Sunday, May 31, 2015

Conical Fermenter Advantages for Home Brewing

Conical fermenters, once out of reach for home brewers, have recently become very popular as companies have started making conicals in small and affordable packages. Many home brew sized conicals have entered the market in the last few years in the sub-$200 price range. I have to say, I’ve been using primarily carboys for many years, but the conical does offer some advantages over a bucket or carboy.


Professional Conical Fermenters

Most modern professional fermentation vessels are cylindo-conical. They are typically cylindrical on the top, but have a conical shape on the bottom, and vary in size from a as little as a half barrel (about 60 liters) to hundreds of barrels (several thousand liters). Professional fermenters are made from stainless steel as it is easy to clean and can be reused almost indefinitely. They all have a valve at the very bottom of the cone which can be used to remove sediment, and also drain the finished beer for bottling or kegging when done. Most also have a second port higher on the cone which can be used to draw samples of beer for measurement or tasting.

The Advantage of the Conical Fermenter

The reason conicals are used almost exclusively in professional brewing is that they have several advantages for beer production:
  • One significant advantage is that a conical is a “uni-tank” which means that you can perform the primary fermentation as well as aging/storage in the same vessel. With a flat bottomed fermentation vessel, you have to transfer the beer to a second vessel to separate the sediment from the beer for aging. However in a conical, you can simply slowly open the valve at the bottom to let the sediment out, but leave the beer behind.
  • Closely related to that is the ability to remove yeast and sediment from the beer easily, and at any point in the fermentation. This makes it easy to reuse the yeast by drawing some yeast off and washing the yeast. This can save you some money in the long run as you can use one yeast vial for several batches.
  • Another advantage is that you can transfer the wort without siphoning, using just gravity as long as your fermenter is higher than your bottling/kegging vessel. Some fermenters with closed tops even allow you to apply CO2 pressure to the top of the fermenter to force the beer out the bottom to transfer.
  • Many conicals are made from stainless steel which makes them easy to clean and maintain. Even a plastic conical can be cleaned pretty easily in most cases.

Using a Conical Fermenter

Conicals are pretty easy to use. You transfer and ferment your wort just as you normally would. Most homebrew sized conicals have an airlock on the top to relieve pressure during fermentation, and you can draw sediment as desired from the bottom of the conical.
When drawing off yeast and sediment you will usually get a mix of beer and sediment – it is rare to get a clean plug of yeast. Its best to draw just a bit of sediment at a time from the bottom over several days than it is to try to remove all of the yeast/sediment all at once. Also you need to be aware that on some conicals, yeast can stick to the side of the cone, so it may require a gentle nudge to get it out. If harvesting yeast for reuse, I recommend that you wash your yeast and store it properly.
When drawing liquid from the bottom of a conical you also need to be aware that some air will enter via your airlock. Make sure you use a two-way airlock that will allow some air in or remove the airlock temporarily. Though adding air to the fermenter is not ideal, it will be fine if drawing off small amounts of sediment as there will still be a layer of CO2 over the beer protecting it, and also some fermentation will still be generating CO2 to push the air out.
When transferring for bottling/kegging, try to separate the sediment first, and once you have a mix that is mostly beer, let the valve run and transfer it all.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Aeration for Home Brewing Beer

by Brad Smith

How to enhance your home brewed beers using a technique called aeration. Aeration with oxygen is very important for fermenting beer, but needs to be applied at the right time to brew good beer. Let’s take a look at aeration and how important it is for brewing great beer at home.

Aeration Explained

Lets start with some basic definitions. Aeration is the injection of oxygen into the wort during the brewing process, usually after boiling and cooling cooling and just prior to fermentation. The act of boiling wort forces most of the oxygen out of solution. Unfortunately, as we covered in our article on fermentation and the yeast life cycle, yeast requires a great deal of oxygen during the “lag phase” when it is rapidly multiplying in the wort. Without enough oxygen, the yeast will fail to reproduce sufficiently, leaving an incomplete fermentation.


Before we get to how to best add more oxygen, lets look at two other important terms. Another term you may hear is “hot side aeration”, which refers to exessive splashing or aeration of the wort during the boil or before we’ve had a chance to cool the wort down. The problem with adding oxygen while the wort is hot is that it can oxidize the melanoidins in your beer leading to a stale flavor. A study by the late George Fix suggests that hot side aeration can occur at temperatures as low as 86F (which is pretty low!), so it is important to cool your wort before aerating it.
A third term, called oxidation is closely related to the first two. Oxidation occurs when you add oxygen after the lag phase of yeast growth (i.e. later in fermentation, or after the beer has fermented). In this case, the effect is exactly what is seen when you left your pony keg at college out for a few days with an air pump on it. The air oxidizes the finished beer, leaving a strong stale flavor. So you clearly don’t want to introduce oxygen in your beer after lag fermentation has started.

