Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brew Day - Honey Blonde Ale


New Brew TableOn the evening of Superbowl weekend a few news sites and a blog reported that the Obama's were serving homebrew at their White House Superbowl party.

This week there was a more in-depth post about the White House Honey ale, which is very interesting, but was still missing something pretty important, the recipe.  All that they mention is that there was a pound of White House Honey from the Kitchen Garden.  All that really can be assumed is that they use all domestic ingredients, which is typical for the White House kitchen.

For my brew, I did not go all domestic, mainly because I'm still on my Maris Otter kick.  So here's what I ended up with:

Recipe: White House Inspired Honey Ale
Style: 6B-Light Hybrid Beer-Blonde Ale

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 17.40 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 12.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 11.50 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 11.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 10.20 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.030 SG
Expected OG: 1.049 SG
Expected FG: 1.011 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected ABW: 4.0 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 16.5
Expected Color: 4.3 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 76.8 %
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

UK Pale Malt - Maris Otter 17lb 8oz (83.3 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Carapils Malt 1lb 0oz (4.8 %) In Mash/Steeped
Sugar - Honey 2lb 8oz (11.9 %) Start Of Boil

US Willamette (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
Czech Saaz (3.0 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used 15 Min From End
US Willamette (4.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used At turn off

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 1332-Northwest Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F) w/Mash Out
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 60 mins
Step: Raise to and Mash out at 165 degF for 10 mins

Recipe Notes

I was looking to go with Golden Promise for the base malt, but my LHBS did not have it, and MO is pretty close anyway. If they would have had GP, I would have tossed in some Heather as well and gone the full Scottish route (maybe next time!)

This batch should be on the Malty/Sweet side of things with just a bit of Spicy/Floral flavors from the hops, which should blend nicely with the honey. Using Wyeast 1332 "Northwest Ale" (also known as Hale's Ales' house yeast!) in this batch will give some nice citrus character as well.

New Additions

New 15gal FermenterSome new equipment additions to this brew day: the small Costco table (seen above), and a Liquid Malt Extract shipping container (check your LHBS to see if they have some extras you can buy!). The malt container is about 15gal (the top mark on the side is 12gal, extrapolating from that the whole container is just about 15gal), which is perfect for fermenting a 10gal batch.

The hardest part of the day was cleaning out this sucker for the first time, there was a nice layer of Bavarian Wheat malt coating the entire inside, which took a lot of hot water and oxyclean to rinse out.


Honey Ale into the FermenterToday's process was very straight forward. The big thing today was that I calibrated my main thermometer, which I found out was running 3°F too low; that would make the beer drier and more crisp, but I'm going for more of the Honey/Sweet flavor for this batch, so I wanted to be able to keep my mash up towards the top end of the range (154-156°F). For the first 40mins it was at 155-156°F, and then the last 30mins it was at about 151-152°F, so I think that will be a good balance.

Of course there was using the new fermenter, which will make things a bit more organized in the long-run.

Yeast Pitched, Now We Wait!Finally, I have to admit that I was horrible at taking notes and measurements this time around. I do know that I broke 90% efficiency on my mash, and this time I am sure I did it right and that I did not over-extract on the sparge. In fact, I still could have extracted one more batch-sparge and pushed it probably over 92%, but I was already running very "heavy", so I diluted down a bit more to keep the beer sane. Going back and changing the assumed efficiency for the batch in Beer Alchemy I was able to nail down almost my exact numbers with 88% efficiency. I did get a good reading pre-boil, which was 1036. My OG value I forgot to write down or note, but I seem to remember it being about 1055, which matches exactly with the tweaked BeerAlchemy recipe.

Lesson learned from this batch: I need to start trusting my efficiency calculations, and I can start saving a few bucks on grain by assuming higher efficiencies in my recipes. I'm not going to jump right to 90%, probably 82.5% next time around and see where we end up.

Kraussen!UPDATE [10:00am, 3/6]: I peeked in the fermenter this morning and was greeted with Kraussen, so my little yeasties are happily doing their job already. I guess the only problem with fermenting in this container is not being able to marvel at those little buggers working, but I think it's a worth-while trade-off. I do need to track down a stopper that fits in one of the holes so that I can put in a proper air-lock. For now I'll just cross my fingers and keep the holes covered (but not stoppered tight!).

Kegging - Cascade Pale Ale

Kegged off the Casecade Pale Ale after two weeks in "primary" fermentation.

The specific gravity came in a bit under what I expected, but I found out why:  my thermometer I used for mashing was calibrated about 3°F too low, so I was mashing more in the Alpha Amylase range.  Alpha works by snipping off single sugar molecules off of the ends of the starch molecules, and those single sugar molecules are very fermentable, so you end up with a drier product.
The hydrometer sample was very good. The color was spot-on, and the flavor was very good; as I mentioned, it as a little dry, but it will be a perfect session beer (since the ABV was only 4.5%). Overall I think Chris and I will be very happy with this one!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brew Day - Cascade Pale Ale


20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 5
Milled Grain
This recipe is a homemade recipe; it's one of those where I had and idea of what I wanted to use, so I just threw stuff together. This time around I wanted to use some Unmalted Wheat, so there is a couple of pounds of that in this batch. Otherwise, this is a Maris Otter based American Pale Ale (that's kind of a contradiction, considering Maris Otter is a UK pale male, but it's so damn good!).

