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Topics - redzim

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Equipment and Software / Milwaukee pH meter issues
« on: July 26, 2011, 07:29:55 AM »
Anyone with a Milwaukee MW102 or similar, have you experienced the following, which I have on the 4 or 5 mashes I've used this meter for(bought it in the spring):

I calibrate it with 7.01 and 4.01 solutions, Hanna brand (recommended to me by a Milwaukee tech on the phone) then test my sample at around 75F. The little hourglass shows on the screen for a minute or two, then disappears. I take my reading (in the case of an Oktoberfest this morning, 5.25.)  However as I stand and watch the meter, the pH climbs to 5.49 over 2 or 3 minutes, then stabilizes.... but this increase from 5.25 to 5.49 was all with the hourglass off. What is my correct reading?  Same thing happened with a Schwarzbier mash a few weeks back; the hourglass went off and the meter read 5.50, but it climbed up to 5.61 before it finally stabilized.

I know this is a bit nit-picky perhaps, because all the numbers are in a good range for the mash (this meter has ATC, but I always cool my samples into the 70s anyways) but I like to know what is going on.  I called Milwaukee and the tech was frankly not very helpful.  He said he thought the reading was valid when the hourglass went away, but  also said some drift in readings is unavoidable.  I am not stirring or shaking the sample, which he said is apparently a no-no, and I store the probe in Hanna storage solution all the time.... 

Any help from blatz, denny, or kai, or anyone else, would be appreciated....


The Pub / strawberry beer from DFH
« on: June 30, 2011, 01:25:58 PM »

My apologies if this was already posted (I didn't see it anywhere today...)  

The animated GIFs are the coolest part... not sure I would like the beer but I'd sure like to try it....

EDIT: wondering what hops they use (if any) .... Sam doesn't mention it

All Grain Brewing / help me fix this water
« on: March 23, 2011, 11:35:34 AM »
A brewer friend in SW Pennsylvania got his Ward Labs report and came to me for help. He's been doing all-grain for a year with this water and complains of his pale beers being underwhelming. (I have not tasted any.) Being a neophyte brewing water chemist myself, I thought I would crowd-source some advice.

Here's the water (call it A): 97ppm Na, 5ppm Ca, 0ppm K, 0ppm Mg, 2ppm SO4-S, 35ppm Cl, 12ppm CO3, 181ppm HCO3, 169ppm Total Alkalinity as CaCO3. pH 8.6. 

He can get water from a second well a mile away (call it B) with a similar profile: 72ppm Na, 11ppm Ca, 2ppm K, 3ppm Mg, 1ppm SO4-S, 29ppm Cl, 9ppm CO3, 163ppm HCO3, 149ppm Total Alkalinity as CaCO3. pH 8.4.

This is so unlike my own water I'm not sure what to do with it, although at first glance the Na looks like a potential problem.  Any suggestions for him?  Dilution with RO or distilled, then a lot of additions based on Martin and Kai's spreadsheets would be how I would think to attack this, for pale beers.  Is there any beer style that this water is good for?


Perhaps Martin Brungard and/or Kai are able to weigh in on this....

I've been using Kai's water sheet for my last couple beers (German Pils, Helles, a Maibock coming up next week) and with all the recent chatter on this board about Bru'n Water, thought I'd check it out as well.   And I'm having trouble getting the predicted pH to match up. As a test, I used Kai's "Pilsner Water" recipe which calls for 100ppm Gypsum, 85ppm Epsom, and 130ppm CaCl2 added into distilled water, and a grist of 98% Pils and 2% Acidulated. Both worksheets match up at this point, telling me to add the same amounts of the right salts, giving RA of -47, etc etc.

But it is in the next step that things go south. I loaded my basic pils parameters into both sheets: 17.64lbs pils malt, 0.36lbs acidulated, mash at 2qts/lbs (9 gallons strike water) and collect a total of 16 gals pre-boil, which is boiled to 11 gallons.   And somehow Kai's sheet is giving me predicted pH of 5.36 (which would be nice), and Martin's is saying 4.9, which is too low.   

Can anyone confirm something similar? Or are these sheets always going to differ in how they calculate pH from the SRM? Or am I doing something wrong?  I believe I have zeroed out all things like lactic acid additions in Martin's sheet but maybe I missed something.   Kai or Martin, I can email my working copies of your sheets to you if you want to check them out.

thanks, Red

Yeast and Fermentation / technical details on a starter for 10gal lager
« on: February 19, 2011, 06:38:37 AM »
Happy Weekend All,

Need some advice from people who make starters for 10-12gal lagers.  I am well-informed on the basic practices of making starters, but my experience is limited to 5gal batches. Mostly I would do 1 Activator pack in a 3L or 4L starter on a stirplate, with good results. 

