Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Making Fantastic Extract Beers indistinguishable from All-Grain -Part 2

In part 1 I gave you some tips on how to make excellent extract beer. In this installment, I’m going to demonstrate my extract process so that you can see my particular extract brewing method, where I incorporate all the aspects I talked about. This should help provide a visual accompaniment to what I wrote in part 1. I should note that I am not claiming this is the best and only method for brewing extract beers, but rather a tried and true method that I use to make extract beer that turns out indistinguishable from all grain versions of the same beers. So with that, let’s brew a couple of extract beers. One with my preferred method, with dry malt extract and one with liquid malt extract.

The First recipe we are going to brew is going to be blood orange gose. You can find the recipe HERE.

First we should look at the equipment I have. I don’t want you to think that you need to have all of this (remember I am primarily an all-grain brewer, so most of this is more a luxury for extract than essential) but this equipment is very versatile and will get you where you want to be for both extract an all-grain brewing.

The equipment I use for extract brewing may seem excessive to most, but it does the job well and enables me to brew both ways quite well. The pump is nice for pushing beer through my counterflow chiller and doubles as a way to aerate the wort. The pot is big enough to handle large brew-in-a-bag batches as well as extract. It’s nice versatile rig.

Use of distilled or Reverse Osmosis water is paramount to making fantastic extract beers.

I always start every extract beer I make with distilled water. As I pointed out earlier, this is important to making great extract beer because the malting facility has already used water salts in their mash. When they condense the extract (even dry) the salts are in that extract. If you use municipal or spring water, you are essentially adding even more ions to the beer, which can potentially give you some unwanted flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

I usually fill my pot with all of my brewing water at once, about 7 gallons total, considering trub and evaporation loss. I then place my steeping grains into the cold water and slowly heat the water to 150 degrees. All you are looking for in extract beers is to extract flavor from the grain through steeping. This is a steep, not a mash. So whether or not you cold steep or hit your temperature really doesn’t impact anything negativity and some would argue that a cold steep with roasted grains is actually a benefit. However, in a true cold steeping process you cold steep the roasted grains and add that steeped water near the end of the boil….but that’s for another post. Above, I am steeping the 2 pounds of acid malt. In this particular case I did hold my steep at 150 for about a half hour. My theory was because acid malt is 2-row and can convert. So I essentially looked at this as a very thin mash. I was hoping if I stayed in the 150 range for a while I’d get some starch conversion. Once the 30 minutes is up, just pull the bag and turn back on the heat to bring the water to boiling.

Once to boiling, you want to add 1/4 to 1/2 of your total extract, reserving the last 1/2 to 3/4 for the last 15 minutes of the boil. Making this type of change to a recipe that was not designed for late extract will boost your IBU’s, so make adjustments accordingly if your recipe is not a late extract recipe. I make EVERY extract beer this way because it helps reduce darkening that tends to happen more with extract beer, and it helps reduce kettle caramelization. For some reason extract tends to taste more burnt than all-grain when you get kettle caramelization so I tend to avoid boiling a lot of the extract early on.

I know this is not Palisade hops in the picture, this was actually taken during the second brew, but you get the idea. Dump in the hops!

It is at this time you usually tend to add your first charge of hops. I wait until all my extract has been dissolved and the heat brings the wort back up to a boil. Depending on the recipe you may have several charges of hops or just one. In the case of this gose, I added one charge of hops with 30 minutes left and one with 15 minutes left. I didn’t want a lot of bitterness but I wanted a lot of hop flavor from the palisades, which to me tend to taste more citrus orange than anything. Again, I would like make note that if your recipe was not designed for late addition extract, you want to make adjustments to your hop schedule. Beersmith 2 makes this very easy to do. There is actually a checkbox when you add extract to choose if it’s late addition. It will properly calculate your hop IBU’s based on the late extract information.

Bring that beer to beautiful boil. It is this time that many brewers take a break…..go grab a beer….or what not. Not me, it’s time to do some more prep-work.

On this day I rehydrated both US-05 and S-04 at the same time.

Once the boil starts it’s time for me to get my yeast rehydrated and start sanitizing my equipment. So I first boil about a cup of water and cover it place it in the fridge. It should cool in about 15-20 minutes to roughly 70 degrees. I then transfer that water to a sanitized PET bottle and add my dry yeast. Shake it up and let it sit. It will be ready to pitch by the time your chill cycle starts.

