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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home Brew Attempt #3

We have yet to to try batch #1, but we successfully bottled it and finished our 3rd batch - a red ale using New Zealand hops.

Bottling went smoother and faster than we anticipated. One common method to bottle is buy a bottling bucket, which has a nozzle at the bottom for release. A plastic tube is used and some sort of pinching device to close the tube when the bottle is full.

However, our bottling bucket also acts as a primary fermenter, so it was in use at the time of our bottling. We did have an extra carboy. To bottle a beer (for homebrewers without C02 injection) means to carbonate a beer in the bottle. To do that, a little extra sugar needs to be added to refuel the yeast to produce more C02. This only requires a small amount 2 cups of liquid and a sugary substance. You can use, table sugar, corn syrup, malt extract... anything with fermentable sugars.

We bought specific bottling sugar from Brew Ferment Distill (BFD), which is a finer grain of sugar. We used 2/3 cup of the bottling sugar. Before you can add it to the beer, it has to be pasteurized. Boil the water and sugar and let it cool back down to room temp.

We put the boiled sugar water into the carboy first, so it sat on the bottom. We then siphoned the beer from it's carboy (where it was being dry hopped). The beer thoroughly mixes with the sugar water as it flows in.

We then attached another little gadget we got from BFD. Its a hard tube with a spring load rubber stopper that attaches to the end of the siphoning tubing. When you push down on the tube the rubber stopper is pushed back and the beer flows out. We siphoned the beer out of the carboy and into the bottles. We filled the bottles about half way up the neck.

We used 22oz bottles which we have had since brewing at Brew It Up. I also keep and clean 22oz bottles that I buy as well as a dozen or so 12oz. After using the bottles, I thoroughly rinse them with hot water and let them dry upside down. I also store them upside to avoid crap getting into them. On bottling day I inspect them for dirt or grime and then put them in the dish washer to sanitize. I don't use detergent and make sure I use the heated dry option. You only need the heat to sanitize. A dish washer will not remove dirt or grime, so a bottle brush will be necessary if you have dirty bottles.

The whole process went without incident and our first batch will be ready to drink within 2 weeks of the bottling - around September 25.

Beer #3: Red Ale
For our 3rd batch we made the red ale recipe that is in John Palmer's How to Brew book. However for the bittering hops we used the New Zealand Super Alpha and for the aroma and flavoring, we used Pacifica (which we also used in the IPAs).

We tried two new techniques. First we did the first wort hop. After we steeped the grains we added the bittering hops even before we added the extract. According to several forums and articles I've read, this helps mellow out the bite. Second, we lowered the gravity of the boil. Palmer states that adding all your extract at once creates a high gravity boil which can create off-flavors in the beer. These are known as Maillard reactions.

The one issue we had was getting the temperature right for steeping the grains. Ideally the water stays at 150 degrees. When we hit 150 we turned off the heat, but our thermometer must be slow, because the temp got up to 180 before coming back down. Next time we'll turn the heat off sooner.

We also shortened our overall time by buying bottled water. With the bottled water there is no need to boil it first.

The cooling time could still be shortened. Ideally, the wort is cooled to a fermentable temp of 70 degrees within 30 minutes. We've been using a copper wort chiller. The chiller gets it down to about 80 pretty fast, but then slows to a crawl. I think it took about 40-45 min. For batch #4 we'll try an ice bath.

One aspect of brewing which we do not know if we've screwed up or not is storage. We've used ale yeast that is ok with temps up to 75 degrees. We store the fermenters in my kitchen which never gets above 75. However at night it can probably get down to 60-65. I know temperture flucuations are not good, so hopefully the flucuations aren't big enough to ruin the beer.

We are also in the process of tricking out a closet. My friend donated a computer server cooler - essentially a portable AC. We're going to insulate one of my under-used closets and devote it as a space for fermenting and keeping a steady temperature.

Any tips on storage?

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