Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fermenting in a bag

I've been doing this for quite a while, several years now at least: fermenting in a bag. It's easy clean up, easy yeast harvesting, and it fits my little chest freezer. The pictures here are from a couple of different brew days to show the complete process. I know some people will think this is crazy, but I've done side-by-side comparisons using the bags versus a food grade plastic bucket, and there are no discernible off-flavors. There are other choices for bags, for example, Walmart sells food grade bags for marinating and brining that fit into a 5 gallon bucket that are around $10 for 25. I don't use those because they aren't big enough. More on the bags I do use below.

I have two of these 13 gallon recycle bins, they are just the right size that two fit in my chest freezer. There is plenty of headspace for a 10 gallon batch, I've never had a a problem with a strong fermentation blowing over the top.

Here are the two recycle bins in the freezer. The one on the left has a Costco trash compactor bag in it. The bags are 18 gallons and are made of new material, not recycled plastic. Costco doesn't claim these are food grade bags, but then, they really aren't intended for this use. These are the bags I've been using for fermenting. The light bulb on the right is actually a terrarium heat bulb, no light, just heat. It's a 60W bulb and is enough to keep the beer at the right temperature even in the winter. It's hanging inside a clay pot, which helps keep the heat even. It's sitting on that shelf that covers the compressor, so good use of an otherwise useless space. Also not shown in this picture is the computer fan that I added on the same shelf, it helps circulate the air to keep the temperature a little more even.

Filling the bag. I'm not worried about oxygen here, in fact, I'll be adding oxygen in the next step. I do keep the freezer lid closed while filling to keep any nasties out, it's just open for the picture.

Temp is set at 66F. The controller is an Inkbird Itc-308 Digital Temperature Controller Outlet Thermostat, which is super simple to set up and it has controllers for both hot and cold. My freezer is plugged into the "cold" outlet, and the terrarium bulb is plugged into the "hot" outlet, duh! The probe is in the blue bucket, between the inside of the bucket and the outside the bag, so it's not actually in the beer, but pressed right against it.

Oxygenating. The oxygen tank is from Home Depot, the stone is from Homebrewstuff. I do 30 seconds for a 5 gallon batch and 1 minute for a 10 gallon batch.

A quart and a half of fresh yeast.

Different day, pumping the beer into a keg. Notice the kitchen size trash bag over the top. This isn't the best picture since I've changed my technique. Now when I put the top bag on, I press all the air out so the bag is right on top of the beer. As fermentation takes place, the bag will swell with the CO2 generated by the fermenting wort, then when cold crashing, it will absorb the CO2 back into the beer and usually end up right on top of the beer again. This really helps reduce oxygenation and eliminates problems with headspace, excess air, and also gets rid of the problem when using an airlock and the Starsan gets sucked into the fermenter. Oddly enough, I still use a 5 gallon bucket and airlock when making ciders and partigyle batches, I should probably use bags with the bucket too. Easier cleanup, for sure. I'm not sure of a better way to pump out the beer, this is the step where there is the most exposure to air (and oxygen). I've tried just cutting a hole in the top bag and pushing the hose through, but then I can't see when to stop pumping.

Yeast is in a conical!

Saving the yeast. The pointy part of the bag is dipped in a bucket of Starsan first, and also the scissors and the glass container.

Looks nice! These get labeled and put in the fridge for some batch down the road. I try to use yeast like this fairly soon, but sometimes it could be as long as 6 months, if so, I make a starter.

Batch 194, Smooth IPA

New recipe, sort of. I got about 5 lb of Chinook hops from some fresh bines recently, so I made an IPA out of them. This is basically the same recipe as St. Brigid Lake, but with all Chinook. It's almost a SMASH beer, but not quite.

10 gallon batch

25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb wheat

Mashed at 156F, it was cool today so the temp dropped to about 152 by the end of the mash.