Aerating your Wort

So far we’ve learned that hot side aeration is bad, oxidation is bad, but proper aeration of the cooled wort is good. Now lets look at how to put this information to good use in our beer. Yeast needs between 8 and 10 parts per million (ppm) of oxygen to properly reproduce in the lag phase. A level of 8ppm is achievable using air alone (which is 21% oxygen), but achieving a higher level requires a tank of pure oxygen.
The best time to aerate your wort is as soon as it is cool. Ideally this can be done during transfer to the fermenter or immediately after transfer to the fermenter. If you aerate after pitching your wort, do not aerate for long as the lag phase generally starts withing a few hours of pitching the wort.
There are three basic methods for aerating wort:
  • Splashing – Splashing the wort around in the fermenter can actually add some oxygen to the solution. You can achieve the same effect by splashing the wort around during transfer – for example using a cap at the end of the siphon that splashes the wort out the side a bit. While splashing will not achieve as high an oxygen content as injection, it is a good option for those on a limited budget. Splashing is far superior to no aeration at all.
  • Agitation –Agitation is done by stirring rapidly with a spoon, whisking the wort around with a wisk or rocking the entire fermenter. Generally a sterilized whisk is best if you have open access to the wort. Whisk the beer vigorously for several minutes before adding your yeast. Agitation is a step above splashing, as it generally gets more oxygen into the solution.
  • Injection – There are many ways to inject air or oxygen directly into the wort. The simplest setup involves using an inexpensive aquarium pump with a inline sterile filter. Note that the filter is needed to prevent bacteria and other organisms from being drawn in with the air. I also recommend using some kind of carbonation stone or aeration stone at the end of the tube to help diffuse the air. Care must be taken to sanitize the stone and tube before using it. A more elaborate injection system would use an actual oxygen bottle and regulator to inject oxygen. However, even the relatively cheap aquarium pump injection system can achieve the 8 ppm ideal aeration level needed for your wort.
For many years, I used the splashing/agitation system, but for less than $25 you can move up to an aquarium pump, filter and carbonation stone and significantly improve the fermentation of your beer. I will add a final note – don’t forget the use of a properly sized yeast starter, for without a starter you still risk poor yeast production and subsequent problems in your beer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Brew-Boss® System is a great value and competitively priced.

Brew-Boss Features and Benefits

• Brew-Boss controller automates all temperature, timing, & pump control.
• Electronic process control provides consistent results batch after batch.
• Available with Mesh Bag or the New COFI Filter System
• User defined steps configurable to nearly any brew process.
• Brew all-grain batches in 3½ hours including clean-up!
• Complete systems and conversion kits available.
• Supports Conventional or Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB) brewing methods.

Electric Brewing Benefits:
- More economical - 1/5 the cost of propane
- Safer - No carbon monoxide or risk of explosion
- Efficient - 100% of BTUs transferred to wort
- Accurate - Holds temperatures +/- 1 degree
- Faster - 3½ hours for 10 gallon batch including clean-up
- Quiet - No obnoxious “roar” of the burner
- Convenient - Brew indoors in a sanitary environment

Android Tablet application provides:
- Simple - press “Start” and follow the prompts
- Convenient process monitoring and control
- Graphical Interface with Speech Prompts
- Saving and recalling brew steps & parameters
- Automatic or manual control

Other Features
• Automatic Hops-Boss hops feeder option that dispenses hops automatically.
• All Food/Brewery Grade Components
• Great Value - Affordable
• First time home brewers can brew all grain perfectly the first time!

Order yours today so you can have your beer, your way!  
Automated Electric Homebrew Systems

Home Brew Recipe: Addicted Coffee Stout

This delicious coffee stout was featured in Nathan Watkins article, “Making Great Coffee Beer” in the Sept./Oct. 2012 Zymurgy magazine. Using a blend of French Roast, Sumatra and Ethiopian coffees, Watkins created the perfect beer to wake you up in the morning.


Addicted Coffee Stout | American Stout


  • For 5 gallons (18.93 L)
    • 10.0 lb (4.54 kg) | two-row malt
    • 1.25 lb (0.57 kg) | Munich malt
    • 5.0 oz (142 g) | 45°L crystal malt
    • 5.0 oz (142g) | 150°L crystal malt
    • 4.0 oz (113 g) | roast barley
    • 4.0 oz (113 g) | chocolate malt
    • 4.0 oz (113 g) | black malt
    • 4.0 oz (113 g) | Simpsons brown (coffee) malt
    • 2.0 oz (57 g) | coarse ground coffee (steep 2 minutes at knockout or add toddy* [see below] to secondary)
    • 0.25 oz (7 g) | Magnum, 14.5% a.a. (60 min)
    • 0.5 oz (14 g) | Crystal, 5% a.a. (30 min)
    • 1.0 oz (28 g) Crystal, 5% a.a. (0 min)
    • White Labs 001 or Wyeast 1056


    • Original Gravity: 1.070
    • Final Gravity: n/a
    • ABV: n/a
    • IBU: 20
    • SRM: 38
    • Boil Time: n/a
    • Efficiency: 75%
    • Pre-boil Volume: n/a
    • Pre-boil Gravity: n/a


    • Mash at 151°F (66°C) for one hour.
    • Ferment at 68°F (20°C) until finished.

