Category Archives: Projects


Spent Grain Dog Biscuits

I’ve been making these for a while and realize I need to make an entry for the recipe that I used the first time as well as what I’m doing now to please our three pups.


The first batch I made I followed Deschutes Brewing posted recipe here.  These are simply grain, flour, eggs and peanut butter.

  • 4 C spent grain from your local brewery or homebrewer
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C natural peanut butter

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes and then 225F for 2 hours.

These were ‘OK’ but were dried out crisps and my youngest dog, Walter, didn’t seem to enjoy them much.  After fiddling around a bit, the next batch I replaced the peanut butter with 1 small can of pumpkin.  That was an improvement but I decided on the next batch to leave them with a little moisture.  Because of this you need to keep the extra bags in the freezer until ready to use, then keep the individual bag in the fridge that you are using.

This is now what this recipe has morphed into for me:

  • 2 1 qt bags of spent grain (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1 C flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tsp peanut butter
  • 1 cooled baked sweet potato

Bake at 325F for 30 minutes and then 40 minutes at 225F



GoodBelly Sour Wort


GoodBelly Mango

As my garage sits around 100F during the day now and only drops to 85-90F at night here in balmy Houston, I decided that I should make a sour mash Berliner Weiss since it is very easy to maintain the warm temps for the lactobacillus several days to get the sour and low pH.  After talking over this plan with a coworker who is very experienced with lacto/brett fermentations, he suggested a sour wort method instead of the sour mash, as it is easier to keep O2 out, select the lacto strain and better probability to get a good result.  He also turned me onto Milk The Funk wiki pages which have just a ton of recent reliable information.


Calibrating pH meter

For my lacto strain I decided on buying GoodBelly PlusShot Mango as the mango flavor reportedly is light and goes away.  It is also chock full of lactobacillus Plantarum which has given others very good results.   There was one other aspect of this project I wanted to cover, and that is the reported increase head retention/creation on lacto fermented beers by acidifying the wort to 4.5 or lower prior to pitching lacto.  I have had a cheap pH meter for some time that I’ve never used so it was another first for me on this adventure called project.  So, new stuff for me: 1) Sour Worting 2) Pitching ProBiotic 3) pH management & measurement.

Oh yeah, almost forgot, for the 5 gallon batch I wanted to keep half and pitch a standard american ale for my Berliner, the other half I plan to pitch a brett strain, preferably Wyeast 5526 Lambicus which produces a cherry pie flavor.  Well, my LHBS did not have that and pretty much the only option was WLP 644 Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois, which is the strain that caused a lot of hub bub recently when it was noticed that it really wasn’t a bret strain but a normal sach strain.  At the end of the day I don’t really care, I like the tropical fruit flavors it throws off.  So, this second half of my batch will get the Trois and sit for 2-3 months until finished out.  2 beers, 1 batch, I like that kind of efficiency.

For my 5 gallon Berliner Weiss:

  • 3 lbs Wheat
  • 3 lbs 2 Row
  • 5.6 gallons of spring water
Quick Sour Wort

Quick Sour Wort

Yep, that is it, I will add a touch of hops when I bring it up to a boil (15 mins) post lacto fermentation, I’ll add those to this recipe at that time, likely enough for 4-6 IBUs to stay in bounds of the 2015 BJCP guidelines, if nothing else than to make sure it is still a ‘Berliner Weiss’ style.  I will depend on the troi yeast for the other half to flavor up and bring out the tropical fruits from it, I may sit it on fruit as well, I’ll decide in a few months when I am at that point and taste it.


So far for this process this is what I have done:

  • Mashed the 6lbs of grain in 5.6 gallons of water and adjusted pH to 5.2 with Phosphoric Acid blend (1/2 tsp for me)
  • Mash temp 152F
  • After 1 hour of mash, I removed the grains (BIAB) and took the wort up to 200F, pulled a pH sample and noted 5.2
  • Adjusted pH down to 4.4 with 1 tsp of phosphoric acid (85%)
  • cooled to 105F
  • Drained into my carboy, added 4 containers of GoodBelly Mango PlusShot and topped off with a spray of CO2
  • Connected a 2nd temp probe from my BrewBit to the carboy, wrapped it and set in garage

So now my wort sits in the garage, it maintained ~103F during the day yesterday (it was already a hot afternoon by the time I put it into the garage) and now this morning with a relatively cool garage it is at 93F, perfect.

