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Topics - gmac

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Yeast and Fermentation / Slow Lager Starter
« on: March 14, 2011, 08:51:40 AM »
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, 01:30:45 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, 04:54:22 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, 07:49:46 AM »
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, 06:56:45 AM »
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, 01:40:12 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, 03:27:17 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, 10:19:43 AM »
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, 03:46:38 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, 04:39:43 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?

The Pub / Worst Homebrew Ever!
« on: February 09, 2011, 11:23:31 PM »
Maybe this has been done before but what's the worst batch you've ever made?  We're all proud of our successes and achievements but what's the worst beer you've made.  How did it go bad?  What did you do wrong?  

I'll start off by telling you the story of what has certainly been the worst brew I've ever done (although in a weird way, it turned out to be the best I could ever hope for).  

Back in University, about 20 or so years ago, I wasn't that focused on the overall quality of the homebrew I was making.  Quantity and alcohol content were the driving factors.  So, when I went home over the Christmas break, I decided to make some homebrew to take back to school with me.  We weren't allowed to brew beer in our residence although  I did fill my garbage can with potting soil and tried to grow a giant pumpkin but that's off topic....  Now, back then I was usually doing all-malt extract brews with my own hops and whatever other ingredients we decided to add. For this batch I went with a classic recipe - and I use that term very loosely - that my friend and I basically pulled out of thin air.  The beer was called "Count Hannibal Slim's Royal Ace of Spades Oatmeal and Coffee Breakfast Stout".  Hannibal Slim was my buddies Jack Russell Terrier, the Ace of Spades reference was in part homage to the colour of the beer and the classic Motorhead tune we were listening to during the process and the oatmeal and coffee were literally a couple packages of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and a pot of black coffee that we dumped into the brew on a whim.  

Because I was pressed for time before I went back to class, I only had about a week to get the beer done and bottled before I had to get back to failing classes.  We boiled a couple gallons of water, added our malt extract, coffee, oatmeal etc (this was not a mash process, just a straight up addition) and hops and boiled it for an hour, added it to a carboy with water and pitched the yeast.  But, because we were limited on time, and knowing that micro-organisms should work faster under warmer conditions, I kept the carboy at about 90 degrees for the entire brewing process.  After 5 days, we bottled into plastic bottles with table sugar and then I surrounded the hot air registers in my parents house with bottles and draped blankets over them to really insulate them and keep the heat in.

Needless to say, it was the most cidery, off-tasting, putrid beer you can imagine but I drank it happily.  In fact, when one of my female roommates brought her friend over I offered her some too.  Surprisingly, she drank it and even tried to convince me that she liked it.  I was so impressed with this girl who could stomach this horrible brew, and keep it down, and pretend to like it that I ended up marrying her.  So, what was probably the worst homebrew in history was a great litmus test to help me find an amazing women and now, 20 years later she is finally letting me brew beer again.

So that's the worst beer I've made (so far - there's always room for failure).  What about you?

Kegging and Bottling / Keg Fridge
« on: January 23, 2011, 07:52:06 PM »
I've only been back into homebrewing for a couple of batches but I remember now one of the big reasons that I quit.  Bottling sucks. 

So, I'm going to put a hole in the fridge downstairs and set up a keg system.  I'd like some thoughts on where to drill a hole, what to do when I've drilled it etc.

I was thinking the side because I assume the door would be hard to open with the lines etc.  Is it safe to drill just anywhere? 

Also, I can get refurbished ball lock corny kegs for $85.  Is this a decent price?  I have a CO2 tank that needs to be re-certified but that shouldn't be a problem.  Assuming it's ok and I can get a regulator and lines, is it worth it or should I just get the 3 keg system with tank/regulator/lines etc?  Cost is $499. 

Let me know what you think because my bottling days are very soon going to be over!!!

Commercial Beer Reviews / Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown
« on: January 19, 2011, 09:28:19 PM »
I picked this up the other day.  Wish I hadn't.

Very disappointing beer.  The "nut" taste was reminiscent of hazelnut but was over-powering and very unappealing to my tastes.  To be honest, I only drank half of the bottle and dumped the rest and I don't know when the last time was that I didn't finish a beer.  Just not pleasant.  The label mentions "with natural flavor" so I don't know if they've added some sort of extract to enhance the nuttiness but it was not good.  I drank it from the bottle so I can't comment on colour or lacing.

If you've tried this and you liked it, I know where you can get 11 of them real cheap...

All Grain Brewing / Canadian 2-Row
« on: January 18, 2011, 09:32:51 PM »
I'm starting to put together a grain bill for my first all-grain batch.  I was checking out my normal on-line supplier for base grains and they list a Canadian 2-row malt.  The goal is an English style Pale Ale, nothing too overly-adventurous for this first attempt.  So my question is, does anyone know how this malt would compare to Marris Otter English 2-row?  Price of the Canadian is about 60% of the Marris Otter.

Equipment and Software / Blow off tube
« on: December 30, 2010, 11:27:16 AM »
Can someone post a picture of how they made a blow-by tube for a glass carboy?  I tried to make a one but fitting I put into the rubber bung was too large and it seemed to expand the rubber too much and it wouldn't stay in the carboy mouth.  I can probably drill out the rubber to make the fitting I have work but is there a better way?

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