Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Brew!

I finally did it.  After months of procrastination and laziness, I brewed my first batch.  I was intitially planning on brewing the Austin Homebrew Supply Imperial IPA, but the instructions recommended a yeast starter.  I was ready to roll and did not have the patience (or knowledge) to make a yeast starter so I opted for the AHS Anniversary Amber.  This choice turns out to be smarter for a beginner because it has less ingredients and steps to completion. 

Enough about the beer.  Let's talk brewing.  The process started off very smoothly.  I prepped all equipment by washing and sanitizing, let everything air dry, and started heating 2 gallons of water as the directions called out.  My confidence was growing.  "You got this dawg," I said to myself.  "All I have to do is keep an eye on the temperature of the water.  Its been on the stove for a few minutes now, let me check the temperature with my... where the frick is my thermometer?"  What kind of an idiot tries to heat water to 155 degrees without a thermometer?  *raises hand*.  Luckily I realize the missing equipment early enough to run  to the piggly wiggly and pick one up.  I get back from the grocery, rip off the packaging, give the thermo a quick dip in the sanitizer and plop it in the water... 150.  Perfect!  Disaster averted.  A few more minutes on the burner and this bad boy is ready to rock.

Ok, the water is heated.  Next step is to steep the grain that AHS was nice enough to crush and put in a nylon bag.  Just like making a large pot of awesome tea.  This step goes smoothly.  Any moron can make tea.

After a long tea-bagging session, I bring the liquid to a boil then remove from heat and add 7lbs of the malt extract.  This stuff was very thick and syrupy.  Spilled a good bit on the hot burner which produced a rather unpleasant smell in the house.  Wife not happy.

Ok, so now I boil, add hops, keep boiling, add more hops, disconnect fire alarm cause its gettin steamy in this piece, keep boiling and then...

Chill B.  Remember the picture of the wort chiller I posted a few weeks back?  Well, I didn't use it cause I didn't want to go outside and hook it up to a hose.  So I opted for the old fashioned put the pot in the sink and run cold water method.  It worked ok.  I managed to splash a good bit of dirty sink water into the wort.  Sanitation is for p*ssies.  Random strains of bacteria add flavor.  Once the wort is chilled to 80, I added clean water to make 5 1/4 gallons.  I eyeballed it.  Close enough.  Now you may notice that my attention to detail is waning a bit.  The answer why is two-fold.  The first reason is... I'm gettin a lil crunk.  I am about 2-3 hours in at this point, and everybody in this club is getting tipsy.  The second, and more prominent, reason is that the kitchen looks like ground zero and my wife is lightly sleeping in the bedroom.  If she witnesses what I have done to the kitchen I will be banished from the house.  So I made an executive decision that some slight off-flavors in my beer is a better alternative than divorce, and cut a few corners. 

All right!  Specific gravity time.  For all you brewing nubs out there, measuring the gravity of the wort tells you how dense the liquid is.  Sugar and other stuff in the water raises density.  To measure this we professionals use what is called a hydrometer.  I'll touch on this in more detail at a later date.  So I add some wort to my little cylinder.  Ideally I would have preferred to use a sanitized turkey baster, but since I didnt even think to have a thermometer on hand the turkey baster was a no go.  I used the next best thing, my hand.  I was careful not to touch the wort, but I may have scraped a knuckle or two.  So I drop in my hydrometer and my reading the hell do u read this thing.  Oh wait, its upside down.  1.072??? WTF I'm shooting for 1.051.  I add some water and measure around 1.06.  Its getting late at this point and I need to transfer to the fermenter and start cleaning.  I splash in some more water, give it a stir and don't even bother to take a third reading.  Close enough. 

Here is where it gets fun.  The wort is already sitting in my plastic bucket fermenter.  I want it in my glass carboy so I can watch all the action.  I have a siphon kit but I dont know how to use it yet so I devise a genius plan to transfer the wort.  I make a homemade funnel out of a plastic cup.  The bottom of the cup was flat and I drilled a hole in it.  Mensa.  I cut the top off a gallon milk jug and proceed to fill up the jug and pour it into my precariously perched homemade funnel... disaster.  I just spilled about a pint of delicious unfermented beer on the floor.  If my wife sees this I'm finished.  My life would be forfeit.  You would learn of my fate on the next episode of Snapped! (her favorite show...yikes!)  Panic stricken, I search the kitchen for an alternative plan.  Bingo!  An empty Fresca 2 liter.  I grab the bottle and begin frantically cutting it in half, all while thinking "Who the hell drinks Fresca?"  I jam the top half of the bottle into the mouth of the carboy and it's a perfect fit.  At this point I am racing to finish.  I am filling the jug as fast as I can, wrist deep in the wort.  I don't care if it tastes as bad as, well Fresca, I need to start cleaning.  Once as much liquid has been transferred as possible, I shake up the yeast and add it to the carboy, shake it around, and carry it to my fermentation room.  And that, my friends, is where it currently sits.  I took some pics.   
24 Hours in.  Look at that kraeusen.  Yum

Sideways view.  What the heck's goin' on in there?

