Hoppy NZ-ish Pils

>> Sunday, June 16, 2019

Today I'm brewing a variation of my New Zealand Pilsner. The biggest change is I'm trying out some Viking Pilsner malt. I'm also trying out a new ingredient, BrewTan B (more info here). Long story short, it's supposed to help with a few things, including "improve the shelf life and enhance the flavor and colloidal stability of your beer". Dosage/usage info from Wyeast:

Dosage rate: In the mash: 8 grams per barrel of mash liquor (8 g/1.17 hL). In the boiler: 5 grams per barrel of wort (5 g/1.17 hL).
Usage: Dissolve powder in warm water; add solution to mash, boil, or both.
In the mash: Add solution to mash water prior to dough-in.
On the homebrew scale, that translates to .25g per gallon of mash liquor.

Other changes, I'm going with a bit more Carared, and I'm experimenting with some Loral cryohops in the mix. Lastly, I'm swapping the amounts of the late hop additions. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

6.75# Viking Pilsner Malt
0.75# Avangard German Pale
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Pale Wheat Malt
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
14g Motueka (1 min)
14g Rakau (1 min)
14g Waimea (1 min)
7g Loral Cryohops (1 min)
21g Motueka (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Rakau (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
7g Loral Cryohops (Whirlpool @170F)
(2) Global Yeast
Yeast Nutrient
28g Motueka (Dryhop)
28g Rakau (Dryhop)
28g Waimea (Dryhop)
14g Loral Cryohops (Dryhop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, start fermentation at 46F, ramp up to 52F over 6 days, diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.016.

Water Profile
To 11 gallons of distilled water, add:
  • 4.0g Gypsum
  • 2.8g Epsom Salt
  • 4.8g Calcium Chloride


Lichtenhainer 2019

Yesterday I got started on my second a attempt at a Lichtenhainer. I brewed one last year, but it had a horrible acetaldehyde problem. I'm 99% sure this was caused by a timing/cellaring issue (it was cold crashed twice).

For this attempt, I changed the malts slightly, and will be using US-05 yeast.

Full grain bill was cold-smoked over Pecan
4.25 # Avangard German Pale Malt
4.25 # Spelt Malt
14g Aged hops (60 mins)
GoodBelly SuperShot for kettle-souring
US-05 yeast after kettle-souring
Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F, transfer to boil kettle and raise temps to 175F for 15 minutes to pasteurize. Chill to 100F and acidify wort to 4.5 before pitching GoodBelly. Sour to a target pH of 3.4-ish. After target pH is reached, proceed with boil, 90 minutes. Ferment at 63F.

Brewing Notes
Day 1 - No major issues.


Tequila-barrel Tripel

>> Sunday, May 19, 2019

Today I'm brewing for a club project I'm organizing. I got my hands on a 59 gallon 1 year Añejo tequila barrel from Madrileña Distillery. This barrel originated as a whiskey barrel, then was used for aging tequila right before we got our hands on it.

Based on characteristics we thought would work well with the tequila, we narrowed the options down to Belgian Blonde, Saison, or Tripel. Votes were taken and the Tripel narrowly edged out the Belgian Blonde.

We wanted to do something ABV-wise, at the lower end of the style, so we're brewing the following recipe which is based on this one from Craft Beer & Brewing. We're also fermenting on the cooler side to keep the "Belgian" character in check. Long story short, we want some fruity character to compliment the tequila character, but we're trying to avoid a phenolic bomb.

10 gallon Recipe

24.0# Viking Pilsner malt

1.0# Briess Victory malt
1.0# Briess Aromatic malt
2.0# Demera cane sugar (boil)
46g Nugget (60 minutes)
6g Ground coriander (60 minutes)
52g Crystal (5 minutes)
Imperial Gnome Yeast
Wyeast Nutrient
Carbon-filtered West Jordan, UT water

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F

Brewing Notes
No major issues. I was trying to tidy up my messy garage because my buddy Jeff was coming over to brew his 5 gallons as well. I looked away a couple times and had two minor boil overs. I also forgot to add the sugar until after I'd just started chilling. So, the sugar was added to the whirlpool at 185F. Apparently my whirlpool was a little too good because it left a little pile of crystalized sugar at the bottom of my kettle. We ended up leaving it there for my buddy Jeff's batch.

