Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chipotle Imperial Robust Porter

This beer worked out in a marvelous way. I've been thinking about brewing it for quite a while, and now that it's done the chocolate and the roast and the smoke and the pepper all come together.

I bought 3 pounds of smoked malt a while ago, but it never seemed all that smoky to me. There was some vague smokiness, but not to the level I expected for putting my nose in three pounds of smoked malt. I also had some dried chipotle peppers that I bought at a Hispanic grocery store, they smelled smoky but I doubted their ability to add enough smoke to five gallons of beer. The two worked together to give me the level of smoke and heat I was looking for. My aim was not to make a beer that was hugely smokey or fire-breathing hot... I just wanted to build a nice interplay of flavors to work with an Imperial Porter.

Notes: The recipe says two ounces of chipotle but that's a guess, because I added 14 dried chipotle peppers to the boil without measuring their weight. I kept them in a hop bag and pulled the bag out of the boil when the wort was spicy enough. I was originally planning to use Black Patent instead of Carafa, but on brew day didn't happen to have any of Black Patent around, and I did have some Carafa.

Brew Date:November 25
Batch Size:5.0 gallons
Original Gravity:1.084 measured   (1.087 estimated)
Final Gravity:1.024 / 6.1° Plato    (1.021 to 1.025estimated)
Color:37° SRM / 74° EBC   (Black)
Mash Efficiency:73% measured    (75% used for O.G. estimate)
Bitterness:48.0 IBU / 11 HBU   ƒ: Tinseth
BU:GU Ratio:0.55
Alcohol:8.4% ABV / 6% ABW
Calories:288 per 12 oz.

Malt & Fermentables
% Lbs. Oz. Malt/Fermentable PPG °L
67% 11 0 American Two-row Pale 37 2
18% 3 0 Smoked Malt 37 9
7% 1 2 American Crystal 120L 34 120
3% 0 8 Special B 30 180
2% 0 6 Roasted Barley 25 300
2% 0 4 Chocolate Malt 34 475
1% 0 2 Carafa II 32 412

Use Time Oz. Variety Form AA
Boil 60 mins 1.25 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
Boil 30 mins 0.75 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
Post-boil 10 mins 2.0 Cascade pellet 5.5

Type Strain Description
Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast in dry form with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

Use Time Amount Ingredient
Boil 10 min. 2oz. Dried Whole Chipotle Peppers

Monday, December 19, 2011

R.I.P. Cheap Corny Kegs

OK, they're not dead yet but I've watched the prices go up, and the supplies go down... and I can read the writing on the wall. The Corny Keg supply is living on borrowed time.

A Cornelius keg (AKA Corny keg) is a metal keg originally used by the soft drink industry for the soda fountains. These soda fountain kegs became generically known as Cornelius kegs because they were originally made by the IMI Cornelius Company, and subsequently by several others. Corny kegs were designed to be filled with syrup which was mixed with carbonated water and dispensed as Coke or Pepsi products. As the soda pop industry has gone to "bag in a box" (BIB) systems for syrup dispensers the old Cornelius kegs have been taken out of circulation.

For years, Homebrewers have seen the used kegs as the best value they could find for a sealed 5 gallon stainless steel container. As a result, thousands of old Corny Kegs have been used to store and dispense home-brewed beer. The kegs come in two varieties, Pin-Lock (Coke) and Ball-Lock (Pepsi). Ball-Lock seems to be the choice of most homebrewers I know.

As the year ends, there are no local Craigslist entries for Ball-Lock Corny Kegs. There are still Pin-Lock kegs available in Olympia. The supply on eBay has also dried up, and the few that are left are going for twice the price of a year or two ago. Prices are up on Amazon as well. On one hand, I'm thinking, "Wow, I'm glad I bought when I did." On the other hand, I'm thinking, "Wow, I wish I bought more than I did."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Barrel-Aging Your Beer With Oak Chips or Cubes

Oak barrels have been used in brewery storage for many years, but recently craft brewers have turned to oak for its aroma, flavor and mouthfeel impact. Commercial craft brewers are likely to use barrels, often ones that were previously used for whiskey storage. Barrel-storage between batches and batch sizes are a problem for homebrewers, so we are more likely to follow in the steps of Budweiser and use wood chips or cubes; except for a few who use dowels or chair legs. Homebrewers will also be likely to use oak instead of Bud beech.
"Grown in America, Beechwood is harvested and processed into chips for use in Budweiser's fermenting process. Beechwood aging enhances fermentation creating a crisper, more sparkling carbonation while imparting smoothness..."—The Budweiser Way,
When used effectively, oak-aging can enhance beer flavor and complexity lending the full, rich properties of the wood. When overused, oak can make your beer too dry and "woody." All of this is dependent on the specifics of how you do the aging. There are several basic flavors that derive the the compounds found in all species of oak:
  • Eugenol: Clove-like taste
  • Furfural: Caramel sweetness
  • Lactones: Coconut and aromatic wood flavors
  • Vanillin: Vanilla aroma and flavor
The three most common types of oak used by brewers are American, French and Hungarian, and each has its own flavors. Each is available with different levels of toast, typically Light, Medium, Medium+ and Heavy. The flavor profile of oak changes during the toasting process, so the flavor and aroma compounds that come out depend on the variety of oak and the level of toast it gets.

Chips vs. Cubes: Chips are generally thin, flat shreds of wood similar to the chips of wood you get when chopping a tree by hand with an ax. Because of the thinness of chips, the toast level is more uniform and they impart their flavor to beer fairly quickly. (Speed is the attraction to beech chips for the folks at Budweiser who appear to pare theirs down to ribbons of wood.) Due to their relatively greater thickness, cubes may be able replicate the complex flavors of a barrel a bit better than chips because the cubes have more levels of toast. Cubes also expose un-toasted surfaces to your beer, something that doesn't happen in barrels. Cubes take a bit longer to impart their flavor and cost more due to being more expensive to produce. Which is better? It depends on your usage.

Sanitation: Maintaining sanitation is a concern, but it's not as big a problem as sanitizing barrels. There are multiple ways to go, and have used several successfully:
  1. Steam: Put your oak cubes or chips and 1/4 cup of water into a microwave-safe container with a loose-fitting lid. Microwave on high for three minutes. Let it stand for another three minutes.
  2. Boiling: Use just enough water to cover the wood, and cover the pot or container with a loose-fitting lid. You can do this on the stove top or in the microwave.
  3. Alcohol: There are some sanitizing properties in alcohol, and the level of alcohol in whiskey is enough to do the job with prolonged contact. I use a Mason Jar and just enough booze to just cover the wood. You'll need to add more booze almost daily as the oak absorbs it.
  4. Oven: This method should work just fine but I haven't tried it so I have no recommendation on heat or times.
  5. Pressure Cooker: The super-safe way of steaming. Very effective but requires extra equipment that most homebrewers probably don't have.
  6. Just throw them in: You'll probably be just fine in most cases.
Process: There are several ways you can oak your beer:
  1. Chips/Cubes in the Primary: Put your oak cubes or chips in when at the same time you add your yeast The yeast will metabolize some of the oak vanilla flavors and leave others behind. Chips are probably the better option here due to short duration.
  2. Chips/Cubes in the Secondary: This is probably the most common way for homebrewers to do oak aging.
  3. Oak Tea in the Secondary: If you sanitized by boiling or soaking in alcohol you now have an oak tea of one sort or another. The alcohol-based tea will be laced with vanilla. The water-based tea will be dry, woody and possibly a bit astringent if you've boiled it for long.
  4. Hybrid: Some combination of the previous methods.
I've had success creating bourbon-aged oak flavor by soaking the wood in bourbon for several weeks. You could add only the chips to your beer after a shorter soak in bourbon, but with several weeks to work, the bourbon gets gradually darker as it pulls the flavors and toast out of the chips. If you add only the chips and discard the bourbon tea at this point you're probably throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you add only the tea and discard the chips you're probably doing the same thing to a lesser degree. Reserve the tea until the end of your aging process and add it in gradually until the taste is right. Switching to Port for a Port Barrel Aged Old Ale also worked well.

Depending on the quantity and variety of oak you use, the taste of your beer will change more or less subtly over time. You'll probably need to wait at least a couple of weeks and maybe as much as six months. You'll need to taste the beer during the next weeks/months to monitor how the flavors of the oak compounds are mergiong into the flavor of your beer.

The Brewing Network has a good discussion of wood aging but it takes a long time to download. Not because of file size, their sever seems to have issues.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ice Cider / Cidre de Glace

Ice cider or Cidre de Glace is the cider equivalent of ice wine: it is made from the frozen juice of apples. There are two main ways to make ice cider: cryoconcentration and cryoextraction.

