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Topics - benamcg

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Equipment and Software / Fermwrap and fermentation control
« on: November 03, 2011, 08:53:02 AM »
Can anybody comment on how well the Fermwrap works for maintaining desired fermentation temps:

Also, I was thinking about buying two ferm wraps for my two 6.5 gal carboys (10 gal batches) but use just one Ranco (therefore one probe -  and one thermal well.

The idea would be to place the probe into just one carboy, connecting the two Fermwraps into a powerstrip to the Ranco.  Since the 2 carboys would be very close in total volume, same material, etc.  the temperatures would be fairly close and therefore 2 Rancos would be overkill.  Whaddaya think? 

Equipment and Software / Cleaning a Cold plate and a Therminator
« on: October 29, 2011, 08:10:01 AM »
I haven't fired up the stainless steel draft cold plate in while and I am looking for some advice on what products to use to ensure a solid deep clean.  I only have Star San and Iodine on hand. 

Also, I have seen posts on placing the Therminator in the oven after multiple uses. I have been thorough with my post chilling maintenance, but would like to do a nice invasive nuking of the chiller now that it has been used 10 times or so.  For those of you who bake it, for how long and at what temps?  Any downsides?  Can the cold plate go in too? 

Thanks in advance.....

All Grain Brewing / Mash bed temp
« on: October 23, 2011, 07:39:09 AM »
Today I had to adjust the mash bed with cool water since the strike was a little hotter than usual (mash bed at t=0 was 160 F).  A while ago I had some issues with the standard lab thermometers (3 thermometers were giving me vastly different readings) so I bought a digital thermometer probe.  The probe is nice since I can monitor different depths of the mash bed. However, today I noticed that I was getting readings between 160 and 140 F depending on the bed.  I stirred the bed on multiple occasions (more than I would like), sealed the tun and waited.  I figured that the bed would adjust to a semi-uniform temperature.  45 mins in right now and it hasnt.  The variability improved somewhat (143-156).  I had never noticed this before, but might have been because I used lab thermometers which cant be buried to different depths while giving a reading. 

So my question is, is there is inherent variability in the mash bed (other specifics: rubber maid cooler, 30 lbs of malt), or is this an effect of fiddling with the strike water.  If there is the inherent problem with differences in the mash bed temp, do you measure temp from a specific location or depth (e.g. middle of the tun, 4" deep) or do you look for an average temp across your measurements to fall into the 150-155 range?   I would imagine that the size (lbs of malt) and shape of the container matter too.

Equipment and Software / Looking for styrofoam containers for carboys
« on: September 09, 2011, 10:06:03 AM »
I was given some used 6.5 gal carboys (a decade ago) that were contained in a two piece styrofoam container.  I imgine it is what they originally were shipped in. I think that they are really handy- never worry about breaking the carboy when setting it down.  Over the years, with water and wort spilling down the sides they have become uncleanable (and down right nasty).  Does anyone know of a place where I could get a new set?

I am wondering about how to use the Mr. Malty calculator for washed yeast.  Should I treat it like liquid yeast or slurry?

The reason I ask is that I have been washing my yeast and storing it for up to two months.  I store it in 2000 mL Ball jars- the yeast portion ends up being about 400-500 mL.  The final product looks like a massive White Labs vial. The online calculator says that the liquid yeast is 54% viable after 2 months, and the yeast slurry is only 10% viable.  I assume that the washed yeast is the slurry.  However, I have seen no ill effects of time to ferment or attentuation that would be indicative of 10% viability.

Secondly, if washed yeast is somehow different from a vial of yeast, what magic is done to increase the viability? 

General Homebrew Discussion / Surface Sterilization of Dry Hops
« on: March 14, 2011, 02:31:56 PM »
I am frequent dry hopper.  Something that I always do that I learned in my days of commercial brewing is to "surface sterilize" (for lack of a better term) the hops.  I basically bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the hops in, and essentially nuke any nasties, before adding to the secondary.  Then Iput the hops in the carboy, and let the hops cool before racking on to the hops.  At the brewery we would place the hops into a bag, place the bag in a grant, and run boiling water over the bag for a few minutes before adding to the secondary.

