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Messages - svejk

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General Homebrew Discussion / Re: One of my favorite things on brewday.
« on: December 26, 2013, 10:34:00 AM »
One of my favorite things on brew day is having a hot scotchy (although I usually use bourbon):

I normally hold off any drinking until the beer is in the fermenter, but I do make an exception for this.  If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it - it is especially memorable with the first runnings of a big barleywine.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: What Commercial Beers Do You Have Aging?
« on: November 18, 2013, 02:46:53 PM »
My favorite commercial beer for aging is St Bernardus 12.  A friend asked me about beer aging so I shared a 750ml bottle that was at least 5 years old (I'm not sure of the year, but it still had a $6.99 price tag on it) and we compared it to a fresh one.  While the fresh bottle was nice, the aged one was truly spectacular.

I hate losing wort, so once the wort is out of the kettle but before the last drops reach the pump, I shut off the valve and put ~1/2 gallon of boiling water in the kettle.  I then push the last of the wort out of the lines and into the fermenter and shut off the pump once the water arrives.  I'm not sure how that would work with your setup, but it also serves a dual purpose for me in that the chiller, lines and pump are all soaking in water rather than wort while I'm oxygenating, pitching yeast, etc.

Equipment and Software / Re: Thermometer Recommendation
« on: October 22, 2013, 09:37:37 AM »
I picked up an Atkins 330 thermocouple on ebay many years ago, and it has been absolutely reliable the entire time. A new one would have been prohibitively expensive, but I paid less than $75 for mine.  There's one currently listed:

My first experience homebrewing was at a "u-brew" business, and I would highly recommend that you look to see if there is one in your area.  They are called by different names, but they are businesses that allow you to come to their location and use their equipment to brew a batch of beer.  They have lots of recipes to choose from and helpful staff that can talk you through the process.  Once I tried it and tasted the results, I was hooked and ended up taking the plunge.

If there isn't such a business in your area, you might want to pick up a Mr Beer kit and then search the web for a custom recipe that sounds good to you.  It isn't a huge investment, and it will give you a chance to test the waters to see if it is something that interests you.

Best of luck!

Equipment and Software / Re: Choosing The Right Brewpot
« on: September 26, 2013, 02:49:37 PM »
I brew with a 15 gallon stainless Vollrath kettle that I had customized with a ball valve and false bottom (I mainly use whole hops, so I use a false bottom instead of hop bags).  My original intent for getting the larger kettle was because I envisioned moving up to 10g batches, but after brewing a few big batches, I found that I preferred brewing 5 to 7 gallon batches, depending on the style.

I have been really happy with my kettle, and wouldn't want to use anything smaller, even for a 5g batch.  The only real concern I can think of with a larger kettle is that some of them are wider and squatter than others.  If you do end up with a very wide kettle, you'll probably find that you'll end up with a higher boil-off rate than you would have with a taller, narrower kettle.  This isn't really a huge deal since you'll build in your boil rate into your expectations, but it is something to consider.

Equipment and Software / Re: newbie refractometer question
« on: September 24, 2013, 03:14:17 PM »
I have noticed with my refractometer if I set it aside for a few minutes and check it, the gravity will usually rise by a bit.  It has ATC, but it just isn't as quick as I would have expected.  My usual practice is to use my refractometer for checking gravities throughout the brew day.  Once the wort is chilled and in the fermenter, I check the gravity with a hydrometer because my standard practice is to aim a bit high on gravity and a bit low on volume in the fermenter so I can dilute with water to hit the targeted OG.  My hydrometer is more accurate than my refractometer, so I like the accuracy for when I'm doing the dilution.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Fermentation not finished
« on: September 24, 2013, 10:17:03 AM »
If it does turn out that this batch is truly stalled, restarting fermentation can be tricky.  If it were me, I would pull a sample of the beer (at least a hydrometer jar's worth, maybe a bit more just to be sure) and pitch a pack of Nottingham dry yeast in it.  Leave that sample warm and shake it several times a day.  Check the gravity with a calibrated hydrometer after a few days and see what it stopped at.  If the gravity didn't change, then it won't go any further no matter what you do so you can then decide what to do with it (maybe it could be used for blending). 