Cryoconcentration is harvesting the fruits late in season and pressing the fresh juice which is left to freeze. Cryoextraction is a traditional method similar to the one used to produce ice wine. Apples are left on the trees until the end of January. In either method, the concentrated (but non-fermented) cider is higher in sugar and in apple taste than 'regular' cider. This is in contrast with beer world, where Eisbock and similar styles are created by freezing fermented beer.

I'm going with a variation on cryoextraction. I bought five gallons of frozen cider from Minea Farms in Redmond. They typically have five or six varieties of cider, in a mix of fresh and frozen. I got two gallons of Golden Russet, two gallons of Pink Lady and one gallon of Honey Crisp.The idea is that the sugary part of the cider will thaw faster than the watery part, so I can drain concentrated cider from the partially frozen gallon jugs.

What I hope to end up with is more or less Cidre de Glace: "Drinks produced by the fermentation of apple juice, which must have a concentration of sugar before fermentation made solely by the natural cold of at least 30 Brix and whose product has a residual sugar content of at least 130 grams per liter. Finally, the alcohol will be obtained over 7% and less than 13% alcohol by volume." The problems with making authentic Cidre de Glace is that I need my own orchard and cider press. And I can't cheat by adding apple juice concentrate... which I will probably need to do to get to my desired OG.

Time for some brew math. 30 Brix is approximately 1.130OG. Apple juice is typically somewhere in the neighborhood of 12.6 Brix or about 1.051OG. You can calculate Brix from the grams of sugar. 1 gr per 100 ml is one Brix. To get from 12.6 to 30, I need to concentrate each gallon to .42 gallon. And that's just the bottom end of the range, which will yield two gallons of ice cider from my five gallons of regular cider. If I collect all the sugar from one gallon into 1/3 gallon, I'll come in at around 37 Brix for just over 1 1/2 gallons of ice cider. But I know I'll never be able to get all the sugar as long as I leave some of the ice behind. I'm beginning to understand why Cidre de Glace is expensive.

Here's my high-tech cryoconcentration apple cider apparatus:

I took some scraps of wood to build a rack that holds the gallons of frozen cider upside down. The openings of the sanitized juice bottles below are slightly larger that the openings of the cider jugs, so they catch everything that drips out. Now I just need to monitor them to make sure I don't let the cider melt for too long.

I was expecting that I might need to back-fill with frozen apple cider concentrate. This would clearly be cheating in the Cidre de Glace world, but I won't be selling it so things should work out just fine. What I wasn't expecting is how much frozen apple cider I would need.

If you recall that the Brix of cider should be 12.6 or higher, my extracted cider came in at about 25 Brix, so I had just about doubled the gravity. The problem is that I need to be at 30 Brix for Ice Cider. I'll need to add enough frozen apple cider concentrate to bring it up to 30. To do that I'm going to need 72 ounces, or six cans:
72oz @ 44 Brix = 3168
200oz @ 25 Brix = 5000
------ -------
272oz @ 30 Brix = 8168

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The CPVC Brewery Experiment

If you want to skip to the chase here it is: The experiment failed, but it probably didn't have to.

CPVC vs. PVC:  Polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as PVC, is used for the drain lines, drain vents, sewer lines, and some water supply lines for applications such as sprinkler systems. Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as CPVC is a thermoplastic produced by chlorination of PVC. CPVC can withstand higher pressures and temperatures than regular PVC, with an upper temperature tolerance of 180 degrees in fairly high pressure applications; so it can be used for hot water pipes. It's cheaper than copper pipe and easier to install. I figured this would make it an ideal pipe for my homebrew setup. It would need to withstand temperatures as high as 212 (boiling) but low pressures (only what a March Pump could push.)

I used CPVC to plumb the whole system, including CPVC ball valves. Things went well for a while.

After a few batches, the CPVC ball valves started getting a little temperamental. After a few more, they started falling apart. I think the problem was residual wort that got in behind the valve mechanism, so even though I rinsed the system thoroughly, there was a little sticky sugar residue. The valves were getting stuck, but loosened up after I turned them on and off at the start of the brew day. There is a little clip that holds the handle onto the shaft. Those clips started popping off when too much pressure was applied to the valve handles. Finally, one of the valves stopped turning at all.

The vise grips seemed like a good temporary solution that would get me through the brew I was currently working on. Nope. The shaft would turn but the valve wouldn't turn on. I had to go back to a completely gravity-fed solution, which meant lifting seven gallons of hot wort up to chest level. Not so much fun. I'll be re-plumbing the system before I brew anything else. The pipe and connectors seem to work well, but the valves should be metal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

DIY Counterflow Chiller

After years of being somewhat satisfied with my immersion chiller, I decided to move up to a  counterflow wort chiller. As you probably know, counterflow chillers get their name because the cooling stream of water is flowing counter (in the opposite direction) to the hot wort. According to John Palmer, "Counterflow chillers use more water to cool a smaller volume of wort faster than an immersion chiller so you get a better cold break and clearer beer."

I built my counterflow chiller out an old garden-hose, some flexible 3/8″copper tubing and various odds and ends. I already had the hose, the pipe and some of the fittings laying around. The major purchase for me was the 3/8″copper tubing. If you have a copper immersion chiller you could scavenge the tubing to convert it into a counterflow. You're going to find most of the other parts and supplies you need on the plumbing aisle.

NOTE: I used 1/2" copper pipe and fittings. You could substitute  1/2"PVC and it would work just as well. It's cheaper and you won't need to solder anything.

25' garden hose
25' of 3/8" ″OD copper tubing.
1' of 1/2" copper pipe
2ea. 1/2" copper tee fittings.
2ea. 1/2" copper female
2ea. Brass compression fittings for 3/8" copper tubing
4ea. Hose Clamps
Teflon tape
Tie Wraps (AKA Zip Ties)

Fine Sandpaper
Hacksaw or Tube cutter
Propane Torch
3/8" Drill Bit

I started by building the two end assemblies. Cut six pieces of 1/2" copper pipe about 1 1/2" long using a hacksaw or tube cutter. The pieces can be a bit longer or shorter, you don't need to be precise. Use the sandpaper to 'shine' the inside of the fittings and the outside of the pipe sections. Home Depot will be happy to sell you special little tools to do this, and they're not expensive. After you've shined the surfaces to remove oxidation, apply flux and sweat (solder) the joints.

End Assemblies

The copper compression fittings are the standard pieces you may have under your sink. When they're used in your house, the 3/8" tubing goes only part way into the fitting. We're going to want the tubing to go all the way through, so we need to use the 3/8" drill to remove the internal stop. Please, DO USE a vise to hold these little parts while you're drilling. Things can get rather unpleasant when your holding small parts with pliers if the drill bit binds.

Drilled out on the left, original on the right.

Cut the last several inches off both ends of the garden hose. The flexible 3/8″copper tubing is probably in a coil. Straighten it out as much as possible and shove it inside the garden hose. Slide one of the hose clamps over each end of the hose, then slide one assembly over each end 3/8″tubing until you can shove an inch of the copper pipe from that assembly inside the hose. Secure with a hose clamp, and tighten the compression fitting around the 3/8″copper tubing. Wrap the whole thing around something round. I used a Corny Keg. Tie-wrap the layers together to prevent your wort chiller from acting like a Slinky when you lift it. Slide one of the hose clamps over each of the little end pieces of the hose, jam the hose over the copper pipe coming from the sides of the two copper tees, and secure the hose clamps. You're done!

When your wort chiller is complete, connect it to your garden hose, and slide 3/8″ ID flexible tubing over the 3/8″ copper tubing tubing in a line between your boil and your fermenter. Hook it up so that the assembly that has the outgoing wort is on the same end as incoming cold water.

I added a thermometer to mine so I could monitor the outgoing wort temperature. I had to add a bunch of brass compression fittings on the end to make that work. Normally, the cool wort would come out where the thermometer is, rather than out of a tee'd connection.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Brewing with Adjuncts: A Cereal Mash HowTo

There are several reasons why you might want to do a cereal mash:
  1. You're brewing a style that calls for rice or corn adjuncts, such as a Classic American Pilsner.
  2. You're brewing an Oatmeal Stout or some other beer that calls for un-malted grains.
  3. You're using some un-malted barley or wheat.
In any of these scenarios, a portion of your mash will consists of grain that hasn't been malted. These grains lack the enzymes created during malting, and the starches they contain are not readily convertible to the sugars you need for brewing. Fortunately, the malted grains in your mash will have enough enzymes to convert all their own starch and more, but you'll need to go through an additional cooking process to gelatinize the un-malted starches to make them ready for the mash. If you think you might come up short on diastic power, you can replace some of the 2-row malt in your recipe with 6-row.

