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Topics - pikelakehomebrew

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I don't mean this to be link spam or anything like that, but as an extension of general home brew discussion in a different medium.  Google+ just launched their new communities feature, and thought I'd extend an invitation to my fellow AHA members that may be on Google+ to come and join the Brew Nerds community.    I know little can top the value of the AHA forums — they've been invaluable to many of us.  The great opportunity with Google communities is hooking up with other brewers, being able to video chat/hangout and discuss various brewing topics, and to collaborate with one another in realtime.

Come and check it out!

This would also be an awesome opportunity for the AHA to initiate an official presence there, too.

Edit: I am pretty sure that my estimation of the Biocarbonates (HCO3 or CaCO3) has got to be off.  But I still want to double-check with the community and see if my math is at least on.

Got your math nerd hat on?   ;)  Good.

So I'm delving deeper into the math and science behind brewing — much in part to the book "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels — and I'm presently wrapping my head around water chemistry (or trying to anyway) but ran into a red flag when I was evaluating just how much Calcium I would need to bring the levels down to earth.  It seemed pretty extreme, so I thought I would confer with the chemistry and math geeks here and make sure my calculations were correct, and if they are, how I can bring the pH level down without introducing off flavors like chlorine, salt, etc.

Water profile
For starters, I checked with my city water source and they were able to provide the general pH range (7.5-8.1), the Calcium reading (170 ppm), and Magnesium reading (28 ppm), but did not have any readings for Biocarbonates.  So based upon the formula that Daniels provided:

Code: [Select]
pH = (0.028 x [(Biocarbonate ppm x 0.056) - (Calcium ppm x 0.04) - (Magnesium ppm x 0.033)] )
I guestimated (based upon reverse-engineering the formula) that our Biocarbonate reading must be in the ballpark of 4921 ppm, so the end formula would have these values:

Code: [Select]
7.5pH = (0.028 x [(4921 ppm x 0.056) - (170 ppm x 0.04) - (28 ppm x 0.033)])
Achieving 5.5 pH

So I took the same formula, but factored in 5.5 as the pH rating, kept the Biocarbonates and the Magnesium at the same value (assuming that those two would remain constant), and then figured out how much Calcium it would take to bring the pH level down to 5.5.  That formula is:

Code: [Select]
5.5pH = (0.028 x [(4921 ppm Biocarbonates x 0.056) - (1956 ppm Calcium x 0.04) - (28 ppm Magnesium x 0.033)] )
And the difference of ppm of Calcium between a pH level of 7.5 and 5.5 comes out to be about 1786 ppm of Calcium — and because Calcium is only 27% of Calcium Chloride, it would take 6615 ppm of Calcium Chloride to  reduce the pH to 5.5.  And if I have my percentages right, that would also mean adding over 3100 ppm of Chloride.

Translate that into ten gallons of strike and sparge water as an example, that would be nearly nine ounces of Calcium Chloride to bring the pH down.

If I'm not mistaken (and I probably am — I am a man, a home brewer, and am prone to err), that much Calcium Chloride could have a pretty bad effect on the flavor of the water, the mash and in turn, the beer.

Do my figures look correct in terms of the correction of pH levels?  Or is it possible that my Biocarbonates guestimation is off altogether and is by far too high?  Since the city doesn't measure CaCO3, I'm stuck trying to guestimate that without sending my water in for a professional reading.

I've no real interest in answers like "just go get some distilled water" — simply put, I don't learn anything from copping out and grabbing distilled water off the shelf.  Part of this exercise is to learn some facets of the chemistry of water and how I can correct it as a home brewer (within reason).

And just to be clear, my beers don't taste bad at all — I can't say that having a higher mash pH (of about 6.3 or so, which is what I've been averaging) has had a dramatic effect on my beer.  But I am trying to really dial it down and improve my mastery of water chemistry.

Thanks in advance.