I’ll update the blog and reference them at the bottom of this post as the project moves forward.  The thought of how easy this was and the fact I can do this in my kitchen during the hot sweaty summer months and have a perfect heat location for the lacto makes me think I should do another batch or two for longer term sour projects using brett fermentations.  I still want to get the Wyeast 5266 and experience that cherry pie flavor.  Luckily (I guess) I have a full three more months of god awful Houston heat and humidity to pull this off in.


7/3/2016: My first pH reading after 26 hours shows 3.1 and seems to suggest I didn’t need to pitch all 4 bottles of GoodBelly, good to know for the next batch. Had a slight grain aroma and a lemony tart flavor, the residual sugar is balancing out what should be a super sour beer.  I’ve moved the carboy back inside from the 95-100F garage to help slow things down as my yeast is in a starter right now.

Sour Beer 26 hours



Quick Sour Day 2

7/4/2016:  I put half of this batch in a 3 gallon fermentor and pitched WLP 644 Sacch Troi once it hit 64F.  I left the lacto intact for this part of the split batch.  The other half I heated up to boiling, added a few hops and then cooled down to 80F, which was as cool as I could get it with the little ice I had and the nice Houston tap water that is at 90F.  I put it into another 3 gallon fermentor and cooled in my fermentation chamber (chest freezer) down to 64F and pitched an active 1.5L starter of WLP 090, San Diego Super Yeast.  This has been my go to yeast this past year for American clean fermentation’s.



Tasting notes from the ‘clean’ beer, the Berliner Weisse


Starter Wort Canning

I’ve given the thought to canning my starter wort for a long time now and I’ve finally taken the plunge and given it a shot.  Overall the process went fairly smoothly and assuming the wort is ‘fine’ when I make starters in the future, I will repeat this adventure again with one slight modification I will detail below.

Starter Wort Ready To Pressure Cook

What moved me to finally give this a try was a link someone posted to a 2009 Drew Beechum article on the Maltose Falcons website recently and realizing that my brewing season is over for a short period (I decided to not brew much in the hot humid Houston summers) I had time to consider some other auxiliary brewing projects besides the ‘Summer of Mead’ I’m starting.  I am also lucky to have a huge but old pressure cooker that my dad gave me and my wife had all of the canning extras needed already.  Below is the equipment needed and the basic process:


  • Pressure Cooker
  • 1 Qt Canning Jars (Ball, Kerr, etc)
  • Lids and Rings for Jars
  • Dry Malt Extract
  • Canning Funnel (Really helpful)
  • Scale

The Basic Process:

  • Fill Jars half full with filtered water
  • Measure out 3.2 Oz or ~90g of DME and pour into each jar
  • Lightly Tighten Rings and Lids (not too tight)
  • Set Jars into Canner Using Manufacturing Instructions (Don’t set jars directly on bottom of canner)
  • Add the amount of water Pressure Cooker manufacturer recommends (I used about 28 oz)

Use Your Pressure Cooker Manufacturer Instructions but I will list my process:

  • Turn heat up to high, leave weight off of steam vent hole
  • When steam starts exiting, place weight on steam vent for 15 psig
  • Turn down heat after 1 minute the just under Medium
  • You should hear steam escape from weight maintaining 15 psig
  • Start timer for 15 minutes
  • After 15 minutes, turn off heat and let the Pressure Cooker sit for 2 hour
  • After 2 hours of cooling carefully remove 15 psig weight, should already be depressurized
  • Remove Lid and let sit overnight if you are not doing another batch or if you are doing another batch, remove jars carefully with the appropriate canning jar lifter


So, I did two batches, my Pressure Cooker would fit 7 one quart jars, so I did a second batch of the 5 remaining jars. For this second batch I decided that I would double the gravity of the starter wort to about 1.080 and then dilute with 900ml of boiled and cooled water when I make my starters.  This gives the ability to make 7 starter worts in one batch instead of 3.5 as you need to one quart jars at 1.040 gravity for a 1.8 – 2L starater.

