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Topics - benamcg

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All Grain Brewing / Mash pH
« on: January 17, 2015, 09:34:38 PM »
I just moved to a new area and am trying to adjust to the new water.  I bought a pH meter and found the tap to be at 7.8!  I do not know the exact make up of the water.  The municipality doesnt have a detailed water report

So I am left to tinker with adding different amounts of gypsum to get to a mash pH of 5.2.  Without knowing anything about Ca, Mg, hardness,etc. around what range should my Gypsum additions be?  Are we talking ounces (e.g. 1-5 oz per 12 gals water) or pounds (e.g. 1/2 - 1 lb per 12 gals water)?

Well, I forgot to put the temp probe back in the chest freezer after cleaning it out and placing new kegs in.  So, 12 hours later, I have found frozen yeast slurries in 1 qt Ball jars.  Are they goners?  I have taken them out to allow for them to return to basement temperatures (55-60 F) before returning them the chest freezer (if they are OK).  My gut says that I have reduced some of the viability.  I imagine the beer will be fine once it acclimates.

Equipment and Software / Better Bottles and Fermawraps
« on: November 01, 2014, 06:10:03 PM »
Just put a hairline fracture into my 2nd to last 6.5 gal glass carboy.  It might be time to switch to a Better Bottle system.  My only concern is the ability to use a FermaWrap with it.  I dont have a dedicated fermentation chamber, so using a FermaWrap to bring temps up to ideal ranges and maintaining it is essential.  Anybody have an experience with 1) Better Bottles in general and 2) the use of a FermaWrap with it?

Yeast and Fermentation / 2 weeks on Yeast
« on: January 28, 2014, 04:28:22 PM »
I currently have a Saison fermenting away in primary with WLP 565.  I want it to finish with a low terminal gravity (target of 1.005).  I was considering a primary for 6 days at 69 degrees, followed by 2 days at 80 degrees.  I have to go out of town after this time (8 days from pitching).

If the 565 does not get it to the desired gravity range I am contemplating transferring to secondary, adding some WLP 001 (rinsed slurry- one of two yeast strains I have on hand) right before I leave town.  My question is, even with a transfer off of the first pitch, do I run into issues of long contact time with yeast?  I wouldnt expect it, but I dont know if there would be an additive effect of contact time despite a transfer and the addition of a new yeast.

Equipment and Software / Universal poppet valves
« on: December 23, 2013, 11:34:08 PM »
Last year I replaced a couple of poppets on the gas side posts of 2 kegs.  Since I was unsure of the keg type I went with some universal valves.  They seal nicely, but don't allow the gas connect to click or sit on the poppet (i.e. you have to press down to carb the keg). It wasn't a huge problem, but more difficult when initially trying to carb the new keg.
After 8-10 months I have now noticed that the gas connects will now click into place.  What is happening?  Were they installed improperly or just needed breaking in?


Equipment and Software / Blichmann QuickConnect Barbs
« on: November 20, 2013, 08:02:57 PM »
Anyone know if you can just purchase the barb portion of a Blichmann QuickConnect rather than the nut + the barb?

I have narrow barb on one now (intended for use on the Hop Rocket as a Randall) that I would like use on the Therminator (1/2" nut is the same) but do not know if the swivel barbs can be purchased separately or if they are interchangeable (I would assume they are).  I would rather not pay $13.99 x 2 to find out they are not.

Equipment and Software / Cleaning a cold plate
« on: October 22, 2013, 03:45:54 PM »
I have a jockey box with a 2 outlet cold plate that needs a quick clean before the next party.  Shortly after each use I take a keg filled with Star San solution and run the lines for a while.  Then I close the tap and let it be until the next use.  I haven't used the box for about 3 months and the lines looked like they had a little white/mucousy appearance inside the lines.  I took all the lines apart and soaked them in iodophor (BTF) and seem to be fine now.  However, since I am dispensing for people other than me, I would like to make sure that I am not going to have party guests with intestinal distress or have any residues affecting the taste of the beer. 

