Carboy

My homebrewing misadventures

86'ing the Trub

Heading deep into cold storage

From Carboy
In the two weeks since my brew night, my yeast has been very active. I left the blow-off tube on for about three days. There was so much bubbling and foam in the Bavarian Helles that when I replaced it with an airlock the bubbles continued through most of the primary fermentation stage, even at a cool 53 degrees.
 
Before I could begin my secondary fermentation and the lagering phase, I wanted to make sure that I could elimnate any of the diacetyl that built up and would have normally been processed by a warmer ale yeast. Homebrewing guru John Palmer recommends a 24- to 48-hour diacetyl rest at the end of primary fermentation for a lager. I can't stand butterscotch, I don't want the butterscotch sweetness of diacetyl in my beer, especially a lager. I let the beer warm up slowly over a couple of days, which hopefully did the trick, then I racked it into the secondary fermenter.
 
From Carboy
I carefully siphoned the beer into the glass, 3-gallon carboy, doing my best to avoid transferring any of the spent yeast. As you can see, a ton of trub collected in the bottom of the plastic carboy. I wouldn't want any of that introducing off flavors into the beer.
 
Now that it's switched over, I popped the Helles into my lagering fridge, where I'll gradually lower the temperature to about 44 degrees. It will sit there for four weeks, and then I'll be ready to keg. The anticipation will be hard to bear.
 
While I'm waiting, I should probably have a beer.

By Tom on 07/05/2013

Stage: Secondary

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Next stop, Bavaria!

Helles on deck

I finally had a couple of nights free to brew my next batch of beer, only two months later than I had originally planned.
 
I had hoped that the Helles would make a good late spring/early summer beer. Instead, this Bavarian-style lager will be delicious in late summer. But why did I need two nights to make it? Because for this batch, I prepared a yeast starter.
 

From Carboy
 
The idea of the starter is get the yeast cells moving and riled up before unleashing them into the cold lager. Using the guidance of the ever-trusty Northern Brewer, I made a half-cup of DME in 650 ml of boiling water. Then I tossed the starter flask into an ice bath to cool this impromptu wort to a good pitching temperature.
 
From Carboy
 
After pitching, I let the yeast dance for about 24 hours in the flask at room temperature. By that point, the yeast was alive and kicking and ready for a big batch of beer.
 
I brewed this 3-gallon batch of Helles that next night. All went well, although you can see that I've just about hit the limits of my current system, and the sparging is a total mess.
 
From Carboy
 
Once the wort was chilled and put into the primary fermenter, I pitched the yeast that had gotten a one-day head start. This should help keep it moving as the temperatures drop in the lagering fridge.
 
From Carboy
 
After two weeks at about 52 degrees, it'll be ready to move to the secondary fermenter and the cold lagering phase.

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 06/19/2013

Stage: Brewing

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Like Springtime in Brugge

Dubbel turned out just fine

From Carboy

With the weather turning warm, we took the chance this weekend to fire up the grill and crack open a bottle of the Belgian dubbel. Because this was my first batch at the new house, I had been a little apprehensive about how the water would taste. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
 
The beer was great, if I do say so myself. It had a lovely orange and amber hue. The carbonation was perfect (Thanks, Northern Brewer Priming Sugar Calculator!), and the head was spot-on. The beer tasted light and sweet with almost a hint of apricot.
 
At 6 percent ABV, a pint of the dubbel was a great companion to sausage and asparagus hot off the grill.
 
From Carboy

We'll enjoy the rest of the three gallons of dubbel that are keeping cool in the beer cellar. But I'm already getting excited for the next beer on the docket: a Bavarian Helles.

By Tom on 04/14/2013

Stage: Enjoying

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Adios, bottles

From Carboy
Today, my new (used) keg arrived in the mail. I'll get it ready to store my next batch of beer, and I'll finally be able to divest myself of the dozens of bottles and the dreaded--and lengthy--bottling process. Hallelujah!

By Tom on 03/29/2013

Stage: Bottling

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Them's the breaks

One bottle down, but 12 remain

From Carboy

A few days behind schedule, I finally got a moment to bottle my Belgian dubbel. With my wife having a rare Sunday evening work event and my urchins in bed, I seized the chance. I started by cleaning and sanitizing my bottles, which had been sitting dormant for almost a year.

