Friday, April 30, 2010

End of April Updates

Well, I managed to squeeze in two Brew Days this month; I'm right on track for my 100th such to come on the 4th of July weekend.  Woohoo!  Party at my place!

The first batch brewed was an "Oktober Ale"--the base recipe was for an Oktoberfest/Marzen, but I didn't have any lager yeast to hand, and didn't really feel much like futzing with it...  The grains were half-and-half Munich and Pils malt; Magnum bittered it, and Hallertauer were for flavor and aroma.  It's almost certainly over-hopped for style, but it's for me, and I'm not that concerned with it.

The second batch was last weekend's; I did a braggot.  Again, the grain was mostly Munich, with a bit of melanoidin for some unfermentables.  The honey was a gallon of Killer Bee I've had kicking around for a couple of years.  For hops, though, I tried something new--Citra.  It's 11% alpha, which is fairly strong, but the aroma!!  Wow--mango and passionfruit.  Nice, deep, and complex.  From what I've read, it's not great for a bittering hop, despite the acid levels; I'd tend to agree--I can see it getting muddied with too long a boil.  I used a bit less than an ounce of Magnum for bittering, then the Citra for aroma.  Starting gravity about 1.130; I hit the whole thing with a wine yeast (D-47, one of my favorites).  Initial airlock smells are great!  I'm thinking this will turn into something quite lovely.

On the equipment side, I've been gathering parts to do a RIMS setup.  I've got the heat exchanger done, and I have most of the parts for the control box.  I'll post pictures as I get things assembled (hopefully this weekend).  With luck, I can do a "dry-run" water-only test, see how it holds temp, this weekend, or maybe next; I'd like to have it basically functional for my next Brew Day at the end of the month.  Hmmm...  That means I'd need to build a new liquid return for the MLT, too.  Well, back to the hardware store for me...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brewing Experiment and Equipment Builds

Last weekend, at Lochmere's Night on the Town event, I held a brewing demo and discussion.  The topic at hand: the relative pros and cons of Extract and All-Grain brewing.

The brewing itself reflected this theme:  two "half-batches" (2.5 gallons each) of as near an identical brew as I can make, one each in Extract and All-Grain.  The basic recipe I tried to keep simple: I found a 3.3# can of Briess Munich liquid extract, and added a one-pound bag of Briess Pilsen Light dry extract; for hops, I went with two ounces of Hallertauer, one each at 15 minutes into the boil and flameout; WLP-838 was the yeast of choice.  For the All-Grain, I had to do some math--the liquid extract, while named "Munich," is not, in fact, all Munich malt.  So, I used 3.75 pounds of Pilsner malt and 2.3 pounds of Munich Malt.  The hop bill and yeast remained the same.

The process went fairly smoothly.  I had been worried about efficiency with so little grain in the mash-tun; it ended up being a non-issue.  After topping up the All-Grain batch (to even out the liquid levels), it had a gravity of 1.056, giving me a 73% efficiency; the Extract batch had an SG of 1.053.  The biggest difference apparent was, as expected, the color; I hadn't expected it to be quite as pronounced as it was, though.  The Extract batch was a good 5 degrees or so darker than the All-Grain, not the 1-2 degrees anticipated.  Regardless, it was interesting, and a good discussion was had, generally speaking.  I hope to serve the brews at Lochmere's Investiture, this September.

In other news, I'm gathering parts to (finally) shift to a RIMS system.  I've had the heating element for quite some time; I bit the bullet and started ordering other parts a couple of weeks ago.  I received yesterday a PID controller from Auber Instruments, as well as a thermocouple.  A solid-state relay and heatsink are en route, and should be here probably next week; most of what's left is plumbing.  I intend to do it all in stainless steel, which means I'll probably build slowly, getting a piece or two at a time, due to the cost.  Still, progress is progress.  Photos will be forthcoming as more parts arrive.

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