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Beer Name: Fighting Irish Red

Style:  Irish Red

Alcohol: 6.87%

Color: 28

My second successful all-grain beer!  I decided to make a few adjustments to the original recipe.  I upped the grain bill instead of adding honey to keep the same ABV and replaced the 2 row pale ale with Maris Otter Pale to allow for a thicker mouth feel.  I tried it 2.5 weeks after bottling while home for thanksgiving and it was okay.  After 6 weeks the beer has hit its stride and is pretty nice.  The beer came out smooth, malty, and very tasty.  The head is a little off and collapses pretty fast, but it appears to be carbonated about right.  Definitely worth doing again, but I might make some minor adjustments to the hop schedule.

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My Brew Notes

Execution Notes

I’ve always used RO water as I didn’t know what was in my home water for a long time.  When I finally figured out my water I learned that it comes from two sources which are pretty much on the opposite side of the spectrum and there is no way to know what is coming out when.  So I’ve continued to use RO water which is cheap at the filling station next to the grocery store (30 cents per gallon).  This was the first time I tried doing water adjustments from the RO water.  I bought some things last minute, but didn’t have anything to make Chloride adjustments.  I’ll work to get better at this, but was focused on doing too little rather than too much.

Had similar issue with the mashing again where I started hotter than planned and then dropped about 8 degrees over the coarse of the mash.  My numbers came out okay, so nothing to worry about on this batch but certainly something to work on.

I tried using a little pump from ebay to do a whirlpool (not a real whirlpool, but enough to keep the wort moving over the coils when chilling), but clearly wasn’t ready as I fussed with that for about 20-30 mins before giving up and just using a spoon to stir.

Other minor notes.  My measurements don’t seem to be too accurate as I gained wort from the post boil measurement to the fermenter.  Need to get better at that.  I allowed for 30 mins for the trub to settle and then used my filters for the post boil transfer which resulted in a very low sediment in the fermenter. I collected the yeast into a clean spagetti jar as practice for yeast washing.  The yeast came out really clean and if I do things right (sterile jar and water) it seems I can start re-using yeast in the future.

Schedule

Schedule

Recipe Info

Recipe

Water Adjustment

Water Adjustments

Recommendations for next time

  • When compared to a Red Seal Irish Red mine is more malty and not as hopped.  I think I’ll slightly up my hops a bit next time, but not too much.
  • Get pump to work
  • Take better measurements
  • Try harvesting yeast

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Final Beer Name:  Where’s the Bacon???

Style:  Smoked Bacon Honey Porter

Alcohol: 6.49%

Color: 35

This is my first beer since making my fermentation chamber and using my improved process with a drill pump and paint mixer.  Besides enjoying the beer I’ve had a lot of fun using my new toys and working on making better better.

The first sip was on new year’s eve which is a few days early for the 3 weeks in the bottle.  The beer wasn’t very carbonated so I waited a few more weeks to 1/18/2014 see if it just needs more time or perhaps the bacon fat killed off my bubbles.  Also, there appeared to be no bacon flavor which is kind of disappointing.  I was really worried that it would be bacon-y so I’m much happier to err on this side of the line, but wish there was still a hint of bacon.  I’m wondering if the flavors might come out a bit better after more time in the bottles.

Well the final taste test still doesn’t have much/any bacon flavors or aromas, but that’s okay.  The beer has a really smokey flavor with a nice smooth mouth feel.     The beer seems very clear, which I’m not too surprised as there was almost no trub in the carboy after transferring to the bottling bucket.  There isn’t too much carbonation, but enough to say it isn’t flat.  I’m wondering if the bacon has impacted that, I’ve read the bacon fat can kill the bubbles.

 

My Brew Notes

Ingredients

This recipe is a specialty brewing kit plus a few of my add ons.  The kit is from Midwest Brewing Supply and is a Honey porter extract brewing kit which includes (I forgot to take notes on the specifics:

  • some specialty grains, maybe?
  • Some extract
  • Honey (30 mins)
  • 1oz Kent Goldings hops (60min)
  • 1oz Cascade hops (2 mins)
  • priming sugar

then to get some smoke flavor I added

And for the bacon flavors I dry-hogged” as mentioned on BYO.com which suggests 5oz of bacon added like a normal dry hop schedule.  To get there I started with