I've been brewing beer for about three years, and one part of the process I've never quite gotten a handle on is priming. I'm always fumbling around for the right amount of sugar to boil, so I was excited to discover a handy priming calculator tonight that I wish I had known about when I started. Check out http://www.northernbrewer.com/priming. It's super easy to use, and (I hope) it gives an accurate measurement for the amount of sugar you want for the style of beer you're making.

 
From Carboy

As I ran my beer into the bottles, I took my final gravity reading of 1.010. That should work out to about 6 percent ABV when all is said and done.

 
From Carboy

While I was capping the bottles, I accidentally broke one of them. This was a first. I love this Austrian table wine called "Berger," because its one-liter green bottles are cappable. I was disappointed to lose one of the few I have left. But I was even more bummed to have to dump out a whole liter of beer because it was full of glass.

 
From Carboy

But I shook it off and finished off the night. Now, I just have to wait two more weeks to drink it.

 
From Carboy

Why is my beer in a garbage bag, you ask? Because the first time I bottle conditioned a beer in a closet, I had two bombers of chocolate maple porter explode on the top rack, soaking and staining all of my clothes. Now whenever I put bottles in a civilian closet, I try to make sure it'll be easy to clean up if the worst happens.

By Tom on 03/24/2013

Stage: Bottling

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Getting closer

Still fermenting

From Carboy
Racked the dubbel to the secondary fermenter. Still three weeks until she can be bottled.

By Tom on 02/26/2013

Stage: Secondary

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Bubbling away

Keeping the Belgian Dubbel warm

From Carboy

I finally pulled the blowoff tube off of the carboy where my Belgian Dubbel is in primary fermentation.

It's so cold here now that I have to keep the carboy wrapped in towels in my children's closet, the warmest, dark spot in our house where the warm Belgian Abbey Ale yeast can get moving.

Thankfully, my children don't really look in that closet very often or I'd be getting some strange questions. It's certainly not the first time I've fermented beer in their closet, nor will it be the last, I suspect. All's fair in the name of good homebrewed beer.

By Tom on 02/17/2013

Stage: Primary

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First brew night at the new house

Preparing a Belgian Dubbel

I'd been waiting for this for a long time.

The last time I brewed beer I was home on paternity leave more than a year ago. We moved to our new house in August, and I'd been hoping for a chance to brew ever since, but a million things got in the way. The other night, I finally had my chance.

I bought ingredients last summer to brew a Helles, but I never had a moment to even look at them, and after six months, I threw out the grains and the yeast. Then in November, I got supplies for a dubbel. I was determined not to waste money (and a good opportunity) again.

On Monday night, my grains were 3 months old. My yeast was 5 months old. I have never brewed in this new house in a new town in a new county, so I don't know how well the water will taste in my beer. I hadn't done a mashout or a sparge in almost 13 months. And my yeast likes warm weather and would prefer it to be 68-78 degrees, in a house that currently won't get above 66. If only I had a lager yeast lying around, I'd have plenty of spots to ferment, but that's another discussion for another day.

Despite the less than optimal conditions, it was just really glad to get back to brewing. And after 3 years of making tiny batches in the galley kitchen of a Jersey City apartment, it was nice to have a little more room to work.

 
From Carboy
 

In the middle of my mash, I looked at my wort chiller to see how I'd connect it to this new-fangled sink. And then I realized it won't fit. My connector was too big for the hose. I couldn't run out at 10 p.m. at night for ice with two sleeping children upstairs. I'd have to figure something out.

From Carboy
 

Sparging with the strainer. This technique kind of works for small batches, but I want to scale up my operation, and I think I've reached the limits and will need to find a better way.

From Carboy
 

At the start of the boil, just after dropping in 6/10's of an ounce of Tradition hops.

From Carboy
 

Weighing out the Belgian dark candi and the Hersbrucker hops

From Carboy
 

My solution for the bad sink connection? I carried my boil kettle down to the basement, where I hooked up the wort chiller to the utility sink next to the washing machine. It was a little treacherous on the rickety stairs, and not ideal by any means, but it worked, and it very quickly got the wort down to pitching temperature.

From Carboy
 

Straining the wort into the carboy for primary fermentation.

From Carboy

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 02/11/2013

Stage: Brewing

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