So for the second batch I added 180g of DME to each jar.


I mentioned I would change one thing to this process above, I will just make a simple BIAB wort of 1.080, mash and then can using the same method above.  It will be cheaper and should be easier overall.  Just make 3 gallons roughly if you will be canning a 12 count case of quart jars.

Let me know if you have any experience and tips to do this easier or if you have any questions.

Starter Wort Ready To Pressure Cook


Milk warming

Simple Greek Yogurt

A recipe in a modern canning book my wife had caught my eye.  Homemade Greek yogurt.  It looked so easy to make, and we love Greek yogurt I had to give it a try.  Here are the simple steps:

  • Heat 1/2 gallon of milk (whole, 2% or fat free) up to 170F, stir occasionally
  • Cool milk to 110F, place in a sink with cool water, stir occasionally
  • Place 2 tablespoons of all natural Greek yogurt (I used Fage) in a bowl and whisk about 1/2 cup of the 110F milk with the yogurt
  • Place this whisked yogurt/milk back into the original pan with 110F milk and mix gently
  • Ladle the milk mixture into prewarmed 1/2 quart mason jars, seal tightly
  • Place the 2 (1/2 qt) jars of milk into a small cooler along with another jar or two of hot water and fill all space with towels.
  • Close up the cooler and set aside untouched for 8-10 hours.
  • After the 8-10 hours, place in a refrigerator to cool.
  • You now have 1/2 gallon of great tasting, cheap Greek yogurt


I just finished this process up and am waiting my 8-10 hours. I will report back in the next day on the quality and taste of this yogurt.

 I will report back in the next day on the quality and taste of this yogurt.

UPDATE:  Well, the taste test is in.  After 11.5 hours I put these in the fridge, I could tell they cooled down considerably even though they were in a small cooler wrapped with towels.

After refrigerating overnight I tried this morning and the texture is just slightly thinner than the original yogurt, the taste has just a little less ‘bite’ (sour) to it as well.  I can imagine this could be due to not maintaining a high enough temp for long enough.

Overall, this is very good and I will try it again.  You can’t beat $1.99 for a half gallon of Greek yogurt!


canning for a new generation

Pre-warming cooler for home made Greek yogurt

Pre-warming cooler for home made Greek yogurt

bottling from keg 1

Bottling From Keg

Now that I am full on into kegging again, I wanted to give bottling a shot from the kegs.  This would allow me to quickly move a batch out (into bottles) and free up kegs for batches waiting.  Also I get the benefit of forced carbonation and hopefully very little at the bottom of the bottles, AND I can give the bottles away immediately (no priming).

Keg Bottling Wand

Keg Bottling Wand

I had seen a post on homebrewtalk from ‘BierMuncher’ several years ago about how he bottled from kegs, and also had seen a brewingTV episode showing the same thing.  I gave it a shot and I am pretty happy.  The main things needed to make the special ‘wand’ are a plastic siphon or bottling wand and a drilled #2 stopper.

Cut the bottom of the wand at an angle to allow filling, and slide the stopper to the length needed given the bottle you are filling (I used 22oz bombers today).

Today I kegged up my Tart Raspberry ale and my disappointing ESB.  Similar to BierMunchers post here are my basic steps, after first chilling my bottles in a freezer:

  1. Shut off the gas to your keg momentarily and open the (keg) relief valve to bleed excess pressure from the the keg.
  2. Turn the PSI on your regulator down to about 5. This needs to be a slow gentle process.
  3. Go ahead and open the tap and drain some beer into a waste bucket. This will prime and cool the lines.
  4. Now place the bottle filler into the bottle with the stopper pushed down snug onto the bottle neck. Open the picnic tap to the locked position.
  5. The bottle will begin filling but slow to a stop as the pressure builds
  6. Gently push the side of the stopper to allow the pressure to “burp” out of the bottle and the beer will begin to flow again.
  7. Continue the fill until beer (not just foam) begins overflowing and turn off the tap.
  8. Quickly move the rig to the next bottle and repeat.
  9. When all the bottles are full, give each one a quick “burst” of beer from the tap to top off.
  10. Move the bottles to your capping bench and place a cap on each bottle.
  11. Before locking down the cap on each bottles…tip the bottle on its side and back (holding the cap on with your finger of course). This will cause the beer to begin to foam.
  12. Place the capper on the cap loosely and as soon as the foam begins to overflow…lock down the cap.
Burping Bottle

Burping Bottle

Rice Wine Comparison

Rice Wine – Side by Side

Today I took a sample of my pasteurized Rice Wine and compared it to the little bit of Rice Wine that I did not pasteurize.

