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Messages - DaveR

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Equipment and Software / Re: Thermometers
« on: December 12, 2012, 03:37:20 PM »
strike water in the kettle just right (166 F).

Correction. Kettle water was 168 F.

Equipment and Software / Re: Thermometers
« on: December 12, 2012, 03:23:29 PM »
I brewed last weekend and used my standard procedure of getting the strike water in the kettle just right (166 F). I poured it into my mashing cooler (no pre-heating) and added the grain. I used a fast reading digital thermometer right after mash in and sure enough the readings varied by as much a 6 degree F, even after stirring. I left it alone and 15 minutes later the mash had settled exactly where I wanted it to be -- 151 F. At 75 min it only dropped to 150.

I want this batch to attenuate down quite a bit, thus I'm mashing on the low end. I'm using WLP007, aiming for a fairly dry, light colored PA. Three days into fermentation it looks fine. BTW, I used some Fermcap since I was using a 6 gallon better bottle and was concerned about head space. My larger carboys were tied up. Krausen make it to the airlock anyway, but I've seen worse. FWIW I mashed 12 lbs of grain in 15 qts of water using my 5 gallon round cooler (about max for that unit). OG was 1.066. 

Equipment and Software / Re: Beer Engine Rebuild Complete
« on: December 06, 2012, 03:26:34 PM »
Several people inquired about my keg setup. I use corny kegs, since I have plenty. I'm new to cellaring, but I'm learning. I may get a pin keg at some point. Who knows?

Cleaning the engine after each use can be an issue. It isn't difficult, but it's not like a normal tap system where you don't need to clean things until the keg kicks. I suppose the ideal scenario is to drink a cask ale fairly quickly.  Thus they make sense for parties -- i.e. around holidays. I'm sure a cask ale would be a hit at any Superbowl party :D.

I'm not sure yet how much yeast sediment there might be to deal with after conditioning every keg. I've only conditioned 2 thus far. I've had forced carbonated kegs where sediment was an issue, due to the amount of trub and yeast still in suspension after I racked from the primary. (Even after weeks some beers still seem to settle a lot more than others :( )

Below is how I deal with sediment in kegs. It's also how I plant to deal with cask ales. For 5 gallons I use the type of corny that draws from near the edge, not from the center. I have a 3 gallon ball keg that is domed on the bottom. I suppose I could just shorten a dip tube, but since I have both of these types of kegs this is what I'm using. Here are some images to show the setup.

Using a 5 gallon gallon corny with an edge type dip tube.

Using a 3 gallon corny with domed bottom.

Finally, if the only type keg available is one with the center dip tube that can be cut or bent so it draws from the side. I haven't had much luck with bending. Better to look for kegs with the side draw. Someone else might have better suggestions. This is just from my limited experience.

One of my favorite beers ever was a cask IPA from a pub. I hope someday I can make one just as good.   

Equipment and Software / Re: Thermometers
« on: December 06, 2012, 02:45:22 AM »

That's exactly what I do.  Took me 2-3 batches to dial it in, but then no more preheating.  Even those 2-3 batches were darn close to the temps I wanted.

That's my experience, too. The temp of the the cooler doesn't seem to affect the the strike water drop, or lack thereof, much. Grain temperature is a different story. A temp difference in the grain can have a impact on how far the strike water adjusts. I used to guesstimate the grain temp. After several unwelcome surprises I put a thermometer by my grain storage area. I used that for grain temp in my calculations and I'm always spot on.

I probably shouldn't have said that. Now I'll probably get a surprise when I brew this weekend.  :o

Equipment and Software / Re: Minimum Amps Required For Simple RIMS Setup
« on: December 03, 2012, 06:52:54 PM »
I'll have to look at my multimeter to see if it even measures amps.

I find it difficult to get enough info on mains current draw with a multimeter. I prefer this:

I have several Kill-O-Watts. I picked up my first at Walmart for $20. I hacked that one so I can monitor electrical usage over the internet. But that's overkill.

You can use one to monitor electrical consumption of an appliance --such as how much it costs to run a keezer.  I useful for simple stuff, like telling me when my 5 cu ft fermentation cooler is running (cheap model, no LED when it's on). The Kill-O-Watt is also capable of a lot more.

It's an inexpensive solution if you're using ~115v. You can probably find something that does the same for  220v, but the cost of the device would probably be greater. 

Equipment and Software / Re: Thermometers
« on: December 03, 2012, 03:15:28 PM »
Getting mashing temps right was a big challenge for me for the longest time. I used to take readings after mash in. Didn't matter which what type of thermometer I used, or how expensive it was, it was hard to get a good, stable reading. Sometimes I'd add hot or cold water to the mash to compensate. I'd overshoot or undershoot.

These days I focus on getting the strike water at the right temp based on a mashing calculator. After the mash has settled my temps are always right on (within 1 degree F of my target).

