Mashing in

Lockdown brew day

Lockdown brew day

It’s been 3 months and… wait a minute do I sound like Sinead O’Connor here? Anyway it’s been a while since the last WE Homebrew meeting back in February and it could be some time still until the next meeting. I hope, like me, you’ve been brewing and drinking a fair bit more in this time.

It’s a bank holiday Monday and I thought I’d write down how I generally brew and what kit I have. No other reason than just to share and maybe elicit some advice on a glaring mistake I may be making and be completely unaware of.

I’ve got to warn you though – I’ve just finished the day and this is quite a long – and some might say – boring post. TL;DR? I had a big cock up at the end and spilt wort all over the shed.

First and foremost what am I going to make? This was a challenge set by Ben Jones to try a style I’ve not done before – a Weizenbock. I’ve had some success making a Bock before so in terms of recipe I just amended that and swapped out half the Pils malt for wheat malt then changed the yeast to try and get some big banana flavours. The recipe I’m following is as below.

Beer details – Challenge Accepted Weizenbock

OG 1055 FG 1013
ABV 5.6% IBU 12
Colour 20 EBC Brew size 20L

Mash ingredients

Ingredients Weight
Wheat Malt 2.5kg
Pilsen Malt 1.4kg
Munich malt 1.5kg
Special W (Weyermann) 0.1kg
Crystal malt 60L 0.18kg
Aromatic malt 0.28kg

Boil additions

Ingredients Weight Time
Hallertauer Hersbrucker 2.4%AA 51g 60min

Yeast

Type Lallemand Munich wheat beer yeast

If that’s what I’m going to make, how do I normally go about it? Firstly is preparation the day or so before. In this case I’m using a pack of dry yeast so no need to make a starter, from the fridge full of old collected yeast samples, but I do need to collect some water.

I use Old Windsor tap water – which as you’re probably well aware from the state of your kettle and shower head is remarkably hard. The water report for Windsor – here – shows the hardness around 300ppm and, more importantly for mashing, the Alkalinity at 240ppm. To ensure I get the pH around 5.4 once the grain has been mashed in I need to add some acid. I add about 12ml of 10% Phosphoric acid to 27L of tap water in an old plastic fermenter. I do this the day before in the hope that the water sitting and warming up in the house might lose some of the Chlorine added at the water works, but I’ve no idea if it does or not.

That’s the water quality – what about amount? This is where the first bit of kit is introduced. The electric mash tun / kettle. I do brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) so for water volume, in theory, you should just work backwards for how much wort you want to end up with, take off the losses of liquid you can’t get out of the mash tun, the trub you don’t want to transfer, the lost water as you boil off and the water absorbed by your grain husks. Then bung all that in at the beginning. However the mash tun is my capacity constraint. It holds 27L, but 3L of that is below the tap and is the cold break I generally leave behind. Then of course your grain takes up volume as well. 6kg of milled malted barley takes up 12L of volume dry. It obviously absorbs water so doesn’t need that much space in the mash tun, but I’ve more than once been close to overflowing when I mash in the grain to the water.

To remedy this I don’t add all the water into the mash. I dunk sparge the bag later with 5L of hot water – show you this later – and also add water back after the boil. So when working out the amount of grain I need I calculate the extract to hit my target OG before boiling. I then measure and dilute down the wort back to this gravity post-boil.

As you can see from the photo I’ve added some rudimentary insulation from an old camping foam Karrimat / exercise mat. As I brew outside in the shed this is necessary in the winter and helpful in the summer. It means I can heat the water to strike temperature then turn off the heating and avoid scorching the bottom of the mash tun and burning the bag or grain.

For this particular beer I’m using a low mash temperature 64℃ so I get the maximum conversion, with the thought that this won’t thin it out too much due to the gums in the Wheat malt. BeerSmith – the indispensable brewing app that I create all my recipes on – calculates your strike temperature and water requirement for each recipe. In this case it recommends 69℃ so I heat the water up and then mash in the grains.

One thing I didn’t mention is milling the grains. This I normally do using a drill attached to a hand mill while the water heats up to strike temperature.

Something to note with this recipe – Malted wheat mashes in really easily. There were no dough balls and the mash mixed in quickly and easily. As you can see BeerSmith got the strike temperature more or less right and the phosphoric acid did its trick with the pH.