Day 10

Day 10

In the refrigerator the non pasteurized sample looked much clearer than the pasteurized but by the time I poured it out to my sample glass, I had stirred up enough white rice sediment from the bottom of the jar to effectively make both look the same.

Given my taste test, it is not surprising that they looked identical.  They tasted identical, and I wasn’t really expecting that at all.

Both had a definite alcohol nose and not much else that I could pick up on the scent.  These samples were straight from the fridge so they were probably 40F by the time I sampled them.

The flavor was a slight flowery, ever so sweet, and strongly alcoholic.  The alcoholic strength was not overpowering though at all.  Overall, these turned out wonderfully and I will attempt to make some more.

I’m also going to experiment with various flavorings.  I’ve read that pomegranate works very well with this, and look forward to this.  I’ll post my tastings and findings when I do mix in some fruit with the rice wine.

rice wine yeast full width

Chinese Rice Wine

So I noticed some talk of Chinese Rice Wine over at Homebrewtalk a while back and thought it would be a nice new experiment in ‘all things fermentable’.  It looks fairly easy, hands off, and I did enjoy some sake recently (this isn’t sake technically), so wanted to see if I could make something similar, but fairly easy.


Brewing Sake Book

Brewing Sake Book

I originally bought a book on making sake and quickly realized while reading through it that it required about 88 steps, which might be 80 more steps than I really wanted to expend.  But, seeing the post on HBT about the rice wine (not sake), I went ahead and gave it a shot.  What follows below is my attempt at quick, easy Rice Wine.

Fast forward real quick.  The taste?  After 20 days I find it slightly sweet, aromatic of a thai jasmine rice (it is sweet rice though) and surprisingly smooth.  It is really GOOD!  I am curious to taste the portion I pasteurized (this taste was unpasteurized).

First I cooked 5 cups of sweet Thai rice in a rice cooker.  I had soaked the rice for about 1 hour ahead of time and by the time it was cooked I realized that I had added too much water and made the sweet rice a pasty ball, pretty messy.

Thai Sweet Rice

Thai Sweet Rice

I let the rice cool down for several hours, almost to room temperature.

I crushed 4 dried yeast balls (from an Asian market) and mixed them into the rice in a 1 gallon glass jar.

Rice Wine Yeast

Rice Wine Yeast

Crush Yeast Balls

Crush Yeast Balls

Below are how the rice wine looked after various periods of time:

Day 0

Day 0

Day 10

Day 10


Day 20

Day 20

I’m still working on the bottling now as I write this, but after 20 days I skimmed off the top of mold that grew (expected / normal) scooped out the rice / wine mixture and placed into a funnel with cheese cloth in it.  I then poured the remaining mixture of wine/rice and squeezed a bit of the liquid out with the cheese cloth.

I found that my 5 cups of sweet Thai rice produced just over 1/4 gallon of wine.  It is very cloudy but appears to be clearing fairly quickly in the refrigerator as it cools down.  A nice white sediment layer is forming on the bottom (rice solids).   I plan to keep about 1 cup unpasteurized for sampling and the other 1/4 gallon I heated up to 160F to pasteurize.  I will bottle the 1/4 gallon likely in large swing top bottles.

Mold removed

Mold removed

Final Volume 1/4 gallon

Final Volume 1/4 gallon

Pasteurizing Wine

Pasteurizing Wine







temp controller full width

STC-1000 Temperature Controller Build

Well, I have read that when I bend down my freezer in my new small fridge as part of my kegerator conversion that the fridge will freeze everything up as all the cooling for the fridge is via the freezer bottom plate (that will get bent down).

