Monday, November 30, 2009

Dunkel update

I finally transferred my Dunkel to secondary and I took a taste and a gravity reading. It's at 1.017, which is too high. It doesn't taste too sweet though, maybe that the decoction mash created an abundance of unfermentable dextrins. It's only 1 point above the high end of the scale according to the, so it's probably alright. It might even drop another point in secondary or while lagering.

It does have a bit of astringency though. I know if you sparge too hot you can get an astringent taste, I wonder why a decoction doesn't cause the same problem. Maybe because the pH is lower during the decoction than the sparge? This beer is still young though, I'm hoping that this off flavor fades over the next five weeks that it will be in secondary and lagering stages.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I used my brewing burner and my old brew pot today, but not for brewing beer. I added three gallons of peanut oil and one 12 lb turkey. Deep fried at 350F for 40 minutes. It turned out delicious.

I also tasted the first sample of my Xmas lager, which has been lagering for about a month now. It is also delicious--like dessert in a glass. I'll have to post the recipe later, if I haven't already done so in an earlier post.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

100th post!

As you may have surmised from the title, this is the 100th post of the Noble Square Brewing blog. Who would have guessed ten and a half months ago on New Year's Day I would have kept up with this and be writing my 100th post? Well here we are, and when I say we--I mean it. According to the site, I've got 15 followers, and 26 subscribers--not sure what the difference is, and if there is any overlap, but the important thing is that there are more than a handful of readers out there that like reading my blog on a regular basis. I thank you, and I appreciate the comments that you leave. A special thanks to those of you that link to this blog from your blogs.

I was going to read over the Noble Square Brewing blog from the beginning and post highlights here, but I only got as far as January 31, when I realized that it was going to take way too long. So I'm just going to list some things from the last 99 posts that I remember, stream of consciousness style, about home brewing, and blogging about home brewing. If I'm ambitious enough, I'll hunt down the posts and link to them:

Don't melt your computer keyboard while brewing. If you want a lot of page hits on your blog, mention Megan Fox. Even better, mention Megan Fox naked. Brew lots of different types of beer. Enter contests, even if you don't win, you'll learn something. Judge contests. Comment on other blogs, and respond to comments on yours. Join a homebrew club. Name your kegs. Blog your recipes. Post lots of photos. Make yeast starters. Grow your own hops. Use interesting ingredients. Build your own kegerator.

OK, I know I went a little link happy there, but there's some decent posts in the last 99, and I hope there will be a lot more to come. Thanks again for reading my blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I started the starter

I made my decision on what and how I am brewing next. Thanks for the input, hopshead and holzbrew. You'll be disappointed to learn that I didn't take either of your suggestions. I'm going to brew a split batch lager/ale, specifically a doppelbock and porter.

I'm going to use the first runnings from my mash to brew 5 gallons of the doppelbock, hopefully with an O.G. of about 1.090. Then I'll add some more dark/roasted/cara grains to my mash tun, and use the second and third runnings to make ten gallons of brown porter with an O.G. of about 1.050. Either that, or I'll just steep the extra specialty grains to get the additional color and body. I'll probably need to add some malt extract to the kettle for the porter to get the gravity up. Back of the envelope calculations says I'll need 450 +500/ 27= about 35 lbs of grain to do so otherwise, and my mash tun maxes out at maybe 30 lbs max, so yes, I'll be adding some extract.

Since I'll be using the yeast cake from my dunkel for the doppelbock, I'm covered for that portion of the brew. I did start the ale starter tonight using some older yeast that I saved from a previous batch of American Brown ale. I hope it takes off, the yeast actually froze in storage, I hope enough survived the freeze and thaw to wake up and multiply. If not, I'll be buying yeast come brewday.

I went with the porter because it's a pretty broad category, and while you should really use english malts for it, I figure the darker specialty grains will predominate the flavor, and nobody will notice that I used the second runnings of a mostly munich and vienna malt grist. Plus I'll get to use my homegrown Northern Brewer hops.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So what do I brew next?

