Sunday, November 24, 2019

La Trappe Quad Clone 2.0

One of the best batches of beer I've made in recent memory was a La Trappe Quad clone recipe.  I had a couple of ideas that I thought would improve it, so I'm re-brewing it today.

I decided to swap the corn sugar for Demerara Sugar and add a couple of ounces of Special B Malt to darken the color and punch up the dark fruit flavor a little.  I'm extending using a step mash to generate some ferulic acid to help the Belgian yeast express itself, and to improve malt complexity.  A 90-minute boil is also being used to help improve malt complexity in the finished beer.

Ingredients

5 pounds Belgian Pale Ale Malt
3 pounds Belgian Pilsen Malt
8 ounces English Medium Crystal Malt (60L)
4 ounces Acid Malt
3 ounces Belgian Biscuit Malt
2 ounces Belgian Aromatic Malt
2 ounces Belgian Special B Malt
1 pound Demerara Sugar (15 min.)
0.50 ounces Styrian Goldings 6.2% AA (60 min.)
0.30 ounces Styrian Goldings 6.2% AA (20 min.)
0.25 ounces Styrian Goldings 6.2% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Irish Moss (20 min.)
1 package Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast
4 gallons mash water
1.25 gallons sparge water

Mash and sparge water were filtered through a Brita filter before mashing and sparging.

Brewfather estimates the characteristics of the brew as:
  • Batch Size: 3.0 gallons (3.5 actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.098 SG estimated (1.088 actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.068 SG estimated, 1.068 once boiled down to 4.2 gallons
  • Pre-boil Volume: 4.19 gallons estimated, 4.5 actual
  • Final Gravity: 1.022 SG estimated
  • SRM: 13
  • IBUs: 22
  • ABV: 11% estimated
Mash schedule:
  • Mash in at 120F
  • Hold at 120F for 15 minutes (combination of Ferulic Acid, Protein, and Beta Glucan rests)
  • Mash at 145F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 158F for 30 minutes
  • Mash at 168F for 15 minutes
Boil schedule:
  • Note:  Pre-boil volume was approximately 4.5 gallons where 4.2 was the expected amount.  Pre-hop boil time was extended until approximately 4.25 gallons was present in the kettle, at which point the 90-minute timer was started.
  • 90 minutes:  No additions
  • 60 minutes:  Styrian Goldings (0.5 oz.)
  • 20 minutes:  Styrian Goldings (0.3 oz.), yeast nutrient, Irish Moss
  • 15 minutes:  Demerara Sugar
  • 5 minutes:  Styrian Goldings (0.25 oz.)
Fermentation schedule:
  • Chill to 71F
  • Free-ferment up to 78F
The characteristics for Wyeast 3787 include:
  • Flocculation: Medium
  • Attenuation: 74-78%
  • Temperature Range: 64-78F
  • ABV: 11%
According to the official web site, this yeast "produces a nice balance of complex fruity esters and phenolics" and makes a good house strain.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

11/24/2019:  This is the first batch I've brewed with The Grainfather for about two years.  Given that, I ran a full cleaning cycle through it yesterday and a long circulation of clean hot water to ensure that the system and the wort chiller were as clean as they could be.

The mash process went pretty well, though a fair amount of grain matter (perhaps a handful) made it out of the mash basket into the kettle.  Turning on the pump, I was able to filter out some of this, but it's clear I need to increase the grain crush gap a bit before my next brew (which I did).  I may also want to include some rice hulls to help improve flow.  We'll see about that.

Pre-boil volume registered about 4.5 gallons in the kettle. Gravity was lower than expected, so I allowed the boil to run until volume had dropped down to about around 4.25 gallons.  Gravity was at my expected target once the volume was down, so I began timing the 90-minute boil from that point. Next time around, I'd drop the sparge water volume to 1 gallon to compensate.

Following Brewfather's calculations for mash and sparge water proved to be a mistake. The pre-boil volume was low, and even after extending the boil I still had about a half gallon more wort than I intended, at a slightly lower gravity.  I'll need to adjust that for the next brew.  I will say that it was one of the best smelling worts I've made yet.

