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Homebrew updates


Batch #3 of my rye IPA is now in bottles. As noted in previous blog entries, I pretty much kept the same grain bill with the only differences being the amount of malted rye (2lb in #1, 2.5lb in #2, and back to 2lb in #3) and the hops. This batch used clean Magnum hops for bittering, and I mixed in some Simcoe along with the Amarillo for the later additions. For dry hopping I went with 2 oz total again, 1 oz Amarillo and 0.5 oz each of Simcoe and Centennial. Finished with a gravity of 1.013, giving me 6.6% ABV. Unfortunately, I only ended up with about 4 gal in the bottling bucket this time. The brewday was a cold New England winter day, which means sub-freezing temps and dry air, leading to a higher boil off rate. I obviously didn’t calculate for this well enough. While everyone refers to the typical homebrew batch size being 5 gallons, in reality, I typically get closer to 4.5 gallons into the bottling bucket given I need to leave the sediment that settles in the fermenter behind. 4.5 gallons equals 48 12-oz bottles. So this batch gave me 1 six pack less than that, at 42 bottles.

I don’t believe it’s just boil-off that leads to this, but that the amount of hops added to the fermenter for dry hopping decreases the final yield. Hop pellets will absorb some of the beer, and leave more sediment at the bottom, along with any remaining yeast that drops from suspension. The price one pays for hoppy beers.


Next brew: German Pilsner

I picked up ingredients for my first lager attempt. Lagers typically need a much larger pitch of yeast, and much more time fermenting and sitting cold (lagering). So I boiled up some starter wort yesterday from some dried malt extract. The Wyeast smack pack of Bavarian Lager yeast never really expanded like it was supposed to in the package, but I pitched it into the chilled starter wort anyway. I understand the strain can be a very slow starter, and the date on the pack was several months old, so this could just take more time and effort to produce enough live yeast to be ready for a 5 gallon ferment.

The grain bill is the simplest I’ve ever done… it’s all pils malt. No munich, no crystal, no carapils… just pils malt. Unfortunately, I went with US pils (Briess) which people suggest won’t give the same flavor as a German pils malt, but I  went with what the local homebrew shop had. I’m less concerned with that than the fact that I’ve never brewed a lager. The shop owner said this will be the hardest beer I’ll ever make. He confirmed my thoughts. There’s nothing to hide behind. There’s no crystal malt, or roasted malt flavors, or tons of hops to hide imperfections behind. German pils is clean, crisp, and with the right noble hop bitterness. I will need to calculate for a lot of boil off due to the need to boil pils malt longer to get rid of DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide) which is much more a problem with pilsners. So I expect this boil to go for 90 versus the more typical 60 minutes.

The biggest difference between brewing ales and lagers is the fermentation temperature. Lager yeasts work best, and with the least off-flavors, at a lower temperature than ale yeasts. Ales I can ferment between 65-70° F. A lager yeast prefers mid to upper 40s. So I will need to use the basement beer fridge. This typically doesn’t get warmer than 40 though. so I will either need to plug the fridge itself into the Johnson temp controller with the the temp prob attached to the carboy in the fridge. This would literally turn the fridge off completely until the temp on the carboy goes above a set temp on the controller. Issue is it would also mean the freezer wouldn’t be running when the fridge is off. The other option is to just leave the fridge plugged in as normal, set the fridge control to it’s warmest setting, and then put the fermwrap/heat tape on the carboy, along with the temp probe. This would mean I would be using the fermwrap to hold the carboy about 6-8 degrees above the temp with the fridge itself. I believe it’s possible and people do this, however it means several wires having to run out the fridge door and still keep the door closed firmly.

Like I said, brewing a lager with my set up is definitely going to be a challenge!


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