To Brew Stand or Not to Brew Stand

Earlier this month I brewed a citra IPA and realized how inefficient some of my processes are. I found that I spent a large chunk of time setting up my saw horses and hulling up my equipment to the garage so I could brew a batch of beer. I also realize how much of a pain it was to hand crank a corona mill just to crush the grain. So in order to fixes those things I decided I would do two things – start looking at building a brew stand and look into motorizing my grain crushing.

My first project seems like it would be the most daunting. I regretted for a while not buying the brew stand Eric Goodyear was selling not too long ago. And then thought maybe I could build something similar for around $300.

I have always known that there are two possible materials to use for building a brew stand angle iron and steel pipes. With the angle iron I wouldn’t need to weld anything, but my understanding is that there is always a possibility that the pieces would start loosening up and would constantly have to readjust the connections. I talked to Adam Ross about that and found out that he’s never really had that issue. With the steel piping it looks nice, is durable but you need to be able to weld (for both cutting and connecting the pieces together). I really liked the idea of having something that looks more professional like a welded stand.

I also set my eyes on creating a stand that was gravity fed, so I looked online and started realizing that gravity fed stands require a lot more material and space. I also realized that all stands require a lot of planning. I then started thinking more about the whole brew stand and started thinking that I should work towards a stand that is everything I want from a brew stand (able to recirculate and do more with step mashing). I quickly started watching as my price tag started increasing. I started to decide to make that a multi-year process of putting the stand together.

I ultimately decided that at this point I wanted a brew stand that would hold my bulky equipment while I didn’t use them and be able to use a gravity fed system. So I did more research online and found one instance where someone was using a metal shelving system they bought at the Home Depot. I immediately thought that is what I was looking for. So I looked online and quickly found a heavy duty shelving system online at Amazon for about $75. The shelf has casters that can hold up to 300 pounds which is enough for my 5 gallon batches.

Since I saved all that money on the brew stand I decided I would buy a new burner that didn’t sound like a jet engine, so I bought a banjo burner. I have not had a chance to use all the new equipment but I plan on brewing a Brett English Mild with Whitbread yeast next weekend.

What is everyone else experience with building or dreaming of building a brew stand?




Classic German Styles Made Easy

I really like hefeweizens, berliner weisses and goses so I started looking into the basic recipes for them.  Turns out all are essentially wheat and barley with different yeasts and water additions.  I have a friend who really likes these 3 styles also but has no brewing experience.  So I thought, why not try and see if I can do all three styles with the absolute most basic recipe and most basic brewing process.  With this in mind, I created a plan for all three styles.
Last month I did the hefe.   6 pounds of wheat DME, 1 oz Tettnang hops, 1 smack pack of Wyest 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen.  The plan was simple, heat 3 gallons of RO water, add the 6 pounds of wheat DME, bring it to a boil, throw full oz of hops in, add 1 tsp yeast nutrient, boil for 20 minutes, chill by submerging the kettle in ice water, pour wort into fermenter, dilute to 5.5 gallons, put the contents of the smack pack in and ferment at 63 F.
The stats:  SG – 1.046, FG – 1.012, 4.5% ABV, 5 IBUs.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from discussion, research and experience, is the hefe yeasts need to be stressed to produce a nice banana aroma.  If given too optimal of conditions and or to small of headspace, clovieness can overpower your beer.  You may like that, but I sure don’t.  So my plan was to keep the conditions so the yeast would be stressed but robust enough to fully ferment the beer.  I did not aerate anymore than the pouring of the wort into the fermentor.  I pitched only the smack pack which was 63% viable (63 billion cells) based on production date, I used a 6.5 gallon fermentor so I had plenty of head space (I did use a dose of anti foamer in the boil which helped keep the kraussen from blowing off).
Results:  I think it turned out pretty well.  I wish it was just a bit more creamy which is most likely due to the use of extract only.  I don’t detect any clove or bubblegum but the banana seems to be just right for my liking.
With the berlinner and gose, I will be using White Labs Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, WLP 677.  I’m most concerned with two issues, the first being the activity of the WLP 677.  WLP 677 can and will chew up a lot of the sugars which will result in a much lower ABV than predicted.  I did read that WLP 677 can chew up lactose, so I’ve been thinking of possibly adding some lactose to the berliner and allowing the US05 to ferment fully at 63 then moving the fermentor to the garage to allow for the WLP 677 to finish chewing up the lactose.  I’m also wondering if WLP 677 can chew up the sugars left behind with caramel malts.  Does anybody have experience with leaving US05 at 80-90 degrees post fermentation?  If the WLP 677 doesn’t chew up all the lactose, I will have a wheaty, sweet and sour beer.  That’ll be interesting.
The second issue is dependent on the direction that I go with the first issue.  If I end up pitching the WLP 677 first then I have to worry about the wort pH being to low for good fermentation of the US05.  To counter act the low pH, I plan on pitching a full sachet of US-05 into the 3 gallon batch and 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient.  I will allow the WLP to have several days out in the hot garage to do its thing before I bring it downstairs to cool off for the US05.  I’m also curious as to if I can aerate the acidified wort without causing massive oxidation.
Anybody else have any ideas on how to control the lactic acid production?  I do not want to use a sour mash or no boil, I want to be in total control of the fermentation process.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.  I think I may need to ponder this with a beer.

