My Milk Stout Brings All The Boys To The Yard

>> Sunday, February 11, 2018

Today I'm brewing my Golden Milk Stout again. I'm going to give this one a try as an NHC entry and see how it does. This beer is pretty popular with friends and just about anyone that's had a chance to try it. It's taken bronze the past two years for the Spice, Herb, Vegetable category at Beehive Brew-off. I'm a little concerned how it will do at NHC because it is on the sweet side, even for a sweet stout. There's only one way to find out though!

A couple slight changes this batch, I'm using floor-malted Crisp Maris Otter and dropping the lactose to 0.75 pounds. I'm also reducing the mash temps ever so slightly to 153F. I haven't decided on the coffee toddy yet, but my wife bought me a manual coffee roaster for Christmas, so I might try roasting my own beans for this batch. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

8.75# Crisp Floor-malted Maris Otter
1.00# Flaked Oats
1.00# Gambrinus Honey Malt
0.75 # Lactose (10 min)
12g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
28g EKG (0 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc
Coffee Toddy (at kegging)
The Bomb Tincture (at kegging)
WLP001 - Cali Ale

Mash at 153F for 80 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F, raising temps to 65F over the course of a week.

Water - Nothing too fancy, 9 gallons carbon-filtered tap water + 2.5 gallons RO water went into the HLT.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 1.068 (16.9P). I recently treated myself to a 7 gallon SS Brewtech Brew Bucket and this is the first batch going in the bucket. It's definitely not as heavy duty as my Morebeer conical, but it seems to be engineered really well. 


Jockey Box 2.0

>> Saturday, February 03, 2018

About two years ago I posted about my first jockey box build using a vintage Coleman Steel-Belted cooler. I really dig it, it works awesome, and it has so much more character than plastic cooler-based jockey boxes.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across some brand new Steel-Belted Coleman coolers on clearance at Sam's Club. I figured maybe I could resell them on ebay and/or locally and make a few bucks. I had lots of interest in them, but unfortunately nobody actually showed up to buy them. My original build used a Coleman cooler from the early 70's, and much like the cars of the day, it has straighter, more angular lines. The shape of the new coolers is closer to that of the vintage Coleman coolers from the 50's, nice rounded lines. The paintjob is somewhere between matte and satin black with a slight orange peel texture. Combined with the stainless steel trim and the addition of some shiny faucets, I began to realize it would be a cool candidate for a jockey box build.

It got me to thinking...I have some spare parts laying around from previous kegerator and jockey box builds...maybe I should build another jockey box. It wasn't long before I stumbled across a really good deal on another 7-circuit cold plate and I decided to move forward.

Construction on this box is similar to the original with a few minor changes/improvements. 

  1. Like the original, three lines make a double pass through the cold plate, and the fourth makes a single pass. 
  2. Instead of having all liquid supply lines on one side of the cooler, I have two on each side. That's not a huge change, but it should make arranging kegs a little easier.
  3. The biggest change between this one and the first one is I added plastic inserts for the liquid line bulkheads. I fabricated these out of Airborne Immune Support vials. These make it so I can really snug down the bulkheads for a secure fit. They're caulked which should help keep any moisture from entering the space between the outer metal skin and the inner plastic lining of the they give it a nice clean look. I'm probably going to go back and retrofit the original jockey box with similar fittings.
  4. Lastly, I changed the design of the cold plate stand slightly. This version has extensions that center the stand in the middle of the cooler and keep the cold plate from sliding around during transport.

Tips, Tricks, and Comments

This is a fairly simple project, but you'll definitely need some tools. Measure carefully before doing any cutting/drilling. Masking tape, a Sharpie, a tape measure, and an adjustable combination square can be helpful when laying out your design. I tend to drill small pilot holes first, protecting the metal skin with masking tape. The tape keeps the drill bit from slipping and protects the paint. Drill the pilot hole all the way through the metal skin and the inner plastic liner. I use my Harbor Freight step bits (you can probably buy almost all your tools at Harbor Freight for this job) to open up the holes in the metal skin. This includes for the stainless bulkheads on the liquid lines, and the initial drilling for the tap holes. I use hole-saws to cut the inner plastic lining of the cooler. Run hole-saws in reverse (counter-clockwise) so that the teeth don't grab and gouge the plastic. The final hole for the taps is done using a 7/8" Greenlee chassis punch. The order for drilling should be:
  1. Drill pilot hole.
  2. Enlarge the pilot holes using a drill bit the same size as the bit in your hole-saw.
  3. Align hole-saw bit to your pilot holes and cut appropriate sized hole in plastic liner. DO NOT cut through the metal skin with your hole-saw. Remember to run drill in reverse when using hole-saw on plastic.
  4. Use step bit to open up the holes in metal skin. Holes should be big enough for bulkhead to fit through on the liquid line holes, and big enough for the punch's bolt on the tap shank holes.
I used a little bit of epoxy appliance paint to touch up the bare metal around the holes. This will help reduce the risk or rusting.

