Tag Archives: started

Sep 202113Mon

Another day, another brew. This time I’m using up some odds ‘n’ sods in my inventory without really aiming for anything specific, other than a light-ish ale of 5% ABV or less.

Also being used up is a tiny amount of Opshaug Kveik that was scavenged from a previous brew and has been sitting in my fridge for an indeterminate number of weeks. I made a starter from this but it hadn’t really taken off by the time I wanted to pitch, so I left the wort in my fermentation fridge for a few hours until I decided whether to chuck in the starter as-is or pitch some dry yeast instead. In the end I threw in the Kveik and I’m glad I did, because by next morning it had gone ballistic!

Sparge Success

Back to the brew day itself, and everything went pretty much according to plan. I used the new sparge attachment from Brewtools during the sparge stage and it worked flawlessly, giving a nice even spread with just the right amount of flow. The only difficulty was getting the mash hat off the centre pipe in order to fit the sparge tool, a process that took a lot of wiggling. Maybe some more silicone grease will help next time. At any rate I don’t think I can use the sparge tool for mashing as well, the holes are very small and likely to block up and those six arms will probably get in the way of my mash paddle.

New sparge attachment from Brewtools working well

Learning Opportunity

For the past couple of brews I’ve been filling my entire system with mash water on the evening before brew day, including the chiller coil and link pipe, then reading the levels off the internal scale with the malt pipe fitted. I’m now wondering if that’s the right thing to do. Yes, there will be slightly less chiller loss if the chiller is full of water rather than air, but that water will dilute the wort (and therefore skew boil efficiency) as the chiller is cut in 15 minutes from the end of the boil. Maybe I should leave the chiller and link pipe dry when adding mash water and just accept a higher loss in that respect than trying to fudge things by adding water to the chiller and plumbing, which isn’t going to be represented by the internal scale since that has no idea what’s connected to the kettle. Need to look at the numbers and revisit this.

Raw Brew Day Notes

08:30 – Heaters on 100%, water at 19℃, target 68℃.

08:57 – Heaters to mash mode, starting dough-in

09:03 – Dough-in complete, starting 20 minute timer for the mash rest.

09:23 – Mash rest complete, time for first stir and to start circulating through the centre pipe. First a quick look at levels: around 26 litres. Brewfather predicted 25 litres.

10:04 – Just under half an hour left to run on this mash, and it’s been a bit sticky here and there, requiring constant adjustment of the flow balance and some stirring. I’ve thought about fitting my new sparge attachment which is supposedly also suitable for mashing, but I have a feeling that the holes will get blocked up quickly and that it’ll be in the way of my mash paddle when stirring. Can’t wait to try it out during the sparge though.

10:34 – Mash complete, raising temperature to 71℃ for a mini mash-out while waiting for the levels to settle. Post-mash gravity 1.059 (1.042 @ 62.8℃). Looks like about 24 litres in the kettle prior to sparge.

10:44 – Starting sparge with new hat fitted … HLT temp 73℃. Really nice level of control, good water distribution. HLT ball valve open all the way, pumps at 20%, occasional pause as water builds up on top of mash.

10:52 – Sparge complete, letting her drip for a while with heaters now at 100% approaching boil.

11:00 – Malt pipe removed, pre-boil volume 26.5 litres (BF: 28.86) pre-boil gravity 1.049 (1.027 @ 70.8℃, BF: 1.043). Looks like I’ve lost a tad more liquid during mashing and bumped up the gravity instead. Let’s see how that looks after boil.

11:23 – Added 1/4 tsp Lipohop while stirring the hot break in, keen to see if it makes any difference as it has when I use it for the starter. Temp 98℃.

11:26 – Boil tracker started, added 11.7g Chinook, reduce heater to 60-65%, steam hat on.

12:08 – 15 minute boil additions in, getting ready to include the chiller coil for sanitation.

12:28 – Boil complete, chilling to 80℃ for hop-stand and final additions. Steam hat removed.

12:32 – Starting 20 minute hop stand, added 20g Chinook. Post-boil kettle volume is 24.5 litres (BF: 26.46) post-boil gravity 1.049 (1.028 @ 68.4℃, BF: 1.047). I’m guessing that the water in the chiller has absorbed some of the gravity points gained as a result of mash losses, so next time I may leave the chiller empty when filling the mash water.

12:57 – Starting to chill ahead of FV transfer.

13:38 – Transfer finished, but the starter’s not ready yet. I’ll put this in the fermentation fridge at 23℃ for a couple of hours while I decide whether to pitch the starter anyway or throw in a couple of packets of dry yeast instead. Deploying blue tilt while I’m here. Looks like around 19 litres only in the FV, which is a shame. Ton of trub in the kettle though.

15:00 – Clean-up finished.

21:00 – Pitched yeast starter at 23℃ 

Recipe

Malts (4.65 kg)

  • 1.25 kg (26.9%) — Crisp Clear Choice Malt ® Ale — Grain — 5 EBC
  • 1 kg (21.5%) — Thomas Fawcett Pale Malt, Golden Promise — Grain — 5 EBC
  • 1 kg (21.5%) — BestMalz Pilsen Malt — Grain — 3.5 EBC
  • 500 g (10.8%) — Crisp Extra Pale Maris Otter® Malt — Grain — 3 EBC
  • 500 g (10.8%) — Simpsons Rye Malted — Grain — 4 EBC
  • 400 g (8.6%) — Simpsons Caramalt — Grain — 36 EBC

Hops (51.7 g)

  • 11.7 g (15 IBU) — Chinook 11.8% — Boil — 60 min
  • 20 g (14 IBU) — Chinook 11.8% — Boil — 15 min
  • 20 g (4 IBU) — Chinook 11.8% — Aroma — 20 min hopstand
Aug 202106Fri

Not the greatest of brew days. Everything was going well until it was time to start the transfer to my SS Brewtech Bucket, when the flow became a dribble after barely a cup of wort had gone across. I decided that the inline Bouncer filter was to blame, or rather my use of too fine a mesh, when I noticed that I’d fitted the filter the wrong way around – not that this should actually matter in terms of flow.

Regardless, I swapped out the mesh for a larger one and corrected the filter’s orientation, but there was still nothing coming out so I decided to remove the filter altogether and risk the odd bit of trub in my FV. When still nothing came out I switched the lower left-hand valve to recirculate, and still nothing. Looks like the pump was jammed. With no means of pumping my wort to the bucket via the chiller it was either a case of using the racking cane and muslin filter, or I could just remove the centre pipe and set the right-hand valve to ‘drain all’.

It had been a long day so I went for the latter option, knowing that I’d get a tremendous amount of trub as a result but at least there would be practically no wasted wort, even if I’d have to spend additional time chilling. In hindsight I should have swapped the bucket for the Fermzilla at this point, since I could have used the collection jar to remove some trub once it had settled, but that’s hindsight for you.

I transferred to FV and got about 21 litres against my planned 15, so I don’t mind if I need to leave 2 or 3 litres behind. Good job I can rotate the dip tube on this vessel. The bucket went into the ferment fridge dialled to 22℃, which was the temperature of my patiently waiting yeast starter. Took a couple of hours to get there, then I pitched my yeast and dialled in 19℃ for optimum fermentation. Strong stream of bubbles by next morning tells me the yeast at least is happy – let’s just hope there are no off flavours from all that trub.

#wisdom

  • don’t bother with a filter when transferring to FV
  • don’t risk stopping the pump on high gravity, sticky brews
  • if expecting lots of trub, use the Fermzilla

Brew Day Notes

08:20 – Started dough-in, water level at 25 litres with chiller and link pipe filled.

08:35 – Dough-in finished, heaters to 65℃ for mash rest. Needed quite a bit of tamping to get everything wet.

08:59 – Starting mash. Internal levels measured at 30 litres. Wort is light at first but quickly begins to darken.

09:09 – First stir, check for dough balls. All good. Definitely seeing less material making its way through the new screen than before, but flow also appears restricted and stirring doesn’t drop the level in the malt pipe as much as with the old mesh. Sucking air pretty soon, need to cut back on the centre pipe flow.

09:39 – Second stir, and this time I’m seeing the levels in the malt pipe drop nicely as the mash is agitated. Cut flow to centre pipe for a minute or two and we have balance, so I check the levels: 29.5 litres on the internal scale. On resuming flow I’m able to use the centre pipe more without the levels dropping, which should help to get better mash efficiency. 15 minutes to run.

09:59 – Mashing complete, heating to 75℃ for mash-out. One objective here is to make the viscosity of the mash thinner by raising the temperature so that sparging is easier, but we’re not sparging on this recipe. Still, it may allow the mash to drain better which will help minimise losses.

10:04 – Switching to manual heater control mode since mash mode can’t shift the temperature above 72℃. Need to be careful here to avoid 77℃ and with it off-flavours from tannins. Heaters at 65% for now.

10:06 – Starting mash-out at 75℃, heaters back to mash mode to see if they’ll hold it.

10:16 – Mashing complete. Quick check of levels and pre-boil gravity: 29.5 litres and 1.069 (1.049 @ 67.4℃) against Brewfather’s predicted 1.077. Seven points short isn’t great.

10:22 – Raising malt pipe for drain, heaters to 100% for boil. Boil volume is 19.75 litres against Brewfather’s 20.5 which means I’m short on volume and gravity. Balls.

10:49 – Boil tracker started, 60 minute additions in.

11:18 – 30 minute additions are in. 

