Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Check Up Time Little RIPA

Tonight I did some brewery activities. First, I needed to rack that Citra IPA I brewed a couple weeks ago on the Zymatic so I went ahead and got that completed. I didn't check gravity but it's been a couple weeks so it should be good by now. I'm considering dry hopping this one but I don't know if I have any good hops that go with this recipe on hand.

I also checked in on the Pico C fermentation of the Little RIPA I have going. The first brix reading before I pitched the yeast was somewhere around 18.8. Might have been slightly less. I checked it tonight to see how it was going and while there was pressure release, it didn't seem too crazy. Brix checked out though at 10.6 which makes this a FG of 1.0201, so an ABV of 6.8%. That is slightly higher than the estimated of 6.3 but all things being equal, it's possible I got better extraction out of it that they expect out of the machine. I also remembered there were some dry hops in the freezer for this batch so I threw them in also today. They can run about 4-5 days and then I will end up kegging it up. I ordered a Torpedo keg from Morebeer.com which I should get by the end of the week. While I like the idea of the little serving keg they give you, I would much rather put it in a corny, force carb, and drink in a couple days. One thing they note is you should crash it in the fridge for a few days so I may do that on Friday, keg Sunday, and brew the next batch on Memorial Day. I have 2 recipes on hand to brew so I am ready to get this moving. Almost wish I had more brewing kegs...........:)

5/23 - I put the keg of the Citra IPA in the fridge tonight because I want to crash the yeast out of it before I keg it up this weekend. Looking forward to possibly brewing two batches on the C this weekend. More to come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May Brewing 2018

Zymatic Brewing and now Pico C Brewing:

As of my last blog entry, I was very much undecided as to which way I would change the way I brew. The new machines that I was researching all seemed to do what I wanted to do but the Zymatic seemed the most interesting in terms of space and size and just sheer ease of use. The Grainfather still needed more of an outdoor setup and I didn't feel comfortable with the thought of that thing sitting in the middle of a kitchen. I ended up buying the Zymatic about a year ago and I really haven't looked back to the way I used to brew.

When the Zymatic arrived from Picobrew my initial thought was this thing is huge! It has to be somewhat large due to the size of the batches that you can make. Typically I make 2.5-3 gallon batches. Now, I have been brewing for many years so the setup of the machine and the general thought processes were second nature when getting going. Pico provides a starter pack of what they call Pico Pale ale to get started with. I brewed this batch first and let it ferment out. The results were mediocre at best. I just think my taste for Pale Ales hasn't been there lately so it seemed watery and very flavor-less. Wasn't that great a start to brewing on this machine but I understand why that's the recipe they chose to include. Maybe adding some options when ordering the Zymatic of different recipes would have been a better option.

Next up I had to try a replication of Bell's 2 Hearted Ale. I love this beer and it's a go-to at the pool in the summer as they make it in cans. My first attempt really wasn't too bad. I was a little low on gravity points but in the end produced a drinkable beer. That started to make me think about how I can tweak the recipe and my process to make this beer better. I ended up brewing it four times and the fourth time in this case was a charm. I brewed a batch for a 90th birthday party and ended up bottling the batch and making a cool label to go along with it.

Next up I made some recipes from the Pico recipe site that others have posted or Pico themselves have made. I make a Kolsch, a brown ale, a porter, and a few IPA's. All in all, I have made a total of 11 beers on the Zymatic since August last year (9 months). Now, when I was brewing outside if I was able to do a batch every 3 months I was lucky! So all in all, the Zymatic hit the spot with doing the one thing I really wanted - get back to making good beer. The side effect is that I am brewing like a maniac and always thinking of how to tweak a recipe and what needs to get in the pipeline to brew. For the brews, the Kolsch turned out not so great, the brown ale was really good (thanks Tom M!), the porter is on tap still and very delicious, and the few IPA's I have made have actually turned out pretty well.

The latest brew I did was a Juicy NEIPA. I used El Dorado, Mosaic, and Citra hops in this not only in the boil but did some 170 degree whirlpool additions and I dry hopped the hell out of it too. This beer turned out fantastic and as some friends told me may be my best beer to date. It's not much to look at, it's hazy like all other NEIPA's but it's really muddy looking vs that yellowish hue you get from a traditional NEIPA. I can't help but think this is due to how I added the dry hops. I threw a batch of hops in straight to the fermenter on day 4 before I realized what I was doing. I think it sort of has a very tiny hint of green color in the right light. The taste is spot on though, great aroma once it warms slightly and the hops really burst in flavor when you sip it.

Enter the Pico C:

As I have been watching the world unfold in Picobrew-land they have a new smaller homebrew appliance called a Pico C. Yes, this is the Keurig for homebrew (as many of my brew club likes to state). The idea here is you brew a small batch (12 beers) and it's all grain and you get somewhat involved with the process. It's much simpler than the Zymatic in that you get a pack from Pico that someone else designed, mainly other breweries trying to get their beer out there. Many of the packs they have in the marketplace are beers I would never have the opportunity to try here at home because beer laws are dumb and distribution is a racket. (cue rant on InBev and the like).

