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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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!

1st run Mash and Boil

I thought i would do a more detailed brew day report for this brew because I am running my first batch on the Brewers Edge Mash and Boil.

Mash-and-boil-indoors.jpg

Its more or less a Grainfather without the pump and chiller, (both of which I have) but about $500 less. I had initially thought these all-in-one brew systems as a hybrid Biab, with a sparge. And sure they surely can be for smaller gravity or smaller volume batches,, but the way the instructions are written, its really a heated mash tun/boil vessel.

I want to run this first batch pretty much stock to get baselines. I wanna know what this thing can and cant do. I did however wrap with 2x layer of reflectix with 2 layers of 1/8th rubber foam between them. Since my basement is a balmy 49 degrees F, I knew those temps would really affect heating times.

Just gonna do a simple pale ale with 8lbs of grain.

I read the enclosed instructions on how to find how much water to use, but it just seemed like it would be inconsistent,, so I made a new profile on BeerSmith.

What I am coming up with for water volumes on paper is not jiving with Beersmith numbers tell me. That fact does not surprise me, and lots of online accounts seem to agree that the numbers given by BS are not right. So, I will go with mine and go from there

Since this mash tun is heated, I dont really need to worry much about strike temp. I can hit a bit low and work my way up, but the temps BS gave were in fact close.

Its really the volumes that I’m trying to figure. There isnt much to figure really. I know my kettle loss, I know my boil off (from several accounts), and I know what my fermenter volume.  The only thing that seems to be a sticking point is the grain absorption. And I really didnt think that would be an issue.

I am shooting for a .1 gallon/lb rate. A standard rate that fits most grains. I will be able to adjust later if necessary

At first I figured my mash ratio to 1.25,, but.. But there is a bit of dead space between the bottom of the basket and the bottom of the boiler/tun. This recipe called for 2.5 gallon strike and the water looked really shallow. So I moved 1/2 gallon of the sparge water to the strike volume to give a bit more room.

Hit strike temp 162 at about 45 min. Not sure how long exactly as I came back and it was there.

Was going to use my mash bag, but decided to see what this thing does first, then decide if I want a bag. (spoiler: OMG yes use a bag, don’t even screw around with out one)

Dough in was just as I expected,  way to thick. Its that deadspace under the tun basket. Will surely have to up the mash ratio next time. But did end up with a 154 mash temp.

I found it tough to get a decent temp reading for some reason. But I figured out why. The dead space. The water level is so low because of the dead space, the top layer of grain drains off and cools quickly.

Once I pushed my thermostat way down I got the same temp that was on the display. Will need to stir this a couple times during mash to get those top layers back into mash. (once a pump is in use this should be a non issue)

But since I am not using my pump, I am not going to run the heat. Will just mash as normal and stir. Maybe kick the heat on if drops too low, but because of a pre-trial with water, I do not expect it too.

Am also heating my 4.15 gallons sparge in separate kettle with a single heatstick.

Just got back from stirring at the 30 min. Was very surprised at first that the temp dropped 5 degrees in 30 min, but after a stir the temps were fine at 153.

I think this confirms that the top layer does not stay soaked with the warm wort. In a previous test I only lost 3 degrees over the hour mash. I am thinking a larger ratio would help here.

(going to be rapid fire reporting now as things are gonna start moving along faster)

-Ok dont like mashing in this thing at all. As with every flat false bottom I’ve ever seen, its clogs up and either slows waaay down or stops.

-The mechanics of this system really dont help it al all. Soon as you lift the basket of grain up out of the wort, everything inside is forced to the bottom grate, where it immediately turns to concrete and only letting any wort out in dribbles. And I have 4 gallons of sparge to send thru yet.

-Now I’m forced into a decision. Do I just keep pouring the sparge in there? It would take 3-4 hours at this rate.. Or do I stir a little knowing when I do I will be letting all the fine particles thru and into my wort?

-Made it thru, but I took the stirring route. The wort looks almost as chunky as the mash.

Now coming up to numbers.

Took a bit longer to get to boil that I liked,, but then again I was sitting there watching every move, so it probably wasn’t really as long as it felt. And of course I didnt time it,, but boil came at 2 ¾ hours after I started this morning,, seems long.

Didn’t know what to set my expected efficiency at so I left it at 80%.

I didn’t measure out the marks on the kettle but they show a preboil volume of just shy of 6.5 gallons. My predictions was to be at 6.3 so we appear to be on track.

Preboil gravity kind shocked me at first. The original recipe says I should be 1.033, but I am at 1.040. But then I realised I am going to boil off an entire gallon less. So again, right on track.

