Friday, January 23, 2009

Carbing undercarbed bottles: Proof of concept achieved

Proof of concept has been achieved...I successfully and easily added CO2 by adding fermentables to a naturally conditioned bottle, well after inadequate carbonation was detected, as described in this post.
  • a dose of sugar was added to a single 12 oz bottle,
  • stored at room temps on the kitchen counter (in a gallon plastic bag, in the case of a bottle bomb-if it busted, figured it would at least lessen the shrapnel dispertion. I probably should have stuck it something a bit more sturdy.)
  • agitated/shaken ~1-2x daily to get yeast in to suspension/reactivate it
In 15 days (which felt like was omnipresent...waking up to the bottle in the AM, welcoming me when I returned from work/the gym), the bottle was opened after being cooled down in the fridge for 3 hours, significant additional carbonation was immediately evident. Upon popping the bottle cap, a satisfying hiss quickly gave way to a foam building slowly but steadily rising up and out of the neck of the bottle.

For reference, here are some pics of a pour from a bottle that didn't undergo the 'reconditioning'... even after a vigorous pour (see the floaties in the glass?), minimal head was formed due to low CO2.

...and here are some pics from the proof of concept bottle. No explosion (phew...) but definitely overcarbed now. Poured half the bottle, and the head overflowed the glass.

Next step: move on to phase II, dial in the desired carbonation by varying the additions of conditioning sugar. But, I think it is safe to say that if you get a batch of undercarbed bottles (as a result of inadequate priming sugar addition), all is not lost, and there is no need to 'chalk it up to experience' as is often recommended on the various forums. you can fix it, if you put in a little more time and (minimal) effort.

Monday, January 19, 2009

opening up the coffers

I get eye rolled by the fiance when I come home with a new beer, and place it with the others. The whole 'cellaring' thing, she doesn't get so much. that, and she's a bit put off by the shelf space hogging of all the bottles. I can't say I totally disagree with her. Anyway, I'm doing my best to bust out of the buy and hold mindset and decided to crack in to some prized bottles, as my best man to be Jason and his girlfriend Adrienne were stopping by for dinner last night. I had actually sliced my finger (typing=ouchy) during the brewday, greatly reducing the dexterity of my right hand.

We braved the snow, and grabbed some provisions from TJs, and told J when he arrived to have at it, he was guest chef for the night.

Adrienne made a great spring greens salad with walnuts, goat cheese and a fresh grapefruit vinaigrette. We sipped an alesmith speedway stout with it. delicious coffee-beeryness.
Esther laid out some thinly sliced manchego with stonehouse olive oil drizzle, grind of pepper and sea salt, and some grilled toast points. J put a simple salt and pepper seasoning on a flank steak, seared over high heat and finished in the oven. He deglazed the pan with some of my homemade zinfandel, reduced and finished a pan sauce with butter. An israli couscous was the side...he added some slowly toasted pinenuts, dried cranberries, shitake mushrooms and finished it with fresh chiffonade parsley. nicely done J.

We cracked the black ops (yeah, it exists), and had ourselves a nice feast. the stuff is pretty damn fantastic, but I gotta say, the RIS that J and I made together at his place about 6 months ago is right up there with these.

Esther rounded out the night with some from scratch lemon vanilla cupcakes while we watched food network...waiting for the first episode of flight of the conchords to arrive.

in short, coffer opening can be a very good thing.

Kombucha mother is all growns up

Started the kombucha culture on January8th...just like in culturing yeast from the dregs of a bottle conditioned beer, it takes a bit of time to get going. I'd say I had a cohesive mother formed after stepping up three times, increasing the volume (and container) each time. I leave her covered with a tea towel (took it off for the picture). its kinda funky looking, but I suppose I would expect it to be. The bacteria are pumping out some serious acids...I haven't taken a pH reading, but it stings the nostrils a good way.

Now that the mother looks big enough, I made ~1 gallon of sweetened green tea, dumped out most of the liquid (pungent stuff), and now have what will be my first kombucha fermenting now. I plan to juice some fresh ginger and lemon to add along with a bit of priming sugar at bottling time. that should be sometime this weekend.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Belgian IPA

Bottled yesterday, 17Feb2009, FG low can you go? a taste of the gravity sample revealed just what I had expected...very dry, very hoppy, now quite concerned that there'll be little to no malt backbone. why are my FGs completely all over the map?
a tasting update will be next, once adequately carbonated.

