Kicking off another Woodeforde’s kit today, using the Fermzilla for the first time. Approximate procedure:
Wash & sterilise Fermzilla, bucket, spoon, etc while kit tins are warming.
Empty both tins into bucket, add 3.5 litres boiling water. Mix.
Add two near-freezing 5 litre bottles of Tesco Ashbeck from garage, one more bottle from the spare bedroom that’s around 12 ℃. Top off with cold tap water to get around 20 ℃.
Pour everything into the Fermzilla. Not easy, next time use a large funnel.
Take OG reading, pitch yeast, go clean up.
This kit contained two sachets of “69 Premium” yeast with no weight markings, but my new scales confirmed them to be 7g each, which seems a bit stingy. I thought those small sachets were normally 10g? Also included are two bags of hops; 100g Cascade and 100g Amarillo, which I’m supposed to add on day 4 of fermentation. Again, a bit stingy. I’ve been bitten once or twice before by hopping according to instructions, so I might play it by ear and try to dry-hop slightly later.
Then there’s the issue of pressure fermenting. Lagers and pale ales are said to be OK when fermented under pressure right from the start since pressure prevents the release of esters, but those are more desirable the darker a style gets, so I’m going to just do the last couple of days under pressure. Again, this depends on how quickly the beer ferments and my ability to judge the remaining time, so we’ll just have to see.
When fermentation is done I’m going to take the Fermzilla out to the garage for cold-crashing (it’s 2 ℃ out there right now) and then I’ll make a call as to whether or not I’ll leave the beer in there until serving – in which case I’ll remove the trub via the bottom bottle – or whether I’ll do a sealed transfer into my shiny new Cornelius keg. Either way I’ll have to wait for the sediment and hops to fall to the bottom so that they don’t block up the floating dip tube. One idea might be to employ one of my new straining bags, but that could get stuck in the butterfly valve prior to dumping the trub and might be more trouble than it’s worth. Need to sleep on that one.
Been a long afternoon, but I’ve finally taken a step further towards true brewing with my first extract attempt, fingers crossed this works out.
Tesco Ashbeck bottled water, around 9 litres
1.2 kg Mangrove Jack’s light LME (i.e. 1 whole bag)
20g Cascade hop pellets (planning to dry-hop one FV later)
10g ale yeast
Add half the LME to large pot, top up to 4 litre mark with water
Heat to around 90 ℃ while stirring
Throw in 6g Cascade hops and start 45 minute timer, maintain temperature
When 15 minutes remain, add another 6g Cascade, maintain temperature
Fill fermentation vessel with 2 litres ice cold water
Hydrate 5g ale yeast according to manufacturer’s instructions
When the timer’s done, turn off heat and mix in the rest of the LME, transfer immediately to FV
Top up to 8 litre mark with hot / cold water to achieve pitch temperature of 18 or 19 ℃
Stir vigorously for 2 or 3 minutes, take OG reading – should be around 1.044 according to calculator
Add the hydrated ale yeast, fit lid and airlock, leave at 18 or 19 ℃ for 10 days
Having a plan is all very well, here’s what really happened. These notes were made on-the-fly and I’ve not had a chance to tidy them up, maybe I never will. Bit tired right now.
Noticed that Brewer’s Friend recipe shows Cascade as having 7% Alpha Acids, but mine are labelled 4.9%. When I changed the percentage on BF I was too low, so I altered the 45 and 15 minute drops to 10 g each instead of 6 g each.
Hops added bang on 90 ℃ and the brew turned green and threatened to foam, but settled down again with stirring
Going to pitch 2 x 3g Ale Yeast instead of 5g since I’m using two Ashbeck FVs instead of a single vessel. Instructions say to soak yeast in clean container at fermentation temperature using previously boiled water. Wonder how much yeast I’ll lose since it’ll be a sticky mess instead of an easily pourable sand.
Added the remaining 600g LME at the 5 minute stage, temperature dropped to 88.5 ℃ but recovered for the remaining time.
