Monthly Archive for October, 2007

Crank and Shake: Force Carbonation revisited

Scott and I were discussing how we force carbonate our beers recently and I had trouble remembering why I did mine the way I had. Scott said he was still using the old “crank & shake” method, which while fun, is really potentially dangerous for your back and not all that great for the beer. Where better to turn for the answer than BYO’s Mr. Wizard?

Under-carbonated beer is of course what you had before applying the crank-n-shake method. I use the term “crank” to describe the random application of gas pressure resulting from cranking the gas regulator to its maximum setting of 30 psi and unleashing this pressure on the poor keg of beer. If beer could become ill from too much dissolved gas like scuba divers do when staying down too deep for too long, these beers would certainly suffer from a high rate of the bends.

…Once you have your gas plan, attach your keg to the carbon dioxide tank adjusted to the pressure dictated by your gas table and wait. A batch of homebrew is small and the headspace pressure will equilibrate with the beer in about 3 days. The only thing you can do to speed this method up is to periodically shake the keg. Some people want to bubble the gas through the dip tube in the keg, but this really does not speed things up much because the gas bubbles are too large and zip through the beer before much gas diffuses into solution. It also causes foaming. Take my advice and just hang tight!

Here’s the rest of the article. In summary:

  • Find the correct volume of gas for your beer
  • Push that pressure into your keg
  • Wait

Edit: Rob over at tastybrew.com has a keg pressure calculator.

Behold…. K2

Kegerator version 2, that is. Ever since I had to leave the previous kegerator with our old house, I’ve been pining for its replacement. It was not an easy task though, because I’m a bit frugal and tend to wait a long time to make any decisions. Recently, with a porter in secondary and no desire to bottle, I hit craigslist again with new clarity.

Finding a top and bottom fridge in good shape at a reasonable price can be a bit of a challenge. I managed to find a relatively new (<10 years old) Amana that was energy efficient for $180 and pounced on it. There was a pronounced thawed fish smell that occurred between when I purchased it and when I got it home (24 hours outdoors will do that) which I was able to wash out. And I had to remove all the doors and brackets to get it in to the basement, but it’s a nice fit, it’s quiet, and it now has two taps in the door.

K2’s Facade K2’s Door, inside K2’s Keg and Gas

This time around I ordered the kegging equipment online from Micro-Matic, which has both inexpensive parts and a wealth of information on kegging and conversions. I’m really impressed with their site and the deliverables. I got my equipment quickly, and the conversion kit came with a very useful set of instructions. The only problem I found was that the instructions suggest using a 1” hole saw bit, then using a piece of PVC pipe as a spacer, but the PVC they included has a 1” inside diameter, not outside, so it doesn’t actually fit. I’m going to bring this up with them. I don’t particularly care, but they probably want to fix that.

Something is currently wrong with my regulator, so my porter didn’t carbonate quite right, but I was still able to pour a growler to take over to dinner at my parents. I’m very pleased with it. The porter, that is. But I’m also quite pleased with K2. It’s larger, quieter, frost free, and has 2 taps. By this weekend I should have a pumpkin beer on tap as well. I only had 30 minutes to make the conversion before going to dinner, so I didn’t have time to take pictures of the process. I don’t think I could have improved on the instructions in the Micro-matic manual either.

Mashing in a pumpkin

This has got to be the coolest pumpkin beer ever. They mashed in a huge pumpkin then racking to another pumpkin for primary fermentation. True innovators!

from BrewCrew list

Moving beers

I kegged the porter yesterday and there was enough left over for half a pint to enjoy. Even uncarbonated it was delicious. I also moved the pumpkin ale and IPA into secondary, and while they both seem to be at their target gravity, I had to move the pumpkin to add spices, and the IPA so it could be dry hopped. The pumpkin ale had a mellow, clean body that will hopefully be improved with spices, and like Scott mentioned, the pumpkin flavor is rather minor. We’ll see what happens in the keg. There are about 3 gallons of it and lots of trub/scum in the carboy.

The Imperial IPA had a lovely aroma and huge hop flavor, just like I wanted. Somehow it’s down just just over 5 gallons of beer, which is rather sad. Live and learn.

A Yakima Lament

Bert’s Fresh Hop Ale

Every time we head back to Yakima to visit family, I feel like I should put the growler in the car so I can pick up some Grant’s Ale on the way home. Then I remember that not only is Grant’s defunct, there are no breweries in Yakima. Hop Central. In the last few years, I’m not sure if my palette changed or the beer changed, but I never got tired of having the Perfect Porter or Imperial Stout on tap. This time of year, you could get the orginal Fresh Hop Ale as well. Delicious.

Self-Diagnosis Kit for Brewers

The American Homebrewers Association has put together an infection diagnosis kit for homebrewers. It basically contains samples of off-smells and tastes so you can match that bad flavor to your beer. Kind of cool.

Long brew day

Mashing the pumpkin

I headed up to Snohomish this weekend to visit one of my brew buddies Scott. We were going to attempt a 10 gallon batch of pumpkin ale together first, then we’d each brew our own beers: He a Belgian-style brown, and I went for a big IPA. We started at noon – much later than we ought to have, and brewed straight to 10:30pm. Friends from Bellingham came down to hang out, assuming like we did, that we’d be done by 6pm. However, our timing was a little off.

The pumpkin ale (recipe forthcoming) took much longer to mash & lauter than we expected, and we didn’t finish the boil until after 6 p.m. I suppose this is ok since it was a double batch, though we only pulled off like 8 gallons instead of the expected 10. Both the hot break and the krausen have a sickly lovely orange cruft on top showing that it was indeed a pumpkin ale. I baked the pumpkin down here in Portland and froze it in bricks, so they looked somewhat like illicit materials, along with the hops. We couldn’t resist doing a “drug bust” picture, but without guns, the only thing we could find was an axe. Not quite the effect we were going for, but funny in its own right.

Pumpkin Bust

Scott’s bruin went well and finished a while before mine and looks and smells exactly like you’d hope. The Imperial had some issues because the grain was so plentiful, and I formulated the recipe for 8 gallons, forgetting that I only had a 7 gallon carboy. “Idiot” I was, and though the car had been full of brewing gear, I had not brought a third carboy. Needless to say, the mash wasn’t that efficient since I cut it short, and the gravity was a little lower than expected, finishing at 1.074. Still, it smells delightful, and the car ride home was hoppy.

I had to roll down the windows several times on the drive home for fear that I would put myself to sleep with all the carbon dioxide that the two fermenting beers were exhaling. I did make it, and every time I pass the IPA, I catch a ripe, grassy smell.

Max C Imperial IPA

Here’s a recipe for the Imperial IPA I’m brewing this weekend. It’ll be an 8 gallon batch (5 keg, 3 bottled) and the hop bill is still under scrutiny.

Malt bill

  • 16 lbs Domestic 2-row malt
  • 1 lbs Domestic Munich
  • 1.5 lbs CaraPils
  • 0.5 lbs Crystal 40L

Hops

  • 2 oz Chinook (12.5% alpha) @ 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ 30 minutes
  • 1 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ 20 minutes
  • 1 oz Chinook (12.5% alpha) @ 15 minutes
  • 1 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ 10 minutes
  • 1.5 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ 5 minutes
  • 1.5 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ 2 minutes
  • 1.5 oz Centennial (10% alpha) @ Dry Hopped

Misc. Ingredients

  • Fermentis Safale S-05 dry yeast
  • Irish Moss @ 15 minutes

Seems like I should be able to fit some more more hops in there. I can’t find any information on whether S-05 will ferment enough to hit my target gravity.

Edit: I changed the name of the beer at the last minute celebration of our friend’s newest, Maximus Charles Walz, born on Friday, October 5th. Nate’ll have get a batch as well, but a Scottish seems more appropriate.

Porter status

Just a note, the porter tastes awesome. It’s already at target gravity, but I moved it to secondary anyway to give it one more chance to get infected. I don’t really want to bottle, so I may move it to keg even though I don’t have a fridge yet.