A Tale of Two Sparges

This Saturday, July 5th started out overcast and appeared to be threatening rain.  This will not stop a die-hard outdoor brewer like me.  I brew outside on the deck, and I have a brewstand with I wrap in a tarp to help it withstand the elements.  If it looks like rain, I will get out my ladder to act like a tent pole, and stretch the tarp over my brewing area to shed the rain.

This setup accomplished, I set about brewing my first ever Light American Lager Fizzy Yellow Beer.  I decided to have 25% of the grist be cooked rice.  I boiled water and cooked this on the stove, and then poured it directly into my mash.  I was able to recirculate my mash for about a half hour, but then as I was about to sparge, my volume of wort circulating began to dwindle and then stopped.  I tried my usual method to clear a stuck sparge, I forced some of my sparge water backwards through the system.  This usually does the trick to free the stuck sparge, but not this time, not even after three tries.

It was time for “Plan B”.  I went into the basement and located the cooler and mash braid I have not used for two years, since I inherited my current brew system.  I gave it a rinse and then scooped all of the mash out into it and began to fly sparge form the cooler.  This worked and I was able to collect my wort for boil.  I was off to the races again.

It will be a few weeks from now after fermentation when I can see how it went.  In the meanwhile, there are a couple of options I need to think about to help prevent this stuck sparge if I brew this recipe again.  One common option is Rice Hulls.  This give some larger particles in the grain bed to help set up the grain filter and should allow for better lautering.  The second option is to perform a cerial mash rather than just adding the boiled rice to my main mash.  This option begins the conversion of starches into sugars during the gelatinization of the rice starches.  Given how gummed up my system was with the rice starch, I think the latter option is probably in order.

Hope to see everyone at the next meeting.



Do you really need to boil beer?

mythbusters-logoWhen it comes to brewing, the boil is sacrosanct. One of the first cardinal rules all brewers are taught is “You must boil for 60 minutes. No more, no less”.

It’s right before the rule about needing to always use a secondary fermentor and somewhere after the rule about waving a chicken bone over every mash.

But then you learn that it’s OK to boil a little longer and that in some cases that’s actually beneficial (but don’t boil too long!). But what happens if you boil for 4 hours? Or 40 minutes? Or not at all? Does it ruin your beer? Does it bring shame to your family and ancestors and require you to live out the rest of your life in solitude? Or does it not really make all that much difference and we’ve all been wasting our time?

I don’t really know, but I plan to find out. I’ll be doing this month’s educational on The Boil – what it is, what it does, do you need it, and how should you use it? Hopefully, I’ll even have a sample or two. Before that, though, I’d like you to vote on the poll on the right side of the page here. How long do you typically boil a batch of beer? If you typically brew all-grain, select from one of the answers starting with “All-Grain:”. Do the same with the extract answers if you brew more extract than all-grain. I’ll reveal the answers and more on Sunday, July 27th!

2014 AHA Seminars Now Online

The seminars at the American Homebrewers’ Association Conference this year were better than ever. Ron Pattinson’s guide to vintage English beer and John Mallet and Andrea Stanley’s talk on the history of malting (with samples of a 100% traditional brown malt beer) appealed to the history geek in me. Matthew Brown’s Double IPA with no kettle hops blew my mind with its hoppiness. Homebrew celebrities like Randy Mosher, John Palmer, and Ray Daniels gave some great seminars as well.

If you went and couldn’t make it to everything you wanted, or you didn’t get to go at all, but still want to fill your brain with beery goodness (sorry, no samples), check out the AHA site where they’ve posted the slide deck and audio for every.single.seminar. Free if you’re a card carrying AHA member. If you’re not, then it’s time to sign up!

Most seminars had a video camera running as well, so if you’re good at Google, you should be able to find the video for a few of these as well!