All Grain Brewing / step-mashing, and when is it inappropriate?
« on: September 05, 2012, 06:13:01 PM »
So earlier this spring I decided to make step-mashing a priority in my brew day — I do temperature rests at most of the various extraction points, 15-30 minute protein rest, 30 minutes for beta conversions, 30 minutes for alpha conversions, a 10-minute mash-out, and then sparging for as long as it takes.  By-in-large, my results have been great and achieve both high efficiency and great-tasting beer in the process.  And if I don't adjust my sparge water for my efficiency, I can also boost my ABV if I choose to as well.

But my question is about beer styles and when it may not be appropriate to do a step mash?  Are there beer styles or traditions that lend themselves to a single rest or something other than what I've described in my current step mash process?  I don't pretend to be well-versed in all the different BJCP styles, but at least know that so far I've had great results with a complete step mash.  But I am just curious if there are beer styles that call for specific mash processes, like no lower beta rest and only higher temperature alpha conversions, or vice versa.

Your thoughts and input is appreciated.  Thanks!

All Grain Brewing / metric nerdery please: calculation question
« on: March 22, 2012, 07:29:16 PM »
So I'm considering going metric with my calculations and measurements, and am presently reading an excellent book [Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels]; and in his book he talks about calculating the malt bill for your recipe based on a few variables.  All his calculations revolve around Gravity Units (GU) and imperial measurements (pounds and gallons).  Like a couple sample formulas:

Code: [Select]
G.U. + Batch Size in Gallons = Total G.U.
Code: [Select]
G.U. per Pounds of Malt ÷ Extract Potential G.U. ÷ Mash Efficiency = Pounds of Grain Needed
Now I know the simple method to make this Metric-friendly would be to simply insert the formula for imperial to metric conversion right in the formula.  But I'm just curious, with formulas like this in mind, how does the REST of the world calculate things like Total Gravity, Pounds of Grist needed, etc.  Like would they just use °Plato instead or do they have entirely different formulas?

Just curious.

I won't lie —'s list of online courses for brewing is pretty sad.  Looking over the actual in-person programs, there's obviously an impressive amount of opportunities to expand one's knowledge of brewing and become better at your craft.  However, I don't have two weeks to go to Madison or Denver to further develop what is presently just a hobby.  Of course like many home brewers, I have shallow hopes of going "pro", a desire that is quickly held in check by reality...that, and the fact that I'm not nearly experienced or knowledgable enough to do so.  I know my limitations.   ::)

That said, are there any good online classes or some good books that would help take this enthusiastic home brewer from "zealous, well-meaning, small batch all-grain brewer" to "dude, this is a kick ass beer! how did you make this on such a small batch scale all-grain brewer"?  I do have a subscription to both Brew Your Own and my new pending subscription to Zymurgy — and I know they're both good reads and filled with great information.  But I could also use some structure to my learning and to take me out of my comfort zone into the chemistry and formulaic facets of brewing, and guide my learning to improve each facet of brewing — to have a solid grasp of why things happen and how to manipulate or control those variables. 

Is there anything out there (that doesn't require me to drop my life for two+ weeks to go to some school) that would take home brewers to the next level of brewing better beer?

So about a month ago I brewed up a variation on Northern Brewer's black Cascadian IPA but with a few substitutions based on what I had readily available in my grain bin, hop chest, and the yeast packs in my fridge.  Given that I was unfamiliar with the recipe (and the style) I brewed up a small one-gallon batch so that if it sucked bad I wouldn't feel bad about dumping it.

Now I must admit that I've never tried some of the commercial black IPA's out there (and I'm sure they're as diverse as the opinions about black/cascadian IPA's), so I really don't have a baseline of what they should taste like.  But when I sampled a bottle of the finished product, it was VERY odd.  I'm not even sure how to describe the flavor — it was medicinal, licorice-alcohol, and just nothing that reminded me of an IPA (black or not).  There seemed to be a lot of off flavors, but no hallmark flavors like buttery, butterscotch, etc.

