2 Hours to 5 gallons: One Pot Brewing featured in Zymurgy article

For anyone who reads Zymurgy, the magazine of the American Homebrewers Association, the latest issue has a section “Ultralight Homebrewing,” which includes an article written by yours truly. The article doesn’t go into a lot of detail or have contact information, and I’ve had some people track me down with questions, so I’m hoping this blog will make it easier for people to find me.

Also this issue has nice write-up on the winners of the “Best Beers in America.” I’m proud to say Kalamazoo (Bell’s) has two beers in the top 5, and Michigan has others (Founders is one of my favorite brewers, just 45 minutes north of Kalamazoo, where I live).

It also has the 2-Hearted Clone recipe, if you didn’t already have it (2-row, C-40, Centential basically).

zym

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Why is my Mash pH so High?

I’ve become a believer that mash pH probably matters for healthy fermentation, hop expression, and even clarity of beer. However, the learning curve is high, it takes extra equipment, and makes brewday a bit more eventful. Because I was given a very expensive pH meter for free, I felt compelled to at least give mash pH a try. I didn’t want to mess with water reports, or add specific brewing salts based on my water, or getting BeerSmith, so instead I focused on using phosphoric to get the mash water pH down to the proper range (5.2 to 5.5, I believe), and that’s pretty much it.

mashPH

Several batches later, I cannot get the damn pH low enough, no matter how much acid I dump in the damn thing. For one IPA, for example, I added 11 tablespoons of phosphoric acid (10%)  into the mash water. And still had a pH of 5.55! That’s half a bottle, costing $4.50 per bottle. Dark beers are the same thing.

If you do brew in a bag, and begin with the full volume of water (8-10 gallons, say), this is something to consider. You will have to add much more acid to the mash than the traditional method. Further, if your tap water has a lot of “temporary hardness” (don’t ask me to explain), then you will have to add a lot of acid to get through it. Alternatively, you could use RO water from the store.

Acid malt is another option, but I think I would have to add at least two pounds, which is roughly the same cost as acid in the first place.

Next brew I plan on really dialing in the mash pH for an IPA. Stay tuned.

“Fermenting in my Kettle with tie it up”

A possible drawback to One Pot Brewing – using one vessel for the entire brewing process – is that you’re “one pot” will be tied up. You cannot brew several batches at once, or two batches in two days. That’s not entirely true and misses the point of the method. Why would you want to brew two batches in one day? –because you haven’t brewed in so long? Simply put, you will most definitely make more beer with One Pot Brewing because brewing is easier, faster, less cleanup, and more enjoyable.

Secondly, fermentation doesn’t take that long. 10 days tops? (I just brewed a Pilsner that took 10 days grain to glass). Let’s say 13 days at the most, including cold crashing. In those 10 days, I begin planning my next batch, looking at my recipes, and getting the ingredients ready. Honestly, how often does a person want to brew? More than twice a month? It’s all quite lean and has a nice flow. Homebrewers tend to brew in fits and starts, and it’s because the process takes a ton of work. One Pot Brewing is more like cooking – a constant thing. This is why I brew more than most homebrewers, why my fermentation chamber is rarely empty.

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However, if you really want to brew a lot, you simply ferment in a plastic bottling bucket (which also comes with a spigot attached at the right spot, above the trub line). They are very cheap. I’ve done that a few times and it works just the same. It’s simply another vessel to clean after brewday. It’s a great feeling, however, to not have anything to clean when brewing is over – not even a pot with crap in it.

Do You Even Dry Hop, Bro?

When I’m making a Double IPA, this is what I like to call a dry hop charge:

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as you can see in the background, I’m not even done yet.

In my opinion, which is always evolving, dry hopping creates the best hop character (= aroma and flavor). Thus, my IPAs are dry hop heavy, supplemented by a little flame out charge and single bittering charge.

But dry hopping has clogging issues, which is why I tend to use a bag or shark cage. Even still, when using whole cone hops, those little bastards float – it’s like a huge floating island, where some of the hops clearly don’t even touch the liquid. Besides dunking my hand in the water, I still haven’t found a great way to get hops submerged into the beer in a practical, uniform way. Normally I use pellets, which is easier, but when I use home-grown hops (as in the picture above), I always worry about not getting enough out of them. Thus, I overcompensate the dosage. Then, I worry about getting vegetal or “grassy” flavors.