I will probably not risk it and just replace the lines, but the cold plate was also packed with the solution.  I would think that since it is no-rinse Star San that it should be OK, but if it is not OK to store Star Stan for longer periods, any recommendations on cleaning it?  I have BTF, Star San and PBW. 

Any thoughts on what "normal" jockey box maintenance should be. 


Equipment and Software / Thermometer Recommendation
« on: October 22, 2013, 03:35:58 PM »
Anybody have a good recommendation on a thermometer?

I have had issues with the longevity of 2 digital ones, and have gone back to my glass floating thermometer (similar to:   In calculating grain temperature to estimate strike water my digital was reading 85 degrees and the floating 65 degrees (which was closer to the room temperature of the basement.  Using the floater I seem to be able to hit all my target temps, hit my estimated gravities based on a good extract efficiency.  Based solely on this, I am assuming that it is working.

I got away from this exact floating glass one when I had different readings between it and 2 laboratory glass thermometer (similar to  I probably am leaning in the route of another glass one in case this one breaks or to estimate whether it has become somewhat compromised. I would like to be able to check its accuracy with another thermometer or a method around the critical temperatures (50 to 195 degrees).  It seems that the thermometers I have used are either accurate at the lower end or the higher end.

Even though I have had rotten luck with digitals, I love the ability to probe and get a reading.  So, if you think that you have a great digital, please let me know. 


All Grain Brewing / Need help with efficiency with Batch Sparging
« on: October 05, 2013, 05:06:57 PM »
My first three attempts at Batch Sparging have resulted in poor extract efficiency: 64, 67, and 56% in 12 gal, 6 gal, and 12 gal batches, respectively. The first and third attempts were with a different mash tun (72 qt Coleman Extreme cooler) than the 6 gal batch (Gatorade 10 gal circular).

I have not done anything differently with my crush size (Barley Crusher) since my fly sparging days.  Mash temperatures have been hit perfectly (152 F), each with volumes of ~ 1.3 qts/lb, and mashes are all held for 1 hr. 

At the end of the mash, I slowly open the valve to set the bed, I recirculate until clear, and then crank wide open to drain.  I have calculated that based on where my Bazooka T is connected, I have about 1 gal of deadspace (with grain/solids in there, obviously that volume is lessened, but I would still think that 1/2 gal of wort is trapped in the cooler after each run-off).  After Run-off 1, I add essentially 1 gal more water than what I need to collect (to account for the deadspace) of near boiling water (200- 205 F) to raise the bed to 165-8, stir and wait for 30 mins, then repeat the slow drain, recirc and collect.

For example:
My first run-off on the last batch collected 7 gals (on 28 pounds) for the first run-off.  I added 6.5 gals of water, stirred, waited, etc.  Collected another 5.5 gals for my target of 12.5 gals in the kettle, and only got 56%.

I feel like the process is sound, but if I could guess what is wrong, I think it has to do with something in the second run-off, either the deadspace under the Bazooka T, or how much water is being added to collect the second run-off.  The second run with a 6 gal batch anf a different mash tun was higher (67%) but still not great.  The amount of deadspace in that cooler is much less.

I like the concept of batch sparging and want to get it right.  There has not been any issues with the taste of the beer (as one could expect), and in the grand scheme of things, I could just add another pound of malt to hit higher gravities.  However, I would like to maximize the efficiency of my system to at least 75% and be consistent with it.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Equipment and Software / Stainless and aluminum mash tuns
« on: June 22, 2013, 04:10:24 PM »
As a Gatorade cooler masher, I am limited to 28 pounds of malt at a very thin (1 qt) mash (= less than desirable efficiency) in the 10 gal cooler.  In an effort to go larger (more importantly thinner mashes) I was looking at the various larger volume stainless and aluminum pots available (e.g. Blichmann, Megapots) but wonder about their insulating capabilities.  Are they are capable of maintaining consistent mash bed temps for 1 hr? 