I'm trying to figure out what beer to brew next. I would like to reuse the yeast cake from the dunkel, which means another lager. Maybe a bock or doppelbock? But I also want to make an ale, something that will be ready fairly soon. I could do a split batch, partigyle style, where I use the first runnings for a doppelbock, and the second runnings for? Any ideas out there, brew buds?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Photos 3 The Boil

Just before the wort starts boiling, I take a sample:

Which I then check the specific gravity of:

(Hard to tell from this angle, but it was 1.046 on the hydrometer, which is off by two points, giving me a pre-boil gravity of 1.044)

Then we start boiling:
And we get the hops ready:
(I put them in a paint strainer bag weighted down with a couple of stainless steel spoons)

Which I then add to the kettle:

Here's that funky home-made immersion chiller I wrote about:
(I think the guys I bought it from fashioned it this way to avoid having the plastic tube be too close to the burner while it was still on--you don't want it to melt!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Photos 2--The Mash

The mash
The Strainer (this is what I used to pull the decoction).
You're supposed to pull more grain than liquid.

The decoction

The decoction post-boil (look how much darker it got!)

Dunkel Brewday Photos

I thought I would go back to the previous posts of the Dunkel brewday and insert photos where appropriate, but that is too much work. OK, I might still do it. But I might not, so I thought I would post a bunch in this post, and worry about it later. I'll still try to keep them in order of the previous posts.

So from the 8 am post:
The mechanical timer for my HLT heater.

(Kids don't use an ungrounded adapter at home)
HLT with 1000 watt bucket heater
The photo everyone was waiting for, melted keyboard

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm over 3000 with this post. I'll break things up and start a new post for some more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Wrapup, A Balmy Chicago November

Those of you that actually look at the "Is it Brewing Weather?" widget I have in the right column of this blog, below the label photos, will have seen that it was 71 and sunny yesterday. In November. IN CHICAGO. So as soon as I was done brewing yesterday, I didn't want to come inside and sit at a computer to write my follow-up. Instead, I took the frau und hund for a long walk around the neighborhood, and then fired up the grill when we got back home. After that, we had a social event, so here is my wrapup, a day late. My apologies to the two readers who were sitting at their computers all day yesterday waiting for updates.

Amazingly, other than the melted computer keyboard, and the slow start, everything went well yesterday. I chilled the beer quickly, since while the outside temperature was 71F, the tap water temperature is probably under 50F. (I use an ugly homemade immersion chiller that I bought from some fellow homebrewers).

I collected just under 12 gallons of sweet dark pre-Dunkel wort, with an original gravity of 1.052. It looked and tasted great. I think I was right in going a little heavy on the bittering hops to compensate for their age, but I won't know for sure until most of the sweetness is fermented out, and the bitterness mellows from lagering.

One note for those of you that use simple brewing calculators like the one at, they don't adjust the color estimation for the darkening that occurs during a decoction. When I plugged in my grain bill, it estimated a SRM of 12, which is a copper color that is at the low end of the spectrum for the Dunkel style. My pre-fementation wort came out more like SRM 20, which is a medium-light brown, which is right in the middle of the spectrum for the Dunkel style.

I aerated the heck out of the wort using the old shake-the-hell-out-of-the-carboy trick. I then pitched the slurry from the gallon starter of Wyeast Munich lager yeast, and had activity (small bubbles) going by early evening. I haven't checked it this morning yet, but I'm guessing a nice krausen is forming. Check back for an update on this beer in about two weeks when I transfer it to secondary. Oh yeah, and I'll get those photos, including the melted keyboard, up soon.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dunkel Brewday Noon The Boil

Just a quick post here since I have about 5 minutes left on the boil. I collected just under 14 gallons of wort, we'll call it 13.75 for calculation purposes, with a pre-boil gravity of 1.045. This gives me an efficiency of about 77%. Not bad for batch sparging. The boil started at 11am, but I didn't make the first hop addition until 11:10, because I had to figure out how much I was going to use, and weigh it out. I ended up using 1.3 ounces of 13.1% alpha acid Galena hops, which a brewing calculator gives me about 28 IBUs, a little high for a Dunkel. However, these hops are a year old, and while they have been stored semi-sealed in the freezer, they may haver lost some of their oomph.

I threw in some Irish moss for clarity about 10 minutes ago, along with my immersion chiller to heat it up and sterilize it. I threw in .75 ounces of Hallertau finishing hops just before I started this post. And it's now 12:10, so I have to go shut off the burner and start up the chiller.

