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Messages - mabrungard

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Water to grain ratio for mash tun.
« on: March 14, 2011, 01:19:37 PM »
What's the downside to going above ~2 qts lb?  pH?

Mash pH can be a problem if you're dealing with an alkaline water source.  There is only so much acidity provided by the grain bill and so much alkalinity from the mash water.  If you bump up the amount of water, you're also increasing the quantity of alkalinity and the mash pH will end up higher than it would if the water to grist ratio was thicker. 

Reducing the mash water alkalinity is one way to account for thinning the water to grist ratio.  Bru'n Water users have the capability to assess this effect and correct for it easily. 

Ingredients / Re: Advanced Software for Brewing Water Analysis
« on: March 13, 2011, 05:20:23 PM »
Version 1.5 of Bru'n Water has been uploaded and is ready for downloading. 

Enhancements include:
  • Revised Mash pH algorithm
    Mash and Sparge Additions Totals
    Sparging Water Recommendations
    User Customizable Water Profile fields
    Advice for Water Report Troubleshooting
    Water Report Units Convertor
    More Notes throughout
    Enhanced Instructions
    Additional Water Knowledge


All Grain Brewing / Re: Improving Efficiency
« on: March 13, 2011, 12:05:35 PM »
I have a long-handled nylon spoon that I use as my measuring stick.  I scratched in volume markings on the spoon for my kettle.  Sharpie was really short lived on that nylon but I would imagine it will last a while on wood. 

Water adjustments can improve efficiency if your mash pH is way out of whack, but I would be surprised if it was more than a few points.  There are plenty of water programs out there.  Until Palmer's and Kaminski's Water book come out, I suggest that brewers download Bru'n Water for the Water Knowledge section alone.  You may prefer other programs for calculating your water adjustments, but you're not going to get the volume of knowledge that Bru'n Water provides.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Got a break on the hot break......
« on: March 13, 2011, 11:57:33 AM »
Using whole finishing hops is one of those tricks one of my clubmates in the North Florida Brewers League taught me.  It does help consolidate and hold the trub in the center of the pot after whirlpooling.  The overall trub mass is less likely to be drawn off from the kettle.  Having a large bottom area is helpful too.  My 15 gal pot is probably 6 to 8 inches larger in diameter than a typical 1/2 barrel keg pot and the trub island usually doesn't slope all the way to my wort drain manifold at the periphery of the pot.

Ingredients / Acid Malt Usage
« on: March 13, 2011, 08:53:15 AM »
It has come to my attention that there is a potential problem with the Rule of Thumb that exists for Acid Malt usage. Acid malt is also known as Acidulated Malt or Saurermalt. That ROT is: Each 1% acid malt by weight added to a grist will drop the mash pH by about 0.1 unit.

Since acid malt contains lactic acid, adding acid malt to the grist is just like adding a few drops of lactic acid per pound of malt in the grist. Acid malt is typically used when the brewing water's alkalinity is too high to allow the mash pH to drop into the desired range. Under typical usage, its only added when a check of the mash pH shows that the pH has not dropped enough. Under this usage, the ROT should be fairly effective.

The problem comes when programs like Bru'n Water enable the brewer to predict mash pH prior to actually conducting the mash. The prediction indicates that the mash pH will be high and the brewer plans on an acid malt addition. Part of the problem stems from the variability in acid content of various acid malt products. Apparently Weyermann acid malt is soaked in lactic acid solution for several days while other maltsters just spray a lactic acid solution onto the grain. It appears that the quantity of lactic acid in acid malt products is generally between 2 and 3 % by weight. Bru'n Water assumes that the acid malt used has the higher 3% by weight lactic acid content.

Knowing that a mash pH problem may be looming can be helpful, but brewers need to use caution when adding acid malt or acid directly to the mash based on a program prediction. If the mash water alkalinity and residual alkalinity are low, the ROT for acid malt effect may not hold. In that case, the alkalinity that is moderating the pH drop may have been consumed and minor acid additions can have a larger than expected pH drop.

This pH effect is similar to the fact that adding a drop of acid to a fixed quantity of water will generally produce a somewhat consistent pH reduction with each drop. But as the water's alkalinity is used up, each drop of acid has a progressively increasing pH drop (pH falls off a cliff).

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
« on: March 12, 2011, 06:29:31 AM »
This issue with increasing competition entries is a real problem for me.  As a BJCP national judge, competitions are interested in my participation and I'm happy to do a point. 

The problem is that the number of judges at competitions sometimes doesn't keep pace with the number of entries.  Judges are overloaded and in a hobby with alcohol, that is a problem.  There needs to be a better solution. 

The ranks of BJCP judges keeps growing and there should be sufficient judges to staff these competitions, but the reward for participating as a judge (beside the comradery) typically amounts to getting a free lunch and a trinket.  The judge is left to foot the bill for the overnight stay and travel costs.  It just doesn't make sense.  Judges need to be better compensated by these competitions for their services.