As with other brewing ingredients, there are shortcuts. If you're brewing a style that calls for rice or corn adjuncts, you can skip the extra process by buying pre-gelatinized “flaked” rice or corn at the homebrew store. No need to run any of this stuff through a grain mill, just toss it into your mash. As with malt extracts, buying special ingredients will be more expensive than using the 'regular' grains. You can also use instant rice, oatmeal or grits to reduce your cooking time.

Various sources use the term 'Cereal Mash', but it's really a 'Cereal Boil'. More on this later. The boil is used to break down the starches in un-malted grains to make them accessible to the enzymes in the main mash. If you're using grits or oatmeal, you won't need to mill these grains before starting the boil. If you're using rice, un-malted barley or wheat you'll want to mill them first. It will take significantly more effort to mill these grains than to mill their malted counterparts.

If you want to streamline the process you will need a pot large enough to hold your adjunct(s) and the boil water. Let's take a look a the process. Determine the amount of water you'll need, usually, about 3 to 4 quarts per pound of grain. Heat the water to boiling, add your grains and continue to boil for at least 30 minutes. Stir constantly so the mash doesn't scorch. Bits of grain will start to stick to your stirring spoon as the grain breaks down and the starches start to gelatinze.

Once the cereal boil is complete you can just add it directly to your mash. You can (and should) be strategic about this and use it as a way to do a stepped mash. You could (for example) mash in at 140, and use the cereal boil to raise your mash temps to 152. As long as your cereal mash is only a small part of the overall grain bill, you shouldn't notice any difference in the mash or sparge processes. If you're using a lot of adjuncts, you may want to add rice hulls to prevent a stuck mash.

I've never been able to figure out the reasoning behind what seems to be the 'official' way to do a cereal mash. The problem is that the 'mash' attempts to convert the starch that isn't convertible yet because it hasn't gone through the boil yet; using a quantity of malt that falls well short of  having enough enzymes to be useful. To make it work you'll need to manage two mashes at the same time, or you'll need to add a bunch of time to your brew day so you can com[plete your cereal mash before starting your real mash. But in case you're interested here's what to do:
  1. Add 1/4 cup of malt along with 2-3 quarts heated water per pound of grain to reach a mash temperature of about 158°F for corn or rice, 145°F for barley wheat or rye. Hold the temperature there for 15 minutes.
  2. Bring the cereal mash up to a boil and hold it for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the cereal mash to the main mash.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Campden Tablets

Campden Tablets have four main purposes for beer, cider, mead and wine makers:
1. Removing chlorine / chloramine
2. Sanitizing fermentables
3. Sanitizing equipment
4. Stabilization

Anhydrous sodium metabisulfite (Na2S205) is typically the active ingredient in Campden tablets. Each Campden Tablet equals 1/16 teaspoon of sodium metabisulfite. When combined with water, the tablets provide an easy-to-measure delivery mechanism for adding approximately 75 parts-per-million (PPM) of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to each gallon of liquid and to the headspace in vessels used in fermenting.

In simple terms, dissolved Campden tablets kill microorganisms, but only for a while until the sulfur dioxide from the tablets dissipates to non-lethal levels for the little critters. At the proper levels they can be used to kill wild yeast, mold, bacteria and other microorganisms that might otherwise spoil what you're brewing; and after they're done you can add your own yeast to start fermentation. As an alternative you can also purchase potassium metabisulfite in bulk but then you need to measure tiny amounts of it instead of counting out a few tablets.

Small amounts of Campden tablets have the handy side-effect of precipitating chlorine and chloramine out of water. This is only a factor if you're using chlorinated water, such as a city water supply, and you're not using some other method of removing the chlorine such as reverse osmosis (RO), charcoal filtration or boiling. You want to remove the chlorine and chloramine because when left in the water, they can form smelly compounds called chlorophenols when they interact with beer.

I prefer Campden tablets to the other methods for dechlorination. Reverse osmosis is significantly more expensive. Filtering typically removes only a portion of the chlorine and chloramine, and it's also more expensive than Campden tablets. Both RO and filtering require additional equipment that you need to store and maintain. Boiling doesn't work on chloramine and it adds time to your brew day.

To use Campden tablets for Removing chlorine and/or chloramine, crush one tablet and add it to 20 gallons of water, or use 1/4 tablet for each five gallons. Don't over-think this: if you're somewhere near 1/4 tablet and somewhere near five gallons you'll be just fine. I toss a crushed partial tablet into the hot liquor tank before I start heating the water. Stir it up a bit and I'm ready to go.

To use Campden tablets sanitizing fermentables, add one or two tablets to each gallon of cider or must. Tablets should be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of water, then added to the must immediately. Wait 12 to 24 hours before adding your yeast to begin fermentation. For use with overripe and potentially spoiled fruit, go with two tablets and two days. For regular use, one tablet and one day. Allow the fermentable liquid to ventilate in an open container.

As far as I'm concerned, using Campden tablets sanitizing equipment makes no sense to me because StarSan and Iodophor are quicker, cheaper and easier to use. but if you have an bunch of tablets you want to use up, here's how to do it according to E.C. Kraus...
All equipment should be cleaned with soapy water first. Crush and dissolve sixteen (16) Campden Tablets per each gallon of water. Also add 1/2 teaspoon of Citric Acid. Sanitize fermentation vessels by putting in 2 to 3 inches of solution in the bottom of the vessel. Seal the vessel air-tight for 20 minutes to allow the fumes from the solution to permeate the inside walls. You can also put in the vessel other equipment such as hoses, hydrometer, air-locks, rubber stoppers to be sanitized at the same time.
One Campden tablet can be added to each gallon of wine prior to bottling to preserve color and flavor. Crush the tablets and dissolve them in a small amount of the wine first. Potassium sorbate can also be added just before bottling time to eliminate re-fermentation.

Beware that beer, wine and other beverages treated with Campden tablets or sodium metabisulfite will retain trace amounts of sulfites after most of the SO2 has dissipated. Sulfites occur naturally in your body are generally not a problem except for a few people who are deficient in the natural enzyme to break them down. Allergic reactions have also been reported. Most commercial wines made in this country warn of sulfites on the label, except for the few that don't contain sulfites. Wines produced in other countries may not have the warning even though they contain the sulfites.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Got Yer Blueline Right Here

First, what is the Blueline? It was a series of small batch beers brewed by Redhook in the early days of the brewery. According to a Redhook interview back in 1993:
"There is an intriguing component of chance with each exploratory brew. A Blueline beer may be extremely eccentric and appeal only to few beer connoisseurs, or the beer may become as popular as one of our great established beers."

Redhook recently decided to bring the Blueline back for its 30th anniversary. They re-launched it yesterday.

Along with being a marketing device, the original Blueline was a brewing device. Before Redhook got the IPO cash, the operation was a lot smaller. Their prototyping system (the Blueline) was three keggles, two burners some bent copper tubing for a sparge arm and more bent copper tubing for an immersion chiller, all sitting on some metal shelving in a standard homebrew 3-tier layout. After the IPO it was replaced with a larger commercial system.

The Blueline as it appeared a couple of years ago.

So how did I get the Blueline? It all started with a friendly gift a several years back. I was out doing yard work on a Saturday, and decided to grab a beer. My neighbor across the street was also working in his yard, so I grabbed a couple of my homebrews and headed across the street to talk to Pete.

At the time I was brewing my beer in the kitchen, so the fact that I was a homebrewer took Pete by surprise, but he had a deal for me. I found out that Pete had grown up with Doug McNair, one of the first brewers at Redhook. When Redhook opened their Portsmouth New Hampshire brewery, Doug moved to the east coast and sold his homebrew system to Pete, probably because it was going to be a hassle to move it, and because there probably wasn't going to be a lot of time for Doug to do home brewing.

There was probably also an expectation that having a homebrew system would motivate Pete to brew beer, but it never did. The Blueline sat in the crawl space of another friend's house for years because Pete didn't have room to store it. By the time I arrived to share my beer, Pete was just looking to get his money back out of his hardware purchase. I got a whopping good deal and a little chunk of Seattle beer history that gets used regularly.

Pete was one of the founders of The Beer Church, and a great guy. He left this life way too soon, and I miss him a lot.

