Homebrewing - Home Brewers Blog

West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Month: April 2014

Brettanomyces and Beer!

Vrettanomyces

Brettanomyces – Brett Beer

Sometimes how brewers take for granted how big of an impact yeast makes on a beer.  It seems like the grain bill and the hops garnish the lion share of attention, but the truth is that the yeast can play just as large of a role in certain beers.  This is especially true with sours, lambics, gueuze and wild ales.  One of the main yeast stains commonly used with wild ales and sours is brettanomyces or also commonly called brett.

 

Brettanomyces is very special because in addition to converting sugars to alcohol and CO2, it also creates a high amount of acetic acid and off flavors in certain environments.  Brett or Brettanomyces is often described as adding a funky or horse blanket like flavor to beer and as you can imagine, in most cases is undesirable.  It is important to note that if you are going to dabble in the use of brettanomyces or other souring bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus you will want to consider setting aside specific equipment such as fermenters, kegs and racking canes for your wild ales and sours.  Once these yeasts and bacteria come in contact with your fermenting equipment they can be more difficult to eradicate than typical brewing yeast strains due to their ability to survive in high temperatures, tolerate high alcohol levels and their ability to survive in low pH environments.  If not, it is very important to make sure that you practice proper cleaning and sanitization methods to insure you will not contaminate future batches of beer.

 

Recently Brettanomyces has made become very popular in alternative beer styles.  It is a powerful tool to have for a creative brewer who is working on designing interesting and flavorful beers. It is also an important reminder of just how important both yeast and fermentation conditions are in creation of a beers taste.

 

If you are looking to taste examples of well crafted brettanomyces  beers, I highly recommend Russian River Sanctification which is a 100% brett beer and also any one of the Crooked Stave 100% brett release beers.

 

Here are a few Brettanomyces yeast varieties for home brewing 

Growlers for your home brew!

Growlers

Growlers for your home brewed beer.

 

So you brewed an incredible pale ale and now it is time to share it with some friends.  If you are anything like me you are too lazy to clean and sanitize 40 bottles each time you brew a new batch of beer so you keg; but a keg is a pain to transport, what to do, what to do.  The answer is a growler!  Most beer growlers hold half a US gallon or 64 ounces, some are a bit larger and there are also 32 oz half growlers.

 

Typically what I do is if I go to a brewery that I really like I will pick up a growler of their beer and just re-use those growlers for my home brew as well.  That way if I am heading to an event, going on a camping trip or a buddy wants some beer to bring home I have several available.  I recently also purchased a couple of really nice stainless steel growlers.  I like them because they are nearly indestructible, has a cap that you never need to replace and is also far more compact then a typical growler yet still holds 64 ounces.  It also looks like a miniature keg which I also like.

 

Stainless Steel Mini Keg Home Brew Growler

Mini Keg Growler

 You can find these stainless steel mini keg growlers for purchase here

 

Stainless Steel Fermentors for Home Brewing

Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter

Stainless Steel Fermentor

 

I have good news for my fellow home brewers.  If you have always wanted a stainless steel fermentor for your home brewing setup but have been scared away from making the purchase by either the cost or the size than this might be the fermentor for you.

 

Last month MoreBeer.com released these new 7 gallon stainless steel conical fermentors and I picked up 2 of them.  They currently retail for $225.  There are several things that I like about these stainless steel fermentation buckets.  First off is that they are small enough where the still fit in the chest freezer that I use as a fermentation chamber.  Secondly, they have strong handles on the side that permit you to carry and move them around when they are full.  Something that would be far more tricky with a larger 14 gallon conical stainless steel fermentor.  Another thing that is great is that they have volume markers engraved into the side of the fermentor which is awesome!

 

Stainless Steel Fermenter

Stainless Steel Fermenter

Perhaps the best thing about this stainless steel fermentor is that it wont crack, chip, break or possibly shatter if you drop it and embed large shards of glass into your leg!  In most cases this will also make the need for a racking cane obsolete.  It is also larger than standard carboys! With its plus sized 6.95 gallon capacity you wont have to worry much about head space during high krausen on a 5 gallon batch. Lastly what I like about it is that it is far easier to scrub than a carboy since the large lid comes off so that you have full access to the inside of the fermentor.  Honestly about the only thing about a carboy that I miss is being able to watch the fermentation take place.  It would also have been nice to have another valve on the very bottom so that you could remove trub or harvest yeast from the fermentor.  Those two points aside, if you are looking to purchase a reasonably priced, high quality stainless steel fermentor or stainless steel brew bucket as they call this, than this is a great choice.

 

You can purchase this stainless steel fermentor here:

Stainless Steel Fermenter

 

 

 

How to build a home brewery brewing stand!

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

 

I can not speak for everyone, but for me, once I had made the change from extract to all grain home brewing I began having visions of what I wanted my home brewery to look like.  In a way, a big part of the allure of home beer brewing for me was making the best beer possible.  For me that included building my own home brewing rack, doing my best to perfect the process and being as efficient as possible.  I am not going to lie, there were a few times along the way that I questioned what the hell I was thinking and why I did not just buy a home brewing stand, but now that all is said and done I am a bit proud of what I was able to accomplish with my own hands.  In hopes of helping some of my fellow home brewers out I am going to supply some general information on how I put mine together.  If you need any specifics on something I do not list here, please feel free to drop me a line with what details you are looking for.