This necessitated an external thermostat  so instead of buying a digital Johnson Controls A419 at $75 or $80  I went with a home made thermostat based on a $20 digital controller, a STC-1000.  This is sold off of ebay from China and a common homebrew DIY item.

The build was not too difficult, it required a ‘project box’ (from Radio Shack) for $7, and a 8ft power cord ($8).  I made mine slightly different than most people who do this, I only wanted cooling, so I did not install a plug in socket, and instead just used the female end of the extension cord that I used for the power plug-in.  Worked well!

temp controller face cutout

temp controller making up connections temp controller pulling cables finished temp controller Wire Layout Wiring Diagram






















Here is a video with a similar setup, he uses a outlet and heating on his though – my setup was a bit easier.

Homemade Hop Candy

finished hop candyAfter seeing a post in /r/homebrewing subreddit a few days ago about homemade hop candy, I thought it was a great way to use up some ‘lose’ hops and see if there is a difference between the varieties in the candy.
My first batch tonight was with cascade hops, a slight bitterness that follows once the sweetness wears off the candy.

Near Boil Over

Near Boil Over

2.5 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup hop tea

  • I steeped 1/2 oz of Cascade hop pellets with 1.5 cups near boiling water in a french press for about 15 minutes
  • Poured the remaining 1 cup of hop tea in a pot with the sugar and corn syrup
  • Stirred slightly just to mix everything up
  • Attached my candy thermometer
  • Brought up to 300F without stirring.
  • Removed pot from heat and poured onto parchment paper over cookie sheets
  • After a few minutes started to work the hardening candy with a buttered flat metal utensil.

hop candy piecesSome things to do differently next time:

  1. Take the candy off the heat JUST before 300F, the temp shot through 300F in a few seconds
  2. Use our large slab of marble
  3. Buy white cotton gloves to use to work the candy with
  4. cut into chunks and roll into balls by hand
  5. Commercial hop oil

Hops In Pots

I’ve taken some initiative finally and have decided to grow a hop plant.  One hop plant this year just for a test, and to gauge results.  Yep, just one.
I am currently renting a house in a decent part of town and plan to move into my own house (our own house since I’ll include my wife with this move) in the next 3 to 4 years.  With that in mind, I didn’t want to plant the hops permanently, nor did I want to have 20 feet of hops growing somewhere where my land lord, who lives next door, would have a concern about.


My plan was to copy what Chris Colby, editor of BYO, had done at his house in Bastrop, TX.  He wrote an article covering the container trellis method in BYO, as well as had an interview with James Spencer on Basic Brewing Video about this method.
The basic idea is to get a 8′ tall 2″x2″ and place it inside the large container.  Place a eyelet on the top of the 2″x2″ and run some twine through it.  As the hop grows up the twine and reaches near the top, let out slack on the twine so that the hop plant drops down slightly, giving it again more room to grow ‘up’ the twine towards the top of the 2″x2″.

If all goes well, by the end of the growing season, I should have 15-20 feet of hop plant (probably less the first year) on a twine, of which a good portion is coiled around the container, but off the ground.  I can then easily harvest the cones when they are ready.


You can see here to the left my finished container hop trellis.  I failed to take any decent close up pictures, but there isn’t much to take a picture of yet.  I’ll update the method as the growing season goes by.

It’s been about two weeks since I planted the rhizome (pictured above) and I haven’t seen any growth yet.  We’ve had mostly cool wet days since planting, up until three days ago.  Now we’ve had some upper 70F days and I’m hoping for a shoot or two to appear in the next week.

So, for this project I just purchased a $5 rhizome from my local homebrew store, Centennial, I purchased two bags of potting soil, mixed in some of my own sandy soil with it, and placed all of that in a large black plastic pot.  I placed that inside a 1/2 whiskey barrel since it was sitting around unused.  I place my 2″x2″ in the pot, filled it up with soil, and placed my rhizome in it about 4″ deep.  I’ve watered just a couple of times since we’ve had cool wet weather until just recently.

Check out the Chris Colby article, he has a picture of some of his container hops growing up the twine, as well as a good video representation of this on James Spencer’s Basic Brewing Video.