Now there is come debate on whether or not you should rehydrate your dry yeast. The way I look at it, the yeast manufacturers say to do it, and that rehydration build healthy and stronger cell walls. Since I want to make the best beer I can make, I want to maximize the health of my yeast. So I rehydrate. But a lot of people say they don’t have issues with not rehydrating. However, reading the forums on people not achieving full attenuation, getting stuck fermentations, or having other minor fermentation issues. I wonder how many times “I’ve never had a problem” is really true. Rehydration is cheap (free basically), quick, and safe as long you boil your water and sanitize your PET bottle. What do you have to lose?

 

I use a child’s medicine dropper to measure 5ml of star san to every 1 gallon of distilled water.

Next I mix up my star san and start soaking any parts that I know will come in contact with my chilled beer. Remember minimum contact time for star san is something like 30-60 seconds. But that doesn’t mean that is your time limit. I tend to sanitize for several minutes. It’s not difficult and gives me extra piece of mind. I also should add that I sanitize my counterflow chiller and pump before I brew. I fill my kettle with 2 gallons of water and bring it to a boil. I then open the valve and pump that boiling water through my pump and chiller for 15 minutes. It’s important to mention that simply because I didn’t mention it earlier and it is critical to sanitize your counterflow chiller.

 

A wallpaper tray makes a great vessel for sanitizing long items and hoses.

Beer path is in yellow, cold water path in blue.

With about 15 minutes left in the boil you want to add the remainder of your extract and your last charge of hops. In the case of this gose, that’s also when you want to add the salt and the coriander. Then you can just ride out that last 15 minutes before it’s time to chill. I have provided an illustration showing the flow (in yellow) of beer and the flow of water (in blue) for those who may not be well versed in chillers. It’s a very simple concept, The beer flows in one direction and the cold water flows in the opposite. In this case the beer flows down then up, because of the advantage of the pump. If you don’t have a pump you can just put the chiller lower than the pot and let gravity do it’s thing. The key is to have the cold water in the outer jacket moving the opposite direction. So in this case my beer flows down the tube to the pump, which pushes the beer up through the chiller. The cold water flows from the backside of the chiller down and out the output hose (not pictured).

Hot Side aeration…..it’s pretty much been debunked.

There is one other advantage to using the pump that I talked about earlier. That is using it to aerate my wort, instead of using a pure O2 system or aquarium pump. I use the agitation of the wort pouring back into the kettle to aerate. Since I chill for quite some time, usually up to 10 to 15 minutes I get plenty of aeration. It’s like killing 2 birds with one stone. On one hand I’m circulating the wort through the chiller back into the kettle so that cold break collects in the kettle, and not my fermentation vessel, and second I’m aerating. Now some people will be concerned with hot side aeration, but from what I’ve read that whole theory has been debunked. Oxygen does not readily dissolve in hot or warm liquid to begin with, and the aeration will actually only start as the beer cools. Plus any oxygen introduced will be used up by the yeast during reproduction. Oxidizing melanoidins will happen whether to the wort is hot or cold, and usually takes a lot longer to occur than the few minutes we are chilling.

One last blast of Star San into my Ss Brew Tech brew bucket…..

One last blast and quick soak of some star san into my Brew Bucket………

Move the output hose from the chiller going into the brew pot into the fermentor….

One last blast of aeration through agitation as we pump into the brew bucket.

Take a reading with the refractometer….

12 brix or 1.049 OG.

And it’s time to pitch that rehydrated yeast………

Pitching the rehydrated yeast….

We’re done! Now just to bring the bucket to the basement and monitor the temperature. In this case, my basement was right at 62 so my fermentation was going to be pretty much where I wanted it, between 65 and 68 degrees. So no need to connect the FTSs to my brew bucket this round. The only thing I don’t have pictured is adding the 1 pound of Blood Orange Candi Syrup to the fermentor after primary fermentation is complete. With the cascade candi syrups, there is no need to boil them before use, they are sterile according to the manufacturer. I used it in my primary and the gose is about a month old, with no infectious off flavors or aromas.

