Monday, November 9, 2009

My Second Batch of Homebrew: Phase One (Brewing)

Well, it's been about a year since my wife and I brewed up up first batch of homebrew (you can read all about that saga starting here), and just yesterday we found the time for our follow-up. The last batch was somewhat of a failure, and we still have a lot of it sitting in bottles waiting to be poured out, but we're still optimistic about this batch. We learned a lot of lessons last time, and this time we set out to address each problem we encountered.

For this batch, we decided to go with an India Pale Ale, and due to a lot of turmoil over the last few months, light-heartedly settled on the name FML IPA (if you're unfamiliar with the initials FML, let's just say its shorthand for a feeling of hopelessness). For our recipe, we picked one from Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing called "Palilalia India Pale Ale." We made some modifications based on what was in stock at the local homebrew store, and with the intent of kicking the intensity up just a little. Despite the poor results last year, we were a little more adventurous this time, opting to go with malted barley, dried malt extract, and hop pellets, instead of the pre-hopped liquid malt extract and sugar we used last time.

Homebrew Equipment

Here's the equipment we used:
  • 22 quart kettle
  • Large plastic brewer's spoon
  • Strainer
  • Six-gallon spigoted bucket with airtight lid
  • Fermentation lock (aka bubbler) with a stopper to fit the hole on the bucket's lid
  • Hydrometer with sampler
  • Probe thermometer
  • Measuring cup
  • PBW cleaner
And here's the ingredient bill:
  • 6 pounds of dried Pilzen-style malt extract
  • 1 and a half pounds of toasted crystal malt (in a steeping bag)
  • 2 ounces of Northern Brewer hop pellets
  • 1 ounce of Cascade hop pellets
  • 1 packet of dry ale yeast (Safale US-05)
  • 2 teaspoons of gypsum
  • 5 gallons of drinking water (3 of them chilled)
First up was sanitizing, a subject that caused a lot of headaches last time around. Instead of bleach, this time we used PBW, a non-caustic and bio-degradable cleaner. We added 4 tablespoons of PBW, along with about five gallons of tap water to the fermenter and threw in the lid, the hydrometer, the sampler, the scoop used to add the gypsum, the spoon, and the bubbler assembly. To heat the water a bit to aid in cleaning, we topped the bucket off with about 16 cups of boiling water. We let everything sit for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with the spoon. (See note at the bottom of this post for a big mistake we made in this step...)

Homebrew MashWhile we were waiting for the PBW to do it's thing, we started the brewing process. Up first was the mini-mash, where we steeped the malted barley. We added roughly one and a half gallons of drinking water to the kettle, and added the steeping bag full of malted barley. We brought the temperature up to about 160 degrees and held it there for around 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the bucket, and everything inside were ready to be rinsed off and the steeping bag was ready to be removed. We used the (now clean) brewer's spoon to agitate the steeping bag to help get all of the sugary goodness out. We removed the steeping bag from the water and allowed it to drain, and then pressed it against the side of the kettle to get as much water out as possible. We then poured about 8 cups of boiling water over the bag to sparge, and again pushed the bag against the side of the kettle until it was dry.

Now it was tiHomebrew Malt Extractme to add the dried malt extract (DME), hops, and gypsum. We tore the DME bags open and slowly stirred the contents into the wort. I'm not going to lie, at first it seemed like getting that much dried malt to dissolve in a little less than two gallons of water did not seem possible. But, I trusted in my recipe and went ahead and added the two ounces of Northern Brewer hops and the two teaspoons of gypsum and turned up the heat to get everything to a boil.

Once the heat came up and approached boiling, with the aid of some rather stern stirring, the DME started to dissolve nicely. Once it was boiling, there were a few times where the wort threatened to boil over the kettle, but judicious stirring and removing the kettle from the heat kept everything inside the pot. 60 minutes of boiling, and a beerish odor to saturated the entire house, then ensued.

Toward the end of the boil, we prepared a cup and a half of boiling water in my measuring cup and allowed it to cool to around 105 degrees. It took a little longer than we had expected to cool, so next time we'll have to start this earlier. Once it came down to temperature, we added the yeast, covered the cup with foil, and let it rehydrate for about 20 minutes.

About one minute before the boil was over, we added the Cascade hops (they smelled excellent), as per the recipe. Then, we took the kettle off the heat, and put it in the kitchen sink, along with as much water and ice would fit. We started to cycle the water out of the sink, replenishing it with fresh water and ice every five minutes, and the temperature dropped slowly, but surely, to 100 degrees after 30 minutes or so.

