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Messages - Jeff Renner

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Beer Recipes / Re: Vienna Lager fermentation question
« on: September 15, 2010, 08:30:14 PM »
A simple way to get much of the flavor benefits of a decoction is to do a pseudo-decoction.  I have an article about this technique in a recent Zymurgy.  It's simple.  Just do two parallel mashes, one in a biggish kitchen pot (I use an eight quart/liter pot) and the other in your usual mash tun.  I like to mash 1/4 - 1/3 of the grain bill in the smaller pot, and I put it in a preheated oven to keep the temperature.

After mashing the smaller one for thirty minutes or so between 145-150F, bring it to a boil and boil for thirty minutes, being careful to stir and not scorch.  Just before starting the boil, mash in your main mash, again between 145-150F.

Then carefully add the boiling smaller mash to the main mash, which should boost it up to around 158F.  While you've destroyed the enzymes in the smaller mash by boiling it, most of the starches were converted, and there is enough excess enzyme activity, even when using 100% dark Munich malt, in my experience, to get complete conversion, and actually, increased efficiency over a straight mash.

I actually place my eight quart pot inside a big 21 quart pressure cooker, which does several things.  It produces even more of those yummy melanoidins, it does it quickly, and it eliminates the need for stirring.  As a matter of fact, I did this Monday, and the smell from 100% Vienna malt coming out of that pressure cooker was beautiful. :)

My favorite recipe for this method is a Dunkel with all dark Munich and a touch of Carafa II.  The recipe in the Zymurgy article.

The Pub / Re: Where are you?
« on: September 14, 2010, 02:26:41 AM »
Humboldt Homebrewers are not a serious group (incorporated, non profit, etc.) but we get together and do some cool stuff. 

Hey, the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild (AABG) has been together since 1986 on just that basis!  We are up to 120 members, and are still creative anarchists.  No real officers, and if someone suggests a project, he or she gets to organize it.  We've done dozens of projects that way, from State Fair judging to bourbon or wine barrel fills to Big Brews.

Glad you're making it work that way, too.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Brown Yeast in bottle?
« on: September 10, 2010, 12:18:18 AM »
Another likelihood is that the sediment isn't all yeast, but the brown stuff is sedimented malt particles and whatnot.

Regardless, if you don't perceive a problem, I don't think you have one.

Ingredients / Re: Cardamom?
« on: August 31, 2010, 10:12:35 PM »
Picking up on an old thread, I've used 5 grams of cardamom in 7.5 gallons of my Ginger Wit, which as been brewed by brewers around the world with good results.  The recipe (from 1995) is at

The recipe also uses fresh ginger, coriander and grains of paradise.  Pretty tasty, refreshing summer beer.

The Pub / Re: Where are you?
« on: August 31, 2010, 09:03:58 PM »
Those are Rennerian coordinates....distance and direction from where Jeff Renner (the acknowledged center of the universe!) lives.

Only of the homebrewing universe!  ;)

The Pub / Re: Babalu
« on: August 29, 2010, 11:19:53 PM »
Just checking in and found this very sad news, but with hopeful updates.  Thanks for posting, Frank.  Best wishes for a full and rapid recovery, Jeff.  Hope you're brewing and enjoying beer again soon.

I generally harvest the yeast three or four days after pitching, when fermentation has slowed

I should mention that this is my procedure when I keg.  The fermentation at this point is just ticking over, and if I do everything right, it finishes up in the keg and produces the proper carbonation.

I open-ferment in a cut-off old-style half barrel.  Sometimes I put a lid on it; sometimes I don't.  I have a picture of an out-of-control fermentation of a RIS in this barrel at

If I'm bottling, then I might let it go a little longer before racking to a carboy, where I'll let it settle out and/or dry hop before bottling.

This looks like what I use to scoop yeast, although mine is better finished than this looks to be.  It's a US-made Ecko, which means it's old.  Everything seems to be made in China nowadays. (I've tried to insert the image but without luck.)

My favorite ale yeast is WhiteLabs WLP022 Essex, which is a great top cropper.  I have a paternal fondness for this since I brought it back from England (Ridley's Brewery in Essex, now closed) and provided it to White Labs, but I'd like it anyway.

I generally harvest the yeast three or four days after pitching, when fermentation has slowed and the yeast head has collapsed into a thick layer about 1/2 inch thick.  I scoop the yeast with the ladle and drain it, then drop it into a one quart wide-mouth mason jar that I've sanitized by boiling.  I get more than enough to fill the jar from a ten gallon batch.  I put a sanitized lid loosely on the jar and put it in the fridge with a saucer since it often overflows, and when it settles down, I generally nave more than half a jar of thick yeast (the consistence of soft-serve ice cream) with beer on top.

