Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Regime Change.

I've been thinking a lot lately about beer and about politics.  But since this is a blog about beer and brewing, I'll spare the reader from my political rants, and begin my inaugural (wink wink) blog entry by talking about a new method of brewing for me: recirculation infusion mashing (RIMS).

RIMS brewing, at its core, involves constantly recirculating wort through the mash tun during mashing.  Recirculation is accomplished by pulling wort from the bottom of the mash tun through a false bottom, out a ball valve, and using a pump to feed it back up to the top of the mash tun.  The process promotes better extraction, more heat control (allowing for, say, stepped temperature mashing), and more wort clarity, as the grain bed in the mash tun acts as a static filter during recirculation.  Plus, it's geekier and more technical than what I've been doing, and the more involved, for me, the better...

Here's my project in a nutshell (and for those interested, I'll post materials and construction details for each phase):

Step 1:  Construct brewing stand with gas line assembly.

This phase is almost complete (see picture).  The only thing left is to finish the gas line assembly that will power the three burners built into the stand, and I'm waiting for some hardware from an industrial supply company that will adapt my burner orifices (flare fittings) to my gas line (pipe fittings).  

Step 2: Purchase the tuns.

Since this is a RIMS system, all 3 tuns are directly fired, which means that my plastic gatorade coolers will be a thing of the past.  What this also means is that I must purchase three new stainless steel tuns, which costs lots of moolah.  And I don't have the skills to do stainless steel welding!  This phase may have to wait a bit.

Step 3: Construct ventilation system.

My plan here is to brew in the basement, directly underneath a large window (egress) with a box fan that can move a lot of air.  I'll construct a heat shield above the brewing stand made of sheet metal to protect the wood joists over head from heat and from moisture.  The fan should move most of the steam from the boil kettle out the window, but the sheild will provide a nice backstop.

That's it.  My dream RIMS brewery in three simple steps.  We'll see how it goes.  And of course, I'll keep you posted.  


Friday, January 23, 2009

Batch #5, the Sherman Query Stout

Doing basically what the recipe from Steinbart's tells me to, I made my fifth batch of beer- a stout- with John Moen as assistant. Only change was adding some extra finishing hops. I can't help it. It was all I could do not to put all my leftover hops in at the end (which would have been 2 oz above the recipe instead of 1/2- not that bold yet). Tastes good, let's cross our fingers.

At the risk of jinxing this batch, this was the first one that felt easy. Heat water, clean stuff, start steeping, clean more stuff, start boil with bittering hops and malt extract, start sanitizing, wait and drink your most recent batch, add finishing hops, cool, aerate, pitch. Piece of cake (knock on wood).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Batch #4, Cascade by Morning

For the fourth time, I used Amarillo By Morning recipe with a couple changes, some on purpose, some by accident

Started with 5.5 gallons of water, put in grains at about 200 degrees (even though they are supposed to steep at 165- hope this doesn't matter).

Steeped for 10-15 minutes, then added 6 lbs malt extract and 1 oz cascade hops, started boil. Beer minus 60 (well, 57 this time)

Took grain bag out 10 minutes into boil or so.

20 minutes into boil (B minus 40), added 1 oz cascade. Recipe says 20 minutes meaning 20 minutes left. I'm an idiot. Oh well. More bitter more better I hope. So, do I add 1 oz at 20 minutes left and then the last ounce at 5 minutes, or put them all at 5 minutes? I've got some time to decide. Hops smell so goooood...

boil boil boil

with 5 minutes left, added one oz and mixed it in, another ounce and didn't mix. Turned off heat at 57 minutes instead of sixty and started cooling it.

I moved the wort chiller around a lot to cool it faster. Tap water is super freezing, so the wort was down to 75 or so in like 10 minutes. Amazing. I might make it to that meditation workshop after all.

Poured it through a strainer into a big bucket and back into pot and back into bucket. Mucho Aire!!!

Poured it into the carboy. Oh boy. Bubbles. Had to pour the last bit a little at a time and spill some on the floor. Ended up with about 5 gallons exactly.

Tastes pretty good. OG about 1.055. It is a more bitter than the last batch, but it's yummy. Fruity. Is it my imagination or can i already tell the difference between the Cascade and the Amarillo hops. This is why bottling is good even though kegging sounds fun. I can compare this to batches #1 and #3 someday.

Waiting for yeast packet to look fat and happy. Cleaning up. Cross your fingers.