Question for the batch spargers in the group.  How do you determine the sparge water temperature to maintain a grain bed temperature in a certain range (I imagine the 168-170 degree range)?  Is there an equation?  I imagine it would have depend on mash temp (assume 152) and pounds of malt. 


Equipment and Software / Cleaning Mills- Barley Crusher
« on: May 04, 2013, 10:30:18 PM »
I just used my Barley Crusher for the first time.  What an amazing tool!  I want to make sure that it works for as long as possible.  How should I go about cleaning it?  I just took the Shop Vac to it.  Anything further required.  My old Corona mill seemed to rust over a decade of use- rinsing with water it and drying after each use (probably not wise) .  This new mill is the bees knees.  I cant believe I ever used anything else. 

Yeast and Fermentation / What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« on: February 17, 2013, 03:41:25 PM »
I made a larger beer a couple of weeks ago (1.075) and in haste (and in hindsight) did not pitch enough yeast (1 vial Yorkshire Square) nor did I make a starter.  The beer never really took off in fermentation.  Fermentation was visible within 24 hours, but never really develop the thick krausen I am used to.  The fermentation has been temperature controlled and monitored (69 degrees F) throughout. 

2 days post brewing, I left for a week, and when I returned home, saw about the same, thin layer of activity on the surface. At this time, I checked the gravity with the refractometer (did the conversions for gravity on fermented beer) and found it around 1.055.  At this time, I decided to add the only yeast I had on hand - 1 vial of White Labs Cal Ale yeast.  After aeration and another week (2 weeks from brew day), the gravity (refractometer reading) is now around 1.044, still have some activity in the airlock of about a bubble per 10 secs, uniform but very thin "head" or bubbles on the surface of the beer, but again, no healthy krausen.

Another variable that may help troubleshoot this issue are:
The recipe had 1 lb of brown sugar added to the kettle, which should have been pretty easy for the yeast to chew through.

My question is: Should I:
1. Dump it: 2+ weeks in primary scares me.  I should have been transferring to secondary by now.  I can tie up a fermenter for another couple of weeks, but I dont know what this monster is going to do, or taste like. 
2.transfer it to secondary and keg it later (is it worth kegging at 1.044)
3.or just keep taking gravities, praying that it will come down into at least the 20s.  I am doubting that it will at this point.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

General Homebrew Discussion / How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« on: January 04, 2013, 12:07:34 AM »
I can't say that my palate is overly sensitive.  I let my wife have the first pint off of every keg to determine whether batches are serve worthy for parties, or if I am going it alone for 10 gallons.  She seems to be able to detect very subtle flaws that I cannot. 

My question is, is this something that I can overcome or rather become better at?  I would like to exercise the palate so that I can detect subtle differences in my own procedures.  I am sure that those who have sat for the BJCP exam became better by preparing for the exam?  Anybody have any study tips that were helpful or techniques?  Thanks in advance.

Ingredients / Need more hop "nose"
« on: January 03, 2013, 11:25:42 PM »
I have been tinkering to beef up the hop aroma of my IPAs lately- without results of my liking.  I really want an overwhelming hop smell, but no matter what I do, there is very little variation.

I have used the same malt profile, usually a Columbus 60 min addition, and then altering one variable, either 1. use of a hop back or 2. dry hop time.  Apart from the 60 min addition, I have removed 45 and 30 min additions from the standard recipe (usually something like Galaxy, Cascade or Zythos) and have instead put these additions at 10 and 5 mins.  I use a hop back (1-2 oz of Cascades flowers) and dry hop with 2 oz per 10 gals for anywhere between 3 and 14 days.  No real difference. 

Any suggestions?  Higher quantities of hops?  Different timings?  Different cultivars?

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