I can keep this for some weeks, but if it's been more than three weeks or so, I generally make a starter.  I find that using one tablespoon (15 ml) of this thick yeast per gallon of normal strength wort works well, double that for strong wort (>1.060).

Since this yeast is only available seasonally, I keep it going a year or more this way, although now that one of our local brewpubs (Grizzly Peak) has adopted this as its house yeast, I don't have to worry about this.

Sometimes I pour off the beer and stir in cooled, boiled distilled or R.O. water.  This is supposed to keep yeast better than beer.

I read somewhere that a White Labs vial contains 35 ml yeast. Which is 7 tablespoons

Quick note - 35 ml is seven teaspoons, or 2-1/3 tablespoons.

Questions about the forum? / Re: An avatar
« on: August 22, 2010, 11:08:03 PM »
I'd pick somebody good looking.

That's what I did.  ;)

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Bread and Beer
« on: August 20, 2010, 05:00:14 PM »
I developed my own wild yeast, by feeding unbleached bread flour and water.  It took about a week of feeding, but I've now kept it for about 2 years, making bread every week or 2.

It sounds like you've developed your own levain or sour dough starter.  You and others may be interested in the handout for the seminar I gave on sourdough at the 2003 NHC in Chicago.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: De-chlorinate water
« on: August 19, 2010, 10:05:33 PM »
I can't tell any difference, either, but I figure it can't hurt.  And maybe it helps and I just can't tell.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Bread and Beer
« on: August 19, 2010, 09:54:10 PM »
I've done this on and off over the years, with mixed success.  Recently I had really good luck, though, with Wyeast 3278 Lambic.  It is a mixed culture that includes several "wild" yeast, two Brett. spp., a sherry flor, and a lactobacillus, as I recall.  I skimmed the thick frothy yeast head (barm) from the active fermentation on the third day and added probably three tablespoons of the thick, pasty yeast (consistency of soft-serve ice dream) to 4-1/2 cups of water, added 1/8 cup of dry malt extract stirred dry into 4 cups of flour (this avoids malt extract lumps), and beat it with an electric mixer for a minute or so.  I had bubbles in 20 minutes.

After an hour, I added 1-1/2 tablespoon of salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (but not too stiff), probably another 6-1/2 cups, and a few tablespoons of olive oil, and kneaded it well.  (It helps that I am a commercial baker and have a 20 qt. Hobart mixer, but I was just doing a home-scale batch).

I let it rise until at least doubled, punched down, doubled again, divided in two and shaped into two oblong loaves, then let them rise upside down in a floured basket, then when doubled, inverted them onto baker's parchment, slashed the tops, and slid them into the oven.  I have a pizza oven, but a pizza stone will work well for free-form loaves like this.

The bread rose about as well as with bread yeast, and had good texture and had a bit of fruity aroma.  It was quite good.

Ale barm was the traditional way of leavening bread before commercial bread yeast was available, as well as using a starter or old dough.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: De-chlorinate water
« on: August 19, 2010, 09:30:59 PM »
Not only is the sulfite no problem because it gets boiled off later, it actually can help prevent oxidation in the mash tun.  I dechlorinate my water with potassium metabisulfite powder, which is cheaper than Campden tablets, and then throw in another 1/4 teaspoon in the mash (ten gallon batch).  The amounts are very unscientific.  I figure it's cheap insurance against oxidation, even if it isn't really a problem.

All Things Food / Re: Soft Beer Pretzel
« on: August 17, 2010, 01:34:00 PM »
Dipping the high protein dough (the milk powder adds extra protein) causes a change in the protein and sugar structures at the surface and starts cooking them. That allows for the development of that extra chewy super brown crust.

You can do the same thing with say baking soda, but it's not as effective.

The lye also produces the distinctive pretzel flavor.  It can be done with baking soda, as you say, and it works pretty well if you use lots of it.  Like maybe 1/2 cup in a quart.  Maybe even more.  This also makes a safe, fun project with kids.

Glad to see enthusiasm for this old recipe, which came to me second hand from an old German baker here in Ann Arbor more than 30 years ago.  I got it from another baker who started his business making these pretzels for Michigan football games.  He would make many dozens and put them on a long dowel and sell them for a dollar to the crowds (>100,000) going into the Big House on Saturday afternoons.

I used to make dozens of these for our elementary school ice cream socials back in the 80's.  I would get three or four parent volunteers to help in my little wholesale bakery in my attached garage, and kids on bikes would relay them to the school three blocks away.  I think we made 18 dozen one year.

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