11pm:  Pitched the yeast. Put a small amount in the fermenter with the 0.75 gallons and the rest in the larger 3-gallon batch.  At that time, gravity on the Tilt Hydrometer read 1.087 SG and the temperature read 67F.  I'm concerned that the yeast didn't smell as fresh as it could have when I pitched it, but hopefullly it's OK.

11/26/2019 11am:  36 hours after pitching the Wyeast 1762, there is no activity visible. The top of the wort is clear of any krausen and the gravity hasn't changed.  I pitched a fresh package of White Labs 530 (which is purportedly the same strain) across both containers to ensure fermentation.

12/5/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.025 SG, just three points up from the expected FG.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Pseudo Dubbel 1.0

After a semi-successful brew last weekend with the sous vide setup, I altered a few components to try to get a smoother and more efficient process.  Today's setup included:
  • 19 quart plastic bin
  • Anova sous vide cooker
  • 3 gallon pot
  • Instant Pot sous vide cooker
  • Mesh basket made by Arbor Fabricating for the PicoBrew Zymatic
  • 4 gallon kettle
  • Two one-gallon plastic pitchers
My goal for today's brew was to see if I could improve on the efficiency of the previous brew while also making brewing and cleanup easier.

I also wanted to see if I could create something like a Belgian style Dubbel with intense dark fruit flavors.  I'm calling it a Pseudo Dubbel because it mixes Belgian yeast, candi syrup, and Special B malt with British hops, British malt, and Viking Malt from Finland.  The Viking Pale Ale malt gives us a somewhat European base. Special B and D-90 syrup should provide some dark fruit flavor.  Caramel 120L should also provide some dark caramel and dark fruit flavors.  The Bramling Cross hops should add a blackcurrent, blackberry, and plum flavor - especially when added late in the boil.  The Wyeast 1762 yeast should help intensify those dark fruit flavors.  I'm hoping this mix of ingredients will just about max out the dark fruit flavors in the finished beer.  This remains to be seen, of course. 

Ingredients

5 pounds Viking Pale Ale Malt
3 ounces Special B Malt
4.5 ounces Caramel 120L Malt
1.5 ounces English Medium Crystal Malt
1/8 tsp. Irish Moss
1.8 gallons mash water
1.23 gallons sparge water
1 packet (Sept. 2019 dated) Wyeast 1762 Belgian yeast
3.5 ounces D-90 Candi Syrup
0.3 ounces Bramling Cross hops @ 6.5% AA (15 min.)
0.7 ounces Bramling Cross hops @ 6.5% AA (5 min.)

Brewfather estimates the brew to have the following characteristics:
  • Batch Size:  2.0 gallons (1.75 actual)
  • Original Gravity: 1.045 SG (1.067 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • IBUs:  21
  • ABV: 7.3%
  • SRM:  17
  • Fermenter: Spock
Mash schedule:
  • 20 minutes at 120F (Beta Glucan and Protein Rest)
  • 45 minutes at 140F (Alpha Amylase Rest)
  • 45 minutes at 158F (Beta Amylase Rest)
  • 20 minutes Mash Out and Sparge at 168F
Mash going on in the back, sparge water in front

Draining the grain, and sparging (not shown)
Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes:  No additions
  • 15 minutes:  0.3 ounces Bramling Cross hops
  • 5 minutes: 0.7 ounces Bramling Cross hops and immersion chiller
  • 0 minutes:  Remove hops and begin chilling
Post-boil, chill to 75F and transfer to fermenter.

1.75 gallons in the fermenter

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

11/16/2019:  My last run through with the sous vide setup yielded a very low efficiency (43%) and unexpectedly low original gravity.  I hoped to resolve that with this batch... or at least improve on it.