I would imagine measuring pH at 65℃ is contentious. Measuring it at 20℃ or 25℃ would be normal lab procedure as pH changes depending on temperature. My meter isn’t so sophisticated that it compensates for temperature either. My thinking is that the optimum pH has been determined by looking at the kinetics of the amylase enzymes, this is generally accepted to be somewhere between 5.2 and 5.5. I don’t know the method used to determine this, and so have taken it to mean that the enzyme works best in this range regardless of temperature. I’m more than happy to be put right on this.

I generally mash for about an hour giving it a stir every now and again, when I get round to it, and checking the temperature’s not dropping too much. Today after half an hour it had dropped to 60℃ so I turned on the heat for a couple of minutes.

After the mash is complete I increase the temperature up to somewhere around 70-75℃.Then I use a Jerry-rigged pulley system, to a hook in the roof beam, to take the BIAB out of the mash tun and leave it to drip back into what is now a kettle heating up to 100℃ for the boil. At this stage I’m also checking on the efficiency as there’s still a small chance I can do something if it’s cocked up. I take a sample, to cool and measure the gravity, and determine the volume with a steel ruler to gauge the depth. In this case the gravity was 1066 and the volume was 20cm or 19L – ignoring thermal expansion of the liquid for now.  As you can see from the temperature photo the mash tun is very full. This is after me adding 22L of water and 5.6kg of grain. If I added no more water into the mix, after losses and boiling, I think I’d be fermenting about 13L of wort. To combat this I do a 5L dunk sparge, more to add volume than actually extract more sugars from the grist.

To do this I heat up 5 L of the acidified water to around 70℃ and dangerously swing the hot bag of mashings across into a big bucket. There I drop it in, add and mix the hot water and hoist it back over the kettle. One thing of note here is that boiling the acidified water causes it to become cloudy as the calcium comes out of solution.

This gives me another 5L of wort at 1038 that I can add back to the kettle so I finish with 24L of 1060 wort. This is great – I’m aiming for 1055 into the FV – so post boil it will allow me to add back quite a bit of volume.

By now the wort is boiling in the kettle and a little bit of hot break has always bubbled over and spilt on the floor. If I’m lucky it’s not scalded the dog.

For this brew I’m using fine German noble hops in the form of Hallertau Hersbrucker, but to be honest it’s really low BU, and there’s not supposed to be any hop flavour or aroma, so I’m beginning to wonder why I’m adding 50g of these when I could have added about 10g of Magnum? Too late now, the pack is open, and they’re tipped into the hop spider and plonked into the boiling wort to do their – in this case limited – magic.

Generally I’ll be boiling for an hour and, as it’s a hot day, it’s quite a vigorous boil. Brewing in winter has its own hurdles and I find it’s very difficult to maintain a rolling boil. This is why I first made the insulation which did help quite a bit but wasn’t perfect.

In terms of kettle additions this is very simple. No more hops to add, and as it’s a wheat beer it’s supposed to be cloudy, so I won’t be adding half a protofloc tablet to help it clear. I have, however, taken to adding a little yeast nutrient at the end of the boil. I don’t know if this is necessary but it hasn’t done any harm so far.

As the boil finishes, and I’ve added half a teaspoon of the Wyeast Beer nutrient blend, it’s time to cool. I pull out the hop spider and let the hops drip wort to the kettle (more as somewhere to put them as opposed to trying to eek out every last drop). I remove the insulation, sticky with boiled over wort from earlier. Often I have to peel it off the outside of the vessel. Then take a volume reading with the steel ruler – 22.5cm or 21.5L. The wort is hot so taking into account a 4% expansion of the liquid this means there is 20.7L of 1068 wort. I want 1055 so need to dilute with 5L of water to hit my target and leave me with a nice 26L of wort to ferment. Before that I’ve got to cool it and for that I use a length of coiled copper pipe. This is attached to the garden hose and immersed in the hot wort to run cold water through. Cooling takes no time in winter when the groundwater is at 11℃ but now it’s getting warmer the groundwater is 17.5℃ it may take a little while longer. I use temperature strips on the outside of the kettle to know when it’s lower than my fermentation temperature then I transfer it into the FV.

