Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting caught up

I'm finally getting caught up. I like to have a few kegs on stand-by. Right now, I've got 4 kegs on tap and 5 ready to go. I've got just one empty keg at the moment.

From left to right:
Panama Red, batch 87
Panama Red, batch 87
Oatmeal Pale Ale, batch 86
Scotch Ale, from the group brew, batch 84

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yeast 104

A question came up on my beer club forum titled "Saving Yeast". Here is my response:

I do this all the time. I buy yeast maybe once or twice a year. Of course, sanitation is critical. Here's how I do it:

1. Rack off the beer to wherever you rack it to.
2. Depending on how much beer is left in the fermenter, I'll add up to a pint of water. I use store-bought bottled water.
3. Swirl around until the yeast cake is all liquid, nothing clinging to the sides or bottom of the fermenter.
4. Pour out into sanitized 1qt mason jars. I generally get 2 or 3 jars per 10 gallon batch. I leave about 1 inch head space.
5. Drop in one of these per jar: This is a tip that Jeremy posted a while back. This helps prevent infection.
6. Refrigerate until you need it. My refrigerator is set for 37F. On brew day, I get out a jar or two (I use 1 jar per 5 gallons) in the morning and put them on the kitchen counter to bring them up to room temp. Shake every now and then to get the yeast in suspension.
7. Pitch when you're ready.

You can do even more if you want. Between #4 and #5, set the jars on the counter for 15 or 20 minutes. It should settle out into 3 layers, the top layer is beer/water, the middle layer is your yeast, the bottom layer is trub. You can pour off the beer/water and yeast into another jar and leave most of the trub behind. You can repeat this several times until what you have is pretty much just yeast.

I've used yeast as old as 2 months doing this and have not had any problems -- well, not any problems that I can attribute to the yeast, anyway.

Some pictures while harvesting yeast:

Mason jars are sanitized and draining.

I added a bottle of water because it looked like I got most of the beer siphoned off and it looks there is some yeast stuck to the bottom.

Yeast in the jars. I let them sit for a couple of hours so I could take some pics of the yeast separating out, but they really looked just the same, so I just put them in the fridge. It seems to me that the combination of whole hops, which form a filter bed in the boil kettle and the counter-flow chiller, there really isn't much trub that makes it into the fermenter.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've never had this happen in this fermenter. 10 gallons of beer in a 15.5 gallon keg, I've never had a blowout, until today. This is the batch I brewed on Wednesday, I pitched directly on a yeast cake from a batch I brewed about 2 weeks ago. Perhaps I should have removed some of that yeast. After I got it all cleaned up, I put on a blow off tube into a growler of star-san.

Update, next day: I need a bigger blowoff tube. I had more mess on the floor this morning. It's a good thing I'm fermenting in the garage with a concrete floor. I looked back through this blog, and found that there had been a "massive blowoff" on a previous batch of Panama Red. Hmm.

Inside the fermentation box, what a mess:

More mess:

Inside the fermenter:

A shot of the Panama Red that I went to get a glass of when I noticed the mess. As it happens, it's another batch of Panama Red in the fermenter. It's hard to tell from the picture, but that beer is crystal clear with a nice rocky head. My guess is it's close to the last glass out of that keg.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Batch 87, Panama Red

I still have a lot of empty kegs and some time, so I brewed on a Wednesday. A pretty smooth day, except for the grinding of the grain. For some reason, the new Gambrinus 2-row that I have didn't want to feed. No problem at all with the Crystal 60 or Chocolate. Maybe next time I'll try conditioning the Gambrinus first.

A 10 gallon batch.

20.25 lb 2 row (Gambrinus, Canadian)
1.5 lbs Crystal 60
4 oz Chocolate

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes. I used my IC as a heat exchanger again, and again was able to keep the mash at very consistent 154F.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Nugget, 60 minutes
2 oz Cascade, 30 minutes
2 oz Cascade, 5 minutes
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 minutes

All the hops are home grown, the Nugget is from Steve P, the rest I grew myself. I only did a 60 minute boil today instead of the usual 90 minutes. My propane tank was a little light, and I wasn't sure there would be enough to do 90 minutes.

Pitched this batch on the yeast cake from batch 86, Wyeast 1272.

Some notes:

165F water from the HLT put the mash right at 154F. The outside temp was 50F. I used 8 gallons of water to mash.

First sparge, I added 2.5 gallons of water from the HLT, then ran off 7 gallons into the BK.

Second sparge, added 5 more gallons of water from the HTL, then ran off 5.5 gallons into the BK for a total of 12.5 gallons to boil.

OG: 1.064 actual. Recipe says it should be 1.056, so somehow I did better than usual.

Some brew day pics:

Weighing the grain

Grinding grain. I had some trouble with the 2-row

Mikki the brew dog keeps an eye on the pump.

I noticed my hops are coming up in the garden when I was dumping spent grains on the compost pile. The sprouts are tiny, but there they are, mid-February!

Just about done, pumping from BK through CFC to fermenter.