P.S. Forgot to mention, I bought a new stainless counterflow chiller, and this was the first time using it. It's the Kegco branded one and I've fitted it with camlocks via short sections of silicone tubing in order to connect the male barbed camlocks. It's slightly less efficient compared to my plate chiller, but it still chills fairly quickly when used in conjunction with my whirlpool setup. The best thing about it is I don't have to worry about using a hop spider and inline filter (AKA, no more worries of plugging up the plate chiller with hop debris).


Altiplano Blend Roast #1

>> Sunday, March 24, 2019

I'm roasting up another batch of coffee today, this time Altiplano Blend from Sweet Maria's. This blend is described as follows:
Altiplano is extremely versatile in both roast level and brew applications. Lighter roasts show convincing levels of brightness and sweetness, with faint fruit and cocoa top notes. FC and beyond boosts body, sweetness, and chocolate roast complexity. City+ to Full City+. Great for espresso
I figured I'd do a similar roast as last time. The timing is slightly different as noted below, because it seemed like it took a bit longer to achieve full yellowing than on the previous batch.

# Description Time Behmor Button(s)
1 Pre-heat without drum for 1 minute 1:00 1 > P1 > Start
2 Install drum loaded with 8 ounces of green coffee
3 Begin Roast 20:15 1 > Start > P1 > D > P5
Press + button to max time
4 Reduce power to maintain temps around 310F
Fully yellowing
13:00 P2
5 Increase power to maintain temps around 320F
Barely tan
12:00 P5
6 Reduce power and slow drum 10:00 P3 > D
7 Cool at end of first crack
Very first pop ~ 9:15. First crack rolling ~7:30
5:00 Cool


Coffee Stuff

>> Sunday, February 24, 2019

I've really gotten into coffee the past year-ish, so I decided to add a coffee section to my site. I'll be the first to admit, I'm still a bit of a coffee newbie, and my coffee knowledge isn't anywhere near the level of my brewing knowledge. I found with my homebrewing hobby that it really helped to document recipes, notes, mishaps, etc. So I'm thinking a similar approach should help as I work towards increasing my coffee knowledge.

The story of how I got interested in coffee is kind of silly, but keep in mind I was raised in the Mormon church where coffee is just as, if not more taboo than beer. One time when I was a kid, my mom accidentally bought coffee ice cream. I remember telling my mom that the ice cream tasted funny, kind of burnt. Fast forward to adulthood and I never really had an interest in trying coffee (still clinging to my Mormon upbringing) but my lovely never-Mormon wife drank it all the time. Fast forward a little more to when I started getting into beer, I'd often comment to my wife about how I really enjoyed the roasty toasty notes in stouts and porters, and she'd always point out that those flavors were very similar to coffee. On a trip to SoCal about three or four years ago, I ordered a pint of Naughty Sauce from Noble Ale Works. Naughty Sauce is a golden milk stout infused with coffee and I absolutely love it. So long story short, beer kind of gets credit for getting me into coffee.

For Christmas in 2017, my wife bought me a Whirly-Pop coffee roasting kit from Morebeer. Kind of like with homebrewing, I was hooked and I was able to roast some really tasty coffee. Now I should mention, I prefer iced coffee with milk and some sweet cream. My daughters like to tease me that I drink "white girl coffee". I don't like it too sweet, but I definitely do like a touch of creamer. And it doesn't matter if it's the middle of summer or the middle of winter, I prefer my coffee iced.

As I said, my wife bought me a Whirly-Pop coffee roaster and they work great, plus they're a relatively cheap way to get into coffee roasting; kind off the equivalent of the starter beer brewing kits. There are some downsides though, such as it can be challenging to get consistent repeatable results. Also, you have to crank the handle during the entire roast so as not to scorch the beans. Being the geeky guy I am, I motorized mine which improved the experience quite a bit and let me focus on the roasting process rather than cranking the handle.

Fast forward to Christmas 2018, and my wife surprised me with a Behmor 1600 Plus coffee roaster. I've roasted a couple batches so far and I'm super pleased with the consistency of the roast between batches, and how evenly the beans in a single run are roasted. This got me to thinking, I should document the process for each batch so that I can hopefully repeat the results on a regular basis.
Here's my first documented "roasting profile" for the Behmor 1600. This one is a Full City Roast based on one outlined on Sweet Mariah's website. I just used the following roast for Sumatra Wet Process Gunung Tujuh.