Lately I've been brewing some 10gal lagers using dry yeast, but want to try some liquid yeast strains too, in an effort to come closer to the lagers I'm trying to clone.

But it seems a little daunting: for a 11 gals of a 1.060 lager, using my stirplate, Mr Malty calls for a 6 liter starter using 3 Activator packs, or 4 liters using 4 packs, or 10 liters using 2 packs.... what do you guys usually do??? I have a 5L flask.. do you guys buy 4 activator packs (pretty pricey!) and make a 5L starter? or do you go with a 3 gallon carboy and make a 10L starter with 2 packs? or what... maybe two just separate starters, the same way I did it before?

Or what is the two-stage stepped-up starter I've heard about? Is that an option, and if so, what does it involve?


1)      Convoluted Counterflow Chiller, bought new in Sept 2008. Used regularly until April 2010, carefully cleaned with PBW after every use, in very good shape. Original price $155.00 from MoreBeer. Asking around $80-$100. (This item is now $189 from MoreBeer)

2)      March Pump 809HS with switched power cord, bought new Jan 2009. Used regularly until April 2010, carefully cleaned with PBW after every use, in good shape. Original price $140.99 from Northern Brewer. Asking around $80-$100.

3)      25ft Stainless Steel Immersion Chiller, 3/8” diameter, bought new Sept 2009, never used. Original price $53.95 from Midwest. Asking $20-$30.

I will pay ground shipping to continental USA. You can also pick them up if you are in the Hudson Valley area of New York. If anyone is interested PM me or post in this thread. Payment options are flexible and can be discussed.
I switched to a monster immersion chiller (50ft x ½”) with a pond pump pumping 33F water through it and get much better chill performance. After sitting on these items for almost year, it’s time to move them on.


All Grain Brewing / when to check pH of mash
« on: January 26, 2011, 11:40:27 AM »
So I'm about to brew my first beer with modified water (75% distilled, 25% my own super-alkaline well water, and a bunch of salts, and also some acidulated malt). 

How soon after dough-in should I test the pH to see if I'm hitting what Kaiser's water spreadsheet says I should be hitting?  1 min? 5 min? 30 min?   Does it matter? 

I've checked my mash pH before, usually within 5mins of dough-in, but now I'll be mixing in salts and I'm wondering how long it takes for the pH to stabilize.


All Grain Brewing / Pilsner brewing
« on: January 12, 2011, 02:11:31 PM »

With spring hopefully on its way, the brewing mind turns to Pilsners. As is probably the case with many homebrewers, I’ve never been able to achieve that great crispness of even run-of-the mill Bohemian Pilsners that are a dime a dozen over in Germany, never mind something stellar like Pilsner Urquell.  One might ask, why bother to even try to match them; they’ve had almost 2 centuries of head start, and I’ve only done 3 or 4 batches of German and Bohemian Pils. But I’d like to give it a shot and get better beer. 

Last summer my Pilsner attempts were consistently too “sweet” and “bready”.  I might also be tasting diacetyl, but I did do diacetyl rests on these beers, and anyways I don’t really know what diacetyl really tastes like, when it comes down to it….  (is there some commercial beer that has diacetyl issues…. I’d buy some just to learn what it tastes like !)  I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things to improve on, and would love some suggestions… 

1)   Malt. I brewed both JZ’s “Myburger” (1.054 to 1.009) and BoPils (1.057 to 1.014) recipes last year with Crisp Euro Pils as the base malt, because that is what I can get cheap from my local brewpub.   Would paying almost twice as much for something like Weyermann make a huge difference?  I’ve done other lagers (Maibock and Helles come to mind) using this Pils malt as the base and got good results, and even placed in some competitions (the Helles took a gold, and the Maibock a silver, at New York State Fair last summer)…. The breadiness is not so out of place in those styles.