Dunkel Brewday 9:40 AM The Mash

I ended up completing the mash-in at 8:45. I started earlier, but it takes awhile to add the water and grains and make sure they are well mixed. Initial mash temperature was 144F, right about where I wanted to be. Some of you home brewers out there are undoubtedly scratching your heads, wondering why so low. Well I'm doing a single decoction mash, and I'm using the decoction to bring the temperatures up to have a two-step starch conversion, the first half at temperatures suitable for beta amylase conversion, and the second half at higher temps for the alpha amylase. I know this isn't decoction by the book, but it is how I'm brewing this beer.

After waiting 15 minutes, I pulled about a third of the mash with a strainer, and slowly heated it to boiling in my 7 gallon aluminum pot. I let it boil for a half an hour, stirring constantly. The grains got noticeably darker. I then added the boiled grains back to the main mash, which brought the temperature up to 157F. I'm currently letting this sit for a half an hour, at which time I'll begin filling my brew pot with deliciously carmelly sweet wort.

So here's the summary of my mash:

Main mash
45 minutes @ 144F
30 minutes @ 157F
(temperature raised by decoction)

Decoction mash
15 minutes @ 144F
10 minutes slowly raised to boiling
20 minutes boiling

8 AM Dunkel Brewday

I'm up and ready to brew. Unfortunately my HLT (hot liquor tank) is not. I just checked the temperature, and it's around 150F, instead of the 170F I need. I think it's low for a number of reasons. One, I started out with colder tap water than last time. Two, it's colder outside so I'm losing more heat from it due to the larger temperature differential. And three, my outlet timer didn't kick on at exactly 4am. It was more like 4:20. I know this because I got up in the middle of the night, at about 4:15, for reasons entirely unrelated to brewing today. However, since I was up, I decided to check the timer. It's a mechanical timer, and not completely accurate. It was in the process of switching the outlet on when I checked it, and since I was half asleep, I decided to let it do it's job instead of just using the manual switch to turn it on. So it looks like I'm going to mash in closer to 8:30.

On a side note, since I'm blogging live, while I am taking photos, I don't want to be constantly uploading them to the computer. So if you're reading this as it happens, I'll add photos all at once later.

Finally, (at least for this post), as regular readers of this blog know I try to detail my mistakes, so I and others can learn from them. So here's a little warning. While heating extra sparge water up on the stove, make sure your computer keyboard is a safe distance away. It can and will melt. As I said above, photos to follow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pseudo Munich Dunkel Recipe

Yes, I know I still have to get to part three of my kegging procedure, which I have come to realize while it is very necessary, is also very boring reading. I will get to it eventually, but since I'm brewing tomorrow, I decided to blog this brew from start to finish, which I never have done before. So let's start with a recipe, which once you read it, you'll realize why it's a PSEUDO Munich Dunkel. So here we go:

Munich Dunkel (aproximately 12 gallons)

17 lbs Vienna Malt (I wanted to use Dark Munich Malt, but I'm out)
6.5 lbs German Pilsner Malt (I wanted to use less, but since this the last of my pilsner malt, I thought I would use it up)
12 oz Pale Chocolate Malt (mainly for color, especially since I'm not using Dark Munich Malt)
8 oz CaraVienne (for a little extra color and body, but mainly because I've got a ton of it)

60 Minutes Galena (enough to bitter to about 25 IBUs--I haven't worked out exactly how much to use, plus I would rather use my German Magnum hops for bittering, but the Galena are the last of the 2008 crop that I have, and I'm trying to get rid of them)
10 Minutes Hallertau (for a hint of hops flavor and aroma)

Wyeast Munich Lager Yeast (I've already got a gallon starter of this going--I stepped it up from a half gallon a couple days ago--this probably should have been my first post if I were really to blog this beer from start to finish) .

The starter is chilling to knock the yeast out of suspension, the HLT is full of delicious Chicago tap water with a campden tab added to neutralize the chlorine, the malt is measured and milled, and the electric heater is plugged into the the timer which is set for 4am. I should be ready to start the mash tomorrow morning at about 8am.