use tap water straight from the tap rather than the water filter to see whether that helps with foam. Apparently the wrong type of water (which is water without minerals) can cause the Z to foam. Our water filter is so weak and needs replacing that I doubt it’s having an affect anyway but worth a try, as is looking more into water chemistry.

2. Add a few drops antifoam to the keg – though I did add to the mash in this case so I don’t see that will help.

3. Check the spindle every 10 minutes during whirlpool and chill – you have to be at the machine anyway during that timeout.

4. Change the way I do whirlpooling. One option would be to do a smaller circulate through the hop cages and then a hop stand with hops in the keg. This would reduce circulation time and may give foam time to settle.

The good news is that the brew seems to be bubbling along nicely and a midweek sample was very promising. I’m monitoring its progress on one of my Tilt Bluetooth hydrometers which makes monitoring the whole fermentation process very addicting indeed!


It’s a rather frustrating period right now as I don’t yet know how any of the beer I’ve made with the Zymatic has turned out! 601 – the first brew – is in bottles carbonating, but is more likely to resemble hopped Buckfast than any beer thanks to my screw up of water additions and barley wine level high FG. 602 and 603 were fermented with lager yeast and after fermenting at 15, are now going through yeast cleanup at room temp before being dryhopped and then layered.

Even though I’m not able to calibrate taste, effectiveness of hop utilisation, or anything about the beers I’ve made – I’m itching to brew another.

And here it is. Based on my old Hops of Mass Destructions (the first beer I made which was really awesome), which was based on Ruination, it will be the first Zymatic brew where I use the “High Efficiency” mash cycle and tinker with the Advanced Editor.

In the Advanced Editor I have upped the mashout from 10m to 20m and slightly increased the drain period. The resulting mash schedule is supposed to get around 73% efficiency – and that’s reflected in the Vital Stats in the pic. Experience of others seems to be closer to 65%.

I’ve also changed the chill cycle to add hopstand/whirlpool and get closer to how I was brewing stove-top.

With a stove-top boil, hops don’t get removed immediately the boil finishes. They remain in contact with the wort – with potentially other hops added for whirlpool.

As standard, after the boil, the Zymatic drains the hop cages. Because of this, Pico recommend one minute/flameout additions are moved to 5 or 7 minutes otherwise they don’t get much contact with wort. Despite that recommendation I still read posts that flavour and aroma isn’t the same with IPA’s.

My modified schedule is designed to address that.

1. Immediately the boil finishes, the hop cages will be drained as usual. The machine will then pause.

2. I’ll take off the keg cosy and foam trap. Inside the keg I’ll put additional hops in a mesh filter. I’ll then put the keg in iced water and start the machine.

3. The machine will recirculate the wort through the keg until temp gets to 170F (76.7C). During this time it’ll be in contact with the hops in the keg.

4. When it gets to 170, I’ll take the keg out the ice water and run a whirlpool for 30m circulating hops through the keg and also the Zymatic hop cages. This will mean that the whirlpool hops and the hops used for the boil will get wort exposure at the ideal temp of 170.

5. After the whirlpool, the keg will go on ice water again and the Z will circulate until temp gets down to 30C. For this step I’ve chosen to circulate through the keg hops only, not the whirlpool hops.

The theory is that this will better simulate a stove-top boil.

Many assume the Zymatic is 100% automatic and that there’s no skill needed. As you can see, that’s not the case – like any setup, you need to know the quirks of the system and adapt to them, and for techniques like getting maximum hop aroma and flavour, it’s all hands on deck.

One thing the Z does do is free up a lot of time in the process. And for me, it’s given me a love of brewing and experimenting again that I haven’t had since I first discovered brewing. I’ve literally got a firework up my ass.

So 604 brew day is pending.

Edit after brewday: If you’re thinking to follow this schedule then read the next post. That’ll probably stop you thinking of following this schedule straightaway! However, for the record, step 13 was completely skipped by the Z. The drain in step 11 bypasses the area which detects temperature so by the time the Z gets to step 13, the temp is already below 76.7 and the Z skips to step 14. Once at step 14, it discovers the true temp of the wort but it’s too late by there. So if I was going to run this again (which I’m not) I’d remove the drain from the end of step 11 and be damn quick restarting after the pause – or something like that.

Axis of Evil IPA is ready for the keg – but I only have room for one keg in the kegerator and it still has Mass Destruction in it. I’ve been frantically drinking Mass Destruction this week and I can’t seem to get to the end of it. I seem to have a bottomless keg.

One thing’s for sure though – I’ve tasted Axis of Evil IPA (force carbed in a PET bottle) and I definitely prefer Hops of Mass Destruction IPA. The Chinook, Amarillo, and Simcoe combination has resulting in a smooth orange cirtus flavour than the sharper Magnum and Centennial pairing. Maybe the extra couple of days dryhopping while I wait for Mass Destruction to finish will change things?