In a few days, we shall see. Harvest IPAs are fun because you really have no clue what you’re going to get. In fact, since many of these hops are from a random friend that said “hey, take these hops”, I don’t even know the damn hop varietal! Could be Fuggle for all I know.

In all seriousness, for most IPAs nowadays, I dry hop about 4-6 ounces max, supplemented by perhaps 2-3 ounces at flame out. In the interest of money, I try not to go beyond 8 ounces total for a beer (1 ounce is for bittering). Maximizing your hops is really the key, which probably involves dialing in your water pH and using gypsum.

 

Beer 37: Embrace the Haze

About six months ago, an odd looking gentleman came up to me at a bar and befriended me. He started talking about the greatness and superiority of the cult classic of IPAs: the New England IPA (NEIPA). Midwesterner that I was, I remained skeptical. I heard of NEIPAs – cloudy and ‘juicey’ – but I had never tried one. Indeed, they aren’t available in these parts. Luckily, this new friend was a homebrewer, and he made some damn good NEIPAs, which I liked quite a bit. Finally, I broke down and made one myself.

It’s real good, in a good way, that makes you say: this is good.

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It’s totally different than a traditional (West Coast) IPA. A traditional IPA is bitter, dry, hoppy, and that’s about it. This beer, on the other hand, is slightly sweet, which comes from the malt (white wheat and honey malt) and the low attenuating yeast (london III). It’s not a typical sugar-like sweetness. It’s subtle, and makes you want to drink more. The beer coats your mouth, mostly the back of the tongue. I believe this is the secret of the NEIPA: you cannot stop drinking it. This keg will go fast. Next, hops. The hops are citrus and intense, but they fade away fast. The second day in the keg, this IPA tasted closer to citrus fruit than any IPA I’ve ever drank. Now, it’s more rounded out. It’s still very good, but not the same. This is the first beer that I payed close attention to mash pH. The cloudiness comes from the yeast and water profile (more chloride than gypsum).

I cannot stress the drinkability enough. It’s a gateway drug for IPA lovers and potential IPA drinkers.

Notorious NEIPA
12 lb 2-row
2.2 lb white wheat
.3 honey malt
1 oz magnum FW (30 m)
1.5 oz citra FO
1 oz Mosiac FO
1 oz Amarillo FO
1 oz Centenial FO
3 oz Simcoe DH
1 oz Equinox DH
.5 oz Citra DH
London III yeast
started with 9 gal water, ended up with 5 gal. batch roughly
added 1/2 tsp Gypsum, 3/4 tsp Cal Chloride
added 2 1/2 caps of phosphoric acid to get mash pH down

 

Beer 35 (and last one): another delicious Belgian Tripel

This “One Pot Brewing” experiment, in my mind, is over. In other words, I don’t feel compelled to post every single beer and repeat the same process every single time. After all, blogging gets in the way of brewing, and easy brewing is my style. The system works, damn it, and I’m happy. My next post will probably highlight my new kegging system, showing how One Pot Brewing can easily be used for kegging or bottling (or both at the same time). And then I might take a break. My next big project is to see if a book publisher will publish a book about One Pot Brewing (it’s more work than I thought).

Anyway, this Belgian Tripel is delightful and everything I want in one of my favorite styles: big banana and clove aroma, big yeast flavor (banana and clove with a little spice), nice dry finish. It’s very drinkable and high in alcohol. The malt is not Belgian, but regular American 2-row, which I like better (which probably is fresher, converts better, and has less diacetal possibility). The hops, Saaz, gives a subtle floral note. The bitterness is low to medium. The carbonation – thanks to kegging – is high and crisp, with a white foamy head and tight ass little bubbles.

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this makes the beer look darker than it really is.