So here's the recipe/mash/boil specs:

Yield: one gallon (test batch) - BIAB
IBU’s: 77, Color: 31°L,
Pre-boil: 1.050, OG: 1.062, FG: 1.016, ABV: 6.03%
[My actual OG: 1.076 / 18.4 BRIX]

2.3 lbs 2-row
.1 lbs crystal 80°L
.08 lbs simpsons chocolate
.08 lbs 2-row special black (500°L)

.4 oz Cascade (60 min)
.2 oz Chinook (15 min)
.2 oz Centennial (10 min)
.2 oz Cascade (5 min)
.4 oz Centennial (0 min)
.2 oz Cascade DRY HOP

Yeast: I used Safale S-04 but next time will try 1056 American Ale instead.

Mash instructions:
Sacc rest at 152°F for 75 minutes (3.8 qt water at 167°F)
Sparge with 3.3 qt of 180°F water over two minutes)

In actuality, I rested between 145°F and 152°F, so had more beta conversions than alpha.

Now I know that apart from actually providing everyone a sample, actually troubleshooting my brew will be quite difficult.  But I guess I wanted to ask the greater community to at least look at the recipe and see if there's anything about it that might produce some weird flavors.

I'm a clean/sanitizing freak and make sure that all my gear is clean and sanitized, so I'm pretty confident it's not a contamination issue.  Fermentation also appeared quite healthy, but offhand can't recall how much of the yeast I pitched (certainly not the whole pack) for this batch.

I don't know. It tasted really weird and maybe even phenolic — like alcohol-infused licorice bandaids.  It was just odd. 

All Grain Brewing / multi-batch, combined fermentation question
« on: March 13, 2012, 04:12:54 PM »
So before I get into my question, let me explain what I do and why I do it, which should help eliminate all the "well, why don't you just brew up 5 gallons and be done with it" statements. OK?  OK.   :o

Time is a precious commodity, and I don't get much of it with two little kids under three.  So I've moved from doing five-gallon all-grain brew days to smaller two-gallon all-grain brews in the kitchen on the stove top.  They're easy, low maintenance, no stuck mashes to draw out my brew day, it takes less time to come up to boil, and clean-up is faster, too.  With a two-gallon all-grain brew day, I can usually get it done in less than four hours (from start to finish) and still have the flexibility to walk away from things and take care of the kids — not so much with a five-gallon mash/lauter system. It's easier to carve out a little time for smaller batches than attempting a larger batch and having something go wrong and take up an hour or two of time that I just don't have.

So in short, I'm able to do two-gallon batches with ease and still allows me the flexibility to brew all-grain while being short on time.  (With the added benefit that I can also do a variety of beers and test out new recipes and have a wide array of home brew on tap or in bottles.)


I've read about how some craft breweries brew multiple batches over time and just add it to their large fermentation chambers over a period of a few days.  Could I take the same principle and apply it to the home brew scale? In other words, lets say I brewed up batch one (2.5 gallons) on a Tuesday and began fermentation that night (in a 5 or 6 gallon carboy), could I brew up the same batch again (2.5 gallons) on a Wednesday or Thursday and essentially add it to Tuesday's batch to double it?  Is there an ideal time (if any) to add to the fermenting batch and a cut-off time where it just wouldn't be smart to do so?

Thoughts? Suggestions?

General Homebrew Discussion / new to AHA - where does one start?
« on: March 13, 2012, 03:55:06 PM »
So I just got my membership to the AHA and know that the main selling points are the subscription to Zymurgy and the brew pub discounts, but in Minnesota our list of good brew pubs is rather sad (unless Old Chicago and Granite City is your thing).  With only two independent local brew pubs (and one that's over two hours away), I have to realize the benefits of this membership elsewhere.

Where do you guys find the most value out of your membership?  And where does a new member even begin to get involved and realize the value of the annual dues?

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