IPA Brewday

Earlier this past week I brewed an IPA for a special event that is scheduled to occur in June.  I’m not at liberty to discuss the details yet, but I will be putting four of my beers on tap at this event.  The first will be the Eisbock that I brewed about a month ago, which I just freeze distilled and will have a separate post on.  The IPA will be the second, and I have planned brewdays for a Dry Stout and an American Wheat.  Back to the IPA.

Starch conversion test

Starch conversion test

I decided to take something I learned from the recent brewing class I took at the local community college and put it to use.  The starch conversion test is an easy way to determine if your mash has converted and is ready for the next step.  Most people will mash for at least an hour, but I have learned that usually 45 minutes is enough to convert all the sugars.  The top half of the above picture shows what happens when you add a drop of Iodine into a sample of the wort drawn from the mash too early.  This was only about 20 minutes after starting the mash, and indicates an incomplete starch conversion. The bottom half was a sample taken after about 45 minutes of starting the mash, and you can see that the Iodine did not turn dark purple, indicating that starch conversion is complete, and you are ready to start lautering/sparging.

First Wort Hops

First Wort Hops

I decided to go with First Wort Hops for bittering this IPA.  I’ve used this method a few times, as it is said to give the beer a smoother bitterness than traditional additions at the beginning of the boil.  I used Columbus hops for bittering, and Galaxy hops for the late additions.  I also used the whirlpool method for my late addition hops.  I skipped using the hop spider and made a few changes to how I executed this method from the first time.  This was the second time I tried the whirlpool method, the first time I had issues because I left my plate chiller in line with the whirlpool setup, and it got pretty clogged up with hops.  So here’s how I did it this time around.

I did my mash and sparge water the same, with the pump and plate chiller set up, I ran the hot water through the plate chiller to sanitize it.  For the sparge water, I heat up the water to near boiling, then recirculate through the pump and plate chiller, back into the kettle for about 10 minutes before sending it up to the cooler.  After the sparge water was transferred, I took the plate chiller out of the loop and sealed it off and set it aside.  After the boil was complete, I cut off the flame, added my whirlpool hops, and started my pump, recirculating the wort through the pump and back into my whirlpool inlet.  Here’s what the whirlpool looks like.

This is a method commonly used by commercial breweries.  I wanted to see if I could get my system as close to a commercial breweries as possible in the homebrew setting.  I let the whirlpool go for about 10 minutes before cutting it off.  Next, you need to let everything settle.  I allowed a 20 minute rest, which gives the hops time to form a nice cone in the center of the kettle, so that when transferring the wort out of the kettle, the hops are left behind.

Hop cone formed by whirlpooling

Hop cone formed by whirlpooling

The elbow on the left is the recirculation/whirlpool port I use for my whirlpooling.  I was very happy with the clarity of the wort during transfer.  Not sure I will need to use a hop spider for any of my beers anymore, I may just whirlpool every batch, in exchange for adding 30 minutes to the end of the process.  But since I’ve decreased my mash time by 15 minutes, its not so bad.

Wort transfer

Wort transfer

As the weather starts to warm up, my transfer times start to increase.  It was in the 50s-60s for todays brew, and I was able to get the 5+ gallons cooled in 14 minutes with the Blichmann Therminator plate chiller.  I will start thinking about getting a prechiller set up for the upcoming brews to decrease that cooling time and the amount of water used.

I used a third generation American West Coast ale yeast that I harvested from the AleGBT beer back in March.  I did a 1L starter the day before and pitched the whole starter.  Fermentation was going within 6 hours of pitching.  This will ferment at 66F.  Here’s the recipe:


9 lbs 2-Row base malt

1 lb Caramel 20L

1 lb Munich 10L


1 oz Columbus 15.6%AA, First Wort hops (52 minutes of wort contact before boil started)

1 oz Columbus, 10 minutes

3 oz Galaxy 15.0%AA, 0 minutes

10 minute post boil whirlpool (194F after whirlpool), 20 minute rest (185F after rest)


Danstar American West Coast Ale, third generation, 1L starter

WATER additions (filtered Albemarle County water)