0.5 oz Chinook, FWH
0.5 oz Chinook, 90 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 80 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 70 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 60 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 50 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 40 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 30 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 20 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 10 min
0.5 oz Chinook, 5 min
1.0 oz Chinook, 0 min


Wyeast 1272, reused from previous batches.

OG: 1.056 actual, should have hit 1.061, not sure why the miss.

Update: So I was told these hops were Chinook, but that turns out to be wrong, they are Mosaic! The peach aroma is astounding! I've made a few more batches with these hops, plus with some fresh Mosaic hops harvested directly from a local hop farm, and those "Chinook" hops are definitely Mosaic. So good!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Batch 193, Leeser

Second batch of a double brew day.

10 gallon batch

21.5 lb Pilsner (actually about 19 lb pilsner, the rest was 2-row)
1.25 lb wheat

Single infusion mash at 150F for 60 minutes.

1.5 oz Magnum, 60 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
3 oz Saaz, 5 min

I used a mix of Wyeast Oktoberfest yeast and Bohemian lager yeast.

Batch 192, Oktoberfest

Double batch brew day, I did this and a batch of Leeser back to back. Same as last year's recipe.

10 gallon batch

10 lb Pilsner malt
8 lb Munich
7 lb Vienna
1.5 lb Wheat
1 lb Crystal 60

Mashed at 148F for 60 minutes, single infusion batch sparge.

1.25 oz Magnum 60 min
2 tsp Irish Moss 15 min
3.5 oz Mt. Hood, 5 min

60 minute boil

I used a mix of Wyeast Oktoberfest yeast and Bohemian lager yeast.

Smooth and easy brew day.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Batch 191, Pale Ale

Double batch day, just a pale ale.

10 gallon batch

21 lb 2-row
1.5 lb caramunich
1.5 lb white wheat

Mash at 158F.

1.5 oz Magnum, 60 min
2.5 oz Cascade, 5 min

60 minute boil

Wyeast American Ale II (1272)

OG: 1.052, 1.054 actual
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.1%
SRM: 8.1

Batch 190, Guava IPA

Yet another take on a guava IPA. This time I used cans of guava juice concentrate from Winco.

10 gallon batch

20 lb 2-row
3 lb guava juice concentrate (4 cans, added in fermenter)
2.5 lb white wheat

Mash at 154F

1.0 oz Citra, FWH
0.5 oz Magnum, 60 min
2.0 oz Simcoe, 60 min
1 oz Citra, 5 min

90 minute boil

Wyeast London Ale III

OG: 1.054, 1.052 actual before adding the guava juice
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.3%

For the guava concentrate, I let it thaw while brewing, then poured it into the bottom of the fermenter, then transferred the wort on top of it, so it got a good mix.

Aug 25, fermentation is complete. I thought the concentrate might make for a clearer beer, but the hydrometer sample was still very cloudy like previous batches.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Batch 189, Panama Red

In an unusually bizarre turn of events, I brewed a Panama Red today. That almost never happens, at least not on Fridays starting at 8:45 am.

10 gallon batch

22.25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb crystal 60
1.5 lb white wheat malt
4 oz chocolate malt

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes. Adjusted pH to 5.2 with phosphoric acid. Recirculate for 10 - 15 minutes on each sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min

Wyeast 1272, from the last time I brewed this. I got two quarts out of the fridge yesterday so they'd warm up, oxygenated as usual for 90 seconds, then pitched both quarts. The yeast looked really good for being 3 months old.

OG: 1.063
FG: 1.016
SRM: 11.8
ABV: 6.4%

Friday, June 3, 2016

Batch 188, Malted Cider

Just like the last batch of this, which turned out to be really nice and drinkable.

5 gallon batch

1 gallon wort from batch 187
11 12 oz cans Winco frozen Apple concentrate
3 gallons water

Mix it all up in a fermenter, adjust to pitching temp, oxygenate, add 1 quart of London Ale III that I saved from the last batch I made of this.

