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Topics - enso

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Equipment and Software / Propane hardware help please
« on: October 21, 2011, 03:04:33 PM »
I recently upgraded my brewstand adding a pump and a dedicated HLT (and lots o' shiny stainless fittings!) with a burner.  So, now with 2 burners I would like to "hard-wire" the propane from one tank to the two burners so I do not have to keep switching the burners attached to the tank.  I have looked at hardware stores/ home centers and cannot figure out what fittings I should use to accomplish this.  I have also looked around on the internet for what other folks have but have not seen enough detail or explanation as to the fittings.

Can anyone help?  My burners are the simple blowtorch type with high pressure regulators that attach directly to the propane tank.

Equipment and Software / March pump. Center inlet versus side?
« on: May 20, 2011, 07:10:05 PM »
Are there any major differences?  Is one preferable to the other?

So I am really ready, I think to get a march pump.  I have figured all the ways I could utilize it and it seems a good idea.  I have read as many posts around the many forums and looked at other folks set-ups for ideas.  I get the basic ideas.  All the set-ups I have seen pictures of though seem to utilize a LOT of extra hardware in the way of valves, qd's and ss fittings.  It would seem you have to spend as much in hardware as you pay for the pump itself!

Anyone have a very simple yet effective set-up?  Maybe one ball valve on the outlet and a couple of fittings with hoses?  Or do you need $50-100 of extra hardware to make the pump worthwhile in effectiveness?

Equipment and Software / oxidation with whirlpool chiller?
« on: May 04, 2011, 08:53:17 PM »
As I make a list of all the tasks a pump will make possible I am pondering this question I only vaguely considered in the past.  Do the whirlpool/immersion chiller setups cause oxidation of the wort?  Since you are pumping boiling hot wort through this system isn't there some oxygen pickup along the way?  I know the return is supposed to be below the wort surface in the kettle, but it just seems like air is going to be pulled in somewhere in the process.

Ingredients / Looking for advice on all late/single hop pale ale
« on: May 02, 2011, 08:46:04 PM »
I have decided to try an American pale ale using a single hop variety.  Actually the next few pale ales will be single hopped with different varieties each time.  First round all Chinook.  I have been toying with the idea of using only late hop additions from 15 minutes on down to flameout.  Unfortunately when I was getting the hops I was thinking I was only going to do a 5 gallon batch.  So I figured 3 oz. of 11.6% AA would be enough.  Well, I want to do a 10 gallon.   Roll Eyes

So, I went for an ounce FWH to get more bittering and then an ounce @ 10 minutes and an ounce @ flameout, or maybe 1 minute.

Would I be able to get a decently hoppy pale ale with only 3 oz. of Chinook added only as late additions?  My brewing software does not say so.  I have never done an all late addition beer.

Should I
a)go for it with the FWH and late additions
b)get some more hops and do all late addition only

And if so what should my additions look like.

Base beer looks about like this:

for 10 gallons:

18 # MO
8 oz. Carahell
8 oz. Carared

US-05 or 1056 if I can get some.

Equipment and Software / Starting to investigate pumps...
« on: May 02, 2011, 01:17:50 PM »
Looking for advice!  So it would seem the March 809...  followed by other numbers/letters??? is the one most folks go for.

What is the best price?  I saw this one.

Is that alright or can I get one cheaper?  This one just needs to be wired to a switch and a plug attached and it is good to go correct?  Yes, and the inlet outlet connections as well...

Any one point me to a good "primer" (sorry.   ::)) on pumps for homebrewing.  Just sort of an overall how/why/what guide?


Ingredients / water, water everywhere...
« on: April 29, 2011, 09:05:06 PM »
...and I dunno what to think!

Okay, well I am too stupid to do anything with water chemistry, or any ind of chemistry really!  Read much on the topic in here and in books, spreadsheets, etc..  So let's not go there.  However, some help on overall quality, keep it real simple here folks, would be much appreciated.

I have been renting a house for the last 9 mos. and we are in the process of buying it.  Nearly a done deal.  We have a drilled well here though I do not use the water.  It has a distinct sulfury smell that is consistent but worse some times then others.  It is not the hot water heater.  It is likely iron or sulfer bacteria or a combination.  I generally get my water from springs in the area and they provide great tasting water but it is not always convenient to get it.

As a part of the buying/inspecting process we got the well water tested from Ward labs.  Did a full on test for bacteria and all...

