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Messages - svejk

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Big beer efficiency and fermentation question
« on: January 24, 2013, 10:59:46 AM »
Am limited to 9 gal total water. Currently put 5 in mash and 4 in sparge. Equipment and boil off loses gives 5.5 gal to ferment and 5 gal to bottle. Maybe it would be better to max out the water in the mash and use the rest for sparge, keeping total at 9 gal. May have to add DME to hit SG.

I think the 9 gallon water limit is the key because you are bumping into the maximum gravity that you can get from your first runnings.  I have rarely seen my first runnings exceed a gravity of 1.080.  Even with huge grain bills, the gravity drops off from that starting number and if you have 9 gallons in your kettle at 1.060, that will boil down to 5.5 gallons at 1.098.  There is still a lot of sugar available in the mash, it is just getting thrown away.

One way to increase your water limit would be to bring 3 gallons up to a boil during the mash and put it in a corny keg.  It would then cool down to sparging temp by the time you need it and you could use a cobra tap and CO2 to push it into the mash tun.

Since your boil kettle is maxed out, you could collect those runnings in a bucket.  Those runnings could be added to the kettle slowly during the boil.  Using this method, if you can collect 12 gallons at an average of 1.055, that will boil down to 5.5 gallons at 1.120.  I think you'll find that an extended boil works really well with big beers.

Equipment and Software / Re: Digital refractometer
« on: January 15, 2013, 02:38:53 PM »
A friend pointed out that a digital refractometer is actually very inexpensive and practical afterall:

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Barrel Aging Beer?
« on: January 10, 2013, 04:23:21 PM »
It depends on the size of your barrel.  Smaller barrels have a larger surface to volume ratio than larger barrels, so there is a tendency for the impact of the barrel to happen quicker in small barrels. 

I have a 2.5 gallon oak barrel that I keep full of bourbon so that I can "recharge" the bourbon character between batches.  With such a small barrel, my best results have come when I leave the beer in there for 3-4 weeks and then I keg it.  The non-barrel portion of the same batch is also kegged and used for blending if the oak/bourbon character is too high. 

The nice part about having the barrel and non-barrel portions in kegs is that it is easy to pull a small sample of each and determine the ratio that gives me the desired level of barrel character.  I have an "out-to-out" jumper hose that I use to move the beer between kegs, so the whole process can be done without introducing additional oxygen.  I use a scale to weigh the beer as it is added to the receiving keg to get the ratios right.  If you have bulk storage space, I recommend that you brew up a blending batch in case the barrel character is too high.  If it ends up being just right, then you can put that second batch into the barrel when it is emptied.

A few other random thoughts about whiskey/bourbon/spirit barrels:

- No Sulfur Sticks (read Gordon Strong's book to learn the explosive truth)
- Have a plan for the barrel when you are ready to empty it because it shouldn't sit empty for a long period.
- The first use will have the strongest character from the booze, so it should be tasted reasonably frequently.
- It only seems like too much trouble until you taste the results.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Aging Commercial Beer
« on: December 18, 2012, 11:52:36 AM »
I agree, your basement sounds like mine and I recently had a St Bernardus 12 that had been down there for ~5 years and it was beyond amazing.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Slowing Fermentation advice
« on: December 11, 2012, 10:59:03 AM »
If you're curious about whether there is any chance of further fermentation, you can try a force-ferment test.  Take a large enough sample to fill your hydrometer jar and pitch a packet of Nottingham in it.  Keep it warm (put it on a stir plate if you have one), and check the gravity after several days.  If the gravity doesn't change with that huge load of yeast in it, you can be very sure that you are at terminal gravity.

I agree with the others in this thread that you are most likely at terminal gravity and further aeration would not be a good idea at this point.  Warming it up and rousing the yeast may do something, but the force-ferment test can let you know for sure if there is any chance. 

One final thought about this is that I have had beers that I thought finished too sweet and those turned out to be some amazing beers after a long period of aging.  Your beer is at 9.3% ABV right now, so it should have no problem lasting several years in the bottle.  If you are bottle conditioning the beer, I highly recommend pitching some fresh yeast at bottling.  I've had big beers fail to condition because the yeast were too worn out, and a pack of dry yeast is cheap insurance to avoid that situation.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: White Labs Alcohol Test Kit
« on: December 06, 2012, 12:25:25 PM »
Freeze distillation as in making eisbier? That's legal.

This is true - a while back, James Spencer from Basic Brewing Radio spoke directly with the TTB about this and was told that since freezing is not a form of distillation and as long as there isn't an intent to sell, it isn't illegal.