In terms of fermentation I had been reading up and found a lot of advice that in order to get a good banana flavour from the yeast you should aim on the high side of the recommended temperature. However I also found out that Lallemand makes two Munich yeast types: Munich and Munich Classic. The Classic version – not the one I have – is the more expressive one in terms of fruity esters and so I’ve made a bit of a balls up. Not to worry, hopefully this will still be a nice beer, just not what I had in mind. I’m still going to ferment at the top of the range to squeeze out what I can from the yeast so in this case that will be 22℃. This means I’ll cool the wort to below this before transferring across.

Transferring into the FV is very low tech for me. Just run the wort out of the kettle tap into a 5L sanitised measuring jug then tip into the vessel. I think this has two advantages; I don’t need to arrange everything so the kettle is higher, or involve a pump, to run through tubing and I don’t have to use tubing at all! I’m never convinced they’re clean. You can scour the inside of a jug – you can only flush through tubing or soak. It also allows me to add the dried yeast to the jug and splash the wort onto it. I’m not one for rehydrating the yeast beforehand – happy to chuck it into the mix and let it wake up when it does.

Well just as I thought it was all going so perfectly disaster struck. I poured the first jug of wort into the FV and it came straight out of the bottom. The Tilt (I’ll explain later) had jammed the valve open and so I was stuck like Hans Brinker with my thumb in the valve shouting for help. Got it sorted and cleaned up eventually and ended up with 21L pitched and fermenting at 22℃ and a couple of litres of sticky wort on the floor.

I have a love of gadgets and technology and this hobby allows me to indulge in both and get drunk too. As you see from the picture I have a Grainfather fermenter which both heats and cools. To cool I have a small Glycol tank stuck in my Keezer which the FV calls for and circulates through a jacket to control the fermenting beer’s temperature. I also make the FV wear an old down jacket (A Northface one I once had stolen off me by a tramp in Vienna) to insulate it from both heat and cold.

I mentioned previously the Tilt. This is an amazing piece of kit if you haven’t seen it before. It’s a wireless hydrometer that allows you to watch and plot your fermentation as it goes. For this beer you can watch this beer go by clicking on this link here.

So that’s it, that’s my set up and generally how I make my beer. I’d be interested on your thoughts and comments – any improvements or blindingly obvious steps or ideas I’m missing. Feel free to comment here on the website or head over to the Facebook group and let me know what you think there.

Cheers

Ian

March Meeting Cancelled

As you probably can guess due to the ongoing virus situation, advice from government and in order to protect the brewery and its business I am cancelling the March meeting that was planned for next Wednesday the 25th.

Like everyone else I can’t know what the next few months will bring so I’ll update the website with any news or plans as I have it.

With respect to the Champion brewer 2020 – this was planned for the Knightclub event in May and so is a couple of months off. I’d recommend making your entry – what’s the worse that could happen other than you’ll have to drink it all yourself 🙂

Have a beer next Wednesday evening and look forward to things getting back to normal in the future

How do you like those apples?

Maybe it was the cold weather, or maybe it was the Man City v Real Madrid game being on TV but it was a slightly reduced turnout for the February meeting. The lower numbers didn’t stop lively informative debate and some surprising beer tasting going off though.

We sampled a direct comparison of a Fusty Ferret clone that had been boiled for half an hour compared to one boiled for the full hour. The difference in both appearance and taste was huge and drove some interesting conversation and thought. This was followed up by a classy mild and a, rather hot, Dubbel – both good choices in the cold rainy February weather.

We settled into some technical discussions around water chemistry, fruit moulds and carbonation before sampling an old Fruit stout – which had aged pretty well and finishing with a Windsor Cider. This was a refreshing palate cleanser and was very reminiscent of the Northern Spanish sidras with their flamboyant pouring culture in Asturias.  

We finished the night discussing the Champion Homebrewer contest and trying to predict which box would be the most popular with Knightclub members and ensuring that we can help as many members as possible enter the large format contest.

March’s meeting will be looking at Bitters as a style – so if you have some to share or just love trying them we’ll see you there. Cheers.