Coliform Bacteria, Col/100 mL NONE (SAFE)
E Coli Bacteria, Col/100 mL NONE (SAFE)
pH 8.2
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est 145
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.24
Cations / Anions, me/L 2.3 / 2.2
Sodium, Na 15
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 28
Magnesium, Mg 2
Total Hardness, CaCO3 78
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 5
Chloride, Cl 6
Carbonate, CO3 9
Bicarbonate, HCO3 89
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 88
Fluoride, F 1.20
Total Iron, Fe 0.03

Doesn't look to bad to read the report, but it smells/tastes bad.  There is a sediment filter for the house that the landlord changes monthly.  Which he thinks helps, I disagree.

What can I do with this water if I want to brew with it?  Any suggestions for an idiot?

Equipment and Software / SG/Brix refractometer completely useless?
« on: April 27, 2011, 08:02:45 PM »
So I asked for one of these for my birthday only to now read in another thread that these do not work.  Are they completely useless or can I read the brix side of the scale and get an accurate reading?

Ingredients / playing with birch sap
« on: April 26, 2011, 01:22:47 PM »
I have been maple sugarin' for a couple of years.  Not a big production just a haphazard backyard rig.  It's been fun and I have incorporated sap and syrup in beers in different ways.  Oh and one wine.  Maple sherry anyone?

I have wanted to play around with birch for a while as well.  Currently we are living in a house with quite a few birch trees so I went for it this year.  Not a whole lot of practical info out there that I could find so I am sharing some of my findings thus far for anyone who wants to try collecting and utilizing birch sap.

I said playing because I have been far from scientific about it.  Hardly measuring and not being at all methodical.  Maybe next year...

So, to start tapping.  I tapped one birch at the same time I tapped my maples.  I was a bit late tapping this year at around the 3rd week of March.  When I bored the hole on the birch it was dry.  Usually when you tap a maple at the right time sap begins to come out as you are boring the hole.  Bone dry the birch was.  Not even moisture on the shavings.  I popped a spigot in anyways and hung a bucket just in case.  I checked it each day as I emptied the maple buckets.  Nada.  I tried another hole in case the first was just not in a good spot.  I.e., not sunny enough, not over a good main root etc...  Still nothing.

Fast forward a few weeks.  April has begun the maples are slowing down and I have finished boiling so I pulled the taps.  I notice from my kitchen window dark gray lines on the birch coming form the hole s I left.  Sap has started to flow.  I would say it was maybe the second week of April?  Again, not methodical at all!  So I put the spigots back in and hung 2 buckets.  I figured I would collect a little and boil it down some and see what it tasted like anyway.  I knew I was not going to have enough to make any syrup.  The sugar concentration is much lower than maple.  I was getting around 1.002 for gravity.  I have heard it takes up to 100 gallons of birch sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! 

Since I had started to believe it was not going to work I did not have a plan of what to do so I really was not into it once it started actually flowing.  It was still freezing at night at this point and I had some of the buckets freeze nearly solid as I was rather lax about emptying them everyday.  I figured I would use that to my advantage as that helps to concentrate sugars before boiling.  I started intentionally freezing and discarding ice.  Did not help a whole lot but it brought the concentration up to about 1.008 with a big decrease in volume.  It is not the most effective concentration method as you will always loose some sugar in the ice you throw out.

Eventually I decided on a purpose for the sap.  As I would not collect a lot overall and boiling it to concentrate would further reduce volume I decided to make a 1 gallon batch of a hydromel.  I figured a low gravity mead would allow some of the flavor (if any where to remain) to still be detected.  Very haphazardly I collected sap, froze some boiled other bits...  If this turns out well I will NOT be able to repeat it.   ::)

I added an unmeasured amount of honey...   :-[  Whatever was left in the pint mason jar I had...   ;D

Gravity was 1.041.  At least I measured something!  We shall see how it goes.

I continued to collect about 3 gallons of further sap.  Pulled the plug yesterday.  More on that in a moment.  I boiled that down to a little under a quart.  I figured I would top up the hydromel with some of it.  This morning I took a gravity reading and I'll be damned!  It smelled like unhopped wort!  It was @ 1.056 for gravity.  I thought perhaps I grabbed the wrong mason jar out of the fridge at first.  I tasted it.  It definintley had a very bready malty wort flavor but I could also taste the birch flavors.  I am having trouble describing those.  Sort of a slight rootbeer candy taste and a ever so slight bit of sour.  For some reason I want to say horehound candy though I don't believe I have ever had any.   ???  I guess just some type of old fashioned candy that is...  No wait!  I got it!  Riccola!  The cough drops!  Yeah!  That is the flavor mixed with wort!  Interesting...

Okay so I have rambled on for a long with lot's of possibly unusable info...   :-\

One last point.  I had read from folks talking about tapping birch that you need to plug the hole when ou are done.  Never done that for maple.  I usually always heals itself.  I thought maybe it was just a precaution and not actually necessary.  However, the trees did not seem to be slowing down.  They were still gushing pretty good.  They seem to really flow when it rains, and no it was not rain water filling the bucket.  So I stoppered them with a stick that I whittled the bark off of and cut flush to the tree.Then I rubbed parrafin and melted it slightly with a lighter.  Bee wax would probably have been better.  Unfortunately the sapped started to weep through anyway!  I will keep checking them.  Hopefully I do not damage the trees.