Houblon Chouffe...fantastic hybrid style.
I wanted to see if I could brew an DIPA with the complex belgian yeast flavor that can satisfy both the hop head and the belgian fanatic in me. I really want the ale to develop that distinct and beautiful meringue like head. I plan on getting a descent CO2 volume on this, and bottle conditioning it in some of my larger format champagne bottles, to get proof of concept (get consistent CO2 across the various bottles + proper sealing via corks). I feel confident that the yeast and hops should produce the head I'm seeking. The recipe should provide an american hop characteristic, but these citrusy and piney flavors should play a backup role (if at all possible) as I actually wanted the majority of the hop profile to be noble. I wanted sufficient bitterness, but really just enough to balance the aroma and hop flavor. Dry hopping as described below will round out the noble hop aromas.
The grist of the ample base malt (Belgian pilsener) should form a clean canvas for the belgian specialty grains to play off. My first attempt at a tripel proved to be a bit too sweet, due to the high FG as a result of the extract used. In this go, the sucrose (in addition to a loose mash with low-ish temp of ~148, at a lengthy 1.5 hours) will drive the FG down to dry levels. The specialty grains will provide a touch of toasty/biscuit to the malt profile.
the yeast starter was stepped up several times, and I would take a noseful of the belgian yeast.
I plan to drink the majority of this batch very young to appreciate the full hop profile. I wish the LHBS had the 3522 (achoufe yeast). But, the nose tells me the 1214 (chimay) is producing an excellent ester profile that shouts belgian.

Tripel IPA
Belgian Tripel

Type: All Grain
Date: 1/18/2009
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
12 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 75.00 %
8.0 oz Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
8.0 oz Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
8.0 oz Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
2 lbs 8.0 oz Cane (Beet) Sugar (0.0 SRM) Sugar 15.63 %
1.00 oz Challenger [6.50 %] (60 min) Hops 17.1 IBU
1.00 oz Tettnang [4.80 %] (60 min) Hops 12.6 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (60 min) Hops 14.5 IBU
1.00 oz Tradition [5.70 %] (15 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [5.40 %] (10 min) Hops 5.1 IBU
1.00 oz Tettnang [4.80 %] (10 min) Hops 4.6 IBU
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [4.50 %] (8 min) Hops 3.6 IBU
1.00 oz Strisslespalt [2.60 %] (5 min) Hops 1.4 IBU

1.00 oz Cascade[5.50%] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops
1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops
1 Pkgs Belgian Ale (Wyeast Labs #1214) Yeast-Ale

Est Original Gravity: 1.091 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.091 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.022 SG
Measured Final Gravity: 1.002 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 9.08 %
Actual Alcohol by Vol: 11.67 %
Bitterness: 66.3 IBU
Calories: 411 cal/pint
Est Color: 8.2 SRM

Sunday, January 11, 2009

JC+E: Wedding Beer

We plan to brew 10 gallons each (or 80 pints each) of the belgian honey wheat (Esther's favorite, to date) and an american pale ale. The third style is your hands, and will be a 5 gallon batch. Vote now, and write in your comments below, telling us why you've voted the way you have.

so...yeah...25 gallons. 200 pints. equivalent to 11+ cases. I know. But, given our expected gathering of ~125 guests, this falls in line with the various recommendations of how much beer to have on hand, given the other provided options of wine and spirits.

I was looking in to getting a kegging set up, but I really don't want to have to fine tune the CO2 connections, change out kegs, etc. for the bartenders during the reception. It also meant getting a kegerator with large enough storage for 5-5 gallon cornelius kegs. The only place left in our condo for something like that is...right under the pillow I sleep on every night, so, I'm going to go with 750ml champagne bottles, 22oz. 'bombers', and perhaps some large format bottles.

I plan to employ my pop's large stainless tub, which is on legs and casters. We'll fill it with ice to keep things nicely chilled (albeit, perhaps a bit too chilled). Compared to the sometimes finicky homebrewing kegging setups, the bottles should be easy for any bartender with a nearby opener, though they all need to be decanted off of the natural yeast sediment in to a glass.

