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Specialty Grain Brewing Process - Ales

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Btaz

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I've only been making beers for a short while and it seems that I've had so many questions about how to go about doing it while I was in the middle of making the beer. So I wrote down my game plan for specialty grain brewing process on my little website (not a commercial site). I've also pasted the text in here in case you don't care to go to a unknown location, but I didn't mess with the formatting. Let me know if you have any advice and perhaps this will help someone else. Thanks.

http://blt.loosecannon.info/wordpress/?p=716

There are a million ways to make beer. Of course there are some real rules to follow, but everyone seems to have their own technique for the gray area. In making my beer I've asked many questions and have been working on homing in on my preferred technique. Below is my plan for making beer with specialty grains which I imagine I'll continually tweak. Feel free to offer suggestions that you feel would be helpful in my beer making process and hopefully this helps some new brewers as well.

Day -1: Prep

Since time is always limited I like to get a few things ready for the brew day early. You can certainly do this on the brew day. I haven't figured out the whole water quality control yet so for now I buy mine. I'll look into this more in the future to help reduce costs.

7 gallons of water.
20lb bag of ice. to circulate through the wort chiller
Propane
Setup drill for chilling and aerating
Day 0: Brew Day

Getting going

I do the following in this order to be as efficient with time as possible. I bought a turkey fryer from Bass Pro shop that came with a 7.5G stainless steel pot which works pretty good out of the box. I took some wire and locked the timer down to override the safety feature so that it doesn't turn off in the middle of brewing.

Double check to make sure you have all the ingredients - Don't forget about the items from day -1.
Take yeast out of the fridge - you want it to have some time to warm up.
Clean out the stainless steel pot and start heating the water for stepping
Place the thermometer in the pot.
Place the steeping grains in the grain bags.
Start cleaning all the equipment that will go in the wort after boiling
Steeping

Steeping is very simple, but for me it needs constant attention to make sure the temperature stays within the right range. I use a metal cross beam and hang the steeping bags from it so that it doesn't touch the sides or bottom.

Wait for the water to reach 155-160 degrees. Do not go over 165 degrees as this will burn the grain and produce off flavors.
Place the grain in the pot. Try to avoid having the bags touch the side or bottom, but as long as they move around things should be fine. I cheat and hang them from the middle.
Watch the temperature as it will fluctuate for a bit. Then after a short while cut the heat as it will stay within the right temp for a while.
Occasionally bob the grain bags
repeat 3 & 4 for 30 minutes.
dsc02059
Steeping
Adding Malt

Turn the heat off, if it isn't already
Add with malt while mixing vigorously to avoid burning on the bottom.
Once mixed turn on heat (watch for boil over). I find that after a short while the risk of boil over goes away.
The boil timer starts when the pot is back to a boil. Maintain a vigorous boil throughout the boil time
Hop schedule

Follow the hop schedule which starts after the wort begins boiling (not when the malt is added)

Place the hops in a small grain bag
Throw it in the pot at the right time.
Make sure it is mixing around well.
Chilling

Chill as quick as possible to avoid any off flavors being generated. I use a copper wort chiller and a drill pump to it. I then circulate ice water from a cooler through it.

Chill the water down to ~70 degrees as fast a possible
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Transfer to primary fermentation bucket

I use a drill paint mixer to whirlpool the wort to leave behind some of the trub. Then I use and auto-siphon to transfer it to the primary fermentation tank which in my case is a 7G plastic bucket. I'm going to cold crash later in the process so I'm not so worried about the trub, but this is simple to do and may help a bit.

Whirlpool the wort with the paint mixer for 5 mins
Wait for about 5-10 mins for the trub to gather in the middle of the bucket
Auto-siphon from the side of the pot to primary fermentation tank.
Add water to reach the 5 gallon line
mix in the water for a minute or two
Starting gravity measurement

Get a sample and place the hydrometer it it.
Spin the hydrometer to get any bubbles of of it.
Take a measurement.
Replace the hydrometer with the thermometer
Take a measurement
Repeat 2-5 a few times to make sure you got a real measurement.
Don't return the sample to wort. Taste it to see what you think.
Aerating

Aerate prior to pitching (adding) yeast as this is very important to ensuring the yeast takes well. Aerate for 5-10 mins. I use a drill paint mixer.

dsc02063

Pitching Yeast

Dry yeast....
Liquid yeast should be good to go if you take it out at the start. If you see some bubbles inside then the yeast should be fine. Give it a good shake.

Add the yeast
Stir/mix in. This probably is not needed but I feel better doing it.
Primary Fermentation Storage

Add the lid
Add the blow off valve. I use some vodka for the liquid.
Place in location where it is dark and will be at the right temperature for the yeast. I built a fermentation chamber for this
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Clean up

Clean everything and leave to dry
Day 1: Clean Up

Put away all the brewing equipment now that it is dry.

Day 11: Cold Crashing

Fermentation is complete when the gravity hasn't changed for 3 days which is typically 6-10 days. I usually brew on Saturday or Sunday so I just wait until Wednesday of the next week (day 10) before I start cold crashing which is usually plenty of time. There will still be plenty of yeast for bottle conditioning later.