    Extract Version

    • Replace pale two-row malt with 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) pale malt syrup and Munich Malt with 15 oz (425 g) Munich malt syrup. 
    • Steep the remaining grains in 160°F (71°C) water for half an hour. Strain, rinse grains, add extract and dissolve thoroughly.
    • Proceed with boil. Increase 60 min addition of Magnum to 0.5 oz (14 g).

    *Preparing a Coffee Toddy for this Recipe

    1 quart jar with lid, sanitized
    2 muslin sacks, or pantyhose
    2 oz (57 g) of coffee ground to electric percolator (second from coarsest) setting on commercial coffee grinder
    2 cups (473 mL) water
    • Place ground coffee into the doubled muslin sack or pantyhose inside jar, then stretch around the outside of the jar. 
    • Fill with 1.5 cups (354 mL) cold water and put lid on tightly. 
    • Leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After 24 hours, open lid and lift out sack of coffee.
    • Pour out the remaining coffee toddy, leaving behind the dregs (last coffee bean bits) behind.  
    • Add to secondary before transferring from your primary. 
    • If you only have a primary, put the toddy in before bottling, or if you keg, the Cornelius keg upon transfer. 
    • Important note:  The ideal ratio of coffee to water is 1.0 oz (28 g) coffee to 8.0 fluid oz (237 ml) water.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Brew Boss App now on iPad & iPad Mini

    We have just been notified that the iOS (iPad and iPad Mini) version of Brew-Boss has been accepted and that the Brew-Boss app is now available in the iTunes app store! Load the app from iTunes by searching for Brew Boss and installing it on your iPad or iPad mini. It will run on phones as well but the screen size on phones limits its usability. If you already have the Brew-Boss system, please brew with it and let us know how it works!

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    Happy Memorial Day!

    Let's raise a glass of home brew and remember all of those who fought for our freedom and those who continue to do so!

    2015 National Homebrewers Conference Commemorative Beers

    Attendees at the 2015 National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego are in for a treat!
    To create the 2015 National Homebrewers Conference Commemorative Beers the AHA teamed up with commercial breweries with long-established connections to homebrewing to create six outstanding commemorative beers. Conference attendees will each get to take home two randomly-selected bottles to share with friends in hopes of creating one of the world’s biggest bottle shares!

    Lemon Yellow Son

    • Brewery: The Lost Abbey
    • Head Brewer: Tomme Arthur
    • Malts: 2-row, Rye, Acidulated, Flaked Rye and Flaked Rice
    • Hops: Warrior, Centennial, Comet, Nelson, Sorachi Ace and Lemon Drop
    • Yeast: California Ale
    • ABV: 5%
    • IBU: 35
    • SRM: 4
    Tomme Authur, 2015 keynote speaker and head brewer at The Lost Abbey, has recently unveiled the team’s third brand, The Hop Concept. Lemon Yellow Sun is a session version of the brand’s newest offering, Lemon and Grassy. The focus of this brew is the exciting profile of the Lemon Drop, Nelson and Sorachi Ace hops.

    Be Bold, Be a Homebrewer

    • Breweries: Beechwood BBQ Brewing,Mraz Brewing Co. and Heretic Brewing Co.
    • Brewers: Jamil Zainasheff (head brewer), Mike Mraz and Julian Shrago
    • Malts: Pilsner, Flaked Wheat, Oats and Spelt
    • Hops: Hallertauer Mittelfreuh, Tettnanger and Czech Saaz
    • Yeast: Wyeast 3711, Brett B (packaging)
    • OG: 1.050
    • FG: 1.004
    Jamil Zainasheff (Heretic), Mike Mraz (Mraz) and Julian Shrago (Beechwood) are all homebrewers at heart. Every time they reach for the mash paddle, they remember the inspiration of the hobby that got them started down their career paths. The team of three tapped into this inspiration to create Be Bold, Be A Homebrewer, a Belgian-style ale.

    Golden Naked Promise

    • Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.
    • Head Brewer: Chuck Silva
    • Malts: Golden Promise, 2-Row, Golden Naked Oats and Premium English Caramalt
    • Hops: Styrian Goldings
    • Yeast: California Ale
    • ABV: 5.5%
    • IBU: 35
    Chuck Silva, Green Flash brewmaster, and head brewer Erik Jensen, developed the idea for Golden Naked Promise during a discussion about Simpson’s Golden Naked Oats, a clean malt with a kick of biscuit. The oats served as their muse for a British-inspired summer pale ale, selecting other “golden” ingredients like Golden Promise malt and Styrian Goldings hops. The result is a light-bodied, malt-forward pale ale with an earthy spice and hint of candied orange zest.

    Karl Strauss ‘Home’ Brew

    • Brewery: Karl Strauss Brewing Co.
    • Head Brewer: Paul Segura
    • Malts: Pale malt and White malt
    • Hops: Simcoe, Mosaic, Amarillo and Citra
    • Yeast: California Ale
    • ABV: 7.0%
    Brewmaster Paul Segura and his team at Karl Strauss call their commercial brewery “home.” Most of the folks working at the brewery can trace their roots back to a homebrew system, which is what inspired Karl Strauss ‘Home’ Brew, a San Diego-style India pale ale. The simple malt bill paired with an array of flavorful and aromatic hops makes for an IPA that pays homage to the dedication, determination and ingenuity of homebrewers.