This variety is described as follows:
City+ yields a sweet foundation of burned sugar and caramel/toffee, a yellow custard note, dried apple, tamarind, a basil hint, and a vibrant rindy orange flavor. A clean, wet processed Sumatran coffee. City to Full City. Good for espresso.
Here's the roast process I used:

# Description Time Behmor Button(s)
1 Pre-heat without drum for 1 minute 1:00 1 > P1 > Start
2 Install drum loaded with 8 ounces of green coffee
3 Begin Roast 20:15 1 > Start > P1 > D > P5
Press + button to max time
4 Reduce power to maintain temps around 310F
Fully yellowing
13:45 P2
5 Increase power to maintain temps around 320F
Barely tan
12:45 P5
6 Reduce power and slow drum 10:00 P3 > D
7 Cool at end of first crack
First crack started ~7:30
4:30 Cool


Wild Red 2019

>> Sunday, February 17, 2019

Another wild red today. I managed to get my hands on some 30 gallon barrels a ways back. I'm considering brewing this recipe 3xs, in order to fill one of these barrels, effectively starting a new solera project. Here's the recipe I'm planning on brewing today.

10 Gallon Recipe
11.0# California Select
3.0# Weyermann Vienna
3.25# Spelt
14oz Crisp Crystal 77L
14oz Flaked Oats
14oz Special Aromatic
4oz Carafa Special III
28g Aged Hops (60 min)
Wyeast Nutrient
Inland Island Brett Barrel III (Primary)
Bootleg Biology - Sour Solera Blend - Fall 2018 (Secondary)

Mash at 160F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, primary and secondary at room temp.

Brewing Notes
No issues. Gravity came in at 14.4P (1.057). 

Update 2/19/2019
Fermentation has slowed down quite bit and the krausen has started dropping. There's still quite a bit of yeast in suspension. As expected, the aroma coming off the fermenters is kind of fruity.

Update 2/24/2019
As I indicated on 2/19, fermentation has slowed. It's still plugging along with a thin film of bubbles and a burp in the airlock about once every 20 seconds.

Update 4/14/2019
I finally got around to brewing the second third (10 gallons) for the barrel today. I temporarily transferred the first 10 gallons to kegs then racked right on top of the yeast cake. No issues other than a little but if a boil over when I wasn't paying attention.

Update 4/15/2019
Batch #2 is actively fermenting this morning. Currently, it has a couple of inches of Krausen. I'll double check it before I leave for work, just in case I need to add a blow-off.


New Zealand Pilsner 2019

>> Saturday, February 02, 2019

I loved the way my first take on a New Zealand Pilsner turned out, enough to brew another one. I'm making a couple tweaks to try to get it closer to the BJCP style description. The first version's color was a bit on the light side, and I felt it could definitely use more of the classic NZ hop flavor and aroma characteristics. The bitterness seemed pretty much on point, so the only thing I'm going different there is to swap out pellet hops for hop resin. This gives you bitterness without adding a bunch of debris to the boil. I'm switching up the late addition hops to try to get more of the fruity, citrusy, flavors and aromas associated with NZ hops. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

6.75# Weyermann Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner
0.75# Avangard German Pale
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Pale Wheat Malt
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
21g Motueka (1 min)
21g Rakau (1 min)
21g Waimea (1 min)
14g Motueka (Whirlpool @170F)
14g Rakau (Whirlpool @170F)
14g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
Imperial Global Yeast - I got my hands on a very fresh pack. I decided to try splitting it in half and doing (2) 1L starters on my shaker table. On the first round, I pitched two packs.
Yeast Nutrient
28g Motueka (Dryhop)
28g Rakau (Dryhop)
28g Waimea (Dryhop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, start fermentation at 46F, ramp up to 52F over 6 days, diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.016.

Water Profile
I'm using the same ratio of salts as last time, but slightly more diluted. To 11 gallons of distilled water, add:

  • 4.0g Gypsum
  • 2.8g Epsom Salt
  • 4.8g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. This beer is the first one to go into my new ferm chamber. OG came in at 13.9 brix (1.055). I was able to chill down to about 51F before moving it into the ferm chamber.

Update 2/5/2019
Fermentation was fairly active the morning after pitching and is still chugging along. As of this evening, the gravity is down to ~1.027. I may be ramping the temp up for the diacetyl rest in the next 24-ish hours.

Update 2/6/2019
Gravity is down to 1.019 tonight, so I'm starting to ramp the temp up for the diacetyl rest.

Update 2/10/2019
Dry hops went in this morning. I'll leave them in for a few days before cold crashing, then kegging and fining.

