Pickles!

Its that time of year when the cukes start overtaking the farmers markets. Still a lot of the smaller ones, so lets make some pickles.

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About all the equipment you need to make a batch of pickles is a bucket and some jars. Not much for ingredients either, especially if you ferment them like I am for this first batch of the year. If you are looking for Vinegar based pickles, here are my IPA Pickles

All I’m using today is:

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  •  Small pickle cukes. (As little or as many as you want)
  • Kosher or pickling salt, (don’t use iodized salt)
  • garlic cloves
  • dill seed, mustard seed, black pepper corns
  • a bayleaf
  • fresh dill flowers (this optional as the dill seed is just fine)

First thing you wanna do is clean the cukes of course. Then let them cold in some cold ice water for an hour or so. This help to keep them crisper.

After the soak go ahead and cut of the tips of the cukes.

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Next get put all your other things in your fermentation crock or bucket. Here I used 5 cut up garlic cloves, some fresh dill sprigs, one bay leaf, and 1 tsp each of the mustard seed, dill seed and peppercorns. 20180712_202033.jpg

Mix up your brine. 1 gallon of filtered water and 3/4 of the kosher salt. 20180712_202933.jpg

Put your cukes the bucket and add enough of your brine to completely cover them.20180712_203157.jpg

Use a plate to keep the cukes under the brine.20180712_203142.jpg

And that’s it. Either cover the bucket with a towel or put a airlock on like I did and put it in a warm place to let it ferment.20180712_203529.jpg

After a week or so, take a test taste to see if they are sour enough. If not then let them go another day or so. Once they get where you want them pack them up in jars with the brine and put them in the fridge. (Unless you can them, they gotta stay in the fridge)

That’s its it! Start your pickles now and will be ready just in time to get your crocks back for Kraut!

 

PS: for those wanting to can these for storage this is easy too.

get your jars ready for normal canning. drain, strain and keep the liquid. pack your jars tight with the pickles. boil the liquid for a minute or two and pour into the jars leaving a 1/2 headspace. waterbath for 10 min pints, 15 quarts.

 

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Hot day lager brew

Took a road trip to John’s house for a 10 gallon split batch of Mexican Lager. Started in the morning before the heat got up there.

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Rice hulls are needed for this one36758498_1774458879334231_1803360474423623680_n

Look how compact this bed got,, but those rice hulls saved it!36701132_1774458929334226_1117230940557410304_n

That corn was trying to boil over!36713568_1774458972667555_2323666384757719040_n

Starting the chill 36729303_1774459036000882_6286606947563077632_n

wouldnt be a brew at Johns without an strafing run36654608_1774459012667551_2075224980773142528_n

we made it!36735803_1774459086000877_7210144853164818432_n

UPS drops off 3 more beer kits!
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Almost forgot the recipe

10 gallons yet unnamed Mexican Lager

  • 11 lbs Vienna
  • 3 lbs pilsner
  • .75 lb 60L crystal
  • 4 lbs flaked corn
  • 2oz Tettnang @60 (see below)
  • .5 oz saaaaaz @30 (see below)
  • 34/70 lager yeast

(the recipe called for only the 2oz of 6% Tettnang hops, but the ones we had were only 3.7% so we threw in the extra 7% Saaaz to make up a few of the IBU, plus will add some flavor at the 30 mark)

Oh,, this was also going to be a taste experiment. John is fermenting as a usual lager would call for.  And I’m going to use the same 34/70 yeast in my half, but just gonna let it roll at my basement temp of 63 degrees and keg it up at my usual 4 weeks.

Bad Yeast

Last month I brewed up what I was calling the “work beer”

Just a simple little beer with 2 row, flaked oats and crystal with a pack of Montueka hops.

Normally a simple little beer like this gets brewed and drank with out much attention. But this one had a few issues.

The first thing funny with it was something that had already mentioned in it’s original post. The hops were full of junk. Yea I’ve had hop packs with the occasional leaf in it before, but this was beyond that. But I didnt get a picture of it, and didn’t really have anything to do with the second problem.

I had gotten some outdated liquid yeast from the shop to use. Done this several times before and no problems.

Now when I say out of date, I’m not talking a year or anything.. this was just a couple of weeks past date.

Because it’s just a low grav 3 gallon I did not do a starter, I just pitched the whole vial as usual.

After 2 days of not a bubble or that normal yeast krausen layer I removed the airlock to get a quick sample to see what was going on.

I was immediately met with the stench of something between wet siliage and dead nightcrawlers. Obviously something is not right there. The sample shows no drop in grav so I give it a slight stir and let it go till the next day.

Next day still nadda. So I pitch a packet of 05. The 3 day lag kinda worries me.. but still think it’s gonna be ok.

After about 2 days it should be up and rolling fairly well,, but it’s not.

Yes there is some fermenting action happening.. but very slow. And a inch thick layer of what looks like vasaline. Not your normal krausen. I again open the top and get the same dead nightcrawlers smell.

These pics don’t really show what it truely looks like. The pics look fairly normal, or close to normal.. but no way. It was a gross gloopy clump.

