Smoked Porter 2012

>> Sunday, January 29, 2012

Today I'm brewing a Smoked Porter that with any luck should turn out similar to Alaskan Brewing Co.'s Alaskan Smoked Porter.

This was the first brew using my newly finished grain mill.  Everything worked well and I milled using the factory gap of 0.045".  I should get more predictable efficiencies regardless of whether I buy grain locally or via the Internet.

The original recipe called for WLP001 California Ale Yeast.  WLP001 is a pretty neutral yeast and ferments very clean.  I've never used Cry Havoc before but from what I've read it's also very clean when fermented at cooler temps.  It's worth mentioning, Cry Havoc is capable of fermenting at both ale and lager temps.  For this recipe, I'll be fermenting at 58F which is at the warmer end of this yeast's lager range.  Ester production should be minimal, so I'm expecting final results similar to WLP001.  Per the reviews I've read, this yeast can sometimes have a hard time fully attenuating.  Because of this, I'm going to mash lower than the original recipe called for.

8.75 # Briess Pale Malt
4.00 # Munich Malt 10L
1.25 # Chocolate Malt
0.50 # Black Patent
1 oz Chinook 60 min
1 oz Willamette 10 min
WLP862 Cry Havoc Yeast

Recipe Notes:  The entire grain bill was smoked over a combination of cherry, apple, and hickory woods.  Grains were mashed at 151.5F.  5.2 pH Stabilizer was used in the mash.  I've used the 5.2  pH  Stabilizer in a few batches now and it seems to be working well.  I don't have a  pH  meter, but I have  pH  test strips and it seems to do a great job of maintaining optimal mash pH.  It's pretty cheap and it's one less thing to worry about.

Brewing Notes:
Most of my brew days go smooth; today was the exception.  I had two boil-overs because I wasn't paying close enough attention during the boil.  I'm going to pick up some Fermcap-S one of these days so that I don't have to worry about messy boil-overs anymore.

I had a couple issues after the boil as well.  To chill the wort, I usually go from kettle to pump to hop/trub filter to plate chiller to fermentor.  This time I decided to try to recirculate from the chiller back to the boil kettle.  This should have resulted in cooling the entire batch at once.  A good idea but the hop/trub filter clogged on me...twice.  When I took the hop/trub filter apart, I temporarily misplaced one of the tri-clover gaskets.  Not the kinds of things I expected but all in all it was still a good brew day.  Hopefully DMS won't be an issue in this beer.

Also worth mentioning when brewing smoked beers, I brewed a rauchbier a while back and ran into some issues.  When brewing smoked beers, make sure the chlorine has been removed from your brewing water.  You can do this a couple different ways including pre-boiling or using a good carbon water filter.  If chlorine is present in your brewing water, you will most likely end up with chloropenols in your finished product.  Long story short it smells and tastes like plastic band-aids...not good.  From what I can tell, it doesn't age out, so if it's there you might as well dump the batch.

Updated 4/25/2012
This beer turned out great.  It has a nice mellow and subtle smokiness.  I actually prefer a bit more of a smoky profile but I think most people would probably prefer a subtle smoke like this one has.  Next time I'll probably use all hickory and smoke the grain a bit longer.  The Cry Havoc yeast seemed to work well although it didn't dry out as much as I would have liked,  That seems to be fairly common with this yeast.  On the plus side, there was no hint of any kind of band-aid flavors or DMS.

I had my wife pick up a bottle of Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter on a recent trip to Vegas.  I haven't had a chance to do it yet but I'll do a side by side tasting at some point.

Update 8/3/2012
As I mentioned before, this beer turned out great.  It recently finished 2nd place in my club's Porter competition.  It probably would not have done as well if the smoke character had been more pronounced like I wanted.


Grain Mill - Finishing Touches

>> Monday, January 23, 2012

Update 6/27/2012: My grain mill is featured in an AHA Pimp My System article!  Check it out here.  

Grain mill is done!  I ending up replacing the adjustable pulley that came with the motor with a 1.5" one.  Unfortunately the adjustable pulley was just too big which meant it was turning the roller too fast.

As far as final assembly goes, everything went smooth.  The only hiccup was when I went to turn the mill on and it was rotating the wrong direction.  Fortunately that was easily fixed by removing the motor's cover plate and swapping a pair of wires.

Speaking of the motor, it's only 1/4 horsepower but it seems to be working well.  I'm a little concerned whether I'll be able to start the mill with a full hopper or if I'll have to start the mill first then fill the hopper.  I think the shape of the hopper may help by restricting the flow of grain just enough to allow it to start even when full.  We'll find out when I go to use it for my first brew.