Update 2/13/2019
I started cold crashing tonight. I'm not sure how fast these new ferm fridges will be able to chill, so this is a little bit of an experiment. I usually prefer to drop the temps, maybe 5F at a time, over a few days time. This is based on advice from Jamil, I believe in either a Brew Strong or Brewing With Style podcast. Regardless, Jamil indicated the yeast will sometimes release compounds that can lead to off flavors and flaws in the finished beer if the temps drop too rapidly. I'm also using the Mylar balloon filled with CO2 as it should help reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the finished beer.

Update 2/19/2019
I kegged this beer tonight. Gelatin was added to the keg, then the beer was racked on top. I have a low O2 transfer kit I've assembled that I'm using for the first time. I also tried a small sample and it definitely seems to have noticeably more hop flavor and aroma than batch #1 ever did.

Update 5/20/2019
This keg kicked last night. It's so nice and easy drinking, that it's turned into a favorite if mine. I submitted this one to NHC and it scored well including going to Mini-BOS for experimental beers, although it didn't advance to the final round of the competition. This beer is definitely going into my standard rotation and I'm interested to see how it will do once NZ Pils is a recognized category.


Tramontina Fermentation Chamber Builds

>> Sunday, January 27, 2019

Ferm chambers
Warning: This post involves electrical work and other modifications that will void fridge warranties and could potentially result in bodily harm and/or property damage. Do Not attempt this build unless you fully understand the risks and are willing to accept the responsibility for those risks.

There are a couple of HBT threads that talk about how the Tramontina 126 Can Beverage Center makes a great fermentation chamber, including this one. These fridges are the perfect size for five gallon and smaller batches. I just got done building two of these, so in the spirit of sharing, I figured I'd share how I built mine in case it can help others. Each ferm fridge consists of:
  • Tramontina 126 Can Beverage Fridge - provides the insulated environment plus the cooling mechanism when current temperature exceeds the set temperature. The model I have is 80109/102.
  • Ink-Bird ITC-310T-B Temp Controller -automatically switches on/off heating and cooling circuits in order to maintain desired temps.
  • Brewers Edge Space Heater - provides gentle heat when current temperature drops below set temperature.
Drilling Holes
The temp controller is mounted on the outside of the fridge, so I needed to find a way to get the probe inside. Likewise, the power cord for the heater needs to be outside of the fridge. Some people run their cords between the door and the body of the fridge, but this runs the risk of a leaky door seal and making the compressor work harder that it needs to, likely shortening compressor life.

I prefer a clean look and tight seals, so I decided to drill two small holes in the back of the fridge, one for the temp probe, and one for the heater cord.

Please note: This is where things can go horribly wrong if you're not careful. Long story short, you have to figure out a place where it's safe to make the holes while not damaging any cooling lines or wiring.
To figure out where it was safest to drill, I visually inspected the fridge to get an idea of where the wiring and refrigeration lines were located. Next, I powered on the fridge and felt around the top and sides of the fridge to identify the location of the condenser lines.

These fridges are similar to chest freezers; rather than having condenser coils on the back or bottom of the fridge, the condenser lines run just under the surface of the outer metal skin. Heat dissipates through the metal skin, resulting in warm zones on the fridge exterior.

Feeling the exterior of the fridge, it was easy to feel the warmth coming off the upper sides of the fridge but nowhere else. So, based on my observations, there didn't appear to be any lines running through the top, the back, or the lower half of the side walls. For an added sense of security, I even used my laser thermometer to double-check and it was very easy to spot the temperature differential which was ~70F in the cool zone and ~90F in the warm zone just after just a few minutes.

Now that I knew there weren't any lines running through the back of the fridge (other than the main ones coming right off the compressor) I just had to make sure I cleared the evaporator inside the fridge. Measuring from the rear of the fridge, I drilled the hole for my temp probe 18.75" down from the top, and 3.5" in from the right edge of the fridge. The hole for the heater cord was also drilled 18.75" down from the top, and 2.5" in from the side. These positions proved to easily clear the evaporator.
A couple notes on drilling a fridge. Use sharp drill bits and start small. Drill carefully, just enough to pierce the metal exterior, then use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to probe the hole you just made. Make sure there are no wires or cooling lines present before you drill larger holes and/or all the way through. This is one time that it really pays to be cautious. Also, manufacturers sometimes make minor changes to fridge designs, so don't take the measurements I've provided as gospel; measure for yourself to make sure the size and positioning of components hasn't changed.
I used two grommets to protect the probe wire where it passes through the inner and outer wall of the fridge. A little bit of Armor-all on the probe and heater wires will provide lubrication and help the wires pass through the grommets more easily. Likewise, I used two slightly larger grommets for the heater wires. For these I actually used grommets without holes, and made my own figure 8 shaped hole using a hollow punch. If you don't have a hollow punch, I'd probably recommend using a sharp exacto knife to make a small slit.