Coming next month Windsor ESB

WEHomebrew Champion Brewer 2020

On the evening of the 19th May 2020 at Windsor & Eton brewery we’ll be holding the inaugural WEHomebrew Champion brewer competition for WEHomebrew members.

This is a large format, public vote, competition the winner to be decided by members of W&E Brewery’s KnightClub. In addition there will be a Brewer’s Choice awarded for the best technical execution of a beer.

The rules and guidelines for the competition are given below. Use the contact form, add a comment below or connect on our facebook group to get any more details or ask any questions.

Competition rules

  • There will be a maximum of nine entries in the competition. One from each of the nine boxes as below. Once all boxes have been allocated no more entries will be accepted – there will be a ‘waiting list’ if required to step in if an entrant can no longer compete.
9 box competiton
  • Entrants can contact the organiser with a descending list of their preference for the box they’d to enter. Boxes will be allocated on a first come first served basis after 12pm on Friday 28th February 2020.
  • Aside from % ABV and Colour of the beer all other parameters are the choice of the Brewer. Any style, any ingredients.
  • Brewers will be expected to give a short description of their beer to display at the event. no more than one paragraph.
  • Brewers will need to commit to providing around 20L (5 gallon) of their entry – it is expected that there will be around 180 KnightClub members attending eligible to vote.
  • Beer can be submitted in any format the brewer prefers. There will be provision for gas and a water bath to chill Corny kegs. Logistics for this will be determined nearer the event date.
  • Beer samples will be served to KnightClub members as they request them. There’s no mandatory attendance by entrants but we will be looking for volunteers to set up, serve and clear up on the night.
  • Each KnightClub member will be given 5 votes in the form of sticky dots. They vote by sticking the dots to a poster featuring details about each of the entries. They can distribute their votes as they see fit.
  • At the end of the voting – as decided by the organiser on the night – the votes for each beer will be counted. The beer with the most votes wins.
  • The Brewer’s choice will also be awarded by Windsor & Eton Brewery for the beer with the best technical execution.
  • Any disputes will be settled by the organiser.

The Golden Hour

The first meeting of 2020 was a fascinating experiment in variation and following instructions.

We first started with a great insight into the reasons and science of the copper boil by Windsor & Eton’s crack brewer Matt. As well as deftly explaining IBUs, coagulation and kettle design he frightened the horses with some terrifying mathematics.

We then moved onto the Golden ale experiment. Paddy had previously provided us with the recipe for a beer very similar to Knight of the Garter that can be found here back in November. The idea was everyone brewed the recipe as is then we compared beers. This would show the differences that our individual processes and set ups added. We had half a dozen versions and first up was Alan’s. His initially seemed darker than the others and when questioned he’d added some extra caramalt and on further questioning had used different hops. In essence it was a different beer! That said it was good.

The other beers were compared and drew some interesting discussion around yeast handling and hop utilisation. A useful and interesting experiment and something I think we can repeat in the future.

We also had some other very interesting beers to taste afterwards. A small beer from the second runnings of the golden ale – a real achievement to give so much body to a 1.2% abv beer. The final two beers were harking back to the festive season a Norwegian Christmas tree beer – brewed with a real Christmas tree (No tinsel was harmed during the brewing of this ale) and lastly a beer never to be repeated. A Christmas dinner surprise ale hopped with sprouts – the evilest of all our vegetables. Opinions differed on this as they do around the festive dinner table.

Another great meeting. Afterwards we discussed and agreed the concept of having theme months. So every other month will have a theme or style or ingredient we can all try and bring our results. The other months will be free-for-alls when anything goes. The first theme month will be March when English bitter will be the style to bring. Whatever your take on this bring it along.

We also discussed the concept of a large format homebrew contest to be run in the club later in the year. We’ve a kernel of an idea that needs some thought. Please give your opinion on this on our Facebook group discussion that can be found here.

