We spent all day pressing the dessert apples we picked yesterday and filled between 200 and 300 flip-top bottles. Pretty good going, especially seeing as there’s still half an orchard what’s not ripe yet, and that doesn’t even include the cider apples.
Anyway, there were about 10 litres left over once every available vessel had been filled, so I thought I’d take it home where I knocked up a starter using harvested WLP001 that has been in the back of the brew fridge since forever. Right now the apple juice is in a bucket in the shower, airlock fitted, and the starter is spinning away in the medium Erlenmeyer flask, ready for pitching tomorrow.
This brew was originally started as a low-cost experiment to see if I could do something with WLP001yeast harvested from Twisty Listy, and judging by the way it’s been fermenting these past 13 days that seems to have worked well, so now my thoughts turn to the next steps.
I’ve decided to split the batch, and dry-hop one half the traditional way in a regular bucket as opposed to a conical so as to get maximum exposure to the hop pellets instead of compacting them into small footprint. The other half will be exposed to the HFR method, or Hot French Randall. More on that later.
First it’s time to cold-crash so that I can get virtually all the yeast to drop out, and I’m doing this for two reasons; I want to harvest the yeast so that I can try this particular strain of WLP001 a third time, and I want the half of the experiment which will be traditionally cold-crashed to have as little yeast as possible. I heard somewhere that yeast interacts with the hops in a negative way (not just by venting hop oils along with any CO2 produced) and I haven’t tried it this way around before, so it’s worth a shot.
Having racked from the SS Brewtech conical bucket to a regular plastic bucket I fitted it with Bag Thing (recently revived with some duct tape after the tube came loose) and put her in the brew fridge, Inkbird set at 4 ℃. Meanwhile I used the turkey baster to remove the last dregs of beer from between the conical’s dip tube and the top of the yeast cake, before spooning some gorgeous, clean yeast into a sanitised glass jar, previously home to 453g of Manx honey. The jar filled in no time and there were probably another two jars left behind in the fermenter, which is pretty amazing considering that I originally received this yeast as two sachets of mayonnaise and had already used that to brew 22 litres of amazing IPA. If only hops could be persuaded to reproduce like that …
A final note on the state of the brew so far, and I must say that I was surprised at the darkness and the clarity, if to the aroma. There’s a definite umami quality to the nose, something between nuttiness and yeastiness, as well as a thin film that stays behind when the beer is swirled in a glass. I’m putting this down to the simply ridiculous amount of yeast that was in the bottom of the FV – over 3 lb – and I’m tempted to say that the yeast may not have fully finished clearing up after itself. I’ve had the filminess (and, to a lesser degree, the yeasty taste) in other brews which turned out fine, so I’m not worried. Cold-crashing will do its thing, and the hops are sure to mask whatever’s left over.
In terms of alcohol, in 13 days we’ve gone from 1.045 to 1.012 which equates to 4.3% ABV against Brewfather’s expected 5.0%, so not quite there yet. Those values are as measured using my traditional hydrometer – if we go by Tilt then we’re looking at 1.007 from 1.041, giving 4.5%. Also a bit short of the mark. Should I have left this in the FV longer? According to recipe I was supposed to dry-hop yesterday but we had a late night on the shooting range, and besides, I wanted to try cold-crashing and harvesting that yeast, so I figured an extra day wouldn’t have hurt. Going forward maybe I should have taken a manual gravity sample and based on the outcome waited a bit longer, but hey, it’s a learning curve.
After giving her a couple of days in the cold (aiming for 4 ℃) I’ll split the batch for traditional dry-hopping and HFR, with each half filling a 5 litre keg and, hopefully, around 10 x 500 ml bottles.
Checking in on First Scratch last thing tonight, saw there was some foam in the airlock. Thinking this was the beginnings of a delayed spew-out I removed the airlock and replaced it with a section of silicone tubing ending in a cup of sanitiser – perfect impromptu blow-off tube.
It carried on farting in brief bursts for a minute or two, then fell silent. We watched the silent seconds pass in building terror like any proud parent, until after half a tense minute or two of nothing a sudden burst filled the tube with Krausen and the beaker with froth. It’s alive … allieeeeveh!! Already I’m starting to like this particular yeast, and will make an effort to save it, setting it loose on future brews like a proud shepherd ferries his flock to new pastures.
Although there was some airlock activity within the hour of pitching my recycled yeast slurry last night I wasn’t going to start jumping to conclusions and declare this experiment a success, but the sight of a bubbling airlock this morning left little room for doubt: my ‘pet’ yeast was happy in its new home!
I’m wringing this almost exactly 24 hours after pitching what started out as two sachets of WLP001, and not only is the airlock doing its thing but I’m also seeing some very positive feedback from my Tilt Pro: SG 1.023 / 2.9% ABV, 20.8 ℃. That’s a little warm for WLP001 and it’s been even warmer throughout today, but there’s nothing more I can do since I have the SS Brewtech Bucket (25 litre size – a new vessel on its first outing) on the windowsill with the blinds down and windows fully open. The room’s at 16 ℃, the interior of the FV is pushing 21. Crazy.
With lockdown #3 now over I’ve been scouring the shops in search of a new keg fridge, and once I get that sorted I’ll be able to restore the current keg fridge to its intended purpose of keeping fermentation vessels in check. Not long now, my little yeasty friend.
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:
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.
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.
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.