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Topics - gmac

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Equipment and Software / Fermenter build questions
« on: June 21, 2011, 08:05:35 AM »
I've decided to build a bigger fermenter and I have a couple questions.  In particular, does the diameter of the vessel matter?  I know if it was a pot it would impact boil-off rates but in a closed fermenter, does it matter if the fermenter is tall and skinny or narrow and wide? 

I'm looking to build something of about 15 to 20 gal capacity and we've ordered a 4X8 sheet of stainless to get started.  But, the dimension is clearly one of the key points to consider before we start cutting anything. 
I'm lucky that I have a good friend who has a machine shop and is slow right now so we are going to have the steel rolled to dimension and then a seam welded. He has a very good TIG welder on staff so I'm not that concerned about the weld as it will be done well and ground.  We're also looking at having a cone rolled for the bottom and welded. 

The other consideration was, would it make any sense to have the entire fermenter made conical?  Instead of having straight sides attached to a cone, would it make sense to have it all as a cone and weld wedges on the exterior to bolt legs to.  The lid will likely be formed with an o-ring groove and clamps to hold it in place.  Any other thoughts?  I've looked at some on-line and I don't know if I like how the lid attaches on some of them.
Thanks for the advice.

Beer Recipes / Fruit beer base
« on: June 20, 2011, 09:57:03 AM »
I think I've got some sort of Brewer's Block.  I just don't know what to brew next so I thought I'd take a stab at a fruit beer for those hot days in August.  Here's what I'm thinking.  Please tell me if this will work.
Since I don't usually drink fruit beers except for the odd Kreik lambic (when I can find it), I thought that I'd take a stab at a few different types.  I was thinking of brewing a standard base and then splitting that into two or three different carboys and adding different fruit to each.  Do you think this is a good idea or that it will work the way I think it will? 

If it seems like a reasonable approach, can you give me some advice on a base brew to start with?  I'm thinking of doing something with a decent level of sweetness and light body to show off the fruit colour and flavours.  My initial thought is:
5 lbs Pilsner malt
2 lbs Vienna malt
1 lb Crystal 45
I am expecting some additional fermentation from the sugars in the fruit so I thought I'd tone down the malt content to try to end around 1.050 - 1.055.  For hops I'm thinking of using only 1 oz of Cascade FWH with no flavour or aroma hops.  I assume that there won't be much flavour from the Cascade but what there is should be citrus and mesh with fruit.  My fruit thoughts are:
Rhubarb, Cherries and TBD (Mango?  Dried Apricot? Suggestions?)

Other Fermentables / Hard Lemonade
« on: June 18, 2011, 05:28:12 PM »
With summer here, I'd like to make a batch of hard lemonade but I'm not sure where to start.  Is this something that's fermented like adding lemons, zest, juice etc to water and sugar and then fermented which I would think would be incredibly dry or is it just something that's batched together (lemonade and grain alcohol mixed and then carbonated)? 

I'd love to find a recipe that actually brewed something but then I'd need to know how you back sweetened it so that it didn't end up as lemon wine?  Any other suggestions? I'm wondering about a hard cranberry or a blend of orange/lemon/grapefruit or something like that.
Any thoughts are welcome.

Yeast and Fermentation / Low lager ferment temps
« on: June 18, 2011, 08:02:43 AM »
I have a fridge that I'm going to use to brew lagers in as soon as my new freezer arrives for kegs.  I only have one temp controller that I plan put on the freezer to keep it at about 32 degrees or so.  But, if I use the fridge for lager fermenting, can I just set it at it's highest setting and leave it there?  I expect that it will be far below 50 degrees even at a high setting. 

Is there a downside from a flavour and quality standpoint to fermenting at lower temperatures?

I don't really want to buy another controller because I don't do many lagers and I was just going to leave the fridge unplugged and slightly open when not fermenting.  I was going to replace a small freezer and this fridge with the new, larger freezer but now I'm wondering if I should keep the fridge for this purpose.  If it's not a good choice, I will send it to the recyclers. 

