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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Amateur Summer Amber

I've brewed beer a few times, but I have not done so in quite some time. In the past, I have not kept very detailed notes about the beer I've made. This time I decided to do so, and as long as I was keeping notes, I thought it would be fun to blog about it.

I am far from an expert when it comes to brewing; so I decided to keep it simple by brewing a pure extract beer. I did create my own recipe, but it is very similar to recipes in a couple of my references below.

I used the following ingredients:
  • 3.3 lbs. Cooper's Light Malt Extract
  • 2 lbs. Munton's Amber Dry Malt
  • 2 tsp. Gypsum
  • 1/8 tsp. Kosher Salt (approximate)
  • 1 oz. German Northern Brewer Hop Pellets
  • 1 oz. UK Kent Golding Hop Pellets
  • 1 tsp. Diammonium Phosphate
  • 11 g. Nottingham Ale Yeast (I know I'm mixing metric and English, but 0.388 oz seemed like a ridiculous measure)
  • 1.5 lbs corn sugar for priming. (Don't follow my mistake. Use 3/4 cup)
I rinsed and sanitized all the equipment. The purpose of rinsing is to clean any debris. I used plenty of water and rinsed the carboy, the boiling pot, and all the equipment. I did not use any soap. Soap leaves a residue that is hard to eliminate and potentially adds a bad flavor to the beer.
Cleaning the carboy
To sanitize the equipment I used 1-Step sanitizer. It contains percarbonates that sanitize by oxidizing and undesirable wee beasties.

Sodium percarbonate, for example, is an adduct between  two sodium carbonate  (Na2CO3) and hydrogen peroxide, with three parts hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). It is not necessary to rinse because its breakdown products are harmless and will not change the flavor.
Sanitizing equipment
Sanitized equipment
I rehydrated the yeast in 4 oz. of water at 30-35 C. Actual value was 33.5 C.

Yeast are eukaryotes; that means they are more closely related to us than organisms such as bacteria. Eukaryotic cells have defined nucleii. Like all living things, yeast uses respiration to survive. In this process, the yeast break down sugars and in the process produce adenosine triphosphate, which is the currency that cells use for energy.
Waiting for water to cool
The first step in respiration is glycolysis. In the absence of oxygen, the second step is fermentation. Fermentation yield ethanol as a by product. As we all should know by now, ethanol is more than just a solvent.

Carbon dioxide is a by-product of all respiration. Readers of this blog know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but the carbon in all living things ultimately comes from the carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Green plants use the carbon from carbon dioxide to build sugars. All living things that we know about survive by oxidizing carbon back into carbon dioxide. It is a cycle.

More interestingly, perhaps, carbon dioxide will carbonate our beer. The yeast cooled to room temperature while I did the rest of the preparation. Perhaps, it would be better to prepare the yeast later, but the fermentation will occur at room temperature anyway; so it is probably not a big issue.
Rehydrated yeast
I boiled 5 gallons of Rocky Mountain Spring Water.

Rocky Mountain spring water

One could, of course, use tap water. It's perfectly safe, especially after boiling. In fact, my tap water a combination of Rocky Mountain spring water and snow melt, but it does pick up a lot of off flavors when processed at the water treatment plant. I decided that it was a good idea to start off good beer with good water.

Piercing the water so that it will flow
If one opens the spigot to a water container, gravity will cause the water to spill out, but atmospheric pressure pushes against this flow. Piercing the container allows the water to flow free.

Adding dry malt extract
As the water heated I added dry malt extract. Beer is made from malted grains, primarily malted barley. The grains are allowed to germinate, and the germinated grains are dried in a kiln. The malted grains can then be used to make beer.

The malting process breaks down the grains into sugars. the principal sugars are fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose. Sucrose is a disaccharide made from fructose and glucose. Maltose is a disaccharide made from two units of glucose. It is the principal sugar in malts. Malt extracts are extracts of malt that concentrate the malt sugars. These extracts can be dry or liquid.
Adding liquid malt extract
When I was in Australia, I particularly enjoyed Cooper's dark beer. My brewing store had Cooper's light extract and Cooper's wheat extract. As it is not my intention to brew wheat beer, I decided to get some of the Cooper's light extract. The Munton's amber dry malt will still give the beer some darkness.

Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral, calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4 · 2H2O). It's debateable whether it is really needed when brewing beer. It adds some calcium hardness to the water that can help the yeast, and in addition sulfate ions can bring out the flavor of the hops.
Adding gypsum
Salt is also debatable.
Diammonium phosphate, (NH4)2HPO4 is a yeast nutrient that adds fixed nitrogen for the yeast.

Diammonium phosphate
When the mixture came to a full boil, I added the German Northern Brewer Hop Pellets. Hops are flowers, originally added to beer as a preservative but now added mostly for flavor. There are two types of hops: bittering hops and aromatic hops. I added the bittering hops to the boil and saved the aromatic hops to "dry hop" at the end.

Adding bittering hops
I allowed the wort to boil for 30 minutes. The green stuff on top is from the hops.

Boiling the wort: the hops are floating on top
One thing I neglected to prepare was a plan to cool the boiled wort. Five gallons of liquid takes a long time to cool. In retrospect, I should have made/bought a lot of ice to cool it down, or perhaps designed a cooler with coolant to quickly lower the temperature of the wort.

Cooling the wort in an ice-water bath
It is crucial to let the wort  cool to a temperature that will not kill the yeast.