But it was doing “something”. So I let it go. After about 2 days the thing started to grow “legs” or something. Long stringy things hanging down from top to bottom.


This pic was when it just started, and this makes it look almost fine,, but got worse pretty damn fast. No real fermenting action, just growing stringy legs and was starting ooze an oil slick on top.

I did wait for about 3 weeks. But it smelled so bad and just kept lookin like it was ready to crawl out of the carboy.. I just dumped it.

I dont think it was a sanitation thing. It didnt act like a good ol infection.. I think the yeast was just dead, spoiled and decomposing. And I don’t think making a starter would have “helped”. Sure it would have saved this batch because I would have seen the yeast was junk, but it wouldn’t have saved that yeast.

What ever died in that vial must really been bad, if it almost killed of the 05 yeast as well.

Welp can’t win them all. The next batch in the same carboy is already under way. No problems.

Its a Soriachi Ace hopped so hoping to get some pickle action out of it.

Patagonia Porter

I won a pound of this Perla Negra roast grain a few weeks back so I figured I’d use it all in one blast to see what we get out of it.

All of the descriptions I’ve seen on it seem to make it out to be a “softer” roast. One of the huskless roasts, so should not have the bitter burnt aspect.

Other notes I’ve seen mention coffee and chocolate. It’s 340L so a pound shouldnt make it blacker than night, but we will see.

I also won a bag of Vienna with this, so I will use that as the base. I dont wanna hide the Perla profile so just a smidge of Crystal and I’ll call it good.

Before I got this into the fermenter I gave it a tatse. Very mild roast with bigger than expected chocolate and coffee. I can’t wait to get this one in a keg!

Mash and Boil Adjustments

To follow up on my previous Mash and Boil post, I’m gonna post up some of my notes, fixes, changes and thoughts after using this thing for 5 months.

In the next few weeks I am gonna address the concerns I and other have had or have heard about, and what I did to help get my Mash and Boil dialed in.

Some of the points are going to be..

  • Temp Fluctuation
  • Stuck Mash
  • Lack of pump
  • General design

Today its going to be the biggest concern I and other have or had when looking at the Brewers Edge Mash and Boil…

Temp Fluctuation

When I was looking at the MB and deciding if I should get it, the big concern on almost every forum temp control.

  • huge temperature fluctuation
  • Losing heat very quickly.
  • The controller overshooting set temps, and dipping too low before turning on the heat.

But because I mostly planned on mashing in my regular mash tun, this did not concern me…much.
But when I did start to use the MB to mash as per the instructions, oh yea, there was a bit of concern.

There are a few issues working against the MB here. The metal design, false readings, mechanically poor mash instructions for this system.
But the big temp swings, the heat loss and the controller issue are all related and easily fixed or adjusted out.

Heat Loss

While the MB is described as being double walled, the two thin sheets of metal have little effect on heat loss or heat retention. Having used my other electric kettles, and collecting data on temps and times,, insulation is the key here.

Adding a Reflectix wrap (double wrap) is a 100%, no brainer, requirement. Without a wrap you can literally stand 3 feet away and feel the heat radiating off from it.

And even though the lid is clamped on, pay attention to the top. Most people have been finding an enclosed “cap” or dome of reflectix over the top is most effective. I have also been using a blanket in the winter, but this may or may not needed.

You will immediately notice a difference in both heating times and how little heat loss you have once you have some proper insulation.
Heat loss recap:

  • Insulation is absolutely a must
  • Double wrap reflectix body
  • Reflectix dome for top

False readings.

“False” readings may not actually be the right term here, but the general concern is that the temp probe doesn’t trip the heat element on until it reads 6 degrees below the set temp. But then over shoots the set temp by quite a bit.

Yes. Factually this is exactly what happens. But why?

Two things. A poor temp probe placement, and no circulation.

The temp probe, which is directly on the bottom on kettle, gets covered in grain dust/sludge that settles to the bottom. This sludge insulates and separates the probe from the true temp of the mash. This is easy enough to see when you give the mash a stir and the onboard temp display shoots up even though the heat is not even on.

Then the other thing happens. The element kicks on to heat because the covered up probe thinks the mash temp is low! There is no circulation, so now the mash heats unevenly and quickly ramps up and over the target temp before the probe can get an accurate reading!

Ok,, all that sounds bad and probably a lot to fix, but…

Remember our first priority up there in the beginning? Insulation!
When you have the kettle insulated properly, the temps DON’T really drop, But the dang sludge covered probe thinks it did.

So once my mash temp where I want it and stable,, I turn the control panel off so it wont kick the element on, because the now insulated kettle holds the temp just fine.

Another thing I have started to do now to help stabilize the temp, is to do almost full volume mashes. The more water mass you have the less your temps will drop.