January Golden ale recipe

JANUARY GOLDEN ALE

Brewer

WEHomebrew

Style

Golden Ale

Beer details

OG 1.0365 FG 1.008
ABV 3.8% IBU 30
Colour 9 EBC Brew size As per brewer’s set up

Mash ingredients

Ingredients %
Pale Ale 85
Wheat malt (Or torrefied) 10
Cara medium 5

Boil additions

Ingredients Weight Time
Bittering hops To 30 IBU 90min
Citrus hops (Citra or Amarillo) 6 g/l 1 min

Yeast

Type Nottingham

Dry hopping

Ingredients Weight Time
Citrus hops (Citra or Amarillo) 2.5 g/l As per normal dry hopping schedule

To be brewed for comparison at the January 2020 WEHomebrew meeting. Looking to understand the differences that the individual set up and process can have on the sensory aspects of the same beer.

This recipe has been kindly supplied by Paddy at Eton & Windsor Brewery and is reminiscent of one of their favourite beers – Knight of the Garter. Paddy’s comments on the brew are below:

1. Golden Ale – OG 36.5, ABV 3.8%

2. Usual Liquor treatment for a Bitter (let people do their own thing as this is a point of debate/learning)

3. Malt Grist:

· 85% Pale Ale malt

· 5% Cara medium

· 10% Wheat (torrified or malted etc)

4. Bitter using standard bittering hop to achieve 30 IBU for a 90 mins (minimum 6%) boil. About 0.3 gms/L for a 13% alpha-acid hop

5. Late Hop using Citrus hops – Amarillo or Citra – 6 gms/L. Added at 1 min before flame out.

6. Nott Ale yeast Ferment at up to 22.5C (usually start about 19C and let it rise to top heat. 0.4 gms yeast/L

7. Dry Hop with same Citrus hops 2.5 gms/L

Very simple and people shouldn’t be tempted to make theirs “more interesting” – this is about comparing yours to a standard and learning what is different about your process that you then need to flex in normal brewing.

Should be an interesting tasting session. If anyone needs help with hop supply then Paddy has offered assistance.

Smashed Russians

The run up to Christmas is a busy time for breweries and the meeting room was filling up with gift wrapped potential pressies and it was another great turnout for our November meeting in terms of people and beers. A total of 10 different beers to get through meant a great night was in store.

We started with the Maris Otter SMaSHs with four versions of the beer using Wild, Styrian Wulf, Vic Secret and Simcoe hops and it was amazing the variety that just the hops brings to the party. From here we accelerated through colour and strength.

Maris Otter SMaSH

A spot on Punk IPA clone, RyePA and Malty bitter lined the way to a year old DIPA. This was supposed to be an example of something that had gone wrong but instead showed the healing power of ageing or conditioning beer to iron out any problems. Don’t dump your beer – hide it for a surprise next year.

Then came the Russians.

We were lucky enough to get to try a young and old Russian imperial stout. The youngest was very young indeed. Paddy drew it out of the FV where it was mid fermentation and full of promise. The elder came from A&E and was a boozy delight. Perfect for sitting around the fire in a bleak midwinter with a pipe and a glass to keep you warm. A great way to finish the night.

Ready to taste

The biggest problem we’ve discovered with holding the meeting on the last Wednesday of the month is that in December it falls on Christmas day; and it was agreed that people are likely to be busy. So we’re skipping a formal meeting in December and replacing it with a Social Saturday planning and stagey session. Details to follow but the rough plan is meeting for a Christmas drink on Saturday 28th in the afternoon at the brewery and then strolling over to the fantastic Hoppy Place to try something exotic and rare.

Finally it was agreed that the first meeting of 2020 we’d all endeavour to brew the same recipe – probably something like W&E’s Knight of the Garter – something that makes it hard to hide faults behind roasty malts and heavy hops. Keep an eye out on here for the recipe very soon.

Beers to be tasted

Meeting 2 – bigger than ever

Wednesday 30th October 2019

The second meeting of WEHomebrew proved even better than the first. It was great to see even more people turn up to enjoy what turned out to be some great beers. Prior to the meeting Paddy was kind enough to give a mini-tour of the brewery for members who hadn’t been round before; and also members who just love looking at big shiny tanks full of ale.

 

Then it was time for the science. Matt from Windsor & Eton brewery delivered a brilliant introduction to the science and art of mashing. Starting from the fundamentals of what the maltster and brewer are working with through to the implications temperature, water, pH and time can have on your finished beer product. It was a real grounding and I’m looking forward to looking at the next stage of the brewing process – wort boiling & hops next month.