Over at Beer in Japan I’ve written a post about Baeren Brewery – a brewery created in Japan less than 10 years ago from equipment imported from Germany, some of it over 100 years old: Baeren Brewery and Beer Pub, Morioka.

I really want to make a Pilsner again – but with my current lack of fridge space (exemplified by having nowhere to put Axis of Evil IPA), I can’t see how that’s going to be possible.

Kim Jong-il: I'm not evil - I just haven't had hops for a while

Kim Jong-il: I'm not evil - I just haven't had hops for a while

Thanks to the skill of a fellow homebrewer, my pot and weldless kit are now completely leak free. I could describe what caused the leaks by resorting to crude and smutty innuendo and double entendre, but I’m far too mature to do that.

So what made my hole leak? Looks like there were two issues:

  • The hole was too small so I couldn’t shove the shaft (of the weldless kit) all the way in.
  • The (steel) ring was too large and rubbing off the bottom (of the pot).

Yes, much too mature.

I’m now free to make Axis of Evil IPA. 

Good job the weldless kit wasn’t ready this weekend because it’s only today I realised I don’t have a clue how to do it – mash with my new equipment, that is. How much water to use, temperatures, method – it’s all different from the “grain bag in a pot” method of all grain and partial mash I’ve been doing in the past. There isn’t a single piece of equipment involved in getting this beer to the fermenter that isn’t new or modified.

So I’ve finalised the recipe and spent some time researching, trying to fix all the variables that were uncertain to me. I’m going to do something I haven’t done before on the blog – publish the recipe in advance and then the details of how I’m going to make the beer. Today will be the recipe and fixing the variables for mashing. Later this week I’ll tie this all together on how I plan to use all the equipment on the day – from mashing to boiling to chilling to, finally, fermenting.

I’m not sure whether my planning and thought process with be interesting to others or not but my aim is to have everything written and certain here by the end of the week so that I’ll be able to read the blog while I’m making the beer and not screw anything up. That’s the idea anyway – we all know that evil never goes to plan and Scooby Doo always stops us pesky kids.

Axis of Evil IPA


Axis of Evil IPA is another nuclear hopped IPA. Compared to Hops of Mass Destruction, it uses three hops instead of two – Chinook, Simcoe, and Amarillo – and while it remains 100+ IBUs, it uses slightly less hops in the bittering addition and more in the flavouring and aroma additions to match with a (hopefully) slightly drier body. Base malt comes from Maris Otter with Carahell, C60, and Vienna.

Boil size: 25L
Size at end of boil: 22L – approx 1L will be left behind in trub, hops

Predicted OG: 1.062 – Mashing efficiency 70%
Predicted FG: 1.012, I hope
Predicted ABV: 6.4% 1%, because this is Japan

5kg Maris Otter 2-Row
0.5kg Vienna
0.5kg Carahell
0.3kg C60

Hops (all leaf) – Predicted IBU: 129 IBU + 10% for FWH
60m + FWH: 70g Chinook (13%AA)
20m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
15m: Irish moss
10m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
Dry hop: 30g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 22.5g Simcoe (12.9%AA)

Yeast – US-05 (NK-03 being unavailable)


I’m going for a batch sparge rather than a fly sparge. In a batch sparge I’ll soak (“mash”) the grain in water, drain it to get “first wort runnings”, soak the grain in water again, then drain it to get “second wort runnings”. Fly sparging would involve soaking the grain in water and then draining it slowly at the same time as adding additional water – while I have the facilities to do this continuous sparging, I’m using every piece of equipment for the first time so I want to keep things simple. More on sparging here.


Again, to keep this simple, I’m going to do the first stage  at a single constant temperature rather than increasing the temperature – this is fine because I’m not using any special grains like wheat or oats.

I’m going with a temperature of 65 Celsius (149F) for the first stage. A temperature of 150F (65.5C) or less gives a thinner, drier beer – over 156F (68.9C) gives a sweeter beer. My beers often end up a little sweeter than I’d like, with an FG of around 1.018 – that’s probably because I’ve been using mashing/steeping temperature of around 67-70. The one beer that I used a temperature of 65 for mashing came out at 1.009 and the temperature I used a Kiuchi was 65 – proof, I hope, that I’ll get my FG down to the dryness I want by using a temperature of 65 instead of the late 60’s I’ve been mashing at so far. I never realised until now that a few degrees makes such a difference.

For the end of the first stage (“mash out”) and the second stage, I’ll use a temperature of 76 degrees, around 169F. This around the 170F recommended by How to Brew, and also the temperature I used at Kiuchi.

Water quality

I’ll be using filtered tap water but I’m not going to be making any adjustments for PH levels. I’ve had pretty good results since switching to filtered water.

Water quantity

This has been rather hard to determine – not just because of the differences between measuring in litres, US Gallons, UK Gallons, lbs, and kgs but because water quantity calculations seem to use another unit: the “quart”. 1 quart is 0.946L.

