Category Archives: My Brews

Fermentation Updates Feb 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve rock & rolled.

Alright, a quick update on all things fermentation from here.  I’ve been lax in posting and generally brewing, I need to kick it up a notch.

Rhubarb Wine 2.5 months

Rhubarb Wine 2.5 months

The Rhubarb Wine – I’ve just racked over to a 3 gallon better bottle & sampled.  It was originally 29B and now is 15B, down from 16B on 11/27/12, so pretty much done.  This puts it right at 12%abv and 1.026 correct SG.  The taste is still too sweet (added too much sugar to this recipe) so I am thinking of adding some champagne yeast and seeing if that does anything.  Not sure, that is a pretty tough environment to get fermenting started in.

Rose Hip Wine

Rose Hip Wine

Rose Hip Wine – I didn’t sample this yet, I need to get a small auto-syphon to use in these 1 gallon bottles, so I will transfer later this week.  One problem.  One bottle looks darker brown and its airlock was almost dry.  My mistake.  I may have an oxidized / vinegarized bottle of wine there.  The other bottle looks fine.  I’ll know more later this week.

I’ll have more to post later this week after I use some of the Champagne yeast on the rhubarb wine and then transfer over the rose hip wine.

Rhubarb Wine 2012

Well, I collected about 12 lbs of rhubarb this summer.  That was cleaned, sliced, bagged and frozen 12 lbs.  There was a lot more I cut out / off from the ends.  My plan all along was to make a rhubarb wine, and the friend where we got most of the rhubarb was very interested in trying rhubarb wine.

Rhubarb 'must'Our friend, another Jackie (spelled differently than my wife), brought over another 4 lbs today, frozen for us to use.

I boiled a total of 2.5 gallons of water, added 12.5 lbs of sugar, and poured the hot sugar water over the 16 lbs of rhubarb and 1.5 lbs of chopped golden raisins   This left me with 110F ‘must’ which I then let cool down.

I then collected 1L of must, boiled it and cooled to room temperature.  I made a starter with this, putting on my stir-plate which worked sporadically.

After the must cooled to about 90F, I added 1 tsp tannin powder, 4 tsp pectic enzyme, and the zest from 2 large oranges, and finally I put in 4 campden tablets after my friend left (she didn’t want to do it since her sister back in Wales doesn’t use campden tablets).  I didn’t want the must hanging out for 1 day without killing whatever was in it.

Ingredients for 4 gallons of sweet rhubarb wine

  • 16 lbs sliced frozen rhubarb
  • 1.5 lbs chopped golden raisins
  • 12.5 lbs of sugar
  • 2.5 gallons water
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 4 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp tannin
  • 4 Campden tablets
  • 1 package wine yeast (I used Lavlin 71B)
  • 3 tsp yeast nutrient

My gravity came out to 29B, about 1.119 SG I believe.

The Lavlin 71-B is known as Narbonne and is apparently good at making blush, semi-sweet

Golden Raisins & Rhubarb

wines, just what I’m really looking for.  I was going to go more for the dry wine using only 9 lbs of sugar, my our friend really was looking for something a bit sweeter.  It worked well then planning the 71-B yeast.

That is it for the first day of this project, tomorrow evening I will pitch the yeast, place the lid & air lock on and let it go for the next two weeks.  I will be “punching” down the fruit daily and trying to get as much CO2 out of solution as I can.


Stirred, degassed and punched down the fruit for the second time today.  Fermentation is

De-gassing 2nd day

proceeding at full speed now, a lot of CO2 coming out of solution.  I measured only 25B tonight, so very little change.  The fruit is swelling up greatly and pushing up near the top of the 6 gallon bucket lid.  Will be interesting to see how this goes over the next few days.  Temp was 71F of the must.


Removed the fruit, what was left of it.  I added nutrients last night when I stirred, and measured 19B today.  Seems to be dropping slowly.  Temp was down to 62F, 2F warmer than the basement so I’ve moved back upstairs to 69F ambient to help finish this out.


I measured 1.040 with the hydrometer, 16B with the refractometer.  That tells me I started at 29B, 1.119 – a little higher than I wanted.  At 1.040 it still tastes significantly sweet, but there is a touch of alcohol taste as well, definitely a white wine flavor going on.  I’m pretty happy with this so far, and should add my final nutrient addition tonight.  I hope to get it down to a measured 13B on the refractometer, actual 1.003 before it is done, and hopefully within a week.


