Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Irish Red Recipe

Here's the recipe for an Irish Red, brewed few weeks ago. Color came out a little light I think, but it tastes great.

- 9lb 2row
- 1/2lb Carapils
- 1/2lb Crystal 10L
- 1/2lb Belgian Biscuit 25L
- 2oz Chocolate 350L

60m boil with the following additions:

- 1oz goldings for 60min
- 1oz goldings for 5min
- 1 tsp irish moss for 20min 

Mashed at 155F for 60min, fermented at 68F with S04 and these were the final brewing numbers:


Fermentation profile is below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cream Ale Recipe

Here's a delicious beer, got the recipe from This is one of the best beers I have brewed to date. Very light, easy going and creamy beer!

All grain recipe, 5gal batch:
-9lb 2 row malt
-1/2lb carapills
-1/2lb biscuit malt 25L
-1lb flaked corn

Mashed at 155F for 1h and boil as follow:

-1oz hallertauer 4% for 60min
-1 tsp irish moss for 20min
-1/2oz hallertauer 4% for 10min
-1/2oz hallertauer 4% flameout

Used Safale S05 yeast at 68F and these were the brewing numbers:


Here's the fermentation profile:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hop Harvest 2011 update

Here's the final numbers on the harvest this year. I huge increase from last year. Total, harvested over 12lb of hops which represented an increase of almost 50% from last year. Ended with almost 6lb of dry hops, an increase of 70% from last year.
Here's the data. Got to brew a lot of beer now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hop Harvest 2011

Almost ready to harvest my hops this year, probably few weeks away. Harvesting Hallertauer, US Goldings and Horizon.
I expect over 10lb of fresh hops. Here are some photos.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ladybug life cycle

Got to know what those tiny yellow eggs in my hops were, from my previous post. I isolated the eggs and witness the metamorphosis all the way until the new ladybug emerged. I was surprised since I had no idea that the ladybugs were laying those eggs. So what I thought was the ladybug eating the eggs, was actually then laying it in my hop leaves. Good to know that I have a renewing army of aphid fighters :-), which by the way, are very few right now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aphid control

Just sharing some photos and suggestions regarding aphid control. I'm not an expert and have been growing hops for only 3 years, but the basic seems to work for me so far.

Here's my big hop farm :-).
From left to right, Hallertauer, US Goldings and Horizon.

I wasn't able to get a decent photo of an aphid, too small for my camera to focus, but did find few around my hop leaves.
Here's a photo from the web.

The photo below show insects eggs, possibly caterpillar, that eat the hop flower ( I have seen it in my hops flowers last year), but just wanted to show that many insects are interested in using the hop plants to develop their life cycle.
UPDATE 09/05/12 - These are actually ladybug eggs. Check my other post about ladybug life cycle

Here's the guardian of the aphids. The ants developed a symbiosis relationship with the aphids. The ants protects the aphids against predators and the aphids pay back with a sweet secretion, which the ants are more than happy to drink.

Payday (not my photo).

Here's the hop farmer's natural aphid control, a ladybug. It will systematically search and eat the aphids. If you see a ladybug in you hop plants, be happy and let it do its job.

Here, a ladybug takes a nap. She's probably dreaming about that fat and juicy aphid that she's going to eat next!

Actively searching for pray. If you grow hops (or not), take some time to watch nature at its best!

I got this photo when our warrior was feasting on some insect eggs. So it seems it will eat eggs too, not only the living aphids. Scrambled eggs anyone?
UPDATE 09/05/12 - Ladybug checking its eggs

Basically, if you don't have a huge aphid infestation, just leave it alone. Nature will provide the players to control aphid population.
Check the back of you hop leaves periodically for aphids. If you notice that you have huge counts and it keeps growing, you can use an insect control product for vegetables, like the one I used below. Spray the most affected areas only, not the whole plant as I think it will also kill or scare away the ladybugs.

By the way, the 6 plants I have will produce enough hops for over two years of my beer production!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Scoring with a Bloody Ale

Here it is, got third place on the Washington State Puget Sound Pro-Am competition on cat 21- Spice, Herb and Vegetable Beer.
First time ever on a competition, 36 points on this recipe. Very valuable feedback from certified BJCP judges, which is all we are after anyways.
Find recipe HERE.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blue Moon Clone testing continue.

Please check recipe#6, my latest and as good as #4, please click HERE

Friday, May 13, 2011

Malzbier - Update

Just an update on this beer that I brewed just once.
I have saved a bottle of my Malzbier, brewed 18 month ago, tried it today and it tasted very good! No off flavors, no oxidation. Flavors mellowed out and it is very drinkable.
Here's the cap.

Original recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Partial Mash brewing

Like most home brewers, this is the process I used when I started home brewing. It is basically an extract brewing with the extra step of steeping special barley malts in water to give additional flavor and color to the beer. These are the basic steps for this type of brewing:

1)Have all you ingredients ready following your recipe, pre-crushed barley malt, hops, yeast and other spices it may calls for.

Recipes for partial mash brewing are very popular and can be found easily on the web.