 

Now for the liquid extract beer I made a Ginger and Molasses Porter using Breiss CBW Porter malt extract and Thai Ginger and Molasses Cascade Candi Syrup. You can find that recipe HERE. The process is EXACTLY the same as what I outlined above except the extract is liquid, not dry. I normally like using the lightest extract possible and getting my color and flavor from the grains, but I want to say that I really like the Porter extract for making brown porter. When it comes to freshness, I do have an advantage to be quite honest. That is that I do work part-time at a homebrew supply shop, so I do have that advantage of knowing our turnover on extracts, which is actually fairly high, and what extracts just came in. (Here is a link to our homebrew supply shop, we have $5.99 flat rate shipping and orders place before 3pm Central time ship the same day)So when using liquid malt extract, freshness is the biggest factor to consider. Especially when using these darker “specialty” extracts. Liquid extracts just tends to oxidize in storage faster than dry malt extract.

 

That is it for this post. I just hope some of you find this post to be helpful to you in some way and if you have been having issues with “extract” flavor in your beers. This helps correct it.

No Cost Fermentation Temperature Control in Winter

Winter is almost upon us and those of us in the northern regions will find it slightly more difficult to reach or maintain those fermentation temperatures for ales…especially if you ferment in a basement. There are products out there to help you keep your beer warmer, products like The Brew Belt or The Fermwrap Heater can help keep your ales at the correct temperature. My basement in winter, gets down to the mid 50’s which will be perfect for some lager strains, like San Francisco Lager Yeast. But for ales, that doesn’t work quite as well. I generally prefer fairly clean ales, but I do want some minor estery characters in there. So products like the brew belt or the fermwrap have value for those of us in the north. But they also cost money, and you need  place to plug them in. If cost or lack of an outlet in your fermentation area is a problem for you, you can easily employ the solution I use which is free and takes full advantage of natural energy produced by fermentation. That’s right, your fermentation itself produces heat. The yeast consuming sugars also expend energy to do so, and just like when you are working out, they heat up. You can capture that heat and use it to your advantage. Below is a picture of the ambient temperature of my basement in November.

Ambient Temperature of my basement in November. A little too cool for an American Red Ale I’m brewing. I need to bring the temp up to ensure the beer doesn’t take weeks to ferment, end up with a ton of diacetyl, and has a low amount of fruity esters.

At first glance it may not seem like such a bad deal to ferment at such a cool temperature. You will end up with a very clean, almost lager-like ale right? Well, sure. But if I wanted to produce a lager, I would simply brew a lager. It’s the estery character of ale strains (even clean strains) that bring a bit of character to the beer. While clean strains like the Chico Strain A.K.A. California ale or American Ale strains have a reputation for being clean, they do contribute a very low fruity ester to the beer, less than the English ale strains but more than what you will get with a properly fermented lager. Another concern is that at the lower temperatures, the yeast will not clean up the diacetyl as quickly and efficiently as normal. They may even flocculate before cleanup is complete. So you could end up with a lot of diacetyl if you ferment your ale too cool. You need to be sure that you are in the proper ideal range for the yeast you are using. For example, the yeast I am using today is Wyeast London Ale Yeast (Wyeast 1028) which has an optimum range of 60-72 degrees according to Wyeast. If you are using White Labs WLP013 it lists the range at 66-71 degrees. Any cooler than that and I run into problems. Since both strains are probably similar I want to be in a range that both producers list. Personally, I want to ferment in the mid to upper 60’s with this beer. I want some moderate estery characteristics, but don’t want to exceed the optimum temperature and have excessive esters or fusel alcohols. The solution for me to wrap the fermentor in a thick blanket and capture the natural heat energy produced by fermentation. The amazing part is, how much you can increase the temperature by. Below is a photo of the temperature captured by insulating with a blanket. I should also note that the actual temperature of the wort inside is probably a degree or two warmer, so can adjust how much of the fermentor is exposed to allow some of the heat to freely dissipate.

An increase of 10 degrees between ambient air temperature and how much heat I can capture with using a blanket as an insulator.

So you can see that you can boost your temperature by using a  blanket as an insulator. The downside is that the temperature control is not as precise as if you connected a brew belt or fermwrap and/or a temperature controller, but if you want to hit a specific range because your air temperature is too cool, you can easily do it for free. I’m sure everyone has a spare blanket lying around somewhere. If you don’t you can also get the same effect by covering the fermentor with a cardboard box slightly bigger than the fermentor itself. It will trap the heat and keep things a little warmer as well. I hope this help some of you in the northern regions produce better ales in the winter. Then again, winter is a great time to produce those lagers without the use of a chest freezer or refrigerator. Happy Brewing my friends!