After doing this 50+ times at home, I began to question if this is necessary.  Any thoughts, pro or con?

Yeast and Fermentation / Overchilled wort + Yeast
« on: March 01, 2011, 09:41:38 AM »
I inadvertently overchilled my wort (48o F) when using my Therminator for the first time (that thing is amazing....too amazing).  I brought the carboys into a nice warm room, but fermentation (even with a nice starter) didnt seem to be at the activity level (airlock activity) that I am used to until 36-48 hours in. 

Any issues or off flavors associated with a lag like this? It is an IPA, OG 1.068, plenty hoppy. I would expect that any nasties that may have been in the air would also not be active at that low range.   

Equipment and Software / Drilling through my kettle .....
« on: February 14, 2011, 08:52:14 PM »
I will be drilling through my SS kettle to attach a weldless valve kit so that I can begin to use my Therminator. 

I have all the equipment ready to go, including my titanium nitride step bit, but am trying to solicit advice from someone who has done this before proceeding.  I keep putting off the operation thinking that I am about to wreck a perfectly good kettle.

I have a 18 V cordless drill, but what speeds should I run it at?

Did the finished hole require smoothing?  If so, with what?

What did you use for cutting fluid?  I dont want to have greases in the kettle or anything that could be problematic.  I am not looking to use the bit again if that matters (i.e. if I dont need to use cutting fluid?).



Ingredients / Green apple taste in young, big beer with turbinado
« on: February 14, 2011, 07:08:35 PM »
Brewed a 10 gal. all grain batch of Imperial IPA at the end of January.  I had 28 lbs of malt (pale, crystal, flaked barley, special roast) and 3 lbs of turbinado sugar (to add gravity without the body).  Ended up being more like 8-9 gals in the fermentor- Needless to say I saw a new part of my hydrometer (1.114).  Pitched a lot (800 mL) of washed yeast (one because of the size, two because it was almost 2 months old).  Just transferred to the keg after dry hopping (FG= 1.010).  As usual, I drank the FG sample.  It tasted a little like green apple.  I am quite meticulous about my "lab practices" so I do not expect an infection (although it was the 1st thing to cross my mind).  Second thought was "young beer", and the third thing too cross my mind was the possibility of the effects of the turbinado (these two thoughts are what I am leaning towards - knowing that both should mellow with time).  I guess another possibility could be the yeast- but they did their thing. 

I would love to hear anybody's thoughts on the subject.

Ingredients / More yeast flavor in beer?
« on: February 08, 2011, 07:43:04 PM »
I got knocked in a competition recently that stated that I didnt have enough yeast character in a Wit.  In an effort to make better beers (or beers closer to style), how would one recommend getting more yeast flavor in the beer?  I am not filtering yeast.  Would you inoculate bottles? Seems a bit much to me.....

I just got back some results from a competition that stated my beers were slightly under-carbonated for the style. This was the first time I sent bottles to a competition that I bottled with my Blichman Beer Gun. 

I have never worried 1) about carbonation in kegs (obviously just turn up or vent) or 2) in competitions (usually got bottle condition half the batch).  However, I would rather use my Beer Gun and would like to know what I could do to hit achieved carbonation levels.  I carbonate in kegs using beer charts, have the advantage of cold (36 degrees) and time before bottling. 

I believe that it may do with the process of filling- but I (believe that I have followed the instructions to a tee.  I chill bottles, dispense aroung 3-5 PSI, and cap immediately.  I think that somewhere in the dispensing/filling process I must be doing something wrong.

I believe that this requires a gas physics style answer and not necessarily a brewing technique issue.  In both beers I had either 50% wheat (a wit) or 5-10% Flaked Barley which should if any thing, help with head retention.
Any help would be appreciated.