11:33 – 15 minute additions in, quick stir to release high tide hops, cut in chiller to sanitise. It’s already filled so won’t impact levels, which I’ll measure at the end.

11:50 – 5 minute additions are in. Plumbed in the transfer filter while circulating through chiller.

11:54 – End of boil, start chilling. Temperature 99.3℃ in tank. The yeast starter is at 22℃ so that’s roughly what I’m aiming for in my chiller return temperature before I start transfer.

12:10 – Return temperature is down to 25℃ so I’m starting transfer now. Quick check on the levels shows an optimistic post-boil volume of 17 litres / 36.6℃ (tank temp) against Brewfather’s 18.13. Probably about 1.5 litres short.

12:30 – Nightmare. Pump seems to have seized, possibly as a result of the transfer filter clogging, being in the wrong way round, then the larger grade replacement mesh clogged too. In the end I had to remove the filter, centre pipe and transfer using gravity, getting a load of crud into the FV as a result. Still, looks as though there’s no trub / chiller loss with a fermenter volume of 21 litres versus Brewfather’s predicted 15 litres. Post-boil gravity 1.072 (1.070 / 27.3℃) against predicted 1.088 – double balls. Be lucky to scrape 8% ABV at this stage. Not pitching yeast into FV at 29.5℃ so off to the ferment fridge until you calm down, with a quick blast of oxygen on the way so that at least I can clean everything.

13:50 – Cleanup finished. FV temp 27.8℃.

18:00 – FV has been at 22℃ for an hour or two, time to pitch the yeast starter and throw in a Tilt.

Jun 202130Wed

I’ve wanted to try brewing a lager for a long time now, but was always hesitant to try because of the lengthy lagering process involved. Recently I saw a recipe on Brewfather from Gavin Ellicott (YouTube’s Gash Slugg) for Czech Lager using a familiar fermentation method, and it looked pretty easy. Time to have a go.

Brew Day Entertainment – Revising for my Amateur Radio exam

Brew day went pretty well, and for the first time ever I was close to getting the numbers I had hoped for, though if I’m honest I did cheat a little bit by rounding up my mash and sparge water quantities (21.79 and 9.75 respectively) to the nearest litre, and then tilting the HLT at the end of the sparge because that stage once again passed by very quickly.

Mistakes were Made

The only fly in the ointment was an error I made when transferring the wort to my Fermzilla. My usual process is to switch on the counterflow chiller at the end of boil / hop-stand, monitoring the return temperature instead of the tank temperature. Returning wort from the chiller is much cooler than the tank and typically reaches transfer temperatures of around 20 – 25℃ when the tank is still at 50 or 60℃, depending on the temperature of the mains water used for chilling and the speed of the pump. Once I saw that the return temperature was 23℃, the same as my yeast starter, I turned the upper left-hand valve to send the chilled wort to the Fermzilla via my newly fitted Bouncer filter instead of sending it back into the kettle. Or so I thought. I actually got the setting wrong by 180° which resulted in the return flow from the chiller being shut off entirely, and instead started draining the kettle into my FV.

I should have noticed that the flow was quite high despite the moderate pump setting, that the return temperature was slowly climbing, and that the Fermzilla was warming up, but I was too focussed on the clarity of my wort and making sure that the Bouncer filter didn’t leak because I hadn’t tested it since hastily fitting tribute-clamps. Once I realised my mistake it was too late, and I’d filled the FV with wort at 45℃, a good 20℃ more than I’d wanted. I thought about pumping it back into the kettle somehow and repeating the chilling process, but then I remembered that the recipe I was following also didn’t use a chiller, though that was due to water shortages in Australia at the time. In the end I decided to put the FV into my fridge and chill it to pitching temperature gradually instead of worrying about it too much.

On a Positive Note

The Bouncer filter worked quite well and didn’t leak, which means my PTFE tape did its job. I’ll be using it again next time round, but may switch to the finest filter. Using the medium grade filter didn’t catch as much trub as I was hoping, but that could well have been to the 30 minute hop-stand / whirlpool causing everything to settle in a rough cone rather than leaving it in suspension.

Brew Day Notes

Mashing

07:35 Start mash-in. Using 22 litres mash water and 10 litres sparge water.

07:45 Mash-in complete. Looks pretty thin compared to my previous brews.

08:05 Mash started, first stir. Looks thin in terms of grain density, but its surprisingly cloying and there’s no chance of getting the flow to ‘fan out’ just yet. Mash volume looks like 25 litres, exactly as Brewfather predicted.

Milky Mash

08:45 Second stir. Wort seems almost clear before, during stirring it’s full of suspended particles but not as milky as it was at the start. Seems to flow better too, though I’m still not able to fan out without sucking air.

09:04 Third stir. No drama, bit milky afterwards.

09:13 Sucking air, reducing flow inside centre pipe. Not stirring again – I want a nice slow sparge.

09:21 Mashing complete. Turn off centre pipe but leave pump and heaters on, let it settle for a few minutes in order to measure mash volume and gravity: 25.75 litres, 1.063 (1.045 @ 63.5℃)

09:36 I’m raising the malt pipe for a bit of vorlauf to get rid of the last few floaters while my sparge water heats up. No reminder from Brewfather this time, must check the settings.

Sparging

09:43 Ran vorlauf until elements are exposed, wort runs clear and no floaters. Starting sparge now that level’s an inch above grain bed. No tin foil hat this time.

09:49 Sparge complete, letting it drain for a minute or two while I take another gravity reading. I tilted the HLT a little towards the end as I always seem to be short of water and my sparges don’t last as long as I’d like. Volume now looks like 28.75 litres, which isn’t too bad against Brewfather’s predicted 28.86. Pre-boil gravity 1.046 (1.030 @ 61.5℃) against Brewfather’s predicted 1.044. Happy with that.

Boiling

10:25 Boil started at 99℃, 60 minute additions in, steam hat fitted.

11:30 Boil finished, all additions are in. Reducing to 80℃ for hop-stand.

60 minute additions

11:35 Starting hop-stand tracker, 30 minute additions in. Going to use this time to try and rig up some tri-clamp fittings for the Bouncer filter.

12:02 There’s 5 minutes left on the hop-stand and levels are 26.5 litres at 79.6℃. (Brewfather predicted 26.45 – nice) Bouncer filter successfully adapted, plumbing into transfer line.

12:09 Hop-stand over, start chill. My yeast starter is at 23.9℃ (supposed to be no higher than 22 – oops!) so that’s where I’d like the chiller return temperature to be before I start transfer.

12:17 Check post-boil gravity while I wait: 1.047 (1.028 @ 65.1℃) which is just one point below Brewfather’s 1.048. Happy with that.

Fermenting

12:23 Return temperature now reads 22.7℃ so let’s start transfer. This time I’m going 100% to out-pipe, not making that mistake again!

12:39 Oh shit, I’ve cocked up again. Incorrect setting of the upper left-hand valve meant that instead of feeding my chilled wort to the fermenter, I was draining the hot kettle directly and running the pump against a blocked chiller. What an enormous tit! The increasing return temperature should have given it away, but I was too engrossed in my lovely clear wort. Oh well, the original recipe also said ‘no chill’ so I’m hopeful she’ll be right, Marv. Into the ferment fridge and dials set for 22℃, presently 43.8.

13:55 Cleanup finished, fridge at 40.8℃

22:00 Chilled in ferment fridge to 22.1℃ from 40.8℃ in 8 hours. Nearly had another heart attack on opening the fridge – volumetric contraction had put a large dent into the Fermzilla because I neglected to pressurise it beforehand and had the lid on airtight. Idiot. Popping PRV fixed it, let’s hope there’s no damage to the vessel’s ability to function under pressure. The wort was aerated for a minute using bottled oxygen, deployed blue Tilt Pro, then pitched my yeast starter and fitted spunding valve. I’m leaving it fairly low until fermentation gets started, will then dial up to 10 PSI. Fermentation schedule calls for 5 days at 13℃ so I’ve dialled that into the Inkbird and set her off. Fingers crossed!

Jun 202108Tue

After my recent Stout and then the Vienna Lager I’m ready for something lighter, so I put together this recipe from scratch in Brewfather, loosely aiming for an American Pale.

Brew Day Notes

06:45 – Begin mash-in. Heaters have been on since 06:00 from 17℃, water filled to just below 24 litre mark last night, everything wet except chiller coil. Maybe next time I’ll work up the courage to use the timer function so that I reach strike temperature (68℃ today) while I sleep, but for now I’m happy to get mash-in complete and start the 20 minute mash-rest by 06:55.

5.45 kg of Malty Goodness

Mashing

07:17 – Start mashing. Observed level just below 30 litre mark.

07:44 – First stir done. Mash looks a little looser than usual, ramping up the pumps to 60%, mix lever roughly at 4 o’clock, seeing if I can maintain a fan above grain bed without the dip-tube sucking air.

07:55 – Circulating exclusively outside the malt-pipe for a few moments to get a measure of the levels – looks like 28 litres. That’s slightly pessimistic as the level inside the malt-pipe is maybe half an inch higher, but I don’t want to waste valuable mashing time waiting for those levels to equalise. Second stir, back on with the wort fan. 25 minutes to run.

08:17 – Third and final stir done, fan still good but slightest hint of whirlpool above the dip tube. Wort seemed almost clear before stir, and although a bit of haze was disturbed from the bottom of the malt-pipe it settled out very quickly and became clear again. Looks like this will be another lightning sparge.