Measured out at 14B and this puts it around 14.7% ABV, the max for 71-B yeast.  The plan may be to blend with the Rose Hip Wine as it is pretty dry and tart.  It is still cloudy pink color so I will rack it and wait a bit longer.  I may use a fining agent if I don’t get it to drop out clear.

Cheap DIY Stir-plate

Stir-plate in action

I was inspired by a post on Homebrewtalk about a $12 Do It Yourself stir plate.  A couple of things.

Generally, one has to shell out a few $ to buy a pre-made stir plate and ones home made are typically good enough for home use.  It’s never been terribly difficult using the various methods posted on the internet, but most required ‘wiring’ of some sort.  Some easier than others.

I have a background in electrical work, so that didn’t bother me.  What did bother me was gathering up the myriad parts and components.  Also, I ‘thought’ I was doing good enough with no starter, or more recently, just shaking and swirling a ‘starter’ occasionally.  Nope.

I’ve come to realize that lately I’ve had fermentation’s ‘stick’, end without quite finishing up the beer.  They haven’t been overly sweet, but they haven’t been completely clean either.  I can attribute it to one or two things.  Not enough O2 for the yeast, and/or not enough yeast.

I shake the sh*t out of my wort when I pitch, so I’m getting close to 8ppm O2, which can be too low in some cases.  But on further review using and JZ’s yeast book, I’ve come to realize I have really been under pitching.  Well, the pitching issue is easy to fix, and now that I’ve dug a little bit, cheap to fix as well.
I give you CS223 answer at homebrewtalk to a cheap and super easy stir plate.


Parts for Stir Plate
The key to this build, and the genius of it, is the USB powered computer cooling fan with variable speed control.  The USB powered & already built in rheostat for speed control makes this one of the easiest projects for the home brewery.
The only thing you need besides this is a plug to go from USB to outlet and some magnet / magnets (plus something to put it in- optional)I purchased the USB/outlet on Amazon for $3, and the magnets from Harbor Freight for $2.99 (for 10 total).

This took all of 30 minutes to put together, the reason for so much time is realizing I needed to stack 2 magnets on top of each other (for a total of 4).

Now?  Can’t wait for my next brew (in about 1 week) & eye balling the O2 system at Williams Brewing – I’m going to pull the trigger, just not sure when.

Software Review: Brew Pal (for iOS)

In my constant search for an all-in-one brew calculating program that can work across Linux, Windows, & a smart phone, I’m constantly disappointed.  So, I’ve decided to search out for the best of each platform that can utilize the standard BeerXML format and import / export easily.

With that said, there are ten’s of different programs out there, but my requirements are simple.
1) Import / Export BeerXML
2) Fairly cheap / reasonably priced

So my first foray into an app for my smartphone (iPhone) was with Beer Pal.  Priced at $1.99 it met the second goal, and it stated on the website that it would fulfill goal #1.

On with the review.

The first thing you see is the ‘splash screen’ of course, and, here it is.

This is Brew Pals main screen and from here you generally can reach out to all the other screens you need.

Brew Pal main screen

The first thing I wanted to do was to import one of my BeerXML recipes that I already had.  This would save typing on the iPhone, and just makes more sense generally.
The important part of this is to have your BeerXML recipe available somewhere on the web or in iTunes.  I did not use iTunes, as intuitively seems more cumbersome.
I did have this website, so I went to a recipe on this site on the phone, copied the web address for the file, and pasted into the box that opens up when you press “From URL”.
It worked like a champ and immediately I had the recipe.


Grain bill

Hop bill

Next, I wanted to view my grain bill & hop bill.  An example would be at the home brew shop as you are picking up supplies.


Something I REALLY need and is included in Brew Pal is a hop substitution ‘chart’.  How many times have I been at the home brew shop and they didn’t have the specific hop I needed.  I will confer with a chart they have posted from 1985 it seems, which has few of the hops that they actually carry.  This helps to solve that.

Another nice feature is a comparison of your recipe to the style guidelines from BJCP 2008, as well as the full entry for each style.I already have an app for the BJCP 2008 descriptions and likely will keep it even though it is on Brew Pal as well, just because if I want to browse the different styles, it seems easier on the stand alone app.  This is still nice to have in Brew Pal though.