1.5 tsp Gypsum to 4.25 gal mash water, 1.5 tsp Gypsum to 4.5 gal sparge water

1 tsp CaCl to mash water, 1 tsp CaCl to sparge water


Dale’s Pale Ale Brewday, and the No Chill Brewing Method

I decided to squeeze in a brewday to brew a Dale’s Pale Ale clone for our family trip to the Outer Banks in April.  I recently met the Head of Brewing Operations of Oskar Blue’s while spending some time at Three Notch’d Brewing Co., and he was nice enough to give me the recipe for Dale’s Pale Ale.  Now, it was for a 1900 gallon batch, so I had to do some work to scale it down to 5 gallons, but I think I got it pretty close.

I stayed inside as much as I could

I stayed inside as much as I could

Its been downright cold here in Charlottesville the past week or so.  The low yesterday morning was around 0F, and when I fired up the burner to get started, it was only 15F.  Not an ideal night for brewing, but when you work full time and have 2 small children, you brew when you can brew.  I probably won’t brew again when it gets this cold though.

The brewday was running very smoothly up until the end of the boil.  I was using a new whirlpool method to keep the hops out of the fermenter, rather than my usual hop spider, to try and increase my hop utilization and get a better hop aroma and flavor from the late additions.  I used a total of 6.5 oz of hops in the boil, 4 oz of that at flameout.  Instead of cutting off the burner and chilling immediately, I planned on starting the whirlpool pump, chilling down to around 180F, then cutting off the chiller to allow the hops to steep while recirculating for 20-30 minutes.  This method allows for aroma extraction without increasing IBU’s from steeping in near boiling wort.  Then, after cutting off the pump and allowing the hops to settle in a cone at the middle of the kettle, transferring the wort through the chiller into the fermenter, leaving the hop particles behind.  As a note, this only works with pellet hops, since they can pass through a plate chiller, while leaf hops will clog your pump and chiller. After an initial shot of hop particles, I got a nice, clear wort into the fermenter.


hop cone


The issue came when I went to turn on the water for the plate chiller and nothing happened.  I guess it turns out that the faucet had frozen, and I couldn’t get a drop of water to come out.  Enter panic mode.

I had no way of chilling the wort down quickly.  Before trying to turn on the water, I had cut off the burner, dropped in the final hop addition, and starting recirculating with my pump.  So this was running while I pondered what to do next.  I ran inside, poured a pitcher of hot water, and poured it over the faucet, thinking that would do something.  But the water inside the pipe was frozen, and I had no way of fixing that.  I went back to look at the temp of the wort, and in 5 minutes it had already dropped below 200F.  Maybe I wasn’t completely screwed after all.  In only 14 minutes the wort had dropped down to 180F, which meant that my IBU wouldn’t be effected too much, and DMS production was of little concern as well.  I went inside and looked at my plastic carboy, it read “do not exceed 140F”.  So, after 40 minutes of recirculating, I was down to 140F.  I decided to get it in the carboy, drop it in the refrigerator, and let it finish cooling to 65F before pitching my yeast starter.

After transferring and cleaning up, the wort was already at 105F

After transferring and cleaning up, the wort was already at 105F

After getting up at 345 and 545 am to check on the temperature, I pitched the yeast at 715, about 8 hours after the boil finished into the wort at 68F.  Long night.  But I am pretty confident that the beer will turn out just fine.  After doing some research and finding this ARTICLE ON NO CHILL BREWING I was able to relax a little.  This method was developed more for areas that are too hot, not too cold, but I guess the same principles apply to my situation.

Here’s the recipe:

My Dale’s Pale Ale (5.5 gal)

Efficiency – 85%

OG -1.062

FG – 1.013

ABV – 6.5%

IBU – 68


9 lbs Pale 2-Row

1.2 lbs Munich 10L

0.9 lbs Caramel 20L

0.2 lbs Caramel 90L


0.5 oz Columbus (15.6 AA) First Wort Hops

1 oz Cascade (6.2 AA) 30 minutes

1 oz Columbus, 10 minutes

4 oz Centennial (9 AA), whirlpool for 30 minutes at 180F (read above)

(notice there are no dry hops in Dale’s Pale Ale)


Danstar West Coast Ale Yeast, 2L starter


Mash at 152F with 4.25 gal

Sparge at >170F with 4.7 gal

I added 1.5 tsp gypsum (CaSO4) and 1 tsp CaCl to both the mash and sparge water, since we are low in calcium and sulfates in Charlottesville.  See my post on WATER ANALYSIS for more info.

