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Showing posts from June, 2015

Review: Silver Serpent Wort Chiller

This past Christmas I received the Silver Serpent stainless steel immersion wort chiller.  I've had the opportunity to use it a few times now, so it seemed appropriate to share a review with readers of Begin Brewing.

The chiller arrives in a cardboard box, ready to use.  Hoses and fittings are already attached.  A quick pressure check on brew day showed no leakage.  (The photo at left is from their Midwest Supplies web site, where mine was purchased.)

There are twist ties on the coils that I removed, not certain if they were food safe or temperature safe. There are no instructions in the box with the chiller to tell you whether to remove them or not.

I'm currently doing all my brewing in our home kitchen.  Our stove is fortunately powerful enough to bring a 5-gallon batch of beer to a rolling boil, so it's worked well.  The unfortunate problem is that the faucet on our kitchen sink is designed without an aerator, so there's no way to attach a garden hose fitting adapt…

Can adding amalyse help make better beer?

Recently, I saw a recipe for a 21% ABV all-grain brew.  The recipe calls for a whopping 31 pounds of grain and four ounces of hops, along with enzymes to help push the mash along.  The enzyme (Beano) specified in the recipe is measured in terms of tablets.  I wanted to know how to use Amylase instead, since I had that on hand.

Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down two components of starch and complex carbohydrates to form maltose and glucose sugars.  Amylase improves conversion efficiency and time by splitting barley starch molecules into partially-fermentable dextrins and maltose.  Given enough time, amylase can dismantle the dextrins to maltose, glucose, and smaller dextrins.  When fermentation begins, yeast will break the sucrose into glucose and fructose.  It then consumes (more or less in order), the glucose, the fructose, the maltose, and finally the maltotriose.  The dextrins will not be consumed.  By helping to break the starches into maltose, glucose, and dextrins, Amylase ma…

How can I be sure my mash is really finished?

If you are new to all-grain brewing, or you're brewing a higher-gravity beer than usual and want to be sure the mash has converted all the available starches to sugars, here is an inexpensive but effective way to do it.

Before brewing, go to your local drug store and pick up a bottle of Tincture of Iodine.  That's the stuff often placed on cuts as an antiseptic.

When you think your mash may be finished, extract a small sample from it.  Add a drop of iodine to the sample.  If you see the sample turn dark purple or black, there is still starch in the mash to be converted.  If there is little to no color change, your starches should be fully converted to sugars.  Time to move on to the boil!

Below is a picture of what the test results look like.  The tube on the left contains starch and has turned a dark color.  The one on the right does not.




How to Make Your Beer Taste Barrel-Aged

If you're a fan of barrel-aged beers and also a homebrewer, you've probably wondered what it would take to get those great oak and liquor barrel flavors into your own brews.  While oak barrels and used liquor barrels aren't too hard to find, it's not necessary to actually age your beer in a barrel to get that same flavor.

Options available to homebrewers include:

Bourbon Barrel Chunks:  You can find these in grilling supply stores, homebrew shops, and other retailers.  These are large chunks of barrels used to age bourbon, sliced into chunks.  Although often sold as a wood to be used for grilling meats and vegetables, it works just fine for brewing.  These can be used to make a liquor tea or oak tea, which can be added at bottling time.  These can also be added during the aging phase once fermentation has finished.  I've even added them during the boil and left them in the beer during fermentation and aging.Oak Chips, Cubes, and Spirals:  These are all basically pi…