I ended up getting one of these from the love of my life for my upcoming 40th birthday this week. This machine won't replace the Zymatic, to me it augments it. I still have the strong desire to create my own recipes and brew a case of good brew on the Zymatic often. I also have the desire to taste beers from places I've never been or don't have access to so the Pico C allows me to do that. I received the machine last weekend and couldn't wait to brew. I chose the Denny Conn Little RIPA as my first beer naturally as I have brewed the real thing back when I did my blue cooler mash tun/kettle combination and I loved the beer then. This was as easy as it looks. Run a quick cleaning program with some water, then add some distilled water where it tells you, hook up the hoses, insert the pack into the step filter, push brew. After about 3 hours I had wort and the OG was quite higher than expected. I measured 18.8 brix after it cooled to 75.

The instructions tell you to leave the beer overnight before pitching so you don't have to cool the wort. I ended up following the instructions and I plan to natural carbonate the beer in the little serving keg they gave me too. Eventually I think I will switch to torpedo kegs for easy of use in the kegerator but I figure if this turns out ok, I will take it to work and get some opinions. I have 2 more recipes and am itching to brew them but since the keg acts as a fermenter also, I need to wait until I keg up this first beer before I start another one. One interesting tidbit is that I could easily brew this in an evening after work with little to no stress. It really was set it and forget it. I watched the O's game and took a nap while this thing brewed the other day.

I can say for sure both of these machines got me 100% back into brewing and for the most part I am producing decent to good quality brews with each batch. I will be interested to see where I end up in the coming months as to how many Zymatic vs C batches I produce. Even with the C fermenting the Denny beer right now, I am already tweaking my NEIPA recipe and thinking about brewing it again next weekend during the holiday weekend. Maybe I can knock out a double batch weekend - one Zymatic and one C?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Revamping Time

Revamping the Brewing Process

It's been quite some time since I have updated this blog and with good reason. I stopped brewing. Life got in the way. Home brewing is a hobby that I have enjoyed right from the start and i didnt caught up in every tiny aspect of it to make my beer perfect. I just enjoyed making beer, sitting outside watching the boil, hitting temps, FG, etc. The piece I didn't quite enjoy was all of the cleaning and the large amount of equipment that I managed to either build or buy over the years. Switching to BIAB was a nice change which did indeed make the brew day a little easier but I found myself a little short on gravity at times and had to hold the heavy wet bag for a while to get all the wort out of the bag properly. I know people have come up with solutions for this problem with pulleys and ropes, etc but that seemed like a lot of work.

Enter the new line of machines designed for automated brewing. There are several on the market these days, most notably the Picobrew Zymatic, the Grainfather, and the latest one called the Robobrew. All three of these are touted as All Grain brewing systems and in the research I have done so far, they all seem like they actually measure up. A lot of purists in the homebrew community have been snubbing their noses at these systems calling them Keurigs for homebrew and how it takes all the fun out homebrewing. I've heard all of them at this point I think but in the end what most people fail to think about is that this is a hobby and it's ok to have multiple levels of enthusiasts. There are people who play golf with custom fitted clubs and gear. There are others who use the same old set of irons that their dad gave them when they were 8. Neither are better than the other and as long as the golfer enjoys what they're doing, who cares what kind of clubs they use? They still both chase the little white ball around the course the same way.

Picobrew Zymatic

In researching these brewing systems cost certainly plays a factor. The Zymatic retails for around $2,000, the Grainfather around $900, and the Robobrew around $500. With the Granfather and the Robobrew you still need to have fermenters to ferment the beer out. With the Zymatic, it looks like you ferment right in that keg making it a completely closed system. The Zymatic also has some software that goes with it for recipe calculation and watching the mash process from beginning to end. I haven't quite decided which one I will end up going with but with the space issues that constantly plague me, one of these will certainly be in my future.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In the Hopper

I've been brewing but neglecting to blog about it for several reasons. Time, time, and time. If anyone would have told me that adulating was this hard I would have probably just tried to be a kid forever. Deadlines, issues, conflicts, schedules, they all just get in the way of one of the most important things in life - brewing. I've been on a kit kick recently mainly due to the time factor and I have to say that it's not really been that bad. My tastes seem to revolve around IPA's and stronger Ales these days and I find myself wanting to brew a lot of variety in this area. I have an IPA on tap and a Brown Ale right now and both were kit beers with extract. Over the holidays I got some gift cards to Northern Brewer so of course I was going to use them on some beer recipes. They had a sale for certain kits for $20.16 so I jumped on that. The kits I got were all grain as I'm trying to force myself back to doing BIAB and get back away from extract. I migrated away when my bag was slightly wet and I put it in a rubbermaid and it got moldy. Had to make a new bag at that point. The kits I got are all fairly decent looking:

  • Irish Red Ale (for St. Patrick's Day hopefully)
  • Black IPA
  • Regular IPA (brewed the extract and have on tap now, good brew)
  • Vanilla Porter
I am really excited about the Vanilla Porter as that was my first ever real homebrew. I don't know what they'll send in the kit but I may go to Trader Joe's and get the nice real vanilla beans to use in secondary for that hint of vanilla. The weather needs to improve though soon or I wont be able to brew outside anytime in the neat future. The 3 feet of snow we received two weeks ago is still hampering efforts to get outside and brew. Plus, with it being winter I need to use the outside water tap when I BIAB and that's currently turned off so the pipes don't freeze. As soon as I see a Saturday or Sunday with weather in the 50's or above I am all over it. Until then, Slainte.