The mesh basket, plastic bin, and sous vide cooker were an OK combination for the mash process, but the sous vide cooker struggled to keep the grain bed at temp.  Temperature measurements taken at different spots in the grain bed showed as much as a 20-degree Fahrenheit difference from the sous vide setting.  To help compensate for this, I mashed longer than normal.  I also had trouble hitting the water level needed by the sous vide cooker, so I ended up adding some of the sparge water to the mash to keep things working smoothly. 

Pre-boil volume was a little low, but gravity registered about 1.060 SG, which was higher than I was hoping for.  Post-boil volume was only 1.75 gallons, but gravity registered 1.068 SG, which is right in range for a Dubbel and more than I was hoping for.  The yeast packet had swelled, so I went ahead and pitched it before going upstairs.

11/18/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.011 SG today.  That's within a point of the expected FG from the Brewfather app, so fermentation may well be done.

11/20/2019:  Gravity has held at 1.011 SG for about two days now.  That means fermentation is probably over.

12/5/2019:  Gravity has held at 1.010 SG for several days. Time to bottle.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Viking Pale Ale SMASH 1.0

With the demise of the Brewie, I wanted an easy enough alternative for producing small pilot batches of beer (2.5 gallons or less) with as little hands on effort necessary as possible with maintaining what will hopefully be some reliability (and easy repair/replacement upon failure).  Toward that end, today I decided to try brewing a SMASH beer using the following setup:
  • Anova Sous Vide Recirculating Heater
  • 3 gallon sous vide plastic container with lid
  • Grain bag from the Brewie+ system
  • 4 gallon induction-ready kettle
  • 1800W Induction cooktop
  • Stainless steel immersion chiller
Since I couldn't be sure this combination would work (though, from what I've seen published online, I wouldn't be the first to attempt something similar), I decided to do a SMASH beer (single malt and single hop) to keep things simple and inexpensive.

Ingredients

5 pounds Viking Pale Ale malt
0.45 ounces Mandarina Bavaria Hops pellets @ 9.6% AA (15 min.)
0.55 ounces Mandarina Bavaria Hops pellets @ 9.6% AA (5 min.)
1.62 gallons of mash water
1.32 gallons of sparge water
1 packet Safale S-04 yeast

Having not brewed with this setup before, I took a guess that it would be very inefficient, estimating a mash efficiency of 65%.  With that in mind the recipe characteristics in Brewfather were:
  • Batch Size: 2.0 gallons (1.9 gallons actual)
  • ABV: 4.1% revised estimate
  • Original Gravity: 1.060 SG estimated (1.040 actual)
  • Final Gravity: 1.009 SG estimated
  • SRM: 4.6 estimated
  • IBUs: 37 estimated
  • Mash Efficiency:  65% estimated (43% actual, this batch)
Mash Schedule

The grain was measured, crushed, and placed inside the Brewie+ mesh bag.  I chose to use that simply for convenience's sake.  I knew it would work for mashing and would fit in my sous vide plastic container.  From there, the plan was:
  • 5 minute mash in at 104F
  • 15 minutes mash at 120F
  • 15 minutes mash at 148F
  • 30 minutes mash at 157F
  • 10 minutes mash out at 167F
  • Sparge with 162F water
I chose this mash schedule to somewhat mimic the last SMASH beer I did in the Brewie+.

Mashing the grain
Draining, sparging, and heating to boil
Unfortunately, the mash water plus the grain bill was too much volume for the sous vide container. I had to quickly transfer the water and immersion heater over to the 4-gallon kettle and perform the mash in that.

While the grain mashed, I brought the sparge water to a boil and turned off the heat. I had hoped it would retain enough heat to be useful for sparging, but it did not.  I had to scramble to use the sous vide cooker to heat it up to 162F to sparge while the grain bag was draining.  Not an ideal mash and sparge but it seemed to work.

My experience was that the Anova recirculator heated the mash water approximately 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit per minute.

Mash efficiency on this batch was a pretty dismal 43%, rather than the 65% I was hoping for. I think if I can find a better mash container into which I can fit one of my two mesh baskets, I would be able to stir the malt a bit during mashing to even out the temperature and increase efficiency.  We'll see.