08:20 – Target temperature increased to 75℃ in preparation for mash-out. I’ve built 15 minutes into the recipe in order to achieve this, let’s see how close I am.

18:36 – Bang-on 75℃ after 15 minutes, what a guess!! Mashing out for 10 minutes then gravity reading, vorlauf, sparge. Wort looks lovely and clear.

08:56 – Post-mash levels 24 litres indicated. Post-mash gravity = 1.063 (1.052 @ 49.8)

Sparging

08:58 – Start sparge, HLT temp 75℃. Very difficult to maintain any kind of evenness despite tin foil hat and constant juggling of HLT valve / pump.

??:?? – Bollocks, forgot to time the sparge again!! Didn’t feel like very long anyway, and I’m still not sure about the distribution of water on top of or inside the grain bed. Kind of feels like no matter where I try to channel it using the punctured tin foil and gentle encouragement of pooling, it just runs through the mash which then dribbles for a while but ceases again quite quickly. Pre-boil gravity 1.049 (1.031 @ 64.9) against predicted 1.046 – 3 points up!

Still not 100% happy with this tin foil method

Boiling

09:15 – Malt-pipe out, heaters to 100%, manual control.

09:31 – Malt pipe cleaned, temperature in kettle at 94.1℃. With gravity samples returned (hey, it’s pre-boil and every drop counts) and expansion I’m looking at approximately 30.5 litres, which is near enough my planned pre-boil volume of 30.94.

09:35 – Foam on top. I think in the US they call this the hot break, whereas over here the hot break is the protein that floats around in the wort like egg soup. Maybe they’re one and the same, but at different stages, who knows. I try to give it a stir but that only seems to increase the foam … and lower the apparent wort level by half a litre. Weird. Steam hat and condenser fitted

09:41 – Boil tracker started, we’re rollin’! Turn on condenser feed, 60 minute additions in.

10:21 – 20 minute additions in, all looking good. Fermzilla floating dip tube fitted to lid, start sanitising the aeration kit. Yeast and nutrient already collected from fridge, acclimatising to room temperature nicely.

10:28 – 15 minute additions in (Protafloc and yeast nutrient) starting circulation through chiller to sanitise, heaters to max.

10:31 – 10 minute additions in, starting to boil again after a slight thermal hit from the chiller. Need to keep an eye on this and not let boil get too intense otherwise the recently added hops will crust at high tide and not contribute. Forgot to measure levels before cutting chiller in, but now it’s in I’m looking at around 27 litres, which doesn’t sound as much of a loss as with previous brews. From memory I think the chiller is around 2 litres, so I’m putting this down as 29 litres post-boil.

10:40 – Heaters off, measure level before turning on chiller feed: 26 litres hot. 

10:50 – Tank temperature down to 61℃, return from chiller 29℃. Getting ready to plumb in the Fermzilla.

Constant pump speed produces funky patterns

Transfer

11:13 – Transfer to FV is complete, but despite watching my chiller return temperature I’ve ended up with 46℃ in the Fermzilla. Maybe it’s because I was using the pump at steady 5% so as not to disturb my pyramid of kettle trub, and regulating the flow to my FV using the upper left tap halfway between returning to kettle and pumping to Fermzilla. Instead of pumping to kettle it must have been pushing wort from the kettle and the chiller into my FV. Oh well. Wort is aerated and the lid with dip tube is resting on top, ready for pitching as soon as it gets cool enough. I can’t see this taking much more than an hour. Let’s see how the values stack up, maybe I’ll do a chiller top-up with some iced water to hurry things along.

11:16 – FV volume is very approximately 23.5 litres, OG 1.056 (1.051 @ 36.3) which means I’m 2 points ahead of Brewfather’s estimate of 1.054 but 1.5 litres behind my target fermenter volume. Great news all round, except for the cock-up with the temperature. Hopefully standing around for the next X hours won’t affect the brew too much – next time I’ll have a couple of litres of slush on standby.

12:40 – Cleanup finished, Fermzilla in the Fridge minus yeast, heading for 25℃ but presently at 35.6.

21:11 – Temperature down to 21.4℃, pitched a teaspoon of Opshaug Kveik originally top-cropped from Good Night Vienna and then revived on the stir plate before being stored in the fridge for a while. Spunding valve has been fitted and will be dialled to 5 PSI as soon as the needle moves.

Jun 202105Sat

Kicked off the second of two kits that I purchased towards the start of the year, and unlike the other one this is will be kegged and enjoyed rather than given away. I’m also using it as a test bed for some top-cropped WLP518 Opshaug that was liberated from Good Night Vienna on 26th May.

The brew was started in the usual way according to instructions, adding 3.5 litres of boiling water to the contents of both tins, which were then rinsed out by half-filling with more boiling water. A teaspoon of Wilko’s yeast nutrient was also chucked in at this stage. Adding 3 five litre bottles of Tesco Ashbeck with semi-frozen slush brought the temperature of the 25 litre SS Brewtech bucket down to 20.2℃ at which point I pitched a small heaped teaspoon of yeast from a jar that had been allowed to almost get up to room temperature for approximately 40 minutes from the refrigerator. OG came in at 1.047, so slightly higher than my previous two runs at this brew which were both at 1.044.

May 202125Tue

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 …

Vital Statistics from Brewfather

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.

Mashing

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.

Sparging

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.

Sparging with Tin Foil Hat

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. 

Boiling

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.

Pitched Yeast

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.

From David Heath’s Kveik User Guide

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.

Vienna Lager, 7 hours after pitching Kveik
May 202111Tue

Not much to add really, OG came in between 1.043 and 1.044, and I’m using a plastic bucket because these are going to be bottled and given away at a shooting competition, not carbonated and put in a keg. Yeast pitched at 21.5℃. No temperature control because the ferment fridge is busy finishing off Yeti, not sure whether I’ll cold crash and rack to another FV before dry-hopping.

Logging with blue Tilt Pro to cloud here.

May 202106Thu

Another brew day, another first: Imperial Stout. This high ABV brew took a bit of jiggling to get it to fit my equipment profile and in hindsight I’m not sure that my take on the original Brewfather recipe was totally viable to begin with. Once I’d dialled in EBC values for locally available fermentables and applied my hardware profile I was right up to the limit of the B40s capacity, and that’s with no sparge water.

Still, it’s got to be worth a punt, and if anything the lack of sparging should be one less thing to worry about, right? Hmm. I don’t know why, but this brew day felt like hard work. For a start, the grain bill was 7.2kg and I had trouble getting it all into the malt pipe for the initial 20 minute mash rest. Consequently dough-in took a little bit longer, and once I was ready to start mashing there was no question of trying to achieve the usual fan of water from the sparge hat – the grain bed was just too high and there was no room to play with. Instead I set the pump for about 50% power and fed as much wort through the centre column as I could, backing it off when the level approached the holes where the handle connects to the malt pipe. I stirred every 10 – 15 minutes and that allowed a bit more worth through the grain bed, but as things slowed up again very quickly it was a case of constantly managing the balance between inside and outside the malt pipe.

The wort flowing out of the sparge hat was wonderfully dark and emitted a deep, rich aroma which permeated the brewery comprehensively, sticking around longer than that of previous brews. There was also quite a bit of detritus in the wort and I later regretted not fitting the Bouncer filter when transferring to FV – must get that sorted for the next run.

Once again I lost a lot of liquid during mashing and then yet more than planned during boil. Gravity was down too, so I need to sit down at some point and figure out if and where I went wrong with my hardware profile, or where I’m going wrong in my procedures. I’m writing this just over 24 hours from clean-up because I don’t want to leave it as long as last time, but still haven’t sat down and compared all of my measured values to those that Brewfather predicted, save for the all-important ABV, where I’ll be lucky to pull 8% against the predicted 9.6%. Not gonna be very imperial, this Stout!

Continue reading
Apr 202127Tue

I wanted to revisit one of my first ever brews and have something I can share this summer, so it made sense to break out a popular one: Woodforde’s Wherry. There’s not much to say about “brew day” other than wow, aren’t kit beers quick and easy? Following my forays into all-grain brewing it makes a refreshing change to accomplish with one can opener in less than 5 minutes what I’d otherwise spend 5 or 6 hours doing, not to mention the clean-up operation afterwards.

A couple of tweaks from my last kit brew:

  • I used a mixture of iced water and regular tap water to make sure I arrived at my target temperature and fermentation volume at the same time. No Tesco Ashbeck this time around, couldn’t tell the difference which either means we have good water or my taste buds are shot. Nil desperandum.
  • Instead of stirring the wort in order to introduce oxygen I used my aeration kit, dangling the stone in my chilled wort while pumping in pure O2 for a couple of minutes until there was a 2″ head on the bucket.
  • Deployed a newly arrived Tilt Pro (blue) and set up cloud logging so that I can keep an eye on fermentation progress without having to open the fermenter.
  • Placed the bucket into my newly commissioned fermentation fridge and dialled the Inkbird to 19 ℃. There’s a discrepancy between the readings from the Tilt (1.032 / 19.2 ℃) and the actuals (1.045 / 18.9 ℃) but I’m more interested in the progress graph than absolute values.
Apr 202119Mon

My first all-grain brew to my own recipe was conceived less than 24 hours ago when I decided that I needed to try reusing the yeast slurry that I saved from Twisty Listy last week. I couldn’t save that for the upcoming Yeti imperial stout because the style is too different, so I thought I’d do a quick & dirty pale ale from whatever’s left in the inventory once Yeti’s ingredients have all been earmarked. As usual I’m too late in the day to write this up fully now that I’ve cleaned everything (to be fair I only started at 14:00) so I’m pasting the brew day notes in verbatim below and will tidy it up tomorrow.

