420 = Pot Day. Brew Pots, that is.

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Sue me. I’m 3 days late for 420, but the truth is I did want to talk about Pots today. Both Mash Tuns and Brew Kettles.

“DONT WORRY, IT WONT SURVIVE THE BOIL.”

I’ve read a lot of things recently that people are saying about not needing to worry about cleaning their mashtuns because everything is pre-boil. They also say the same about brew kettles because, they too, will be boiled.

From a purely bacterial standpoint, they would be correct in that most(though, not all) bacteria cannot survive boiling temps. But, I think an equally important consideration is what potential off-flavors from left behind stuff is now being imparted into your future brew?   Even the thinnest of crusts baked on a kettle or the smallest amount of four-brew-old chaff wedged into your false bottom can have a noticeable effect on your beer. These left-behinds can affect color, or perhaps an unintended caramelization leading to characteristics not planned in your beer. All this will effect repeatability. These are things to consider.

Please, wash your kettles out, wipe away the crusts and the nasties in the mash tun. A simple hosing down wont do it most of the time. Besides, it takes 10 minutes at most.

Remember, YOU wanted to be the homebrewer, who would, in turn, pass homebrews to your friends and tell them you know what you are doing. Grab a blue Scotch-Pad and use the soft side on plastic Igloo-Type mash tuns. For stainless steel, flip that pad over and use the harder blue bristle side. Speaking of steel, what about passivation?

Passivation is just as important as cleaning your kettles.  

Laymens Terms: Passivation is the process of creating/maintaining the invisible layer of protective coating on stainless steel that helps prevent corrosion. If your kettle were a sculpture in a yard, you probably wouldnt have to worry about this so much, but since we are using these kettles like they are workhorses, things can and do happen that can stress out and strip away this protective coating. Big metal spoons clanging around when we stir our wort. Portions of these kettles are subjected to 1000+ degrees F. You get the point.

So, how do we passivate?

Bar Keepers Friend. The best $4 you can spend on maintaining your kettle.
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Again, here is the Cliff Notes version that may or may not be as accurate as I would like it to be: Mix the powder into a thick slurry, rub it all on your kettles with a blue scotch pad. BKF will strip away the worn out old invisible coating I mentioned earlier. Wash the stuff out with a hose or in the sink then wipe it dry. Through a certain type of metallurgic science-y process, as the product dries this invisible coating is reformed because of the magical ingredients in BKF. Instantaneous, too. Here is the simple test to see if its worked, pour some water on the recently passivated part, it should bead up and drip off in sheets, almost like water on a newly waxed car, leaving a nearly dry surface beneath.  I shall demonstrate how GREAT this product is at cleaning up a messed up kettle subjected to a badly designed product, the DARKSTAR 1.0 Burner.

 

See what an amazing cleaning job this stuff does? You’ll also notice I am clearly using a green/yellow abrasive pad in those photos. That is bad practice. ALWAYS use the blue as it is gentler on plastics and metals. Especially if it comes to cleaning fermentation vessels.

Also, I just want to point out, the DarkStar 2.0 Burner(Below and right) is really a great product and SUCH an improvement over the first one. Pictured to the left.

The Darkstar 1 has that crappy economy burner that is prone to create ridiculous amounts of soot, as seen in the first picture above. This was my first time using Darkstar 2 to keep warm a recirculating 10 gallon mash. It didnt leave any mark. Daddy like.

IMG_0015So, if you are in the market for a budget burner, I would gladly endorse the Darkstar 2 for heating lauter tuns and mash tuns. I don’t know if it has the bolas to power a 10 or much less 5-gallon boil and I don’t really want to waste the time and potential resources finding out. Let me know if you find out though!

Thats pretty much all I’ve got today. Just in case anyone was curious what I might have been brewing.

A Muenchner Helles, which colloquially means: “Munich Light-Colored Beer” Don’t be afraid by the Light term, its purely for color of beer in this case.

If you havent had a Helles, I definitely recommend it. Closely related to a Pilsner but more malty and less hoppy(though with todays IPA’s, would people consider Pils hoppy anymore?).

My recipe is basic:

95 percent Pilsner malt,
2.5 percent Melanoidin Malt
2.5 percent Munich Light Malt. Very small amounts of German Nobel Hops. Hallertau Mittelfruhs. This thing must ferment at 48 for a while, then a small raise and then a Lager period for 8 weeks.

Brew day went well, now its up the yeast and the Johnson Fridge Controller.

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Two new beers: The sampling.

It is definitely with good news that I can report that our two newest beers, our belgian pale ale and our 100% wheat ale, have finished primary fermentation within a few points of their final gravity.

Our mash efficiency has been floating a few points above our software predictions over the past 10 batches, and rather then update the system a set figure we are averaging out the differences in order to hopefully have a more accurate system overall. Point being, we are still at a point in the process where our gravity differential still is creating beer that is slightly more alcoholic then anticipated.

Onto the interesting stuff here though, the tasting.

Our Belgian Pale Ale turned our exceptionally well. It fermented for exactly 20 days. After 5 days of force carbonating, it is easy to detect the final product. The home-made belgian candi provides a nice dry caramel flavor. The Belgian Ardennes yeast bring out a nice sweet flavor that works with the malt to create something similar to Delirium Tremens but not as alcoholic. Our beer ends up at 5.4%, where as a Tremens, definitely an inspiration for this beer, finished somewhere in the 8 percent range if memory serves me.

Moving onto the elephant in the room, the 100% Wheat beer. It is still fermenting. 10 days in the chamber now at 64%. I will let it ride out one more week in there. In two more days I will dry hop it with some El Dorado hops for a few days. I did however rack a sample out big enough to try a bit and, of course, do a gravity read. The gravity has hit within its point range.

How does it look? Hazy; to be expected. There were no fining agents in this beer.
How does it taste? Phenolic. It is all wheat and our yeast, Forbidden Fruit is known to create this in wheat grain bills. It is smooth though, and the flavor is quite interesting. But hard to place. I do hope that dry hopping will add more citrus to the aroma and not complicate its already complicated but palatable flavor.

To be continued…

 

 

Tap handles.

Just a quick shout out to a guy(or company?) I found on Etsy, Bearded Boy Designs. I sent him a little design for some tap handles, we had some quick correspondence back and forth and a couple weeks later, these showed up:

  
They are nice and, what I think is, laser-etching on beautiful walnut wood. I paid a couple extra bucks for a chalkboard painted side so I can write the name of the beer on them. 
They are really quite impressive.