Bypassing the Thermostat
In order to allow the ITC-310T-B to control the cooling, we have to bypass the fridge's internal thermostat. Often people will do this by setting the thermostat to the coldest setting, then simply plugging the fridge/freezer into the controller. In this scenario, the controller cuts off all power to the fridge when it isn't actively cooling. The only problem with this approach is it doesn't allow you to use the LED or the digital temp display inside the fridge when the fridge is powered down. To get around this, I chose to completely bypass the internal thermostsat.

I accomplished this by adding a new/second power cord that is connected directly to the compressor and switched on/off by the ITC-310T-B. The compressor has two wires going to it, a white (neutral) and a black (hot), so this connection is really easy. Removing the black plastic electrical box cover at the back off the fridge revealed a circuit board where all wiring connections are made using spade terminals. The black wire connected to the compressor is connected to the COMP terminal, and the white wire is connected to the ACN1 terminal. Disconnect these two wires from the circuit board and separate them from the rest of the wiring harness.

Next, connect the corresponding white and black wires from the new power cord to the white and black wires that run to the compressor. In order to maintain the OEM wiring, I simply crimped on male spade terminals into the new cord. The new cord was then secured in the stress relief fitting next to the original cord.

For safety, don't forget to ground the new cord (green wire). Also don't forget to reinstall the black plastic electrical box so that the circuit board is protected.
Plug the new cord into your temp controller, and plug the original cord into an always-on power supply. With this setup, you'll be able to use the blingy blue LEDs and digital temp display in your fridge in conjunction with the temp controller. Also, because it didn't destroy any connections, the whole process is reversible in case you decide you want to return the fridge to its original state (minus any holes you've drilled).

It should be obvious, but Do Not plug the new cord directly into an always-on power supply...because this will mean the compressor will always be running, or at least until it suffers a premature death.

That's about all there it's to it. I probably spent twice as much time measuring and making sure I wasn't going to damage anything as I did making actual connections. I know I sound like a broken record here, but be careful with the drilling. It would be a shame to lose a brand new fridge to a mistake. Also, if you're unsure of any of the wiring connections, consult someone that has electrical experience.

To use the setup:
  1. Original fridge cord is plugged into an always-on power supply.
  2. New fridge cord it's plugged into the Cooling circuit of the ITC-310T-B.
  3. The power cord for the heater is plugged into the Heating circuit of the ITC-310T-B.
  4. The ITC-310T-B is plugged into an always-on power supply.
  5. Set your temp controller to the desired fermentation temperature.
Here are a few more pictures. Cheers!

Interior layout
Upper ferm chamber
  Interior close-up 


Michelada - Beer Cocktail

>> Sunday, January 13, 2019

Today's post may seem like sacrilege to my fellow craft beer lovers...but I don't care, I really dig this beer cocktail. I'm justifying my newfound love of this drink based on the fact that one of my favorite SoCal  breweries, Green Cheek Beer Company, serves up a version in their taproom. If it's legit enough for them, it should be legit enough for any craft beer lover.

The quick Cliff Notes description is this is essentially a beer cocktail that's very similar to a Bloody Mary. They're pretty popular in Mexico where they're blended with your favorite Mexican lager. They're tasty, refreshing, and super sessionable given you're diluting an already fairly sessionable beer to make the cocktail. Mexican lagers are more or less based on German Pilsners, so if you prefer a little less skunk than some Mexican lagers offer, give it a try using your favorite craft Pilsner.

Michelada Mix

3 c Clamato Picante
1/2 c Lime juice (~4 limes)
4 t Worchestershire sauce
3 t Valentina Black Label (extra hot) hot sauce
2 t Maggi sauce
1/2 t Fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a suitable container. To serve, fill a shaker glass about 1/2 to 2/3 full of ice. Fill about halfway with the Michelada Mix, then fill the rest of the way with your beer of choice. You can fine tune the heat by adding more hot sauce. Another option is to rim the glass with Old Bay seasoning, or Tajin seasoning.