Saturday, March 5, 2011

amber ipa - secondary fermentation

about two weeks out from starting the ale, the airlock has stopped bubbling and its time to transfer my beer to a secondary fermenter to mature for another month. i start by sanitizing my secondary fermenter. i use the plastic 5 gallon bucket for primary fermentation and move to the 5 gallon glass carboy for secondary fermentation. usually i use an oxidizing powder to sanitize since you don't have to rinse before adding your beer. because i ran out, i am just using household bleach. i pour about a cup into the carboy and fill the rest with water, then get the siphon running to clear any contaminants.

 i rinse several times before i start transferring the beer. i probably over-rinse but i'm always concerned i will kill my yeast. in all reality, the amount of bleach left after even one rinse would be diluted to practically nothing in 5 gallons of beer, but i still don't take any chances.

opening the primary fermenter is one of my favorite steps. the immediate aroma of the immature beer with all of the hops that have been stewing together for the first two weeks is extremely refreshing.

the newly sanitized, and obsessively rinsed siphon is then gently dipped into my primary fermenter. i usually only put it in to a depth of 6-7 cm. this avoids any floating hops as well as all of the sludge on the bottom of the bucket, which i will talk about later.

 i place the primary fermentation (in the bucket) on the counter before i start sanitizing to allow time for everything to settle to the bottom. once the glass carboy is sanitized and rinsed, i place it on the floor below. with a couple quick pumps of the siphon in the primary fermenter the vacuum has been started and gravity does the rest.

i carefully continue to lower the siphon into my beer in the primary fermenter as the level falls.

the reason for the gradual approach is that two weeks of fermentation have left a sludge of hops, specialty grain or barleycorn pieces, proteins, and mostly dead yeast cells at the bottom the fermenter (most of the living ones are still floating in the beer. in fact, ales, which ferment around room temperature, ferment towards the top as opposed to lagers, which ferment at cold temperatures and ferment towards the bottom). this sludge is what i would use if i wanted to propagate my yeast (though i have read it is better to start propagating yeast from the end of the secondary fermentation since it wont contain the hops or other particulate matter) but i have not started doing this yet.

it is important to stop siphoning before you start to suck all of this into the secondary fermenter if you want a cleaner product. at the same time, i don't worry if some gets transferred since there is always the last transfer to a bottling bucket that allows yet another chance to purify before the final product.

next i add the sanitized airlock and place the ale in a dark place (since light adversely affects taste)

in the last step i taste some of the remnant beer remaining on top of the sludge in the bucket. sure it is flat, but you know right away if you made a mistake. hasn't happened yet. it tastes crisp, very hoppy and immaturely bitter, pungently alcoholic (this will end around 9%), and has a caramel finish. the other flavors will come with time, but i can tell it is going to be a good one. my wife agrees.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The oscars....

Traditionally, I have looked forward to the Oscars like I look forward to the start of a new season of Glee or The Biggest Loser or any show on The Food Network. Yes, tonight a great game between Miami and the New York Knicks, with the heart of Denver imported, will have to wait. Tonight the Oscars are on.

You see, my wife likes these shows, and I am a good husband. Though I often veto them as much as she vetoes my NBA games (though she is cool, she likes the NFL, NFL fantasy football, and March Madness possibly more than me) I figure I can suffer through one awards show a year.

The thing is, this year my friend clued me into a trick. Its called betting on the Oscars. Maybe this is not new to everyone, but it is to me. I gotta say, it is great to make it a competition. Though so far I am losing, we have adjusted my friend's suggestions. I live in Milwaukee, WI. With the fusion of my NW roots, my wife and I decided to drink a shot of Columbia Crest Chardonnay each time an actors speech is cut off by the triumphant music that they like to pay in such situations. I like how it just keeps getting louder until the actor leaves the stage.

 Here is to people talking too long!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My last kit beer, an amber IPA

i began making beer more than a year ago after receiving a small kit as a wedding gift. i soon moved up to five gallon batches. this will be my 6th kit. i began with a pilsner, then tried a nut brown, a honey weiss, a double belgian, an ESB, and now I am making an amber IPA. 

initially i wanted to get comfortable with the general process of making beer, ironing out the few possible variables in the simplified kits. within the constraints of using a kit the few variables that are in ones control include: sterilization, boiling temperature, length of time during specialty grain steeping, timing of hopping, type of yeast used, single versus primary and secondary fermentations, total time fermented, temperature during fermentation, and time allowed for bottle conditioning.

my wife and i will be moving in may to begin a medical residency in emergency medicine. i decided to wait to begin the transition to partial mash and all grain brewing until we move. ultimately when we buy a home i plan on creating a space in a studio on the property or in the basement of the house to set up a full brewing station. for now i use a gas range in my kitchen, which works quite well with an inexpensive 4.67 L granite ware pot.

the kit i am using calls for the addition of hops prior to boiling approximately 2.5 gallons of water(i don't play with water chemistry but do plan on correcting this in the future)

i then add my specialty grains to steep for 20 minutes while the water is heating up. 
i think of this stage like steeping tea and make sure not to leave the bag in too long.
once the water with pre hops has begun to boil i add the pre made malt extract syrup and boil for about an hour. 

i find it important to perform this boil at the lowest temperature that maintains a steady cycling of the hops. too much heat, i have found, burns some of the syrup in the bottom of the pan and brings all of the hops to the surface which can adversely affect flavor. towards the end of the boil the recipe calls for additional hops to be added. i have played with dry hopping but have not found this to sufficiently affect flavor given the minimal amount of hops that are contained within any of the kits. i plan on growing my own hops and adding much more than any kit calls for in the future. the wort is then cooled. i currently do this in an ice bath in the sink but plan on making a copper coil to achieve it more quickly. the yeast pack is then added with enough water to bring the total to 5 gallons in the pre sanitized bucket, which i use for the primary fermentation. an airlock is attached and i allow time and my single cell friends to do the rest.
my next post will show the secondary fermentation in about 2 weeks.