    What Would Dave Order

    • Brewery: Rip Current Brewing
    • Head Brewer: Paul Sangster
    • Malts: Pilsner, Belgian Biscuit, CaraMunich II, CaraVienne, Special B and Dark Candi Syrup
    • Hops: Hallertaur and Saaz
    • Yeast: WLP 530 Abbey Ale
    • OG: 1.092
    • IBU: 28
    • SRM: 22
    Dave Levonian, well-known homebrewer and craft beer enthusiast, passed away in 2008, before his fortieth birthday. Dave was known for his Belgian dubbel homebrew recipe, which many San Diego-based breweries went on to brew, calling it Brother Levonian. Paul Sangster, owner of Rip Current, is putting his own twist on the beer, which he dubbed What Would Dave Order? Sangster said the recipe is very similar to Dave’s original, with a few tweaks to make it more commercial brewery-friendly.

    Ron Mexico

    • Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co.
    • Head Brewer: Vinnie Cilurzo
    • Malts: 2-row, Best Pale Malt, Crystal Medium and CaraPils
    • Hops: HBC-438
    • Yeast: California Ale Yeast
    • ABV: 4.5%
    • IBU: 45
    The Hop Breeding Co. (HBC) is releasing a new variety hop currently known as HBC-435. With a history that goes back to the late 90s, HBC-435 is affectionately known as “Ron Mexico” after a pair of homebrewers were gifted some a decade ago. The name pays homage to the hop plant’s background, which is halfneomexicanus. The hop has distinct notes of tropical and stone fruits, creating a delicious hop aroma in this session IPA brewed by Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and brewmaster at Russian River.

    Sunday, May 24, 2015

    Saturday, May 23, 2015

    Whirlpooling Makes a World of Difference

    Homebrewing Whirlpooling
    Whirpooling is an easy process to include in your brew day that can greatly impact your beers. If you have a spoon, you can whirlpool!
    The Benefits of Whirlpooling
    Quicker Chilling: The time it takes to chill wort to yeast pitching temperatures is greatly decreased when whirlpooling. Because the wort is circulating, the cool and warm wort will constantly be churning and combining to promote quick chilling. Also, whirlpooling with a wort chiller can offer increased control of hitting an exact pitching temperature.
    Clearer Wort: A whirlpool promotes clearer wort by collecting the cold break solids in the center of the brew kettle. The chilled wort can then either be siphoned from the side of the kettle or through the kettle valve to avoid transferring any particulate.
    Improved Hop Flavor & Aroma: Because whirlpooling cools wort faster, post-boil hop additions instill more flavor and aroma without too much of the bitterness. Hops will continue to isomerize—the process which attaches alpha acids to water molecules creating bitterness—above 180°F (82°C). Being able to drop below this temperature will prevent isomerization in hop additions that are intended to instill just flavors and aromas.
    Reduced DMS: The heat from the boil converts s-methyl methionine (SMM) in malt to dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which appears in beer as an unfavorable cooked or cream corn flavor. A longer, vigours boil—especially when using Pilsner malt, which contains eight times more SMM then typical base malts—can drive off DMS. When the boil is over, the heat continues to convert SMM to DMS until temperature drops below about 140°F (60 °C). Whirlpooling cools wort quickly, reducing the amount of DMS occurring in the post-boil.

    How to Whirlpool

    Whirlpooling involves creating a circular current in the brew kettle, and this can be done using various techniques and equipment.
    WhirlpoolingThe simplest way, whether using an ice bath, an immersion chiller or no formal chilling method, is to stir the contents of the kettle with a spoon rapidly until a circular current is achieved. Stir along the walls of the kettle for a few minutes, taking care not to splash to prevent any chances of hot side aeration, until a strong, lasting whirlpool forms. Depending on what your goals are (e.g., clarification, hop flavor/aroma), allow the whirlpool to stand for 10-30 minutes before racking.
    Pump or Counterflow Chiller
    If a pump is available, or you are using a counterflow chiller, a whirlpool can be created by angling the pump-out hose along the side of the kettle a few inches below the surface of the wort. This flow will cause the wort to spin in a circular current. Be careful when creating a whirlpool with a pump as it can cause hot wort to splash out of the kettle.
    One of the most effective means of whirlpooling and chilling is highlighted by Jamil Zainasheff in “A New Spin on an Old Chiller” in the January/February 2007 Zymurgy(AHA members can access this issue instantly on eZymurgy or with the Zymurgy mobile apps). Zainasheff offers an upgrade to the typical immersion chiller that makes for effecting whirlpooling and chilling.

