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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > American Amber Ale (aka my 2nd brew)
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:16 PM   #1
ajmartinez
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Default American Amber Ale (aka my 2nd brew)

Crosspost from my blog. Any thoughts on things you'd have done differently are quite welcome. Right now my closet smells all kinds of awesome, so I'm hopeful that this turns out well.

--------------------------

Now that I have all of the supplies required to brew 5 gallon batches of beer, and have convinced myself I can follow directions well enough to end up with a drinkable beer, it is time to get started. A trip down to DeFalco's got me the ingredients I need for my first partial mash beer. Since I like amber ales, I decided that is what I would brew as my 5 gallon brew.

The Ingredients
DeFalco's happens to have a recipe for that very thing, so here's the ingredients list for my second homebrew:

- 6 pounds light malt extract
- 1.5 pounds pale malt
- 1 pound medium crystal malt
- 1 ounce Mt. Hood hops (bittering)
- .5 ounce Cascades hops (flavoring)
- .5 ounce Cascades hops (finishing)
- 1 package Burton water salts
- 1 vial White Labs California yeast
- 1 package Bru-Vigor (yeast food)
- .75 cup corn sugar (priming)


The Process
The first step to any successful endeavor is planning. For brewing, make sure you have all the equipment you will need. If you are using gas, as I am, make sure you have full tanks of propane ready to go. Few things would be less awesome than running out of gas before you hit your boil, or during the boil. Do you have your thermometer(s), hydrometer, a large stirring spoon, an appropriate brew kettle/stock pot, enough water you can actually use? What about a wort chiller (or some means of cooling 5gal of wort from boiling to yeast-pitching temperature as rapidly as possible)? Do you have the lid or stopper for your primary fermentation vessel? What about an airlock? Do you have a fluid you can put in your airlock that will reduce the risk of infection? Are all of your ingredients accounted for? A checklist is useful, and Brewer's Friend happens to have several of them already made up (wish I'd known that before I made my own)! Anyway, if you answered yes to everything you're ready to start brewing.


Brewing supplies

To start, clean and sanitize everything. Yes, everything. Sure, much of what you will be using are going to contact boiling water sooner than later but you won't hurt anything by sanitizing it first. I use a light, fragrance-free, detergent and a 3M sponge/scrubbie to physically clean everything to a smooth and grit-free surface. Rinse, dry, and coat in a mist of 12.5ppm Iodophor solution. It stays like that until use.

Knowing I would need to heat water for steeping my specialty grains and water with which to rinse said grains, I split my water between two kettles. I would steep and sparge in my main brew kettle, a 42 quart stock pot, and use another pot to heat my sparge water. My brew kettle was filled with 3.5 gallons of spring water, to which a packet of Burton water salts was added, and brought up to ~165°F. At the same time, my sparge water was warmed to ~150°F to rinse the grains after 30 minutes of steeping.

Steeping was pretty easy, and rewarding. The clear water turned a deep amber very quickly, and released a great malty aroma. To make sure all of the grain was exposed to the hot water, I continuously bobbed the grain bag in the brew kettle. As soon as the bag hit the water, I started the stopwatch on my iPhone - at least my iPhone does something correctly. When 30 minutes elapsed, I pulled the grain bag from the water and rinsed it with the sparge water I had heating in the house.


Steeping speciality grains

At this point, my brew kettle now had 6 gallons of wort from the specialty grains ready to bring to a boil and have 6 pounds of light malt extract stirred in. The jet burner made quick work of bringing the 6 gallons from ~160°F to a rolling boil. It also dropped the pressure in my propane tank so fast the outside of the tank frosted over. That was pretty cool, literally. When the boil hit I cut back the heat, to avoid scorching, and stirred in the light malt extract.

With the wort as full of sugars and proteins as it was going to get, I went back to full heat on the burner until the hot break. A foam formed over the surface of the wort, and then sunk back in. You could see the hot break particles moving about as solids in the wort. This was my cue to add 1 ounce of Mt. Hood bittering hops, and hit the lap button on the stopwatch. 30 minutes later, I added .5 ounce of Cascade hops for flavor, and 15 minutes after that I added the remaining .5 ounce of Cascade hops to finish for the final 15 minutes of the boil.