60 minute boil

Baby J turned 5 months old this week!

Baby J turned 5 months old this week!

Keags and her "snow gloves"

Keags and her “snow gloves”






Published in: on February 21, 2015 at 2:39 PM  Comments (1)  
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Adjusting Your Brewing Water in Charlottesville

I’ve recently become more aware of the importance water has on brewing beer.  I’ve been brewing for four years now and have never really thought twice about the water I’ve been using and its effect on the final product.  As it turns out, water quality and profile has just as big a part in making good beer as quality malt and hops.  I’m going to leave yeast out of that statement, because I still think that yeast is the most important ingredient to making great beer.

First thing to do is get a water report from your local water company.  Ours posts a report online each year and can be found here http://www.acsanet.com/wccr.html

But after looking through the report, and reading about different profiles and minerals here http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html

I was still thoroughly confused.  I couldn’t find the Calcium levels.  Or the sulfate levels.  Or anything really that I could plug into my BeerSmith program to figure out what kind of water I had coming out of the tap.  So, I sent an email to the water company asking these questions.  They were happy to help me out, and had all the specific levels I was looking for.  So if you can’t work your way through your water report, try giving them a call or email, and hopefully they will be as helpful as they were to me.

For those of you in Charlottesville (Albemarle county in particular), here are the numbers I was given for the 2014 report, which is due to come out online in a few weeks.

Calcium – 15.6 ppm – brewing range 50-150.  So adding calcium is recommended for our water, especially if you are brewing all grain, as it helps with enzymatic activity during the mash.  But it also plays roles in clarity during the boil and yeast activity as well.  Use Gypsum (CaSO4) or CaCl (if water is low in chloride) to adjust.

Sulfate – 28.9 ppm – brewing range 50-350.  Sulfate is what lends bitter beers the crisp hop bitterness.  I feel that my bitter beers have always lacked that, and am excited to see how adjusting this changes those beers.  The more bitter your beer, the higher sulfate level you want.  But above 350 and you will be flirting with harshly bitter flavors.  Use Gypsum or Epsom Salt (MgSO4) to increase levels.

Magnesium – 1.7 ppm – brewing range 10-30. Similar to Calcium, also a yeast nutrient.  I don’t plan on adjusting this right now.

Sodium – 7.9 ppm – brewing range 0-150. In high levels can cause beer to taste salty.

Chloride – 8.7 ppm – brewing range 0-150.  Accentuates flavor and fullness in the beer.  In high amounts can lend medicinal flavor to the beer.

HCO3 – 17.0 ppm – brewing range 0-250 (low end for pale beers, high end for dark beers) The concern here is more for brewing pale beers with high levels of carbonate, which we don’t have to worry about here.  The higher the carbonate level, the higher the pH.  Dark malts are more acidic than pale malts, so the darker beers can tolerate higher pH water.

I have only just started studying brewing water, so please do your research to figure out what your water needs.  I plan on using gypsum (CaSO4) and CaCl to adjust my calcium and sulfate levels.  I could use just gypsum, but I would end up with pretty high levels of SO4, and since our water is low in chloride, I can also use CaCl to get the Ca levels up even more.  I will add it to both the mash and sparge water to reach my targeted levels.  In commercial brewing, it is all added to the mash, since most often the sparge water comes directly from a hot liquor tank.

I’d like to hear any suggestions that might increase my knowledge of brewing water, so please add any comments!

Keagan loves riding the free trolley around town!

Keagan loves riding the free trolley around town!

Jameson hanging out in his favorite shirt

Jameson hanging out in his favorite shirt

Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 2:11 PM  Comments (3)  

Conference Porter Brewday

I brewed up a traditional brown porter over the weekend for a conference I am attending in February.  It will be served at a party at Wintergreen ski resort, so I wanted it to be fairly simple and something that we would enjoy on a cold winter night.


