I prepared the usual starter yesterday in preparation of tomorrow‘s brew day, but it didn‘t work out. Not sure what went wrong, the only thing I can think of is that the Crossmyloof Ale yeast (which I‘d previously only used dry) was either out of date (label says June 2022, so 7 months away) or that I did something very wrong.
Brewfather‘s recipe called for 800 ml water with 79g DME, which was duly boiled up (along with a nib of Lipohop and some yeast nutrient) and shoved onto the stir plate overnight. By next morning there was a small amount of foam despite the stirrer, which was a good sign, but when it came to switching off time by mid afternoon (just under 24 hours on the plate, 24 hours to go) there was no foam at all, and over the next couple of stationary hours it started to separate, just like a dead yeast thing. I‘m not using this.
Having evicted and bottled Allotment Riot from the fridge, I poured away the starter and am making another one, identical recipe. This time I‘m going to leave it on the stir plate for just a couple of hours until the yeast is dissolved and the wort aerated, then allow it to ferment at room temperature overnight and throughout the brew day. I think this may be the best approach since I‘ve heard that Crossmyloof can get going very quickly, so if I‘ve got another dud at pitching time tomorrow then I‘ll chuck in the 1.5 packets of US-05 I‘ve also got hanging around.
The Next Day
Fermentation appears to be well underway now, with a good head of foam atop the starter, though not yet what you’d call High Krausen. On agitating the starter I knocked the foam back considerably, and after the second stir it looks almost dead, with a darker layer of liquid starting to separate out on top. It has started to ferment again, but I’m going to say that CML (Crossmyloof) Ale yeast is sensitive to stirring / shaking, and only needs minimal time on the stir plate.
There’s no sign of life from the starter that’s been spinning for a day or two on the stir plate at 21℃, so I’m going to throw it in and see what happens. The other bucket (with dry-pitched M02 around the same sort of time) has been bubbling away nicely, so I’m not sure what’s up with this starter. If nothing happens I’ll dry-pitch some more yeast on top, but let’s give it a couple of days.
First the good news. Despite pitching the starter before it had reached peak Krausen – and going straight for 5 PSI – the brew really took off and by next morning there was a very healthy head in the Fermzilla, probably 4 inches and not far off the top of the vessel. At that point I increased the spunding valve to 10 PSI and two days later I had 100% attenuation, equal to about 5.3% ABV via the Tilt Pro.
But then something weird happened: the gravity started going back up. I’ve never seen this before. I’m now on day 11 and we’ve gone from 1.008 on day 3 to 1.014, equal to 71% attenuation and just 4.6% ABV. Could this be an infection or other contamination? My hygiene has been good as usual (though I bet everyone thinks that) and I’m wondering if the brew would have reached peak as far as it did had there been any contamination.
Could it be something to do with the starter? I used a ridiculously small quantity of WLP518 and pitched before the starter was 100% ready, but once again, I had it down to 1.008 in 3 days so … WTF?
One thing you can never rule out is that there’s some stray Krausen stuck to the floating hydrometer and affecting the reading as it breaks down, but while the first generation Tilt was partially susceptible to interference in this way I’m using the Pro version, which is significantly bigger and has never had such issues in the past.
Since I’ve nothing to lose either way I’m going to leave this ferment to ride out and will cold-crash as planned in 3 days time, and then I’ll measure the gravity using my ‘manual’ hydrometer before kegging. As always, fingers crossed.
As Twisty Listy has just run out and freed up a line in the Kegerator I thought it’d be rude not to hook up Yeti and sample a small thimble. The result: great taste, almost no carbonation. To be fair I’m using my most aggressively throttled line, with just a small section of 3/8 at each end connected by about 3 feet of 3/16, but that should just result in less foam in the glass, not less carbonation altogether.
Brewfather reckons 10.6 PSI @ 5℃ for a week to get to 2.3 vols and she’s been sitting at approximately 11 PSI for 6 days, so in an effort to get her ready for the weekend I’ve turned off the other 2 kegs (both variants of Thirst Scratch) at the manifold and cranked Yeti up to 30 PSI. Let’s give it 12 hours.