Once the wort had cooled, we added two gallons of chilled drinking water to the fermenter, and began to strain the wort into the fermenter. It took about ten minutes, stirring the contents of the strainer occasionally, to transfer all of the wort to the fermenter. At this point, we poured about 6 cups of hot (but not boiling) water into strainer to sparge off what we could. Then, we topped the fermenter off to five gallons with the rest of the chilled water.

Homebrew in FermenterAt this point, the temperature was at 72 degrees, and we took a sampling and got a gravity reading of 1.065. The yeast was ready to pitch, so we went ahead and added it, and proceeded to put the lid onto the fermenter. We then put the fermenter in it's new home for the next week or so, in the spare bathroom's bathtub, and attached the bubbler.

Everything seemed to go rather smoothly this time, and the contents of the hydrometer sampler that I sipped actually did taste a little like an IPA, so there's a lot of hope for this batch. I checked on the bubbler this morning, and I'm happy to report that it's already showing plenty of activity.

Now, once again, we wait.

Note: It turns out I got some bad advice, and PBW simply cleans brewing equipment, and does not sanitize (I was told it did both, which is just further proof I should double-check everything I hear on the Internet). So, what that means is that the equipment that has touched the beer so far was not properly sanitized, and it is rather possible that the the beer could pick up an infection from those surfaces. Luckily, I caught this before bottling, and we can properly sanitize everything the beer has yet to touch, reducing the chances that the final product will be infected. At this point, there is nothing to do but hope that the surfaces the beer has touched were clean enough, and that the beer will be okay. Suddenly, FML seems like a very appropriate name...

If you'd like to catch up on the first batch, Young At Heart Stout, you can read about Phase One (Brewing) here, Phase Two (Bottling) here, and the review of the finished product here.


John Setzler said...

Don't worry about using PBW. Everything is going to be fine and you should have an excellent batch of beer when the fermentation is complete. My best advice to you from a homebrewer's standpoint is to let that beer stay in the fermenter for at least 14 days and as many as 21 days. The only other note I see would be to start your yeast hydration around 90 degrees rather than 105 if possible... After you bottle this beer, let it sit for a minimum of 3 weeks before tasting it. If you can stand the wait, I would wait 4 weeks. I would also put back two or three bottles of it to taste 8 months out so you can see how the flavors mature in a beer like this over time.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your advice John. I'm a patient man, so waiting two, or even three weeks, to bottle is possible. I've heard before that leaving the beer in the fermenter for a long time is good, but what would you say are the specific benefits?

I'm doing well not obsessing too much about the risk of infection, but it's a valuable lesson learned for next time.

105 did seem a little high to me, but it was what Papazian recommended, so I went ahead with it. I'll hydrate them a lower temp next time.

John Setzler said...

There are a couple benefits to longer fermentation times. My beers generally ferment for 30 days, half of which is in a primary fermenter while the second half is in a secondary. The actual conversion of sugars to alcohol in a 5-gallon batch will complete in 3 to 6 days in most beers. (You can't always judge fermentation activity by visible activity in the airlock.) After the fermentation is complete, the yeast is still working on the 'clean-up' process. There are proteins left behind that the yeast will clean up and cause to fall out of the beer, creating a cleaner and clearer beer. The extra time in the fermenter starts the 'aging' process as well where flavor distribution and maturation begins. Since this is your first serious batch of beer, you stand to learn a lot by setting aside several of these beers and tasting them at timed intervals such as 3, 6, 9, and 12 months so you can witness this flavor maturation process first hand. Some beers are better with age and some will peak and go down hill over time. Some people make and consume 5 gallons of beer well before the beer actually reaches it's peak flavor :)

You can't go wrong with anything Charlie Papazian says. He's a great source and I have his books as well.

Sanitization is a big deal. It's important to properly sanitize anything that is going to touch your beer after the boil is complete. I use a product called Starsan. It's the best stuff I have ever used. Don't stress over not getting this step perfectly correct on your first go at it. Chances are your beer will be fine. If you don't like the beer you make, you can always pour it out and start again :) Once you do get hooked on this hobby, you will want to brew more often so you are never out of homebrew :)

Unknown said...

I'll definitely give it plenty of time in the fermenter. If I end up waiting over two weeks, I'm assuming I won't have to take multiple gravity readings, and can just take one right before bottling to determine ABV, correct?

How about checking for an infection, should I crack the fermenter open after a week or so, just to check? (If it does happen to be infected, I want to get another batch going ASAP.)

I do plan on keeping a few bottles to see how it ages over the course of months, even though IPAs aren't typically cellar material.

I'll be picking up some Starsan from the local homebrew shop when it's time to bottle. Still can't believe I didn't double-check on PBW, haha.

Thanks again for such thoughtful comments, they are much appreciated.

Jfritz said...

Great post! I'm just beginning to brew and this is really helpful. Thanks