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Messages - The Rabid Brewer

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« on: October 06, 2010, 04:34:27 AM »
I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate

I'd be curious on getting your opinion on the "New and Improved Residual Alkalinity Spreadsheets" that Palmer has posted on his site dated September 2009.

Spreadsheet using U.S. Units
Spreadsheet using Metric Units

In these spreadsheets, the input is SRM and the output is a range of RA. In the instructions he states:
Quote from: Palmer
Darker malts have more natural acidity, and therefore require more residual alkalinity to balance them to arrive at the optimum pH. However, the relationship is a general one – different malts of the same Lovibond color value can have different amounts of acidity. You can use the calculated color of a beer recipe as a guide, but don’t rely on it as gospel to determine the appropriate amount of residual alkalinity; it is a general relationship, like cloud color and rain.

He goes on to say:
Quote from: Palmer
Remember, roastier grain bills will have a higher acidity than grain bills composed of caramel and toasted malts. Look at the range of RA present and choose a number that you feel is appropriate to the style of beer you want to brew.

Right or wrong (feel free to comment) this is the way I've been using the spreadsheet. For a desired SRM, use the spreadsheet to calculate a range of RA. Choose an RA target based on the roast level of the malts, then tweak salt additions to accomplish three things simultaneously:

- Hit the target RA which should help get close to the appropriate mash pH
- Stay within appropriate limits for the important ions
- Target a level for the "flavor ions" (Na, Cl, SO4) based on what flavor profile I'm trying to achieve

Palmer also gives the following guidelines (from How to Brew) for the "brewing range" for each ion:
Quote from: Palmer
Ca = 50-150
Mg = 10-30
HCO3 = 0-50 for pale, base malt only
          = 50-150 for amber-colored, toasted malt beers
          = 150-250 for dark, roasted malt beers
Na = 0-150 (sweetness, round smoothness)
Cl = 0-250 (fullness)
SO4 = 50-150 normally bitter
        = 150-350 very bitter

For my water (Ca/Mg/HCO3/Na/Cl/SO4 ~=  35/16/120/34/21/18) I find that when making a light beer (e.g. SRM=5) I often can't achieve the target RA using salt additions without exceeding the "brewing range". In those cases, I add acidulated malt as a source of lactic acid to drive the pH lower. (The spreadsheet allows one to enter mL of Lactic Acid, and one can calculate the amount of acid malt to use assuming it has 2.5% lactic acid by weight.)

Finally, Palmer also notes that
Quote from: Palmer
"[T]he chloride to sulfate ratio is known to be a strong factor for the taste of the beer. A beer with a ratio of chloride to sulfate of 1-2 will have a maltier balance, while a beer with a chloride to sulfate ratio of 0,5-1 will have a drier, more bitter balance."

Too bad he doesn't provide a reference, but I'm not inclined to dismiss it out of hand, either. For now, I treat it as a interesting data point, but haven't been using it to target RA or salt additions.


All Grain Brewing / Alcohol Bitterness
« on: October 06, 2010, 01:21:46 AM »
From an unrelated thread:
Alcohol has a hotness and a bitterness when young.  ...  If you want to know what alcohol bitterness tastes like, take a light lager and add some vodka to it.
I'm not talking about warming mouthfeels or solventy fusels, which obviously exist and on which we most certainly agree.  I'm talking one of the five basic tastes.  Test it for yourself.  It's exactly like a spiked beer session.  It's what I tasted during such a session.  Add ethanol to a light lager.  Compare before and after. Try it; you'll see.  Look for the mouthfeel, but also look for the taste.

I'm not doubting your opinion on this, just interested in what other people have to say.

Also, a question: could it have been the vodka imparting the bitterness and not the ethanol? Some vodkas are more bitter than others (e.g., Stolichnaya and Jewel of Russia.) A Russian friend claims this is a more authentic characteristic of vodkas that he's familiar with in Russia. Have you done this with pure ethanol or just vodka?

Equipment and Software / Re: Vacuum Sealers
« on: October 04, 2010, 11:41:45 PM »
I used to use one of those setups with the reusable bags but, go check the bags after a week or two and I always found half of them had lost the "ziplock" seal.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to see the same thing. At least it was cheap!

All Grain Brewing / Re: Mash ppm in = Mash ppm out?
« on: October 04, 2010, 04:32:31 PM »
I'm already doing that in my brewing, but my technical curiosity got the better of me and I'm looking for references to work that has been done in this area to actually measure what's going on.
I asked this question with reference to grain absorption a few months ago.  The closest thing to a consensus I got on the subject was that it was reasonable to assume that the grain would absorb the minerals dissolved in the mash water they absorbed.  In other words, for purposes of determining kettle mineral additions, the first runnings would not be presumed to have a higher concentration of minerals as a result of the grain absorbing water, but not minerals.