Boil Schedule

I planned for a 60 minute boil, with the time beginning when the wort reached at least 207F.  From that point:
  • 60 minutes: No hop addition
  • 15 minutes: 0.45 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 5 minutes: 0.55 ounces Mandarina Bavaria hops
  • 0 minutes:  Chill to 75F or less using immersion chiller
At the start of the boil, the gravity registered 1.036 SG.  Volume was 13.5 cm deep in the kettle before the boil (I don't yet know what that equates to in gallons/ounces but plan to figure it out).

Boiling the wort
Stainless immersion chiller, late in the boil
Just before the last hop addition, I inserted the stainless immersion chiller into the boiling wort to sterilize it.  As soon as the boil was finished, I turned off the induction cooktop and turned on the cold water supply. Given the cold outdoor temps and the small size of the batch relative to the immersion chiller, I got the wort down from boiling to 75F in under ten minutes.

Fermentation Plan

The plan is to pitch the dry yeast directly into the wort and use the temperature control system to keep the fermenting wort at 62F until fermentation is finished. This is toward the low end of the yeast's optimum range (59-68F) so it should allow a reasonable fermentation with minimal flavor contribution from the yeast.  Once final gravity is reached, per the Tilt Hydrometer, the temperature control system would be turned off.  Gelatin finings will then be added and the beer allowed to chill in my mini-fridge for a week before bottling.

Just under 2 gallons of wort in the fermenter
Post-Brew Notes and Observations

11/09/2019:  My goals with this brew were not to necessarily hit my targets or make something that had a chance at winning any awards.  My goals were:
  • Prove that this setup could produce a drinkable, decent beer.
  • Dial in the mash, boil off, and efficiency figures in the Brewfather app
  • Consider ways to make this setup work better in subsequent brewing sessions
  • Produce a SMASH beer that's similar to the Pilsner SMASH I did a while back in the Brewie+
  • Determine how long cleanup would take with this setup
While the jury is still out on whether this will be decent or drinkable, signs point in that direction.

I ended up with 1.9 gallons (approximately) in the fermenter, so the Brewfather data is pretty close in terms of calculating mash and sparge water amounts.  Close enough that I'm satisfied there.

The 43% actual efficiency on this batch was horrible, though.  I think there are several reasons for this. One of these is that the Brewie+ bags don't make it easy or feasible to stir the grain during the mash to ensure that it all gets wet. The 4-gallon kettle was also not really large enough to allow the sous vide heater to circulate hot water through the bag well.  Next time around, I plan to use a different container for the grain (a fine stainless mesh box I used with another brewing system) which will allow me to make sure the grain is all wet and occasionally stirred.  That should help with the efficiency.

I'd also like to add a second sous vide circulator to my setup, to allow the sparge water to be at the desired temperature when the mash finishes.  Making that happen in this configuration was a challenge I would like to eliminate going forward.

Apart from those things, the setup seemed to work fine.  The challenge from here on is to try to increase the efficiency and dial things in using the Brewfather app.

Before I came upstairs, the wort temperature was 73F. I pitched the S-04 yeast and set the temperature contol to 62F.

11/10/2019:  The gravity has dropped to 1.027 SG, which represents roughly 32% attenuation and an ABV of 1.6%.  The temperature had been unintentionally set to 61F. I raised it to 62F earlier in the day and plan to keep it there until primary fermentation is over.

11/11/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.007 SG, which represents approximately 82.5% attenuation and a 4.5% ABV.

11/12/2019:  Gravity is holding 1.006-1.008 SG.

11/13/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.006 SG and holding.

11/14/2019:  Gravity is continuing to read 1.006 SG, which represents 85% attenuation and 4.5% ABV.  The beer should be ready to bottle Saturday at this rate, though I may add gelatin finings and try to brighten it up.

11/17/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.004/1.005 SG today.

11/18/2019:  Gravity is holding at 1.004 SG today.  That represents 90% attenuation and 4.7% ABV.

12/5/2019:  Gravity is holding at 1.004 SG.  Time to bottle this one.