One Week Later

Well, I guess ‘tomorrow’ is more elastic than initially thought. Truth be told I’ve been trying to post-rationalise some sense into the weird loss of wort but I just can’t figure it out. On my last brew I had to add 4 litres of water to the fermenter to get back up to my target post-boil volume. On this occasion I seemed to be 3.5 litres short after sparging, but I after topping that up I decided to add another 1.5 litres, because I wasn’t happy with the (again) short sparge and because I took a guess and felt that 5 extra litres in total would put me in the ballpark for my pre-boil gravity, adding some welcome volume while staying inside the kettle’s limits. That bit was right and I’m just one point short at 1.043, with post-boil being three points short at 1.045. I’m not too concerned with either of those, but I need to sit down properly one day and try to figure out why I’m always about 3-4 litres off my target volume after mashing. Maybe a side-by-side comparison of my adjusted hardware profile against the B40 default in Brewfather is the place to start.

Continue reading
Apr 202102Fri

My second ever AG brew day, and this time it went much more smoothly than the first, with one tiny exception: I was 6 litres down after the boil and decided to add 5 litres of Ashbeck in order to get OG and fermentor volume into the ballpark. As always when I’m making these entries at the end of a long brew day, I’m too tired to post-rationalise the figures into some sort of sense, so I’m going to reward myself with a first taste of Golden Wave (still technically conditioning, but what the hell) while I ponder some salient points:

Summary Thoughts

  • Six litres. WTF?
  • I measured my system’s capacities and boil-off loss two days ago, they’re very well aligned with Brewfather’s defaults. That’s good.
  • Fermentor top-up was probably the right thing to do, even if it was a staggering 5 litres. Apart from getting me exactly to my target volume, would adding that sixth litre have also given me my target OG? Feels like it. I’m one point high and one litre low @ 1.038 / 24.
  • Hope that expensive White Labs liquid yeast is fit for the job. One of the two gel packs which accompanied it on the 3 day journey over to us was punctured (but did a great job chilling the rest of my order) and I’m worried that the two sachets may not have been kept at exactly 4 ℃ as they claim to need.
  • Hope the Tilt Pro is not going to take on water. I had some minor signs of ingress after the last brew, nothing major, just past the seal and up the thread, and it seems to be OK after applying some silicone grease to the seal. Pressure tested OK yesterday at 20 PSI in water for 12 hours, but still. Worried.
  • Good brew day. Mash had a great consistency and felt like I got everything from the grain that I needed. Sparge still very quick at six minutes, I can probably stir the mash a bit less towards the end and worry less about compacting the grain bed into a stuck sparge, instead filtering out more grain particles.

Brew Day Notes

  • Heating mash water from 13 ℃ mains temperature to 66 ℃ strike temperature takes same amount of time as it takes to make and eat 2 slices of toast. Impressive. Add chemicals once it’s there.
Let’s do this …
  • 10:53 Start dough-in
  • 11:03 Dough-in finished, start 20 minute timer for rest before mash proper. Only the slightest touch was needed to get all grains covered in water. May as well pull out the aeration kit since that’s behind the MLT and will be difficult to get to later.
  • 11:22 mash timer started, give it a stir and start gentle recirculating through centre pipe + around malt pipe. Mash feels much looser than last brew, really easy to stir and no lumps. Little bit of foam though – due to chemical additions? Acidulated malt? No idea. Core temp 67.4 ℃ – looks like setting the thermostat at 68 in anticipation of insulation wasn’t necessary – decreasing to 66.
  • Stir after 10 minutes, still light with no tight spots. I’m playing around with different pump speeds and trying to maintain a little fan of sparge water from the centre pipe without letting the level drop too low outside the malt pipe. All good fun. Got the lid on between stirs in order to make cleaning up easier – wort splashes are sticky and travel further than you’d think!
  • 35 minutes to go. Not much happening, just stirring once every 5 – 10 minutes, trying to keep the level outside the malt pipe within 2 inches of the inside, mostly succeeding. Only sucked in air briefly once when it got too low, good job I’ve the dip tube higher than the elements. Each time a stir is coming up because the level gets too low I notice that the clarity outside the malt pipe is great, much better than at any other point. I’m thinking of performing a mash-out before sparging to see if I can get the clarity back and raise temperature a little ahead of the boil. Who knows, if the viscosity increases I may even have a smoother sparge but, then again, I could end up compacting the grain bed to a point where it will be more difficult to get sparge water through.
  • 3 minutes to go, one last stir before increasing temperature to 77 ℃ and mash-out. Started to suck air a moment ago, now there’s foam on the wort. Hope it’s due to the air and not something more sinister.
  • 12:53: mash timer up, setting temperature to 77 ℃. Might take a while to get there as I’m in Mash heater mode and the elements are limited to (I think) 50% to stop scorching.
  • Bit more air being sucked now and then, flow adjusted so it’s barely going through the malt pipe in order to keep the dip tube fed. Outside level obviously low, but also clear. The bit of wort that is going onto the grain bed has particles which I know wont make it out again, but it’s also going to compact the grain ahead of sparging. Hmmm …
  • 13:03: Pump temperature 72.1 ℃, mash at 70.4 ℃. There’s now just a dribble going through the grain bed in order to stop the dip tube sucking air. At least the outside wort is clear!
  • Sparge water standing by at 77.5 ℃, raising the malt pipe prior to sparging.
  • Bit of vorlauf to wet the grain bed while I get a wort sample from on top since I can’t get the baster down the side.
  • Sparge started 13:12, only brief burst from pump then wait while inch on top of grain bed recedes.
  • Much more confident about this sparge than the last one. Water on top of grain bed is clear, drains just fine. Discover it is possible to get a fan with pump around 50% and HLT tap open, nearly get face burnt off.
  • 13:18: sparge water out. I won’t tilt the HLT to get the last drops since it was calibrated with dead space. Damn, that went fast again, six minutes!! And to think I’m always worried about a stuck sparge. Leaving it to drip for a while, might as well start recirculating the wort (without using the centre pipe) and get the heaters back on while I measure the pre-sparge / post-mash sample: 1.047 @ 45.6 ℃ which converts to 1.056.
  • According to internal scale I’m a touch below 28 litres, maybe 27.75, malt pipe removed. Post-sparge sample was taken, waiting for it to chill before attempting a reading. Scared as hell my glass baster would shatter as I touched 77 ℃ wort. All good. Heater back in auto mode, climbing to 90 ℃ with pump whirlpooling at 30% while I fit the steam hat and condenser.
  • Limit of 90 ℃ in Auto mode reached after 12 minutes from 77 ℃, some slight thin white foam but no boil yet. Switching to manual, giving it 100%.
  • 13:56: 100 ℃ indicated, some signs of boiling but you wouldn’t call it ‘rolling’ just yet. Pump to 25%, condenser switched on, timer started.
  • 14:00: Now it’s a rolling boil! Scaling power back down to 85%, see if it maintains. IIRC the Brewfather default equipment profile contained a comment about boil-off having been measured at 70%, so we’ll see if we can get down to that and still maintain a boil.
  • 14:10: Still boiling as it was 10 minutes ago, reducing power to 75%.
  • 14:20: Still boiling perfectly well – not quite as ferociously but boiling, indicated 100 ℃. Reducing to 70%.
  • 14:30: 60 minute boil additions are in, still boiling well but the output from the condenser is cooler which means there’s less steam being produced, so less boil-off. Looks like I’m at about 26.5 litres on the internal scale, for what that’s worth. Fermenter target volume is 25 litres and IIRC my hardware profile has 2.4 litres trub / chiller loss, so this should be interesting. Then again, the internal scale didn’t align with my measured values too closely when I updated the standard hardware profile, so I’m not going to worry too much about it now.
  • Pre-boil gravity 1.038 @ 23.5 ℃, converts to 1.039. Brewfather thought I was going to get 1.033 so I’m 6 points ahead – nice!
  • 15:12: Added my 15 minute boil addition, 1/3rd tablet Protafloc.
  • Started circulating through chiller in order to sanitise, initially with l/h valves to 50% chiller, 50% short re-circ, then 100% chiller once the bubbles had gone. Heaters back to 100%.
  • Temperature (pump) briefly dipped to 96.5 ℃ but climbing slowly. Pump at 15% since we just want to sanitise the chiller and not chill the wort just yet.
  • Heaters back down to 75% as a rolling boil is achieved moments later.
  • With the recirc / transfer pipe temporarily out of use while I sanitise the chiller I take the opportunity to fit my aeration setup to the upper l/h valve.
  • 15:28: heaters off, time for the 0 minute boil additions. Steam hat off too, and wow, it looks like we’re down to 23 litres if the internal markings can be believed. I do hope not, was aiming for 25!
  • Whirlpool started 15:32, tank temperature 96.6 ℃. I don’t know how long to leave 0 minute boil additions, but the name suggests that there’s no boiling to be done once they’re in. But I’m still expecting some isomerisation of hop oils since we’re above 77 ℃. Not sure what to do. Let’s give it 5 minutes and then start chilling.
  • 15:39: starting chill. We’re at 89.4 and there’s still quite some steam coming off.
  • 15:53: return temperature is down to 23.2, tank 34.9. Time to start filling the Fermzilla with aerated wort.
Adding oxygen via Brewtools inline aeration kit
  • Holy crap! I’ve just 19 litres but 1.048 OG when I should be looking at 1.037. That means I will end up with 5% ABV!
  • Adding 3 litres of Ashbeck brings it to 1.042 (4.5% ABV) so I decide to go the whole hog and tip in the remaining 2 litres, making for a total of 5 litres fermenter top-up and 1.038 OG.
  • 16:35: Pitched both packs WLP001, deployed Tilt, retire to safe distance.
  • Clean-up finished 18:14. Big shout out to the Hozelock / TC34 adapter that came with the steam condenser and allows you to hook a standard hosepipe connector up to any 34mm Tri-clamp port. When I’m not using it to drive the condenser’s cold water jet during boil it comes in very handy for flushing out the chiller, pump, and all plumbing with clean water.
Mar 202125Thu

Another extract brew, this time starting out in Brewfather by picking a style and seeing what’s possible with the same amount of LME as my previous two extract brews. The only differences this time around are a departure from Blond Ale (18A) to British Golden Ale (12A) and the addition of some steeped grains before the boil.

