Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Santa Cruz Sentinel News Interview

My interview with the local Santa Cruz paper the Sentinel was just published today and includes a short video of me explaining the minimum equipment required to brew a batch of beer. Check it out.

The Article

Leave a comment about the beer school interview. Do you teach brewing?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Zymurgeek Interview At The Capitola Book Cafe

Santa Cruz homebrew club 'Zymurgeeks' are interviewed for the local PBS radio station at an event that I wrote about here earlier in this blog. The interview took place at the Capitola Book Cafe.
Go here to listen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Homebrew With Fungus

The Zymurgeeks homebrew club met up with the Fungus Federation for a memorial day of food and homebrew. We supplied six corny kegs of beer and they provided all of the food for a warm and relaxing day in Scotts Valley, which is in the hills just east of Santa Cruz.

From the fungus website:
"The Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz (FFSC) is an informal affiliation of friendly, fun-loving, sometimes frenzied fungophiles dedicated to the knowledge, pursuit and appreciation of wild mushrooms. We organize many activities during the mushroom season from September through May."

It was interesting to see how the brewers formed a seperate group, congregating around a picnic table, discussing their passion for beer.

I don't know. I wish I could write that this was an exciting event but the truth is, not a lot was going on. We ate, drank, conversed and played horse shoes and before you could say "magic mushroom", the day ended and I made the trek back down to Aptos with an empty keg of Saison. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

How was your day? Leave a comment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

One Simple Kegerator Trick

Sometimes, even the simplest of ideas tickle the hell out of me and here is just one cast that keeps on giving in the tickle department.
If you end up buying a chest freezer with the thought of turning it into a kegerator, like I did, you will need to purchase a temperature controller from your homebrew store.

I got mine from . This device overrides the manufacturers built in thermostat and allows you to keep the temperature above the freezing range. I generally keep mine set at 42f.-45f. which accommodates my normal range of beer styles that are on tap.

Now, the problem I have is two fold.

  • First, I tend to screw around a lot with the kegerator. I'm either switching out kegs, pulling out a gas line to force carbonate a keg, grabbing bags of hops that I store in there, etc. This leads to the
  • second problem which is that I am a cheap bastard when it comes to homebrewing, and opening the kegerator causes the condenser to kick on to replace the cold air that flew out increasing my costs in energy.

This is where the trick comes into play. By placing the thermocouple

in a container of water located in the kegerator, the water temperature will remain constant while you screw around with the lid up. The temperature fluctuation around the thermocouple is minimized, thus preventing the condenser from going on.

The steps:

  1. Take a used Whitelabs yeast vial and drill a hole in the lid to the vial big enough for the thermocouple to slide through snuggly.
  2. Fill the tube with water (adding a couple drops of sanitizer will keep down the mold growth) and screw the cap on firmly.
  3. Then squeeze a blob of silicon into the hole to seal the opening, in my case I wrapped a bit of metal tape around the top to hold the silicon in place while it set up.
  4. Place the thermocouple in the tube in a safe location inside the kegerator.

This project is easy to do, and worth the cost of buying a yeast culture in a vial, if you're not doing so already.

Here's to staying cool! Cheers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Coopers Kit Results Are In

I tapped the keg of Coopers Pale Ale today and wanted to share the results with those of you that are anxiously perched at the edge of your bar stool waiting to hear how it turned out. For those of you that don't follow this blog and are not necessarily perched, I brewed a five gallon batch of Coopers Pale Ale about three weeks ago(4/26/09)to find out if was any good.

Here are the stats:

Original Gravity in 5.25 gals. 1.045

Final Gravity 1.006

Alcohol by Volume 5.3%


Attenuation 86%

I'm not the type of person to negatively judge a homebrew related product. Partly because I don't like to be negative but also because there are real people out there that are trying to make a living or grow a business related to home brewing and genuinely believe in what they're doing and I want to be careful that I don't cause harm. At the same time, I like to be honest and upfront with my opinion out of respect to myself and the needs of my readership to get value from this blog.

Having said that (read: covered my ass) I want to start by saying that my wife really likes this beer. It has the low hop bitterness with a focus on the malt character that she likes. This is a good endorsement as most homebrewers will attest. When the wife enjoys a beer you brewed, it goes a long way in domestic/beer harmony. I prefer a more aggressive hop profile but am not put off by the balance. If I were to make it again, I would modify the recipe by boiling for 15 minutes with the addition of some late flavor hops. (For those unfamiliar with this beer kit, the pre-hopped ingredients are simply dissolved in boiling water, chilled and fermented.) The yeast did a fantastic job fermenting quickly and floculated nicely leaving the beer very clear and dry but a little thin.

In addition, and I can't say this is yeast related but the first couple of pints had a distinct green apple (acetaldehyde) flavor and aroma but as the beer has aged, that flavor has subsided leaving a clean malt taste. As a side note, it is interesting that the acetaldehyde by product showed up in this beer considering the experiment that I'm conducting now regarding refined sugar and it's excessive use possibly resulting in apple cider flavors.