Next year perhaps some more controlled data will be collected!   ;D

Equipment and Software / Got them boil kettle pickup blues again...
« on: April 14, 2011, 03:24:28 PM »
dang it!

I invest in a kettle valve (no weld) to make my life easier.  Has it?  Hell no!  >:(

What I have:  A converted sanke keg.  Stainless ball lock weldless, from bargain fittings.  My pickup tube is 1/2" soft copper soldered to a copper male npt fitting which is screwed into the stainless coupling.  The pickup is bent down to the center of the kettle bottom.  I usually stuff a stainless scrubby under it to do some coarse filtering.

What happens:
Sometimes it drains okay, sometimes not.  There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason.  It can not flow when there is only a 5 gallon batch or a ten gallon.  It might flow fine with a lot of hops and not at all with a malty low hopped beer.  Generally I end up scooping or using my auto siphon.

What I have done to fix it so far:
I have tried a longer piece of hose attached to the hose barb on the outside of the kettle to lower the outlet of the liquid.  I have tried it with and without the venturi device on the end of the vinyl hose outlet.  I have resoldered the pickup connection, it seems solid.  I have used teflon tape on the threads.  I attempted to bend the tube even closer to the bottom.  I have used a large hop bag (5 gallon paint strainer suspended in the kettle.

I just bought a new piece of soft copper tubing and am going to try to redo it in hopes of a better outcome.  I was thinking perhaps I should position the diptube to the side instead of the bottom.  Any idea here folks or did I waste my money and time on a drain and just g back to the old autosiphon.  Which by the way could be hit or miss also!

If I left out any crucial info let me know.  I can try and take pictures at some point to if that would help.  I just want to be able to drain my beer int the fermenter without cursing the whole time.  Is that so much to ask!!!

Kegging and Bottling / What the...! Exploding keg!
« on: March 05, 2011, 08:47:22 PM »
Well, okay the keg itself did not really explode but the contents did!

I brewed a smoked ale last fall using Briess smoked malt.  I was not really happy with it as it was fairly band-aid phenolic.  It was force carbed and I took it off tap after a few weeks of not wanting to really drink it.  I set the keg aside in the basement.  Ambient temp has been 52F all winter in the basement.

Today I wanted to take a sample to see if it had improved any.  I took my sanitized pyrex baster, bled the pressure off the keg and started to draw a sample.  As soon as I started drawing liquid into the baster PHLOOM!  the beer starter gushing up out of the keg all over the floor!  I quickly put the lid back in to stop it.  I opened it again and it did not continue.  I was able to draw a sample then.  My first thought was, well maybe it got infected.  The sample actually tasted much better than it had last fall, so I don't think that was it. 

What happened?!   ???

I brewed a Tripel in Nov. of '09.  Unfortunately I do not have any notes on the actual fermentation temps but I was shooting for a target of 70F.  Now I have been using various means of temp control for years and my standard practice is to start a bit cooler than the target temp and let it rise to that temp.  So, most likely I would have started it at about 66F and then let it rise to 70F.  I do know for a fact that the method I used at the time was a water bath with a aquarium heater in it.  So, I am fairly certain it did not get to hot.

The brew itself tastes great I think.  Maybe a bit high on IBU's (about ~42 I think my software calculated).  I don't feel it tastes hot from alcohol.  There is some warmth but I do not think it is hot.  The bitterness in the finish could be something other than hop derived I suppose.  Maybe alcohol? However, I tend to develop a headache later after drinking it.  Which leads me to believe fusels.  So, where did they come from if I kept the ferment under control?

It is bottle conditioned.  Is it possible to develop significant fusel alcohol from bottle conditioning?  I do not have any data on the conditioning temp.  Or is it something else?  Could it be the caraway seed I added?  I do not know why, but I had an inclination for quite a while to brew a tripel with some caraway.  So I did.  Anyone have any experience using caraway?  Does it produces headaches in beer?

I entered this in NHC east last year.  It was a bit young at the time I suppose.  It scored pretty low @ 25.5.  On aroma both two judges noted cidery notes and one said vegetal.  Neither of which I detect.  Just a side note of interest not related to this inquiry: on appearance one said chill haze, the other said "the beer looks amazing.  Great clarity...", which all of the bottles I have had have been.  On flavor both cited a bit harsh minerally character and a bit solventy.  One continued to say "chalky like...  ferment seems clean".  The other states "grainy pils malt like flavor with some fruit esters through the middle...  Finish is initially sweet but immediatly drops off to complete dryness...  bitterness is moderately high perhaps a bit too harsh for the style."