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 14
Willamette Hops
I'm using Cascade hops for bittering; that is not exactly the most efficient way to go, Centennial is a better way to go for bittering, but I happen to have almost a pound of Cascade in my freezer, so I don't mind using a little extra. Willamette hops will finish out the aroma side of things.  I also just noticed that my Cascade hops have an alpha of 8.7%, which is really high for that variety, so they will do nicely for bittering.

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 9
Chico Yeast
For yeast I am going with Wyeast 1056 "American Ale", also known as "Chico" -- more commonly known as Sierra Nevada's house yeast. If you've ever had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, you'll be able to pick out the similarities in this recipe.

I designed this recipe using HopVille (not to be confused with FarmVille), and the OG came out to 1048, but when I put it into Beer Alchemy it came out as 1044, which is lower than I want.  I'm hoping that I get a little bit more efficiency to bump it up, if not I'll boil it a bit longer to get a bit more gravity.

Recipe: Cascade Pale Ale
Style: 10A-American Ale-American Pale Ale

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 17.40 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 12.50 US gals
Volume Transferred: 11.50 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 11.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 10.20 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.032 SG
Expected OG: 1.044 SG
Expected FG: 1.011 SG
Expected ABV: 4.4 %
Expected ABW: 3.5 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 32.2
Expected Color: 6.8 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 74.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Maris Otter 16lb 4oz (82.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Soft Red Wheat 2lb 0oz (10.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Carapils Malt 1lb 0oz (5.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 120L Malt 8.00 oz (2.5 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Cascade (8.7 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
US Willamette (4.8 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used 15 Min From End

Other Ingredients

Yeast: Wyeast 1056-American Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F) w/Mash Out
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 60 mins
Step: Raise to and Mash out at 165 degF for 10 mins

Recipe Notes


The mash schedule for this batch is a simple single-step with mash-out.  I started by heating my strike water (the initial mashing water) to 170°F and then doughed-in the grist, making sure to stir very well to make sure all of the grain is in the liquid (dough-balls, think of the big lumps in Cream Of Wheat, will kill your efficiency).  After dough-in my mash temperature was 155°F, which is a pretty good place to start.

After 20 minutes I gave the mash a stir and the temperature was up to 156°F.

After 40 minutes I gave the mash another stir and the temperature was back down to 154°F.

Since the temp was still running high I took off the lid and gave it another 30 minutes.  At the end of that time the mash was down to 149°F, so I think the average was right about in the expected range.

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 4 20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 6 20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 720110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 10
Strike Water Dough InMashing Final Temp


20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 11
Sparging First Runnings
First Runnings resulted in 3 gallons of sweet liquor at 24% Brix (percent sugar concentration), which is about 1098 in specific gravity.

Second Runnings were run off of 4 gallons of sparge water at 168°F.  3.25 gallons were recovered at an average of 15% Brix.  Total sweet liquor at this point measured 6.25 gallons at 19.6% Brix (1079).

Second Runnings
I wanted a bit more sugar, so I risked one more batch sparge with 3 gallons of water. I was able to pull a couple more gallons off at about 9% Brix to end up with 8.5 gallons total at about 16.2% Brix.  I then diluted this down to 16.25 gallons at 8.5% Brix (1033 SG).

Now here is where I screwed up:  I found out on my last batch that I was over-sparging my grain.  This time I was hyper-conscious of over-sparging... to the point that I undersparged quite a bit.  The rule-of-thumb is to stop sparging when your gravity readings hit 1010. 
Pre-Boil Gravity
Well, I thought I was "risking" a third running with a gravity reading of 9% Brix, a bit under 10%... but wait... that's 1010, not 10% that you need to be worried about. So my third runnings were still at 1033 SG.  I could have easily done another few gallons through the grain and gotten more sugars, BUT, things will work out, I have plenty of liquid for a 1045 batch.  RDWHAHB.

Final Mash Efficiency was 72.8%.  Nothing horrible, but I know I can hit at least 75% next time, probably 80%.

The Boil

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 12
Boiling 16gal+
The boil was uneventful. As I usually do, I ran a 90 minute boil for this batch. The burner I use is a dream when it comes to heating up 16.25 gallons of wort to a boil within a reasonable amount of time. I think it took just under a half hour to bring it to a full boil -- the last few degrees always seem to take the longest.
Here's a quick video I took of the burner I use. The thing rocks! (Sorry about the clicking, that's the optical stabilizer on my lens, I forgot to turn it off for the video):

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 13
Boiling Hops
At 60mins I added 1.5oz of Cascade Hops.

