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.

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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!

Honey, and strange hops

Well it’s National Homebrew Day, so let’s brew!

Nephew wanted to see how the brew process works so he dropped in to check it out. 

 I needed to make a beer for Memorial Day and a something with honey. So a very quick 3.5% honey bitter. Plus I got these free hops from Tenatious Badger. (More on these later.

Honey Burst – 5 gallons

  • 4.5 lb 2 row
  • .5 victory
  • 1 lb honey
  • 1oz Michigan Copper @10
  • 3/4 magnum @10
  • Nottingham 
  • Mashed at 155

This was the first brew in quite a while that I made outside. In fact this beer should be completely brewed, fermented, kegged and drank entirely in the garage.

Now these Michigan Copper hops. They are described as “fragrant floral and tropical fruit”  

If fragrant and floral means vomit and parmesan cheese, then I concur. I really had to force my self to put them in my beer. If would have had another 10% hop laying around, these would have been dumped. 

But once they got into the boil they smelled exactly like fresh cut lemon peel.

Both before and after smells aren’t really something I’m excited about having in my beer.. but we will see.