Final hop addition

At the end of the 1 hour of boiling past my first hop addition, I cut the flame and immediately moved the brew kettle to my wort chiller to start cooling. Stirring the wort while the chiller was running made the temperature drop much faster than just letting the cooler run on its own. It only took about 15 minutes to drop the wort from more than 210°F to ~80°F. This could be done even faster if I also had a pre-chiller to drop the water flowing through the immersion chiller down closer to freezing.


Cooling the wort

With the wort cooled sufficiently, I took sample and found its gravity using my hydrometer. I also took the temperature so I could correct the hydrometer reading. My target original gravity was 1.050, per the recipe, and my actual original gravity (temperature corrected) is 1.055. Final gravity should be 1.012 when all is said and done. The California yeast is a high attenuation yeast, so it should be able to bring the gravity from 1.055 down to 1.012 without trouble.

The cooled wort was poured into my 6.5 gallon primary fermentation bucket. I splashed it around as much as possible for aeration, but took care to minimize the disturbance of the sediments that fell out of solution during the cooling phase. Another temperature reading verified that my wort was well within the pitching range for the White Labs California yeast, so the vial was shaken and poured into the wort along with the packet of yeast nutrient. I snapped the lid down securely, agitated some more, and put in my airlock.

Everything I've read places fermentation temperature control up near the top of the list of things one must have for consistently good beers. My first brew likely suffered some due to 10°F temperature swings in my closet from the heat of the day to the cold of night. Fortunately our house has a very central closet that maintains a very stable temperature day and night. My fermenter, wrapped in towels and topped with a thermometer, found its way to this closet. Some 20 hours later the airlock was bubbling like crazy. A good sign for sure.


In the fermenter

In a few days, when the bubbles slow in my airlock, I will take a sample of my beer and make another gravity reading. Should this reading be 30% lower than my original gravity, I will prepare to rack into my 5 gallon glass carboy for secondary fermentation to clear the beer more before bottling. When the time comes, I will clean and sanitize my bottling bucket and rack from my secondary fermenter onto a priming solution (.75 cups dextrose in 2 cups of water, boiled and cooled) in the sanitized bottling bucket. Unlike my transfer to my primary fermenter, I will seek to minimize any splashing as much as possible to avoid oxidation problems in my beer later down the line. The majority of this beer will go into standard 12 fluid ounce glass bottles, though I intend to bottle some of the brew into larger containers I can bring with me to share with friends.

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Old 02-03-2010, 06:35 PM   #2
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update:

Ok, so here's an interesting one (I'll post photos later.. physics break right now).

Got everything I needed to rack to secondary out, cleaned it, and sanitized it. Took a gravity reading, 1.008 @ 72F (1.009 corrected). This thing is supposed to finish at 1.012. Went from a corrected 1.055 to 1.009 in 4 days!

The magical internets say this puts me at around 6% ABV already, a full .8% above what I was expecting overall. Now, I'm far from one to complain about stronger beer but a 6+% American Amber Ale... from extract and specialty grains?! Something strikes me as odd. I first figured perhaps the hydrometer is just flat wrong, but in 60F distilled water it reads 1, which by my understanding is exactly what it ought to read.

Did I get some super yeast? What else could make fermentation move so quickly that I end up with so much attenuation in so little time? I mean, I drank what was in the test cylinders for the thermometer and the hydrometer - and it tasted quite a lot like real beer. I'm just wondering what went "wrong", any thoughts?

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Old 02-03-2010, 08:55 PM   #3
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If it's not measurement error, then you ended up with a more fermentable wort than predicted. Not that unusual.

Many, many people here will recommend you wait awhile longer before transferring to secondary, if you even do one (I do).

