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Messages - smkranz

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Equipment and Software / Re: BrewEasy
« on: June 03, 2015, 05:53:27 PM »
Since starting this thread, I have added a Tower of Power gas controller, and am also using Blichmann's Top-Link software on a laptop to create mash profiles for the controller.

The gas controller works very well.  It is simple to connect, and fairly brainless to use.  It turns the gas on and off ignites the burner with an electric spark element when the system needs heat.  Coolest thing it does is turn itself back on, literally in seconds, if the flame blows out from a gust of wind.  It comes with a temp sensor which plugs into the system on the output side of the pump, on the way back up to the top of the mash.

There is a differential of several degrees between the measured temperature coming out of the lower kettle, and the actual mash temp inside the tun.  On the 10 gallon system, Blichmann recommends starting with the 1.25 gallon/minute orifice in the tube coming out of the mash.  Using that flow rate, the differential between measured temperature off the pump, and inside the mash, was about 8 degrees.  I up-sized to the 1.5 gallon/minute orifice, and this differential came down to about 1-3 degrees.  Once the mash settles into a temperature, maintaining a temperature for an hour, the differential went down to almost zero with the larger orifice.  Doing this creates a little more suction on the mash and you need to watch out for a stuck mash.  But I've done it now on three batches with zero issues.  Just be sure you let the mash sit for the first 15 minutes as recommended, and avoid using a fine crush.

The latest addition to the system was the communication cable, and plugging into a laptop with Blichmann's Top-Link software.  I first tried installing the software onto an old HP mini computer running XP.  It installed but didn't run correctly...the on-screen buttons were missing.  So it now runs on a larger HP Stream 11 running Win 8.  Works perfectly.  Creating a profile on the software is easy but I suggest you view the videos on Blichmann's site to see how the program runs.  I used it to create a mash profile for a Saison using the Saison Dupont mash profile described in Farmhouse Ales.  It is a continuously rising mash starting at 113 degrees and rising to 162 over 1:45.  This gives an increase rate of about .5 degree per minute.  Send the profile to the device using the software, run it, and by worked absolutely perfectly to turn the burner off and on about three times a minute, gently ramping the temp from 113 to 162 degrees over the hour and 45 minutes.

At any time, you can stop running the profile and return the controller to manual control, or just use the device's panel to enter a new target temperature if you want.

The software lets you save profiles for later use, and it also has an option to graph the progress of your mash for later viewing, if you want to tweak it for future batches.  One thing which seems like a glitch, is when I went to the graphing option, then closed out and went back to the main screen, the program closed down.  Opening it back up, and the same mash profile was still running and picked up where it left off.  Actually, the videos say that once you send a profile to the device and run it, the controller is doing the work and the desktop software is just monitoring it.  But stopping the profile on the desktop, or turning the switch on the device to On or Reset will also stop the profile from running on the device.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Who's Attending BNA10?
« on: June 01, 2015, 06:40:21 PM »
Went to one a few years ago (I forget which year), and thought it was kind of a cluster...more for the young'uns.  Plus we'll be schlepping around to beer places during the day, and I keep reminding myself: must p-a-c-e.

But I didn't say I wasn't going...  :P

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Who's Attending BNA10?
« on: June 01, 2015, 05:45:59 PM »
Went to one a few years ago (I forget which year), and thought it was kind of a cluster...more for the young'uns.  Plus we'll be schlepping around to beer places during the day, and I keep reminding myself: must p-a-c-e.

Events / Re: Call for judges at NHC?
« on: May 07, 2015, 07:01:05 PM »
Mark, I just saw this question answered by Sandy Cockerham on FaceBook.

Equipment and Software / Re: Temp. Controller Question
« on: April 04, 2015, 06:02:50 PM »
I have purchased two single-stage Ranco controllers, pre-wired, from here:

The last one I purchased was only a couple months ago.  It was $16 less than morebeer (even after you add shipping).  I still probably would have purchased it from morebeer had they not been out of stock at the time.  ETC Supply is very fast to ship.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Jocky box?
« on: April 04, 2015, 05:50:33 PM »
This is a write-up of our club's jockey box build from a bunch of years ago.  It uses a 4-circuit cold plate.

Since this write-up, we have replaced the cooler.  This time we ran all of the beer supply lines out through one side of the box instead of the rear, as it is more convenient to hook the kegs up that way while the box is sitting on a table.

Beer Travel / Re: New Orleans Beer Spots?
« on: March 22, 2015, 06:41:33 PM »
Cooter Brown's is a tavern and oyster bar uptown in the Riverbend part of town.  Pretty darn good beer list.

It was our go-to spot while I was in school many years ago, and it's still going strong (went back for a visit last November).  Also suggest a stop at the Camellia Grill which is only a block away.  Old habits die hard.

Equipment and Software / Re: Barrels
« on: February 28, 2015, 10:55:05 AM »
Brewing beer for barrels is a technique in its own right to make really great barrel aged beer. You've probably had a barrel aged beer or two where a brewery put something in the barrel that was overwhelmed by the barrel character or clashed with what the barrel brought. I'd encourage you to focus on making great all grain beer first and pick up a barrel down the road once you've mastered all grain.