The barley malt can be previously crushed or milled at your LHBS or, if you have a barley mill, you can mill it yourself few minutes before use.

This is the barley malt before milling:

This is a barley mill, the barley crusher mill:

And this is how the barley should look like after been milled:

2)Heat half of your batch size water to 155F. If your batch is 5gal, heat 2.5gals of water.

3)Fill a muslin bag with the milled barley malt. Use two bags if it gets too full, then add to your water and leave it for 30min. You should try to apply heat just enough to keep 155F during that time.

4)Turn the heat off and remove the bag, let it drip for few minutes to collect all the good stuff. You can also wash the bag a little with some hot water at 155F to 165F to extract the most of flavors and colors.

5)Add your malt extract, liquid or dry. Stir well until completely dissolved.

6)Add water until you reach your boil volume, turn the heat on and proceed just as a regular extract brewing, boiling the wort for 60min, adding hops and spices as required, cooling the wort and pitching the yeast.

The basic extract process can be found at the "How to brew" menu

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adjusting brewing water

I have finally reached a point where ignoring the brewing water quality/properties is no longer possible, so here we go, starting a whole new chapter in brewing beer, water chemistry.

I recomend for anyone planning to go this path is first get a water analysis done for your brewing water. That is a requirement before you start doing anything. You must first know what is in your water before you attempt to change anything. A complete water analysis only cost around $20 at and has everything you need to know. I have investigated other labs but you cant beat this price.
Second, you will need to get a water PH tester. Prices will vary from $50 to many hundreds of dollars, but I recomment something around $100. You can get very good PH meters in that range, at least good enough for brewing beer.
This post is not intended to teach anyone water chemistry since I'm just starting and not an expert in any aspect, but feel free to use this as a start point.
Once you get your water report, you can then identify what types of beer would better suit you water profile or what changes you would need to make to your water to fit the styles you want to brew. Basically, the more minerals in the water or the more "hardness" (to a certain degree), the best for darker beers. The less hardness, the better for lighter beers.
There will be cases where your water has so much stuff in it ( calcium, sulfates, chloride and others) that you just can't use it for brewing. For those with this water profile, the only way is to either mix it with reverse ormosis water (RO) or distilled water(DI) in order to lower the concentration of these minerals. In some extreme cases, a brewer would have to use DI water only, trying to add some vital minerals from ground up.

The basics of brewing water chemistry is to make adjustments to your brewing water in order to:
1)Allow your mash PH to be between 5.2 to 5.4, which is the mostly recommended range. This will increase your mash efficiency and overall beer quality.
2)Provide vital minerals that help your yeast health, improve yeast fluculation and therefore get more clear beer, and stablish a beer profile that you like, malty, bitter, etc.

The first on this list is considered the most important goal, the mash PH. Mash PH, from what I learned so far, is driven my two basic variables:
-Water profile/hardness
-Grain bill, specially the crystals and dark roasted grains. These malts are known to drive the mash PH down.

With your water report and your grain bill, you can use few free tools on the web to estimate what your mash PH will be, as well as the amount of each minerals, like calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfates, etc on your mash water. I have checked few of these tools and have posted the links to each of then at the "technical stuff" page, on the top menu. Try all and choose one that you like best. All pretty much do the same thing for you, you plug in your water composition, the type of beer you plan to brew, and it lets you make additions showing the estimated mash PH and final mash water profile.

These are some basic guidelines on what your mash water should contain:
=>Calcium(Ca) - From 50 to 150 ppm - good for yeast health and beer clarity. Also increase mash efficiency.

=>Magnesium (Mg) - From 10 to 30 ppm - important yeast nutrient. This may come from the barley, so adding Mg may not be necessary, but it would not hurt to do so.

=>Sulfate(SO4) - From 50 to 350 ppm - acentuates bitterness

=>Sodium (Na) - From 0 to 150 ppm - at low concentration it can accenuates the sweetness of the beer.

=>Chloride(Cl) - From 0 to 250 ppm - acentuates the sweetness and maltyness. The Cl to SO4 ratio is claimed to define the beer profile, from bitter to malty, but some argue that the actual amounts of Cl and SO4 are as important and that Cl should stay below 100ppm and SO4 to a minimum.

All these elements will define, together (specially Ca), how much you water is succeptable to PH changes, or in order words, how easy would the PH change. This PH change will come from the grain bill, specifically from the crystal and roasted malts once added to the mash water.

A basic rule for water hardness would be, as CaCO3 ppm:
Soft: 0-60 => good for any styles of beer. May not require any salt additions, depending on the style you are brewing.