Sunrise on the Blueline, Pete's old house in the distance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Have I Got a Deal for You! Sort of.
Free Beer Brewing eBooks

There are a number of interesting historical references on the web for brewing beer. They come from books that are old enough that the copyright has lapsed, and as a result the books have come into the public domain. So we're talking about books that are 100 years old, or more. I found that some of them had interesting info, or interesting illustrations, but unless you're primarily interested in the history of brewing you're better off getting a book that was published in this century.

Some of these old books have been converted into electronic versions by Google or similar projects. If you want, you can also buy the paperback versions of some old brewing books on Amazon. For example, you can get various re-published books by by Marcus Lafayette Byrn on Amazon, such as The Complete Practical Brewer; Or, Plain, Accurate, And Thorough Instructions In The Art Of Brewing Ale, Beer, And Porter; Including The Process Of Brewing Beer, Ginger Pop, Sasparilla-Beer, Mead...

You can also find electronic versions of various works Marcus Lafayette Byrn and other authors for free. The quality varies. You can usually download them in a variety of formats. but Project Gutenberg has the most options. Most of the books originated in the US Public Library or University library systems, so you'll often find library marks in the scans.

Project Gutenberg books:

A Treatise on the Brewing of Beer by E. Hughes

The London and Country Brewer by Anonymous

The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened by Kenelm Digby. Includes recipes for mead and metheglin.

The American Practical Brewer and Tanner by Joseph Coppinger

Google books:
The Complete Practical Brewer by Marcus Lafayette Byrn

The town and country brewery book: or, Every man his own brewer By W. Brande, originally published in 1830

The brewer's analyst: a systematic handbook of analysis relating to brewing by R. Douglas Bailey, originally published in 1907, this book details how to analyze beer using archaic instruments.

The theory and practice of modern brewing: A re-written and much enlarged by Frank Faulkner originally published in 1888

Brewing by Alfred Chaston Chapman. The cover illustration is a 'vertical refrigerator' AKA wort chiller.

A Practical Treatise On Brewing, Based On Chemical And Economical Principles : With Formulæ for Public Brewers, And Instructions for Private Families by William Black, Practical Brewer

OnRead books:
The Theory And Practice of Brewing by John Adams. Due to fonts and typography a century ago, the letter "s" was printed differently when it appeared at the beginning or middle of a word, instead of at the end. The OCR engine does not take this into account, so you'll see lots of words like "fiences" rather than "sciences".

Laboratory Studies for Brewing Students, a Systematic Course of Practical Work in the Scientific Principles Underlying the Processes of Malting And Brewing by Adrian J Brown

The Brewer's Analyst: a Systematic Handbook of Analysis Relating to Brewing And Malting by R. Douglas Bailey

A Text-book of the Science of Brewing by Edward Ralph Moritz , George Harris Morris. Illustrations are missing

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BU:GU Ratios

If you're like me you didn't do all the research needed to understand all factors of brewing before you started brewing your first beers. I understood that the sweetness of malted barley in my beer needed to be offset by the bitterness of hops (for most beers) but I was relying on the recipe or the kit to take care of that little detail. Next, I started out looking at recipes that were 'clones' of beers I liked, and then sort of drifted into looking at the ingredients and thinking "Yeah, that would be tasty!" Eventually, I stared building my own recipes, stared looking at more of the math, started caring more about yeast pitch rates, water chemistry and all the other little details that go in to making a great beer. But the BU:GU ratio wasn't on my radar until recently. I'm now trying to figure out how the BU:GU Ratio can help me. Several of the brewing software programs calculate BU:GU values, but I haven't seen one that relates the number to anything meaningful.

The BU:GU Ratio is determined by dividing the number of IBUs in a beer by the number of points of original gravity to provide a rough estimate of the balance between hop bitterness compared to the malt sweetness. The idea originated in Ray Daniel’s book 'Designing Great Beers'. According to the book it is...
"The ratio of bitterness units to gravity units for a specific beer or group of beers. International bitterness units (IBU) are used for for bitterness and gravity units (GU) are used for the gravity component."[1]

To calculate, take the part of the OG after the decimal, and divide it into the IBUs. 0.5 is balanced, values under that are more malty, values above are hoppier. If you have a beer with 1.050 OG and 25 IBU, you're BU:GU balanced assuming that your IBU calculations are correct, which is a guess that Tinseth, Rager, Garetz and Daniels can't seem to agree on.

Chart of BU:GU Ratios The yellow section in the middle is balanced, gold and orange are progressively more malty, light and dark green are progressively more hoppy. It wouldn't be hard to create an IPA that is 'off the chart' but we're concentrating on the midpoint here.

The BU:GU Ratio is an attempt to quantify how balanced a beer is, but dark malts, estery yeasts, spices and sourness will throw off the perceived balance, and you can't factor all that into an equation. And what about different levels of attenuation? Maltodextrin will throw off the sweetness compared to measured gravity. Some styles will always be out of balance according to the basic BU:GU calculation. Does that make them bad? The BU:GU idea has some merit, but looking at the taste and bitterness of different beers, I'm thinking "Ray, what are you talking about, man?"

Not surprisingly, the average BU:GU ratios vary widely by style, so Daniels lists the average BU:GU ratio for some popular styles. Now things finally come together. Rather than looking at an 'absolute' measure of balance, we can look at the relative BU:GU ratio for the style.
"For most beers and beer styles, the resulting ratio has a value between 0.3 and 1.0."[2]
So now (drumroll) I can dial in the relative sweetness to style, whether I'm on the high side or the low side of the gravity for that style. Or I can do the same thing for a specific recipe. I could scale it up to an 'imperial' version and keep the relative BU:GU balance in line. For a given style, all I need now is a chart of those reference numbers. Designing Great Beers gives me a few numbers from NHC Second Round entries for starters, you're on your own for the rest of them.

StyleBU:GU Average
Dusseldorf Alt0.70
Barley Wine0.53-1.83
Ordinary Bitter1.28
Special Bitter0.58-1.07
Pale Ale0.58-1.12
English IPA0.61-1.64
English Brown0.50-0.70
American Brown0.95
Old Ale0.45-0.70
Bohemian Pilsner0.75-0.85
German Pilsner0.68-0.80
Munich Helles0.38-0.48
Brown Porter0.55-0.72
Robust Porter0.61-0.93
Scottish 60/Light0.30-0.55
Scottish 70/Heavy0.30-0.50
Scottish 80/Export0.30-0.50
Scottish 90/Strong0.35-0.40
Classic Stout0.80-1.20
Foreign Stout0.90
Sweet Stout0.30-0.50
Imperial Stout0.90
Berliner Weisse0.14-0.18
Dunkel Weizen0.21-0.29
Wiezen Bock0.20-0.23
American Wheat0.16-0.34

[1] Ray Daniels, Designing Great Beers
[2] Ray Daniels, Designing Great Beers

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cheap Brewing Hardware

I brew beer because I enjoy the hobby, enjoy the result, and enjoy the people who brew beer. They're fun to be around and I have met some great folks as a result of home brewing.

The theory is that you can also save money by making homebrew rather than getting the 'store-bought' version. Once the lure of convenience and cool stuff have taken hold, the reality doesn't necessarily match that theory, but you can still keep your costs in line by shopping wisely. As good as the search engines are, they don't necessarily help you find the best deals for brewing hardware.

The following list is what I've found from various searches, saved email and forum posts from other brewers who have found good deals.

Specialized Homebrew Stores Sight glasses, thermometers, etc.
Bargain Fittings Sight glasses, thermometers, ball valves, etc.
Brewer's Hardware Stir plates, tri-clover fittings, burners, etc.
Stir Starter Stir plates
BrewHemoth Kettles and conical fermentors
Stout Conical fermentors, tri-clover fittings
Keggle Brewing Grain Mill
Brewer's Discount Hardware

Full Homebrew Stores

Keg Cowboy Plate chillers for the price of immersion chillers.
Austin Homebrew March 809 HS Pump
Farmhouse Brewing Supply Perlick 525 SS Faucet Kegging starter kit "One Weld" 9 Gallon Stainless brewpot

Other Web Stores

Discover Valve Ball Valves
WoodCraft Threaded Tap-handle inserts
Agri Supply Propane Burners
BuyFittingsOnline Stainless valves and fittings.
McMaster-Carr O-Rings, quick disconnects, etc. I have a reference page on the regular and silicone O-Rings needed to rebuild corny kegs right here.
Amazon 3/8" Silicone/Tygon Tubing
Amazon 1/2" Silicone/Tygon Tubing
Amazon 6 Gallon Carboy (the price varies between $28 and $50)
Amazon 3 Gallon Carboy (the price varies between $21 and $40)
Climate Doctors Ranco Microprocessor Temperature Controller
Cole-Parmer Digital Temperature Controller
ProFlow Dynamics Quick Disconnects
Copper Tubing Sales DIY immersion chiller

Other Sources

Craigslist (Seattle area): Homebrew Check in your own area if you're not near Seattle.
Craigslist (Seattle area): Brewing Check in your own area.
Craigslist (Seattle area): Keg Check in your own area.
Homebrew Finds Some of the deals are only available for a limited time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Relative Sweetness Of Brewing Sugars (How Sweet is Sweet?)