BJCP Style Descriptions


Recipe export screen
Well, once you have worked on a recipe, taken notes, etc you may want to export so you can access on another platform.
I know that other commercial programs out there give you this, but they charge an extra fee to ‘store’ your recipes in the cloud.
With Brew Pal, you are able to email a BeerXML file, a printable html file, or both, to yourself, or anyone you wish.  Nice!
One improvement would be the ability to export the files to dropbox.

Some nice touches to Brew Pal are a color chart and a flavor wheel.  I kind of dig the flavor wheel as I just suck coming up with descriptors as I am reviewing beers I am sampling.


Flavor wheel

Overall, I think this is a great use of $1.99 and is highly recommended by me.  I like the portability of having my recipes with me, either for reference when getting all geeky with other home brewers, or at the home brew shop buying my latest supplies.Another feature included is the ability to use timers when you are in the brew day.  It will use your recipe and time your mash & boil for you.  This I used on my last brew day and love it.
If you are a home brewer with an iPhone and were contemplating something as robust as iBrewMaster, give this a look first.  It is simpler to use, and does 100% of what I need, likely for you as well.

Munich Pseudo Dunkel Brewday

After drinking a nice Heater Allen Dunkel a few days ago, I decided my next brew would be a Dunkel.  I’ve never brewed a Dunkel as I haven’t done many lagers.  I felt like this wouldn’t be too big of a challenge, plus it would give me a chance to experiment a bit.  That’s what homebrewing is mostly about.  Experiment, change, challenge, explore, etc.
So, I’ve tried the pseudo lager route before using Wyeast 2124-Bohemian Lager, and it didn’t turn out all that wonderful.  It was still too warm for the yeast and I got too many sweet esters from it.  So, even though Wyeast publishes it as being fine at a warmer temp, I didn’t find that it worked too well.
This time, I’m going the Kolsch route.  Per Wyeast “This yeast may also be used to produce quick-conditioning pseudo-lager beers and ferments well at cold 55-60°F (13-16°C) range“.  The downside is that I will need to let this set a bit to clear completely.  Not a problem.Picture

Red Neck Starter in a wine bottle

I found a little 8oz canning jar in my fridge with some Kolsch yeast that I had rinsed and save from March 11, 2012 – Over 7 months ago!  It looked perfectly fine, powdery white (unlike some 6 month old S-04 that turned dark).  I thought to give this a shot and sure enough, I was able to get a nice starter going with this after about 18 hours. I got a little red neck and made my starter in an old 750ml wine bottle.  Worked well!  I used the starter after 2.5 days, and to be quite honest, because of the lag time to start, it was still going strong when I pitched it.

American Dunkel
Brewer: Jerry
Style: Munich Dunkel
Batch: 3 gallon All Grain

Recipe Gravity: 1.052 OG
Recipe Bitterness: 20 IBU
Recipe Color: 17° SRM
Estimated FG: 1.013
Alcohol by Volume: 5.1%
Alcohol by Weight: 4.0%

Briess – Blackprinz Malt 0.12 lb, Grain, Mashed
Briess – Munich Malt 10L 6.25 lb, Grain, Mashed

Hallertau 0.25 oz, Pellet, 45 minutes
Hallertau 0.40 oz, Pellet, 60 minutes

Whirlfloc Tablet 1.00 unit, Fining,
Wyeast – Kolsch 1.00 unit, Yeast, True top croppint yeast similar to Alt strains. Produces slightly more fruity/winey characteristics. Fruitiness increases with temperature. Low or no detectable diacetyl production. Also ferments well at cold temperatures (13-16C). Used to produce quick-conditioning pseudo-lager beers. Requires filtration or additional settling time to produce bright beers. Liquid yeast.
Yeast Nutrient 0.25 unit, Other,

Recipe Notes:


Batch Notes:
Pre mash 6 gallons
Post mash 5.5 gallons
Pre boil 11B (1.044)
Post Boil: 14B (1.056)
Cooled to 66F, whirlpooled
Fermented 62F, moved to 69F after 4 days
8B (1.0158) 4.9% ABV
Moved to basement at 62F


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Bottling Day – Rogue Chocolate Porter

I  bottled up the chocolate porter today, using 2 oz of white table sugar and getting 25, 12 oz bottles when I was complete.  I should have cleaned 3 more bottles, I likely could have filled them up.  I usually do have 3 to 4 extra bottles just in case I calculate incorrectly.
This finished at 1.030, really high, but pretty much expected after mashing it so warm 156F.  The next chocolate porter I do, I will bring that down to 154F and try to get it a little dryer.  The issue is though, and I know from experience, is you can easily get a weak thin tasting beer from what would otherwise be something nice, by mashing a chocolate porter too low.  It doesn’t take much either.

