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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Flurry of Activity

Even writing the title to this blog entry has got my mind racing about whether trying to make a Mc Flurry beer would be a good idea or not! I'm not quite sure what has happened to me over the last few weeks in fact. Maybe I'm finally coming out of my long period of winter hibernation?

Whatever it is, it's spurred me into thinking and doing homebrew (alot!).

In fact, running out of beer the other weekend might have been partially to blame for this brewing explosion. Now I'm back to a point where I have some established regulars either conditioning or fermenting away and so my mind turns to the more experimental brews - after all that's where the old favourites started off. However experimenting has it's risks and a fair proportion of the experiments will be dropped as bad ideas and never brewed again- the odd one or too are that bad that they are a struggle to finish off.

Recently, and apart from the usual bitters and pale ales, I have brewed lager style beers but using mostly ale type ingredients and yeasts. At this time of year I can't ferment a proper lager yeast and I'm only brewing it to keep the beer guests happy. (Note to self: invest in fermentation temperature control - it's the future!).

Anyway, this morning I was hankering after a good strong black coffee to kick start the day and found that we didn't have any in the house - that's none at all - no filter, no instant, no cafetiere... nothing. Actually we do have a bag of coffee beans that I picked up by mistake thinking it was ground but having no grinder makes getting a decent cup of coffee out of it a bit difficult (I've already been spoken to about blunting the blade on the food processor and the pestle and morter just doesn't cut the mustard).

Obviously this lack of coffee was playing on my mind and so the thought of doing a Coffee Stout crept into my concience. That seed of a thought has grown all morning until I felt impelled to take this further.

So..... I decided on a base recipe for the stout. Something that already has hints of coffee in the malt profile.. This will be brewed as is but a few days before the end of fermentation I will add around 250g of ground roast coffee into a pint of cold filtered water. After stirring this up it will be kept in the fridge for 24 hrs or so before filtering and adding to the secondary fermentor ready for bottling. This cold infusion is supposed to reduce the harsh bitterness of hot coffee but allows the coffee essense to be carried across into the final beer. Well that's the plan!

To de-risk the whole thing I've designed the base recipe by "borrowing" elements from existing recipes for FSOS and my Dark Dog Porter (already based on Gadds Dogbolter recipe).

At the moment the draft version of the recipe goes something like this.

Pale (MO) Malt - 75%
Malted Oats -        4%
Torrefied Wheat -  5%
Chocolate Malt -   5%
Roast Barley -       2%
Amber Malt           5%
Carafa III Sp.        4%

Aiming for an OG of around the 1.044 mark and will mash at about 68oC using a sweet stout water profile.

I will bitter fairly low for a stout at around 35 IBUs using target and goldings with very few late hops.

I'll be sure to post an update when I brew and have tasted the results. In the meantime..... it must be about time to start planning a fruit cake Christmas ale.

Happy Days!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Top Tips #1

A brewing friend is making his first steps into the murky world of water chemistry and treatment. This got me thinking about what I do and information I've picked up in the last year or so of brewing.

So here are some of my tips to help with this dark side of homebrew.

1] Don't worry too much about the detail. Seriously don't! Unless you have a perverse interest in the complicated chemistry then just learn the basics. There are plenty of resources and calculators on the interweb to help out.

2] Don't try to eradicate the alkalinity completely. You want some residual alkalinity remaining. The amount will depend largely on beer style - or more accurately the malt / colour profile. Darker malts have higher acidity and will remive some of the buffering effect of the alkalinity. Lager < 20, bitter 30-50, Stout / porter 100+ as a guide.

3] Don't worry if it's not spot on straight away. Although based in science there are many factors that affect the end result. These might be recipe or even equipment related. The important thing is to keep tweaking and measuring. You won't be far off.

4] Treat the brewing liquer in bulk and then run with it. Once it's mashing it's too late to make any changes. By all means take the ph measurement at the start of the mash but trying to correct something now will be hard to do and likely to get things worse. Record everything and then tweak next time.

5] Only treat the mash with calcium additions and for alkalinity. Other additions are best added to the boil only as they are detrimental to the processes in the mash.

6] The flavour profile can be changed by tweaking the sulphate / chloride ratio using Gypsum (calcium sulphate) and Calcium Chloride. More sulphate will accentuate hop flavour and bitterness, more chloride will accentuate the malt.

7] Don't be afraid to use common salt in darker beers. Don't over do it - only very small amounts are ever required but as in cooking it can enhance the flavours of the beer being produced.