I became interested in this topic when I started planning to brew a Sweet (AKA Milk) Stout. Beer brewers care most about the sugars extracted from barley, but commonly add several other sugars such as sucrose, lactose and maltodextrin. Lactose, or 'milk sugar' is the sugar I was interested in for the milk stout.

Whether you're an extract or all-grain brewer, your wort contains a variety of different sugars. Unless you've adjuncted your wort heavily, there will be more Maltose than any other kind of sugar. But there will also be varying amounts of Maltotriose, Glucose, Sucrose and Fructose along with various non-fermentable dextrins. The combined total will determine your original and final gravity.

In rating the sweetness of the various sugars, sucrose is rated as 100. Other sugars sweeter than sucrose are ranked higher than 100 and sugars less sweet are ranked lower. Sweetness is detected by our taste buds, but there is no exact test for measurement for it. Some people detect sweetness in lower concentrations than others. Not all people will agree in their estimates of the relative sweetness of the sugars, so similar tests can yield different results, as the existing tests seem to prove.
Biester and Wood, University of Minnesota :
• Sucrose 100.0
• Maltose 32.5
• Lactose 16.0
Sale and Skinner of the Bureau of Chemistry (Water and Beverage Laboratory) :
• Sucrose 100
• Maltose 50
Paul [sic] in comparing the sweetness of several sugars :
• Sucrose 100
• Lactose 28
(Data from "Experimental Cookery From The Chemical And Physical Standpoint", by Belle Lowe)

From looking at the studies it seems that maltose may be about half as sweet as sucrose, and lactose might be about half as sweet as maltose. You'll note that maltodextrin doesn't show up in the comparisons. It is a common food additive and is classified as a sweet polysaccharide. While containing sweet qualities, maltodextrin is just barely sweet when compared to the others. At least one of the major artificial sweeteners relies maltodextrin as filler. It is also used as a thickening agent in sauces and salad dressings. It can contribute a little sweetness to beer, but it mostly adds body.

The interesting thing is what happens to these sugars during fermentation, relative to their sweetness: the sweeter a sugar seems to be the more (easily) fermentable it is. The yeast find it easier to consume less-complex sugar molecules that we perceive as being sweeter. This means that the sweetness from sucrose and maltose disappear during the ferment as the taste of the beer "dries out," unless there is so much sugar that it can't all be converted to alcohol by the yeast. It seems like if you're mashing hotter to increase residual sugar, you'll have to play around for a while before you get any notion of the sweetness relative to temperature. In any case, all of the sweetness from the more complex lactose and maltodextrin remain.

Why is this important? If you want to add body to your beer without adding undue sweetness, add maltodextrin. If you want to add sweetness and body, use lactose.

For sweet stouts, the recipes I've found use a pound of lactose. That seemed like a lot to me. Let's say that on a theoretical sweet stout recipe without lactose, the residual sugar is 1.012. Not bone dry but not terribly sweet. Adding 12 ounces of lactose would bump it up to 1.018, and pound would take it to 1.020. But that's just the body. If we look at the relative sweetness of lactose being about half of maltose, maybe we're looking at an effect on perceived sweetness that is something like 1.015 for a 12 ounces? And a pound might get us somewhere around 1.018? Now adding pound doesn't seem quite so bad.

After doing all the theoretical muddling, I found that 12 ounces will still plenty sweet. At least to my taste.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Software Review Roundup: Free iPhone Beer-Finder Apps

If you want to look at free iPhone Apps to help you brew beer, check out this review instead. Along with the apps for homebrewers, the Apple iTunes store has a bunch of beer-related apps. They seem to fall into three main categories:
  1. Beer Rating / Location Apps
  2. Beer Games, mostly Beer Pong, Darts
  3. Promotion / Advertisements
It's kind of tough to work up the motivation to review anything but the first group, but it turns out that there are plenty of apps in that category to review. Locating beer leverages the GPS functionality of the iPhone working with Google maps, so lots of devs have tied into it. The results are somewhat mixed, with only two of these apps (at most) worth installing for most people.

Tap Hunter   Grade: A
This app opens with a main navigation screen that lets you look for Beers on Tap, Breweries on Tap, All Locations, Nearby Locations, and View Map. It also lets you Change City, which is important because Tap Hunter works only for selected cities: Denver, Boulder, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver. 'Beers on Tap' lets you select from an extensive list of beer, with an indication of how may pubs in your selected city have that beer on tap. 'Breweries on Tap' does the same thing, but starts from a more compact list of breweries. Selecting a beer takes you to a page for that beer, and from there you can select a pub that is pouring it. The pub page will tell you how recently their tap list has been updated, which ranges from over a year in the worst case to minutes ago in the best. You can also call the pub, view its location on the map, get directions based on your current location, or view their website if they have one. You can even alter the map directions based on using a car, public transportation or walking. If you live in one of the cities where it's available, this app is for you.

Beer Button   Grade: B
This app consists of a big red button that you "push" to locate beer. Actually, you're searching for "Liquor Store" by default, so you're not looking at your best option for finding good beer unless you live in one of the states or provinces where beer is only sold in liquor stores. Go to the settings screen, and change that to search something more relevant. You'll need to scroll down past the ads to get to the two settings: "Button Label" and "Search Term." When I changed the search term to "beer" the map stopped showing any liquor stores for my search, and instead showed a few of the breweries, pubs and bottle shops in the area. But it also missed plenty of them. It looks like the maximum radius from my current location is five miles, and the maximum number of pins dropped on the map might be 10 because I can't seem to find more than 10 of anything near me. If you know the name of a pub you're in great shape. Once you select a location by tapping a pin you can use Google Maps functionality to get directions, so searching for "Uber" and getting directions was quick and easy. It also works great to find stuff that has nothing to do with beer. This app would be great if they made it easier to change the search terms.

Guinness Pub Finder (US)   Grade: C
When this app starts up it will prompt you to enter your age, because Guinness cares about under-age drinking. Then you get a good, long look at their logo. Along with being a beer locator, this app schools you on how to pour a Guinness (there are six steps) how to measure the head on a pint of Guinness, and some facts on how alcohol is made and so on. Now on to the main event... finding a pint. You get good visual cues for this; instead of dropping pins on the map they drop tiny pints. It looks like the Guinness folks keep good track of who has their products on tap because here is an amazing number of 'pints' that show up on the map. In fact, when I zoom the map out too far the application complains that there are "too many pints" to display. This app will obviously work best for those folks who are interested in Guinness products, but where there's one beer there's probably more. Then again, the other beer might be Bud Light. Once you select a location by tapping a pint you can use Google Maps functionality to get directions. Using the Search bar at the bottom of the screen appears to have no intelligible effect on the search. The info icon doesn't work at all.

Beer Cloud   Grade: C
This is the Swiss Army Knife of beer finders. You can search by Beer, Brewer or Barcode. There is a Beer Style feature that lets you pick a style (Ale) then by Category (IPA) finally subcategory (American IPA) to get a list of brands. Unfortunately the list is truncated and and ends alphabetically in the C's. Once you find a beer, you can "Find this beer" and there is generally good information about the beer, but the list of West Coast beers is rather thin. From the beer screen you can also navigate to the brewer screen to get more info, from the brewer you can find other beers they brew. The drill-down navigation is is a little sketchy, and there is no visual feedback that to indicate that my 'tap' is being processed, so I frequently end up with multiple screens that need to be closed. There is a Sommelier feature which lets you pair food and beer. Looks like a good Dubbel would go well with my beets. The bad news is that the "Find this beer" feature didn't appear to work for me... I couldn't find any results for any beer I tried to locate, including Budweiser. The app directed me to a web page because I got "Fewer results than expected." Turns out that it only has data for the District of Columbia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. It would have been nice to make that a bit more obvious. I have no idea how good the results are in those areas, but if you don't live there skip this app.