    The Physics of Whirlpooling

    whirlpoolingIt may seem logical that a whirlpool would send the solid material to the outside of the kettle because of our child hood experiments with swinging a bucket of water around in circle without any falling on our heads. However, because the contents of the boil kettle are light enough, they will collect in the center due to something called the “tea leaf paradox.”
    Basically, stirring the wort into a whirlpool is creating centripetal force, but because of friction caused by the liquid’s contact with the bottom and sides of the kettle, the liquid towards the bottom slows, creating a pressure gradient. This pressure gradient is lower than the upper portion of the liquid, so the solid materials in the kettle are pulled towards the center of the bottom (things move from higher to lower pressures). Isn’t physics phun?
    Class dismissed!

    Thursday, May 21, 2015

    How to Create Your Own Homebrew Recipe


    When I started homebrewing, I was like the vast majority of people getting into the hobby: I learned as much as I could about cleaning and sanitizing, made sure to follow directions on the proper boil time and hop additions, and learned how to be patient by allowing the beer to ferment out completely before racking to a secondary. Being able to make my own recipe was light years away – or so I thought.

    Like most, this hobby took me on by storm. I quickly was upgrading my equipment: dumped extract for all-grain, added a wort chiller, made yeast starters, and oxygenated my wort. I also found myself buying and reading more books to understand the full process of what was happening when I was brewing. One of the great things about buying brewing book is that they offer numerous recipes. Whatever book you buy regarding homebrewing or a particular craft beer style, there is at least one recipe that a homebrewer can use in an effort to recreate what the author intended.

    While using recipes provided by others is a way to make fantastic beers, I often found myself wanting to create an entirely new beer by redesigning another recipe. Homebrewers are a creative bunch, and this is one way in which I sought to express my creativity. Some of the ideas turned out great (adding espresso to the secondary of a porter) while some were better ideas on paper than in practice (Fruity Pebbles Wit).

    Tweaking Your Recipe

    How does one go about tweaking a recipe without adding too much/too little of a particular ingredient without going overboard and having an end result that tastes disgusting? The short answer is: a lot of trial and error. While trial and error is one of the joys of homebrewing, it could end up leading to a costly mistake.

    Let’s be honest, if you aren’t inclined to drink your homebrew, then nobody else will. Here are a few guides to follow when tweaking a recipe to call your own.

    1. Ensure Balance Between Base Malts & Specialty Grains

    Maintaining a proper balance between base malts and specialty grains is a very important step in being able to tweak a recipe to make it your own.

    If the original recipe called for a ratio of 80% base malt (2-Row, Pilsner, Pale Malt, etc) and 20% specialty grains (Black Patent, Rye,Munich, etc), you’ll need to make sure that you don’t overdo changing the ratio around. If you decrease your base malt and increase your specialty malt, a number of things could happen.

    First, the increase use of specialty malts will change the starting gravity (OG) of your beer, because specialty malts have less diastatic power than base malts.

    Second, many specialty malts have distinct and characteristic flavors that will either become enhanced or muted by changing their proportion. For example, if you increase Black Patent while decreasing Pale U.S. 2-Row, you finished product may taste slightly more astringent than previously.

    2. Be Careful When Adding Fruit Additions

    Adding fruit is an easy way to turn one beer into a completely different brew, without the need for changing around the base malt/specialty ratio. However, depending on how you add the fruit, you also may be adding simple sugars that are highly fermentable.

    If you don’t try to account for the added sugar, you could either end up with a beer that tastes cloyingly sweet or make a beer that has a higher alcohol by volume than anticipated. One way to combat this is by adding fruit to a secondary vessel after primary fermentation has completed. Be mindful that some fresh fruit have naturally occurring wild yeast on the skin. You can either dip the fresh fruit in StarSan or go to your local grocery store and buy frozen fruit.

    Buying frozen fruit is an excellent way to add fruit flavor to a beer for a number of reasons. First, the frozen fruit is going to be free of any microbes that will infect your beer. Second, freezing the fruit helps break down cell walls within the fruit. This means that it is easier to get the juice from the fruit into your beer.

    My preferred method is to buy a bag of frozen fruit, let it thaw, and throw it back in the freezer. Prior to adding to the secondary, I thaw the bag of frozen fruit again and then add directly to the secondary. This ensures that the cell walls have ruptured and your fruit of choice can flavor your beer quicker than normal.

    3. When Adding Spices, A Little Goes a Long Way

    Another simple way to tweak a recipe is by adding spice additions. One of my favorite homebrews is from a friend who makes an excellent porter. During the summer, after he harvests his jalapeƱo garden, he makes a smoked pepper porter. During the winter, he takes the base porter and makes a mint-chocolate peppermint porter.

    While each beer has the same base, adding spices can dramatically alter the flavor of the beer – in each case above, they all were excellent! However, be mindful that certain flavors can easily overpower others. Smoked malts are an excellent addition to add to a recipe, but stay below 2% of your total grain bill or else your beer will end up tasting like you’re eating a campfire log. The same logic goes for mint, cinnamon, clove, or other holiday spices.

    Spices can be added to the boil, secondary, or in the bottling bucket/keg.