The morning started out chilly, but the sun kept it bearable for us this afternoon.  Tim came over to help out, which really made for a smooth brewday.  With the ground water as cold as it was, my Therminator plate chiller cooled us from boiling to 62F in about 5 minutes! We even fired up the grill and made some sausages for lunch.  Makes me really look forward to the spring and summer when it is more enjoyable to be outside.


I used dry yeast for the second time in a row, and I have to say, I’m starting to think that it may be the way to go.  The only negative of dry yeast I can think of is that the variety available is limited compared to liquid.  But the quality is a little more consistent.  With liquid yeast the viability decreases with time so that a pack that is 3 months old is significantly less viable than a brand new pack.  With dry yeast, you can be a little more confident about how much live yeast you are getting.  And at about $5 a pack, you can pitch 2 packs directly into a low-medium gravity beer for the same cost of making a starter with a liquid pack.  So far I’ve had pretty good experiences with the dry packs.


If I plan on harvesting the yeast from a batch, or if I simply want a nice clear beer, I have been transferring the wort off the trub after a brewday.  While I’m cleaning up and getting the yeast ready, I let the wort and trub settle, then transfer it into a new carboy for a nice clean yeast cake after fermentation.  So far it has been working great.

Conference Porter (5.5 Gal, 85% efficiency)


6 lbs Maris Otter

1 lb Pale Chocolate

12 oz Crystal 20L

12 oz Crystal 120L

8 oz Flaked Oats


0.75 oz Chinook 11.4% AA (60 min)

1 oz German Tettnang 3.9% AA (0 min)


2 packs Danstar Windsor Ale, rehydrated with 1 cup 70F water


Mash with 3.19 gal target 152F for 45-60 min

Sparge with 5.08 gal 170F+

Keg after fermentation complete, 2.1 volumes CO2

*this Windsor yeast was a beast for me.  I had it fermenting in less than 6 hours, and after 24 hours it was fermenting at 69F at an ambient temperature of 63F.  So I would recommend keeping this at or below 63F to keep the ester production down. Fermentation was finished in about 3 days.  I’ll let it sit for a week before kegging.

OG – 1.050

FG – 1.012

ABV – 5.0%

IBU – 27

Here’s a slow mo of me oxygenating the wort prior to pitching the yeast

Baby J and Keags



Published in: on January 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM  Comments (1)  
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Canning Day at Three Notch’d Brewery

Tuesday morning I got the chance to help can one of the areas favorite IPA’s, Three Notch’d Brewery’s 40 Mile IPA.  They are always in need of volunteers to help out with their canning, which they do once or twice a month, and are happy to compensate you with a case of beer for your help. Next time you’re there, ask if they need help for their next canning if you’re interested!

My payment for helping out

My payment for helping out

The process involves bringing in a machine from Old Dominion Mobile Canning, a company contracted for the day to provide canning services.  Space and cost of these machines are the main constraint that prevents many breweries from having their own.  It takes two people from the canning company and about 3 from the brewery to operate this machine.  It is capable of canning about 40 barrels of beer (2200 six packs) in about 6 hours.



headed for sanitation

headed for sanitation

The empty cans are loaded into the back of the machine, where a conveyor belt directs them into a sanitizing wash.  After the sanitation rinse, the cans are purged with CO2 before getting filled with beer.  Afterwards, a lid is dropped in place and sealed with a press.  Finally, they run through a rinse spray and are hit with a shot of compressed air to help dry off.

cans being filled with 40 Mile IPA

cans being filled with 40 Mile IPA

This is where I came in.  Once exiting the machine, the cans need another quick drying off, after which they are organized in cardboard boxes and topped with 6-pack rings.  Finally, the boxes are stacked onto a pallet to be sent out for distribution.

It certainly isn’t the most glamorous job in a brewery, but as it turns out, there is no shortage of these types of jobs in a brewery.  Brewing beer is just a fraction of all the actual work done in a brewery.