Equipment and Software / How long's your hose?
« on: June 17, 2011, 04:41:53 PM »
I have a Coleman cooler mash tun and after 15 batches the braided steel hose looks like heck. It's got kinks and dents and other damage. It is the length of the cooler and obviously I stir too hard. Does it have to be that long?  How do you keep it on the bottom and not kink it?  I'm going to replace it and just want to get it right this time.

Ingredients / Rhubarb
« on: June 14, 2011, 08:30:45 AM »
A search showed that this has been talked about before so perhaps someone can link me to the appropriate thread.

I have a surplus of this right now, just wondering about a rhubarb wheat beer for summer.  Anyone tried using it?  How much in 5 gals to give a presence?  Would a wheat be the right choice?  What yeast?  I'm going to harvest and freeze it because we are having a postal strike and I don't want to order yeast until thats over but I would think it wouldn't matter and may help release the flavour if I do this.  Add to primary or secondary?  Dumb idea - don't bother?

Thinking 45/45/10 wheat/pilsner/crystal 45 malt with a touch of cascade hops but not much.  Crystal for a bit of sweetness to balance the tartness.  Would Vienna be a better choice than Pilsner for this reason?

Please advise.

Ingredients / Dry hop in primary
« on: June 13, 2011, 07:59:41 PM »
I've got an IPA that has been on the yeast for 2 weeks tomorrow.  Can I add my dry hops now before I go to the keg?  Or would it be better to try to find a nylon bag and do it in the keg?  The plan is to add 1 oz of Cascade whole leaf hops.  Just not sure when is the best time to do it.  If I add them to the primary, how long would you leave them before racking to the keg?

Equipment and Software / Bigger fermenter
« on: June 13, 2011, 09:06:39 AM »
I need a bigger fermenter.  Right now I'm using 18 and 23L glass carboys as well as some 23L plastic pails.  The glass looks good but you all know why it can suck.  The pails are alright but I have a hell of a time getting them to seal and I like to watch the bubbles.
So, has anyone tried converting a 15 gal Sanke keg over to a fermenter?  I'm assuming you could get it pretty clean since they get re-used in the brewery.  I thought about cutting out the valve and welding in a threaded fitting so that I could close it, adding a drain fitting in the bottom, a blow-off tube fitting in the top and a valve for racking. 
I've looked at the stainless ones but they seem to be pretty pricey (more than I want to spend). 

Anyone have any better suggestions that won't break the bank?

The Pub / Extreme brewing
« on: June 12, 2011, 09:09:53 AM »
I bought Extreme Brewing (and Brewing up a Business), the other day and I have to say I was pretty disappointed by it.  Almost all the recipes are extract recipes which in itself is fine but not what I was looking for.  I guess I just expected more from DFH.  Do they make most of their beers from extract?  I know I can work the OG backwards to get close but I was hoping for more direction on malt blends.  What should I have bought instead? (I have Palmer's, Strong's and Daniel's books already). 

Commercial Beer Reviews / Stone Ruination IPA
« on: June 08, 2011, 06:16:21 AM »
I'm in downtown St Louis, just beside the arch and I thought I'd give a few of the American IPAs a try. Had my first Bell's Two Hearted Ale which was good but they also had Ruination on tap so I had a couple.
7.7 ABV, 100 IBU, slight copper colour and a touch cloudy but very attractive appearance. Incredible head retention and nice lacing. Strong presence of US hops with a tonne of hop flavour and aroma. This isn't my preferred style of beer but it was pretty good and I will order it again. If you are a fan of the Two Hearted Ale I mentioned, you'll probably really enjoy this too.

Equipment and Software / Extending the life of Star-San
« on: June 03, 2011, 05:56:02 AM »
My water is fairly hard and as such, when I add Star-San to it, it clouds almost immediately.  I've read on the forum that once it goes cloudy, it loses its' effectiveness.  I've put 2.5 gal in a glass carboy and added Star-San and watched it turn milky in seconds.  I've not yet encountered any noticable contamination issues but I only use the sanitizer once.  I've gone through almost a full container in a couple months.

