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Showing posts from March, 2015

Don't be afraid of the Trub!

In a lot of home brewing books, and perhaps in the minds of many home brewers, is the advice that you should separate your beer from the trub during fermentation.  (Trub, also known as lees, refers to the sediment that appears at the bottom of the fermenter.) The prevailing wisdom is that trub will cause the finished beer to be more cloudy, have "off flavors", and generally turn out worse than a beer moved off the trub into a secondary fermenter.

The folks who make the Grainfather did an experiment in February to see if the prevailing wisdom is correct.  Would a beer kept on the trub throughout its fermentation taste worse, look more cloudy, have poorer head retention, etc., than a beer removed from the trub?

For the experiment, they brewed an American Pale Ale (APA).  Half of the batch was fermented with as little sediment as possible.  The other half was given as much sediment as possible.  If the trub made any difference in the beer, this experiment should make that diffe…

QBrew 0.4.1 - Overview and Review

QBrew is a free home brewing recipe storage and calculation program.  You can use it to create and modify beer recipes, calculate expected gravity, color, and bitterness levels.  You can also use it to make corrections for your hydrometer based on the sample temperature and hydrometer calibration temperature.  In this post, we'll take a look at QBrew and how it works.

For this review, I've supplemented QBrew with the November 12, 2014, version of The Screwy Brewer's QBrew database information.  This adds many ingredients to the default database and makes QBrew considerably more useful by eliminating the need to manually enter the properties for various home brewing ingredients.
QBrew Supported Platforms
QBrew is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linm environments.  It requires a very low amount of computing hardware, so pretty much any modern PC or Mac should be able to run it.  It's a 285K download
QBrew User Interface
When you first launch QBrew, you'll see a wi…

Replicating the Shipwreck Beers

As I mentioned on another blog, researchers recently analyzed the contents of a pair of bottles of beer found in a 170-year-old shipwreck. Although the beer had obviously spoiled and picked up sea water during its time on the ocean floor, the researchers were able to identify a number of characteristics about it that might help a home brewer replicate the flavors.  They identified two distinct beers, one with an apple flavor to it, the other with a rose flavor.  It also reportedly had a smoky flavor from probably being brewed over an open flame.

The beer probably had the following characteristics:

2.8% to 3.2% alcohol by volumeColor of SRM 2.24 to 3.98 degrees PlatoBitterness in the 9.9 to 16 IBU range
Considering that it may have taken on water and that hops bitterness degrades over time, it's probably fair to bump all those numbers up a little.  Maybe a good approximation of the fresh beer before sinking into the ocean was:

ABV:  4-5%SRM: 4-6IBU: 16-22
That would put it in the bal…

Labeling Your Homebrew

When I first started homebrewing, I didn't really worry about labels.  I only tended to do one batch of beer at a time, and only got about 8 one-liter bottles per 2.5-gallon batch.  That meant labeling the bottles was kind of pointless.  That changed in the past year.

Last year, I brewed a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, a German Apfelwein, a Belgian Quadrupel, a Belgian Tripel, and at least one other.  Earlier this year, I brewed a couple of other beers, and I have things purchased to do at least two more.  With all of these batches floating around, I needed some kind of labeling method to identify them all.

At first, I went with a Sharpie permanent marker.  I'd just write something on the bottle cap to tell me what was inside and called it "good enough".  Then, when friends and co-workers started wanting me to bring them bottles of my beer, some wanted labels on them so they could recognize them in the refrigerator.

I hit the online forums and found lots of good suggestio…

The Home Brewing Process - Illustrated

In December, I made a small (2.5 gallon) batch of beer from a recipe intended to clone the famous Belgian ale, Gulden Draak.  I found the recipe in a book of clone beer recipes and decided to act on it.  Using Beer Tools Pro, I was able to scale the recipe down from the original 5 gallon size to 2.5 gallons.  To make the beer, I needed several ingredients:


These ingredients were purchased at a local homebrew supply shop and measured in my kitchen on a digital kitchen scale.

The brewing process began with my filling a 2-gallon kettle with water and heating it to the appropriate steeping temperature for my specialty grains, then dropping the mesh bag containing those grains into the kettle.


After the grains had steeped long enough, I had to sparge them with hot water to remove the remaining sugars from them.

This left me with a relatively dark but weak wort.


I brought this to a boil and dropped a muslin bag filled with hops pellets into it.  These were the bittering hops that offset the…

The Basics of Yeast Starters

What is a Yeast Starter?
Yeast is the workhorse of the home brewing process.  It is the yeast that will take your sugary wort and turn it into beer.  In many cases, it is the yeast that will also work in the bottle to carbonate your beer.  In many beer styles, like Belgian ales, yeast also contributes flavor to the beer.  Given the importance of yeast in home brewing, making sure that you pitch a sufficient quantity of healthy yeast into your wort is vital to ensuring that your finished beer is going to be good.

When you purchase yeast for home brewing, you'll typically receive either a packet of dry yeast which must be reconstituted with warm water, a tube filled with yeast in a slurry, or a packet that contains yeast and an activation solution in a "break-open" capsule.  If you are brewing a relatively small batch, or a lower-gravity beer, and your package of yeast is within its "best by" date, you may not need a yeast starter at all.

If your yeast isn't …