    How I Tweaked A ‘Silver Dollar Porter’ Recipe

    One of my first ‘go-to’ books regarding homebrewing was Charlie Papazian’s “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.” I own the 3rd edition, which has over 50 different recipes homebrewers can use.
    Gold Dollar Imperial Porter
    At the time I bought this book, I was head over heels for porters and stouts. They offer a nice balance of bready, chocolate, maltiness without being too heavy on the stomach and waistline.Under the ‘Advanced Homebrewing for the Practical Brewer’ section of Papazian’s book (p. 311-312), there is a recipe for a porter called ‘Silver Dollar Porter.’ This porter was excellent because it had a great balance of chocolate and roastiness while maintaining a medium body.

    I wanted to ramp up the recipe and make an imperial porter, so I added more base malt to up the alcohol percentage and added more chocolate and black patent to bring out more of those flavors in the finished beer. Finally, I added fresh espresso to the secondary.

    Coffee is an excellent pairing for any darker and maltier beer. There are a number of ways to add coffee to your brew. I choose to add the hot pressed espresso straight into the secondary. There are a few other ways to do it, but this was the fastest/easiest method for me at the time.

    My New Recipe: Gold Dollar Imperial Porter
    Recipe Specs
    Batch Size:5 Gallons
    Original Gravity (OG):1.086
    Final Gravity (FG):1.020
    Apparent Attenuation:74.7%
    • 10.0 lbs Pale Malt (U.S.)
    • 1.50 lbs Black Patent
    • 1.50 lbs Chocolate Malt
    • 1.50 lbs Crystal 80
    • 1.50 lbs Munich Malt
    • 0.50 lbs Flaked Barley
    • 0.50 lbs Victory/Biscuit Malt
    • 1 oz Cascade (5.50% AA) @ 50 minutes
    • 1 oz Northern Brewer (8.5% AA) @ 50 minutes
    • 0.5 oz Chinook (13% AA) @ 30 minutes
    • 1 oz Perle (8% AA) @ 20 minutes
    • 1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 15 minutes
    • 1 package Wyeast 1098 (British Ale Yeast)

    • Yeast Starter: Make a 1.5L starter 24 hours prior to brew day.
    • Mash Schedule
      • Protein Rest: 122°F for 30 minutes.
      • Saccharification Rest: 156°F for 30 minutes.
      • Mash Out: 168°F for 10 minutes.
    • Sparge with 170°F water to achieve preboil volume of 7.5 gallons.
    • Boil: Follow the hop/fining schedule outline above for a 60 minute boil.
    • Cool wort down to 70°F and pitch yeast slurry.
    • Ferment at 67-69° for 10 days, or until fermentation is complete.
    • After fermentation is complete, transfer to a secondary vessel. Add 12 shots (approximately 12 fl. oz.) of hot pressed espresso into secondary. Let sit in secondary for 7-10 days.
    • Bottle or keg to 2.3 volumes of pressure.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Homebrewing: How to Dry Hop Your Beer


    Opening a sealed package of hops from the homebrew store gives a blast of that fresh aroma that sometimes seems to be difficult to capture in a beer. The truth is, the simple technique of dry hopping is all it takes to bring out those wonderfully fresh citrus, pine and earthy aromas in your homebrew.
    Dry hopping is basically the ultimate late hop addition.
    Traditional boiling changes the natural alpha acids in hops into iso-alpha acids—they're the stable compound that provides the bitter flavors in beer. Unfortunately, boiling also breaks down the volatile essential oils that comprise the aromas and much of the flavor of the hop itself. When we first talked about hops, I mentioned that the later the hops are added to the boil, the more they will affect flavor and aroma. This is because the less time hops are boiled, the fewer bitter iso-alpha acids are produced and the fewer aromatic essential oils are driven away. Dry hopping is basically the ultimate late hop addition. 
    The phrase is a bit of a misnomer, since you don't keep the hops dry at all. Instead they are added to the beer in the conditioning phase, after the fermentation but before it's time to bottle. Usually this means you'll add the hops after the airlock has stopped bubbling. If you're doing a two-stage fermentation, then the dry hops would be added at the time you transfer your beer to a secondary fermentation vessel. Otherwise the rapid discharge of carbon dioxide will "scrub" the delicate flavors that we're trying to preserve. Since the beer is only around 65°F at this point in the process, the breakdown of essential oils occurs much more slowly, preserving the flavor and aromas of the hops.
    Dry hopping is a great way to experiment with different recipes. You can always dry hop a Pale Ale or an IPA with the same variety of hops used in the recipe. Or you can try to find a variety that complements the flavors you're already using. In our Pale Ale, for example, dry hopping with the citrusy Amarillo hops would help bring out the grapefruit character of the Cascades added late in the boil. But you can also try dry hopping other, more unexpected styles to make a hoppy American-style Stout or a hoppy wheat beer.
    When you do dry hop a homebrew, you'll want to drink it a little quicker than usual. The added aromas are still quite volatile, even at cooler temperatures, and they will dissipate within a few months of bottling. Some lasting flavors and aromas will remain after that, but you will notice that the first few bottles you open will have a much stronger aroma than the last ones in the batch.