  • 1lb of uncooked bacon

Execution Notes

Schedule

  • Brew day (0) – 11/9/2013
    • No boil over which is good.
    • Fermenting didn’t start for about 36 hours.  Worried that yeast didn’t take, but I did see bubbles before pitching it so it should have been fine.  Will look to yeast starter going forward as recommended by boydster in other post
    • Bubbles for quit after about 1.5 weeks.  I was going to do a test but broke my hydrometer.  I’ll probably update. my process to do hydro tests with the hydrometer attached to fishing line so that I don’t waste beer.
    • No or really slow bubbles on day 11.
    • waited a couple of days since I couldn’t do a hydro check for the moment.
  • Cold Crash Start (13) – 11/22/2013
    • Since the fermenting took longer than expected I delayed the cold crash a couple of days.  Should look into taking measurements.
    • It took about 1 day for the chamber to reach the cold crash temp.  I changed the cold crash temp to ~40 so that the A/C wouldn’t turn on every 3 hours.  Probably get it closer to 36 for the next crash
  • Secondary Fermentation (16) – 11/25/2013
    • The auto-siphon had a gap at the siphon to tubing.  I’m pretty sure I exposed the beer to a lot of oxygen.  Need to get some clamps before the next transfer.
    • I left the chamber off for ~ 1 day for the beer to more naturally rise back to room temp.  Near room temp I turned on the chamber which the heat pad did a bit of work for the last few degrees.
    • Chamber set for 19.5 +/- 2.0.
  • Dry “Hogging” (27) – 12/6/2013
    • In reading about how to do the bacon it was clear that I needed to remove as much fat as possible so that the beer doesn’t stay flat.  I’m not sure why, but apparently the fat will cause the beer to not hold the carbonation or something.  So to do this I started with my 1lb of bacon and trimmed off as much fat as I could with a knife.  Then I cooked the bacon in the oven on a rack that would allow for the grease to drip out.  A few times while is was cooking and while flipping the bacon I used a paper towel to absorb the standing grease on the bacon.  When it was all cooked my 1lb of bacon was about 3.5oz which was short of the 5oz I was targeting.  With the bacon cooked I simply open up the carboy and dropped them in.
  • Cold Crash 2 (31) – 12/10/2013
  • Gelatin (32) – 12/11/2013
  • Bottling Prep (35) – 12/14/2013
  • Bottling (36) – 12/15/2013
    • Very little trub in the carboy and I don’t think I sucked it up into the bottling bucket.  I’m not sure if this is due to the gelatin (which I don’t really see at the bottom as much as I thought I would) or from doing the first cold crash.
    • Bottled 22 220z bombers, and 11.5 12oz bottles for a total of 588.5oz (22*21+11.5*11).
    • Set the fridge to 20+/- 2 for carbonating
    • Took about 3 hours to bottle and clean up.  Need to track times for other steps to better understand how long it takes to do things.

Alcohol

  • Target Starting Gravity: 1.06
  • Starting Gravity:  1.059
  • Final Gravity: 1.011
  • Alcohol %: 6.49

Color: 35

Recommendations for next time

  1. Look into using more bacon and/or stripping the bacon flavors out using vodka before brewing the beer
  2. Might use a little less smoke, Weyermann grains, by ~1/4lb to allow more of the honey flavor to show.

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The post has been moved to a page so that the process is a bit more permanent.

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single-ferm-chamber-doors-open

After my last batch of beer, Baby-T Double Trouble Belgium Dubble, came up short on the alcohol content I’ve decided that my problem is due to my fermentation temperatures…and possibly my aeration.  I was also having a hard time using my wort chiller since the hose water that I’ve circulated through it wasn’t too cold.  So I’m stepping it up a notch.

I got a drill off of Craiglist for about $20 and a drill water pump from Home Depot.  Next time I chill the wort I’ll be circulating iced water from a cooler through the chiller which should bring the temps down right away.  I also bought a large drill-attached paint mixer to help aerate the wort after it is chilled.  One thing I’m slightly hesitant on is that while I plan to sanitize the mixer, I don’t know if I’ll run into any problems since it isn’t a food grade mixer. I guess I’ll learn soon enough.

Now to the main issue, temperature control.  For all my batches to date I’ve simply left the beer to ferment in the back of the garage.  The temperature usually stays around 60 degrees, but on really hot days it will rise to 70 and on consecutive cold days it will drop to low 50s.  For my last batch I started fermenting right as a cold spell hit which I’m pretty sure caused the yeast to not ferment all the sugars.  After a lot of reading the only way I’m going to get around the problem is to get some temperature regulation through a fermentation chamber.

I did a lot of reading in the http://www.homebrewtalk.com forums to get ideas of how to go about building a fermentation chamber.  I think there are basically three types of chambers, those that use ice, those that use a fridge components, and those that use air conditioners.  The ice ones are simple (1,), but if you ask me annoying to maintain. The fridge styles have many variations.  Some work as is, some take some cutting of the interior to make room for a carboy (1,2,), some look to extend the fridges dimensions with some type of add on (1,), and others strip out the cooling component and then use a custom box (1,).  For the AC styles they are pretty much the same, take an AC unit and build a custom box (examples below).

Our garage is already packed with stuff, so the custom box idea was the most attractive to me.  The next part was to decide fridge or AC which is the single most expensive part.  I simply trolled Craiglist for a while until I found something cheap.  For me it ended up being a $30 Haier 5000BTU AC unit (HWF05XCK-1) which I learned was purchased from Target the year prior when we were having a huge summer heat wave and the person selling it was moving to Saudi Arabia.  I joked with the person that they probably should have taken the unit with them, but assured them that I’d put it to good use. Anyways, just as noted in the Racer X design to override the temperature cutoff on the AC unit a simple loosening of the screw behind the temperature knob will do the trick.