I don't have access to RO or distilled water that is convenient to get.  Is there anything I can do to my regular water to help extend the life of the sanitizer?  For example, would adding citric acid to lower the pH help?  I've also "double dosed" the water with more sanitizer (less than label rate) the next day if I have something to sanitize.  Not sure if this is a good idea or not but it seems to have worked.

Is there a different no-rinse sanitizer that would be better in my situation?  I've started using an acidic dairy wash to clean my carboys etc so I think that helps but I don't use it for siphons, bungs etc.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Ingredients / What hops with rye?
« on: June 02, 2011, 08:14:30 AM »
I bought some rye malt and I'm going to add it to one of my regular brews, just to see what effect it has on the character of the beer.  I've read that it adds a spicy characteristic to the beer.  So, I'm curious if this works better with a particular style of hop?  I'm not sure about spicy with citrus (been using Cascade).  I'm thinking of a noble hop or perhaps a traditional English hop. 

I'm only planning on adding 1/2 lb this first time.  The only reference I've found is Denny's recipe that is about 19% rye. This would only be about 5%.  Would 10% be better to detect the character?


All Grain Brewing / What would you call this beer?
« on: May 31, 2011, 08:26:55 AM »
I've been making a beer for a while now, slightly tweaking the recipe and I really like what I've been making but I'm not really sure what "style" it would fall into.  It was started as a clone of an amber cream ale that I really love but I think that this probably doesn't really exist as a standard style anyway.

The grain bill is very simple.
9 lbs 2-row
100 grams Chocolate malt
1 lb flaked corn - I added this because a lot of CA recipes seem to include corn but I'm considering leaving it out because I'm unsure what it is doing for the beer besides adding fermentables.
0.5 lbs Crystal 45 - I've done it with and without as well and although I like it without, my significant other likes the slight sweetness that this provides so it now goes in.
Mash at 152 degrees for 60-75 min, assume 85% efficiency.

The latest and I think best iteration of a hopping schedule is:
1 oz Cascade FWH
1/2 oz Northern Brewer at 60
1/2 oz Cascade at 15 mins
1/2 oz Cascade at flameout steeped for about 10 mins
WLP001 yeast
Fermented at about 65 degrees
Final beer is between 15 and 20 SRM, mildly hoppy with decent bitterness, very smooth and drinkable with nice colour and excellent head retention.
So, what should I be calling this?

Yeast and Fermentation / Yeast still good?
« on: May 30, 2011, 08:23:38 PM »
I racked a beer to the keg on Friday but I didn't have time to do anything about rinsing the yeast for re-use.  It's been sitting in the carboy with a little bit of beer over it since Friday.  I put the plug back in covered it with aluminum foil.  Is there any reason I can't still use it?  There's no indication of mold or anything so I'm hoping to rinse it tomorrow and split it for 2-5 gal batches.  Mr. Malty says I need about 125 ml of slurry and there should be more than enough for two carboys but I didn't get it into the fridge when I should have so I'm not sure what to do.  

Yeast and Fermentation / Harvesting yeast from a can
« on: May 29, 2011, 11:04:44 PM »
One of my favourite breweries is selling, for a limited time, a kellerbiere and I'm thinking of trying to harvest yeast.  Supposedly, the beer is unpasteurized and unfiltered so there should be some yeast in it right?  I will say, I haven't noticed much in the way of yeast sediment in the cans although there could be a little bit.  It could be dry beer too though. 

I'm making a few assumptions here such as, the yeast is the same yeast they'd use in the primary.  It's the same yeast they use for their regular lager that I love and want to duplicate. 

Any thoughts?  I was thinking of flaming the tops and just pouring off a couple beer that I've let sit for a few days in the fridge into glasses (and drinking the beer...).  Then, cutting the cans in half, swirling a bit of boiled and chilled water in the cans and pitching that into a small jar of wort and seeing what happens.  But, I am sure that there is a better way.  Please bear in mind I have absolutely no special equipment.  This will be mason jars with tin foil on them, not Erlenmeyer flasks and stir plates.

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