2)   Yeast. I brewed both these Pilsners with S-189 dry Swiss lager yeast which has good recommendations from people like Denny…   I would love to keep using dry yeast – would W-34/70 be better?  I’ve heard nothing good about S-23 though.  Unless you all tell me that I will NEVER make a decent Pils without a liquid yeast and a monster starter…. I started brewing that way but just kind of slipped over to the quick and easy “pitch dry yeast into the fermenter and hit it with the mix-stir” method (with encouragement from folks like MullerBrau) and never looked back

3)   Water. This is the  one I don’t really want to deal with, but will if I have to. I’ve never modded my water, and get good ales, stouts, as well as good amber and dark lagers. So I guess I may be on to something, I just don’t know how to fix it.  Here’s my water profile: pH 7.4.  Na 14ppm, K 1ppm, Ca 54ppm, Mg 9ppm, Total Hardness  173ppm, Chloride 25ppm, Carbonates <1ppm, Bicarbonates 166ppm, Total Alkalinity 136ppm.  From my limited research it seems this is not good Pilsner water… what can I do to fix it?

I know this is a pretty involved query, but if anyone has ideas on even part of my question, I’d appreciate it. Or if you need more info, let me know.


Ingredients / hop subs for JZ's American IPA
« on: January 12, 2011, 07:07:19 AM »
Happy New Year All.....  great snow-day for brewing here in the Northeast....  got JZ's West Coast Red Ale on the boil right now....

Planning to do JZ’s American IPA sometime soon, and he calls for 1oz of Horizon 13% at 60m, 1oz of Centennial 9% at 10m, 1oz of Simcoe 12% at 5m, and 1oz of Amarillo 9% at 0m.  Of those hops, I currently only have Centennial in stock, and usually use Magnum as my go-to bittering hop for American ales, so I think I could sub that for the Horizon with little effect….  But what can I sub for the Simcoe and Amarillo?  Northern Brewer and Midwest don’t have Simcoe in stock, and NB doesn’t have Amarillo either….  In my freezer I have (in addition to Cent and Magnum)  Willamette, Cascade, Hallertau, Czech Saaz, and Tettnang.  Any suggestions for how to get a decent IPA out of these?  The only one above 6% AA is the Cascade, everything else is low-alpha and so I assume will not be too hot in an IPA.  I could just make a Magnum and Cent IPA but wouldn’t that be boring?  Or not…. Help appreciated.


All Grain Brewing / "double" sparge in a batch sparge
« on: October 20, 2010, 12:57:48 PM »
I've got questions.  I usually make 10 gal batches, with maybe 22-24lbs of grain. This fits nicely in my 80qt Coleman Extreme. I usually mash at 1.75 - 2.0qts/lbs, which lets me collect about 8gals first runnings, then I sparge with about 8gal and collect the 16gal I need to boil down to 11gal (I have a huge steam kettle with large surface area that loses a lot to evaporation.) 

Sometimes I do 15 gal batches with 30-35lbs grain, in this case I mash at about 1.5qts/lbs so it fits in the cooler, and then I can still get pretty good efficiency even though first and second runnings are not totally equal. I collect about 23gals and boil it down to 16gals of post-boil volume.

Now I want to do a 20 gal batch which will use about 45lbs of grain. It will not fit in my mash tun unless I start mashing thicker, like 1.3qts/lbs, and then I will have to add a lot of sparge water (maybe 16+ gals) to get my 26gals of pre-boil volume. 

So the questions are:

1)   Will my efficiency or process suffer somehow with mashing at 1.3qts/lbs, as opposed to the thinner 1.75-2.00qts/lbs that I’m used to, and that my recipes work for?

2)   If not, can I go ahead and mash with the highest ratio that still lets me fit the mash in the mash tun, and then split my batch sparging into 2 parts? Should these parts be equal volumes? Does it matter?

3)   Or should I just add as much sparge water as I can when starting the second runoff, and then just keep topping it off until I’ve added what I need?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I know I could avoid all this with a bigger mash tun but I don’t plan to do 20 gals batches that often.

All Grain Brewing / rice hull percentage
« on: August 31, 2010, 04:54:48 AM »
Can't seem to find a quick answer to this: what percentage of the grain bill (by weight) are you guys using to add rice hulls? I batch sparge, and a couple recent batches with slow/stuck sparges (esp. one that was 25% wheat and 25% rye that was my Worst. Sparge. Ever. ) have got me thinking that rice hulls could help out.


