Monday, February 21, 2011

Making My Own Beer, Part 4: Bottle One, Brew One

Well, my first brew is in bottles. I spend five hours on Sunday bottling up the Winter Ale I brewed the week before and brewing up a new batch of beer.

At J.W. Dover, they I got two buckets, a 6 gallon and a 7.9 gallon. While I might be confused, I think I was told the 6 gallon was the fermentation bucket and the 7.9 was the bottling bucket. Regardless, they are both plastic buckets in excess of the 5 gallon batches I've been brewing.

I intended to add spigots to both buckets, but only got one installed on the 6 gallon bucket for brew time. I then used that bucket for my fermenter. When it came time to bottle, I had yet to install the spigot in the 7.9 gallon bucket, so I had a bit of juggling to do.

I drained the fermented beer into the bottling bucket, then cleaned and sanitized the fermentation bucket - which has a spigot - then poured it back into the fermentation bucket for bottling.

And to prevent this back and forth business again, I've opted to flip-flop the buckets, with my next batch of beer fermenting in the 7.9 gallon bucket. Plus it fits better in my fermentation chiller.

Otherwise, bottling was a breeze. Again, thanks to my wife, Morgan, for helping thought the day; she was the extra pair of hands I needed.

The new beer I brewed is another kit beer, Midwest Supplies Superior Strong Ale. The kit included:
  • A premixed bag of Specialty Grains:
    • 8 oz. Brown Malt
    • 8 oz. Caramel 40L
  • 6 lbs Amber LME
  • 3.3 lbs Dark LME
  • 2 oz. Mt. Hood Hops
  • 1 oz. Tettnang Hops
  • Wyeast American Ale #1056 Liquid Yeast
I swear this stuff brewed itself. I steeped the grains at 155° for 30 minutes while we were bottling the Winter Ale, then brought it to a boil. Other than almost forgetting to add the LME, it went perfecting smooth, and that was mainly an oversight due to the bottling. The hop additions were straight forward, the Mt. Hood at the beginning and the Tettnang just before the end.

I improved upon almost every thing on my To Do Better list. I had tons more sanitizer on hand and I'm positive everything got a very thorough cleansing. Moving to the bathtub was much better than using the wash tub, even the 7.9 gallon bucket fits.

Since the LME was a bit forgotten, instead of heating it up, I let gravity do most of the work, then I ladled in some of the boil into the LME bottles, shook and poured them out. I got almost ever last drop of LME. I will definitely do this again... with a funnel, so I don't burn my hand. I also avoided another LME plastic ring mishap.

I can't say I kept a better brew journal this time, but I was definitely more on the numbers. The whole process was smoother and my temperatures seemed to be more consistent, even if I didn't write more stuff down.

While I didn't have a snow bank for my cold break, I did plan a head better this time. I tossed two gallons of water in the freezer on Saturday morning, after pouring out a little for expansion. Next time I'l give them another full day, as there were still some pockets of water.

They got the temperature down to about 150° and a nice cold water soak in the bathtub took it the rest of the way down. In all, I spent about 20 minutes cooling it down. Hopefully some solid ice blocks with reduce that even further.

Using the bathtub for the cold break and then for pouring into the fermenter was definitely the way to go. No messy spills, no difficult clean up and a super convenient drain.

If I had one thing to do over, it would be to not bottle and brew at the same time. While I successfully juggled both, it could have gone wrong easily. If I decided to bottle and brew on the same day again, I will most certainly do one, then the other.

I opted to measure my wort this time, getting an OG of 1.071. I have to admit, reading the hydrometer was a bit of a challenge. The model I have has quite the variety of data points and figuring out which one(s) I needed was a bit of work, but in the end it worked out.

Come Monday morning I swapped out the ice to find it bubbling already, at a semi-steady pace of one every five or six seconds. This evening when I changed the ice in my chiller, I was reading one every two to three seconds and I'm prepared to see some crazy bubbling in the morning.

Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to this beer?

1 comment:

  1. you better save a bottle (or two) for me to try next time I'm home.