Another busy brew day from 07:00 to 14:30 today, starting my fourth ever all-grain brew and first ever Vienna Lager. Also using Kveik for the first time, specifically WLP518 Opshaug Ale Yeast. This time around I paid more attention to my vessel volumes at various stages and used the internal markings instead of a measuring jug to gauge initial fill. I’ve still not sussed out where I’m losing so much liquid but at least this time I waited until the end before adding more water to make up numbers, decanting just over two litres of cold tap water into the FV. Hope that’s not going to be a problem later …
Brew Day Notes
07:00 – Start heaters. Water was added last night to 28 litre mark using B40 internal scale, malt pipe fitted, chiller drained. All other pipes filled.
07:40 – Start dough-in
07:51 – Dough-in finished, but need to pat things down slightly to get all grains covered. Ready for 20 minute mash rest at 07:55, internal level reads 34 litres. Mash temp 60℃, MLT target temp 68℃.
08:15 – Rest finished, initial stir, levels now just below 34 litres. Nice consistency, slight foam building on stirring.
08:40 – First stir. Turn the centre pipe off while stirring so as to allow levels to equalise for first measurement. Looks like we’re about 33 litres now, so a loss of maybe 3/4 litre loss since mash start? Seems high – probably just slight level difference between inside and outside malt pipe. Mash temp after stirring is 69℃ in places, reducing MLT target to 65℃. Lid has been on for the whole mash (including rest) apart from occasional level checks.
09:00 – Second stir. Still looking good, levels slightly lower again after a few minutes with the centre pipe off – maybe 32.6 litres on the internal scale? Mash temp 65.1℃.
09:10 – 15 minutes left to run including mash-out, and since the liquid is flowing freely I’m not going to stir again. Previous sparges have been over too quickly for my liking, so I’m going to let the grain bed settle for the last 15 minutes and will try using aluminium foil on top with a couple of holes to distribute the sparge water flow evenly, ideally slowing it down in the process.
09:23 – starting to heat mash to 75℃. The mash tracker has stopped and offered a ‘continue’ button, so I guess I press that when I’ve reached target temperature. Heaters are in Mash (PID) mode so capped at 50% in case there’s grains to scorch the elements, but temperature is climbing very slowly.
09:34 – Taking too long, creeping up 0.1℃ at a time, currently at 70.4℃. Going full manual and increasing heaters to 60%. The pump is recirculating inside and outside, wort looks clear, hopefully anything in there won’t be scorching the heaters due to the extra 10%. Temp increasing slightly faster now. Maybe a neoprene jacket would help at times like this?
09:44 – Mash-out temp 75℃ reached, starting timer and reducing heat back to mash mode to see if it can actually hold this temperature. Noticed a change in foam with some lighter, bigger stuff being produced, probably as a result of the temperature increase. Protein?
09:48 – Halfway through mash-out, temperature holding just fine with heaters on auto and sitting at 20%. Mash temp perfect 75℃ – same as kettle. Wort wonderfully clear now.
09:54 – Mash-out complete. Turning off centre pipe in order to measure levels. 5 minute rest to equalise and I’m at 32.25 litres, having lost maybe 1.5 litres during mashing. SG is 1.047 at 60.9℃ but at 60.9℃ – equals 1.063. Getting ready to sparge.
10:15 – Tin foil deployed, starting sparge. Holes punched in using a fine pin make water distribution easier across the top of the grain bed, but I’m not happy with the slap-dash process of shaping two halves of tin foil – feels like it takes long time during which the grain bed is draining without new water being added, and I’m worried about the impact this will have when water does start to flow. One thing that tin foil does have going for it is the way you can adjust water distribution above the grain bed by pushing down in certain areas or adding more holes.
10:40 – Damn, forgot to time the exact finish of the sparge. Anyway, the grain bed has been draining and seems to have given up all its juice now. Internal scale reads 29 litres but to be fair that’s with the malt pipe raised, and previous measurements had it lowered. BF thinks I should be at 30.94 litres after sparging, so I’m two litres short. Gravity at 59℃ is 1.042 which equates to 1.057. Pre-boil gravity should be 1.051 so I think I can safely add 2 litres and re-measure, but I’m going to leave it until later and do a fermenter top-up instead.