Boil is ok. Actually more vigorous than I expected. Am starting to doubt the .6/hour boil off, but we will see.

Post boil volume before chilling (using the marks on kettle) was 5.75 after chilling the level dropped to a little less 5.5. Not sure of these marks,, they could be way off. Will know better once in fermenter which i did measure out.

Ok we are into the fermenter. And here come the vitals…

  • We are at just under 5 gallons, or a little more than ¼ gallon short.

  • Gravity into fermenter is slightly over for the 80% I plugged into BS

  • Of course, tons and tons and tons and tons of trub. We will most certainly loose more than the usual ¼ gallon

  • The 5.5 marks on kettle are “close” would assume the rest are “close” as well

I will analyse this brew day tonight, but from first looks, I think we should lower the efficiency % just so we can calculate things better. Use a bigger boil off because if those marks are close as they look, we did hit our preboil. So the lowering of eff + adding more boil off we should be close.

First brew thoughts.

I like most things about this. The size, the compactness, and it dont feel like a cheap knockoff,  but this thing really needs help mostly in mechanics and procedure.

If I was starting out sure I could see this thing being ok to start on,, especially if you were going for 3 gallon Biab with no Sparge. (which is kinda what I planned to do with it)  

But if you are a seasoned brewer and expect this thing to be right up to par with your current system,, nope. Not even close.

Oh it does have a great potential,, but mods are needed. Right out of the box it just limps to the finish.  

This first, stock run gave me data. Data I sort of expected, so I’m not dissapointed.

And I gots plans. I will soon master this thing.

After the fact Update:

I have done all my measurements on the kettle and those stock hash marks on the kettle are right on the nose. 

But I did all measuring cold.

So while my initial preboil looked right, it was short because of the expansion of the hot wort. And on this batch my preboil was supposed to be 6.35 gallons, which it did looked like… but add in the 4% expansion and it shoulda looked like 6.6.

So right from the preboil we were off the exact amount we are short in the fermenter. Meaning the boil off is right, but the grain absorption is off)

Trub. Holy shit is there trub. Not used of this Biab kinda thing so seeing the cloudy chunky wort boiling and going into fermenter is un nerving to say the least. Even with whirlpool its flipping thick in there.

It looks like the next brew will be a 3 gallon BiaB style. Mainly to see is a mash bag inside the basket will help with sparging. We will see

Spiced Sweet Stout

Finally made the move back down stairs. Really like off down here much better. Everything is where I need it.

Anyhoo,,went with a spiced sweet stout.  But not really sure of the grain bill.  I bought the specialty grains but never brewed them.  I’ll have to go back and cross reference my notes to see what it is.

Added 1 lb of lactose, 2 crushed cloves, and a 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger,  nutmeg, and cinnamon. With a 04 yeast should make a decent Xmas beer!

The Throwback Brown Ale

This week’s brew was more of a plan ahead kind of thing. I will be brewing a barley wine in the next two weeks, so I need yeast. So, how bout a 3 gallon batch to steal the yeast cake from….

Since I will be using Nottingham yeast, why not an good old Brit Brown? Haven’t had a good British Brown ale in a long time. All the ones you find now days are too Americanized.

So I went back into the vault and found o e of my long lost extract brown ales. (Needs a new name)

Basement Brown 3 gallon extract

  • 1 can light LME
  • 12oz crystal 80
  • 8oz carapils
  • 8oz biscuit
  • 3/4oz EKG
  • 1/4oz EKG
  • Nottingham yeast

Well for some reason, I could not get Beersmith to work they way I wanted. I don’t know if I was using wrong profile or what, but it wanted me to be using 8+ gallons of water for a 3 gallon batch.
But figuring out an extract batches needs is like nothing.

3.125 gallons into fermenter
1.75 lbs grain x .12 water absorb
1.5 gallons boil off
.125 gallons kettle gunk loss
= 5 gallons water

I took 1/2 gallons of that water and mashed/steeped the grains in the mini masher while I was bringing the rest of the water to boil. Once I got boil I dumped it I to the kettle and got under way.

I did do a full boil with all of the extract. I wanted to get a little darker color since I used the golden light Lme.

Mmm the smell of a British Brown is awesome. Caramel, EKG.. Oh yea.

Sure looks like a good color going in. As the way with my first rounds of extract beers, I’ll just chuck it in the basement and let it go at what ever temp it is down there.  And right now it’s still 58.  Perfect for Notty.

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.