Ingredients / help me identify this hop pest
« on: July 19, 2010, 08:47:15 AM »
I have a little bug thing on my hops (Magnum and Santiam) that has been making the leaves go yellow, then brown around the edges. They leave cobwebby stuff on the underside of the leaves, too. Any idea what it is?  You can see from the pix that some are bright green but some are also white, they are about 1/4" long max and look a little like a grasshopper although they don't really seem to jump much. (Sorry the close-up pic is blurry, cell phone has rotten macro capabilities)  They've done a lot of damage to leaves but so far the main bines seem to still be surviving.


Yeast and Fermentation / where is my best yeast in this slurry?
« on: April 03, 2010, 08:37:29 AM »

Here is the slurry from a 10gal batch of Irish Blonde Ale that has been at 34F for 5 days. As you can see there is about 1300mL of hard pack, then a lot of beer, and then some fluffy-looking junk.  (I leave a fair bit of beer in my ferm and slosh it around to loosen the cake, so I can pour it into my flask)

In the past, I've decanted the fluffy stuff and most of the beer, and then measured out whatever slurry I need to pitch according to Mr Malty.

But now I've been reading stuff about how the best yeast will stay on top... is that true or did I misread that.  Please advise whether I am pouring my best yeast down the drain!

Kegging and Bottling / set-and-forget carb problems
« on: January 09, 2010, 10:42:30 AM »

I have been having problems with the set-it-and-forget-it method of force carbing my corny kegs.  I used to brew 5 gal batches, and had 2 cornys. I have a double manifold on my single-regulator CO2 tank, and would drink from one keg, while the other carbed. Left it at 12 PSI @ 34F all the time, no problems, and it seemed like my kegs would always be carbed and ready to drink in 5 to 7 days.

Well about 4 months ago I moved to 10 gal batches and bought another corny. I also bought a T and another gas fitting for the corny, and plumbed that off one side of my manifold, so I can have 3 kegs attached to the tank now. I schedule my brews so when 5 gals of one brew is gone (drunk or bottled), I can fill up 2 kegs with a new 10 gal batch and let it carb.  However I am now finding that it is taking about 14 days to properly carb the new kegs, still at 12 PSI and  34F. Is this because I now have three kegs on the gas? Or because of my T splitter feeding the two uncarbed kegs? Or does carbing take longer as the gas cylinder gets empty - I think mine is getting empty because it's been going forever, but the gauge still shows the same tank pressure as when it was new.

In a related question, I now have 10 gals of a Brown Ale that is 11 days old in the primary... I was hoping to be able to rack it into the kegs this weekend, but my current beer is not carbed yet, so I can't bottle it as I planned to.... so how long can this ale sit on the yeast in the primary... it was down to final gravity at 8 days, so it is ready to keg.

[crossposted from another forum where it did not get any response...]


Got a question that I hope I will not need an answer to, but figured I'd ask it, get some responses, and be ready to act if I need to:

I made a 10 gal batch of 1.054 Budvar clone (Czech Pils) and as usual with my 10 gal batches, split it into two fermenters to fit in my fridge. I pitched two 11g packs of S-189 dry Swiss lager yeast into each fermenter (I did not rehydrate it, but I've been using US-05 in this way for a while and never had problems.) I pitched at 52F, and aerated with a mixstir after pitching. I usually go for 4 minutes in each fermenter, with my cordless drill on HI to get a good vortex going. Here is where the problem came in. While aerating the 2nd fermenter, the battery started dying and I just kind of let it run out, therefore aerating the 2nd fermenter only about 90 seconds, maybe 2 minutes max. I figured it would be OK.

Anyways, after 8 days of fermentation at 52F, the second fermenter has clearly been lagging, at least judging by airlock activity. I checked the gravity and the 1st fermenter was down to 1.032 but the second is only 1.042. Today, after 10 days fermenting, the 1st ferm is still bubbling away and the 2nd one is just dead.

So here is the question: assuming, after I let them both ferment another week or so in primary, and assuming that the one fermenter is down to where I want my FG (maybe 1.012-1.014) and the bad batch is stuck around 1.020 or 1.025 or even higher, can I do the following: rack the good beer into a secondary for lagering, and rack the stuck beer onto the good yeast cake left from the first?

I don't want to get into adding Beano, or making a big starter (I don't have any liquid yeast on hand). But I thought this might be a good way of firing up the second batch again: I know there will be fermentables in there, because the wort was the same in both fermenters, in fact everything is identical except the "bad" fermenter was not aerated nearly as much as the "good" one.

The other thing I thought of was just blending the two batches at kegging time. Of course I'll wait a week and see what develops, but I thought I'd toss the question out and solicit some answers.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

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