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Topics - gmac

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All Grain Brewing / 2nd All-grain - Seems to be getting better
« on: March 21, 2011, 08:16:22 PM »
Did my 2nd all grain today, an amber lager.
10 lbs Pilsener malt
2 lbs Vienna malt
0.5 lbs Crystal 40 (I just couldn't leave it out...)

Mashed for 75 mins at 153 with water adjusted to pH 6.  Mash pH 5.7.  Drained off 14 quarts of 1.072 wort.  Meant to mash for 60 mins but sparge water heated slower than I anticipated.
Sparged with 16 quarts of 180 degree water and drained off 14 quarts of 1.033 wort before it began running very slow.
Boiled 28 quarts for 75 mins with 2 oz of 3.1 AA Saaz hops added at start and 1 oz of 3.1 AA Saaz added at 45 mins into boil.  Was intending to stop at 60 mins but forgot to immerse chiller so boiled an additional 15 mins to sterilize chiller.

After boiling I got 6.5 gallons (23 L) of 1.062 wort.  Based on my calculations, that was somewhere around 89% efficiency.  Could this be possible? I'd be happy if it was but it seems a bit optimistic given that its only my 2nd batch. 

Cooled to 15C and put it in a water bath with a wet towel over it.  Pitched about 1L of Wyeast Czech Pils starter.  Maybe should have waited longer but I wanted to get done and clean up.  Freezer with temp controller isn't working - it's a very old (and mouldy)freezer that I was gonna discard anyway and I've already sourced a newer (free) one - so it's sitting in a 12" water bath with a towel over it.  Probably won't get it down to 50 degrees like that but should be 60 or slightly less, especially if I add ice occassionally.  I considered putting it in the cold room but that is only about 4C and probably too cold to ferment properly. But, that's where it's headed when it's done. 

Equipment and Software / What's the best thermometer?
« on: March 21, 2011, 03:42:46 PM »
I have a glass "beer and wine" termometer that I picked up at the local wine shop and I think it's accurate but it's painfully slow to come to temp.  It floats so I leave it in my mash water as it's heating but when I adjust my mash temp, it takes forever.  I pulled it out of the 170 degree mash water, let it cool to about 150 and put it back in and it took about 20 seconds to get to back to temp.  It drops fast, rises slow.
So, when I added my mash water, I was a touch hot and so I added some cold and it dropped to 140, so I added a bit more hot to get it back up and it may have eventually got there.  I gave up and used the kitched thermometer which is celsius and got it to 67C which is about 153F.  This one is very small and hard to read though.  Also, I have no idea how accurate it is although it did correspond with the slow one in the mash water.

Just a bit of a pain to fine tune temps without loosing too much heat when it's so slow.

So, what's the best, quickest, best value thermometer out there for brewing?

All Grain Brewing / Help me make a recipe please
« on: March 20, 2011, 06:47:47 PM »
I was going to take a stab at a lager tomorrow.  Here's what I have on hand.  Please give me your thoughts on proportions etc.
10 lbs pilsener malt
2 lbs Vienna malt
4 lbs Crystal 40
(also have 45 lbs of Maris Otter that I wasn't going to use in this brew)
3 oz Saaz hops.

I was originally going to go with just Pilsener malt only and then I started to think about 10+1+1 each of Vienna and Crystal.  Do I need crystal?  I've always used it in ales for body but what do you think here?  Pilsener and Vienna only?  Or just Pilsener and crystal?  Or 8+2+1?  Shooting for around 4.5 to 5% alcohol.  Assume 65% efficiency based on my last batch.

Clearly, I have no recipe or style in mind but my starter is ready and my friend gave me a freezer control so my little freezer is set to 40 degrees.  I was going to wing it but I figured I may as well ask the experts.

Yeast and Fermentation / Ale fermented at 62 degrees
« on: March 18, 2011, 07:35:28 PM »
I normally don't screw around with my beer once I have it in the primary, prefering to let things be instead of risking introducing contaminants but I broke down and checked my latest brew and I discovered that the temp is a bit lower than I was expecting.  It has had a wet towel on it and been sitting in a short water bath because I wanted to get it cooled lower before pitching the yeast and I just left it alone.  The temp in the beer, not on the outside of the carboy, seems to be about 62 degrees.  What can I expect from this cooler temp?  The yeast is Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.  According to Wyeast, it should be ok from 64 - 74 so being a bit lower shouldn't be the end of the world, should it?  I checked the temp because it was taking what I thought was an awfully long time to ferment out and this could help explain why.  It's been a week and still bubbling strong.  I didn't take a gravity as I assume since it's bubbling, it's not done so why bother risking it.

