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.