Unfortunately, I won't be using my 2nd year homegrown hops in the APA (Sterling, Fuggles), as I don't have brewing experience with them yet, and figure this isn't the ideal time to go experimental.

Send me your email if you'd like to receive updates on brewing progress.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Fiance starts talking about kombucha, says its 'good for you', all for the crazy paddy's low low price $3.50 for a bottle of the stuff at whole foods. ah...I'll pass. But, then she says, the magic words...its naturally fermented, and contains live cultures.

Fermented? Live cultures? my homebrewer hairs stand up a little on the back of my neck. But my attention is soon diverted by the stuff spraying out of the ill fitting cap, and all down the homebrewer hairs on my arm, shoulder and face as I notice the sediment in the bottle, and determine, like anyone who's had some good lemonade in the past that you'll want to shake that stuff in to suspension. Bad decision. This stuff is lightly carbonated, and likely has a pressure relief type of cap to keep the CO2 relatively low.

The seed for kombucha fermentation was planted, and quickly germinated, right after my first sip of the stuff in the car (new bottle, the over compensatingly apologetic whole foods cashier quickly replaced the spraying hand grenade, while Esther just points and laughs at me through the incident). Gingery, subtle sweetness, nice balance to...vinegar? definitely acetic acid on the nose, pleasant carbonation. crisp, dry...easy to drink. label says something about treating cancer... well...yeah, probably not, but it tastes good, and I suspect that I can nuture a little culture of whatever created this stuff if it is truly 'live'.

Read up a bit on the 'net, found a recipe...steep a little tea, dissolve some sugar, cool down, add to glass container with an air permeable top, and wait. this feels comfortingly familiar...getting that 'I'm conjuring up sumthin special' feeling when I cultured up yeast from a couple 750mls of Duvel for my tripel.

A week later, I remembered reading something familiar at the mad fermentationist's blog. Yep, there it is. Kombucha. Weird. Aside from his penchant for all things yeast and microbial, he also has the same global knife that is sitting snugly in my very own knife block. spoooky.

So, about 2.5 weeks ago, I went back to the same whole foods, bought two bottles. $7 fricken bucks, jeez. drank one, and used the other to culture up a bad ass mutha. 16oz of strongly brewed green tea + unrefined evaporated cane sugar, which likely has a wider array of nutrient than would refined sugar.

Noticed some bubbles rising up in the culture about five days later, some foaming around the top, and the familiar sedimentation forming on the bottom. Stepped up the culture with a bit more unrefined sugar and green tea. I dumped out about 1/2 of the fermented liquid, before transferring out of the mason jar, as the next largest container I had is a quart juice bottle (you only want to use glass when working with kombucha due to the low pH). I'll need to find something bigger, with a wide mouth. Like a big apothacary jar sans lid. Oh, and I keep forgetting to bring home some black tea, which apparently is better for feeding the SCOBY mother, for some reason, which is semi-counterintuitive to me.

About one week passes, and there's definitely chunkage starting to coagulate on the top of the culture. I keep sniffing it, and it continues to smell of kombucha, that acetic acid smell of a mild vinegar, with a gingery backdrop. I don't see any fuzzy/scary stuff that indicates that its, in a bad way.

Two weeks pass, and now the chunkage is coalescing, could that be the cellulose structure of the newly forming mother? Yes, I think it is. This is easy! still smells good (?) and the mother continues to grow by the day. It time to feed it again.

but I fall ill. from the flu, NOT the new flora undoubtedly circulating through my condo air.

2.5 weeks in to the process now. I'm feeling well enough to be ambulatory, and I find the perfect vessel for proper kombucha wrangling: a 2 gallon glass jar. Found this baby while Esther and I were traipsing through the kitchen section at crate and barrel this evening, with the primary intent of registering for our wedding...under twenty bucks, not bad. The cheapskate in me always twinges when I pay retail for something (well, aside from beers like this, lately).