For the first stage, a quantity of 1.5 quarts per lb of grain is generally recommended. I’ll be using 13.9lbs of grain, which required 20.85 quarts, or 19.73 L.

At the end of the first stage, I’ll raise the temperature to 76 degrees for “mash out”. Technically I don’t need to do this because I’m not using rye, wheat, etc, so I may skip this step – but apparently it makes sparging easier. I’ll wait and see on the day. If I do it, the only way I can raise the temperature is by using boiling water stirred into the grain, and I don’t know how much water will be needed in order to raise the temperature.

The amount of water for the second stage is also difficult to calculate. For fly sparging, How to Brew recommends 1.5 times the amount of water used in the first stage – which would be around 29L. For batch sparging it’s a little different.

From the first stage I can assume my 13.9lbs of grain will absorb 2.78 US Gallons (10.5L) – that’s based on 0.2 US Gallons per lb. That means from my 19.73L of water in, I’ll get out 9.23L. Assuming I lose a little to the mash tun (due to pipe height under the false bottom), I’ll get about 9L out. To collect 25L, which is what I’m aiming for, that means I need 16L added during “mash out” and the second stage.

So first stage: 19.73L. Mash out and second stage combined: 16L. Of course these figures have been calculated from theoretical values – how much I’ll actually get out, I don’t know. By all accounts an absorption rate of 0.2 is quite conservative – some sites recommend 0.15 which would see me collecting an extra 3L or so. I’ll obviously need to vary the 16L depending on how much I actually collect on the first stage and whether I mash out.

If everything works out nicely, I should have 25L of wort. Based on losing 12% to the 60 minute boil, that leaves me with 22L. Another litre lost to the trub (grain gunk) and hop matter – hopefully I’ll end up with 21L. In theory.

More to come on turning the wort into beer in part 2….

…for a fridge full of beer?

One or two beers

One or two beers

Inside here you have bottle after bottle of newly delivered Stone Ruination IPA, Stone IPA, Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, Great Divide Titan IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Hercules Double IPA, Stone Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye IPA, Ballast Point Big Eye IPA, Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout – plus my first monthly delivery from Beer Festa: Umenishiki Beer’s Pilsner, Blanche, and Aromatic ale. And then in the back there’s the keg of Hops of Mass Destruction IPA, and on top some Echigo Beer, Aooni, Hitachino, and Anchor… with some other assorted bottles of my homebrew and other beers thrown in for good measure.

Is there anyone reading this that wouldn’t want this fridge in their house? Hahahahaha it’s all mine!

Had a bottle each of the Hop Rod Rye and Hercules so far – both were far better than when I had them on draft. Hop Rod Rye in particular was gloriously hoppy; Hercules a bit caramely but good amount of hops going on there.

At the end of the month drunken frat boy Jonno leaves Japan to head back to the glorious land of XXXX and Fosters. Since I’ll be at Fuji Rock this coming weekend and will miss his official sendoff, last night Chuwy, Beerkat, Chuck and I had an impromptu little gathering at my place (making it three days in a row of solid hardcode drinking – four if you include Friday night).

On the menu was the keg of Hops of Mass Destruction, the last of my Pilsner, some of my Kiuchi made beer, Kolsch and Alt from Awa Uzushio that I’d had delivered that day (Awa Uzushio closed its beer business last week; a shame because its beer was actually pretty good), several bottles contributed by the Beerkat, Jonno, and Chuck (thanks people!), Chuck’s latest homebrew (and excellent it was too considering it was made with LME yet didn’t have an LME taste), and some homebrew Chuwy stole rescued from being poured down the sink at the end of the Japan homebrewing ceremony on Sunday.

The last of the beer from Awa Uzushio

The last of the beer from Awa Uzushio

Ezo Beer Namara Nigai - aka Rogue's Brutal Bitter

Ezo Beer Namara Nigai - aka Rogue

Full Sail Nut Brown Ale

Full Sail Nut Brown Ale

Hakusekikan Dual Porter - rather funky this one; I suspect we had a bad bottle

Hakusekikan Dual Porter - rather funky this one; I suspect we had a bad bottle

Sankt Gallen 2008 el Diablo barley wine - not as bad as I remembered it to be

Sankt Gallen 2008 el Diablo barley wine - not as bad as I remembered it to be

A fair few bottles were consumed

A fair few bottles were consumed

The night ended with a couple of hours in Aldgate and Jonno downing a pint in 4 seconds to get his last train.

Jonno: Thanks to you I’m never going to be able to look at anyone wearing an eyepatch in the same way ever again. But despite that, you’re a star – and thank you very much for the bottle of Imperial Stout. I’ll look forward to cracking it open.

What a difference the correct temperature and carbonation makes – finally with Hops of Mass Destruction I’ve made an IPA that I love. A long lasting bittering and wonderful Centennial flavour and aroma.

I can’t wait to try it poured through my new Hops Head hop infuser!

Oh baby, I can't wait to fill you

Oh baby, I can't wait to fill you

Next Page »