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Messages - mabrungard

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Then there's always the Superfast Splashproof Thermapen...


which comes calibrated to NIST standards including a certificate of compliance.

I like the idea of the Thermapen and I like that its calibrated.  It does seem like it could be a good everyday tool.  It is expensive though.

This still doesn't alleviate the problems inherent with any electrical or mechanical device...they can go out of calibration.  That's why I like the security of that old fashion mercury in glass thermometer for calibration checking.  The only way its going to go out of calibration is for it to be broken and then you have a whole lot more problems.  My NIST thermometer only comes out for calibration and is never used for real work.  Of course, that old fashion thermometer has to be calibrated to an NIST standard for it to be worth anything.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Lacto Starter
« on: December 11, 2011, 10:10:59 AM »
I could not find Kris England's (mashweasel) recommendations for Lacto starters, so I don't know what those recommendations are.  (Could someone post the link?)  But, there are some very good Berliner brewers in my club that have given me advice on this subject. 

In the case where you are not using a pure Lacto culture and are doing the handful of raw grain in wort have to let that starter culture ferment completely in order to let the Lactobacillus out compete and kill off the other organisms with Lacto's superior pH tolerance.  So you let the pH of the starter to get very low and for all the 'off' aromas to dissipate to the singularly lactic aroma.  Of course, you need to ferment the starter at a relatively high temp (near 100F) to enhance the Lacto growth.   This starter should be extremely sour.  Those resulting Lacto bugs are then pitched into the beer batch.  If desired, the partially Lacto fermented beer can be boiled to kill the Lacto and then a regular ale yeast added to complete the ferment.

I love sours! 

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: forgot to aerate
« on: December 11, 2011, 08:27:35 AM »
It depends on how active your fermentation is.  If its still pretty lackluster, you can hit it with air or O2.  A secondary aeration is sometimes used in big beers to help boost the yeast count.  That is typically done between a half day and a day after pitching.

If you pitched a good starter and that yeast count was already high, then its possible you don't really have to aerate upon pitching.  If its a big beer, you'll want to do it.

I really like dial thermometers for their durability, but they do have to be checked regularly.  I think you would be better off getting a NIST-traceable mercury thermometer and only using it to calibrate your working thermometers.  The working thermometers need to be calibrated in the typical mashing temperature range, not freezing and boiling.  That is what I do. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: Humdinger Attenuation Issue
« on: December 11, 2011, 08:18:52 AM »
150F is a fairly modest mashing temp.  If you were looking for less fermentability, that is the first thing that needs to be increased.  I also see that you're fermenting lagers and those yeasts can be more attenuative than an ale yeast. 

I understand that some digital thermometers are pretty accurate and I see that you mention its got a 'traceable' rating.  I'm not sure how the manufacturers do the testing, but I would still recommend checking the thermometer with a NIST traceable mercury thermometer at a more typical mashing temperature (say 140 to 160F).   There can be all kinds of error in measurement even if the thermometer reads correctly at freezing and boiling. 

With regard to mash pH, I would avoid allowing your mash to fall below 5.4 (room-temp measurement) since I find that fermentability increases as the mash pH decreases.  I've made some thin beers when I overacidified my mash.

Equipment and Software / Re: PH meter
« on: December 09, 2011, 07:00:17 AM »
I concur that homebrewers have little need in worrying about mash pH to the hundreths, but there is merit in having a meter that reports that finely.  Having the meter report to the hundreths allows the user to assess how the pH reading is trending and if the reading is relatively stable. 

Most brewers should now know that mash pH reading is dependent upon the temperature of the wort and that they should not stick their pH probe into hot wort.  The wort needs to be cooled to room temperature to protect the probe and stabilize the wort pH variation.  The good thing about having the capability to observe the hundreths of a pH unit is that the user can see how much the pH is jumping around and if its settling into a relatively stable range or if its still moving upward or downward.  (I note that pH meter readings typically jump around a couple of hundreths)  With a meter that only reports to the tenths of a unit, the user will have little indication as to the pH stabilizing.  And since the meter is rounding the result to the nearest tenth, the user won't really know if the pH was 5.35 or 5.44.  That means that the result might be up to 0.05 units off.  The good thing is that there isn't really much concern that their reading is 0.05 units off.

So I suggest that using a meter that reads to the hundreths is useful, but a brewer should only concern themselves with the pH reading to the tenths level. 

Equipment and Software / Re: PH meter
« on: December 08, 2011, 06:56:06 AM »
Milwaukee MW-101 is a decent meter with just enough features and precision for brewing usage.  You do want a meter that reads down to the hundreth of a pH unit, even though you will only need to know down to about the tenth of a unit.  It does incorporate a manual temperature compensation feature, but its not really needed.  Automatic temperature compensation is not needed.

The meter is under $80, but do get some small bottles of pH 4, pH 7, and storage solution to help protect and verify your investment.

Equipment and Software / Re: oxygenation
« on: December 01, 2011, 06:54:26 AM »
Constant aeration is a really good way to go for yeast starters.  But since you usually only can add oxygen to wort at the beginning of fermentation, I think that oxygenation is a better way to go over aeration to begin your fermentation.   You do have to be careful and not overdo it with oxygen since you can bring the dissolved oxygen levels much higher than you can with aeration.  Excessive oxygen levels MAY create higher alcohols and more solventy perceptions in the finished beer.  I have not seen definitive proof of that, but several prominent brewers have mentioned they notice it. 

I use an in-line sintered stainless stone followed by 25 ft of transfer tubing after my chiller.  That gives me the chance to introduce a fine stream of oxygen bubbles into the wort and it has a good chance to transfer to the wort before dumping into my fermenter. 