    Dry Hopping Instructions

    The only equipment needed is a nylon hop bag, a few clean glass marbles, and about an ounce of hops. The job of the marbles is to sink the bag of hops to the bottom of the carboy or fermentation bucket. You can use as much as two ounces of hops for a five gallon batch, but one is enough to get the job done.
    Sanitation is still important here, but since we add the hops after fermentation is complete, the alcohol present in the beer provides some protection against unwanted bacteria. Simply boil the hop bag and the marbles for about 10 minutes to sanitize. Hops are naturally antiseptic, which is one of the reasons they're used in the brewing process to begin with, so there is no reason to sanitize them. Now, just add the marbles and the hops to the bag, and put them in the fermentation vessel.

    The majority of the benefits will occur within a week, but you can leave the dry hops in the fermenting vessel up to two weeks if you would like. After that, just transfer to a bottling bucket and bottle as usual.

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Home Brew Recipe: "Miller Like"

    Home Brew Recipe (5 gallon batch) by

    Note: Hops in the recipes below are pellets.

     "Miller Like" This is a basic drinkable beer that resembles a typical American "blonde" beer. It is a lighter beer that everyone enjoys. If Malt is purchased in bulk (50-55lb) bags, you can expect this recipe to cost a little over $10!

    8 lbs pale Ale Malt (2 Row)

    1 oz Cascade Hops (Boiling)

    ½ oz Hallertau Hops (Aroma) added 15 minutes before end of boil

    1 tsp Irish Moss added 15 minutes before end of boil

    1 packets Safale US-05 Yeast or equivalent

    Strike Temp 154F
    Mash Time 60 Minutes @ 152F
    Sparge Time 15Minutes at 168F
    Boil Time 60 Minutes

    Calculating Starting Water Volume
    We've found that 9 pounds of grain absorbs about 1 gallon of water during mashing. We also lose about 1 gallon of volume per hour of boil. So, for the Miller Like recipe example above, we have 8 lbs of grain, so we'll lose about 1 gallon of water to grain absorption. We have a 1 hour boil, so we'll lose another gallon, totaling 2 gallons lost. If we want 5.5 gallons into our fermenter (allowing for trub loss), we'll need 7.5 gallons of water to start. This same calculation can be made for any recipe.

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Homebrewing: Introduction to Mashing and All-Grain Brewing

    Making the jump from extract brewing to all-grain brewing can be daunting. There is all new terminology to learn, a seemingly an endless supply of expensive equipment, and more science than most of us have done since high school. But the truth is, starting out in all-grain brewing doesn't really have to be hard or expensive.

    The Brew-Boss® home brew system is an all electric home brewing system that allows home brewers to brew extract and all-grain recipes with complete and accurate automatic control of temperature and timing. 

    Before we jump into recipes, we need to look at the biggest difference between brewing an extract beer and an all-grain beer. All the sugar in liquid or dry malt extract has been extracted from base malts. After the malt has been processed, it's condensed into a form that's easy to package and work with. When making an all-grain style recipe, the sugar extraction step is done by the homebrewer through a process called mashing. Mashing gives the homebrewer complete control over the type of sugar that is extracted and gives more flexibility with the varieties of grain that can be used.

    Mashing simply means to combine crushed grain with hot water at a ratio of around 1.25 quarts per pound of grain. The grain will soak for about an hour, and then the liquid will be drained from the grain. Once the liquid is separated from the grain, you can proceed with your brew day in the same way you would an extract batch. While it sounds trivial, beneath the surface of that simple grain and water mixture is a myriad of complex chemical processes that produce fermentable wort.


    Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical processes. Mashing activates enzymes that naturally exist in the base malts. A wide variety of enzymes are present in base malt, and each one facilitates a different chemical process. The most useful enzymes for homebrewers are the ones that break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars for the yeast to eat. Other enzymes in the mash will help eliminate proteins that cause haze, and some will produce nitrogen compounds that aid in yeast health during fermentation.

    There are some enzymes that the brewer wants to avoid, such as ones that will destroy head retention or create watery mouthfeel. The challenge of the homebrewer is to coax out the enzymes that will improve the beer, and avoid the ones that will cause problems.

    Mash Temperature and pH

    Different enzymes will activate and deactivate depending on the temperature and pH of the mash.

    Different enzymes will activate and deactivate depending on the temperature and pH of the mash. For the homebrewer just getting into all-grain style recipes, controlling the mash pH is not as big of a concern as controlling temperature. Mixing the right proportions of grain and hot water on a homebrewing scale naturally produces a pH that is between 5.1 and 5.5, which is ideal for the enzymes we want to activate. Testing the pH is as simple as picking up inexpensive testing strips from your homebrew shop. Remove a small ladle of liquid from the mash after it has been thoroughly mixed and immerse the testing strip for the length of time listed on the package.

    Temperature control is key to proper mashing. In order to activate the enzymes that convert grain into simple sugar, the mash temperature must be between 145°F and 158°F. For most styles of beer, a mash temperature of 150-154°F is used, and will produce a wort that can be easily fermented by the yeast while retaining a medium body. If the mash temperature is in the 145-150°F range, the enzymes will produce highly fermentable sugars and the final product will have a drier finish. Mash temperatures in the 155-158°F range will produce sugars that are harder for the yeast to ferment, resulting in a fuller bodied beer. Mashing in the lower temperature range is appropriate for styles like a Saison or a Tripel, where the higher temperature range is used for Scotch ales and Sweet Stouts.