Per the instructions, I ran a couple handfuls of grain through the mill a few times to clean off the rollers.  It worked great, I got a nice crush, and the plastic carboy/funnel worked great as well.

Overall I'm really happy with the way this project turned out.  In the last 12 months, I've added a custom brew stand, a custom fermentation chamber, and now a custom grain mill.  This will probably be the last of my big projects for a while.  About the only other thing I'd like to do is build a keezer to replace my kegerator.  I think a keezer would be nice for summertime BBQ's because I'd be able to roll it right out on the patio rather than making my guests go back to the garage for a beer.  I probably won't do that for a while unless I find a screaming deal on a freezer and/or my kegerator bites the bullet for some reason.


Grain Mill Build - Part 2

>> Saturday, January 21, 2012

So I wasn't quite as good about taking photos for part 2.  I added tubing to support the bottom shelf, drilled holes for mounting screws, and welded nuts to the plates that were then welded to the bottom of the legs.  Once this was all done, I gave it a couple coats of Rustoleum Professional red spray paint.  It turned out well but I doubt it will ever be this nice looking once I start using it.

I took a different approach to the hopper than I'd originally planned.  I was planning on making the hopper out of wood but then I realized the crazy compound cuts I'd have to do to clear the sheave and have a decent slope for directing the grain.  I figured there was a pretty good chance of me creating a lot of kindling before I managed to successfully create a usable hopper.  Plan B was to use a 5 gallon plastic carboy with some kind of a mount attached to the top of the mill; this is the option I went with.

The mount on the top of the mill is essentially a small box made out of plywood.  I used a 2 1/4" hole saw to make the hole in the top and also added a second piece of wood (with a hole) about two inches down from the top of the box.  At the bottom, I've attached two angled strip (45 degrees).  These will help direct the grain towards the gap between the two rollers. All the wood received a couple coats of high gloss polyurethane.  This should provide some protection to the plywood and it also makes things look a little cleaner.

The sides of the mill itself are open and the instructions indicate to tape cardboard or something similar to cover them.  I opted to go with some plexiglass so that I'd be able to see the rollers spinning when in use.  Next up is final assembly.

Click here for part 1.
Click here for part 3

The neck of the carboy fits into this box/mount.

Another view of the carboy box/mount.

The frame, all welded and painted.


Grain Mill Build - Part 1

>> Saturday, January 07, 2012

My lovely wife bought me a CrankAndStein 2D grain mill for my birthday.  This is a bare bones grain mill, so I building my own cabinet and hopper.  I tend to forget to document the process when I do projects like this.  This time I'm trying to remember to take pictures along the way so hopefully it will help anyone else thinking of building a grain mill.

My design calls for a simple box frame welded out of 1.5" 16 gauge square tubing.  The mill is mounted to 3/4" oak plywood which is mounted to the top of the tube frame.  The bottom shelf is made out of the same oak plywood and provides a place to mount the motor and place a 5 gallon bucket for catching the crushed grains.  Mounting the motor on the bottom shelf lowers the center of gravity and makes things more stable.  The mill is powered by a furnace blower motor I got off of a couple years ago.  The motor is  1/4 hp 1750rpm so in order to bring the rpm's down, I'm using a 12" sheave from Zoro Tools.  Normally you'd also want to use a 1.5" sheave/pulley on the motor.  My motor came with an adjustable pulley, so I'm going to try it first.  If it doesn't work I'll order a 1.5" replacement.

I started out by laying out the top piece of plywood.  I cut one hole/groove to provide clearance for the 12" sheave.  I also cut out the a hole below the mill for the grain output and drilled mounting holes.  Top edges of the plywood were eased over with my router using a 1/4" round over bit.  The edges on the bottom shelf were also eased over and notched in the corners to fit between the frame posts.

Next the mill was test-fitted to the plywood top.  This is when you find out how well you measured and how precise your cuts are.  Fortunately I didn't have any issues, but it's probably worth mentioning...measure twice, cut once.

Next I cut the tubing to size and started tacking things together.  I ran out of tubing on day one, so the supports for the bottom shelf have to wait another week.

Click here for part 2.
Click here for part 3.

Top shelf showing cut-outs and mounting holes

Bottom shelf with notched corners

Mill mounted to plywood top

View from below

Frame getting tacked up

Top fits nicely on frame