Not only did this beer turn out, and not only was it mashed and boiled for a measly 30 minutes, but it was a no-chill batch. I was a little worried it might come out too bitter. Not so. This beer also took forever to start the fermentation (two days), which might be normal without a starter. But I used a vitality starter, so who knows. Relax, have a homebrew, and it came out just fine. As usual, fermentation temperature was gradually ramped up from 66F to 85F throughout fermentation, giving off the beautiful banana/clove aroma that the Tripel desperately needs.

2-Row Tripel
14 lb 2-Row
.7 lb Belgian Aromatic malt
2 lb Corn Sugar
2 oz Saaz FW (30 minute boil)
1 oz Saaz FO (no chill method)
Monestary Yeast (using a vitality starter)

Happy brewing fellas,
Matt

Beer 30: 7 Day Double IPA

This is why people keg. Eight days ago I brewed this Double IPA, and today I will be trying it for the first time. That’s 8 days from ‘grain to glass,’ as they say. Admittedly, I rushed the beer for hunting camp, and normally would give it a few more days to sit at  70F, but I’m pretty sure it’s good to go. Day 1: brew the beer in under two hours. Day 2: notice fermentation. Days 3 and 4: heavy fermentation. Day 5: hydrometer says 1.010, it’s either done or pretty darn close. Day 6: drop the temperature to 31F (cold crash). Day 7: transfer beer to keg, add gelatin to keg, and set the pressure to 50 psi for 10 hours (this was a 6 gallon batch). Day 8, today: drink. Is it carbonated? One way to find out. It’s 6:00am right now, time to take a sample:

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The first thing I notice is haze, a product of rushing it, which I noticed while transferring the beer to the keg. I prefer crystal clear beer but this is acceptable, and it will probably clear itself out more, as the gelatin works its magic. Secondly, I notice a strong hop flavor. This is a a nice little IPA. Third, is it carbonated? Not sure. The head is nice, but I don’t see bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. I’m very new to kegging so I don’t really know. I think it’s very close.

Looking at the hop profile, I’m very excited to drink this beer. On paper it’s awesome. On paper it should have a big aroma too.

update: Hunting camp is over. And while I didn’t shoot any deer, I had plenty of this absolutely delicious IPA. The keg was gone in two days. This is the best IPA I’ve ever made. Impressive and intense tropical aroma, nice malt balance, hidden alcohol. And it was “juicey,”as they say, perhaps because of the magical thing that happens when you dry hop during fermentation. After traveling with the keg, it took about 24 hours for the beer to clear up.

Damn this was good.

Hunting Camp IPA (6 gal)
Brewed Friday, Nov. 4th

5.5 lb 2-row
6.5 lb Maris Otter
3.5 lb Munich
1 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
————–
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 m. boil)
1 oz Centenial (F0)
1 oz Amarillo (FO)
2 oz Equinox (DH, 3 days)
1 oz Citra (DH)
1 oz Centenial (DH)
2 oz Simcoe (DH)
1 oz Amarillo (DH)
—————-
US-05 dry yeast

1 tsp Calcium Cloride, 2 tsp Gypsum (heaping, added to mash water)
mashed @ 149 for 30 minutes, boiled 30 minutes

Growing Hops, the Easy Way

What I love about this hobby is that you can expend as much energy and money as you want. Or as little as you want. Or, you can start simple, and get more complex over the years. If you’re thinking about growing hops, here’s my advice: Get your favorite hop rhizome, put it in the dirt, and let it grow. Around September or so, when the hop is big and slightly dry but not brown, pick them, and throw them in a beer you’re making. That’s called a ‘harvest’ ale. Or, dry them out, and store them in airtight bags in the freezer. That’s pretty much my hop growing and harvesting process. It’s easy, fun, and saves significant money (hops are the most expensive ingredient).

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front yard, growing on a string

The hop plant, it’s important to remember, is essentially an invasive vine. It will grow all by itself, thank you very much. It will not only grow, but will grow vigorously and fast, and get bigger each year. So I don’t feed them special stuff, or worry too much about watering them (although I occasionally do). I did build a simple little box for them, which keeps the plant and soil contained. But a pile of dirt would work just as well. They also like to climb up strings, but that’s also optional. I’ve heard of people letting them grow like a giant bush. As you can tell from the picture, I train them to climb up strings, first vertical strings and then horizontal.