10:50 – Malt pipe removed, steam hat and condenser fitted, heaters set to 100%. Currently at 68.8℃.
11:25 – Hot break came and went around 96℃ with quite a bit of foam. 60 minute additions are now in, boil timer running. Had enough time while approaching boil to empty and rinse the grain pipe and have a sandwich. Next stage is 15 minute boil additions in 38 minutes. Noticing for the first time a small amount of bubbles on the way to the pump. Is that normal?
11:48 – Still boiling just fine. I’m alternating between 65 and 70% heating power since that keeps things going without going too vigorous or stalling, so I should minimise boil-off while not getting a high-tide mark of hops that add little value. Opshaug Kveik has been warming to room temperature for about 90 minutes now, and I opened the packet and transferred it to a sanitised glass jar ahead of pitching.
12:07 – 15 minute addition Protafloc added. I also cut in the chiller for sanitisation (pumps paused, then heater to 100%) and judging from the difference in levels there’s about 2.25 litres in the chiller which I’ll recover at the end, but which I can’t measure for post-boil volume with the pumps off. Maybe should have done that before cutting the chiller in – can’t change much in 15 minutes thereafter. On a positive note, when the temperature briefly dropped as a result of adding the chiller the bubbles on the R/H tube also stopped, which means they’re a result of boiling rather than a leak of some kind.
12:11 – 10 minute additions are in; 2.5g yeast nutrient and 22g Hallertauer Mittelfrueh.
12:21 – End of boil, heater off, pump to 25% for a little whirlpool while things settle down enough to read the levels. Steam hat off and to one side, lid back on. Looks like we’re at 26.8 litres hot, plus the 2 litres in the chiller. Wow. This might call for a second FV. Let’s see how things look when I start to chill and transfer.
12:27 – Chiller on, pump to 25%. Tank temperature 95.1℃.
13:06 – Emptied into FV, 24 litres including scavenged contents from chiller. Post-boil gravity 1.062 / 21.6℃ = 1.062. BF was expecting 28.54 litres and 1.056, so I’m topping up the FV with 2 litres otherwise I’m looking at 7.2%! Added just over 2 litres, bringing volume to 25.5 and OG to 1.058. This will be 6.2% which isn’t too bad. Not sessionable, but not bad.
12:21 – added one level teaspoon Opshaug Kveik, just stirred it in as per David Heath video. Seems ridiculously small amount. Rest in jar back to the fridge, fit airlock and floating dip tube to Fermzilla, deploy blue Tilt. Once it’s at 50% attenuation I’ll top-crop some yeast and will swap the airlock for spunding valve.
14:30 – Clean-up finished. Not having aerated the wort today (didn’t seem necessary with so much foam) saved time as I had less to clean, CIP kit worked very well. Brew is in the ferment fridge wearing heat belt dialled to 25℃, presently it’s 21.5 and no signs of activity yet. Hope that was enough yeast, just doesn’t seem possible.
19:40 – Absolutely no activity yet. Isn’t Kveik supposed to be up for it from the word go? Double checked my quantities against the video, and yes, one shallow teaspoon does 25 – 30 litres of wort. So I’m adding another 1.5 teaspoons, just in case the yeast isn’t as healthy as that in David’s YouTube instructions.
23:00 – Still nothing. The new yeast has joined it’s sibling in the bottom of the Fermzilla’s trub jar. If it’s still the same by morning I’m racking to a new FV and pitching US-05. Reducing temperature by 1 degree in preparation … and the desperate hope that it might start something. Good night, Vienna.
A late session today saw me putting away the S&B cider 7 days after starting primary. The flavouring was added 24 hours ago so it’s too late to worry whether or not I should have left it for another couple of days, time to get it packed.