Once the wort cooled, I siphoned the wort into the carboy. A siphon operates by a combination of gravity pulling the liquid from the bottom and atmospheric pressure pushing the liquid in the top end. If you do not want to contaminate the worth with mouth suction, it is easy to prime the siphon simply by filling it with water.
Priming the siphon
A clamp on the bottom of the siphon makes it a lot easier to use.
Siphon clip
Pressure from the atmosphere pushes wort into the hose.
Siphoning the wort
Gravity pulls wort out of the hose.
Siphoning the wort into the carboy
 After transferring the cooled wort into the carboy, I added the rehydrated yeast.

Adding yeast to the carboy
I added the 1 oz. UK Kent Golding Hop Pellets right into the carboy, a practice called dry-hopping.

Dry hopping

The wort in the fermenter
The wort is ready to ferment. A fermentation lock is a simple device that allows carbon dioxide to bubble out, but oxygenated air cannot enter because of a layer of water.
The fermentation lock allows carbon dioxide out, but prevents oxygenated air from getting in
I put the carboy in the basement to ferment.
Fermentation begins
The next evening I found a mess. Foam was pushed into the fermentation lock and overflowed. A solution to this problem is to leave more empty space in the carboy or to use a blowout tube, a piece of hose that terminates in a container of sanitizer. It performs the same function as the fermentation lock but allows more room for foam to blow out.

A mess
I fixed the mess by siphoning out some wort, cleaning the fermentation lock, and restarting the fermentation.

After siphoning, fermentation continues
After about 2 days, the primary fermentation had ended. I let secondary fermentation continue until the next weekend, bottling after a full week of fermentation.

Old beer bottles
I had an excess of old beer bottles that I have been collecting for awhile. Most of them are colored, but a few of them are clear. It is better to use colored bottles because light can damage the beer, but I will store the beer in the dark anyway. I recycled my extra bottles, and began the bottling process.

Rinsing bottles with copious amounts of water
I rinsed the bottles with water. Again soap leaves a bad taste. Water is sufficient to clean the bottles. I used 1-step to sanitize them.
Rinsing beer caps
I also rinsed and sanitized the caps as the bag had already been opened from my last brew, many, many, moons ago.
Sanitizing bottles
I rinsed all of the bottles with sanitizer.
Preparing priming syrup
I boiled up a syrup of priming syrup with the corn sugar. Corn sugar is dextrose (D-glucose) and is easily fermented. Once the bottles are capped the carbon dioxide given off from fermentation will create pressure in the bottle. That pressure will cause the carbon dioxide to be dissolved in the beer, where it wil come to equilibrium with carbonic acid.

HOCOOH  <=>  CO2 + H2O

Siphoning into a container for bottling
Siphoning the beer into a container with a spigot makes bottling much easier. I have two such container and was able to split the beer between them. I added the syrup, stirred, and then bottled.

Here I am bottling,
and capping.
The first twelve pack
12 packs are convenient. A 12 pack is 144 oz. or 16 oz. more than a gallon.

One of the few clear bottles I used
Mostly, I used dark bottles, but clear bottles are nice for seeing the brew.

Ready to ferment again
I should have tracked the cost better than I did.  I spent $55 at the brewing store, most of it on ingredients, but some of on revamping equipment.. Amazon list 5 gallons of water for $15; so let's guestimate the cost of ingredients to be $70, $14 a gallon, or $1.31 per 12 oz.

I actually ended up with 45 bottle of approximately 12 oz.  5 gallons would be 53 1/3 bottles.  The difference arises from a combination of several factors: 1) I lost some volume by siphoning some off to avoid overflow. 2) I gained some volume by adding the priming syrup. 3) I lost some volume with the dregs. 4) I did not precisely measure 12 oz. into each bottle. For 45 bottles the price works out to be $70/45 = $1.56 per bottle.

Of course, I am not including the initial  cost of all the equipment, but that can be amortized over all the beer that I ever brew. If we assume that my purchase was typical for sustaining my equipment, the estimate holds.

A week later, I decided to sample the brew.

Ready to sample

The beer was carbonated, extremely carbonated.

Yes, it's carbonated
Over carbonation of beer is a very common error. It results primarily from two sources: 1) not waiting long enough for fermentation before bottling, and 2) not calculating the amount of priming sugar carefully.

In this case, I chose to bottle early, did not measure the density of the beer, and did not carefully calculate the amount of priming sugar. I can improve upon that in the next batch. In the meantime, it's time to taste.

After refrigeration, it is a little better. Gases, including carbon dioxide, are more soluble in cold water than hot water; so it makes sense that refrigeration helps.

Letting the beer settle

The first pours
The beer came out light and refreshing, neither strongly malty, nor strongly hoppie. My wife describes it as a light summer drinking beer.

I'm looking forward to the next batch. Perhaps next time, I'll try the White House Recipe.



Tess Young said...

Hello There,
I just wanted to see if you were currently interested in additional guest bloggers for your blog site.
I see that you've accepted some guest posters in the past - are there any specific guidelines you need me to follow while making submissions?
If you're open to submissions, whom would I need to send them to?
I'm eager to send some contributions to your blog and think that I can cover some interesting topics.
Thanks for your time,

Rich said...

Sorry, but I have not accepted guest bloggers in the past. I'd be unlikely to do so without knowing who you are.

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