The Stage is Set

As usual there were some unplanned events throughout the afternoon and plenty of opportunity for thinking on the fly. Raw notes are below; I’ll highlight any noteworthy bits and will insert pictures as they were taken, this time using my Fujifilm X100V.

Actuals versus Recipe – values from Brewfather

Brew Day Notes

  • Weighed out ingredients, almost forgot the yeast!
  • I didn’t have any Centennial hops as planned, these must have been added to the inventory when I ordered them and they’ve not been delivered yet. I need 5g for dry hopping so I substituted that for Citra instead. Can always change that back if I get my shipment in time.
  • Plan to use two nylon strain bags, one for steeping and another one waiting in the FV when I transfer. Give them a thorough clean and then boil for a few minutes to try and get rid of the awful plasticky smell, but it’s still there. Hope the brew won’t be affected.
  • Very difficult to get temperature right for the steep. I’m aiming for 75 ℃ but the new thermometer with remote probe I’m using is all over the place, reading between 50 and 90 ℃ depending on where in the steep I poke it. Being paranoid I add some more cool water in order to avoid tannins, steep at around 72 ℃ for the best part of half an hour while preparing the FV. Later figure out that the thermometer is actually very accurate and has a high refresh rate.
  • Grains finished steeping after 30 minutes, lift the bag out and give it a gentle squeeze.
  • Pour grain juice into big saucepan, add 600g of LME, top up to 4.89 litres (give or take). It’s occurred to me that pre-boil volume is shown as 4.89 and then there are the 60 minute additions of LME and hops, with boil volume still 4.89. I take it that includes the 60 minute additions of hops and LME.
  • 97 ℃ and seeing some foam, about to boil and start timer. Is this the ‘hot break’?
  • Figured out that I had left the initial 600g of LME as a 45 minute addition, not a 60 minute addition. Originally the recipe was for 45 minutes, but I didn’t think that was long enough to isomerise the hops properly so I scaled it to 60, forgetting to change the timing of the LME addition. Oops. Updating the recipe on the fly causes IBU and BU/GU sliders to move quite far to the left, so I move them back by increasing the 5 minute addition of Cascade from 5g to 23g – was going for 20g but there seemed little point leaving 3g in the bag.
  • A nice rolling boil turns into a small boil-over, costing me a little bit of wort loss. Arse – I was hoping to accurately measure 60 minute boil-off rate and update the equipment profile, which I now can’t do unless I expect to have a boil-over each time I try an extract brew. Day’s turning into a bit of a nightmare!
  • Thinking ahead a bit, I’m not sure how to best get the temperature down from flame-out to 80 ℃ for the hop-stand. Maybe throw some ice cubes in and subtract those from the fermenter top-up volume? At least that should be a constant @ 8 litres total.
  • Clean the steeping bag while the boil is going on, and it’s a right pain with bits of chaff getting stuck everywhere. In the end I resort to rinsing it both sides twice then taking it outside and flicking it for 5 minutes, occasionally picking at the bits of crap.
  • As I fit the second sanitised strainer bag to the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket it occurs to me that there’s little point filtering out crud now when I plan to dry-hop later, but I press ahead with the plan anyway. At least the boiled hops won’t be in there to have an effect on the yeast, if they even would.
  • Added 5 minute hop additions and LME, and boil volume now looks like 5 litres bang-on. (so I couldn’t have measured 60 minute boil-off anyway) Bit of a worry, since the recipe said post-boil volume should be 3.39. Maybe I should have boiled with the lid off most of the time? I now need only 2 litres of fermenter top-up, not 5, if I am to stick to the original 8 litres. But I have capacity for 10. May decide which way to go once I’ve done the hop-stand and taken a gravity reading.
  • Stirred in 2 trays of ice cubes, crossed my fingers, and for once I’m exactly where I need to be at 80.3 ℃. Yes!! But it’s going to take more than 2 litres of iced water to get this to pitching temperature.
  • Post-boil gravity is 1.066 at 70.5 ℃, which calculates to 1.089.  Brewfather was expecting 1.109 so I’m only a little way off… by 20 points.
  • Transfer to FV and wow – there’s a lot of crud in that strainer! Glad I pulled it out. Top up to 8 litres approximately and measure OG at 1.043 / 36 ℃ which translates to 1.048.
  • The Brewfather thinks I should be at 1.041 so I’m topping up the fermenter to the 9.5 litres mark, using all my iced water but still only getting to 32 ℃. Gravity now reads 1.038 which calculates to 1.041, exactly what I need. Excellent! But I’ve diluted the various fermentables to 9.5 litres, which I still need to reflect in the recipe somehow. Not to worry for now, I’m fitting the air-lock and getting this into the fridge ASAP so that I can pitch yeast at 20 ℃.
  • I’ve been clearing up for half an hour and the brew has only dropped one or two degrees. The fridge is cold but air is a poor thermal conductor, so I’m doing something unorthodox and putting the stainless brew bucket into an iced water bath. It’s a shameful way to treat such nice piece of kit, but I have to get this down from 31 ℃ soon.
  • Down to 21 degrees in 17 minutes – impressive! I’ve rigged up my air stone to one of the oxygen cylinders from my inline aeration kit, and bodge the join (waiting on parts) with gaffer tape. Seems to hold, so I’m going to give this wort a taste of oxygen before pitching the yeast.
  • Aeration stone is a really cool piece of kit with a surprising amount of back-pressure. Adding pressure via the regulator I was worried my gaffer tape wouldn’t hold, when the stone suddenly sprung to life and started giving my brew a nice foamy head. I let it run for maybe a minute before pulling it out, then pitched half a packet of Cross My Roof yeast (same amount as last time) onto the foam at 20.6 ℃ before putting the lid on and setting it aside. Finished at 18:30.
Mar 202120Sat

After many, many weeks of assembling kit, reading books and forums, ordering more kit, etc, I finally made it through my first ever all-grain brew day, starting yesterday after lunch and finishing up after nine o’clock. I kept a running log so that I could later dissect what worked and what didn’t, but first a bit about the beer.

Kona Big Wave Clone

I chose this one because I’ve always had a soft spot for a golden ale, and recent experience with Bure Gold reminded me just how incredible this style can be when it’s fresh on tap. The recipe I adapted is actually a clone of Kona’s ale which somebody else had designed, I just changed it very slightly to round off some numbers (e.g. 5g of Citra instead of 4.6g) once I scaled it up to 25 litres for the Fermzilla. Click here for the PDF recipe.

The Brew Day

By the time I started yesterday I’d already rehearsed the whole day several times so there weren’t many surprises, which was great. I noted down observations and took photos throughout the nine hour (!) ordeal and instead of writing those up into an epic account I’ll just paste them below for reference, drawing out some salient points that I need to work on.

The Good

Following a lot of research I was prepared for trouble in one or tow areas, but it actually went smoother than expected. One of those was the sparging, specifically the control of a continuous flow of sparge water to maintain an inch or so above the grain bed.

Sparging

The B40Pro’s sparge hat dribbles water down the centre column at low flow and doesn’t really fan out until the flow is increased, by which point you’re putting too much water onto the grain bed and risk compressing it, thereby reducing the permeability and making things worse. The situation is further complicated by the way in which the sparge hat goes from dribble to fan – let’s refer to the transition as ‘fan threshold’ or FT for simplicity.

Increasing pump speed from 0 to 100% with the pump switched on will show you the FT quite suddenly, and by the time the flow of wort leaves the centre column and spreads out it does so with enthusiasm, splashing hot liquid onto the edge of the malt pipe and necessitating immediate throttling back to contain the flow. It’s a messy procedure not well suited to indoor brewing.

On the other hand, you can set the pump speed to a midway value with the pump still switched off, then switch it on abruptly instead of increasing it gradually. Using this method you’ll find the FT at a lower pump speed than if you were to increase it slowly, but you do run the risk of switching the pump on at too high a speed and now you’re soaked in hot wort. This FT sweet spot seems to be affected by the height of the malt pipe (hydrostatic head) and probably by wort composition and temperature as well, so you really do have to get a feel for it and play around.

In the end I wasn’t able to find a continuous flow rate that maintained one inch of sparge water above the grain bed while also distributing that water sufficiently, and resorted to switching the pump on as soon as the first grains became exposed, and off again when the inch was reached. I did this at a rate just past FT (third image above) so that when the water was running it was well distributed. The approach worked really well and I can’t see any issues since the grain bed was neither allowed to dry out or excessively compacted, so until somebody points out an oversight I’m going to chalk this one up as a success.

