Sunday 21 February 2010

Foam Party in my Conservatory

Thanks to some excellent advice from some of my brewing chums I've hit upon a way to really get the fermentation kicking off quickly. Here's a pic of my Great Eastern with added Amarillo and Pacific Gem hops. The pic was taken 12 hours after the yeast was pitched.

1. Ignore the calibration of the FV. Completely. I now add contents of the tin(s) enough hot and cold water to give a wort temp of 25 deg C. I then pop the hydro in and pour water in slowly until hydro reads my desired OG - in this case 1042. On this FV that reads 20 litres, on the other one it would read 17-ish.

Rehydrate the yeast. I've started using S04 and rehydrating it at 25 deg C for half an hour before.

Super-aerate the wort with a hand blender. I've picked up one that had a detachable blade shaft that can go straight in the steriliser. It's also got a turbo button which allows me to create a foam party of biblical proportions.

This is the second brew where I've adopted these methods; the first, last week's Almondbury Old was kegged yesterday at 1010, a brilliant result for a 2 can kit, I'm sure you'll agree.

The stocking contains 20g each of Amarillo and Pacific Gem. Clearly I need a heavier weight.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Ten Classic Homebrew Cock ups

Or, how difficult it is to screw up a kit beer.

According to my Brew Diary, I'm now on my 40th brew since March last year. During this time I've made some pretty sensational cock ups on the brewing front. In all but one case the beer has remained drinkable. So here, without further ado, are ten things not to do when kit brewing.

  1. Don't assume that your fermenting vessel is correctly graduated. I've got three and not one of them is accurate to with in a litre. I've even got one that is approximately three litres out. When I got the latest one I couldn't work out why the first two brews with expected ABV's of 5% turned out at 3.6% and 3.83% respectively. In fact I now eschew the graduations in favour of the hydrometer and stop adding water when I get to 1050.
  2. Having established that your fermenting vessel is correctly graduated do not then add 22.75 litres of water. This doesn't take account of the two cans of wort. Make the whole lot up to 22.75L.
  3. Don't forget to give the wort a really good stir, otherwise the wort will be heavier at the bottom than the top and you won't get an accurate hydrometer reading.
  4. Don't expect fermentation to occur if the temperature is too cold or too hot. Depending on the yeast strain, optimum temperature range is 18-24 degrees c. Too colds and it won't ferment out, too hot and you may get off flavours.
  5. If aerating the wort with a hand blender make sure that anything that shouldn't be in the wort like thermometer, hydrometer or steeping bag of grains (yes I did the last one) has, in fact, been removed.
  6. Don't, whatever you do, ever warm condition beer in an airing cupboard. It's too hot and causes off flavours - I have a brew that simply refuses to improve because I've done this. It's going to have to go down the sink.
  7. Don't forget to pressure test your kegs prior to use. Pay particular attention to tap assemblies; half a keg of beer on the floor just isn't funny.
  8. Don't assume yeast is ok and sprinkle it on the top. Always rehydrate in a cup of cooled boiled water (25-30 deg C is usually ok) and leave for half an hour - at least you'll know it is ok.
  9. Don't try and brew half cut, just don't. It is asking for trouble.
  10. When raking into a bottling bucket it is often a good idea to make sure the tap is turned off.
So there you go, I've done all of these things and still produced decent beer and if a complete idiot like me can do it, so can you.