Monday, June 19, 2017

Some notes on clarity

Clarity is something I've always struggled with over the years, but it seems that for the past couple of years, my beer has become quite a bit clearer. There are a few changes I've made to my process that I think accounts for this:

  1. Vorlauf, or recirculating, the mash. I've been doing at least 10 minutes and as much as 15 minute per each sparge. So when the mash is done, or close to done, I start recirculating, just pumping the wort out of the bottom of the mash tun and pouring it back into the top. I've used a variety of methods to not splash the wort on the top, so as to keep the grain bed undisturbed, but usually there is enough liquid already above the top of the grain that it really isn't an issue. Really, the idea is to scatter the wort as it enters the top so that it doesn't create a single channel through the grain bed. This does add some time to the overall brew day, but not a lot, and it seems to be worth it.

  2. Ditto with the boil kettle. I almost always use whole hops, so I set up my pump to pull from the bottom of the kettle, through the chiller, and back into the boil kettle. Rather than scatter, since it really isn't necessary, I clamp the output hose to the side of the kettle so it makes a whirlpool. It's not a strong whirlpool by any means, and the whole hops are going to cover the entire bottom of the kettle anyway, so it doesn't have to be. This process usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to get the wort down below 120F (in the kettle, the chiller puts it out at 60f - 70F, whatever I set it at), and the hop bed does the same filtering action as the grain bed did in the mash tun. Once below 120F, I move the output hose to the fermenter. There is practically zero trub transferred from the boil kettle to the fermenter, which means I also get very clean yeast to reuse when fermentation is complete.

  3. After fermentation is complete, I try to be careful when filling the kegs. I usually do 10 gallon batches, and both of my fermenters are large enough to hold the entire 10 gallons. I use my pump to fill the kegs, being careful not to suck up too much yeast if I can help it. After the kegs are filled, they generally get a couple of weeks of lagering at 35F. Regardless of how long they lager (could be as short as a couple of days, could be as long as several months for lager style beers), I don't move the kegs out of the fridge until after I've transferred the beer to clean kegs. I use a jumper hose like this:

    The first bit of liquid out of the hose goes into a bucket, it almost always sucks up some sediment off of the bottom of the keg. Then watch carefully, as the last little bit of liquid will also suck some sediment off of the bottom of the keg. Once transferred, it is as clear as I can make it, without filtering anyway.

That's it. With these few changes, my beer is much clearer, as clear as you'll find in most breweries, style-dependent, of course.

Update, 12 Sep 2017 -- I brewed yesterday and realized one other thing I've been doing is extra Irish Moss. I always put in 2 tsp in a 10 gallon batch, the label on the bag says to use 1/4 - 1/2 tsp, so I'm putting in at least double.

Update, 31 Jul 2019 -- one other thing I've started doing again (and haven't done in a long time) is using gelatin for fining. With all the things above, plus gelatin, my beer has been coming out spectacularly clear .

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Stir plate modification

My stir plate has been working well, except for when I try to do a 2 quart starter. It's a little too much for the stir bar and magnet, if I try to turn up the speed, the stir bar falls off. So I moved the magnet closer by cutting a hole in the top and building up the height with some double sided sticky tape. Now there is much better bonding between the magnet and the stir bar, and no trouble turning the speed all the way up.

The box itself is pretty straightforward:

Speed knob:
Speed control:
Power connector:

Total is about $25, with the box being the most expensive part at $20. There are cheaper boxes available now that would be sufficient.

Stuff I had laying around:
computer fan
magnet from an old hard drive
5V wall wart

Friday, June 2, 2017

Batch 201, Leeser

A repeat of batch 193. Brewing this now so it can lager while we travel to Alaska during July and August.

10 gallon batch

21.5 lb Pilsner
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.

Update, Sunday, June 18, 2017: Finally it's done fermenting. Bumped the temp to 68F for a diacetyl rest until Tuesday, then I'll keg it and set it to lager while we're off to Alaska.