Since I measure water temp before it goes in the mashing tun I don't need a super fast thermometer. I use a Blichmann Brewmometer -- hand held, not built into the tun. It's a bit slow compared to digital thermometers. It takes 25 seconds to get a reading rather than 5. But I find the dial very easy to read. Plus it's solidly built. I've dropped mine several times and it hasn't broken...yet. Finally, it's not a big deal but there are no batteries to deal with. I've had other dial thermometers but they rust out inside fairly quickly. Not the Brewmometer. It's not that expensive -- less than $40, I think.

My process is to use this calculator to determine the strike water temp.
I have two mashing tuns -- one for small batches and one for larger. When I pour the strike water in I know it will drop 3 degrees F in one and 4 degrees F in the other, so I get the water temp in the kettle enough over to compensate for the drop. Once the strike water temp is right in the tun I mix the grain. At that point I can take mash readings and the temp will vary. I don't even do that any more because all it does is make me nervous. If I come back in 15 or 20 min -- after the mash has settled -- and take a reading it's always within 1 degree F of where I want it to be.

Mashing used to be the most stressful part of brewing for me. Not any more. I've even done several decoction mashes where temps came out just right. I'm always surprised how well thermal mass equations work!

Equipment and Software / Beer Engine Rebuild Complete
« on: December 02, 2012, 11:23:23 PM »
I finally finished rebuilding my beer engine. I bought the engine last year. It was in rough shape when I bought it, but the price was right. The rebuild has taken a while as I was in no particular hurry to get it done.

Here's what the engine looked like when I first acquired it:

Taking apart the engine wasn't difficult. I spend most of my time refinishing wood and polishing the brass. I soaked and cleaned every part and replaced most of the seals. Putting the engine back together was a bit more difficult. Fortunately I took ph0tographs of every step of the teardown process. It's not a complicated device, but it does need to go together in a certain order. 

What the engine looks like now (I still have the Thwait's decal but left it off here):

I'm no expert on beer engines. This was my first experience. I think my Homark is a 1/2 pint model, while many engines are 1/4 pint. This thing is a beast, weighing in at around 25 pounds. Most of the weight is the brass.

I had to replace a few parts. Finding parts was a challenge. The engine was usable last summer. I was still missing a non-return valve. The original valve in my engine was shot. I rigged up an in-line valve temporarily to get it working.  Recently a forum member sent me a PM about a parrts supplier in the UK. I finally consider the rebuild complete.

This was a fun project. I originally bought the engine for decoration. The good news now is it's super clean and it works great. I'm going to have to get serious about making real ales!

Here are some more photos:

Brass could still use more polishing

Most difficult part (for me at least) to find was the non-return valve:
Original with diaphragm that was shot.

Replacement (which works fantastic)

Here's an old thread regarding the back flow preventer. Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I found the part (thanks to Geep) from this source:

They also have a replacement seal kit which would have been handy. Since mine works well I have no desire to take it apart again :P

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: White Labs San Diego Superyeast!
« on: May 29, 2012, 05:51:09 PM »
A few months ago I had a vial of WLP090 that was just out of date. I made a starter with it. The starter never seemed to take off like other yeast. After it sat for a week in the refrigerator I decanted and pitched an underwhelming (at least to my eye) amount of yeast into a half batch destined for a small corny keg. Then I left town.

When I returned a few days later it didn't appear that the yeast had every taken off. But it had. The gravity was 1.012. OG had been 1.062. I've never seen a yeast ferment that quickly. I pitched some of the cake from that batch into a fairly high gravity IPA. That fermented down to 1.012 as well. The fermentation didn't appear any more robust than I normally see with WLP001. It did, however, seem to finish more quickly.

Both batches made with WLP090 turned out quite well. I don't see any real advantage over WLP001. For me fermentation time isn't a big issue. Hard to know a yeast really well after only using it twice, though. I'll probably try it again, soon. I just built a chamber that will allow me to control fermentation temps. Most of the beers I made over the two last summers have had issues. It wasn't the strain of yeast. It was because I wasn't able to keep fermentation temps down low enough.     

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Boiling in an erlenmeyer flask
« on: April 18, 2012, 07:22:00 PM »
Don't fill the flask to the top and you should be fine as well.  I usually leave  1L of headspace in my flask and reduce the heat just before a boil and have no issue (as long as I keep a close eye on it).

Using a wide mouth version of the Kimax helps, too. It's less apt to erupt than the narrow mouth version. I've  used both. Still, I stopped boiling starter wort in flasks. I used a small pot and transferred.

Now days I mix up enough wort for multiple starters. I mix up several gallons, fill canning jars and sterilize them in a pressure cooker. It may sound like a lot of work, but it isn't. I can make enough wort for a half dozen starters with slightly more effort than it once took for a single starter. It's really handy to have sterile wort on hand.