Overall, I am pleased with the result of this beer kit. It was extremely easy to make, fermented quickly, cleared nicely, tastes good and I would rate it 'quaffable'.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The 'Cider Flavor' Experiment

Homebrewing friend and fellow Zymurgeek member Mark C. is participating with me in an experiment to put to rest, once and for all, the idea that adding excessive amounts of sugar to a recipe will impart a distinctive 'cider' flavor to the beer. We will both be brewing an identical recipe for a 5 gallon batch of pale ale, employing sugar as 50% of the adjunct. The recipe is as follows:

5.25 lbs. 2-row pale ale @1.037

assuming 80% efficiency = 155

.5 lbs. crystal #60 @1.034

assuming 80% efficiency = 13 total =168

3.75 lbs. cane sugar @1.045

assuming 100% =168

Total gravity = 336 divided by 6 gallons. = 1.056

We will be mashing at 158f. to hopefully leave some unfermentable sugars for body in the finished beer.

We will boil for 60 minutes with the following schedule of hops:

1 oz. Amarillo (8aa) for 60 min =29 ibu's

.5oz Cascade (7aa) for 15 min. = 6 ibu's

1 oz. Cascade (7aa) for 1 min. = 0 ibu's
total IBU's 35

Ferment with US05 dry ale yeast at 68f.
Check back for the tasting results in a couple weeks.

What is the most sugar you've ever used?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How I Brewed A Coopers Kit

Considering that I occasionally run a couple of ads on this blog that feature Coopers products I decided that it was in my and my readerships best interest to brew up one of their kits to experience the process and sample the finished product. The style I chose was their 'International Series' pale ale. I opted for the pale ale because it's a favorite beer of mine that I drink regularly and am familiar with many commercial brands, so it's a good style for the sake of comparison. I also want to take a moment here to warn you that the following may be overly detailed (read boring) in order to be thorough in the process of examining my Coopers experience.

The kit included 1.7kg (3.75 lbs.) of hopped, liquid malt extract and 1 kg (2.2 lbs.) of a mixture of dextrose, dry malt extract and malto dextrin, and also a 7gram pkg of dry ale yeast. It also included enough "carbonation drops" for bottling but I would be kegging this batch so I set those aside. The included instructions say to dissolve the fermentables in 2 liters of boiling water or 4 liters of hot water and then top off with cool water bringing the total to 23 liters (6 gals.) which should also lower the temperature of the liquid enough to safely add the yeast (70f. - 80f. according to instructions). Since I have a bunch of brewing equipment and a few years experience, I decided to do things a little differently to make it easier on myself and insure that the beer was sanitized going into the fermenter. I would boil the entire volume of water for several minutes without the ingredients, then add and dissolve the ingredients into the sanitized liquid and finally run the wort through my plate chiller into the fermenter.

Before I started, I wanted to know what the actual gravity of the wort would be if I followed the instructions exactly. So I needed to add up the total sugars that I would use and divide by the 6 gallons of liquid at the beginning of fermentation. I figured the liquid malt extract at 1.038 per pound dissolved in 1 gallon of water (38 x 3.75 = 143). Unfortunately the dry mixture of dextrose, DME and malto-dextrin proved to be a little problematic since I was not sure what percentage of each of the dry ingredients were in the mix. It was necessary to make some assumptions. The first assumption was that the ingredients were listed on the box in the order of largest to smallest quantities. This meant that the dextrose (corn sugar?) was of the highest percentage followed by the DME and finally the malto dextrin. Having the least of the malto dextrin make sense since it is the least fermentable and is probably added as a way of increasing the mouth feel of the finished beer. So, based on these assumptions I figured 45% was dextrose with a gravity of 40, then 40% was DME with a gravity of 45 and finally 15% was malto dextrin with a gravity of 30.

Total volume 2.2lbs or 36 oz.

45% = 16.2 oz. x 40 = 40.5

40% = 14.4 oz. x 45 = 40.5

15% = 5.4 oz. x 30 = 10.12

this gives a grand total of 1.091

Adding the LME of 143 and the dry ingredients of 91 I came up with 234. Well, if you divide that by the 6 gallons liquid you get an original gravity of 1.039 which is a little low for a pale ale. I then divided it by 5 gallons to get instead 1.047, better. So, I decided to just use 5 gallons instead and to see what happens.

One hour Later.....

I brought 5.25 gallons of water to a boil for 5 minutes, shut off the heat and dissolved in the ingredients completely. I then pumped through my chiller to the fermenter aerating as it went and then I added the included package of dry ale yeast. Fermentation temperature is 72f.
The original gravity came out at 1.045

Come back for my complete evaluation of the finished beer!

Leave a comment if you have 'Coopers' experience.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Big Brew In Santa Cruz, California

We braved the weather for Big Brew, hauling our brewing equipment down to the parking lot of the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing parking lot for the group brewing session. Six of us had our kettles of various sizes boiling away by the time we lifted our glasses for the 10am. toast.

We started to draw a crowd, including students from nearby UCSC as the day progressed.

Although the sky threatened to rain, it never got worse than a light mist.

"It's not rocket science, unless you want it to be."
The gravity of my Saison came in where I wanted it, but the chilling process was a disaster, as I plugged up my plate chiller with coriander and grains of paradise.

We had several kegs of beer on hand for sampling and to keep us revived as we brewed.
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