I say “almost” full volume because I hold back a gallon or so because I wanna do a small sparge. I know some people scoff at the big +1.85ish:1 mash ratios, but BIABers (that’s what this system actually is) and myself have found this to be just fine.
So to recap the False Reading points:

  • Particles from the mash have settled to the bottom, covering the temp probe. This causes the probe to cool faster than the rest of the mash and mistakenly turn on the heat element.
  • Once mash temp has settled, shut off the controller and use only hand held thermometers.
  • Your insulation and max volume mashes will keep temps steadier temps, and not usually need extra heat applied.
  • As with any form of brewing, anytime you are checking temps and/or applying heat, stir and stir to get accurate reading.

So while the reports of temp control problems with the Mash and Boil are sorta valid, they are neither tragic, nor completely true.

After insulating and moving to the largest volume mashes, my temps only drop 2 degrees at 30 min when I normally open it up to stir. I’m not really sure that it would drop any further than that over 60 min. But I never let it go that far without the midway stir.

Wouldn’t just adding a recirculating mash pump keep temps under control?
I am not certain that it would. It certainly would keep temps even throughout the system, and stop the false readings and accidental ramping, But..

Pumps lose quit a bit of heat. And normally that would not be a problem on a auto-temp controlled system. But as of right now, on this system there is no way to adjust the 6 degree variance that the controller is set to.

For us old schoolers, watching a pump constantly cycle our wort up and down 6 degrees just isn’t gonna cut it.
Leaving it wrapped up without no pump and a steady temp just feels better to me. (I do have a pump though just in case my feeling changes)

I hope helps those thinking about picking up the Mash And Boil but have concerns.

:next time: Stuck Mash!

Cascade Red

About two weeks ago I won 3lbs of Cascade hops. 3lbs. Wtf am I gonna do with 3lbs?

IPAs I guess.

I’m more partial to Red IPA. So I dug out an old version of an amber and ramped in up a bit.20180512_190252.jpg

Also won some of this DRC that I been wanting to try. I guess keeps the deep caramel flavors but less of the prune/raisin. That would fit right in with this old amber.

Duck Creek IPA- 5 gallon

  • 11lbs 2row
  • 1.5lbs 60L
  • .5lbs double roasted crystal 120
  • 1oz Eureka @60
  • 2oz cascade @15
  • 2oz cascade @Flame out
  • Mashed at 154
  • Nottingham yeast

One of the things I just noticed about using this Mash and Boil, is that the smaller diameter boiler let’s the trub pile up pretty high.

Even after a whirlpool, a 20 minute stand to settle out, and leaving a 1/2 gallon behind under the valve, I still got 2″ of trub in the fermenter.

I will figure all that gunk into the next brew formula. I will probably never get used to that in these BiaB type systems.

I’ll probably have to start thinking about getting bigger fermenters if I wanna keep doing 5 gallon batches. That much extra trub is really going to be pushing it on volumes. The buckets should be just fine though.

Work Beer

The object of this beer is three fold. First. Get beer in the fridge for the yard working. Second. Get the kinks worked out of the Mash and Boil. Third. Try these Motueka hops.

A simple Blonde ale aught to cover all three.

  • Work Beer 3 gallon 5%

  • 5 lbs 2 row
  • .5 lbs flaked oats
  • .5 lbs 10L crystal
  • .33 oz Montueka @ 60
  • .66 Montueka @15
  • American Ale yeast
  • mashed 156

(Quick rant. First time using this brand of hops. Can’t believe how much leaves and sticks were in here. I won these,, but not sure I would purchase them after today.)

This is only the third batch on this system and its sorta been throwing me off a little. The temp swings on it are pretty severe. The heat wont kick on until it get -6 from target, and then it always over shoots by about +6. Thats, well, no good.

A couple of solutions that might help tighten it up.

First, but sadly not possible, is to adjust the endpoints on the controller. But its not adjustable. Well not yet anyway. You know someone is fed up with it and will figure a way to flash it or replace it.

Next, and probably the best bet,, just insulate the mutha so the temp dont drop in the first place. I already did a double wrap of reflectix and it certainly did help. But I think it also needs the old BiaB Blanket as well. (Yep, I know thats one sweet lookin blanket!)

Also, lets use this system like the BiaB that it really is. Full (or close to full) volumes. The more water in there, the less its likely to drop in temp. May take a hit in efficiency, but prolly not much.

The condensed tale of this brew day was quite different than the first three times on the M&B. More water and more insulation meant only a 2 degree drop in 30 min. A quick stir with the heat on, and shutting down manually when we got back to temp for another 30 minutes of mashing and I was quite happy with it.

(Any of you who also have this system and find that your mashbasket seals completely shut with grain and doesnt let the wort drip out when pulled up,, put a mash bag INSIDE the basket like you would a BiaB kettle. Works 1000x better)

Once I lifted the basket and got it into drain position, I cranked up the elements to head to boil and recirculated by hand pouring it back over the grains and mash bag until we hit 170. The wort was cloudy, but no grains or husks.

From there on out everything was groovin. I was within .002 points of all my numbers and hit all volumes dead nuts on.

For those keeping score,, this thing boils off .6 gallons an hour, and leaves .5 gallons behind under the valve.

I was indeed happy with this brew. Still need to work on routine and pretty up the wraps and such,, but I think I will be able to make this thing work the way I want. So.. tomorrow I think I will do a full sized Red IPA