The nose was intense chocolate / cocoa.  I loved the smell, it was excellent.  The taste of the flat beer was not as chocolate intense as the nose, but seemed pretty decent.  There is a definite residual sweetness, and I will be interested to see how it turns out when there is some carbonation.
I was shooting for 2.0 volumes of CO2, and contemplated even going lower.  I will taste test in 1 week, and then do an official tasting in 2 weeks, which reminds me, I need to do an official tasting of my last Irish Red, which I am now calling a Black Irish ale.


Dirt Yard Girls White Wine 2012


My first shot at making a wine comes under some ‘pressure’.  A large bucket full of white wine grapes from a friends yard showed up at my house, my wife having visited that friend.  The grapes were fresh picked that morning, and measured about 18B.
Some hand de-stemming, a friends daughters clean feet, we had a white wine must.
I added enough sugar to bring it up to 25B, I overshot my target of 22B.  It was about 1.5 pounds of sugar to get to that point.
I placed 4 crushed campden tablets in the must and let it sit for 24 hours and then added the Lavlin 71B-1122 yeast with some yeast energizer.

The plan is to have a semi-sweet wine when I am finished, the request of the friend who supplied the grapes.  I will probably give her most of the bottles, keep a couple for myself.  This will be good practice for next year, and if it goes well, I may buy some red wine grapes from the homebrew store.  I wouldn’t mind making a couple of cases of some nice merlot or cab, my dad might enjoy some.  A little ‘Three Buck Chuck’ or ‘Three Buck Jerry’.




1 Overflowing bucket of white wine grapes
2 lbs sugar
3 campden tablets (sodium metabisulfite)
1 pkg Lavlin 71B-1122 yeast
Yeast Nutrient (1 1/2 tsp at pitching of yeast)
Yeast Energizer (1 1/2 tsp at pitching of yeast)
Original 18B, added sugar to 25B (overshot 22B target)

24B at 63F
Moved must/grapes to smaller bucket so I could add a heater.
Heater maintained 72F temperature.

Added 1/2 tsp of yeast nutrient & continued to punch down the cap several times a day.   Activity is increased and the cap forms within 1 hour of punching down.

Took the must off the grape skins and seeds and measured 13B and 1.025 S.G.  Placed in the carboy and the fermentation is going strongly.  The taste is still very sweet, even with 10.8% ABV.  I am on my way out of town tomorrow for a nice week long trip and this should sit between 62-65F, perfect.  Hoping by the end of my weeks vacation primary fermentation will be done and I can let this sit and condition for a bit.

I just returned home from vacation and the gravity is at 8B (0.9942 corrected) & 14.1% ABV.  There is some clearing now as well.  The few drops I had and used for the refractometer still tasted very much like the same grape tannin(y).  I hope leaving the skins and seeds with the juice for the 3-4 days did not adversely effect the outcome.
I will let it sit and clear some more and once I bottle my chocolate porter this coming Sunday, it will give me a free carboy to rack to.  I’m a little concerned as there is so much head space, and so little CO2 generation at this point, that I could get too much O2 exposure.  I may connect my CO2 regulator up to the bottle and blast the carboy with the CO2 prior to racking into it – as well as afterwards.
Also, when I rack I will get a small sample to taste and see where it stands with sweetness and acidity.  At some point pretty soon, I will also be thinking about stabilizing and clarifying.

Racked the wine to a 3 gallon better bottle.  Only maybe 1.75 gallons really at this point so I blew some CO2 on top of the wine before stoppering.

Still at 8B which is what I would expect.  Still tasted ‘green grape’ plus some slight sourness? Not sure about that, will taste again in a week or so.