Beer Map   Grade: D
Given the name I wish this app could tie into the Beer Mapping Project, but that's not the case. Instead it suffers mightily from a lack of data. When I look for "Beers Near Me", it comes up with one lone entry: Hair of the Dog Adam at The Stumbling Monk. I've already increased the search radius to the max (10 km) so Adam is my only choice in the Seattle area. I guess I could add a review which would potentially double the number of beers found in Seattle? While they probably had Adam at the Monk at some point in time, I have no particular faith in the notion that they still have it there today. When I go to the Map I can see the location of the Monk. A tap on the pin reveals the ratings page for the Monk but no directions for getting there. If there was more than one beer in the list, and if there was a price entered for that beer I could sort the list by Price, Rating or Distance. When I search for "RedHook", no hits. Searching for "Adams" gets me one beer named "Samuel Adams." The design of this app isn't too bad but it looks like a lot of guys need to get out there and rate beer with Beer Map to lift it out of the pit of despair.

Beer Me LITE   Grade: D
This app lets you find beer by Current Location, Zip Code or City and State. At least in theory. When I tried to search by City and State the app crashed three times in a row. Finally, I entered "Seattle, WA" including the comma, and that helped. Sorta. I got a dialog box saying something like, "Where are you? We can't find any beer at that location." The first time I used the Current Location search the app reported that it couldn't determine my Current Location accurately. Things worked better the second time, and gave me pretty much the same results as searching by Zip Code. The list of pubs was pretty good, but I got results from 30 miles away, while overlooking a lot of closer opportunities. In Seattle. There are no settings so you can't narrow your search radius. For the taverns that did show up, there is a screen that lets you map their location, call them on the phone, or visit their website if one exists. I'd be a lot happier about this one if I could use it to find beer in Seattle.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Caramel and Crystal Malt Reference

When I started taking a closer look at caramel malt, I was amazed by the number and variety of malts I found. I built this list to capture that variety. This is not an exhaustive list of all the crystal/caramel malts available, but I hope it gives you a better idea of the possibilities. Some of it seems to just be marketing. For example, Briess appears to market their Crystal Malts under both the names of "Crystal" and "Caramel." I've combined those under the numbered Crystal malts where possible.

It's interesting to note all the malts that weigh in at about the same color. Aromatic Malt, Caravienne, Crystal 20, and Honey Malt are all at about 20°Lovibond, and yet I view them as being very different. I wonder how much of that perception is valid.

Malt names names aren't necessarily descriptive. For example, CaraAmber is darker than CaraRed and Caramel Pils is four times darker than CaraPils. Different maltsters use the similar terms differently, so (caramel) Aromatic Malt is nothing like CaraAroma. I haven't used many of these malts yet, and I certainly haven't done any research on their characteristics, so the descriptions below have mostly been adapted from information provided by the maltster.

1.5°Carapils (Dextrin)Pilsner malt steeped to add mouthfeel and improve head retention.Briess
1.8°CarafoamBrand-name for Carapils clone made by Weyerermann.Weyermann
Caramel PilsAdds subtle caramel flavor, and is not a substitute for Carapils.Castle
10°Crystal 10Candy-like sweetness, mild caramel. Contributes golden hues. Use 3-7% in Pilsners, up to 15% in other beers.Various
10°Golden Naked OatsHuskless oat crystal malt. Exotic ingredient for subtle nutty difference.Simpsons
11°CarahellUse 10-15% for increased body, improved aroma, improved foam, full round flavor and deep saturated color.Weyermann
19°Aromatic MaltUse up to 20% to provide a rich malty aroma and flavour to amber and dark beers.Castle
20°Cara 20LAlso known as Caravienne.Castle
20°CaraRedAdds a red color, used for Red or Scottish ales.Weyermann
20°Crystal 20Candy-like sweetness, mild caramel. Contributes golden hues. Use 3-7% in Pilsners, up to 15% in other beers.Various
20-30°Honey MaltSimilar in style to German "brumalt", but adds honey-like taste and residual sweetness. Best used in brown ales, porters, and stouts.Gambrinus
21°CaravienneBased on Vienna Malt. Caramel aroma and toffee flavor, adds gold to light amber color. Can contribute mouth feel, foam, head retention, and extended beer stability.Castle
23-31°MelanoidinUse up to 20% for improved flavor stability, fullness and rounding of the beer color.Weyermann
27°CaraAmberUse up to 20% for improved flavor, stability, fullness and full red color.Weyermann
30-37°CaraMaltImparts a light flavor and a slight red hue, contributes dextrins and adds to foam stability.Simpsons
34°Caramunich IUse 5-10% in dark beer, 1-5% in light beer, pale ale for increased body, heightened malt aroma, full round flavor and deep saturated color.Weyermann
40°Crystal 40Sweet caramel, toffee. Contributes golden hues. Use 3-7% in Pilsners, up to 15% in other beers.Various
45°Cara 45LImparts a rich caramel-sweet aroma and toffee-like flavor, adding golden to light amber color to beer. Contributes mouth feel, foam, head retention, and extended beer stability.Castle
45°CarawheatA caramelized huskless wheat malt that promotes fullness and emphasizes wheat aroma.Weyermann
46°Caramunich IIUse 5-10% for dark beer, 1-5% for light beer for increased fullness, heightened malt aroma. round flavor and deep, saturated color.Weyermann
47°CaramunichUse 5-10% for dark beer, 1-5% for light beer for increased fullness, heightened malt aroma. round flavor and deep, saturated color.Castle
50-60°Medium CrystalAn English crystal malt that imparts a gold to copper-red color and caramel flavor and increases foam stability. Simpsons
57°Caramunich IIIUse 5-10% for dark beer, 1-5% for light beer for increased fullness, heightened malt aroma. round flavor and deep, saturated color.Weyermann
60°Caramel MunichCaramel, roasted, malty. Contributes amber to red hues.Briess
60°Crystal 60Sweet, pronounced caramel. Use up to 15% depending on the style.Various
60°Organic C-60LSweet, pronounced caramel. Use up to 15% depending on the style.Briess
70-80°Dark CrystalThe long kilning of this malt imparts a strong reddish hue and a roasty edge along with malty sweetness.Simpsons
80°Crystal 80Pronounced caramel, slight burnt sugar, raisins, prunes. Use 3-5% in amber and red beers, up to 15% in darker beer.Various
80-100°Crystal RyeSweet and malty with warm bread-crust flavours.Simpsons
90°Caramel 90Pronounced caramel, burnt sugar, raisins, prunes. Use 3-5% in amber and red beers, up to 15% in darker beer.Briess
120°Crystal 120Dark caramel, burnt sugar, raisins, prunes. Use 3-5% in amber and red beers, up to 15% in darker beer.Various
120°Organic C-120LDark caramel, burnt sugar, raisins, prunes. Use 3-5% in amber and red beers, up to 15% in darker beer.Briess
130°CaraAromaAdds color, aroma. Typically used for altbiers, stouts, bocks and porters.Weyermann
130°Extra Special MaltToasted marshmallow, toast, mild coffee, prune. Dry, woody. Use in Belgian dark and high gravity beers.Briess
147°Special BUse up to 10% to produce a deep red to dark brown-black colour and fuller body. Imparts a rich malty taste and hints of of raisin, nut and plum flavor.Castle
160°Extra Dark CrystalFor use in dark beers to add dark fruit flavors and aromas as well as color. Simpsons
375°Carafa IAdds color and aroma, typically used for schwartzbier, dopplebock, and used in other dark beers.Weyermann
430°Carafa IIAdds color and aroma, typically used for schwartzbier, dopplebock, and used in other dark beers.Weyermann
490°Carafa IIIAdds color and aroma, typically used for schwartzbier, dopplebock, and used in other dark beers.Weyermann

"Typical Analysis, Malts and roasted barleys", Briess, 10/2009
Briess Malt
Castle Malt
Dingeman's Malt
Gambrinus Malt
Simpson's Malt
Weyermann Malt

Friday, February 4, 2011

Brewing Software Review: BrewTimer for iPhone

Available at the App Store for $1.99
Overall Grade B+

Updated Review for v1.1
BrewTimer is a simple little app that lets you set up named alarms for the specific "Steps" for brewing a beer. Start by creating a new Timer for your beer recipe, save it, and then select your new Timer from the list so you can add alarm times for the individual Steps. Enter alarms your various timed brew day Steps like hop additions. The alarm I need to create for most recipes is the one for the Whirfloc tablet. I'm religious about all the hop additions, but for some reason I seem to miss Whirfloc on too many beers.

You can set up multiple recipe Timers, which is handy if you'll be re-brewing a several different beers over time. Or you could set up some generic Timers with three hop additions, two hop additions, etc. and reuse them for various brews.