When September rolls along, and feel them with my fingers. If they are slightly dry, and have a subtle newspaper crunch when I squeeze them, I go ahead and pick (it’s tempting to pick them too soon, so that’s something to worry about). If you want to save them for later, I dry them in a food dehydrator for a few hours or so. Although a similar method is to place them on a screen of some sort (like a window screen), and let them naturally dry out for a few days. I have done that in my garage with success.

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my dad gave this to me as a gift, perfect application

Because you don’t know the alpha acids in your homegrown hops, it might be a good idea to dry hop with them. That way you get all the flavor and aroma without the bitterness. When it comes to DIY projects that make sense, this one is a no-brainer.

Have fun!

Beer 25: Belgian Golden Strong, 25 m boil, with Vitality Starter

This was a clone recipe from Avery Brewing’s “Salvation”, a Golden Strong Ale. My first attempt at the style, and my first attempt at a new technique (more on that later) – and this beer appears to be really good. At least, that’s what several of my homebrewing friends have told me, and I trust their palates much more than mine. I should note that I’m still very knew at brewing and at tasting different styles, so I refer to my local homebrew club for advice. So, not knowing what a Golden Strong is supposed to taste like, I thought I had detected a little corn, which is considered an off-flavor. However, all my homebrew friends said it was on point, on style, and tasted good, which made me happy. I also tried a a commercial example, and it tasted exactly like mine. This is a simple, highly drinkable, high alcohol beer. You get a little banana and clove from the yeast, but not much; you get the ‘graininess’ from the malt, and it’s shockingly smooth going down. This is a dangerous beer to drink, my friends. I’m not sure what the crystal malts actually did to the beer; it’s certainly not sweet.

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Belgian Golden Strong Ale (5 gal.)
12.6 lb. 2-Row
3 lb. Pilsen (BE)
.6 lb. Caramel/Crystal 20L
.6 lb. Caramel/Crystal 10L
1.2 lb. Corn Sugar (@ flame out)
——————-
2 oz. Sterling (@ flame out)
2 oz. Fuggle (@ flame out)
——————-
Abbey Ale Yeast (liquid, with vitality starter)

So the process with this beer was pretty standard. I started with 8 gallons of water, heated the water quickly to 149.5F mash temperature. I soaked the barley for 30 minutes, stirring several times during the mash. I crushed the barley fine for greater efficiency. After 30 minutes of soaking, I went ahead and squeezed the bag of barley, discarded it, and quickly got to a boil. Because of the low bitterness, I only boiled for 25 minutes. I also decided to only add hops at flame out, which gave me a pleasantly low amount of bitterness. I used a wort chiller for about 7-8 minutes, which lowered the temperature to about 120 degrees, and then put the hot, unfermented beer in a freezing cold upright freezer to finish off. One hour, 30 minutes exactly. After about 4 hours of passively chilling, the beer was at 73F – close enough for me to pitch the yeast and let the temperature ride to my desired fermentation temp of 70F. With Belgian beers, I like to ramp the temperature up during fermentation, so two days after brewing I ramped up to 75F, and two days after that, 80F. As usual, when fermentation was complete, I cold crashed, added gelatin, and bottled. As usual, I never had to move the pot of beer throughout the entire process.

Oh wait. I forgot to talk about the yeast.

‘Vitality’ starter is a concept I got from brulosophy.com, where admittedly all my ideas come from (except for One Pot Brewing, that’s mine). Instead of making a traditional starter two or three days in advance, which involves planning, equipment, and time; with a vitality starter, the goal is to wake up the yeast up on the same day you are brewing. It gets the yeast horny and ready to go. Right up my alley. Here’s my interpretation. After mashing, I filled up a few sanitized glass jars with hot wort. Then, after cooling to around 70F, I put the yeast (in this case, Abbey liquid) into one of those jars, saving the others for future batches. I simply let the yeast sit in the jar full of wort until it was time to pitch, about 5 hours later. Did it work? I think so. The next morning I noticed a nice foamy krusen starting, something I am not used to with liquid yeast. Liquid yeast, having far fewer cells than dry yeast, is the only reason I would use this method, especially using liquid yeast with high alcohol beers.