Below are some pictures and a parts list. I've included prices where applicable to show that you can build these fairly affordably if you shop around and aren't in a huge rush. I say "fairly affordably" because...well, these things aren't cheap. A lot of the expense is in the stainless fittings and they can add up quickly. Plated fittings and faucets are much cheaper, but they're still not cheap. I'm the type that prefers to buy once and spend a little more money up front than have to replace parts later. That said, I got a pretty good deal on some chrome faucets so I skipped the stainless versions there. My total price was right about $250. Compare that to some of these pre-built examples and you can see that they can be quite a bit cheaper to build yourself.

Pre-built Examples

Parts List

Qty - Desc - Price - Supplier
  • 1 - New vintage-style Coleman cooler - $42 - Sam's Club
  • 1 - Used 7-circuit cold plate - $52 ($37+$15 for shipping) -ebay
  • 3 - 3" stainless steel beer shanks (needed four, had a spare) - $32.85 - ebay
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless steel bulkheads - $10.28 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 8 - 1/4" x 5/16" barb x flare fittings (some were missing from the cold plate) - $13.28 - - Installation Parts Supply
  • 14 - 5/16" gaskets for cold plate - $1.40 - Installation Parts Supply 
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless shank tailpiece - $5.80 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Neoprene tailpiece washers - $0.52 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Tailpiece wingnuts - $0.00 - unknown, spare parts
  • 4 - Liquid ball-lock disconnects - $27.96 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 7 - 1/4 flare swivel nuts (needed 8, had a spare)- $13.93 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 4 - Standard chrome faucets - $20 - local classifieds
  • 4 - Stainless tap handles - $32 - eBay
  • Misc parts - ~$20.00
  • Misc shipping - $9.71
Liquid line bulkhead, exterior

Liquid line bulkhead, interior


Another shot of the Airborn fitting

Bulkheads for taps 3 and 4

Four taps, waiting for something to pour


Doppelbock 2017

>> Friday, January 05, 2018

Today I'm brewing a style that I've never brewed before, a Doppelbock. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to brewing this's just kind of a casualty of my tendency to brew ales more frequently than lagers. The 2015 BJCP guidelines describe this style as follows:

Overall Impression: A strong, rich, and very malty German lager that can have both pale and dark variants. The darker versions have more richly-developed, deeper malt flavors, while the paler versions have slightly more hops and dryness.

Comments: Most versions are dark colored and may display the caramelizing and Maillard products of decoction mashing, but excellent pale versions also exist. The pale versions will not have the same richness and darker malt flavors of the dark versions, and may be a bit drier, hoppier and more bitter. While most traditional examples are in the lower end of the ranges cited, the style can be considered to have no upper limit for gravity, alcohol and bitterness (thus providing a home for very strong lagers).
Since this is my first time brewing the style, I'm going with a recipe based on Jamil Zainasheff's recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I'm brewing this beer as a 2.5 gallon batch rather than 5 gallons...just in case things don't turn out well.

Some key points to remember, because of the colder temps and therefore more challenging fermentation environment, lagers require big healthy pitches. Doppelbocks are big high gravity beers as well, so a large pitch of healthy yeast is extra important. For this beer I went with two smack packs of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast in a 1.6L starter on a stir plate.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

7.0# Avangard Munich Malt Light (8L)
2.0# Weyermann® Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
1.0# Weyermann® CARAMUNICH® Type 3
20g Hallertauer (60 min)
4.1g Hallertauer (30 min)
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager
Wyeast nutrient

Water - To 7 gallons of distilled water
1.2g - Epson salt
3.2g - Baking soda
7.1g - Chalk
Note: I don't use the full 7 gallons of brewing water, but I need to maintain a certain level so that my heating elements aren't exposed.

Mash - As is somewhat typical for the style, I'm going with a decoction mash. This does add some complexity to the process, but it's not too bad and it goes a bit quicker with small batches.
  1. Mash in for an initial rest at 125F for 10 minutes.
  2. Pull about 25% of the mash for the first decoction. The decoction should be thick; try to leave most of the mash liquor behind. Raise decoction to 155F and hold for 15 minutes, then increase to a boil and hold for 15 minutes before returning decoction to mash.
  3. Maintain mash at 155F for 45 minutes.
  4. Pull second decoction (25%) and bring to a boil for 15 minutes before returning to mash.
  5. Maintain mash to 168F for 10 minutes, then proceed with sparge.
Boil - 90 minute boil.

Fermentation - Chill to 47F and pitch yeast.
  1. Ramp temperatures up to 50F over 3 days.
  2. On day 9, start raising temps for diacetyl rest at 62F for 3 days.
  3. Gradually drop temps to 40F over 7 days.
  4. Condition at lager temps for 2-4 months.
Brewing Notes
Friday, after-work brew sessions are always fun and go a little later than I hope, but thankfully no issues. The color on this beer is a gorgeous deep copper. OG on this came in at a whopping 1.099.

Update 1/6/2017
I was able to chill the wort down into the high 50's by whirling and using my immersion chiller. I left it in the ferm chamber overnight to get down to 47F. I aerated the wort then pitched my starter this morning and this evening I'm seeing positive pressure in the airlock and hints of krausen in the fermenter, so things seem to be off to a good start.

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