 

Home Beer Brewery

Home Beer Brewery

 

 

 

The dimensions of my brewery are 61″ Wide, 20.5″ Deep and 20.5″ tall excluding the wheels. The following is a list of parts that I used to create my home brewing sculpture, but many of the items such as the kettles, sparge arm and pumps can be traded out for other items of your preference. I am assuming that you have some basic welding experience (it is not that hard) and the required tools including a welder, cut saw, drill and grinder.

 

For the frame of my single tier home brewing stand I used 2″ x 2″ steel fence post that I cut into the appropriate sizes.  I made two large 61″ x 20.5″ rectangles for the top and the bottom, with a supporting vertical bar on each corner of the brewing stand.  In between each of the 3 burners, I placed 2 bars for spacing and support.  Even with all 3 kettles full of liquid, the beer rack is incredibly stable.  Here is a link to the fence post available at home depot:

Fence post for the brewing rack

 

The burners are really an item of personal preference.  I started with 54,000 BTU burners, but then later upgraded to a 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Burners.  The smaller burners were more efficient as far as propane usage goes, but the larger bayou cooker burners certainly get the job done much quicker.  I welded brackets onto the bottom of the top level of my home brewing stand to hold the burners in place.  Initially I had a flexible line with a regulator running from each burner to a master regulator that was hooked up to the propane tank, but then later ran pipe with separate valves for each burner. The bayou cooker banjo burners are available here:

Banjo Burner – 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Home Brewing Burner Stand

 

For the home brewing kettles I opted for the Blichmann 20 gallon kettles.  They include a site gauge so you can easily see the volume in your kettle, a 3 piece stainless steel ball valve and adjustable thermometer.  These stainless steel brewing kettles are one of the best buys that I have ever made and have no regrets about them.  They have a variety of options including a false bottom for your mash tun, hop blocker for your boil kettle, and sparge arm.  I opted for the false bottom and hop blocker and have been very happy with them.  I do mostly 10 gallon batches, but could go as high as 15 gallons with these 20 gallon kettles.  You will want to buy kettles that are appropriate for the batch size that you intend to brew.  Blichmann currently offers 10 gallon, 15 gallon, 20 gallon, 30 gallon and 55 gallon kettles.  You can find the kettles and optional items available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Kettles

 

You will need to get 2 high temperature food grade pumps for your single tier home brewing rack.  I placed my pumps in between the hot liquor tank \ mash tun and the other between the mash tun and boil kettle.  With two pumps you will be able to conduct your sparge while also transferring wort from your mash tun to your boil kettle.  I use high temperature rated march pumps with stainless steel quick disconnects.  The pumps and disconnects can be found here:

Home Brewing Pumps and Quick Connects

 

As far as sparge arms go I have tried several.  The best one that I have ever come across is the morebeer ultimate sparge arm.  It is made of stainless steel, has a ball valve built into it to easily control the flow rate and can be used to recirculate or lauter your wort in addition to sparging.  The ultimate sparge arm can be purchased here:

Ultimate Home Brewing Sparge Arm

 

Lastly for my wort chiller I use a convoluted counter flow chiller.  Much like the sparge arm, I have tried just about every chiller from immersion chillers to plate chillers and I have found the convoluted counter flow chiller to be the best.  What I like most about it is that it is just about impossible to clog, it is compact, it cools wort incredibly quickly and it is easy to clean and sanitize.  These convoluted counter flow chillers are also sometimes referred to as chillzillas.  They can be found here:

Home Brewing Convoluted Counterflow Chillers

 

Those are the basics on my home brewing stand \ single tier brewing sculpture.  If you have any specific questions or comments, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will do my best to assist you.  Best of luck to you on building your own all grain home beer brewing stand.  If it seems like a little more work then you are up for, there are also some really fantastic pre-manufactured stainless steel home brewing racks and brewing sculptures available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stands and Brewing Sculptures

 

Brewing Sculpture

Stainless Steel Home Brewery

 

Home Brewing Sparging

Batch Sparging

Sparging

 

Sparging is the home brewing process of flushing the mash grain bed with very hot water, typically 168F – 175F in order to extract any remaining sugars from your grains after you have began draining the wort from your mash tun to your brewing kettle.  There are a few common sparging methods used by home brewers.

 

Fly sparging is one of the most commonly used methods of sparging.  Fly sparging is a technique  where a home brewer uses a sparge arm to pour or spary hot water over the grain bed while at the same time transferring the wort to the boil kettle at a similar rate.  As the hot water flows through the grain bed it gently flushes the sugar from the grain husks.

 

Another commonly used home beer brewing sparge method is batch sparging where a home brewer adds batches of hot water to the mash tun and then drains the mash tun completely before refilling it with additional water.  Once the additional water has been added the brewer mixes the grains with a mash paddle for a few minutes to help extract the sugar from the grains.  With each subsequent batch, less sugar will be extracted from the grains.  The batching process is repeated until a sufficient amount of wort has been collected for the boiling process.

 

I personally use and have had great success with the fly sparging process, but the batch sparging method is also very efficient.  If you are in the market for a high quality stainless steel sparge arm, I highly recommend More Beers ultimate sparge arm.  That and a variety of other sparge arms can be found here:

Click Here for Sparge Arms

 

 

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