Both commented in overall impression that there was a minerally character that was distracting and harsh leading to bitterness.  I don't experience that.  Both also stated I should try a different simple sugar (or less) to improve it.  I used one container of clear Belgian cnadi syrup (1.5 lbs I believe is the amount) and 1 Lb of cane sugar.  One said it was too dry, the other also said "bone dry".

Generally I buy my supplies at my LHBS, but sometimes I need items they do not offer and can't get through there supplier.   I have used a few of the major online suppliers and found some of them to be excellent and have great service, however...  They sadly use Fed-ups.  Which means my shipments get damaged (yeast frozen twice, the second time the reshipment of the first screw up), mis-delivered, etc.  There is only so many times I would expect the company to make up for Fedups mistakes so, sadly I feel the need to find a different supplier.

Any suggestions on a supplier that may not be as well known but has good service, fairly big selection (or can get things in), reasonable shipping charges, and most importantly does NOT us Fed-ex!?

Yeast and Fermentation / Please help me identify this organism.
« on: February 13, 2011, 03:07:58 PM »
I realize I won't be able to determine exactly what it is, but ballpark would be nice.  I am hoping someone will recognize the characteristics and appearance.  

A brief history:

A couple of years ago I made up a batch of my heather ale.  This time I decided to add some dry heather to the ferementor at the end of fermentation.  In essence "dry heathering"  ;)

Well, in a few days it appeared to be fermenting again.  I had a bit of a krausen along wit all the heather blossoms floating at the top.  Eventually I kegged it.  It started getting funky.  I debated dumping it many times.  Eventually it started to develop some definite pineapple aromas (eventually I came to the conclusion it was a strain of brett...?) and a bit of sourness.  Many times I opened the keg and started to prepare to dump it, but something told me to keep it.  Eventually I bottled what was left from the keg.  Since that time I have become more interested in wild and sour beers to the point where I realized my infected batch was actually a good thing and I want to recreate it somehow.  I had 2 bottles left.  

About 1 week ago I poured the dregs into a small vial of sterilized starter wort and built it up from there whatever it is.  In the beginning it had the pineapple aromas somewhat but it developed into a much more earthy (fresh wet dirt) aromas.  I also streaked a plate for kicks to see what would grow.

I will post the pics in a bit.  I have to find a host that will let me link here.  Flickr doesn't seem to work.

Any of this sound familiar to anyone?

All Grain Brewing / Smoked beer help please?
« on: November 16, 2010, 06:39:04 PM »
I love Schlenkerla Marzen and Urbock!  I have brewed one succesful smoked beer but nothing like those.  My first attempt was based on an amber ale and was flavored with maple and fenugreek (to boost the maple flavor) it was called smoke in the sugar house.  It turned out quite nicely.  Slightly smoky and certainly maple flavored.  Was not something I would love to drink many pints of at once like I could with the Schlenkerla.  I used Weyerman's rauch malt for that one.

Recently I decided to do a more straight up smoke beer.  It sucks.  It has that wicked band aid phenol and I do not think it is going away.  I also did an ale with this one.  Fermented cool with Scottish ale yeast.  I used the Briess cherry smoked malt i had leftover from a (also sucky) smoked barleywine.  At least it was pretty bad last I tasted it a year ago.  I am still letting it sit to see if it improves.

I know the Briess malt is much more intense so I only used about 2.5 lbs. which was about 21% of the grist.  I beleive that is in line with there recommendations and not over.  Well, I am going to dump it ad try again.

This time I am using the Weyerman Rauch again.  I want to use at least 50% Rauch, however I am nervous that I will get the same result.  I would LOVE to use 100% as Schlenkerla allegedly does but I don't want another dumper.  However, I do want a really smoky brew.

Here is what I plan.  I will use 6 lbs. Rauch(53.3%), 3 lbs. Vienna(26.7), 1 lb. caraamber (8.9%) 1 lb. Melanodin (8.9%), and 4 oz. Carafa special dehusked (2.2%)

I am using Hallertuar hops and shooting for 19 IBU's

I will ferment with WLP 810 (cal common) at about 58F.  Leave it for my usual 3 weeks.  Then, perhaps lager it a bit...  or not.

I am not attempting to clone Schlenkerla.  I just mention it as the best example I have had of what I would like to brew.  Any advice or encouragement that I will not be making another band aid brew?

Oh, and I am not using chlorinated water.  It is spring water direct from the source.  About medium hardness.  I guess that is another difference between my first succesful brew and this last one.  The water came from a different spring.

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