Matt dishes the dirt on mashing

After the science it was time for the drinking. We had half a dozen beers to assess and discuss and while the majority of the beers were dark – fitting in well with the coming seasonal weather and early nights – we kicked off with a cool Steampunk looking growler full of a light 6 day old beer that was ready to drink. Fermented warm using Kviek yeast this was a great introduction to Norwegian farmhouse yeasts and their potential in terms of fast turn around and robust fermentation profiles.

Wild hops, wild fruits, chocolate and espresso coffee were the added bonuses tasted in the following beers – something for everyone and a great show of what variation there can be in similar styles.

Steampunk beer delivery system

We ended the night in a great discussion over the potential causes of a phenolic / medicinal taste found in a beer. A lot of learning and some things to take away to remedy this. This bit is exactly what the club is about – fixing problems so we can make great beer.

As mentioned I have set up a facebook group for any discussions / questions / photos of your kit to share – link to that is here : https://www.facebook.com/groups/WEHomebrew/

Looking forward to next month already where hopefully we’ll see a few versions of the SMaSH recipe here http://www.wehomebrew.club/2019/10/02/smash-recipe-for-hops-experiment/ where we can compare different hops and how our individual processes differ.

Cheers.

Ian

Milled malt barley

SMaSH recipe for Hops experiment

Hop experiment SMaSH

November 2019 WEHomebrew experiment intended to allow the club to taste and compare beers that differ only in the type of hops used (And technique as well)

Brewer

WEHomebrewers

Style

Maris Otter SMaSH

Beer details

OG 1045 FG 1010
ABV 4.55% IBU 30
Colour 10 EBC Brew size Kit dependent

Mash ingredients

Ingredients Weight
Maris Otter Malt 100%

Boil additions

Ingredients Weight Time
Chosen hop X grams 60min
Chosen hop X grams 30min
Chosen hop X grams 15min

Yeast

Type Nottingham

Recommended 1 hour mash at 67C

Hops choice is completely up to you!

Will make three additions into the boil all of the same amount of the hop to hit a total BU of 30. Can use the Brewer’s friend calculator here to work out how much to add at each time point.

Pitch with Nottingham yeast and ferment between 18-20C if you can control the temperature.

Beer tasting

Inaugural Meeting of the Windsor and Eton Homebrew Club – 25th September 2019

Like 1215, Wednesday 25th September 2019 will forever be etched in the history of Windsor as the date of the first meeting of the Windsor and Eton Homebrew Club – held at the brewery itself.

Paddy gives an introduction to tasting

A strong turnout was welcomed by Paddy, Windsor and Eton’s head brewer who conducted held a quick masterclass on tasting. Attendees ranged from professional brewers through to first timers. 

Around ten people brought a sample of their own beer and these were passed around, tasted and discussed – reviewing strengths and opportunities to improve then. The quality of these discussions was high and most certainly benefited from having good representation from both clinically-insightful professional brewers and professional consumers (!). Beers presented ranged from a straightforward best bitter, through a delightful Scottish Wee Heavy, and a blackberry porter right through to some smoked ales – hopefully something for everyone. Particular kudos to Fran who brought along her very pleasant first ever beer and a bag of foraged hops!

Even more noteworthy was that Brexit was not mentioned even once; the beers must have been good.

Feeding back on the beers

The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday October 30th. Meet at 19:00 in the brewery bar, or 18:30 if you wish to have a quick tour of the brewery.

The October 30th meeting will consist of a talk and free-form tasting of attendees’ offerings (min 2 x bottles of your beer so there’s enough to go round).

http://www.wehomebrew.club/event/october-2019-meeting/
Intense appreciation of the beers on offer

As a reminder, for the November 27th we’re undertaking and experiment looking at a SMaSH beer (Single Malt and Single Hops) so that the only differences arise from the hops used and technique. Suggested base is Maris Otter malt, brewed to c5% ABV, fermented using Nottingham yeast and using whatever hop additions take your fancy. For those brewing from extract kits, use whatever kit you fancy. We’ll be providing more detailed instructions pretty soon on here.

In the meantime, spread the word – no RSVP is required – just turn up on October 30th, with or without samples.

Happy brewing,

Ian Scott