You can have multiple recipe Timers running at once, which would be more useful if there wasn't a a 120 minute limit on the "Boil" which also controls the overall Timer duration. It would be handy to have something over 120 minutes so I could add reminders for all my brew day tasks like "Start heating sparge water." Times greater than two hours would also be handy for the folks who want to brew a traditional Scottish Ale with a long boil for kettle caramelization.

The alarm functionality has been improved from the previous version which only provided a short, soft chime in background mode. You now get a persistent alarm that you need to turn off, regardless if the app is open or not. Unlike the earlier version, you won't be able to miss this one. Along with the alarms you set up, there will be one final alarm that sounds when the boil is done. This app is going to be a handy little helper for me on brew day. I try to chip away at multiple things (the honeydew list) in between my brew day activities, so it will be great to stop worrying about the clock.

If you're upgrading from a previous version, you might have a little difficulty. The upgrade from Version 1.0 didn't fix the alarm functionality for me. I had to delete BrewTimer, then download and install the new version. Not a big problem, and since I had already paid, the second install was free.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Software Review Roundup: Free iPhone Brewing Apps

If you check the Apple iTunes store you'll find a variety of free and paid software to help you brew beer, or at least I found a number of them. Some were tough to locate. This roundup looks at the free options I found - let me know if you found more.

Sparge Pal   Grade: A
This is the iPhone version of the mash and sparge calculator available at The design, fit and finish are great. It's clear that you're looking at gallons or degrees or hours or whatever. This guy could give lessons to the other beer app developers on how to build a great-looking and intuitive application. Defaults in gray, my entries in black. Since I'll be entering numeric data, the telephone pad pops up when I tap one of the fields so I can enter numbers I need.
Tap the Info icon to go to the second screen, which has settings for Grain Absorption, Mash Tun Loss, Boiloff Rate, Boil Loss, Wort Shrinkage and US/Metric measurement. The second screen also has Field Descriptions, which will help you understand the intent so you enter the right values for you system. All in all, a nice bit of freeware.

HomeBrewTalk Mobile   Grade: A
The "Mobile" edition provides iPhone access to the most? active homebrewing forums on the Internet. I like this interface to HomeBrewTalk, it seems to be nicely adapted to the iPhone. It's much more readable that trying to navigate the same web pages in the browser on your phone. You can set up alerts for threads you you want to follow.

Beer Alchemy Viewer   Grade: (Unrated)
Looks like I need to acquire a Mac and the full version of Beer Alchemy in order to review this freebie, so I'm not going to be able to do it justice. I downloaded and installed it, and the settings look to be very comprehensive. Along with the standard settings like Units and IBU calculation formulas (Tinseth, Daniels, Rager, Garetz), and the less common formula options like Color (Morey, Daniels, Mosher, Viggiano) there is also a section for entering your local water chemistry. The hops section is also nice, with adjustments for Mash Hops, First Wort, and so on. The rest of the app requires me to sync with Beer Alchemy on my Mac (which I don't have) so I'm blocked at this point. If you like Beer Alchemy this app seems almost required.

The Brewer's Recipe Calculator   Grade: A-
This isn't really an iPhone app, it's a website that has been optimized for iPhone use. But... you can set it up to pretend to be app by opening the website in Safari on your phone, then 'Adding' it to your Home Screen. You can check it out from the browser on your computer to get a general idea of how it works on the iPhone although it does work better on your phone. It includes a Recipe Calculator, a Specific Gravity/Brix Calculator, an Alcohol/Calorie/Carbohydrate Calculator, a Water Profile Assistant and a few User Submitted Recipes. It also includes extensive (and welcome) set of Calculator Instructions. Most of it works very well, but there's just way too much scrolling when I'm looking at a full recipe on my phone.

BJCP Styles   Grade: A-
The BJCP Styles app is an iPhone version of the 2008 BJCP Styles, with the same content as the web and PDF versions. They've done a nice job of porting to the iPhone, and I find it handier and quicker to access my phone version of the Style Guide than to use the web, and much handier than the PDF. The app is very responsive, you can search for words and see them highlighted in your search results. You can copy sections of text to paste into email or whatever. There is a cute pop-up magnifying glass, but the ability to change the font size would be more useful.

HBCalc   Grade: C
The visual design of this app is unfortunate. The Times Roman font on a dark orange background is very 1995 Internet, and is tougher to read than it needs to be. The overall look is cluttered and disorganized, and the abbreviations everywhere don't help. I'm guessing that "lB" really means "lbs."? HBCalc includes a standard but noisy 10-key calculator. You'll want to turn off the key clicks if you find a reason to use it. There are three main sections: Gravity, Grain and Mashing. The Hydrometer Temperature input doesn't appear to affect the Gravity-related calculations. The Grain section is a bit tough to decipher, and now that I've figured it out I probably wouldn't use it. The Mash section is simple and seems to work well but lacks any input for mash tun thermal mass.

BrewLab   Grade: C-
Cool icon, and the interface has some nice parts to it. I especially like the spinners that come up to let me chose pounds and ounces. But there are problems. AA values for the hops are all hard-coded, and you can't adjust the batch size. There is only one Crystal malt, which turns out to be C60. And what's this "Add to Cart" button? Does it save my recipe? Zowie! I'm in the middle of placing an order with in Woburn MA. $31.93 for 10 pounds of malt, 2 ounces of hops (they round up) and a packet of dry yeast. Nope, I'm probably not going to do that.

Beer Talk  Grade: D
This isn't exactly a brewing app, it's a collection of videos. Some are about brewing beer, the rest about tasting a particular beer. My rating is based on watching just two of them, so your mileage may vary. I watched the video on how to brew a partial grain dry stout. It's reasonably informative and moves along at a good pace. However, "our host" stuffs way too much malt in the bags he uses for steeping. He cinches them down tight, and warns against letting malt fragments getting out, as that could spoil the taste of the beer! At the end he blames the light color of his stout on the fact that he used some chocolate malt instead of all roasted barley, rather than realizing that only a fraction of the malt goodness actually got 'out of the bag.' I watched a second video that I thought would be about a stuck ferment, but was more about "What makes my airlock bubble?" It turns out that airlocks are like the pressure release valve on a pressure cooker, and they keep your fermenter from exploding. But beware of any negative pressure on your airlock, because that will suck the liquid from the airlock back into your wort? Well intentioned but not entirely clueful.

BrewSmarts   Grade: D
For some reason I need to create a Login ID before I can get started. OK, done. As I start to use this app I have the nagging feeling that it was created by somebody who has never brewed beer in their life. I need to "Switch Context" to add malt to a recipe, then "Switch Context" again to add the hops. UI elements are small and the screens a cluttered. I need to select the maltster and the malt? And although I've entered the batch size, malt, hops and yeast, it can't tell me what the OG will be. I have to enter that. There's a help message that says once I enter the OG it will tell me the IBUs. Hmmm. Time to delete this one. If you want a look, you can find the web version at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What are Crystal and Caramel Malts?

Caramel Malts are a family of malts that are roasted when the grain is green (i.e.: still wet from the malting process), rather than waiting for the grain to dry completely by kilning it before it is roasted. Most are made from barley, but rye, oat and wheat versions are also available. A few are dehusked to reduce harshness and bitterness. Beeston maltsters has provided the following description of the process for creating caramel and crystal malts:
Beeston's caramalt and crystal malts are all produced from green two-row malt using the following method: The surface moisture is dried off at about 122 °F (50 °C) for approximately five minutes. The malt is then stewed at approximately 149-167 °F (65-75 °C) for about 40 minutes to stimulate the conversion of starches to sugars (crystallization). Drying and curing then takes place at about 176 °F (80 °C) for another 40 minutes, depending on the color required. The final drying and curing temperature varies among products; curing is typically done at about 275 °F (135 °C) for approximately two hours, depending on the color required. The darker the colors, the more intense the flavor.[1]
When they say the malt is 'stewed' there isn't any stew like you would see cooking in the kitchen. Instead the malt is being 'baked' and the stewing process goes on inside each kernel of grain. If the malt was stewed in water that would be mashing, and much of the sugar would rinsed out of the malt. But the stewing process has a similar saccharification effect like mashing, converting some of the starch in the malt to sugar so it can be caramelized during the curing process.

Caramel Malts are available in a range of colors from 1.5°Lovibond (Cara-Pils) to about 500°Lovibond (Carafa III), almost the full range of malt colors. The caramel family includes all the malts beginning with "Cara", all the malts with "Crystal" anywhere in the name, plus a bunch of specialty malts such as Melanoidin. They contain little to no enzymes due to the roasting process, so you will need to mash them with a base malt. The recommended proportion for most caramel malts ranges from no more than 10% of the mash to 30%. As with most other advice on caramel malts, it's hard to come up with one rule that applies to all.