Boiling

After the sparge it was time to boil, and I was nervous because I’d seen plenty of references to boil-over, where the kettle suddenly and without warning goes mental and you end up with a sticky mess. My nervousness wasn’t helped by the fact that I had to do this in manual mode, because automatic mode tops out at 90 ℃ and has no way of telling when the wort boils anyway.

In the end I needn’t have worried. It took quite a while to get up to a rolling boil despite the heater on 100%, then I was able to maintain the boil by reducing power to 85% and keeping an eye on it, which is easier said than done when you’re using a steam hat + condenser and can’t see the wort without removing the rubber bung, which in turn affects the boil temperature. I’ve heard of people starting on their cleaning duties while the boil is in process, but I just didn’t have the confidence to leave it alone. Maybe I’ll get there with the kind of experience that follows several uneventful brews, but for now I’ll stick to the old adage that a watched pot never boils.

Brewfather

Last but not least I have to say that the Brewfather app and website are probably the biggest contributors to yesterday’s positive outcome. Finding and adapting a recipe was a cinch using the web UI on the laptop, I did my picking from inventory using the iPad app, and used the app on my iPhone to keep track of various stages via the recipe-driven timers. Everything synchronised flawlessly across devices and kept me on track despite having no experience and a good amount of nervousness. The only thing that was missing was a reminder to switch on the counterflow chiller 15 minutes before end of boil so that it has a chance to sanitise, but that’s my failing and not Brewfather’s.

The Bad

Invariably there were some mistakes, but they weren’t as severe or numerous as I’d feared. I’m already working out how to address these and next time around should have eliminated all of them, but let’s call them out – warts ‘n all.

Power Supply

I don’t have electricity in the brewery, so it’s a case of running the fridge, kettle (B40Pro), and sparge water heater (20 litre Cygnet) off extension leads. It’s a hideous cowboy setup made all the worse by my electrical qualifications, but it’s a calculated risk and a means to an end. I’m using one 13A reel (unwound, naturally) for the water heater, and that has a thermal cut-out which it doesn’t trip, but when I use that lead with the B40Pro it does trip. So the trippy reel is saved exclusively for the Cygnet.

The B40Pro is on the same 13A extension which serves the fridge, and of course I should have unplugged that fridge before entering the boil stage. The heating elements are capped at 50% power during mashing so as not to scorch any grains that make it through the malt pipe’s false bottom, but when they’re running at full chat to reach boiling temperature the B40Pro does draw damn close to 13A, resulting in some heat build-up in cables and sockets. (I discovered it would trip the other reel’s thermal cut-out during a test run)

Everything was going swimmingly until the fridge decided to run its compressor while the B40Pro was boiling, and that blew the fuse in the extension cord serving those two devices. Stupid, predictable, and now I was paying for it by looking for another 13A lead of sufficient length with my boil timer ticking and the kettle not boiling.

#wisdom: if you have to use extension leads, unplug absolutely everything else. The fridge can take care of itself for a couple of hours, the brew kettle can’t. (you knew this already, you complete and utter pilchard)

Mashing

All I knew was that for 20 minutes after dough-in you should rest the grains, and neither stir them nor circulate water through them. Brewtools are very specific about this in their instructions, and during a few of the video reviews of this kit I’ve seen on YouTube the brewers who haven’t rested their mash have expressed difficulty later on with matter getting through the mesh bottom or with sparging.

What Brewtools aren’t specific about is whether that 20 minutes is in addition to your mash time, or part thereof. Being paranoid of possible side-effects of an extended mash (tannins, those dreaded tannins!) I guessed those 20 minutes should form part of the mash, and just sat there staring at the grain bed while 65 ℃ water circulated outside the malt pipe. There were two problems here, and I think a combination of both of them led to lower-than-expected pre-boil gravity.

  1. Some of the grain had come to rest above the water level and remained dry during the whole 20 minutes, ⅓ of my total mash time. I think I could have given the very top layer the gentlest of stirs at dough-in just to get everything covered without causing whatever I was supposed to avoid by not stirring.
  2. My mash temperature was between 62 and 63 ℃ as measured using a digital thermometer, whereas the strike temperature was set to 65 ℃ on the B40Pro. Each time you turn this thing on it starts with default values, and for auto mode the default target temperature is always 68 ℃. That should have been a hint for me to leave well alone, since no matter how well you circulate you will always have a few degrees less inside the mash than on the outside, which is where your thermometer is. Especially if you’re not even circulating any water through the mash for the first 20 minutes.

#wisdom: next time, heat strike water to 68 ℃ and see if the mash reaches your actual target of 65 ℃. Dumb-ass.

Pre-boil Gravity

In hindsight I’m now convinced this is connected to my mashing, but I got a value of 1.020 for pre-boil gravity when I was expecting 1.044. That was a pretty low moment and I wondered if I should abandon it there and then rather than throw more time and ingredients at something that was going to turn out substantially weaker than expected. I knew that my hydrometer was calibrated at 20 ℃ and I was measuring at 65 ℃ so there was bound to be a difference, but I assumed it would be a minor difference. A quick plea for help on the forum revealed that there is a calculator for working out temperature offset in SG readings, and that the difference can be quite substantial: my 1.020 was actually 1.036 (Brewer’s Friend) or 1.038 (Brewfather … yeah, the one in your app, idiot)

All was not lost, and I reckon I could still get a light session beer out of this brew, even if it wouldn’t be the same as the legendary Big Wave. In the end I finished with a post-boil gravity of 1.050 versus an expected 1.047, so as long as the extra few points aren’t due to some yet to be discovered cock-up I may well have gotten away with it.

#wisdom: always, always adjust gravity readings for temperature, ideally by leaving the sample to cool naturally or by using a calculator. There’s not much point when you’re one or two degrees outside the hydrometer’s calibration temperature, but it soon becomes worth doing.

Measuring Liquids

Need to get a measuring jug and work out equipment offsets. I ‘measured’ my strike and sparge water using a 5 litre bottle and a 1 litre bottle when I should really have used a proper jug. I also need to account for plumbing voids like the counterflow chiller since that swallows strike / sparge water as well as fermentables, unlike boil-off losses which leave fermentables behind and affect gravity. (oddly enough, there’s another calculator for that too)

#wisdom: be specific in your measurements, try to account for all voids and losses. Leaving this one as #unsolved since I need more info.

General Timing

There’s still so much that I don’t know, that when I hear things like ‘you shouldn’t sparge too quickly because it compresses the grain bed’ I start to worry about other things which may not even be problems at all. Like going from sparge to boil.

Yesterday I gave the malt pipe a few minutes to drain before lifting it clear, but that was just because I didn’t want to dribble sticky wort between the B40Pro and the awaiting bucket. When I was clearing up at the end of the day I noticed there was about a litre of wort in the bottom of that bucket, some of which should by now have been in my fermenter.

As it stands my post-boil volume was 2.17 litres short, some of which might have been due to the counterflow chiller, and some might have been in that bucket. Should I have waited longer for the malt pipe to drain? Should I have squeezed it slightly? Both options occurred to me at the time, both were discounted because fear of the unknown (tannins? astringency?) was greater than fear of the known: being a couple of pints short.

If I start picking apart the ifs and buts in order to derive specific #wisdom points covering ‘general timing’ I’ll never finish this post, so let’s write this off as something that will get better by itself with experience.

The Detail

Here’s the raw log I kept on the day, with photos too in chronological (rather than useful) order added in. The iPad is a frustrating device when it comes to writing notes, but at least it has a splash-proof keyboard.

Preparation

12:50 – Fill sparge water heater with 15 litres cold tap water (3x Ashbeck bottles), set dial to 3, plugged into Masterplug cable reel but expect thermal cut-out to trip at some point. Water temperature 11.5.

13:15 – Sanitised Fermzilla and finally got around to applying the graduated level scale

13:25 – Scaled the batch recipe for 25 litres (Fermzilla headspace looks to be enough) and adjusted the fermentables and hops a little to round the scaled values and bring IBU / EBC sliders to mid-points.

13:30 – Water heater clicked off gracefully, temperature 66.0. Need 65 for mash so I’m going to give the kettle and coils a quick rinse before bringing in the strike water and topping up.

13:55 – Moved 15 litres from water heater to kettle, replenished kettle with 7.5 litres, resumed heating.

14:15 – Grabbed the malt from stores and noticed that mash water in kettle was 24.75 litres. Maybe Ashbeck bottles aren’t the best measuring vessels! Reduced to 22.57 using scale inside the kettle, malt pipe in place. Refilled the water heater with 11.75 litres for sparging, again with Ashbeck bottles, but not brimmed. Need to get myself a decent measuring jug! Started heating sparge water.

14:17 – Started heating strike water in ‘mash’ heating mode, target 65.0, starting at 55.0. There’s no grain in there yet so I could set it to full auto (instead of ‘mash’ where the elements are capped at 50%) but I’m not in a hurry as I want to go get the hops and Protafloc tablet.

Dough-in

14:52 – Ingredients measured and bagged, commencing dough-in. First 20 minutes are there to settle, no stirring, timer starts when they’re all in.

Mashing

15:06 – Dough-in complete, starting 60 minute mash timer. I’m putting the lid on until I’m allowed to stir / circulate over the mash in 20 minutes time.

15:20 – 5 minutes left until I can stir and switch on the centre pipe to circulate over the mash. Checked the manual again just to be sure, and yes, only circulating outside for first 20 minutes to prevent sugars scorching on the elements. Weird, because there’s a bit of the mash that’s not even wet yet. 3 minutes.