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Old 02-03-2010, 10:02 PM   #4
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So did this come out as "Amber" as you expected? I feel like with the Light DME and 1 pound of Medium Crystal (Is that Crystal 60?) you might be at the very low end of the SRM scale for Amber.

I am planning a pretty similar batch for my 2nd brew and as I tweak the recipe I keep finding myself needing more color.

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Old 02-03-2010, 10:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dogbar View Post
If it's not measurement error, then you ended up with a more fermentable wort than predicted. Not that unusual.

Many, many people here will recommend you wait awhile longer before transferring to secondary, if you even do one (I do).
Thanks, that seems to be the twitter consensus as well. I had expected to rack into secondary when the gravity dropped by 30% or more, per the instructions of pretty much all of the resources I've read. If there's one thing I've come to realize it's that there are at least a million different ideas about when which steps should be taken (if at all). What that means to me is that there are at least a million different ways for me to enjoy a beer

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Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
So did this come out as "Amber" as you expected? I feel like with the Light DME and 1 pound of Medium Crystal (Is that Crystal 60?) you might be at the very low end of the SRM scale for Amber.

I am planning a pretty similar batch for my 2nd brew and as I tweak the recipe I keep finding myself needing more color.
It was actually LME, but yeah I see what you're saying. In the carboy it looks quite amber. It looked fairly amber in the test cylinder while I was taking gravity as well. The liquid extract was pretty amber, as was the wort left when I steeped the specialty grains. When I bottle, I will put some in a clear plastic bottle and take a photo to show the color.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajmartinez View Post

It was actually LME, but yeah I see what you're saying. In the carboy it looks quite amber. It looked fairly amber in the test cylinder while I was taking gravity as well. The liquid extract was pretty amber, as was the wort left when I steeped the specialty grains. When I bottle, I will put some in a clear plastic bottle and take a photo to show the color.
Good times - I will be curious to see that. In my version I am projecting to use about 60% Crystal 60 / 40% Crystal 120 (Crystal representing about 17% of the total) and it brings the SRM to 13ish
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajmartinez View Post
Thanks, that seems to be the twitter consensus as well. I had expected to rack into secondary when the gravity dropped by 30% or more, per the instructions of pretty much all of the resources I've read.
Look around this site. Most people say not to transfer to secondary until it is done fermenting, if you transfer it to one at all.

Secondary "fermenter" is a misnomer; it's more of a conditioner, though many people do primary-only for a longer time because the extra yeast help condition.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
Good times - I will be curious to see that. In my version I am projecting to use about 60% Crystal 60 / 40% Crystal 120 (Crystal representing about 17% of the total) and it brings the SRM to 13ish
You might want to consider building your recipe for taste and then adjusting color with a non-crystal malt.

If you're using extract, it's going to come out pretty dark anyway. Too much crystal will make the final beer cloyingly sweet, unless you're really balancing it out with the hops. Three ounces of chocolate malt in the steep might get you all the color you need, with minimal flavor contribution.

/genius who once tried to make a dunkelweizen with "a little sweetness"
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:48 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
Good times - I will be curious to see that. In my version I am projecting to use about 60% Crystal 60 / 40% Crystal 120 (Crystal representing about 17% of the total) and it brings the SRM to 13ish
photos, as promised.


trub


sediment after a few minutes in the secondary

Quote:
Originally Posted by JiveTurkey View Post
Look around this site. Most people say not to transfer to secondary until it is done fermenting, if you transfer it to one at all.

Secondary "fermenter" is a misnomer; it's more of a conditioner, though many people do primary-only for a longer time because the extra yeast help condition.
I've read around this site, though I don't post often, and many others. From all accounts, it certainly seems that if one is sanitary there isn't anything to be lost from racking to secondary. There may also not be much, if anything, gained from doing so. Since I have the equipment, which I was fortunate enough to come by for very near $free.99, I figure I'll try out all of the possibilities. The end result of all of them ought to be good beer.
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Old 02-04-2010, 04:40 PM   #10
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Looks great.

That sediment layer is exactly why I secondary all my non-wheats, although that may change now that I'm about to start kegging.

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