I started by taking another gravity reading out of habit, although I suspected it might be invalid with all that flavouring in there. Wasn’t disappointed – she registered 1.013 which I’m taking as additional non-fermenting sugar (i.e. the sachet of pear and strawberry flavour concentrate) combined with no further fermentation of what was already in there. I’m therefore recording the reading of 1.013 on this log but using 1.011 from yesterday as the final gravity, producing 5.25% ABV against an expected 4.7%. Had we made it all the way to 1.007 we’d be looking at 5.78%. Yikes!
With the sample taken it was time to set up the racking cane / auto syphon as usual, and while doing so I decided to do two things differently this time: fill one of my small kegs and carbonate with CO2 in order to see if it impacts the taste compared to primed bottles, and try out my new Blichmann Beer Gun on its first bottling run.
I cleaned and sanitised a 5 litre mini keg but didn’t bother purging it with Star San and then CO2 as I would while doing a closed transfer from the Fermzilla, as there seemed little point in trying to keep oxygen out when racking from an open bucket. Instead I filled it to within a couple of inches from the top using the bottling cane and then cranked it to 30 PSI before popping the PRV a couple of times (may as well get some oxygen out) and putting it in the fridge next to my other 5 litre keg containing the last of my Bure Gold. Time to try out that Beer Gun.
A Small Error
A cursory glance at the new gadget showed it came with a black disconnect, so I started by racking the remaining cider into a clean 19 litre Cornelius keg using the still connected bottling cane. It looked to be around 17 litres and since I was almost out of carbonation drops I decided to weigh two of them, the recommended dose per 500ml bottle, and multiply the resulting 5g by 17 to tell me how much dextrose I need to add. That was around three hours ago, and it’s only now that I’ve pulled up the Beer Priming Calculator in order to see if my quantity of priming sugar tallies with Brewer’s Friend that I’ve spotted the mistake: there’s two bottles per litre not one. I’ve therefore added half as much as I should have, which explains why Brewer’s Friend recommends 160g of Dextrose for a fruit lambic – about the closest to cider in my opinion. Oh well, looks like it’ll be a slightly sparkling cider this time around.
That was three hours ago and I carried on in blissful ignorance, adding the sugar to the Corny keg as the bucket emptied. Once I had all the cider I was going to get from the bucket I capped the keg and hooked up the gas, again popping the PRV a couple of times in order to dump some oxygen from the top of the vessel. The beer gun was quickly taken apart for inspection and sanitation, and I saw the first problem: the gas line was designed to screw onto a male regulator post, which I didn’t have. I did have a John Guest T-piece and some more beer / gas line, so I used that instead of the gas line that came with the beer gun. Not ideal since it’s quite stiff and made the process unnecessarily cumbersome, but I was determined to try it out.
Ready … Aim …
Once back together the beer gun worked very well, letting me purge oxygen from each bottle before filling it to the top and purging some more while drawing out the nozzle, then capping straight away. I think it’s a very slick tool and once I’d cranked up the pressure to around 15 PSI I was able to fill bottles at a good rate, though doing this with partially carbonated beer straight from the Fermzilla might require a bit more experimentation as there’s bound to be some foam, whereas the cider was totally placid. Might end up using a fair bit of gas though, so perhaps reserve it for ultra-hoppy beers?
Then again, this is the first bottling run following my first kegging session, and I’m inclined to agree with everyone who sings the benefits of kegging thanks not only to the superior taste of draught, but also due to the simplicity and speed of the kegging process compared to cleaning bottles, filling them while watching out for oxygen, capping them, and washing up afterwards.
And if you cock up the carbonation it’s as easy as cranking up the regulator.
Winding down for the evening with something sweet, and another 22a with absolutely no fizz. This time it’s a full-size 500 ml flip top bottle, and although there was a slight schnick when it was opened the nectar just sits in the glass like apple juice. Well, not exactly like apple juice, because it tastes a bit hoppy and alcoholic, but it’s not fizzy like it’s supposed to be.
Is it the bottles, or the primer? I wish I had a variety of vessels to compare, but something tells me I’m just sitting on a crate of flat flip-tops. Oh well. The landlady will like it since she hates fizz, but then again she hates sour too. More for me.