Begin cold crashing after fermentation is complete.
Make sure you have an S-airlock (or there is some other methods that can be used) because the crashing will cause the bucket to suck in.
Lower the temperature to under 40 for 2-3 days in primary.
Day 14: Secondary Fermentation

There is a lot of discussions whether this should be done or not, I've chosen to do it. When transferring to the secondary you want to expose the beer to as little oxygen as possible. Be gentle. When done move on to secondary and let it rise to the desired temperature. The amount of time to leave in the secondary is quite variable. I've read that that strong beers, stouts, and porters should be left for 6-12 months, whereas pales and such don't need as long. For long durations in a secondary I will use a glass carboy, but for shorter durations in the secondary I've just used a plastic bucket. The days below assume a "normal" 2 weeks in the secondary or you can adjust using the -days to bottling for longer secondary times.

Transfer to secondary

Clean the Secondary fermentation bucket/carboy
place the primary fermentation higher than the secondary
Use the auto-siphon to for the transfer. Don't suck up the bottom.
Day 25 (-7 to bottling): Dry hopping

I haven't done anything with dry hopping yet so for now I'll follow the information I read from a homebrew forum

both Stone and Russian River:
- Russian River recommends 68ºF (20ºC) for dry hopping homebrew
- Stone recommends "warm fermentation temperature", which coincides with Russian River's advice. Grassy flavours come from dry hopping too long, stale hops, or wet hops.
At 20ºC most dry hopping aroma is extracted in 3 days, almost all of it by 5 days, 99.99% by 7 days. nything longer and you run the risk of that grassy flavour.
I'm not too sure of the affect to the dry hop when using the gelatin, so I'm going to split the difference for now. 3 days of dry hopping and another the 3 days of dry hopping with the gelatin

Set fermentation temp to 68 degrees
Place the hops in a grain bag, if not using leaves
Add the hops to the carboy
Day 28 (-4 to bottling): Clearing Agent

I've selected to use gelatin over Irish moss since from what I've read the gelatin has no affect on the beer taste or smell and is very effective at removing the particles.

Using Gelatin

Boil the water first and then let it cool a bit before adding the gelatin.
Add the gelatin and mix.
You need to let it sit for awhile to "bloom" and then heat gently to get as much as possible dissolved but DO NOT boil.
Gently add to the secondary.
Wait 3 or more days.
Cold Crashing Part 2

It is possible to crash again but I've decided not to do it since I've done it once and I don't really want to wait to crash chill the whole thing down and then let the temperature rise again before bottling. If you do cold crash here, just follow the steps in the first cold crash section.

Day 31 (-1 to bottling): Bottling Prep

Clean the bottles. It's okay (i.e. a low risk to contamination) to clean a day early and let them dry.
Make sure you have enough bottle caps
Day 32: Bottling

Final gravity measurement

Take a final gravity sample.

Get a sample and place the hydrometer it it.
Spin the hydrometer to get any bubbles of of it.
Take a measurement.
Replace the hydrometer with the thermometer
Take a measurement
Repeat 2-5 a few times to make sure you got a real measurement.
Don't return the sample to wort
Calculate the alcohol percentage. I use an app (ABV Calculator for android) so I don't have to worry about the formulas.
Priming & Capping

Transfer from secondary to bottling bucket (just my primary fermenting bucket again). Be careful not to agitate the gelatin on the bottom and try to limit the exposure to oxygen.

Mix the priming sugar in boiling water
Add the priming sugar to the bottom of the bottling bucket
Transfer the beer from the secondary to the bottling bucket
Bottle and cap.
Leave at 70 degrees in a dark area.
Day 53+: Drinking Time

The time to bottle conditioning varies quite a bit, but the "normal" way is to wait at least 3 weeks. Its said that the long the better the beer will turn out, but I imagine just like secondary fermentation this varies with the beer.
 

boydster

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Welcome to the community! That's a marathon first post. There is a lot of detail there... Glad you are keeping notes on your process, it is very helpful to keep track of those things so you can look back and see what works vs what doesn't.

Have you looked into using liquid yeast to make a starter? Lots of people find their beer improves dramatically by pitching at certain rates for certain styles, but a general rule of thumb for a low-yeast-profile, healthy ale fermentation is .75 million cells per ml per degree plato. For a 5 gallon batch of 1.050 beer, that would mean you need more than the amount of yeast in one of those vials or smack packs. You can consult pitch rate calcs, like Mr. Malty or YeastCalc for example, for an idea of how large a starter should be based on OG and batch size.

Also, if a secondary is going to be used, you really should be at FG before transferring it so you don't end up with a stuck fermentation. Take 2 hydro readings over a 3 day period. If they match and are reasonably close to the target FG, you should be fine.

The biggest things to get a handle on when you are starting out are sanitation, pitch rate, fermentation temperature control, and patience. If you can manage those things, you'll be able to consistently brew outstanding beer.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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Thanks for the feedback. I'll certainly look into your suggestions.
 