    When first venturing into the world of mashing and all-grain brewing, proper mash temperature can be very difficult to achieve.  Using the the Brew-Boss system dials in the correct temperature.  If you don't yet have a Brew-Boss my rule of thumb for people just starting out is "Close is good enough". If the thermometer in your mash is reading within 5°F of your target, you have nothing to worry about. The thermometer was not even used in commercial brewing until at least the late 1700's, and widespread use didn't happen until much later. Prior to that, it was impossible for brewers to know exactly what temperature their mash was at, and presumably they were made able to make decent beer. You should always try to hit the proper mash temperature, but don't stress out if you miss it, get a Brew-Boss.

    Mashout and Lauter

    After the mash sits for about an hour, the next step is to stop all enzymes from working. Homebrewers usually accomplish this by adding hotter water to increase the mash temperature to 170°F. At this temperature, all enzymatic activity is stopped, and the sugar that was produced begins to flow freely like honey in the microwave. This step is called the mashout. The temperature shouldn't exceed 170°F, otherwise unpleasant tannins from the grain will leach into the wort.

    Lautering is a brewing term for draining the liquid wort out of the grain. There is a lot of different homebrewing equipment that will help you with lautering, ranging from pre-made heavy strainers to a do-it-yourself braided hose for the more crafty homebrewers. The first recipes we'll be looking at will use the simplest and cheapest method of lautering, called the brew-in-a-bag method. After the the wort is separated from the grain, the brew day proceeds in the same way as when you brew with an extract-style recipe.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Seven Easy Ways to Improve Your IPA!

    Here are 7 easy ways on how you can improve your Home Brewed IPA!

    1) Every Beer Starts with Water!

    Never under estimate the importance of beers primary ingredient, water. The water that you are using to make your beer is critical, especially when it comes to all grain brewing. Water plays an important part in everything from the taste and the mouth feel of a beer to the sugar conversion and acidity in a finished beer.

    If you are using city water that has been treated with chlorine, always make sure that you are removing the chlorine with a carbon filter or alternative method. It is also a good idea to check your city’s water report to see if you are lacking or have an over abundance of minerals in your water that may be impacting your beer. Vinnie suggests treating your water with gypsum in both your mash and your boil to heighten the hop flavor of your beer. You can also use low level sodium additions to have a similar effect. Before making these additions you should first examine your existing levels to make sure that it will not detract from the quality of your finished beer.

    2) Dry Hop Until You Just Can’t Dry Hop Anymore!

    Unlike adding hops early in the boil, dry hopping adds little to no bitterness to the finished beer but what it does add is a strong and fresh hop aroma! When dry hopping beer, I always recommend adding the hops after the airlock has stopped bubbling in fermentation. That ways the escaping CO2 will not carry the hop aroma out of the fermentor along with it. Vinnie suggests adding multiple dry hop additions at different times which may deliver additional hop aroma to your finished IPA!

    3) Do Not Rush Your Fermentation!

    We all want to try out our latest beer as quickly as possible, but there is allot to be said for patience in home brewing! If you have the ability to temperature control your fermentation, set the temp between 65F to 67F. Yeast loves a low stable temperature and produces far less off flavors than at higher temps. It will take longer to ferment at a lower temperature but your beer will come out cleaner tasting so that your robust hop profile can really shine in the finished beer! Also, cold crash your beer once your fermentation has completed. Try to crash at around 36F for 2 weeks if possible. This will help force any residual yeast out of suspension and leave you with a cleaner tasting and clearer beer!

    4) Don’t Skimp On the Yeast!

    Now a days home brewers have a huge variety of options when it comes to yeast. If you want your beer to be as good as possible, then you are going to have to use the best and most suitable yeast for the style of beer that you are brewing. A great West Coast IPA yeast strain is theWhite Labs WLP001 Ale Yeast.

    Make sure that you create a yeast starter, insuring viability and that you pitch a sufficient quantity of yeast for the strength of beer that you are brewing.

    5) Do Not Overload Your Beer With Crystal or Malty Grains!

    Vinnie suggests that you add crystal malts sparingly to your grain bill. He remarks that the sweet flavors and aromatics derived from those grains can compete with the flavors and aromas of your hops. An IPA is a showcase for the hops and the other ingredients should complement them not detract from them.

    6) Consider Adding Hop Resin Extract to Your Boil!

    Pure hop resign extracts can be a great way of boosting the bitterness of your wort with out having to add an extreme amount of hop additions to your boil. Just like with actual hops, in order for the bitterness to be captured by the wort, the hop resign still needs to be boiled in the wort for a sufficient amount of time.

    7) Opt For a Dryer Beer!

    A dryer beer can really help the hops in your IPA stand out! Vinnie suggests supplementing approximately 5% of your grain bills sugars with dextrose. Dextrose is a very simple sugar that yeast can easily ferment. Another option would be dropping your mash temp down by a degree or two in order to create less complex sugars during the mashing process.