The Indiana State Fair runs a home and craft brewing competition that is probably one of the best run and compensated competitions in the nation.  They are paying judges on the order of $100 if they live over a couple hundred miles from Indy to cover their travel costs.  Even the local judges get a minor stipend and all judges get several meals during the course of the competition.  That is a model that needs to be implimented across the nation. 

To provide that stipend, competitions need to start increasing their entry fees.  Entry fees are clearly too low and too many entrants see great benefit from their entry.  That is great, but the cost for EVERYONE to participate needs to be spread around.   Right now, judges are the ones paying and that needs to change. The side benefit of the competition covering more of the judge's cost is that more judges will be willing to make the trek to participate and that means that the quality of judge and judging will improve.  Fewer beer entries per judge is a very desirable outcome for everyone. 

The National Homebrew Competition has addressed some of my concern by limiting the number of entries at the regionals to 750 per site.  That is a good start, but they also need to let the market help winnow the entries down and pay for judge participation.  Entry fees need to go up a lot and NHC needs to better compensate the judging staff. 

Let's get more good judges at all of these competitions.  I'm sure that many of you that have entered a competition, have experienced poor feedback from a inexperienced judge.  Wouldn't it be worth a few extra dollars to get better judges interested in participating in the contest and getting that better feedback? 

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Starter temperature questions
« on: March 11, 2011, 12:39:03 PM »
The new Yeast book goes a little further than recommending a high fermentation temp for a starter. 

For ale yeast, temps in the 70 to 80F should be OK.  But for lager yeast, they indicated that lager brewers making large starters should step up the starter size incrementally and decrease the starter fermentation temp with each step to better acclimate it to lager temps. 

So in the case of lager yeasts, I would say that you might want to keep those beasties in the 60 to 70F range instead of assuming more elevated temps.

Ingredients / Re: hop freshness
« on: March 09, 2011, 10:35:16 AM »
I think that looser hop pellets may be an indication of gentler handling during processing.  As we all know, heat is a big enemy of hop freshness.  The process of pelletizing involves the application of a lot of pressure to the hops.  With pressure comes heat.  I understand that a good hop pelletizing operation will use liquid nitrogen to cool the pelletizing die to help avoid overheating the hop pellets.  The other way to help avoid overheating would be to back off a bit on the pressure. 

Maybe that is what is exhibited by hop pellets that still have great aroma, but fall apart more easily. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: Skimming foam from the boil
« on: March 09, 2011, 06:05:56 AM »
I'm with Jeff on this one.  Because I can skim that material easily, I do it for all my brews that aren't First Wort Hopped.  There is ample evidence in my opinion that the scum on the boil has flavor negative impacts, so it seems that it is worth doing when I'm not going to lose some of my FWHs. 

Ingredients / Re: Heffeweizen Water Build
« on: March 05, 2011, 07:30:15 PM »
Your answer is in the Decarbonation by Boiling thread that has been stickied at the top of the Ingredients section.  The raw Munich water is well suited to dark beers and poorly suited to light colored beers.  Boiling is an old way of reducing alkalinity and hardness and it happens to be effective on Munich water.  Using the boiled Munich water profile would be a good place to start for a Hefe.

You can get some more information on water profiles from the Bru'n Water program.  You can download it at the link in my signature line below.

Ingredients / Re: Sources for acid
« on: March 03, 2011, 01:15:31 PM »
It wasn't me, it was one of my FBI club mates.  I'm just the messenger.

Equipment and Software / Re: Kettle ?
« on: March 03, 2011, 06:14:32 AM »
I recommend a 60 qt kettle also.  I usually make 5 gal batches, but even the occasional 10 gal batch does not boil over in a 60 qt. 

I picked up a used aluminum commercial kitchen pot (nice and strong) on Ebay years ago.  One of the smarter buys I've made. 

Ingredients / Re: Sources for acid
« on: March 02, 2011, 03:52:52 PM »
Our club is about to purchase 950 ml bottles of 75% phosphoric from  They say it is food-grade stuff. 

The thing about acids and shipping is that DOT has a limit on the size or quantity of hazardous materials that can be shipped in the package before it has to be shipped as Hazardous Cargo.  Of course, the cost sky rockets at that point. 

For acids, the hazardous quantity is 1 gallon if my memory serves me correctly.   So you would have to limit the amount per shipment to that amount to avoid the shipping surcharge.

Ingredients / Re: Temperature and pH
« on: March 02, 2011, 12:19:15 PM »
All the data and texts I've seen indicate that the better pH range is 5.3 to 5.5.  I'm not sure there really is an optimum mash pH since a brewer can have differing goals for their brew.  These are room temp measurements.  Denny's range is a more forgiving 5.2 to 5.6, but it still centers on about 5.4 as the median value. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: Water Testing
« on: March 01, 2011, 01:13:44 PM »
A very small water bottle is suitable for the typical testing by Ward.  The last samples I sent to Ward were contained in White Labs yeast vials (cleaned of course).  1 vial per sample is enough.  It saves on shipping.

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