15:24 – Starting to circulate over grain bed and stirring. The mash isn’t as dense as I feared, those dry grains on top at the start soon went under with a gentle stir. Dividing the flow between circulating outside the malt pipe and over the grain bed is a fine balance, didn’t take long before I started sucking air via the thankfully correctly adjusted dip tube. Weight of water on the grain then compacts it further at the bottom, so it needs stirring lower down – something I was hoping to minimise in order not to push too much solid matter out through the screen. Oh well, at least there are no dough balls. Dare say I’ll find the perfect balance with practice.

16:00 – 5 minutes left to go, and I have the pump at 77%, valve halfway between recirculating outside malt pipe and up centre. Nice parasol of wort going on, malt pipe level about 4 inches higher than outside. I know stirring will lower that, but I don’t want to agitate too much and drive solids through the mesh. Also don’t want a stuck sparge. Decisions, decisions …

16:07 – Mash complete, heater and pump off while I raise the malt pipe. Inside / outside levels adjust quickly enough.

Sparging

16:13 – Try brief vorlauf but the pump seems to stick, cycling it on and off clears it, then it sticks again. Switching to sparge, water temp 76.5.

16:16 – Maintaining an inch of water on grain bed is not easy. Pulsing pump at 45% seems to do it.

16:19 – Sparge complete. Leaving grain pipe for a minute to drain – was heavy lifting it up after mashing.

Prepare for Boil

16:27 – Boil volume is only 28 litres (should be 31.5 according to Brewfather) and gravity a measly 1.020 when it should be 1.044. Bollocks. Should I have mashed for longer? Sparged with less? Oh well, let’s boil and see what happens. Might be more of a low ABV session ale after all.

16:30 – Fitting condenser and steam hat, starting approach to whatever boil temperature is, presently at 60.

Boiling

17:08 – That took a while to get there! Extension lead / socket are getting very warm now – I’m on the regular 13A white one since the reel would have thrown its thermal trip by now. 60 minute timer started (still wondering if I should increase that to bring FG up) and 60 minute hop additions done.

Had some advice from the guys on the forum who confirmed that yes, temperature makes a huge difference to SG readings. I plugged my values into a calculator I was offered and it seems I’m actually at 1.036, not 1.020. Happy days!! Still low, but not a disaster.

17:32 – Rolling boil is thankfully uneventful. Keeping a constant eye open for boil-over or a melting socket. Steam hat and condenser doing their ting. I’m on my 4th bucket of warm water now, saving it for cleaning later. Managing heater manually between 85 and 100%, trying to keep the boil going on lowest value possible.

17:51 – I’m two minutes away from next boil additions and the extension lead just crapped out. Switching over to the reel, wondering how long I have before the thermal switch trips. To be fair it was the first lead (also powering the fridge) which seems to have gone, since the fridge is dead. Maybe 90% heating and fridge was too much? Sounds very plausible – I should have thought of that and switched the fridge off for the boil.

17:55 – Added one third of a Protafloc tablet. Adjusted value was 0.272 from recommended one quarter.

18:05 – 5 minute boil additions are in, smells fantastic. Hang on in there little power reel!!

Chilling

18:09 – Heaters off, start counter flow chilling. Temp 100C.

18:10 – Shit, forgot about sanitising the counter flow chiller for the last 15 minutes!! Let’s give it 5 and hope for the best, was Star-san’ed after all. Heaters back on, hope the power stays on too… Temp 94.5 through chiller.

18:15 – Enough, heaters off again, time to chill or we lose the hops.

18:17 – Counterflow chiller amazing, return temperature already down to 42, tank at 75.

18:21 – Return temp down to 30, tank at 47. Hard to know how to best set the return dip tube and pump speed; faster pump will probably be better for whirlpool but slower pump gets return wort cooler faster. I’m trying to eyeball the kettle contents and get a feel for the balance, but it’s iffy.

Transfer to Fermenter

18:26 – Return is now at 20, tank at 31. I’m stopping the pumps and plumbing in the Fermzilla. Will transfer slow-ish with a bit of splashing since I don’t yet have my oxygen setup. Kettle level is 24 litres, but then I didn’t factor in the chiller.

18:37 – Transfer to FV going well, but guess who forgot to adjust the dip-tube? Using mash paddle to push it down while holding / splashing transfer hose above Fermzilla, let’s hope there are no sanitation issues

Pitching Yeast

18:51 – Yeast pitched at 21.5 degrees, FV volume 21.5 litres. OG 1.050 is OK by me against expected 1.047. Sanitised Tilt deployed, time to clean up.

19:45 – Stopped cleaning in order to have dinner

20:10 – Cleanup resumed

21:20 – Everything’s clean. Jesus. What a day.

Mar 202108Mon

Another fruity one from Mangrove Jack’s. Yeast pitched at 23.6 ℃ following a bit of temperature juggling with iced and then with boiling water. According to this page we should be aiming for 1.007 after about a week, and if this is anything like their Blueberry or Dry Hopped cider then it should be very good indeed! OG came in about 1.51 and the sample was delicious.

Standard MJ kit ingredients plus a kilo of dextrose
Mar 202103Wed

Having another go based on my last extract attempt, this time using Brewfather for guidance instead of Brewer’s Friend. Things I’m doing differently:

  • Using 5g yeast instead of the whole 10g packet, also adding half a gram of yeast nutrient (magnesium sulphate, vitamins, minerals) to the rehydration jar a couple of hours before pitching.
  • Plugging the correct values (alpha acids, attenuation, etc) in at the start so that I don’t have to deal with surprises during brewing. Having done that it all looks OK, but the calculated FG of 1.008 was right on the lower threshold for this style of beer until I corrected the batch recipe to more accurately reflect the LME addition; just over half at 45 minutes boil, the remainder at flameout. FG then jumped up to 1.011, which is about halfway for this style. Result!
  • Topping the boil up to 3 litre mark instead of 4. Last time I couldn’t get the wort down to pitching temperature as quickly as I’d liked, so by boiling one litre less I’m also freeing up another litre to use for chilling.
  • Dry-hopping no more than 2 days from the end. The last attempt actually reached FG in just 3 days at 19 – 20 ℃ and I let it ride another 4 days with hops, so this time I may dry-hop on day 5 and bottle on day 7. Hoping to achieve 1.011 as planned since I corrected the recipe, something that I didn’t (couldn’t?) do with the last batch at Brewer’s Friend.
  • I’ll actually use Citra finishing hops as planned this time around. 🤫

Brew Day Notes

Nothing unexpected happened this time, no panic at all. I used the Brewfather app on iPhone to guide me through the boil additions and keep track of time, and it worked flawlessly. Topping the saucepan up to 3 litres after adding just over half the DME proved to be a good move, but trying to keep a relatively small amount of liquid at a constant temperature using an electric hob proved to be a challenge, with me bouncing between 88 and 93 ℃. In the end I lost almost exactly half a litre due to boiling.

When it came to throwing the wort into a fermentation bucket for mixing I first dumped in 5 litres of Tesco Ashbeck mineral water which had been in the outside freezer until it was slush, barely making it out of the widemouthed bottle. Even so I was slightly high at 25 ℃ and ended up throwing in 1.5 trays of ice cubes and another litre of chilled tap water. This brought the temperature down to 16.5 ℃ – more than I expected – and raised the volume to 8.5 litres according to my shoddy marking on the bucket, and dead on 9 litres according to the markings in my SS Brewtech mini bucket.

OG was measured at 1.043 (exactly as per batch recipe, once I adjusted it to 9 litres from 8, and I pitched the jar of yeast + nutrient at 17 ℃. There was already a small island of bubbles in the jar, so I’m hoping for a rapid start to fermentation. Shame I can’t see into the stainless bucket though, definitely an advantage with the Fermzilla.

SS Brewtech Mini Bucket
Feb 202113Sat

Kicking off another Woodeforde’s kit today, using the Fermzilla for the first time. Approximate procedure:

  1. Wash & sterilise Fermzilla, bucket, spoon, etc while kit tins are warming.
  2. Empty both tins into bucket, add 3.5 litres boiling water. Mix.
  3. 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 ℃.
  4. Pour everything into the Fermzilla. Not easy, next time use a large funnel.
  5. 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.

Jan 202127Wed

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.

The Ingredients

  • 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

The Plan

  1. Add half the LME to large pot, top up to 4 litre mark with water
  2. Heat to around 90 ℃ while stirring
  3. Throw in 6g Cascade hops and start 45 minute timer, maintain temperature
  4. When 15 minutes remain, add another 6g Cascade, maintain temperature
  5. Fill fermentation vessel with 2 litres ice cold water
  6. Hydrate 5g ale yeast according to manufacturer’s instructions
  7. When the timer’s done, turn off heat and mix in the rest of the LME, transfer immediately to FV
  8. Top up to 8 litre mark with hot / cold water to achieve pitch temperature of 18 or 19 ℃
  9. Stir vigorously for 2 or 3 minutes, take OG reading – should be around 1.044 according to calculator
  10. Add the hydrated ale yeast, fit lid and airlock, leave at 18 or 19 ℃ for 10 days

Brew Notes

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.

Lessons Learnt

  • 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)
My recipe on Brewer’s Friend (PDF version)
Jan 202119Tue

I decided to have another go at this one to see if I can improve the flavour over last time by adding the finishing hops in a timely manner.

