602: First Successful Zymatic Brew



Here it is. 604. Baby Ruin. Maris Otter, Vienna, Carared base. Magnum bittering. Centennial flavour, aroma, whirlpool, dry hopping. 5.1% – sorry, I mean 0.51%. 55 IBU. Exploded over the ceiling while brewing. 

It’s not the best beer I’ve made, but it’s drinkable. There’s something missing which I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s missing a richness. It’s a Disney beer. Relatively shallow and inoffensive. But I want a Warner Brothers beer. A kick-ass Wile E Coyote & Roadrunner of a beer. A beer with a bit more edge. 

It could be that I’m finding the Centennial a bit one dimensional after so long blending multiple hops. 

It could also be that a higher and richer alcohol level would work better with the Centennial, giving some missing depth. 

It could also be that as 60+% of the bittering comes from the Centennial additions, it’s just not giving me the sharp bitterness or citrus bitterness I want. I remember having that experience with Centennial in the past. 

It could also be that the Z isn’t generating the promised IBU. 

I don’t know. But I won’t be making this exact recipe again. 


602 Pale Lager and 603 Pils are both lagering away in the kegerator. They both came out a lot drier and a lot “fruitier” than I expected. The Pale has also come out quite seems devoid of and “pale ale recipe” and dry-hop influence. 

I’m hoping all is not lost and some time lagering will clean up the fruitiness.  I had read that W34/70 is a clean fermenting yeast, but perhaps 15 degrees was a bit too high. On the plus side they have no diacetyl – fermenting 20-ish for the last few points cleaned that up. 

Next beer is currently on hold as I have no space for any more beer until I empty a keg! In the meantime I’ve been looking into the foaming and have come up with a few ideas to try on the next brew. More in a future post. 

Edit: After sampling another beer I made, I’m convinced it’s the lack of other hops to complement the Centennial at this alcohol level. 

  

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.

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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.