I’m hoping to get into Three Notch’d more in the future to see how all the other processes work in a commercial brewery.  For now though, I think I’ll just enjoy one of these freshly canned 40 mile IPA’s.

drying and sorting cans

drying and sorting cans


the whole family, with our new addition, Jameson!

Freedom Crystal Blonde Brewday

As a tribute to America, we brewed an American Blonde Ale today.  Two brews ago I also did a Blonde Ale, and it turned out so good I decided to do another.  The first was a recipe from “Brewing Classic Styles”.  This time around I thought I would come up with my own recipe and tweak the first to make it a little more to my taste.


After several hot and humid days, hurricane Arthur pushed through to our east and brought behind it dry cool weather.  It was a beautiful morning to get outside and brew.  This being the third brewday with all my new equipment, things finally went smoothly and without a hitch.

I decided that to sterilize my pump and plate chiller, I would recirculate the sparge water as it heated up rather than circulating boiling wort towards the end of the boil.  This made it much less stressful and worked out nicely.  I brought the sparge water to a boil, recirculated back up to a boil, and let it go for 15 minutes before transferring the hot water up to the cooler.  All of this while the mash was sitting.  After all that was completed I was ready to start my sparge.  Perfect timing.


I also came up with an idea that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of before today.  I always use a sheet of foil poked with a fork to recirculate a pitcher of the first wort runnings back into the mash tun.  The first runnings always have a lot of grain bits in them, so I run it until the wort runs clear, then pour the first runnings back onto the foil so as not to disturb the grain bed.  Then I thought, why not leave that foil at the top of the cooler and let the sparge water run on top, distributing the hot water evenly over the grain bed through the fork holes?  It worked great.  Doesn’t save time, but definitely easier that holding the tubing during the whole 30-40 minutes of sparging.  And I haven’t found a sparge arm that works well yet.  This will be my new method.

Efficiency was the best I think I’ve ever had at 85%.  I tried to make a 5% beer, but will probably be looking at 5.5-5.7%.  Still should be a little more drinkable than the last blonde, which finished at 6% and is pretty drinkable anyhow.  Here are both blonde recipes, since I didn’t post the first one yet.

Happy 4th of July!

Freedom Crystal Blonde 

brewed July 4th, 2014


8.5 lbs 2-row
0.5 lbs Light Munich 


1 oz Crystal 4.1% AA – 60 min
1 oz Crystal 4.1% AA – 20 min
1 oz Crystal 4.1% AA – 0 min


Wyeast 1056 American Ale (1L starter prepared 24 hours before pitching, direct pitch)


mash with 4.4 gal (2 qt/lb) at 150F for 60 minutes
sparge with >170F to collect 7 gallons into kettle
boil for 1 hour
chill to 70F and ferment at 68F for two weeks
keg it
OG 1.050 (85% eff)

Blondie (from “Brewing Classic Styles)

Brewed April 19th, 2014


9.25 lbs 2-row
0.5 lbs Caramel 15L


1 oz Willamette 5.3% AA – 60 min


Wyeast 1056 American Ale 1 L starter


Mash 4.8 gal (2 qt/lb) at 152F for 60 min
Sparge >170F to collect 7 gal
cool to 70F and ferment at 68F for two weeks
keg it
OG 1.051 (78% eff)

Hooray for freedom and beer! (and goldfish)

Published in: on July 4, 2014 at 2:41 PM  Comments (3)  
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Citra IPA Brewday


current lineup of brews at the McElroy Brewing Co.

Last week I brewed the first IPA I’ve done since I brewed the Belgian IPA back in October, which I ended up just calling a Belgian Pale Ale anyways.  I’ve struggled with IPA’s since starting to homebrew.  I’m not sure what it is about them that I can’t get a good grasp of, probably just the amount of hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma that has to all come together to make a good beer.  This time around, I decided to use only one variety of hops, and after looking around, I chose Citra.


Citra hops were developed in 2007 and have unique flavors and aromas of passion fruit, tropical fruit, and citrus.  They are a multipurpose hop, meaning it can be used for bittering, flavoring, and aroma.  Which makes it perfect for a single hop brew. Citra hops have a high alpha acid and total oil content with a low cohumulone content.  Cohumulone level is associated with unpleasant bitterness and has a negative impact on head retention, therefore a low level is generally desired.