Ok.  If you made it through the wall of text I appreciate it.  And for the record my wife is an angel.  She would not really do any of the things I mentioned earlier (although Snapped! really is her favorite show.  Love you Boogie). 

I'll add some updates in a few days.
             Over and Out,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brew 101: Equipment: Fermenter

Hello everyone,

Whilst I'm waiting for my newest shipment like a fat kid loves cake (wait...), I thought I would discuss some of my equipment and give a brief explanation of what each piece does. 

First up is my fermenter.  The big coin jar pictured below is called a carboy.  The carboy is where all the magic happens.  I like to think of it as a giant glass Bunny Ranch where the yeast is free to impregnate all the sugar molecules, which later pop out tiny alcohol and CO2 babies.  Does that make sense to anyone else?  Cause that's what happens.  It's science.  Anywho, this is a 6.5 gallon carboy which is perfect for 5 gallon batches.  It is important to leave space at the top because fermentation can get hot and heavy and will leave a creamy residue behind.  Don't worry, its just yeast, exhausted from a long day of babymaking.  If the budget is tight you can even scoop up some of this cream (called kraeusen) and nurse it back to health for future batches.  Be careful not to introduce any foreign bacteria to the fermenter, or you could ruin your beer.

6.5 Gallon Glass Carboy
OK, that is enough Brew 101 for today.  Tomorrow I shall discuss what we use to release all the heat that is built up from the fermentation process.  Steamy! 
                                                  Peace and Love,

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Have I Done?

So after a rather long layoff from any real progress, I have come to the conclusion that I am in over my head.  Let me explain.  When most people start the wonderful hobby of homebrewing, they begin with a malt extract kit.
  A malt extract is basically a can of condensed, unfermented beer with the consistency of caramel, or molasses if you are old.  The brewer simply boils some water, adds the extract, boils it some more, adds some hops, boils some more, cools the wort and adds to the fermenter.  I decided to skip this step.  After all, I have read a book about brewing.  I don't need to subject myself to such amateur methods.  I opted for the all-grain approach.  "Send me your wheat in the mail and I shall brew an ale worthy of kings," I proclaimed.  Well, I was wrong.  It's a little more complicated than that and I just don't know where to start.  So... I just placed an order for a malt extract brewing kit.  The new kit should arrive in a week or so, and then I am finally going to brew something.  What flavor did I order?  Well, I got an amber ale extract that was on sale for $22.  Add the $7 yeast and I'm lookin' at a pretty good deal.  I also included a plastic bucket fermenter so I can have two batches going at the same time.  Two at the same time?  That's crazy.  I havn't even brewed one batch yet.  That is very true, but I also ordered an Imperial IPA 7.5% alc that I am very excited about.  I plan to have this bad boy in my glass carboy and the amber in the plastic.  Two at once to make up for the lack of production I have made so far.  Just trying to keep my fans happy.

On another note, I have had a request to create a how-to post about brewing and maybe a throw in some definitions.  I'll start working on that soon so stay tuned.

I also saw a commercial for East Bound and Down season 3 last night which I am VERY excited about, even though I havn't seen season 2 yet.  I gots to get on that.

Check in soon

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


So here is a crappy pic of my chiller.  It is made from refrigeration tubing from Home Depot.  Basically what this thing does is cools down the wort after it has been boiled.  It is important to quickly chill the wort to produce a "cold break."  If you do not get a good cold break your beer can have what is known as a chill haze.  It apparently does not affect the flavor of the beer, but can make it look less appealing.  So i hook one end of a hose to the fitting, run cold water through the tubing and out the other end, which still needs a fitting to attach plastic tubing too.  Once the cold water is running through, the temp of the copper drops, chilling the wort.  I am excited to see this baby in action.  My inaugural brew is fast approaching!  Stay tuned.