Ingredients / Re: Best hop for 100% pale malt
« on: April 18, 2012, 06:51:32 PM »
Sorry to chime in late, but I'd go with Falconer's Flight. Granted it isn't one hop, but it's one pellet. Anytime anyone -- including myself -- is wide open and indecisive about which hop to use, Falconer's Flight is my answer. The more I use it, the more I like it. Somebody knew what they were doing when they came up with the blend.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Yeast nutrient, worthwhile or not?
« on: April 11, 2012, 06:57:30 PM »
I haven't used Servo, just because of the price tag

Price is definitely an issue.  I repitch a lot, with excellent success. If I can improve the current fermentation, and also end up with a healthier population of yeast for the next batch, then maybe it's worth using. OTOH, I can't imagine commercial brewers paying that much to use it. They repitch all the time, also with excellent success. 


Yeast and Fermentation / Yeast nutrient, worthwhile or not?
« on: April 11, 2012, 01:14:42 PM »
I read a few posts where people were dissatisfied with WLP090. I've had good luck with it. I'm usually the one that has problems.  I use Servomyces in every batch. I also have yeast nutrient, but I only use that in starters.

Can someone elaborate on difference between Servomyces and regular yeast nutrient? Is one better than the other? Any chance that nutrients are more important with a vigorously fermenting yeast like WLP090?


All Grain Brewing / Grains and Color
« on: April 10, 2012, 01:53:40 PM »
I've made several iterations of an IPA recipe this spring. Below are some photos showing color differences from changes in specialty grains. The second batch has 1 pound less base, and dark Munich instead of Light Munich and Vienna.  Both LM and DM used are Weyermann. In January I made a batch of the base recipe, but used 2 lbs of Vienna and no Munich. I don't have a photo, but it was lighter still. I'll be interested to see the flavor difference in these beers. The January batch was a super tasting beer. Here are the recipes and photos. 

Batch A:
5.25 Gal
1.068 OG
11 lbs 2-row
1.0 lb Vienna
1.0 lb Light Munich
4.0 oz Crystal 20
4.0 oz Carafa I
1.0 oz Columbus @60
0.75 oz Falconer's Flight @20
0.75 oz Falconer's Flight @5
1.0 oz Amarillo dry
1.0 oz Citra dry
Yeast WLP039 Nottingham (Platinum) 1.2 Liter Starter
(This photo was taken 24 hours after yeast was pitched)

Batch B:
5.25 Gal
1.062 OG
10 lbs 2-row
2.0 lbs dark Munich
4.0 oz Crystal 20
4.0 oz Carafa I
Hop schedule same as above.
Yeast WLP090 1.2 Liter Starter. (fermented from 1.062 down to 1.012 in 5 days. Photo taken on day 8.)

I know the beer in the top photo will darken up some after it finishes fermenting. But it will still be lighter than the bottom beer. I find it interesting that the Dark Munich and Light Munich I used looked almost identical in color in grain form. But the beer they make is different, in terms of color (and I assume flavor). I know I'm stating the obvious, but it still surprises me. I need to trust specs not looks.   ;)

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: WLP090 -- interesting yeast
« on: April 07, 2012, 12:08:38 AM »
Here's a short interview with Chris White on WLP090:

It is produced in San Diego and was introduced at the San Diego Homebrewers Conference, hence the name. I use it as my house IPA strain. I have not pushed it out of it's very narrow fermentation temperature range, but it is very clean, attenuates to 85%, drops very clear, but it is not as fast as claimed. Who's in that big of a hurry anyway?

Below is a photo of the gravity sample from the Dark IPA I made the other day, using the WLP090 pitched from a prior batch. The OG of this Dark IPA was 1.062.

This is day 6 and it's just over 1.012. I suspect it cold drop another point or two, although it's probably close to finished. There was 8 oz of Crystal 20, 4 oz of Carafa I, 9 lbs of 2-row and 1.5 lbs of Dark Munich in the batch. I mashed at 150 for 90 min.

The temp strip attached to the carboy read 68 F throughout visible fermentation activity. It was probably warmer in the center of the wort. The hydro sample tasted surprisingly clean for a 6 day old beer.   

That makes two batches in a row with the same attenuation (at this point). The grain bills and mash schedules were very similar. I like the consistency. I'm more than a little impressed by this yeast.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Supplier...Stir plate...Erlenmeyer flask
« on: April 03, 2012, 03:55:14 PM »
So, is there a preferred brand of erlenmeyer flask?  I see quite a few negative reviews for the ones sold at N. Brewer.
Pyrex or Kimax for me.  i would trust either one.

Kimax has a wide mouth 2 liter. That's my favorite for making starters. Wide mouth is easier to use, I find. Pyrex may make a wide mouth, too. I don't know.

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