ElCid79

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Those shutoffs on the bass pro burners are AWEFUL!!!! I did the same thing except using an automotive hose clamp... Dont try to remove it, the fittings are different.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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Seems like the gelatin is more effective with the beer child crashed. so I think I'm going change my mind about not doing the child crash on the secondary.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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Have you looked into using liquid yeast to make a starter? Lots of people find their beer improves dramatically by pitching at certain rates for certain styles
Thanks for the advice. Santa was good to me and gave me a stir plate and flask for Christmas. I've updated my process on my website and broke out a whole yeast starter page. I'm in the middle of my first starter now as I'm gearing up for an imperial IPA and the yeast count I had certainly was too low straight out of the vial.

(1/4/2014) Just used my first yeast starter in an imperial IPA. I've already got good bubbles going after only 4 hours. Great advice!


I think my next process "upgrade" will be to figure out how to monitor the fermenting without loosing too much liquid doing the tests. Any advice?
 

boydster

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I just take hydrometer readings. One at the beginning, in the brew kettle after it has cooled so I don't lose any there, and 2 at the end using the tube the hydrometer came in as the sample jar so it only takes a few ounces (plus I get a taste test that way). A refractometer would use less liquid, but I hear they are great for OG when there is no alcohol and inaccurate when alcohol is present... I don't have one so I can't speak to the accuracy once alcohol is present. There are conversion calculators that are supposed to work for that, I just haven't ever tried one for myself.
 

LovesIPA

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I think my next process "upgrade" will be to figure out how to monitor the fermenting without loosing too much liquid doing the tests. Any advice?
I only lose 100ml of beer to samples.

I take one sample out of the kettle after the wort has been chilled but before I rack it to the primary fermenter. That sample gives me my OG.

Then it ferments and I don't bother to check the gravity again until after I rack the beer to the keg. I pour off some of the trub into a measuring cup, cover it with saran wrap and put it in the fridge. In a few hours there is just enough clear beer on top of the trub to pour it off into the hydrometer test jar. I use a 100ml plastic graduated cylinder as a test jar.

Because I keg I don't have to worry about bottle bombs. If you bottled I guess you would need to check the gravity a minimum of one more time, a few days before you bottle.

Remember, a 12-oz bottle of beer is 355 ml. So even if you take 3 samples, it's less than a bottle of beer.
 

13ONK

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A refractometer would use less liquid, but I hear they are great for OG when there is no alcohol and inaccurate when alcohol is present... I don't have one so I can't speak to the accuracy once alcohol is present. There are conversion calculators that are supposed to work for that, I just haven't ever tried one for myself.
I use a refractometer and found the calculator at brewersfiend appears pretty accurate when compared with a hydro sample. So I'll take OG with refract and monitor fermentation with it as well. To record final gravity I usually double check with a hydrometer to be sure, but most of the time it's dead on with the refractometer.
 

TungstenBeer

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Seems like the gelatin is more effective with the beer child crashed. so I think I'm going change my mind about not doing the child crash on the secondary.
I very much agree with this. The reason is, the colder it is, the more "chill haze" matter will form (and therefore be dropped by gelatin). I'd chill for 36-48 hours, then use the gelatin, then keep refrigerated for another 36-48 hours (or more... I left my pale ale in the fermenter cold crashing for 10 days a couple weeks ago because I simply didn't have time to keg the beer around Christmas).

Also, you don't really need to let your beer warm up before you bottle it. You can if you want to, but I don't see a need for it. You can bottle it cold and still store it at room temperatures without issue.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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Also, you don't really need to let your beer warm up before you bottle it. You can if you want to, but I don't see a need for it. You can bottle it cold and still store it at room temperatures without issue.
That seemed to be consensus among many forum posts too. I've done it once without any problems and my "process" has this baked in now.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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I only lose 100ml of beer to samples.

....
I use a 100ml plastic graduated cylinder as a test jar.

...

Remember, a 12-oz bottle of beer is 355 ml. So even if you take 3 samples, it's less than a bottle of beer.
I just did a test to see how much beer I lose for each test. For my hydrometer to avoid touching the bottom I need ~160mL = 5.5oz. So in a perfect batch I'd take 4 samples (OG, ferm check 1, ferm check + 3days, FG) which just under 2 beers. I suppose 2 beers isn't bad, but I'd sure like to avoid if I could.

My cylinder seems about the right size as I figure it if were any smaller then the hydrometer might give off readings as it would touch the edges too much.

I've read some people tying fishing to hydrometer to do the samples. I gave this a test and it seems the line doesn't affect the reading too much (well no more than the precision that I can read at). One question is will any of the residual sanitizer on the hydrometer and line kill the yeast?
 

boydster

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I would lose one of the "ferm check" readings and just have 3 total gravity checks, unless for some reason you think you have a stalled fermentation. Also, your OG sample can be put back in to ferment as long as you sanitize the hydrometer and sample tube. That means you only have 2 samples that don't stay in the fermentor.

If you go the fishing line route, as long as you are using a no-rinse sanitizer like StarSan, it is fine if some drips into the beer.
 
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Btaz

Btaz

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I suppose if the first ferm check reading is at the target final gravity then there is no need to wait 3 more days to see that the fermentation is complete.

Sorry if it's sloppy, this was sent from my phone
 
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