All Grain Brewing / Mash ppm in = Mash ppm out?
« on: October 03, 2010, 10:44:15 PM »

Any references as to how much of the minerals in the mash water make it to the kettle?

To a first order, ppm in = ppm out.

However, there are certain other factors involved such as the precipitation of Ca by HCO3.

Also, will the grain retain water but not minerals such that the mash water out has a higher ppm? Or is it just the opposite in that the grain retains minerals and not water making the mash water out have a lower ppm?


Equipment and Software / Re: Vacuum Sealers
« on: October 03, 2010, 04:20:53 AM »
Oh, and as far as sealing the bags go, you want to seal the bag while the vacuum is applied. Not sure how you would do that with an iron without loosing vacuum or even why an iron is necessary for the mylar bags.

Equipment and Software / Re: Vacuum Sealers
« on: October 03, 2010, 04:19:20 AM »
The primary difference between the snorkel and foodsaver type sealers are the types of bags you can use. The foodsaver sucks from the edge of the bag or (with the newer handheld model) through a one way valve. To prevent the bag from collapsing around the suction and preventing complete evacuation, foodsaver bags are ribbed internally that allow air to flow even once they are fully collapsed. With a snorkle type vac, you push the snorkle into the bag which holds it open while it sucks the air out.

If you want use other bags, including resealing mylar bags, you have to go with a snorkel type vac. Snorklevac website warns that even then, to ensure complete evacuation, you have to have the contents of the bag as close to the snorkle as possible. I consider this a downside in that the vacuum might suck up the loose hop material, though I'd have to hear other's comments on this since I've never used one.

Interestingly, I just bought the handheld foodsaver that works with reusable bags: a huge bonus, IMHO. The bags seal with a ziplock type closure, then you press the unit to the outside where I one-way valve is located. No heat sealing, and you can reuse the bags. You can also get containers. The starter kit is reasonably priced at $29, but I got a deal on mine at $5! Seems to do a decent job.

Be interested in hearing other opinions and experiences as well. I'm sure some of these more expensive units can suck a pretty good vacuum, but realistically, you want to be using your hops relatively soon and definitely within the same year. So, it's not clear to me how important this really is. If you want to store hops long term, nitrogen evacuation is the ticket, and for this you need an expensive setup.


I ended up with an extra “Farm to Table” special session ticket for Friday night.

This is NOT a general admission ticket, you also need one of those, but it does grant you access to the special pavilion where you can:

Enjoy small plates and craft beer pairings and engage in meaningful discussions with farmers, chefs and brewers, who share similar philosophies on choosing specific ingredients to enhance their products. Discover how much local foods have in common with craft beer from small and independent breweries.

This session runs 5:30 – 9:00 on Friday and is Sold Out (as is the only other session on Thursday.)

Selling at face value of $50.


Thanks Janis.

I recently posted a summary of the final results as well.



Can't be done legally unless it's a competition. CA state law allows you to brew for personal use and only remove beer from your premises for competition. I.e., you can't even give it away.

California state statute § 23356.2 allows the manufacture of beer for personal or family use, and not for sale by a person over the age of 21. The aggregate amount of beer with respect to any household shall not exceed 200 gallons or 100 gallons if only one adult resides in such household.

Any beer manufactured pursuant to this section may be removed from the premises where manufactured for use in competition at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions, including homemakers' contests, tastings, or judgings.

Equipment and Software / Re: >5 do you all do it?
« on: June 11, 2010, 09:38:52 PM »

Huh, pretty good deal on that--and would be a good size for me to move UP to!

Those pots are a great price, but are pretty thin. I personally like the thicker bottomed (tri-clad) ones that most of the brewing retailers sell. It seems that most of these are re-branded commercial grade kitchenware pots that you can find a bit cheaper through kitchen supply places. One such brand is Update International. You will have to install your own ball valve though.

Here's a couple 40 quart examples from a quick random web search for < $100. You can often find some pretty good deals on shipping as well. For bigger batch sizes, they also have larger sizes.

The problem with all these pots (including the ones sold by homebrew shops with ball valves already installed) is that they all favor width over height. The larger sizes are especially fat and this leads to considerable evaporation.

I like the Blichmann better as it's taller than wide (as is the high-end Polarware I believe.) However, these are quite expensive and also don't have the 3 ply bottom. For this reason, when I step up from 5 gallon batches, I'll be going the cheaper route and converting a keg.


Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Denny's Favorite
« on: June 10, 2010, 11:48:40 PM »
Personally, I haven't been too happy with this strain. I've tried it now on both on an APA and on DC's own Rye IPA.