You don't want to drop a hose into your wort and blast it with oxygen for a minute.  You want to use a stone and introduce very fine bubbles at a very low rate for a much longer time.  I probably have my oxygen tank on for 10 minutes during the transfer, but its at a very low rate.  I probably get 10 to 12 (5 gal) batches from one of those little red disposable oxygen cylinders, so I don't think I'm overdosing the wort.  My ferments are rapid and strong (a good starter helps too).  If you're dropping a oxygenation stone into the bottom of your fermenter, you should reduce the oxygenation rate until you can just barely see fine bubbles coming to the surface and let that go for many minutes.  How many is many?  I can't say for sure, but I've mentioned my duration above. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: How to obtain a water report
« on: November 29, 2011, 02:50:55 PM »
Ward has rebranded the W-5 test as the 'Beer Test'.  As mentioned above, it adds a couple more parameters.  Unfortunately, neither of those extra results are very valuable.  

Phosphorus has no value to our brewing knowledge and since malt adds a huge proportion of additional phosphorus to the wort, the P concentration in the starting water is meaningless.  

The iron content is actually moderately discernable by a typical water drinker.  If the tap water has any metallic notes, its probably got a little too much iron or manganese in it and it may not make the best beer.  A lab test is not all that valuable when your palate can tell you what you need to know.  

Bottom line:  save $10 and just purchase the W-6 test.

Equipment and Software / Re: cleaning a nylon mesh bag
« on: November 24, 2011, 06:26:59 AM »
I now dry hop with my nylon grain bag.  The bag definitely has strong color (golden green brown), but the hop particles rinse out fairly easily.  I do have to reverse the bag to get everything out. 

Maybe in the case of a sticky, gummy sludge like grape debris, you might have to dry the whole thing out and flake it off?  Another option might be some sort of enzyme soak to get the debris to become more compliant?

Extract/Partial Mash Brewing / Re: 5.2 stablizer and partial mash
« on: November 21, 2011, 03:55:27 PM »
When I moved into Denver and started using its soft water, I tried some 5.2 in a porter.  The mash pH started at 4.90.  I added 1 T of 5.2, stirred and let it rest for a few minites and the pH was 4.90.  A 2nd T had the same result.  A third T (I don't know why) raised it all the way up to 4.94.  So, in my experinece, it doesn't work for soft water and dark beers.

That is a surprise.  The chemistry of that product should have supplied buffers that would actually raise the mash pH.  It tends to buffer into a pH of around 5.8 according to some research by Troester.

Ingredients / Re: Advanced Software for Brewing Water Analysis
« on: November 20, 2011, 07:59:24 AM »
Resurrecting this thread to ask a question about how melanoidin malt should be classified on the Bru'n Water mash acidification sheet.

The Crystal Malt selection on the Mash Acidification sheet is the most 'acidic' of the normal malts.  If you hover your cursor over the Grain Type header on the Mash Acidification sheet, you'll see that Melanoidin Malt is called out as a Crystal Malt. 

Grain summary: 

Any grain with a color rating of over 200L is a Roasted Malt
Any stewed or otherwise processed, non-Base malt is a Crystal Malt
Any Pilsner, Lager, 2-row, 6-row, Pale, Munich, Vienna, Mild, Wheat, Oat, or flaked grain is a Base Malt.


It's of course pricey for many homebrewers but I'm certain there are some that would love it. I'd be more in the market if it connected to a smartphone/laptop over bluetooth (or similar).

I've seen graphs at craft breweries indicating that they are taking daily gravity readings. I'm not sure they'd want a floating version though (They'd have to find it after every batch). Perhaps a version mounted to the fermentor wall, it could also be hardwired (no battery replacement). It would need to be food grade and be able to endure clean-in-place chemicals.

This too has some promise.  Incorporating a hardwired or close-linked wireless connection with a SG/temperature probe would be great.  Incorporating typical thermostatic control capability like my Johnson A419 digital thermostat into the unit would be even better.  Having the temperature and SG display on my fermentor exterior would be welcome.  Having the ability to control the fermenter chamber cooling and/or heating would be even better.

A durable, sanitizable SG probe would be something I will buy.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Hard Water
« on: November 19, 2011, 06:44:08 AM »
Hardness is VERY desirable in brewing water.  Soft or softened water is not very desirable (even if it does not contain high sodium concentration) since calcium is very beneficial to many mash and fermentation performance indices.  The typical minimum calcium concentration of 50 ppm equates to a moderately hard water in the water treatment profession.  A soft water would have under 20 ppm calcium.  So, hardness is rarely a concern to brewers unless some of that hardness is due to excessive concentrations of iron or manganese.  I'm assuming that might be the cause of unpalatability that the OP mentioned.  Hard water that is due to just calcium and a small percentage of magnesium is actually very tasty water.

Even those of use that use RO or distilled water in their brewing typically add calcium (hardness) to their brewing water to bring the calcium level into a preferred range.

As pointed out above, alkalinity is always the primary concern for brewers and it is not amended by the typical ion-exchange (salt) water softener.  Kit B properly pointed out that bicarbonate is the problem with Hamiltont's water.  Unfortunately you can't just precipitate only the bicarb, some calcium is going to drop with it.  But you could neutralize the bicarb with acid and leave the calcium intact.  The trick is to avoid acids with strong flavor when a large amount has to be added. 


PS: Paul, Dr. Brungard is my dad.  I only have lowly Masters degrees. 

Oh and since you have a unit in there, it should measure and report temperature too.

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