All Grain Brewing / Water Report
« on: March 17, 2011, 03:40:09 PM »
I was able to track down a water report for our municipal water system.  Could someone please help me interpret the results and what that would mean for brewing?  I think the water is pretty alkaline and pretty hard and thus more suited to dark ales than light lagers but please help me understand what all this means and if any water adulteration is necessary.

Edit:  Can't figure out how to attach a PDF, or if that is possible.  Here are some of the parameters, let me know what else I need.

Alkalinity (as CaCO3) - 216
Hardness (mg/L as CaCO3) - 214
pH - 7.8
Sodium - 23.6 (not on the report but communicated so I don't know the units, I am sure mg/L makes the most sense.)
Sulphates (mg/L) - 37
Chloride (mg/L) - 11
Calcium (mg/L) - 38.5
Iron (ug/L) - 169
Copper (ug/L) - 12
Manganese - (ug/L) - 8
Potassium (mg/L) - 1.42
Zinc (ug/L) 10<MDL

Yeast and Fermentation / Slow Lager Starter
« on: March 14, 2011, 03:51:40 PM »
I started my first lager starter yesterday using Wyeast Czech Pils (sorry forget the #) and when I checked it before work this morning, it was completely flat.  There didn't appear to be any activity at all except that the yeast had all settled to the bottom. I gave it a good shake but I'm a bit worried that after 24 hours there is no appearance of any activity at all.  I've never used lager yeast before so maybe this is perfectly normal but I'm wondering if the yeast was bad or if I screwed it up in some way.

The starter is 125g of DME in 1.5L of water that was boiled for 5 minutes and then cooled in a water bath.  I don't know the temperature I pitched the yeast at but it was rather cool given the water bath.  I didn't allow the package to swell and don't usually if it's going into a starter.  I usually break the inner bag and let it warm to room temp and then pitch it.  Perhaps I should wait but then again, in this case I would have thought it was bad and discarded it by now given the lack of apparent activity.

I washed my starter container with bleach but rinsed it thoroughly and haven't had problems in the past with this.  I now use Star-San for my brewing vessels but for such a small amount, and given that I had no Star-San available, I went with bleach. 

So, should I just keep waiting patiently and shaking when I'm home or is this one a dud?

Equipment and Software / Brewing Software for Mac
« on: March 13, 2011, 08:30:45 PM »
Is there any good brewing software for a Mac?  I checked out Beersmith and ProMash and neither are available for a Mac as far as I can tell.
Please let me know if there's something else I should be looking at.

All Grain Brewing / % Extraction and help getting OG right
« on: March 11, 2011, 11:54:22 PM »
I did my first all grain and here's what I ended up with.

After grinding 11.5 lbs of Maris Otter and 11 oz crystal, I mashed it and ended up with far less wort than I expected.
I was shooting for 5 gallons of about 1.048 or 1.050.  I ended up with about 4 gallons, maybe a touch less of 1.072.  Obviously I need to sparge with more water.  I used 1.25 quarts per lb (I think - I used 60 cups of water with a 2 cup measuring cup) and added 6 more cups to get my water temp right.  Then I sparged with 20 cups (I wish the world was metric...) which I now realize was too little.  Should have used at least 30 again. 

Assuming I got  about 4 gallons post boil, what would my % extraction be and how do I calculate that for future reference?

Then, can I just top the brew up with boiled water to make 5 gal?  This is far stronger than I wanted.  I am sure that this would be alright but I'm deferring to the forum for your thoughts. 


All Grain Brewing / How long does a batch take/Grinding grain.
« on: March 11, 2011, 02:49:46 PM »
I've got everything together for my first all grain batch.  Gonna do a batch sparge on a 5 gal batch.  Just wondering how much time this takes or should take.  I expect to be 50% longer since it's my first attempt but I'm a bit nervous about getting started.