For the APA, I split a batch and did both 1450 and WLP001. 1450 finished at 77% ADF at 1.013 while WLP001 went to 80% ADF at 1.011.  At just over 2 weeks, 1450 was still cloudy while WLP001 was quite clear. 1450 had some fruity esters, was a bit tart and a tad sweeter.

This particular beer was meant to be a drier, dry-hopped APA, so I thought the clean flavor and slightly higher attenuation of the WLP001 worked much better. I noted the WLP001 actually had a more prominent malt flavor (because the esters didn't get in the way) and was certainly a bit crisper. The 1450 had more mouthfeel, but I don't think it worked for this beer.

So, now that I knew what to expect, I wanted to try the yeast again, so what better beer than Denny's own Rye? I built up a 4L starter, chilled and decanted before pitching and the yeast still stopped at only 70% ADF. I ended up krausening with WLP001 to drop it another 3 or 4 points.

I'll definitely try it again sometime, but so far, not having great results....


Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Low attenuation
« on: June 10, 2010, 11:12:34 PM »
If you can't hit terminal gravity with your current yeast, I've had good luck re-krausening by building up a large starter (say 4L for 5 gallons), chilling, decanting, re-invigorating in a smaller starter (say 800mL), then pitching this active yeast.

Using this method, I was able to take a Barley Wine with OG=1.111 down to terminal gravity after it stopped in the mid 30s.


Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Ale Diacetyl Rest
« on: June 10, 2010, 11:07:50 PM »
This yeast strain is highly flocculant. This means most of the yeast is dropping out of suspension which is where it is needed if is to quickly reduce diacetyl as a normal part of fermentation. Yorskshire Squares and Burton Unions essentially do this by  returning the krausened yeast to the beer keeping it in suspension longer. I've heard of commercial breweries bubbling carbon dioxide up through the conical to keep the yeast in suspension. You may also benefit from rousing the yeast, but that needs to be done quite often to be effective since the bulk of fermentation completes in a few days.

Give your beer sufficient time after it hits terminal gravity to ensure the yeast has a chance to reduce diacetyl. If you can detect diacetyl by aroma or flavor, you can sample the beer to ensure it is clean. Since it's not highly carbonated, you should swirl your sample in the glass to release the aroma the carbonation otherwise would. This ensures you won't be surprised later. ;-)

Lager yeasts are fermented much colder and often benefit from a raised temperature to aid diacetyl reduction. This is done after the major bulk of fermentation is complete such that off flavors aren't generated due to higher temperatures during the primary phase of fermentation.


Here's how 3 bottles are typically used:

Bottle 1: Preliminary Round - Used when the number of entries in a category (or combined category) is greater than around 10. That is the most a panel usually wants to judge to guard against palate fatigue and to keep the time for each flight to a reasonable amount. When multiple flights in a category need to be judged, then the top entries from each are passed on to a final round to decide the winners. E.g., a category has 20 entries. Two flights of 10 are judged in a preliminary round, and the top 3 to 4 beers from each are passed on to a final round.

Bottle 2: Final Round - Entries passed from the preliminary round are evaluated in a single flight to pick the winners (E.g., 1st, 2nd and 3rd.) You don't want to select winners just based on score from the prelim round as there may be skew between judging panels. Judging them with a new panel in a single flight ensures each entry is evaluated in relation to the other top entries in that category. Having a bottle for prelims and another for a final round means the judging doesn't have to be done same day. (Judging a flight can take a few hours and judges are volunteering their time often on weekdays.) Smaller comps (< ~100 entries) don't require a preliminary round and just do final judging on each flight. That's why sometimes one less bottle is needed.

Bottle 3: Best of Show (BOS) - Once the winners from each category are determined, the 1st place winner in each category go on to a BOS round where a single flight is evaluated (usually not scored) for the best overall beers in the whole comp. Some comps request 3 bottles, but will allow you to send only 2 bottles but then take you out of BOS contention. Read the rules when in doubt. If it isn't explicit, send 3 or risk disqualification.

An interesting (and perhaps controversial) comp is NHC where the prelim / regional rounds only require 1 bottle, yet the number of entries is still large. (E.g., West had over 600 entries.)  Beers in a category are judged by multiple panels and the top beers from each panel are passed on to a BOS-type round. It's called a mini-BOS in this context, but the concept is the same. The 'odd' thing is that a single beer is used for both the prelims and mini-BOS to limit the logistical issues of storing and transporting so many entries. The disadvantage is a beer opened early in a flight will loose some carb and aroma (even if capped) while waiting for the mini-BOS to occur. The time between the prelim and final mini-BOS judging is minimized by using something called queued judging, but that's a different thread. ;-)


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