Prepped cool bucket with about 2 litres cold water, poured in boil – 94.6 ℃. Topping up to 8 litres took a whole 5 litre bottle of Ashbeck, did I really lose more than a litre of water in boil?!?
Even with 5 litres of near-freezing water we’re still too hot at 39 ℃ so I’m dropping this bucket inside a larger one filled with cold water.
15 minutes on and I’ve only dropped 10 ℃. Off to prep the yeast.
Digital scales not registering anything as I add the yeast to the two ramekins of previously boiled water, presently at 19℃. Poured most of a 10g bag into one before I realised, tried to correct by emptying the remainder of the bag into the other ramekin and then visually evening it out, which is nearly impossible since it’s a grey sticky mess now. Just going to hope for the best and cross my fingers – 5g of yeast (give or take) per 4 litre FV is quite a lot.
Bucket’s still at nearly 30 degrees, way too hot for the yeast. Removed it from the ice bath and decanted into the two 5 litre FVs, the latter of which may have received more hop sediment than the first despite stirring beforehand. I used a funnel instead of the bottling wand, at least both brews are well and truly aerated now. Individual ice baths while I measure SG from the sample collected from the bucket before separating.
Gravity comes in at 1.044 – bang on as predicted by the recipe builder. Impressive!
Yeast pitched at 21 ℃ and not too difficult, since most of it had dissolved completely in the ramekins and could be poured into the FVs via a funnel, rinsed out using a splash of wort and the turkey baster.
Both vessels are using my new airlocks secured with grommets rather than the glued-in bungs I used last time, but at least one of them is leaking as I can see the levels equalise on both sides when I squeeze and release the sides of the bottle. I’ll have a go a drilling some fresh tops tomorrow to see if I can get a better seal for the grommets.
Get better at preparing / estimating amount of cold water needed – shouldn’t need to chill with another vessel when there’s a dedicated freezer and plenty of bottled water available.
Get some decent scales! Need to be able to measure hops and especially yeast with better accuracy. (done)
Kicking off another kit from Woodforde’s, this time it’s a dark red ale, possibly named after some sort of boat. There’s two cans of wort and two sachets of yeast, very little to go wrong here. I’m going to use Tesco’s Ashbeck bottled water throughout, see if I can get the gravity values and fermentation times closer to what they should be than I did with Wherry.
The 3.5 litres of boiling water on wort were followed with some almost-frozen bottles of Ashbeck from the garage, bringing the pitching temperature to 19.6 ℃. Initial gravity came in at 1.048.
Decided to start on one of the cider kits I picked up on my last Brew2Bottle order, a cheeky Blueberry number from Mangrove Jack’s. Using one of these pouch-based kits is just as easy as using one of Mangrove Jack’s beer kits, it just contains liquid syrup instead of ready made wort, and you need to add brewing sugar (not included) and sweetener (included) according to taste. There’s also a printed instruction sheet, a sachet of cider essence and a sachet of yeast, the latter of which you add once you have 23 litres of syrupy gunk in your FV between 18 and 28 ℃.
Getting the brew started is pretty easy; just add 3 litres of boiling water to the syrup from the pouch, pour in a kilo of brewing sugar, then top up with cold water to the 23 litre mark. I was using cold water which had been chilling in 5 litre Tesco mineral water bottles, and it turns out that just one of these is enough when you’ve almost-frozen it to crystallisation. On my first attempt I used three of these bottles and had to supplement the rest using boiling water again, because I lowered the temperature too much.
As it stands I pitched the yeast at 21.5 ℃ after getting an OG reading of 1.048, then stored the vessel at 22.3 ℃.
First go with a Mangrove Jack’s (MJ) kit (instructions) and I’m pleasantly surprised how much easier those pouches are than the cans used by other manufacturers; just squeeze the contents into a FV, add 1.2 kg of light malt enhancer (from the same manufacturer) and then 3 litres of boiling water. Mix, then top up to 23 litre mark with cold water. Chilling 3 x 5 litre bottles of Tesco’s Ashbeck English to near-zero temperatures in the outdoor freezer was very effective, dropping the overall temperature of the filled FV down to 16 ℃ on this attempt. OG sampled at 1.054 and straight in with the included 10 grams of M44 US West Coast yeast. Job done, no drama.