Like last batch, the gravity of the gallon of wort was a little low, so I added 1/2 lb DME to get it to 1.050. Also like last batch, I didn't think to get a hydrometer sample, so I have no idea what the OG is. I tried to set this up in BrewTarget, but I'm not certain I have it set correctly. I think the OG should be around 1.058, with an ABV of about 5.7.

This is so easy to do, it adds no time at all to a brew day. I made the cider while the boil was in progress.

June 9, 2016, fermentation is done, it's right at 1.010, so I turned the freezer down to 33F to cold crash.

June 11, 2016, kegged and harvested the yeast. The yeast looks excellent!

June 12, 2016, realized today that I'd forgotten to add the Cream of Tartar to the keg, so I did that today, 2 tsp. That most excellent looking yeast had expanded in the mason jar and leaked all over the fridge.

Batch 187, Guava IPA

Yet another attempt at perfecting a guava IPA recipe. I didn't have on hand the same ingredients as last time, so I made some changes that should still be good.

10 gallon batch

15 lbs 2-row
5 lbs pilsner
2.5 lbs wheat
1 kg guava paste

Mashed at 153F for 1 hour. Batch sparge. Collected 4 gallons in the BK, so I used 10 gallons for the sparge, 9 to go into the BK, and an extra gallon for a batch of malted cider. Adjusted pH of the mash and the sparge to ~5.3. Recirc for about 10 minutes each batch.

90 minute boil

5/8 oz Citra and 1 oz Sorachi Ace, FWH
3 oz Magnum, 60 min
3 oz Citra, 5 min

I was short on Citra, last time I'd used 1.75 oz as FWH. I figured it would be better to use the Citra for a flavor addition at 5 minutes, and the Sorachi Ace has enough citrus flavors that it should be complimentary.

London Ale III, 2 quarts from a previous batch.

OG: 1.057, 1060 actual
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.6
IBU: 98
SRM: 9.6 (I have set the SRM for the guava paste to 60 in my brewing software, it's just a guess.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Beer fridge modification

While brewing batch 184, I made a nice modification to my beer fridge. I don't want to drill a hole in the fridge to put the CO2 tank outside, and there isn't anywhere to put it anyway, so I used my Dremel and cut out the shelf in the door to put it there.

Mmm! Edge beers waiting to be opened!

Now it's easy to reach and no fear of it falling out by accident.

Here's a random photo of my grandson with a storm trooper, just for fun:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Batch 186, Malted Cider

I haven't made a cider before, and the universe seems to be pushing me in that direction. My beer club met at Merriwether Cider Company a couple of weeks ago, and we got a great tour and discussion about how to make ciders. Then I was reading a recent issue of Zymurgy and they had an article about making malted ciders. The problem with straight-up cider is that there isn't any nutrients for the yeast. Malted cider, however, uses some beer wort added to the apple juice as yeast nutrient, so when I was making Batch 185, I ran off an extra gallon to make 5 gallons of malted cider. It turns out the wort I ran off was a little low on gravity, so I added some DME to get it to 1.042.

5 gallon batch

4 gallons of cider from concentrate. My wife bought 11 of these cans at about $1 each from Winco:

Beats the crap out of me why I take a photo landscape and Google turns it to portrait and doesn't give me any option to rotate it.
So 11 of these plus 3 gallons of water plus 1 gallon of wort makes 5 gallons.

All I did was mix the concentrate with water in a fermenter bucket, then added the gallon of wort, oxygenated, then pitched a jar of Wyeast London Ale III from batch 184. I'm real interested to see how this comes out. This was super simple to make and was easy to add into a regular brew day. I'm a little worried about sanitation, I was careful, but the water came right out of the tap (through a carbon filter), not boiled, the wort came right out of the mash tun, so it was about 170F at one point, but not boiled and much it was much cooler when I added it to the cider.

May 3, the airlock is bubbling away, that's a good sign.

May 11, fermentation is done, FG is 1.012, so I put it in a keg and put it on tap. I added 2 tsp of Cream of Tartar to the fermenter before kegging, it probably would have been better to add that to the keg.