Also, I remember reading somewhere that you shouldn't grind grain where you brew.  Is this true?  I can't see how it would matter because we try so hard to keep bacteria etc out of the carboy anyway.  I don't have a lot of extra room.

I'll take some pictures as I go if you're interested.
Wish me luck.

Equipment and Software / 2 roller vs 3 roller
« on: March 04, 2011, 01:56:45 PM »
Looking at buying a grain mill.  I ordered a 3 roller Crankenstein but now I'm having buyers remorse.  Do I need 3 roller or would 2 be adequate?  Price is about $100 more but I don't care if it is worth it since I am looking this as a long-term investment.

All Grain Brewing / First All-Grain Recipe - Please check my math
« on: February 19, 2011, 08:40:12 PM »
Although there are a myriad of beer recipes available, one of the things that excites me about this hobby is coming up with my own recipes.  So, I am trying to formulate a very simple recipe that I would like to try for my first all-grain batch.  I'd appreciate it if you'd check my math and give me your comments/thoughts.  I won't list all the calculations I did but I was using Ray Daniel's "Designing Great Beers" as a guide as well as a style reference.  My goal is to have something that I can do repeatedly and  make small changes to as I become more proficient.

Some assumptions first.
Style:  English Pale Ale
% efficiency - 65% ( as this is my first attempt, I am keeping my expectations low and also allowing some room in case it goes better than I expect)
Target OG = 1.045
Volume = 6 US gal (23L)
Boil volume = 7 US gal
Boil time = 1 hour
Process = Infusion mash/batch sparge (Coleman Extreme cooler) per Denny's directions on his site.

Based on the calculations that I came up with (and there is some rounding in here), my grain bill will be:
11.5 lb Canadian 2-row Pale Malt - to be ground by supplier
0.7 lb Crystal 40L - to be ground by supplier
This is based on roughly 95:5 ratio of pale to crystal.

Hops and schedule
English Fuggles Pellets (6% AA) 1.5 oz - 60 min
East Kent Golding Pellets (4.75% AA) - 1 oz - 15 min
English Fuggles Pellets (6% AA) 0.5 oz - 5 min
Note:  I considered adding the remaining fuggles and 1/2 the EKG at 15 min and adding the other 1/2 oz EKG at 5 min or flameout)

Yeast: Wyeast London ESB 1968 - Prepared in 4 L starter prior to pitching

Other:  Irish Moss added 15 min before end of boil

Water:  Municipal water with Camden tablet to remove chlorine.  Water condition is unknown although relatively hard (limestone bedrock, lots of shale production on appliances etc).  I know that getting this analyzed needs to be done.

Fermentation temp:  65 degrees (cellar temp with wet towel over carboy).

Thank you very much.

Beer Travel / Anyone been to Costa Rica?
« on: February 16, 2011, 10:27:17 PM »
Headed there next week, are there any good beers that I should make sure to try?  Not a beer destination but hey, if I'm there I should try the local brews right?

Ingredients / Crystal vs Cara vs Caramel Malts
« on: February 16, 2011, 05:19:43 PM »
I'm still working on a grain bill and I'm looking over the items available from my supplier and I see a few products that appear to be pretty similar and I'm curious what the differences are and what the contribute to a brew.

Crystal Malt - I think I know this one fairly well and what it brings (body, colour, flavour)
Cara  - I see this a lot on my supplies site with various suffix's.  Cara-pils, Cara-amber.  Is this a trade mark of a particular maltster?  What does it bring?
Caramel Malt - I thought this was another name for Crystal but am I wrong?  Probably.

Just exploring my options.

Kegging and Bottling / Too much foam
« on: February 12, 2011, 10:46:38 PM »
I know this has been on here before but I can't find it.  I put 5 gallons of pale ale into a keg on Thursday and had a few last night and they were perfect but today, when we have company over, all I'm getting is foam.  The pressure is probably a bit high but I've lowered it and let off the pressure on the keg.
Any thoughts how to get rid of the foam quickly?

Kegging and Bottling / Regulator question
« on: February 10, 2011, 11:39:43 PM »
I put my first beer in a keg today and I noticed on my second hand regulator that there was a little hole under the pressure screw that seemed to be leaking a bit when I adjusted the pressure. What is this, is it normal or will I soon have an empty tank?

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