It's really not complicated.  Get a barrel and go.  I've barrel-aged an IPA, an American Brown Ale, Saisons, a Biere de Garde (an extract), a Russian Imperial Stout, several Belgian Dark Strongs (extract and all-grain versions), and several meads.  They're all great.  For the Woodinville Bourbon barrel which arrived last week I'm thinking maybe a Scottish ale of some sort.
  • Brew what you like.  All-grain or extract.  Fully ferment it, and if it tastes good...
  • Rack it into the barrel.  Fill it up to the top.
  • Taste it after a week or two, and when it has the barrel character you like, pull it.  If you leave it in longer than you should have, you can always blend a second batch into it to adjust.
  • Repeat.

Equipment and Software / Re: Barrels
« on: February 24, 2015, 01:22:36 PM »
I bought two of those Woodinville barrels. Mine were from Rye whiskey. So I decided to make a Rye Barleywine and a Rye Imperial Stout to put in them.

They are an absolutely great investment and you can use them over and over again (though the best whiskey flavor will be after they are initially dumped.) You can even use them for fermentors since the are 8 gallons. You can turn it into a sour project at some point in time after you get bored.

Just be sure to check the beer regularly as it ages. Because of the greater surface are you will pick up the flavors very quickly. A 5 gallon bbl I used a few years ago gave a RIS a great, deep barrel flavor after only 2-3 weeks.

BTW: These barrels smelled fan-damn-tastic!

Couldn't agree with you more.  I have used Woodinville's Bourbon and Rye barrels with great success, and they are absolutely no work.  Several of our club members just ordered more of them, and the per-unit shipping cost went down just enough (from about $45 each to about $30) to rationalize the purchase.  This will be my 4th Woodinville barrel.  Someone once asked me whether these barrels are worth the cost.  My answer was (and is) that I can rationalize pretty much any homebrewing purchase that I can get past my spouse and into the door.

I've never used them for primary, and have only aged beer and mead that was already fully fermented.  No rinsing or cleaning between batches, I just dump and fill.  After the third or fourth beer (they are fabulous for aging mead as well), they're perfect for making sours.

If you get enough folks in a club interested, they'll quote you a volume discount, but then they'll ship on a pallet and you need to have them shipped to a location (e.g. homebrew shop, brewery) with a receiving dock.  We did that a few years ago, and people liked them so much, the homebrew shop where we shipped them has since bought them for their own stock.

Homebrew Competitions / Re: NHC first round judging?
« on: February 12, 2015, 08:28:45 PM »
I can dream can't I?

Yes, but sometimes dreams come true.  I am planning to sign up.  Do you have any hotel recommendations?

The Roadway Inn in Montgomeryville is worth every one of its one star rating , but it's affordable and really close.  Last year we stayed at the Homewood Suites in Lansdale (about 5 miles away).  It is much nicer, and we had a 2-room suite with a fold-out in the living room.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: origins of commercially available bretts
« on: February 11, 2015, 08:06:23 PM »

Check this out!  It appears that Brett trois from WL is actually a sacch. strain and maybe a new species!

Yeah I've seen those reports but some claim the independent test Omega Labs had done has some flaws.  White Labs is also having an independent test done on the strain that is supposed to be more accurate but it isn't done (or the results haven't been released yet).   I've also seen pictures of fermentations with 100% Brettanomyces bruxellensis  trois that have pellicles.  So if it's not brett it may be a cool saccharomyces strain.  Regardless, the flavor profile of Brett brux trois sounds good so I just ordered three vials of it for a "farmhouse" ale with 100% "brett."

You won't regret it...this Saison was barreled (after primary fermentation with T-58) three months ago with Brett Trois and a little maltodextrin for it to chew on.  It smells and tastes like Brett, and the pellicle is a constant amazement to me.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Bottling for competition
« on: February 10, 2015, 11:25:23 PM »
Obviously, bottling from a keg is what you have to do if you kegged that particular batch.

But wanting to enter a beer in a competition is irrelevant to whether I bottle condition a beer or keg it, except if the beer is still in a barrel or conical and a competition is coming up soon.  In that case getting it reliably carbonated in a keg first and then bottling with the Beer Gun is the way to go.  I won't enter beers that are not already carbonated exactly how I want them before they go out the door to a comp.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: late sugar addition
« on: January 04, 2015, 05:24:01 PM »
My recollection of reading Yeast (White & Zainasheff) is that adding sugar to high-gravity worts after fermentation begins will maximize the yeast's ability to metabolize all of the sugars in wort.  The theory is that if simple sugars are added up front, the yeast will attack them first because they're easier to digest, and will potentially poop out before taking on the more complex sugars.  I have done this for a number of years on big beers, with success.

All Things Food / Re: Pretzels
« on: December 19, 2014, 06:11:22 PM »
Follow Jeff Renner's recipe.  I've been making them for years...I was raised in a German household with German bakeries in our Philadelphia neighborhood which made Laugenbrezel, so we grew up with them.  When Jeff's recipe appeared in Zymurgy, I was in heaven.

The only things I do differently now, after making them for ten years or so, are to:
  • lower the oven temp from 400 to 385.  It helps avoid over-baking them if you turn away for a minute, and they still turn out perfectly with that awesome dark mahogany finish; and
  • divide the same batch of dough into 15-18 pretzels instead of 12.  The pretzels still rise up to a perfect size, and you get more of them

Homebrew Clubs / Re: Club Membership Cards
« on: December 19, 2014, 05:26:20 PM »
We have an editable PDF (with lines for the member's name and year) posted on the member-only page of our web site.  Any member has access, and can print a card if they like.  A couple LHBS in our area give club members a discount but I have not heard of a shop questioning the discount or requiring the physical card.

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