Yeast and Fermentation / Is My Washed Yeast Too Old
« on: January 28, 2011, 07:22:15 PM »
Went to make a 2 L starter tonight with washed yeast.  I didnt think about it until I pulled it out of the fridge, but the yeast washed on Dec 4th.  I have 800 mL of nice looking yeast, but according to Mr Malty, I am way short (by about 1200 mL).  I placed it in the starter beaker (on a stir plate) and less than an hour in, got some nice frothy head and good airlock activity (could this solely be from the stir plate?). 

I have about 24 hrs before pitching, and I dont have anymore DME to make another starter.

1) Do I pitch it anyway (and hope for the best)


2) Add non starter (or started) yeast from yeast washed last weekend to the cooled wort?

I am leaning towards pitching the older washed yeast anyway, and if the activity is not great (within 4-6 hrs.) , pitching the back-up non-starter yeast.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. 

Equipment and Software / Plate Chillers and Gravity Feeds
« on: November 16, 2010, 12:05:50 PM »
I am looking into purchasing either a Shirron Plate Chiller or a Therminator, to be used in a gravity fed system.

In my research I have noticed that all plate chillers ability to chill is affected by the speed of the wort entering the chiller.  In most video demos I have seen, the person usually adjusts the valve on the kettle to slow the speed down.

I would like to know if I it is possible to use a use a gravity feed from a non-valved kettle with a plate chiller. I guess the problem would be how to start the siphon (suck from the outlet side?).  I would prefer to avoid having to buy a new valved kettle- since my current 15 gal Bayou Classic is great for my batch sizes.

Any help would be appreciated.

Yeast and Fermentation / Odd precipitate
« on: November 08, 2010, 05:57:49 PM »
I am wondering if anyone can help me with an odd looking precipitate that I had in a secondary fermentor. 

I made an IPA, that was transferred from 2 6.5-gal glass carboys (primary fermentation) to 2 5-gal glass secondaries.   
I dry hopped with pellets.
I placed the secondary in my beer cellar (where lately the temps probably dipped below 45 F). 

There is a layer of sediment/yeast in the bottom of the carboys, but what was floating in suspension was somewhat stringy/snot looking.  I guess the carboy is smooth inside, but oustide it is not perfectly smooth.  The outside of the carboy is somewhat ornate, raised in square patterns, that typical of other carboys I have seen (if this makes sense).  The snotty suspension was hanging out inside the carboy mostly in the same pattern of the square ribbing outside. What is weirder is when I knocked the carboys gently the snot slowed dropped to the bottom of the carboy.  After a few minutes, the beer appeared quite clear, and there was a less dense snotty layer about the dense sediment layer in the bottom of the carboy.

Maybe its not that odd, but maybe I hadn't observed this before since my 6.5 gal fermentors are "jacketed" with styrofam, and these two secondaries are unjacketed (I do cover them with trash bags so no light hits the beer). 

Any guesses?  Same proteins responsible for chill haze?  I did not get aggressive with the siphons at any stage, but I guess there could be some hot or cold break left.
Very odd patterns to the precip.

Yeast and Fermentation / Washing/rinsing and Re-Using Yeast
« on: October 30, 2010, 11:53:03 AM »
I recently washed or rinsed (depending on who you ask) the yeast from 2 6-gal glass carboys.  I allowed the trub to settle in 2 separate jars, then transfered to a couple of secondary settling Ball jars.  What I have now is a beer/water layer on top of beautiful looking yeast.   

In the past, I pitched everything I harvested equally into 2 carboys.  However, from my rinsing it looks like the equivalent of 10 White Lab vials (not including the beer water- just the solid yeast portion).

My questions are:
1.  How much should I repitch? and

2. How do I determine if?  Weight?  If so, I could weigh the Ball jars and compare to an empty one of the same size.  Or fill an old yeast tube and pitch that into a starter.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated,

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