From the vendor: Inspired by Brew Dog’s Elvis Juice Citrus IPA, this contains great citrus hop notes combined with grapefruit aroma to give an abundance of fruit on the nose. Sharp and tangy, the grapefruit complements and enhances the citrus character of the hops, making it refreshing, clean and crisp on the palate.
ABV Approx: 5.7%
Colour: Vibrant Gold
Yeast: M44 US West Coast
Dry Hops: Simcoe & Cascade
Brewing Sugar Required: Mangrove Jacks 1.2kg Pure Malt Enhancer
In the beginning I couldn’t work out how the combination of 2 litres of water with 500g sugar, 1 litre to flush out the can, plus 5 litres cold water would make a 9 litre brew (and was about to turn to the internet for help) when it occurred to me that the actual can contents would make up the missing litre. First oops.
The second oops happened after I had combined everything and started cooling to 20℃ for yeast pitching: I’d forgotten that I specifically purchased some spraymalt with this kit in order to improve the mouth feel and general quality, but now I’d mixed everything together, including the full 500g sugar. Too late to replace some of the sugar with spraymalt as planned, so I went for the third of three options from the instruction page:
Add one pack of Spraymalt to any standard recipe in addition to the 1 kg of sugar suggested with the beer kit. This will not only boost the malt flavour but also brew a stronger beer without destroying the beer’s natural character. The beer brewed will be approximately 20% stronger than the standard recipe. Hopped Light again is ideal, improving the hop flavour of the final beer as well as the general richness.
Option 3 of 3: Spraymalt in addition to the suggested sugar
I tried to dissolve the spraymalt in a little water before adding it to my rapidly cooling wort, but this just produced a hideously lumpy amalgam similar to a mixture of sourdough and baby puke. Nothing really for it but to throw this in and hope for the best, though I did measure SG before and after, 1.072 and 1.083 respectively.
At the risk of adding one more oops to today’s efforts, I just noticed that the above option 3 of 3 calls for adding the spraymalt to the included 1 kg of sugar, but my kit only called for 500g of sugar, which of course I added. So now I’m left with a very lumpy wort containing all the sugar it needs, in addition to enough spraymalt to raise twice the quantity of wort by 20%. Can’t wait what this does to my Tripel, though I guess the one saving grace is that at just over 9 litres there’s plenty of headroom in the 23 litre bucket. I pitched the included yeast (Misty Wit Ale, 8g) and sealed the lid, leaving the bucket in my office at 20 ℃. Airlock activity started pretty much straight away.
Bit of a shaky start to making my first Belgian style brew, hope she turns out all right.
Been meaning to kick this one off for a while now but the brewery is slightly higher in temperature than this (and Wherry’s) preferred range of 18-20 ℃, so in the end I decided to keep it in the office. Initial ingredients:
3 kg malt extract
Small sachet (10 g ?) Goldings Hop Powder
Small sachet (10g ?) 69 Yeast Premium
Water to 22.5 litre mark
Usual story of emptying the cans into the bucket, adding hot water, and mixing before topping up with cold. I added the hop powder halfway through topping up with cold, getting it nicely mixed into the brew.
Although the instructions didn’t say anything about letting it cool before adding the yeast, I allowed it to get just below 25 ℃ before pitching. OG = 1.045.
Kicked off my first Tiny Rebel brew, a tasty Welsh red called Cwtch. OG = 1.048 @ 20.0 ℃, room temperature 23.1 ℃. Decided to go for this one (and leave Wherry and the Honey Stout for later) since Cwtch likes to ferment at the same temperature range as Razorback and Evil Dog. According to the included instructions the OG should have been 1.045, but oh well. The first bubbles started appearing in the airlock around 19:00. Initial ingredients: