Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot, Part 4

Well, its been a while now, the ale finished fermenting and now its in the bottle. Three to be precise.

So, here are the pics:
Final Gravity of around 1015

Three bottles of Pale Gruit Ale

Addendum - Tasting Notes. (Dec 10)
We cracked the top off a bottle around the end of the month but the flavour was a bit thin, sour, the ale lacked body, the aroma wasn't particularly pleasing and there was lots of carbonation. I left it for several more days and tried another mouthful - terrible! Followed by two days of feeling wretched - food poisoning!

Lesson: If it don't smell right, don't drink it. A sour drink, will smell... "sour."

So, troubleshooting this situation: The process works fine, and does what its supposed to do. You can brew in a coffeepot. However, making a Gruit Ale, based on the possible ingredients you'd find on a moderately sized oceanographic research vessel, is quite risky and not recommended.

Of course there are issues here; the most likely cause of the possible contamination is poorly sanitised plastic bottles. Another factor is that of preservability of the ale whilst conditioning in the bottles and this harks back to the choice and quantity of bittering agents used.

This experiment deserves to be repeated using proper beer ingredients and excellent sanitation practices but I don't think I'll be trying another Gruit Ale either with a coffepot or in some bigger system.So, until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Friday, November 6, 2009

How To Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot - part 3

I thought I'd take you on a little photographic journey and show you how I learned to Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot. Now the beer we're talking about is a Gruit Ale and it has several characteristics that make it very different to the standards way of making a "Malt Barley, Hops..." type beer.

Now, my coffee pot is a Phillips Cafe Cino, 4 cup Coffee Maker so the first step is to guestimate the amount of grain we'll need. In all the other posts on how to brew beer in a coffee pot, the total water bill is around 2L at the start of boil. Or, roughly 1.5L by the time we get to the fermenter. I know that for a 15L batch I need about 5 kg of grain, that's a 1:3 ratio at the fermenter end. Scaling that, we can take a pretty good rule-of-thumb guess and say, "Ok, I would probably need 500g of grain" that's about 2.5 cups of pearl barley! not in my coffee maker alas. That means, less grain and some adjunct like "Golden Syrup" of "Black Treacle," Cool! Let's see what the S.G is after the boil.

This Gruit Ale Recipe is my own creation, based on my past experience in brewing beer and what I've read online about the style, and it's a tricky thing to come up with something that might work - it's all well and good to hypothesize and prognosticate on what to do, but experience usually will out. So here we go:

Starchy grains - all barley or add some others as well? Why add grain adjuncts? Flavour Profile, colour, taste characteristics
Bittering agents - The typical Gruit Ale used sage, juniper berries, wild rosemary, mugwort, and a few other esoteric items. All I've got is the first two. Ok, how much? both or singly? addition schedule?
Adjuncts - sugar, dextrose, honey, corn syrup, golden syrup, black treacle, maple syrup - how will these work with the end flavour?
Enzyme activity - since we're not using malted grain how do we get the enzymes in to process the starches to sugars?
Malt flavour - do we want a malty flavour in this beer? How do we put it in? Vegemite? It's a yeast extract and I love it but it's isn't going to give me that malty flavour but the salt may contribute to the mouthfeel of the final beer. I've got Horlicks, but its a milk additive, ok let's try out a "milky beer."
Size of the mash tun - a 4 pot coffee carafe doesn't take much and given the nature of the possible grains, they'll expand at least double their size in volume when soaked in water.

Water Bill
2L (nominal) La Vie Still Water

Grain Bill
3/4 cup Pearl Barley
2 tbsn Wholemeal Husks
5 tspn Sweet Brown Rice

1/3 cup Golden Syrup
1/4 cup Horlicks Malted Milk Powder
2.5 tspn Bread Improver


Collect all your dry ingredients together

Cook the rice

Crush the barley

Add the all the dry ingredients to the carafe with 2 cups of Coffee Maker-warmed water. Note the temp is approx. 45-50 deg C, not bad for Mash In

Put the Carafe into the coffee maker and leave it alone for 30 min

Iodine Testing is usually done once, to see if you've reached the Mash Out point. Here's an example of an Iodine Positive result. i.e. there is still starch in the mash and the sugars have yet to fully convert.

After about 2.5 hours the temp has finally hit around 78 deg C which is normally Mash Out temperature, so if it ain't converted to sugar now well, "Too Bad!" So a quick Iodine Test

and we have more or less full conversion. After leaving the iodine in for about a couple of min there were a few tiny, tiny specks of black - nothing to worry about.

Pour off the top liquid, separate the solids and then Sparge the grains into a 2L+ capacity pot by pouring two cups of coffee maker heated water over the grain sitting in a drip fine mesh strainer. Repeat with another 3 cups. The original method called for doing this in the coffee maker bean hopper but with this Gruit Ale recipe, ultra fine solids from flours and milk solids create a Stuck Mash issue causing water to overflow the coffee maker. Not Good.

Now put the resulting wort onto the stove top and bring it to a rolling boil. Add 1 tspn of Sage and 6 squashed Juniper Berries. after 45 min. Add another 6 squashed juniper berries and boil for a further 15 min

While you're waiting take 1 tspn of Brewer's Yeast and stick it in a jar with a cup of water to rehydrate. Give it a good shake to help wake the little buggers up.

Vigorously stir the wort, allow it to settle and pour off most of the liquid. Filter the remaining solids through a fine coffee filter...


The filter isn't working! "Why is it so?!?" Professor Miller I need your help! The bread improver contains among other things, corn flour, which is a real sticky beastie. The Horlicks also contains a number of floury solids that also contribute to the stick, then there's the rice and the pearl barley both of which are notorious for gluey, porridge-like consistencies. And guess what! they clog the pours of a fine filter very quickly, easily and stop any liquid from passing through. So what to do?

Well, there's nothing else for it but to pass the wort through several, progressively finer sieves, and muslin cloths until a similar cloudy constancy to your yeast has bee achieved. Hopefully the remainder with floc out with the yeast in fermentation. Here is one stage where I used a muslin bag.

After filtering I was left with a scant liter of fluid - a 50% loss in liquid. A gravity measure at 22 deg C resulted in a S.G = 1.02 +/- which is a relatively low alcohol beer. I'm looking for somewhere around 1.04 +/-. So dissolve 1/3 cup of Golden Syrup in one cup of water and add back to the batch. S.G = 1.036 +/-. You Beauty!

Finally put your wort into a fermenting vessel, add your yeast and cover with something. I decided to use plastic wrap. Make sure you agitate the wort well to get lots of air into it, then put it in a stable, room temperature warm, dark place and leave it alone.

Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Laska Blonde - Fermenting and Bottling

Last time we finished off with our brew back into the bottle the water came in.

Here's a quick snap to refresh your memory,

Now, I thought I'd try out a little experiment and modify a bottle to use, kinda like a conical fermenter. what I was looking into was yeast harvesting and ease of decanting from primary to secondary fermenters.

So here's the modified bottle,

Inverted Carboy
High Krausen

After the peak activity died down, approx. 4 days from pitching to post-krausen, I drafted the trub into a jug and then drained the rest of the fermenting wort into the secondary fermenter - the original water bottle, sanitised.

Yeast Washing
Now, its a pretty common habit by brewers everywhere to "Wash" their yeast for re-pitching and re-use, to cut costs and to develop their own house strain suited to the beer they like to regularly brew.

"Wash the yeast." What on earth does that mean?

For some it means collecting the trub from the primary and sticking it in a bottle in the fridge until next brew day; for others it involves separating the original trub from the suspended yeast, bottling and refrigerating the suspension; still, for others it involves separating the dead yeast (yeast cake, trub, dregs) from the suspended yeast, cold settling the suspension, and then removing the liquid before adding plain water to the remaining cold-settled solids i.e. clean it up of all the old beer and then keep it chill - some even go so far as to plate out the yeast and then collect single cell colonies for regeneration.

So, what to do?

From left to right,
Rehydrated Yeast;
Trub from Primary;
Suspended Yeast, not Trub;
Cold-Settled Yeast in Water

This is a funny (peculiar) topic in it's own right. One of the key point of advocacy for separating the dead yeast from the suspended yeast is also the key point behind using a secondary fermenter, that is keeping your beer over the old dead yeast may lead to the development of,
"off flavours." Yet, the same dead cells are proving to be a lucrative source of income to some, in the form of cleaned, washed and dried "Yeast Hulls" (ghosts) to provide lipids, which are useful in yeast cell division and growth.

So, what to do? Be your own judge. If you tend to brew infrequently (like once every six months or so), take the time to put your yeast into water and then keep it chill, or just ask a friend for some... ;-)

If you tend to brew more frequently, just grab some of the trub and liquor and keep it in the fridge - good at least for a couple of months. If you're a little more finicky then shake the trub well, let it settle and collect the suspension and use that. If you're the kind of brewer that's brewing weekly, you're probably already pitching your fresh wort over the previous primary's trub and re-pitching the same strain if and when it's starting to look tired.

After another 5 days in the secondary fermenter activity was down to almost zero, which means bottling time. I've never had any luck with leaving a ferment for a long time without it going off so I didn't want to take any risks with this one. Time to Bottle!

The decision already made it's academic to check the FG of the beer - Yes! it's beer, green (young) beer, but it's beer baby! Here we can see that the F.G comes in at around 1.005 more or less at around 22 deg C. Although academic, it is useful for determining the potential alcohol concentration, that is, if you took a gravity reading before pitching the yeast.

Removing LabelsSanitising Gear

Filling the BottlesQuality Control
My son, "Luka"

Post- Analysis
Using the inverted primary as a fermenter was great for harvesting yeast and for transferring to the secondary. It went smoothly and without a hitch. However I'm not sure I'll do it again. There was quite a bit of blow off during this trial and my two bubble bubbler got a lot of crud inside it and they're damn hard to clean. Perhaps a blow off tube would be better for this situation, followed by the bubbler in the secondary.

Bottling was a breeze. The bottling cane made it very easy to transfer the green beer to the bottles whilst minimizing spillage. I highly recommend using some trays under your bottles and bottling station so as to control any drips or spills that might occur.

I ended up with 30 and a half, 500 ml bottles which is right on target. Here I've used clear plastic, sparkling water, PET bottles, which should be ok for a session beer that you don't plan to keep around for a long time. If you plan to age your beers for any length of time then brown PET/glass bottles would be the better option to help avoid light strike. I store my beer in a crate, under the stairwell so most of the time it's pretty dark and I'm reasonably comfortable that this will be fine, for a starter ;-)

Now all I have to do is wait until they're ready to open, and brew a few more beers. Until next time,

Its Your shout, Mate!

How to Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot - part 2

Ever since I stumbled across How to brew beer in a coffee pot I've been fascinated with this topic. After a bit more searching I found that there wasn't very much about it out there other than How to brew beer in a coffee maker, using only materials commonly found on a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel, which appears to be the source document on this process. But, as I kept looking I kept coming up with the same two variations, no photos and little evidence of anyone having actually done it. I even posted a query to Craftbrewer Radio which resulted in an interesting discussion, but that's all.

I was about to put the whole idea of "How to brew beer in a coffee pot" to rest as just impractical, fanciful conjecture and had a bit of a rant about the kind of equipment and supplies you might find on a, "modestly sized oceanographic research vessel," and even went so far as to temperature test my Phillips Cafe Cino Coffee Maker. [Boiler exit temp = 83 deg C; Standby Temp = 70 deg C] and hastily came to the conclusion that the temperatures were too high and that it wouldn't really work effectively.

On the charge of being an "Instant Expert," how do you plead? Guilty Your Honor!

I wonder how many others out there, syndicating this little gem could be accused of the same? Then it occurred to me, "hang on genius! plain water temperature is a real reflection of the temp when it's got grain in it..." So, there was nothing else for it but to stick some grain in the pot and check the temps again.

However, I didn't know if this would work and I didn't want to waste good beer grain and hops on such an experimental, and by all apparent online posturing, an unproven methodology. Also, with the original source document as "thought experiment" fodder I thought why not a Gruit Ale, a beer made from grains with alternative bittering agents and brewers yeast - I had all the ingredients in the cupboard too - not like some of your "modestly sized oceanographic research vessels", No sir!

So that's what I did. Long story short, the Sparge water was 83 deg C but the sparge method was not suitable to this type of beer. The Mash Temperature rose timed stepwise increments over a period of 2.5 hours from approx. 45 deg C to 78 deg C (Mash Out) and Iodine Test -ve.

In essence - It Works! As an automated, multi-step infusion mash technique, set and forget for a couple of hours except for the occasional stirring, it works. Thus, I learned how to brew beer in a coffee pot.

Until next time,

Its Your Shout, Mate!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How To Brew Beer In A Coffee Pot, Part 1

For what it's worth, I've been giving this process quite some thought. For all intents and purposes this is a nice, "gimmick;" if you like, a simple way of demonstrating how to brew beer. But not an effective one for doing some brewing on a research vessel weeks at a time, out at sea.

And it's that last point I've been really stewing over... why would anyone in their right mind on a research ship with 20+ crew use a coffee maker to brew beer when they ought to have sufficient equipment on hand in the ship's galley.

I used to work for Ashton's Circus as a cook for a crew that varied between 8 and 20 people. We bought supplies daily, in many cases, as well as bulk items.

On a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel at sea for a month of Sundays or so, one would expect the larder and pantry to be very well stocked with a variety of bulk foods that store and travel well. But, highly unlikely to carry malted barley in bulk.

This is the first point: What do/can we use to make a passable beer on board?

The second point is if we use the available grains to make beer, what are the downstream effects on food availability for the duration of being at sea? In other words, if we make beer are we gonna starve before getting to drink it?

With these two questions uppermost, it is clear that anyone contemplating making beer would need to stock up the requisite grains, bittering agents and yeast prior to departure from port.

Clearly, in such a case, you'd just order the required malted barley, hops and yeast, or pack a few ready-made beer kits and save yourself the torment and hassle of trying to invent a new type of beer using ancient techniques that hark back several centuries to free range brewing of ale.

IMO the guy who proposed brewing in a coffee pot on a research ship, has either pursued the idea in a limited (very limited) manner but never produced any actual beer, or has never tried it out in the first place beyond it being a thought experiment.

To continue this as a thought experiment, typical grains that might be on hand on such a ship are: rice, rolled oats, perhaps cracked wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, polenta, and/or pearl barley.

For bittering agents the two most promising ones are: sage and juniper berries which are both age old ingredients used in making ales prior to the use of hops. Both have antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well.

For yeast, well: most likely there'll be baker's yeast (for making bread), and perhaps some generic brewer's yeast.

What about some malty flavour? Well it's bee suggested that Vegemite/Marmite/Cenovis might do the trick, but I think malted milk powder might be a better option.

Lastly, those all important enzymes for turning starch into digestible sugars: Bread Improver is the most likely candidate, or Koji Mold (if the research ship happens to contain a large contingent of Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese researchers - but then, Sake is more likely to be made than beer as we know it.

Let's wind this up shall we? Ok, how to brew beer in a coffee pot!

Grain Bill:
80-90% pearl barley
10-20% rice, polenta and/or other grain adjuncts
4-8 tbsn bread improver per kg of grain
1 cup malted milk powder per kg of grain (This is a flavour additive, nothing more)

1. Coarsely crush the grain listed above. If using rice steam cook it first.
2. Seive out the flour then
wash the crushed grains until the water runs clear.
3. Add bread improver and milk powder to grain and mix with 68 deg C hot water. Mix grain to water in a ratio of 1 part grain to 3 parts water.
4. Stir periodically and keep at 65 deg C for 1-2 hours or until a drop test, in a separate saucer, with iodine does not turn blue.
5. Place mash into a colander lined with kitchen paper towel and drain the liquid. Heat the liquid to 68 deg C and pass back over the grain bead until it''s reasonably clear. Wash the grain bed with clean 68 deg C water using approx. one quarter of the total volume.
5. Put the wort into a boiling pot, bear in mind the wort may be a little cloudy due to the milk solids and flour in the malted milk powder and bread improver.
6. Bring the wort to boil, add 1 tbsn of sage per liter of wort. after 45 min add 1 tbsn juniper berries per liter of wort. after 60 min, sample the wort and if desired, add a quarter of the initial amount either juniper berries or sage to the boil and continue for another 15 min.
7. Cover the pot and cool it in a tub of ice water to room temp.
8. At room temp, whisk the wort vigorously and add a tablespoon or two of dry yeast. Cover pot well with food grade plastic cling wrap, use a toothpick to spike one or two fine holes and then cover pot with a tea towel. Set the pot aside to ferment for 2-3 days.
9. Skim the crud of the top of the fermenting beer and transfer carefully to a clean pot. cover and set aside to continue fermenting for several more days.
10. Leaving behind the sediment, transfer the clear liquid to plastic bottles, cap and store.

Carbonation - if you want a bit of fizz, keep aside 5% - 8% of the cool unfermented wort and add it back in just before bottling.

I'm gonna give this a go, just for academic purposes, perhaps when it's all over and done, I might inflict the results on some of you, ;-)



p.s at the time of writing, this is still only a "thought experiment" and I've not come across anyone actually having done this in a verified way.

p.p.s. there are far simpler ways of making passable booze on board, like fermenting juice and then distilling it - it is a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel isn't it, so it's gotta have a lab, doesn't it?

Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Little Laska Blonde - Brewing

Yesterday I decided to brew up my first batch of Laska Blonde. It was a fun day and I learnt quite a bit along the way. What I want to do here is share with you a little about the day and my hopes for this particular beer.

First off, I went out and bought some grain and hops. Here's a pic of some of the ingredients:

now, you'll notice that there are several different malts as well as a few different hops. Not all of these are going into the Laska Blonde, oh no! but I intend to brew a few other styles in the upcoming weeks so I bought all the grain, unmilled, at the same time.

Water Quality
Laska Bottled Water has the following composition:

Ca 2+ 6.4 ppm
Mg 2+ 1.92 ppm
Na - 1.82 ppm
HCO3 - 18.3 ppm

SO4 2- Unknown
Cl- Unknown

This water, is the softest of the waters I profiled and is a moderately reasonable match for the Pilsen Water Profile. It's not the same, but without salt additions or dilutions, it's close enough considering the different bottled waters on offer here in Hanoi. So, This should be good for a Blonde style beer.

Style Guidelines
The style I decided to aim for was an Light Hybrid Beer - Blonde Ale, using all Czech Malt and Hops.

So we're aiming for:

an IBU (bitterness) between 15 - 28,
an SRM (colour) between 3.0 - 6.0,
an OG (specific gravity) between 1.038 - 1.054,
finishing with an FG (specific gravity) between 1.008 - 1.013

What does this all mean? Well, nothing much at all, if you are not taking gravity readings, measuring and tweaking various parameters such as mash pH, mashing temperature etc. or particularly care about colour and malt/bitterness balance.

Here, I'm trying to design a basic, localized, Hanoi Beer style using ingredients on hand. I'd like for this recipe to hit somewhere about, "near enough," so that anyone else brewing it can be reasonably confident they can: a) reproduce the same type of beer, b) predict and make a familiar beer style, and c) produce a beer with a comfortable flavour base that can be tweaked to some degree.


5 kg Czech Malt - Single Step Infusion Mash at 65 deg. C for approx. 1 hr 30 min - 2 hours
40 g Czech Saaz Hops bagged and added at Start of Boil. Length of Boil is 60 min
13 g Czech Saaz Hops bagged and added at 15 min prior to End of Boil

Now, a little about the yeast. My mate, Peter's Extra (from the New Hanoian, Hanoi Handcrafted - Brewers Guild Group) gave me some out of date Ale yeast to try out on this brewing experiment. It was an Activ-Trocken-Bierhefe obergärig (7g) dry pack suitable for Kölsch, Alt, Ale and sonstige obergärige Biere. It should be rehydrated in lukewarm water for about 30 min. and it's optimal temperature range is between 18 and 25 deg. C which is pretty much ambient temp at around this time. The potential trouble was that it's Useby Date was listed as April 2007!!

Ok, enough talk, let's brew some beer!

Post Brewing Notes
This wasn't a totally problem free Brew Day. I was worried that the yeast would not take off and do it's thing, so I made a yeast starter with some lukewarm sugar water (4 tbsn white sugar in 2 cups water) beat the living daylights out of the yeast in the water and put it aside to rehydrate and bubble, hopefully. Good job! It worked! It's Alive! (cue maniacal laughter...)

Another problem was that the Mash-In Temp was a little low, so I had to draft of some of the mash water and heat it up then add it back in. Watching the mash over the time period, I had to do this a couple of times. Also when Mashing In it might pay to add the grain to the water rather than water to the grain as quite a bit of air gets trapped and bubbles semi-explosively through the mash as you stir it. If you've added water to the grain, stir it well to make sure you don't get any dough balls or trapped air pockets. It also helps to ensure the whole mash is at the same temp.

During this brew, I used a solid block of ice and broke it up with a hammer. It pays to cover the ice with a cloth it was wrapped in so as the splinters don't go scattering all over the kitchen. In the future, I think I'll just stick to pre-crushed ice.

Now, drops and drips and spills do occur so it's essential to clean up as you go. This stuff is some sticky liquor so have a mop bucket with hot water on standby - your partner will love you for it. Also, as you finish using your buckets and sieves and equipment rinse them straight away as this will make cleanup so much easier. I like to use the big basin as a dunking bucket so that anything that need rinsing can be dropped into it and when I have a free moment I can then finish rinsing stuff off. This is essential if you are using minimal brew equipment, like here.

More soon with the progress of the fermentation and bottling. Now its,

Your Shout, Mate!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Brewing Three Distinct Hanoian Beers

A while back I was researching the effect of water quality and ion concentrations on beer styles. this prompted me to look at several different bottled waters that we have available here in Hanoi. After a while I settled on three potentials each with quite distinct and different ion profiles. These were, bottled, still, drinking water from Laska, La Vie and Kimboi. I then proceded to match them to particular well-known beers styles, like Blonde, Amber and Dark beers, and developed three recipes using Beer Alchemy (I'm on a Mac) to adjust ingredients towards something that might be characteristic of a particular style.

The only problem was that I'd never actually brewed these recipes to see how they'd turn out - Oh the shame, the shame!

Now, it's easy to be an armchair expert and pontificate from the sidelines! However, there's no substitute for real experience. so, I bit the bullet, I had to brew these beers, a Laska Blonde, a La Vie Amber, and a Kimboi Brown. They are all ambient temperature brews using an ale yeast, so technically they are Ales.

The Blonde is a pale ale, sort of the typical colour we're all used to when we crack a commercial beer. I expect it to be a little cloudy, so the beer that comes to my mind at least, commercially, as representative of the style is Cooper's Sparking Ale.

The Brown is targeted at approx. the middle of the style. I had a lovely English Brown Ale recently, it was a medium brown with a slight reddish tinge and I'm hoping for something similar from the La Vie Amber.

The Kimboi Brown is targeted at the bottom end of a Black Beer/Stout. It's meant to be a very dark brown bordering black. So we'll have to wait and see how that turns out. Hopefully it's come in somewhere around a Milk Stout like colour.

Now, I just have to get off my tail and away from the iMac and start doing some real brewing. Until the next time,

It's Your shout, Mate!