Using a Bucket Heater for Brewing-Electric Brewing

Allied Precision 742g Bucket Heater

This is a contraption new to me, but boy will this come in handy on brew day. I’ve tested it with just water in my kettle and it works very well. I will be using it in a three days for my next brew. This is a stainless steel electric bucket heater from Allied Precision, used to heat water on a farm for animals in the winter to prevent if from freezing. This one however, is used to actually bring water to a boil, most other models are only designed to warm water to keep from freezing. This one specifically says it will bring water to a boil and is being used by many homebrewers around the country. There a few uses for this device, and I’m sure I will use a few. The first, is you can plug this into a timer in the outlet and set it to start heating water at a specific time. This about this, let’s just say you have a limited schedule for brewing and perhaps maybe you want to brew either when you get home from work, or very early in the morning. Well, heating the initial strike water can chew up a large chunk of your brewing session. So you fill a stainless steel pot with your strike water, insert this heater, plug it in and set the timer to start 3 hours before you wake up or get home from work. When you walk into your brewery, your water will be heated up and ready to brew with.

Another scenario is if you use this heater to heat your strike water and your sparge water (even in one vessel). This will allow you to use your propane for boiling only, saving a little bit of money in the process on propane costs. This is 1000 watt unit so it will cost a little in energy, but I believe the cost is about $0.15/hr. Which is cheaper than propane.

The third scenario, will take a little extra equipment but has potential. While I wouldn’t recommend using this in plastic mash tun, for fear of overheating it and leaching chemicals from the plastic, if you are using a stainless pot for mashing a person could hook this unit up to a temperature controller and set a mash temp of 152, and heat the mash with this. Step mashing is possible. Just be aware that because this unit does not move the liquid in any way you would have to stir it a lot. This could also be used to hold a temperature if you tend to lose a lot of heat in your mash kettle.

One final scenario, while not ideal, it is possible to use your electric heater as a backup energy source if your propane runs out. I only have 1 propane tank and there has been the occasion where I take a gamble on if I have enough propane or not. I did get burned on this one time. But if your wort is hot, at 212 degrees, you could plug this in and bring it back to  a boil in no time. If you are doing a 5 gallon batch you should be able to maintain a boil without issue, however I would be suspect as to how vigorous the boil would be. But it could work in a pinch. I was reading about how some extract brewers use this heater on their stovetop because it heats up and boils harder than their electric stoves, but it sounded to me like those are partial boil batches where the brewer is boiling 3-4 gallons and not 6-7 gallons. But again, that backup source is there.

Here is the electric heater in one of my keggles. The water volume is 8.5 gallons and the water is below the shield and cord(which you want to avoid submerging).

 

Now it’s not all peaches and rainbows for this unit. There are some drawbacks. The first is that you are dealing with electricity and water, so you need to be careful and have the proper GFI outlet in your brewery. Also, if you only have one unit it can take a long time to heat the water. I had mine set in my keggle and poured 8.5 gallons of water from the hose into the kettle (just shy of a typical total water volume I need for brewing a 5.5 gallon batch). Since I live in Wisconsin and it’s fall, the water was about 42 degrees F. It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to heat that volume of water from 42 degrees to 168 degrees. I have read about people using these and using 2 at once. That would cut the time down considerably.

The bottom line for me though is the benefits and the potential far outweigh the negatives. This unit is only about $38-$40 on Amazon and ships for free with 2nd day shipping if you are an Amazon prime member (Something I highly suggest if you shop online often). If you want to purchase on, I will provide a link, but for me…this is a new “must have item”. CLICK HERE to purchase one…or two.

Keep in mind that this is the very scaled down version of an “electric brewing operation” and I don’t think it’s the most efficient. My goal is to shorten my brew day and cut costs on propane. If REAL electric brewing interests you, I suggest you check out the site The Electric Brewery. They have conversion kits that allow you to convert you kettle to a fully electric setup. Granted it’s not cheap, but if a set-up like that interests you, that is the source to check out.