Special Bitter

>> Friday, December 23, 2011

Recirculating the mash
I've been doing a lot of higher gravity brews lately so today I'm brewing up something closer to a session beer, an English Special Bitter.  I brewed an Ordinary Bitter earlier this year and it was one of my favorite brews.  High gravity brews are fun, but at the same time it's nice to be able to have something on hand where you can drink more than one without getting trashed.  Here's the recipe as I made it:

9.5 # Crisp Maris Otter Pale
0.5 # Castle Aromatic
0.5 # Briess Crystal 120
0.25 # Briess Special Roast
1.2 oz Kent Goldings 60 minutes
0.5 oz Kent Goldings 20 minutes
0.5 oz Kent Goldings 1 minute
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale (limited release Wyeast Private Collection)

Mash at 151F for 60 minutes.
Ferment at 68F.  This will be the first time using my new fermentation chamber.

Brewing Notes: I've been having a problem with over sparging on the last few brews resulting in an over-filled boil kettle and an over-filled fermenter.  This sometimes results in messy fermentations because with active ferms, the krausen pushes through the airlock.

To remedy this, I made a dipstick out of a BBQ skewer so that I can measure volumes at 5, 6, and 7 gallons in the boil kettle.  For most brews with a 60 minute boil, I'll run off 6 gallons to the boil kettle.  This should result in five gallons of finished product in the keg.

The target OG for this recipe was 11.7P based on approx 70% efficiency.  My pre-boil gravity was 13.2P and post-boil was 16.1P.  13.2P is a SG of around 1.053.  I plugged 1.053 into  Brewer's Friend Brewhouse Efficiency Calculator and it's showing a Brew House Efficiency of 78.86%.  I was expecting something in the 75%-80% range, so it's good to know I'm in the neighborhood.  I used the BrewHeads calculator as well and got 78.6% using theirs.  I plan to check this on the next few brews and see if I'm consistently getting this efficiency.

Update 12/29/2011 - Even though I was very careful with my volume, I still had some krausen push up through the airlock.  Fortunately I caught it in time and it didn't make much of a mess.  Since it's in my ferm chamber and since I'd previously washed the chamber down with a disinfecting bleach solution, I decided to just pull the bung out of the lid and let it ferment away without an airlock.

Speaking of fermentation chamber, it's working great. My plate chiller got the wort down to about 62F so I let everything stabilize and warm up a little bit before I pitched the yeast.  I didn't time it, but I'd guesstimate it was about an hour after I'd transferred to the fermenter before I pitched the yeast.  I'm fermenting at 68F and pitched the yeast when it got up to 67F.  I checked everything last night and there is still a very dense head of krausen on top.

Another observation, in theory the CO2 generated during fermentation should displace at least some of the air in the ferm chamber.  This definitely seemed to be the case because when I reached in to wipe up the little bit of yeast that had pushed up through the airlock, I took a breath in but didn't feel like I really got much O2.  I'd liken it to trying to catch your breath at a higher altitude than you're used to.  I don't think there's high enough concentrations to cause someone to lose consciousness, but it would be interesting to try to get a reading of the concentration.  And if there was a practical way to reclaim it, that would be kind of cool

Update 3/30/2012 - This is a great easy drinking beer.  This is definitely one I'll be making again.

Not the best pic (cell phone) but you can see the cone of hops and hot break material as I'm running off to the fermenter.