Moderate: 61-120 => Best for ambers up to brown ales

Hard: 121-180 => Best for dark styles like stouts and porters. Mixing with RO or DI water may be necessary

Very Hard: >181 => Mixing with DI water is required to lower mineral concentrations. The rate of mix will depend on how high the concentrations are and the target beer style, but using 100% RO or DI water is commom practice

The most commom salts/minerals used to adjust brewing water are listed below:

-lowers mash PH, add calcium and SO4, lower Cl/SO4 ratio

Calcium Chloride(CaCl2)
-lowers mash PH, add calcium and chloride, raises Cl/SO4 ratio

Epsom Salt(MgSO4)
-lowers mash PH, add magnesium and SO4, lower Cl/SO4 ratio

Baking Soda(NaHCO3)
-raises mash PH, add sodium, no affect in Cl/SO4 ratio

Non Iodized Salt(NaCl)
-no affect on mash PH, add sodium and Chloride, raises Cl/SO4 ratio

-raises mash PH, add calcium, no affect on Cl/SO4 ratio

I have soft water and here are two examples of what my approach would be to adjust my water when brewing these styles of beer:

My water profile:
SO4<1ppm br="br">CaCO3=24

As you can see, my water has almost nothing in it, close do DI water, so I can expect I will need to add some minerals in any styles of beer.

Brewing a light pale ale:
Total grain bill(lb)=12
Crystal malt used(lb)=2
Roasted malt used (lb)=0
Expected SRM=8Mash water volume(gal)=4.5
Intended beer profile = malty

Plugging all informatin above into one of the tools I listed, this would be my mash water profile:

From that we can see that the mash PH is too high, so the first step is to add something to lower the PH to between 5.2 and 5.4.
One route to lower PH is by just adding acid, like lactic or phosphoric acid. That route is fine IF you already have minimum amounts of some important minerals, like Ca, Cl and Mg.
Because the water lacks of almost anything, the Ca, Cl and Mg are much lower than recommended minimums, so what I would dois to add these minerals and lower PH at the same time.
By adding:
-4g of calcium chloride(CaCl2)
-3g of Epson Salt(MgSO4)

I lower my mash PH to 5.4 and at the same time I raise these minerals to:
-Ca from 8 to 72
-Mg from 1 to 17
-Cl from 4 to 117
-SO4 from o to 69

These are values that falls between the recommended range and I also get a Cl/SO4 ratio towards a malty profile.
Now, adding a small amount of lactic acid, about 0.5g, I would lower the PH further to 5.37.

The listed salt additions would be added to the mash water before adding the grains. 15min into mashing, a sample is taken for a PH test to confirm it is within 5.2 and 5.4. At this point, if the PH is too high, some acid can be added and stired to lower the PH. If the PH is too high, some baking soda or chalk could be added to raise PH to the target value.
From my experience so far, you can get pretty close to your target PH and no late salt additions are necessary.

Brewing a Stout:
Total grain bill(lb)=14
Crystal malt used(lb)=1
Roasted malt used (lb)=0.75
Expected SRM=36
Mash water volume(gal)=5
Intended beer profile = malty

Plugging this info into the tool, I get the following mash predictions:

As seen, the PH is too low. That is because the water is soft and PH is easily lowered by the acidity from the crystal and roasted malts. All minerals concentration as also low, just like the previous example.
So basically, we need to add something to raise the mash PH. From the list of commom salts used, we could add either baking soda or chalk to rise mash PH.
Adding 8g of baking soda would raise our mash PH to 5.26, which is on target.
I would also try to add some calcium and chloride, no a lot so I don't lower my mash PH, but just enough to reach the recommended minimums.
Adding 3g of Calcium chloride would provide 51 ppm of calcium and 80 ppm of chloride and PH would be 5.22, still on target.
As last option and to garantee that you have magnesium enough for you yeast to be happy, 2g of Epson Salt could be also added to raise Mg from 1 to 11 ppm. That would still keep the mash PH on target and final Cl/SO4 ratio would be close to 2, suggesting a malty beer profile as planned.

At last, here are the tools I'm using for my water testing, have worked great so far, so take these as suggestions in case you are planning to start adjusting you water. The first is the precision scale to weight the salts to be added and second the PH meter.

Sparge water acidification

Here's an easy excel tool to calculate the amount of different acids you would need to add to your sparge water to change its PH to a target value, based on the following imputs: - Specific gravity of each acid (mg/ml) This is only used/required if you wish to know the volume of the acid, calculated in the very bottom on the tool. I have added few values that I could find. The ones I couldn't find I used 1000, which is the gravity of water.

-Acid concentration (%)

This is the concentration of the acid. It is usually shown on the label. I used 88% for Lactic and 10% for phosphoric, which I have bottles. The other values different than 100% I got on the web. You will need to make sure you enter the correct value of what you plan to use.

-Alkalinity (CaCO3)

This is from your water report. In order to use this tool, you need to know this info.

-Start PH

This can be from you water report of your PH meter. I use the value I get from my PH meter, which I take every time I brew. This is the start PH.

-Water volume (gal)

The amount of water you will be treating with acid, or your sparge volume

-Target PH

This is your final PH or target PH, which you want your sparge water to be at, so you can avoid tanin extraction.

If your water PH is already low, like below 6.5, I wouldn't add anything. Finaly, the excel tool can be found and downloaded HERE or at the menu "technical stuff"

If you have any questions, feel free to use the contact option at the top menu.