Those boiled for 45 minutes, then at 15mins I added 1oz of Willamette. I also put my wort chiller coil in at this time. This gives the boil a chance to sterilize the chiller and get any nasties off from my last boil.

At Flame Out I added in the other 0.5oz of Cascade -- I did not want to pack that back up, and more hops never hurt!


20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 15
Wort Chiller, No Ice Today
The wort took about an hour to come down to 80°F using the Wort Chiller. It would take MUCH longer than that if I was using some other method, so I'm not complaining.

I split the wort into two 6gal Better Bottle carboys, about 5.75gallons in each one; I ended up adding just about one gallon of extra water to rinse off the hops and top up.

20110218 Brew Day - Pale Ale 18Original Gravity measured right at 1044, so my Beer Alchemy numbers were right on; Kind of wish I would have run the recipe through that before I bought my grain. Oh well, it just means two "light" beers in a row... I'll have to make it up on my next one!

The color came out very nice, right what I was expecting -- just a little bit copper, and the hops flavor was awesome, nicely hoppy without being overly bitter.

By the time I got the wort down to the basement into the Fermentation Zone (basement bathroom!) the temp was down to 57°F, and the yeast was pitched -- one pack for each fermenter. I could have made a starter, but I did not plan far enough ahead.

Looks like that's all for today, now just to watch for the bloop-bloop-bloop.

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Fermenting Clean This Up! 11.5gal Pale Ale Wort

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dead Load Cell

Welp, I've been working on getting the software up and going again, and I ran into a big issue:  my scale load cell is dead.  I'm pretty sure I cracked it when setting the keg on it too hard one too many times, it may not have survived the damp humidity too well, either.

I jumped on SparkFun and picked up a couple of half-bridge bathroom scale elements for much cheaper than the (full-bridge, amplified) load cell that I was using.  I got two of them so that I can set up a full-bridge circuit, and picked up a couple of AD620 instrumentation amplifiers from digikey.

It's going to be a bit more circuitry, but it will work better in the end, I think (especially since the load-cells that I'm using are much less expensive than the force transducers that I had).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Facebook Connected

Since I want this to be a more universal replacement for Facebook Notes, I want to make sure that these publish to my Facebook wall just like my notes did, so until then, here is a blatant non-post.

Weekend Progress

This weekend I went through and cleared out my keg fridge in preparation for CO2 conditioning the 13 gallons of 6X.  This is always an experience, and this day was like many others.  It started off with not being able to find the little rubber valve seat for my Beer Gun, which I knew I would lose eventually.  So I had to run around looking for extra tubing to run off of my party tap for the bottles.

Yes, the garage is a mess.  Need to finish the bed then I'll clean it up!
Before I realized I did not have the valve seat I had managed to run almost a half gallon through the restricted tip of the gun into a growler resulting in a big bottle of pure foam.  Not good.

After I got going, I was using the beer gun in CO2-only mode to purge the bottles, then I filled them from a party tap with a foot or so of extension tube.  That worked surprisingly well.  Then capped.

I ended up with six bottles of Christmas Stout, 21 bottles of Hefeweizen, and one flattened growler of Alt.  Not a bad day.

10gal Corny Action
I spent a bit of time organizing stuff, cleaning kegs, and getting ready for kegging the 6X.  For once I had a reason to use my 10gal Corny keg, that was good!  I blended two of the carboys into the 10gal keg and filled another 5gal Corny.

These then went under gas at about 8PSI (I usually run at 14PSI) since the English Bitter spec is for 1-volume of gas, which is pretty low.  We'll see how it is sitting Thursday night and adjust accordingly.

We're looking at bottling that, maybe Sunday.  I think I need to run over to NWBrewers and get stuff to brew this weekend as well... my fridge is going to look lonely with only one keg in it.

Wadworth 6X Clone, FG 1012
Speaking of 6X. The final gravity hit right on the money, the oak mellowed out any of the astringency from the over-sparging, and the color and clarity came out very nice.  It's a bit "weaker" than the last batch, but that was by design.  This one should be right on with the target beer.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Moved Over

The posts previous to this were all over as Notes on Facebook, but I've been getting a bit more attention to the project lately, so I moved everything over here to make it more publicly accessable.

State of the Project:  DOWN

The Keg Fridge Monitor is currently down for several reasons.

First, the LCD is flaking out.  There's something about the update method that is making it not display the updates correctly.  I need to pull that down, make sure my wires are good, and possibly re-write the update algorithm (it needs to be cleaned up, anyway)

Second, as part of that update process, I grabbed a new Arduino Uno (I needed a new "spare" Arduino, anyway).  Unfortunately this new Arduino shipped without a bootloader.  I think I can use one of the old Arduinos to flash a new bootloader, but I don't have the right wires here; I'll have to do that at work.

So, once I get the Arduino running, I'll be cleaning up the software a bit.  I might even get the Twitter interface back up and running.  I'd like to get graphs and a web-status up and going, so I might do that as well.  But, until then, I have several other projects that have priority.

Here's the old Twitter Page.  I think I need to get that up and going again.