Just like when I obtain a new homebrewing piece of equipment, I put this bad larry right in to use. More food for mom. Another 1/2 gallon of tea, made from a hodgepodge of less than fresh teas I have: jasmine green, white, and some now staling tea flowers. I want to give my mother some good grub to chew on. I used tap water, which isn't the best, as I'm sure the stuff coming out of the tap contains some SCOBY-dissing chlorine. I cool it all down to pitchi...ah, hold on. What's the proper nomenclature for pouring a cellulose-laden symbiotic slimeball in to some fresh medium? Yeah, I don't know either, but its wicked gross.

But I do know that if I could charge $3.50 for a bottle of Trillium Kombucha at whole foods...I would. hmmmm...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Carbing under carbed bottles

See the results of the below experiment HERE

I just dropped a coopers carb drop in to a well chilled 12oz undercarbed bottle of cranberry wit. As soon as I dropped it in, all the nucleation sites on the sugary lump caused foaming...but I was at the ready with the trusty red barron capper and new cap.

The foam reached the top of the bottle by the time I affixed the cap, and certainly would have foamed over if it was properly carbonated. This is probably best done with two pairs of to drop the sugar in and hold the bottle, the other to move in swiftly with the cap and capper.

Anyhow, I'll leave it out at room temp , giving it a shake every once in a while to rouse the sediment to see if the yeast reactivated and processed the added sugars. I'll pop it after a week to compare CO2 to another untreated bottle.

this is reallly just an experiment to show proof of concept. I hope I can do some nose thumbing against forum nay sayers who advise to just chalk undercarbed bottles to learning. Given my prior experience with culturing yeast from bottle conditioned beers, I believe this will work just fine. If I get increased CO2, then I'll use a few more bottles to dial in the carbonation by using munton's carb tabs, by adding 1, 2 and 3 tabs to each bottle. I would have gotten these to start the experiment...but the LHBS didn't have any when I went. bummer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Aardsma Aale

Aardsma Aale
One of my friends showed some interest in homebrewing, after I he had sampled some of my early attempts. So on one of his few days off in the summer, I took a day off myself, and we brewed a hodgepodged belgian style beer.

Inside. July 31st.

I think the temperature/humidity achieved amazonian rainforest levels. It has spent some time in the bottles now, and a few of the remaining 750ml bottles were toted with me last month to his wedding in Arizona. Though he preferred some of the other beers I've made in the past, this one is very drinkable, dangerously so. This is a clean, crisp 'strong blonde' maybe...has a subtle sweet orange and coriander spiciness, but I'm unable to unravel it from the yeast profile. Fermented quite dry due to use of the sucrose and mesquite honey. Actually bottle conditioned it with the honey as well.

Here's the recipe, and following, some interesting pics of the ongoing fermentation/clearing.

Aardsma Aale
Belgian Blond Ale

Date: 7/31/2008
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 5.87 gal
Asst Brewer: Aardsma

8 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 59.65 %
1 lbs Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 7.02 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 7.02 %
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 7.02 %
12.0 oz Steel cut oats (1.0 SRM) Grain 5.26 %
1.00 oz Argentian Cascade [3.70 %] (75 min) Hops 12.1 IBU
1.00 oz Hallertauer Select [1.50 %] (30 min) Hops 3.6 IBU
0.75 oz Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 1.0 min) Misc
1 lbs Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 7.02 %
1 lbs Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 7.02 %
1 Pkgs Trappist High Gravity (Wyeast Labs #3787)

Beer Profile
Measured Original Gravity: 1.075 SG
Measured Final Gravity: 1.019 SG
Actual Alcohol by Vol: 7.32 %
Bitterness: 15.7 IBU
Calories: 343 cal/pint
Est Color: 4.4 SRM

24hrs after pitching-krausen had formed and seemed to fall already a little. You'll also notice I didn't do a very good job of getting the wort off the trub. The fermenting beer spent its life in my bedroom, where the A/C was on round the clock, to keep the fermentation temps reasonable. oh, and so I could sleep comfortably in the humid boston mid-summer.

48hrs after pitching-krausen has already fallen, but yeast is clearly very thickly in suspension. I believe you'd say this was turbid. yep.

Day 5, you can see the yeast starting to flocculate.

Day 17, (had racked to secondary on Day+11) and now has cleared very well.

Bottled, some with euro crown cap, others in cork/cages, and a couple 'test' bottles for opening sneak peak tastes early in to the bottle conditioning.

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