AC Unit with my measurements (click the picture for a larger view)

The screw is here (hard to see)


This is the other side, do not mess with this screw

With the screw loosening I rigged up a quick test to see that I did things just right


The temperature is down to 36 degrees F!

With the AC unit and the idea to make a custom box, I needed to sort out the temperature controller.  I very very long forum about an aquarium temperature controller that can be bought on ebay seemed like the ticket for me.  This controller usually can be bought for $15-$20 and I got my first one for $15.50 and the second for $18.25 (I’ll explain later…which if I knew how to do ebay better should have been $17, but I’ve wasted $1.25 on worse before). Here is a quick look at one with my measurements marked up on it:

Now off to design the chamber.  My design was strongly influenced one the 2 Tier, 2 Zone fermentation chamber (Racer X).  It is a really nice build and as it turns out I ended up with the exact same AC unit as his (even though they are listed as different brands).  This chamber is really nice as it allows for one cooling unit and two temperature controllers to create the two zones.  There are a few others with similar ideas that I looked at too (1, 2, )

I decided that while I really like the 2 zone idea I don’t need that right now, but that I’d make my design with a future expansion in mind.  I wanted to make sure that this could hold a keg plus kegging gear, 3 soda kegs plus gear, 4 carboys, or 4 5G buckets, or 2 buckets and all of my other brewing gear so that I’m not scattered all over the garage.  With this in mind I settled on an interior dimension of 34″ x 36″ x 24.5″ (height, width, depth when looking at the front).

Additionally, here are a few design notes that I took from all my forum reading

  • Use the best (i.e. highest R-rated) rigid foam.  A look at Home Depot says there is a 2″ foam with an R-10 value that is moisture resistant
  • Seal all the edges to avoid air leaks
  • A 2×4 is not 2″ by 4″.  It is really 1.5″ x 3.5″
  • On the interior paint the inside with a mildew resistant paint and caulk the edges.
  • I want easy access to the interior.  No top doors so that I can leave things on the top.
  • 20A requires 12 guage wire.  10A requires 18 gauge.

I messed around for a bit trying to figure out how I would go about designing this.  When I did my bar a few (many) years back, which I’ll post about some other time, I did it all in excel where each cell represented 0.25″.  that worked out well, because a quarter inch was the smallest thickness of wood that I used.  For this design I plan to use 1/8″ plywood and excel just won’t work as there are too many cells needed.   I ended up doing the design the simple way, engineering paper, a ruler, and a pencil.  For the most part I had each square represent 2″. The 1/8″ is hard to draw clearly, but I made it work.  I won’t go into all the effort spent making the design, but below are the drawing for the chamber.  As in the Racer X design, the doors are the hardest part. I decided to have two doors that swing open from the sides. If you look carefully at the design, I’ve staggered the plywood and foam cutting one inch from the sides, the top, and between the doors. With this staggered approach the doors actually don’t come together in the middle, but I have a door cover that makes it appear as if it does. I need to sort out how to add the weather stripping, but for now I’m planning on just slicing a bit of foam away from the edges for it. The other thing that I know I have left off is the hole for the AC unit.  I’m planning to simply cut as needed and figure the support required to keep it at the proper angle (note the AC unit isn’t supposed to be level.).




Once I had the design drafted I determined how much wood and foam I’d need. I was able to get it down to 13 2x4s, 2 foam sheets, and 3 plywood sheets.

The next thing I needed to sort out was how I was going to wire the chamber up. The temperature controller forum had a lot of good ideas. I decided that I’d have one outlet for the hot, one for the cold, and two for either hot or cold. I also wanted to be able to turn the outlets on and off without unplugging them so I needed a switch. I added some indicator lights. I added another switch for another outlet that I can keep on the outside of the chamber. I’m going to wire up the second temperature controller to just be a simple thermometer since the temperature probe on the beer will be slightly different due to the exothermic reaction of the yeast fermenting beer. I plan to have this whole circuit plugged into a 20A circuit, but the temp probes are only rated for 10A so I’ve added a 10A fuse to each circuit. 10A will be plenty as the AC unit is only ~4A and I don’t intend to pull a full 20A at once. As I mentioned above I got the temperature controllers off of ebay. I found a really good deal on switches, relays and indicators from allelectronics.com and now just need to get the outlets, wire, and boxes.

So that is all the planning which I did before my birthday. In hopes of getting some home depot gift cards I’ve waited a while to actually get going on this. In my free time which is very limited now that we have baby Chase on our hands I modeled the design in Sketchup. This took me a bit of learning to be effective at this, but after a short while I got the hang of it and was able to put together the plans. Good thing too as I learned a few things that caused me to make some adjustments in the design.

Click the link to see the animated sketchup of the design
single-ferm-chamber-doors-open

Here are a few other views of the model

Doors closed 

Doors open with no objects 

with the future expansion 

 

In case anybody is interested here is the Single Ferm Chamber Sketchup File.

Well that is all for now and I’ll share the final product when it is done.

Dilbert

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