The "Crystal" name appears on several sub-groups in the family of Caramel Malts. The name of many crystal malts includes a number such as Crystal 60, which indicates the relative darkness, or they may have a color descriptor such as "Dark Crystal."

What is the advantage of the crystal or caramel malts? They typically produce strong, sweet flavors that can range from toffee to caramel to raisins to chocolate depending on how long and how hot they were roasted. They can be steeped without mashing to extract their flavor. Some of the sugars in these malts caramelize during kilning and become unfermentable, so crystal/caramel malts will increase the body and final sweetness of your beer.

There seems to be some confusion around crystal malts. I was recently asked what the numbers mean. I've also heard or read advice like "Use some crystal", "Use a caramel malt instead of crystal" or "Crystal malt tastes like iced tea." Let's take those one at a time.
  • Crystal malt is available with a numbering scheme that ranges from 10 to 120. Those numbers refer to Degrees Lovibond (°L), which is a scale that measures the color of beer and other liquids. The newer SRM and EBC methods have replaced it for finished beer, but Lovibond lives on for malt. When you look a the malt you won't see a huge color difference between Crystal 20 and Crystal 60, but the color differences will come out when you steep them in hot water.
  • If you get a suggestion to "use crystal malt", they're probably talking about Crystal 60, or possibly Crystal 40. The term "crystal" is somewhat ambiguous when used without a way to include the color. Crystal 60 is the most widely used crystal malt, so I think that's your best bet if you lack other information. If you're looking at a recipe that has been around for years, go with Crystal 40.
  • Crystal is one of the Caramel malts, so you probably won't accomplish much by substituting caramel for crystal, unless you substitute another specific caramel malt for a specific reason. For example, Briess Caramel 40 is simply Briess Crystal 40 by a different name.
  • One or more of the crystal malts might add a taste like iced tea depending on your personal taste appreciation, but we're talking about dozens of malts with a full range of flavors, not just one malt.

1. Beeston Crystal Malt

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Easy Way to Enter AHA/BJCP Competitions

First you need to brew some beer, and bottle it. But not any bottle will do, you need brown or green glass between 10 and 14 ounces. No swing-tops. Next you need to fill out a Bottle ID Form. The AHA website has links to this sucky form, and this sucky form for Club-only competitions, but what you really want is this good form.

What makes the good form good? It's a PDF with fillable fields, so you can type in your name, address and other info rather than writing it. But the best part is that when you fill out the first label (there are four per sheet) it fills in the other three labels auto-magically. The sucky forms are just pictures of a form that you have to print and fill out by hand for each bottle.

If you are entering a competition that only requires two bottles and you want to save paper you can fill out most of the form, print it and fill in the beer name and category by hand. Cut the label sheet into four parts, and rubber-band one to each of the bottled beers you are entering, and you're almost done.

If you need to include a recipe with your entry, the AHA website has links to this sucky one, this sucky one for Club-only competitions, and this good one. The links to the good forms are strangely hard to find. I used the good ones for a Club-only competition last year and the contest organizers were fine with it.

The final thing is to write the check and drop off the bottles, and you're all set!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cascadian Dark Ale Recipe

I brewed this recipe up for the Greater Everett Brewer’s League (GEBL) Hop Madness IPA Bracket Challenge. I started out with an idea of what I wanted it to taste like, bounced my ideas off a couple of homebrewers I know to get their input, did a little research on the web, and came up with the following recipe. I bottled a bit to enter and share, and put the rest on tap. I like this one a lot, the keg is already almost empty. If it wins any prizes great, if not it's still a winner in my book.

Cascadian Dark Ale (Black IPA)
BJCP Category 23: Specialty Beer

Recipe Specs
Batch Size (G): 5.5
Total Grain (lb): 12.50
Total Hops (g): 170.09
Original Gravity (OG): 1.062 (°P): 15.2
Colour (SRM): 30.1 (EBC): 59.3
Bitterness (IBU): 84.6 (Tinseth)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 75
Boil Time (Minutes): 90

Grain Bill
10.000 lb American Two-row Pale (79.99%)
1.125 lb Munich I (9%)
0.563 lb Carafa II (4.5%)
0.563 lb Special B Malt (4.5%)
0.250 lb Chocolate (2%)

Hop Bill
14.2 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14.5% Alpha) @ 99 Minutes (First Wort) (2.6 g/Gal)
14.2 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (2.6 g/Gal)
28.4 g Simcoe Pellet (12.2% Alpha) @ 30 Minutes (Boil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Cascade Pellet (5.5% Alpha) @ 15 Minutes (PostBoil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Simcoe Pellet (13% Alpha) @ 15 Minutes (Post-Boil) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Cascade Pellet (5.5% Alpha) @ 10 Days (Dry Hop) (5.2 g/Gal)
28.4 g Columbus (Tomahawk) Pellet (14% Alpha) @ 10 Days (Dry Hop) (5.2 g/Gal)
Single step Infusion at 151°F for 60 Minutes.
Fermented at 68°F with Safale US-05 Dry Yeast

The Post-Boil additions were done at flameout, I whirlpooled and let it rest for 15 minutes before running off into the fermenter.

Recipe Generated with BrewMate

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Burtonize Your Brewing Water

If you're brewing and IPA and you want a good, firm bitterness you'll want to Burtonize your brewing water, AKA make it like the water in Burton-on-Trent where IPAs were made initially. The water in Burton-on-Trent is very hard. To match it exactly, the ions in your water should have the following profile:
Calcium (Ca+2) 352.0 ppm
Magnesium (Mg+2) 45.0 ppm
Sodium (Na+1) 44.0 ppm
Chloride (Cl-1) 16.0 ppm
Sulfate (SO4-2) 801.0 ppm
Bicarbonate (HCO3-1) 320.0 ppm

The most pronounced aspect of the water from Burton-on-Trent is the sulfate level. At 801ppm (some sources say 820ppm) those sulfates are enough to have a mild laxative effect, which is probably not quite what most brewers are going for. The good news is that you can get most of benefit of Burtonized water without going nearly that far into the sulfate levels.The reason you want sulfates is that they provide the increased perceived bittering and crispness in the taste of your beer for styles such as IPAs. For most beer styles including IPAs the rest of the water ions for Burton-on-Trent are merely interesting.

The easiest (and cheapest) way to get the bittering benefit of Burtonized water is to add a tablespoon of food-grade gypsum (calcium sulfate) to your water for a five gallon batch. One tablespoon will increase the sulfate level by 354ppm. It will also increase the calcium level by 148ppm and lower the pH level a bit. If your water is reasonably soft or if you started with deionized water you'll be in the ideal sulfate range between 300ppm and 500ppm; your IPA will be Burtonized enough to accentuate the bitterness and not in any danger of being overloaded with sulfate. You're all set.

If you want to be authentic for an English Pale Ale, I guess the easiest way to accomplish this is to buy a sufficient quantity of 'Burton Salts' at your homebrew store and follow the directions, but you'll need to start with water that has been deionized by distillation or reverse osmosis (RO), or have tap water that is very soft. Going this way costs more because you'll have to pay for the water, and you'll pay a premium price on the official "Burton Salts" as opposed to buying the stuff that does the same thing as Burton Salts. I still have a packet of Burton Salts that I haven't tried yet, so I can't comment on the effectiveness of the official approach.

I don't see a good reason to do anything more than adding a tablespoon of gypsum to adjust the water for an American IPA. Then again, you could bump the sulfate level to 820 and claim it is the medicine you use to help you stay "regular." Most people probably won't be able to use Burton Salts to match the water from Burton-on-Trent if they are using local water, because the local water already has different levels of the various ions. Instead you'll need to do the calculations to adjust the ion levels to get from your water as a starting point to a 'Burtonized' finish. To figure out how do that, check my previous blog post on Brewing Water Chemistry.

The following additions would get me close, assuming a 5.5 gallon batch. Your Mileage May Vary, so do your own calculations. And really, that's a lot of chemicals to put in your beer so your best bet is a tablespoon of gypsum.
Brewing Salt Additions to Burtonize
Chalk (CaCO3) 2 grams 1.11 tsp
Baking Soda (NaHCO3) 4.3 grams 1 tsp
Gypsum (CaSO4) 25 grams6.25 tsp
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 6 grams 1.33 tsp
Canning Salt (NaCl) 1 grams 0.17 tsp