Sierra Nevada was the first brewery to use the new hop, in their popular Torpedo Extra IPA.  Many other breweries followed, including Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust, Terrapin Hopzilla, and Widmer Bros. Citra Blonde.  I actually took a clone recipe for Zombie Dust as the basis for my grain bill, then just upped the base malt to get it up around 7% ABV, and moved around some of the hop additions to make it my own.  It is now sitting at 65F fermenting away.  I will add some dry hops once fermentation has finished, and hope to have this one ready sometime in June.  Here is the recipe.

thats a lot of hops!

thats a lot of hops!


Citra IPA


11 lbs 2-Row
1 lb Light Munich
8 oz CaraPils
8 oz Caramel 20L
8 oz Melanoidin

Hops (all Citra whole leaf 15.1% AA)

1 oz       First Wort Hops (added during sparge before boil begins)
0.5 oz   35 min
1 oz       10 min
1 oz       5 min
2.5 oz    1 min
3 oz      dry hop 7-10 days


Wyeast American Ale 1056 (harvested from previous batch of Blondie and reused)


Mash at 2 qt/lb at 149F for one hour (6.8 gal)
Sparge to collect a little more wort than usual for absorption of leaf hops (3.4 gal)
Original Gravity – 1.068 (78% efficiency)
Target Final Gravity – 1.014
Target ABV 7.1%

Keags playing on her new picnic table from Gram and Grandad!

Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 2:08 PM  Comments (3)  
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How to Brew Beer in About 2 Minutes

For those of you who are interested in seeing all that goes into brewing beer, but only have about 2 minutes….

Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 8:27 PM  Comments (1)  
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Blonde Ale Brewday (Therminator and Chugger Pump Review)


Yesterday I used the plate chiller and chugger pump for the first time.  I wasn’t expecting everything to run as smoothly as a usual brewday, and my expectations were met.

I will preface all of this by saying the beer is bubbling away strongly in the basement right now, and I expect the Blonde Ale to turn out just fine.  But I certainly learned a lot about the new system, and will have plenty of adjustments to make for the next brew.  I brewed a very simple beer to reduce any complications for the first batch.  The Blonde ale had only 1 hop addition so I could focus on the pump during the end of the boil.

Everything started out pretty smooth.  I used the pump to transfer the mash water directly from the kettle to the mash tun while mixing in the grains.  Normally, I need to lift the hot kettle up onto the rack to gravity drain the hot water into the tun as I am adding grains.  I was able to again transfer the boiling sparge water up into the hot liquor tank without any worry of splashing hot water and getting burned.  Easier and safer for sure.

The next few steps were same as any other day.  I didn’t use the pump to sparge, so that stayed the same.  The boil was no different for the first 45 minutes.

Then came the first hitch.

I had planned on turning the pump on with about 15 minutes left in the boil to recirculate through the plate chiller and back into the kettle via my new whirlpool port.  When I did, I noticed air getting sucked into the line and causing the pump to deprime and stop working.  After several disconnects, repriming, and turning back on, I finally figured out that I had to leave the outflow valve of the pump partially closed to prevent cavitation and air entrainment to the pump.  This took most of the 15 minutes to figure out, so I didn’t get a full sterilization cycle in, but remember I had already ran hot and boiling water through everything, so I’m not overly concerned about under sterilization.  Plus this was the first time using both on wort, so they should have been nice and clean.

At flameout, I turned on the water to the plate chiller and was pleasantly surprised with the results.  I continued the recirculation/whirlpool for the first few minutes of the chill to get the entire batch down to 110F, the level at which DMS production is no longer an issue.  After 3 minutes it was down from 212F to 110F.  Then I turned everything off and let the wort settle for about 20 minutes before transferring it single pass through the plate chiller and into the carboy.  With the pump running close to wide open, I cooled the wort down to 65F in less than 5 minutes.  The temp today was in the mid 50s, so we will see how it works later in the summer when the ground water isn’t as cold.