If the sample did finish at your target FG, then there is hope and you will need to pitch a LOT of yeast to finish the job.  Your beer is already over 7.5% ABV and completely lacking oxygen, so you will get very little if any yeast growth if you pitch packs of yeast in it.  What you really want is a massive slug of yeast to finish the job, so you could grow up a batch of healthy yeast by brewing a batch of low gravity table beer (OG ~1.040) and racking the stalled beer onto the yeast cake from the small beer.  You may need a couple of batches since you are doing this with 10 gallons. 

Another option would be to find a local brewery or brewpub that would give you a bunch of slurry to pitch into the beer.  I have done this same thing with Belgian beers before, and the first yeast I pitched provided the "Belgian" character, and I finished the beer by pitching over a quart of 1056 from a local brewery.

Good luck with the brew!

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Pros and Cons?
« on: September 19, 2013, 01:28:37 PM »
My standard approach is to do the simplest process first and if it doesn't work for me then I add complexity as needed.  There was a thread a little while ago about how pitching on a yeast cake is a bad idea, but in my experience I've really liked the results - at least in certain circumstances. 

I usually schedule back to back brew sessions about a week or two apart with a smaller beer (ie a Scottish 60/- with Wyeast 1728) brewed first and then a big beer (like a big English Barleywine) brewed second.  During the barleywine boil, I rack the Scottish into a keg and leave the yeast in the fermenter.  Once the barleywine is chilled, I put it right on top of the yeast from the Scottish and let it rip.  My philosophy is that the carboy was sanitized when I put the first beer in there, so I don't even bother cleaning it out.  If you read the other thread about pitching on a yeast cake, you'll see that there are lots of opinions about whether this is a good practice or not, but both my beer that was selected in a Pro Am competition and my 41 point barleywine were brewed using this method so I have no complaints.

In my experience, using this method is best for yeasts that ferment clean - where the yeast doesn't contribute a large part of the flavor profile of the style.  German hefs and Belgian dubbels, tripels, etc. get too much of their flavor profile from the yeast and using this method hasn't worked well for me.  My hunch is that the large volume of yeast results in a situation where there is very little yeast reproduction and the lack of a lag time results in a lower contribution to the character in the finished beer.

I don't normally sign petitions but I did sign this one because mead has been a bit of an orphan between the beer and wine communities for too long. Commercial meaderies really should be allowed to call what they make what it is. I sure hope he can get the right people to change this!

The Pub / Boulder Flooding
« on: September 12, 2013, 01:23:14 PM »
I'm sure this must be quite a disruption for the Brewers Association during the preparation for the GABF. Best wishes to the folks in the affected area, stay safe!

Sounds like a good plan.  If you think of it, you could reply to this same thread in a year or so to give an update as to how it worked out.  Oftentimes threads like this will come along and the questions will appear to remain unanswered.  Fortunately this forum allows for new posts to old topics so you can keep the question and your own answer all in the same place and we'll all benefit from your experience.

4 weeks isn't nearly long enough for autolysis to start so that shouldn't really be an issue (autolysis is an issue after many months).  I think the main issue you'll have is that the blend of yeast and bugs will be much different in the slurry from the first batch since each strain would not necessarily have multiplied at the same rate.  If it were me, I'd go for it since I'm always interested in answering those "what happens if" questions.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Traditional Mead ? Dry or Semi-sweet
« on: August 13, 2013, 02:49:00 PM »
This one sounds like a "tweener" - the hydrometer tells you it's dry and your tongue tells you it's sweet.  If you have enough bottles, you could enter it in both categories and see which one it does better in!

Equipment and Software / Re: Bottle Capper
« on: July 18, 2013, 02:59:26 PM »
I have the smaller Colonna Capper and it has served me well for quite a few years.  If I ever decide that I'd like to cork the occasional bottle, I would probably upgrade to this one since it can used for both caps and corks:

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