Other Fermentables / Re: First Mead
« on: November 27, 2012, 12:11:22 PM »
From my own experience and research, aeration of the must is beneficial during the first part of fermentation - usually described as the point at which 1/3 of the available fermentables have been consumed.  Up until that point, I degas and aerate at the same time. For the final 2/3 of fermentation, I degas much more gently. I haven't tried it yet, but I've seen youtube videos where people use vacuum pumps to degas wine.

I do tend to prefer dry meads myself, but my first mead finished with a really high gravity, and I didn't like it at all for a really long time because I found it cloying. It's a bit over four years old now, and it has turned into a very nice sipper.

Other Fermentables / Re: First Mead
« on: November 25, 2012, 06:59:12 PM »
As you're researching what type of mead to make, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with no-boil musts, staggered nutrient additions, aeration and degassing of meads.  Meads are very easy on day 1, but the treatment of fermentation is very different from what you do for typical beers.  I think it is common for first meads to be under attenuated because the must is low in nutrients and the CO2 needs to be driven out of the must to allow the yeast to finish the job.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Which regulator?
« on: November 13, 2012, 12:17:43 PM »
I've got a couple of these:

One triple gauge and one double gauge and they've worked great.

I agree with this recommendation.  I have that exact regulator and it has been great.  My old one needed a screwdriver to set the pressure and I hated it for a really long time.  When the old one finally died, I got this one with the large knob and I was wishing I'd have made the switch years earlier.

This would appear to be a cheaper solution to replacing the entire regulator.

I wish I'd have thought of that a decade ago.  That said, the new regulator is much nicer than my old one which didn't perform well at lower (serving) pressure.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Which regulator?
« on: November 13, 2012, 11:32:30 AM »
I've got a couple of these:

One triple gauge and one double gauge and they've worked great.

I agree with this recommendation.  I have that exact regulator and it has been great.  My old one needed a screwdriver to set the pressure and I hated it for a really long time.  When the old one finally died, I got this one with the large knob and I was wishing I'd have made the switch years earlier.

Events / Re: NHC Hospitality suite & Club Night -- How much beer????
« on: August 30, 2012, 07:06:19 PM »
There are 8 members in my club (Homebrewers Guild of Seattle Proper), and we put together the following information that you might find helpful:


Hospitality Shift 1 (After Pro Brewers Night)
Brought 12
Empty/Mostly Empty 5
Less than Half Brought Home 5
More than Half Brought Home 2

Hospitality Shift 2 (Before Club Night)
Brought 13
Empty/Mostly Empty 2
Less than Half Brought Home 4
More than Half Brought Home 7

Club Night
Brought 20
Empty/Mostly Empty 5
Less than Half Brought Home 10
More than Half Brought Home 5

Brought 45
Empty/Mostly Empty 12
Less than Half Brought Home 19
More than Half Brought Home 14

While 45 kegs seems like a lot for a small club, we actually had a list of over 65 beers to choose from so we didn't feel compelled to bring anything that we didn't think would represent us well.  Also, our planning for NHC started as soon as we heard it was coming to the Seattle area, so some of those beers were in the works for many months and the work was spread out over a longer period.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Stuck Fermentation - Best Course?
« on: July 24, 2012, 09:01:17 AM »
I've tried pitching packs of yeast on stuck fermentations before, and it hasn't worked for me - there just wasn't enough yeast to get the job done.  My only luck getting things to start up again has been to go to a local brewery and get a mason jar of slurry and pitch it into the beer.  You might want to try taking a sample of the beer first and pitching a packet of dry yeast in it.  If a whole packet doesn't change the gravity of the small sample, you can be sure that the beer is completely done fermenting so you don't need to go through the trouble.

Homebrew Clubs / Re: BN Army wins club of the year.
« on: July 08, 2012, 01:42:01 PM »
I thought this was pretty interesting to watch:

At 1:35:00 you can see the announcement of BN Army as COTY.

Ingredients / Re: Cardamom
« on: July 04, 2012, 01:38:43 AM »
I only used it once. I put two pods in the kettle for the last few minutes of the boil, and it was more than enough.  In fact, I never wanted to use that spice again after that first beer.  I highly recommend erring on the side of caution.

Beer Recipes / Re: What makes a good Saison?
« on: July 02, 2012, 08:04:45 AM »
Great advice so far.  One other thing I'll add is that there is a tendency for some people to think that the spiciness of saisons comes from actual spices.  The best examples I've made have no spices at all.  Non-spiced saisons allow the character of the yeast provide the interesting flavor components.

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