Friday, October 30, 2015

Brewing with Co-Workers

Over the weekend I was at a co-worker's house were 5-10 people gather around every other month about and brew some beer. I went to the last brewing session, but wasn't able to take home any wort to ferment. This time I was able to take some home! It is a Scottish Brown Ale for Christmas. Should be pretty tasty and knock your socks off a little too. The OG was 1.068.

They do all grain brewing which is awesome! Being in an apartment makes doing that a little dificult so I'll stick to the exact brewing for now.

Here is the Mash Tun they use. It is able to handle about 40 gallons

Brewing Time, We had 3 kettles going, last time they had 4 going but there was less people brewing this time.

We hopped the wort at about 30 minutes to go. and then again right before it went into the fermentors for some aroma.

Filling the fermentors. As you can see we were hopping to get 35 gallons out of the batch but ended up being a little short.

They are ready to go! 

Its now ferementing in my storage locker at my apartment building instead of the closet where I've fermented the last couple of batches, It was really going and started to have that nice brewery smell that my girlfriend wasn't the most fond of.  I think I'm going to let it go for about 3 weeks and see how it goes, and then bottle condition it till Christmas. I will let you know how it turns out!

Update on the Cider.

I have been pretty busy, so I haven't had time to bottle it yet, but i'm going to this weekend. I hope the vanilla didn't become to powerful in the cider. I am excited to see how it tastes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pain in the Kass Hard Cider

I have decided to call the cider "Pain in the Kass Hard Cider", I have broken 2 thermometers while making this, had to deal with the Potassium Sorbate, and I even had to waste a vanilla cinnamon extract I made. I used the wrong jar it may or may not have been contaminated... either way it was saver to toss it and make it again. Luckily I had to buy more spices than I needed so there was extra to make a second batch.

I had the cider in the primary fermentor for a week, and I'm glad to say that it fermented well! Got the FG down to about 1.001 which is really good considering the Potassium Sorbate. It also tasted pretty well also.  I racked it over to the secondary fermentor with the vanilla and cinnamon. It is going to sit in there for 2 weeks to clear up and get those flavors from the spices. I have about a week left in secondary before I bottle them. I hope when bottling conditioning them there is enough yeast that is not effected by the Potassium Sorbate to properly carbonate it. I will find out and keep you guys updated, I plan to have it ready to drink around Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Potassium Sorbate and Apple Cider

Vanilla Cinnamon Apple Cider

I decided that I wanted to make a hard cider for Thanksgiving, but with a little twist. It's going to be a Vanilla Cinnamon Apple Cider.  On Tuesday, I stopped at the Penzeys Spice store in Wauwatosa and picked up some Mexican vanilla beans, and Indonesian cinnamon sticks.  I opened up the vanilla bean to help extract some of the flavors.  I placed 1 vanilla bean and 2 sticks of cinnamon in a mason jar filled with vodka to extract the flavors out and sanitize the spices.  The spices are going to sit in the mason jar until secondary fermentation about 2 weeks.

Now the fun part with Potassium Sorbate

To get the cider for the brew, I went to a local orchard in Mequon, WI called Barthel Fruit Farm. They have fresh Apple Cider for sale by the gallon. The only down side is the cider has some Potassium Sorbate in it to help preserve it and make sure nothing funky goes on, wine makers use this all the time to stop fermentation.  I did not realize this till after I was home and had 5 gallons of it sitting in my fridge.  The label says it contains less than 0.1% which doesn't seem like a lot until you read wine makers only use about 1/2 teaspoon of the stuff per gallon to stop fermentation. 1/2 teaspoon is 0.13% of a gallon. Basically this cider could be unfermentable.

After doing research on Potassium Sorbate, I found out that it does not kill the yeast! Though it does inhibit it from reproducing.  Because it does not kill the yeast I should be able to still ferment the cider and make some tasty hard cider.

The Plan

I went out to the grocery store and got 2 gallons of the store brand cider that did not contain any Potassium Sorbate.  I'm going to go with a 3:2 ratio fresh cider to store bought cider.  This should still give me the sweet fresh flavor that I want, but dilute out the Potassium Sorbate to help give the yeast a fighting chance.  The next part is I created a  yeast starter with a gallon of the store bought cider, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and some left over corn sugar I had left over from bottling a different batch. A yeast starter is like a mini batch a beer.  This way I know the yeast is working with the store bought cider and its making more of it self to help overcome the Potassium Sorbate it's going to encounter in primary fermentation.

There are the yeast starters going! I plan on letting them go for about 24 hours and then pitching them in to the primary fermenter with 3 gallons of the orchard's cider, 1 more gallon of the store bought cider, and about a half gallon of water boiled with about a pound of brown sugar in it.  Let that sit in the primary for a little over a week checking to make sure its still fermenting and that the Potassium Sorbate didn't stop the yeast from reproducing. If all goes to plan I'll rack it over to the secondary fermenter with the vanilla cinnamon extract and let that sit for 2 weeks before bottling. I will keep you posted on how this is going.

Everything is together in the primary fermenter now and the yeast is still going after a couple hours so that is a good sign!  I got an O.G. Of 1.043 (which I think might be a little low, my beer thief might have grabbed a lot of the yeast starter on top) we will see what the final gravity comes out to.