Then came the next snag.

I was also using an in line thermometer to gauge the temperature of the wort coming out of the plate chiller.  I had it propped in the opening of the carboy, and as I went to take it out after the kettle was empty…


Right into the carboy.

Which brought me to my next realization about the new system.  I had hoped that by recirculating and whirlpooling, I would be removing most of the cold break from the wort.  Turns out the cold break doesn’t really form until you are at or near pitching temperatures (notice all the light brown specks floating and the layer on the bottom, they are coagulated proteins known as cold break).  Since I only cooled the full batch to 110F before running it into the carboy, Most of the cold break formed during the final pass.  It may be beneficial to rerack the wort into a new carboy after cooling and before pitching yeast to remove a lot of the break.  Or during the winter at least, just cool the entire batch down to pitching temperatures before transferring into the carboy.


I was able to retrieve the “thrumometer” and as a result had a nice clean wort to pitch the yeast into.

The other main adjustment I’ll need to make is with water volumes.  I didn’t account for the priming volume of the pump and chiller, so I ended up about 2/3 gallon short at the end.  And as a result, my OG was about 10 points higher than my target.  So I ran up to the store and bought a gallon of water and added 2/3 of it to bring my gravity down to 1.051.   I’ll add about 10% to my volumes for the next brew.  Just as I had pretty much figured out my efficiency for my system, I’m going to pretty much have to start over again.  I’ll just have to brew more beer now.

Again, everything turned out just fine, and I look forward to using the system again next month with some modified techniques that will hopefully make things run a lot smoother.   I plan on brewing an IPA with a lot more hops, so I can really utilize my whirlpool and see how it does.   Off to Mellow Mushroom for their Hopslam keg tapping! Happy Easter everyone.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 1:14 PM  Comments (1)  
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Chugger pump and Therminator plate chiller setup

After a month of research I finally acquired all the parts and fittings needed to use my new beer pump and plate chiller.  Today I put everything together and hopefully in the next few days I will be able to test them out in a dry run.  The plate chiller is replacing my copper immersion chiller, and is a counterflow type chiller used in most commercial breweries, on a smaller scale of course.


I decided to go with camlock fittings, a type of quick disconnect that comes in all different types and is stainless steel.  This will make connecting and disconnecting between different vessels a breeze.  They are a little pricey, but will accommodate growth in the future should I continue to upgrade.  Here is a site with a good description of different applications for camlocks in brewing.  I purchased mine from Stainless Brewing.



flow from kettle up to cooler

So far, I have decided to use the pump for several different processes during the brewday.

First, I will be able to heat up and transfer water into my coolers without lifting and pouring.  I am starting to get old, and lifting 7 gallons of boiling water to the top shelf of my rack can be stressful on my back.

Second, I plan on adding a new port onto my boil kettle to recirculate boiling wort through my plate chiller for sterilization purposes.  This eliminates the need to sterilize the plate chiller prior to each use.

Third, and most obvious, I will pump the boiled wort through the plate chiller into the fermenter at the end of the boil.

Fourth, I will pump cleaner through the entire system after each brewday to clean up.


flow from kettle to plate chiller to carboy

I’m excited about testing it out in the next few days to see how smoothly everything flows.  I’m hopeful that I will be able to use everything on my next brew day in the next few weeks.  I still need to get fittings for the water connections on the plate chiller, but that shouldn’t be hard to find hopefully.

I will follow up with a review of the Chugger pump and Therminator plate chiller after I’ve used them.

I also kegged the California Dreamin’, a california common that we brewed 3 weeks ago.  It came out good, a little more bitter than the style dictates, but still refreshing.  I’m going to get a six pack of Anchor Steam beer to sample side by side when this one is ready in a couple weeks.  Even though I didn’t brew this as a clone, it is in the same style and should have similar characteristics.

The dark lager is coming along well after almost two weeks of fermenting.  Still another 2 weeks at 50F before moving into a keg and lagering for several more weeks.  But at first taste a few days ago it is right where I want it to be.

Keagan at the playground

Keagan at the playground

Published in: on March 29, 2014 at 3:56 PM  Comments (2)  
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