All went well during the kick-off session. I’m using Tesco Ashbeck water throughout; boiled for diluting the initial mash and then chilled in order to bring the mash back down to the 20-25 ℃ temperature range ahead of pitching. I misjudged this process a little and cooled the mixture to 18 ℃ by the time I was up to 20 litres, so I reheated the remaining 3 litres and ended up with a mash that was too hot at 27 ℃. Bollocks.

My first reaction was to fit the lid and put her outside for half an hour, then it occurred to me that air is a poor conductor of heat and I’d be better off putting the vessel inside a larger fermentation bucket and filling that with cold water instead. The plan worked well and 25 minutes later I had the temperature down to 22.6 ℃, so I pitched the included yeast sachet. Initial gravity came in at 1.068 (slightly higher than my last attempt at 1.065) and I’m storing the vessel in my office at 19.5 ℃.

I’m going to check in on this one eight days from now in order to take a gravity reading as she slows down, adding the finishing hops no earlier than 1 or two days from bottling time.

No instructions here, go see the opening post on my first Evil Dog.

Jan 202114Thu

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.

Jan 202110Sun

Pretty much the same story as when I started Blueberry Orgy earlier this evening; a continuation of Type 25c, tastes nice, probably too much fruit juice. In this concoction:

  • 2 litres Cherry Good juice drink (BBE July 2021)
    • Water
    • Cherry Juice from Concentrate
      • Sour Cherry 20%
      • Montmorency Cherry 5%
    • Sugar
    • Malic Acid
    • Fruit & Vegetable Concentrates (Carrot and Cherry)
    • Vitamin C
    • Flavourings
    • Sweetener (Sucralose)
  • 300g Brewing Sugar + warm water to 400ml mark
  • ½ teaspoon wine yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon wine nutrient
  • 2.5 litres natural cider

This one is also starting off in a recycled Tesco 5 litre water bottle and will probably spend a couple of weeks in the brewery until the airlock activity stops. Though as yet it hasn’t started. Gravity came in at 1.028 which includes 2.5 litres of cider @ 4.73% – so I’m assuming that 1.028 includes 2.4% already. If we make it down to 1.000 again then we’ll be looking at 6.08% in total, and that’d be just fine.

Jan 202110Sun

First things first, I decided on a change of approach when trying to keep track of our cider experiments. From now on I’m treating each stage in the evolution of a brew as it’s own brew. For example, if we press 200 litres and they ferment in 4 barrels, then one of those barrels is split into 5 demijohns each of which has a different amount of flavouring / yeast then each of those 5 variants will start, as a brew, at the point where it’s split, and not at the point where we’re pressing. I can use links between those brews, but trying to represent the lifecycle of each bottle right back to pressing leads to a logical tree with a ridiculously thick trunk, and I’d rather have a series of branches tied together with links. I hope this works out … hell, I hope it even makes sense six months down the line. Anyway …

This evening I kicked off our experiment into fruit cider using the last demijohn from our Type 25c batch. I’m calling this one Blueberry Orgy in honour of the original Orchard Orgy Type 25c that provided the cider component, approximately 2.5 litres. Also along for the ride:

  • 2 litres of Blueberry juice from Tesco (BBE May 2021)
    • Water
    • Blueberry Juice from Concentrate (17%)
    • Sugar
    • Citric Acid
    • Flavourings
    • Vitamin C
    • Sweetener (Sucralose)
  • 300g Brewing Sugar + warm water to 400ml mark
  • ½ teaspoon wine yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon wine nutrient

After measuring the OG at 1.032 (I can call it Original Gravity since I’m starting a new brew, right?) and tasting the sample from the trial jar I confirmed the suspicion that first surfaced when I tipped 2 litres of blueberry juice into the 5 litre Tesco water bottle which I’m using as FV: there’s too much juice, and not enough cider. It didn’t taste overpowering or sickly, but it didn’t taste of cider either. If I do this again I’m going to start with one litre of fruit juice instead of two, i.e. ⅕ instead of almost half.

Dec 202031Thu

Another cheap attempt at fermenting something, this time using Tesco Summer Fruits Drink. Damn, it’s not even labelled as ‘juice’ – that’s how cheap we’re going with this. Anyway, initial ingredients are:

  • 2 litres Grower’s Harvest Summer Fruits juice drink
    • Water, sugar, citric acid, flavourings
    • Apple juice from concentrate (28%)
    • Raspberry juice from concentrate (1%)
    • Strawberry juice from concentrate (1%)
    • Colour, vitamin C, Sucralose
  • 250 grams brewing sugar
  • 200 grams caster sugar (wanted more sugar, couldn’t be arsed to open another bag)
  • 1-2 grams wine yeast nutrient
  • 1 level teaspoon wine yeast
  • 1 cup of strong black tea from 2 bags (tannin – why not?)
  • 500 ml warm water for dissolving the sugar

Once I let this cool down from 26 ℃ to 19 ℃ the initial OG came in around 1.045 which is lower than I expected given the amount of sugar I tipped in, so this better ferment down to below 0.980 if I’m going to get the kind of ABV I’m hoping for. Since we’re up to temperature I pitched the yeast at 19.3 ℃ and gave it a gentle swirl so that it doesn’t all sit on top. Nothing to do now but wait.

Dec 202031Thu

Time to try something new: making an alcoholic beverage from readily available, cheap ingredients, primarily fruit juice. For my first experiment I’m going to start with:

  • 2 litres Tesco Cranberry & Raspberry juice drink.
    • Water, sugar, malic acid, pectin
    • Cranberry juice from concentrate (6%)
    • Cranberry puree (3%)
    • Flavourings, vitamin C, sucralose
  • 2 litres Grower’s Harvest Apple juice (Tesco own brand)
    • Supposedly just apple juice from concentrate
  • 250 grams brewing sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon wine yeast
  • 1-2 grams wine yeast nutrient
  • 500 ml warm water (for dissolving the sugar)

I’m starting by letting the juice come up to room temperature, since it’s from the refrigerated section and will be too cold for the yeast. My first reaction was to try and heat it gently in a saucepan, but then I decided against it on the basis that I might introduce unwanted flavours or germs – best to be patient and let it stand in a warm room for a couple of hours.

45 minutes later: OK, that’s enough. All the liquids are combined in a 5 litre plastic water bottle and temperature is 17.0 ℃, which is near enough the yeast’s 18 ℃ lower threshold. The worst that will happen is it’ll take a couple of hours to kick off, but at least I can measure gravity and move onto the next one.

As I don’t want to ferment too quickly and risk damaging its incredible flavour (the sample from the trial jar was amazing) I’m going to store this next to the Grapefruit IPA at around 19 ℃. OG comes in at 1.048 so it’s roughly on par with our own pressed apple juice and using Type 25a as a benchmark I’m hoping for roughly 5% ABV from this one. There may be a good quantity of non-fermentable sugar in here so that figure could be lower, and I’m almost certainly going to have to back-sweeten before bottling.

Dec 202028Mon

Since I was sterilising everything in order to start the Blueberry Cider earlier this evening I thought I’d use up another vacant FV and kick off the Dry-hopped Cider as well. No real difference from the last one, except that there’s a packet of hops which needs to be added after approximately 4 days if the SG has reached 1.015 or below. Based on my experiences with similar hoppy beer, I’m going to make sure that the SG is stable for two days as well as being below 1.015, so that I can dry-hop and then bottle two days later, because fermentation will essentially be finished and I’m not going to compromise the flavour of the hops by waiting too long after dry-hopping.

Dec 202028Mon

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 ℃.

Dec 202025Fri

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%
  • Bitterness: 3/5
  • IBU: 35-45
  • Colour: Vibrant Gold
  • Makes: 23L
  • Yeast: M44 US West Coast
  • Dry Hops: Simcoe & Cascade
  • Brewing Sugar Required: Mangrove Jacks 1.2kg Pure Malt Enhancer
Dec 202025Fri

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.

Nov 202022Sun

Another 18 – 20 ℃ brew I’ve been waiting to start for a little while now. Initial ingredients:

  • 3 kg hopped malt extract
  • 2 sachets “69 Yeast Premium”
  • Water to 23 litre mark

Again, no mention of letting it cool before adding the yeast, but I’m allowing it to drop to just below 25 ℃ before pitching. OG = 1.044.

Nov 202022Sun

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.

Nov 202005Thu

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:

  • 3 kg medium hopped malt extract
  • 30 g Columbus hop pellets
  • 30 g Citra hop pellets
  • 12 g American ale yeast
  • Water (to 20 litre mark)
Oct 202029Thu

Started off another one, this time Evil Dog Double IPA. Initial ingredients:

  • Bag of specific malted barley (qty / type not indicated, just used the whole bag as per kit)
  • 10 g Pacific Ale beer yeast (added at 24.5 ℃)
  • 23 litres water (up to 23 litre mark – includes malted barley)

OG measured at 1.065 before yeast was added, wort temperature 24.5 ℃, room temperature 22.5 ℃. 

Oct 202026Mon

Kicked off first home-brew attempt with Festival Ale’s Razorback IPA. Initial ingredients:

  • 3 kg malted barley (IPA specific)
  • 650 g dextrose
  • 10 g beer yeast (IPA specific – added at 23.9 ℃)
  • 23 litres water (up to 23 litre mark – includes malted barley)

SG measured at 1.052 before yeast was added (do the fine bubbles matter?) room temperature in spare bathroom 23.1 ℃. Next step is to add hops in 5 days time.