Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making the Brew Day Shorter

I don't brew beer to save money. Let's get that out of the way up front. I've brewed enough beer that my brewing equipment has paid for itself, but from a budgetary standpoint I'd be way better off to pick up some work on the side and use the money to buy beer, rather than taking the same amount of time to brew my own. I brew because I enjoy the hobby and the beer. Even though brewing is a great hobby, the brew day can get long, so I look for ways to do things quicker, easier.

I've noticed that if I'm not actively heating or cooling water during that process, not much progress is being made. I need to heat up my strike water just to get the day started, so I've been thinking about getting a higher capacity burner to be able to heat my water faster. But I found that I was able to cut my "getting ready to mash" time in half with my existing equipment.

Some people heat water in their mash tun, and add the grain directly. Others heat water in a a hot liquor tank and run it off into the mash. I liked the second way because it let me be more precise about mash temperatures.

When I was thinking about the best way to heat a large amount of water for a double batch of RIS, I finally realized that I could do both at once. The key is that you need two burners, which I've had for quite a while. I just heated half of the water in the mash tun, the other half in the hot liquor tank at the same time.

Having a lot of water to start in the mash before I add my grist makes the process of doughing in easier than it used to be, and I can still fine-tune my mash temps by controlling the amount of water I run in from the HLT. It's enough of a speed gain that I now have to scramble to get my malt measured and ground by the time the strike water is ready.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Leftovers Russian Imperial Stout

This isn't a recipe that I thoughtfully prepared in hopes of creating the ulimate RIS. It's more like spring cleaning: I finally decided it was time to clean up the old malt and hops that had been laying around for too long. The problem is that I had been working in Oregon for almost a year, and as a result fell way behind on my brewing schedule.

I decided to brew a massive Russian Imperial Stout to get rid of the old ingredients that have just been gathering dust in my garage. Fortunately, the garage is part of "downstairs" in my house so it's a cool, dry environment. I had plenty of dark malts to use up so the resulting RIS is "blacker than a pimp's heart." And just in case you're wondering, 42 pounds of malt is way too much to mash in a 15 gallon keggle. The photo has only the first 38 pounds... there is more to come.

Just to make things a little more interesting I decided to to do a 'late addition' of most of the dark malts. The last four pounds went it with five minutes left in the mash. The idea is that most of the convertible starches in these malts have already been converted, and since I have more than enough dark malt, maybe I'll pull off more of the chocolately bits and less of the coffee/charcoal ones. We'll see.

The bad news is that I ended up with a stuck mash. The mash was too thick and too deep because there was just too much malt. The bottom got so compacted that I had to stir it up halfway through the mashing process. Now I've got a lot of trub to get rid of in the primary, but I did end up with decent efficiency.

Batch size
10 gallons
Original Gravity
1.056/ 26.6° Plato
(1.113) measured
Final Gravity
1.030 / 7.6° Plato
(1.026 to 1.032) estimated
67.7 IBU / 36 HBU
ƒ: Tinseth
77° SRM/ 152° EBC
Mash Efficiency
10.8% ABV / 8% ABW
367 per 12 oz.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
43% 18 0 American Two-row Pale 37 1
19% 8 0 Gambrinus ESB Pale 37 3
9% 4 0 Special B Malt 30 180
5% 2 4 Chocolate Malt 34 475
5% 2 0 Victory Malt 34 25
5% 2 0 Aromatic Malt 36 26
4% 1 8 Dark Chocolate Malt 24 525
3% 1 4 Brown Malt 32 65
2% 1 0 Flaked Barley 30 2
2% 1 0 Roasted Barley 25 300
2% 0 12 Extra Special Malt 32 130
2% 0 12 Melanoidin Malt 37 20
42 4


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 4.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
boil 30 mins 2.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
boil 15 mins 2.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0


Safale US-05 Dry Yeast with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

Ten gallons of stout bubbling along nicely in two 6-gallon carboys. After this ferments a good long while, I'll barrel-age it, then bottle. This is too big a beer for me to keg. I'm guessing it may be drinkable in a year or two.