Chocolate Porter 2012

Another day, another recipe that is close to, but not exactly the same as, Jamil Z’s Chocolate Porter.  I don’t mind using his recipes for my first shot at a style, and then if I brew again I may tweak it a little.  I love chocolate, I love porters and really love chocolate porters, so this is likely a style I will brew again, and again, so I expect to tweak this more and making it my own at some point.
But for now, here it is.  I changed to a crystal 30 from 40, as that is what I found at the homebrew store, and I went just straight Willamette hops as that is what I had and the LHBS did not have what the recipe called for.   I will try to leave this on the chocolate sludge for the whole brew, but may break down and rack this to a secondary a few days before bottling, I’ll play it by ear a bit.
As usual I have posted my BeerXML file below, and now I’m pasting a picture of the recipe as well so you can just write it down if that is what you wish to do.
I’ll return here in about 1 month and do a tasting as well.  That will be my plan going forward, to give a thorough and complete tasting to each batch / recipe that I do brew so you can see MY feedback for my beer.
I added the 6 oz of low fat chocolate powder right before flame out just to ensure it would dissolve easily and that it was warm enough to kill anything that could be living in it.

Link to Recipe for testing purposes

10/10/2012 Update:  Today I racked over to a secondary, trying to leave behind as much ‘sludge’ as I could.  According to the original recipe from Jamil Z, it is suggested to leave on the chocolate as long as you can, at least 10 days.  I more than did that.
The sample was super cloudy with all kinds of particulates in it.  It came in around 1.030 on the sample, which looks ‘high’ but remember I mashed at 156F, trying to leave some sweetness to go with the chocolate.  The sample actually tasted great as is, a huge chocolate presence, some warming alcohol actually, & the sweetness wasn’t as noticeable as one would expect either.  I could see carbonating at this point, but it needs to clear.  I will check again in a week to see if the gravity has lowered any (doubtful) and if it has cleared any.

10/26/2012 Update:  Took another refractometer reading today, and it was a steady 9B.  I will bottle this in about two days, once I get a day off from work.  Couldn’t get a good taste from the few drops I had as I was in the middle of drinking my morning coffee.  I’ll get a good sample in a few days while bottling and update.

10/29/2012 Bottling:  The scent was intense chocolate with less on the flavor.  A decent bitterness bite that I don’t think overpowers the chocolate.  Will be interesting to see how it goes with some carbonation.  Added 2 oz white sugar and bottled 2.5 gallons (25 bottles).


Another Irish Red – Jilter

Here is my third different Irish Red Recipe, this one straight from Jamil Zainasheff ‘Brewing Classic Styles‘.  It is simple, English two row, crystal 30, crystal 120.  Some EKG hops at 60 minutes and some US-05 yeast.  That is pretty much it.  This differs from my other recipes in its simpleness, no cararoma, etc.  I like the idea of a simpler grain bill, just letting the yeast and grains do their thing.
My first batch was a favorite of a good friend of ours, and my second batch was a favorite of my good friend and his dad.  I didn’t like either one very much.  There were no flaws, but just didn’t do it for me.  Again, that could be more of the style and not the beer itself.

I have this 3 gallon recipe bubbling away in a 5 gallon glass carboy (I don’t like glass carboys) that I received as part of a larger craigslist pickup.  I do like having the 2 gallons of headspace for the primary ferment.  I will only leave this for about 2 weeks, as long as I hit my final gravity, and then bottle.

10/3/2012 Update: Bottling.  I bottled this tonight with 2.4 ounces of sugar.  It was a quick turnaround and ended up at 6P but corrected for alcohol came out around 1.012.  I’m really curious how this comes out, a simple recipe for an Irish as well as having a fairly sweet taste so far.  I also noted a slight ‘rubber’ flavor, which doesn’t bode well.  Time to do a little googling, but I don’t want to be in the same vein as a hypochondriac.  I’ll just crack one open after a week in the bottle for a sample.


Mead Review Sky River Semi-sweet Mead


I’m going to give a shot at a tasting of my second mead, ever.
This is a semi-sweet mead from Sky River Winery in Washington, situated across the small valley from Chateau St Michelle Winery.
Appearance: light golden yellow, and clear.
Nose: floral, slight honey, alcohol and maybe its sulphites I smell?  I’m new to wine tasting, so that is what I am picking up.
Palate: Light, fairly sweet, some alcohol, smooth and a bit sticky from the sweetness.
Overall:  Not being a fan of sweeter wines, I still enjoy this quite a bit.  The honey really stands out and there is no doubt that it is a mead.  I am really curious to try a dry mead and see if that hits my wheel house.