May 14, first taste now that's carbonated, it's good, but a little plain, not a lot of apple flavor.

June 3, I've been mixing this 50/50 with the Prickly Pear beer, and that is an excellent combination. I took a growler to a tennis match for afterwards, and it was gone in about 10 minutes.

Batch 185, Saison

This is my first attempt at a saison. A friend's daughter is getting married this fall, and she wants a beer that has arugula in it. I did a little research and found there are a few pro brewers featuring arugula in beer. The base style of those that I found was saison, apparently the peppery flavor imparted by the arugula goes nicely with the spicy flavors of the saison yeast. This is a pretty basic saison recipe, I'm aiming for something on the lower end of the ABV scale, but otherwise close to the style.

10 gallon batch

22 lb pilsner malt
1.25 lb caramunich malt (provides color without all the sweetness of a crystal malt)
1.25 lb white wheat malt (head retention)

Mashed at 150F. I was aiming for 147F, but this should still come out fairly dry. I would have adjusted, but kept getting interrupted by the parents, who came over to watch a brew session. No problem, and good fun, just a little distracted so I didn't think of everything on the fly. I did remember to adjust the pH and I ran off 13 gallons into the boil kettle and one more gallon into a jar for batch 186.

90 minute boil

4.5 oz US Saaz, 60 minutes
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 minutes
3 os US Saaz, 5 minutes

Wyeast 3724, Belgian Saison, I only had one packet since I thought I'd just make 5 gallons when I bought it, so I stepped it up with a 3 quart starter. Oh, and I dumped the stir bar into the fermenter... again. I put a sticky note on top of the fermenter so I remember to recover it later.

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.011
ABV: 5.4%
SRM: 6.7

I'm planning to add sugar towards the end of primary fermentation to see if I can get the FG down to around 1.005.

May 11, 2016, gravity is about 1.030, I would have expected much lower by now. I'm thinking my starter wasn't as good as it should have been, so I bought 2 more packages of the same yeast and pitched them.

April 17, 2017 -- I was reviewing my notes for this and realized I've left out a lot of detail. The arugula was not good. I made a few extracts, one of arugula, one of fennel, and one with vanilla beans. The extracts were made by soaking the various items in vodka for a few weeks. After the saison itself was done, we did some sample tastings with a little bit of each extract in a glass of saison. The arugula was weird, and no one liked it. The fennel was pretty good, a little licorice flavor went nicely with the saison. The vanilla was excellent, which is why I was reviewing these notes since I want to make it again. If memory serves, I used 5 vanilla beans in about a pint of vodka for a couple of weeks and added the vodka to 2.5 gallons of the saison.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Batch 184, Panama Red

Just the usual --

10 gallon batch

22.25 lb 2-row
1.5 lb crystal 60
1.5 lb white wheat malt
4 oz chocolate malt

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes. Adjusted pH to 5.2 with phosphoric acid. Recirculate for 10 minutes on each sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 tsp Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min

2 new pkg Wyeast 1272

OG: 1.063, 1.060 actual
FG: 1.016
SRM: 11.8
ABV: 6.4%

April 30, kegged, harvested yeast

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Batch 183, Amber Ale

I haven't brewed yet this year, so this is a start on getting caught up. Just a basic pale ale.

10 gallon batch.

20 lb 2-row
2 lb Crystal 60
1.5 lb white wheat

Mash at 154F. Actually hit 155F, temp dropped to 150F by the end. No big deal there.

1.5 oz Magnum @ 60 min
2.5 oz Cascade @ 5 min

90 minute boil, Irish Moss at 15 min.

I used 3 new packages of Wyeast London Ale III, fermenting at 66F.

OG: 1.050, 1.054 actual
FG: 1.014
IBU: 35
SRM: 9
ABV: 4.9%

April 20, 2016, kegged, harvested yeast. Lots of nice yeast. After seeing this in the hydrometer, I'm calling this an amber, it's much to dark to be a pale ale.