Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I'm a double-bagger

Well, not really... but last weekend I brewed twice and decided to use 2 layers of brew bags in my pot.  Normally, I just use 2 paint strainer bags in my 10 gallon pot.  This way, the bags are easier to lift out and to squeeze wort out of.  But, with so many in the BIAB community using voile bags, I decided to see how much of my grain was making it out of the paint strainer bags and into the boil. With a voile bag underneath my paint strainers, I would catch all that slipped through the larger openings in the strainer bags.

Here is a picture of my kettle.

Brewinabag  Brewinabag

It's a 44 qt Bayou Classic with a layer of reflective insulation around it.  I use a 3000W induction heatplate which I love, and have an 18" by 18" sheet of silicone rubber on top to protect from spillage finding its way into the electronics. I also have a false bottom of sorts that goes in the bottom.

My normal mash-in looks something like this:


I clip the 2 paint strainer bags across the kettle, and try to split the grain bill evenly between the two. (These grains were milled at my LHBS using their mill set at .039.)  

This time, however, before clipping the paint strainer bags, I dropped in a large voile bag that I had used (with considerable pain and suffering) ages ago.  The voile bag would catch anything that made it through the strainer bags.

After the mash, I pulled the strainer bags as shown below.  I really like the way they drain so quickly.


After squeezing them for all they're worth, I pulled out the voile bag. 


Then I draped it over a 5 gallon bucket to see what it caught.

Here it is:


Maybe not all that much, but it certainly did help.

I am currently having a local seamstress make me 2 voile bags that are the same size as my paint strainers.  I've asked to have them a bit larger around the bottom so the grains have room to "swim" a bit.  I may try this experiment again once I have the voile bags just to see if anything gets through the smaller bags and is caught by they larger one.  You'd think not, but we'll see.

By the way, I usually hit my gravities right on with BeerSmith set to 75% efficiency.  I'm not sure how some of the guys on forums are getting 80% or more.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Clear Beer - Finally!

For several years, I've struggled to understand why my finished beer ends up with a slight haze.  It comes out of the kettle clear as day, but after fermentation, it is no longer clear.   I finally broke down and paid Ward Labs ($40 online) to test my well water.  Here are the results:

To my surprise, my water is very low in all minerals....perfect for a pilsner, but maybe even lacking for that!

I spent several weeks learning more about what was needed and how to adjust my mash water.  Brewersfriend.com is an excellent website that includes a Water Chemistry Calculator that is a great start.  It even allows you to enter your own water profile (which optionally can be shared with everyone), and to load that profile along with the desired profile (e.g. - Balanced, Burton, etc.).  You then can tweak the available brewing salt additions to reach the desired levels.

The problem I found with it is that you need to find the right mix of additions by trial and error, and sometimes changing one item, you affect other mineral contents.

I later realized that Beersmith has a Water Profile tool that includes an automatic calculator button.  After entering the desired water profile and your current (starting) water profile, a quick press of the Calculate Best Additions button runs an algorithm that determines the best mix to get very close to the desired profile.

I then entered all of the various ideal water profiles (i.e. balanced, light colored and hoppy, dark and malty, etc.) from Brewer's Friend (these are in the drop down box that's part of the Water Target Selection portion of the Mash Chemistry and Brewing Water Calculator ) into Beersmith.  By starting with my well water profile, and selecting the profile for the beer style I'm brewing, the required additions are calculated with the press of a button!

I've printed these out and keep them handy for brewing.  One wishlist for Beersmith is that the values be shown in tsp.  They are currently shown in grams.

Bottom line is, if you're not paying attention to your water, you're ignoring the ingredient that makes up 95%+ of your beer.  Surprisingly, many homebrewers don't.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Induction Brewing!

My busy life has kept me from posting much in the last months, but I wanted to share a new brewing setup that I am hoping proves to be where I'll end up.

For the last several years, I have used the BIAB method with great success.  My setup includes a 10 Gallon Aluminum pot, and a homemade 4500W heatstick with control box.  It makes great beer, but I've become tired of lugging around the heatstick with the 10 foot cable and box.  It's just not "elegant".

Recently, I came across some posts discussing induction cooktops, and their applicability to brewing.  Since I had always used a 4500W heatstick, I figured I'd need to find something close in wattage to provide enough energy to boil 7+ gallons of wort.

The forums mentioned an Avantco IC3500 (3500W), and also a Max Burton 6530 (3000W) induction cooktop.  I was fortunate enough to find a non-working Max Burton 6530 on ebay for $50, and was able to repair it.

The one catch is that my aluminum pot was not going to work, as induction cookers operating by magnetically inducing a current in the cookware that heats the pot and it's contents.  Aluminum does not work.  A stainless steel pot was needed, but not just any stainless steel will work.  After buying a 10 gallon pot, I realized it was not compatible, so I had to sell it and start over.

The forums mentioned that any pot that a magnet sticks to should work, and Bayou Classic pots had worked for some, so I ordered a 1144 pot (10 gallon pot with steamer basket).

Here's what it looks like...

In these pictures I did not have the steamer basket in, and it was prior to my drilling a hole for my valve.

Here I was just testing how long it took to bring 8 gallons to a boil.  From 60 Deg F to 150 Deg F it took roughly 35 minutes.  From 150 Deg F to boiling was about 20.  I took a temperature every 5 minutes, and it's basically 12 degrees every 5 mins.  (Was hoping to graph the data, but did not get to that yet)

March 2015 - I had started this post in 2014 and am just getting around to publishing it.  Since then, I've used this set up with great success.  My brewing partner has started using induction plates also (he purchased 2 of the Avantco 3500W plates).  I've even become proficient at repairing these, as we've (for various reasons) had a few components blow.

One suggestion I have is to avoid any downward pressure on these cooktops, aside from the weight of the water.  During one of my first brews, I had sat my grain bag on a rack that was across the top of the pot to let it drain.  Then I started pushing down on the bag to try and squeeze more wort out.  Later I found that the glass surface on the plate had cracked.  I repaired it using JB Weld (love that stuff!), but to be safe, I ordered an 18" by 18" Silicone Rubber sheet off ebay ($18) and I now drape that across the heatplate, and under the pot.  It has turned a little brown from the heat, but has not melted (silicon rubber has a melting point of 300 deg F or more, I think). This keeps any liquid that might find its way to the surface of the heatplate from leaking into the unit.  Water and electricity are not a good combination!

As always, let me know if you have any questions.  I will try and post a few more pics of my complete setup as it exists now.