Having spent the larger part of the day pleased with myself at how well this brew’s progressing, I just read a chapter on Extract Brewing in the Big Book of Homebrewing (Christmas gift) and now I have cause for concern, because I transferred the steeped hops to the fermentation vessels when I probably should have filtered them out.
Which of course makes sense. Why would you bring that redundant gunk along for fermentation when you’ve already extracted all the oils that you want? Can’t believe I didn’t question that point in the instructions I blindly followed. I’m tempted to syphon both brews to new vessels (it’s not as though I’m short of 5 litre Ashbecks) but I’m probably going to do more harm now through oxygenation than I’ll do good by removing excess trub. Oh well, a lesson for next time perhaps.
On the positive side, the book agrees with my decision to add a portion of the LME near the end of the boil, which is nice. To be honest I have no idea why I did that, other than to make it easier to mix with the diluting water.
Enjoyed the taste, but there was no carbonation at all. Flat. I’m wondering if it’s a case of the wine yeast that was added on December 5th having reached it’s maximum alcohol tolerance and not being able to digest the carbonation drops in order to produce CO2?
The fact that was made a FG of 0.996 leads me to believe there was still something going on in there, and besides – doesn’t wine regularly get to 14% ABV? Don’t know enough about that process (or this yeast) to make any assertions, but I’m keeping it up there as a possibility. Two consecutive flat bottles should rule out leaks at any rate.
I’ve been concerned at the lack of airlock activity on these two recently started ciders, and wondered if the strong smell of CO2 in the brewery might be due to gas escaping around the side of the lid or past the airlock grommet. My suspicions weren’t helped by the fact that I’m using two buckets which are different from all the others, and that there’s a sticker on each lid recommending the application of petroleum jelly to the grommet and around the rim of the lid in order to get a good seal. I hadn’t done this because I don’t want to run the risk of contaminating my brew with Vaseline, and because the lids and grommets appeared to fit tight enough, though a little warm water did escape from the edge of the lids during vigorous sanitisation.
On lifting the lids to check the state of the brews I was greeted with a slight foam of small bubbles, with more rising around the edges to the point where a distinct fizz could be heard. Satisfied that fermentation was happening I taped over the join between one lid and the bucket all the way around, but still the airlock remained static. Very strange. Could it be the grommet after all? Maybe I’ll try some silicone sealant before using those vessels for the next brew, and hopefully I’m not going to get any contaminants via the potential leaks before this one’s finished. Fingers crossed. 🤞
When I took delivery of my first batch of 500 ml crown cap bottles I immediately started playing around and noticed that quite a lot of them allowed the caps to be spun under force, no matter how hard I leant on the capping tool. They didn’t twist too easily, and in most cases I’d have to use a tea towel to stop my hand from getting chewed up, but eventually most of them did spin and I began to worry that I might end up losing carbonation once I started using them in earnest. To that end I bottled Razorback in a variety of vessels; the purchased crown-caps, some recycled 500 ml bottles capped using the same tool (most of which didn’t spin) and a couple of clear 500 ml flip-tops for good measure.
I’ve since opened some of the brews that were bottled with those crown caps and purchased glass bottles, am pleased to report that I’ve had no flat beers at all, and those that I’ve tried to spin several weeks after bottling have been solid as a rock. So the demons are put to bed?
Almost. When I bottled Honey Porter and Wherry 36 hours ago I left them in the brewery with the heating cranked up at approximately 26 ℃ since the instructions just called for “somewhere warm” for two days. The cider which was also in there was moved out at the same time, so the only things in there are the Porter and Wherry. And it smells very strongly of CO2 just like it did when I added yeast to the latest batch of cider. Question is, can I attribute the smell to leaking crown caps on Wherry and / or Honey Porter, or am I just smelling the remnants of my biggest bottling session to date? For what it’s worth I’ve tried twisting some of the bottle caps from those two recently bottled batches and they all seem tight, despite most of them being slightly loose still just after bottling.
Making this entry in case I come to find some flat bottles amongst these two batches weeks down the road.