Posts Tagged beer

Homebrew festival

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This weekend we attended the home brew festival in Market Bosworth. 

I entered three beers, two all grain and a kit.  I placed with one of the all grain beers (2nd) and the kit (3rd)

Very pleased and thanks for all the help and encouragement from my friends and family

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The Home Brew Festival

In a few weeks I’ll be joining members of the craftbrewing forum in Market Bosworth for The Home Brew Festival.

Its the successor to “the spring thing”.

Its members only (membership of the home brew festival not any associated forum).  You pay the membership fee, then about £23 for the full weekend camping! Beer is provided completely free at the bar.

There’s also a competition – I’m putting in three entries – one of my entries is a kit, but the rest are all grain.

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So 3 weeks later, I’ve kegged 160ish pints!

If you’re going, I’ll see you there!

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Fermentation Chamber

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So if you don’t want an all singing all dancing BrewPi (which lets face it, it’s expensive) you can invest in an STC-1000

What’s the difference?

The BrewPi has a web interface, the STC-1000 doesn’t.  I can set up a fermentation profile on the BrewPi, but if I’m in the house, I can manually change the STC – as long as I remember.  The big difference is the price – £150 for a BrewPI, compared to a finished cost of £70 with an STC system (this is assuming a 2nd hand £25 fridge and a £15 tube heater).

So for a non-complex ale that needs a fermentation of 18’C, which would I choose?  The STC.

For a wheatbeer, starting fermentation at 12’C and rising steadily over 14 days to 21’C? The BrewPi.

What equipment do you need?

Fridge £25
Tube Heater £15
STC-1000 £13
Extension Cords £3.99 x 2
Project Box £4
Choc Box £1

So about £66

And the instructions? Try Here

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Garage

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So the old kitchen has gone into the garage and the brewery has its own space. Next is to make it food safe! Bodge job on the extractor fan to get steam out efficiently.

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Brewing Forums

Well up until recently  I’d spent a lot of time at the home brew forum.

Sadly a few days ago the forum was passed to what seems to be a commercial organisation to manage.  On April 1st, suddenly it moved platforms from phpBB to vBulletin.  The usual stuff happened, posts broke, signatures got 10x larger and where certain characters were used all sorts of random stuff got printed.  Even as writing now, you can’t edit posts.

You’d expect a better phased move, but what most people are up in arms about was the sudden change without consulting a thriving community.  Then people who complained started getting banned.  Some of the higher regulars upped sticks after being banned and put up a new forum.  The words used to describe the forum (Craft Brewing) suddenly got banned on THBF.

So if you’re looking for some of the old community, try http://forums.craftbrewing.org.uk and join the unrestricted debate.

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Fermenting Chamber and more beer

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On Saturday night I filled up the boiler for an early morning beer brew to see if I could be over and done with by about 11:30am.  I was.  I was infact over and done with by about 10:30am, but started on another project, sorting out the fermentation chamber.

What is a fermentation chamber and why would you want one?  There’s two answers to that question.  The first and arguably the most important is that it gets the fermentation vessel out of our guest bedroom where it won’t disturb anyone.

The second answer is that it gives much more control to the brew.  The temperature that the yeast is at defines some of the flavours of the beer.  In the case of a wheatbeer, many of the esters that produce the banana  and clove flavours happen at different temperatures.  Want more banana? Raise the temperature to 20’C, want more clove, 17’C.  Some beers such as Lagers really need cold temperatures (well outside the scope of this post, click here for much more detailed information)

To make a simple fermentation chamber you need a working fridge and a heater of some sort.  I settled on a fridge from eBay and an old heating belt I had lying around.

You’ll also need a controller.  Many opt for an STC-1000 which is a great bit of kit.  It’s easy to hook up – you just set your temperature and off it goes.  Trouble is, it needs you to be around to monitor it.  If I want a brewing profile to start at 23’C for two days, then drop to 16’C for 6 days then crash cool to 2’C, I have to press the buttons physically.  It’s not possible because my commute (currently 3hrs each way) mean I’m spending more time in hotels than at home.  So it needs to be remotely controlled.  Something like this would normally cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds.  It’s not a commercial bit of kit and therefore not mass produced because professional brewers don’t tend to log into their brewery at home to control their systems.  I think.

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Brewpi is a fantastic bit of software that integrates an arduino uno and a raspberry pi to control temperatures.  The raspberry pi (this is a circuit board and nothing to do with edible pie) provides a web interface whilst the uno does much of the work.  It’s a bit of a cheek to call it a brewpi when the uno is doing most of the control, but the pi interface really does a nice job of formatting the data.  It’s all very much DIY.

Link the brewpi up to some sensors and some SSRs to drive the fridge and the brewing belt and hey presto, fermentation chamber.

The build took about 6hrs to complete including two trips to Maplins about 20 minutes down the road and I’m very pleased with it.  I can control temperatures from my laptop no matter where I am in the world.

For those that are interested the fridge runs at 110w and the heater at 25w.  They’re on for short periods of time (10-15 minutes max).  At 240v the fridge uses about 0.6a and the heating belt about 0.1a.  To maintain a hot temperature the heater will run for about 5 out of every 10 minutes.  It would take about 40 hours to use a unit of electricity (about £0.12?).  Similarly the fridge runs for 5 minutes out of every 30 and uses a very similar amount of electricity to maintain a temperature and would take about 45 hours to use a single unit of electricity.  Unless my maths is off.  This is with an ambient external temperature of 14’C and a 20’C or 4’C temperature respectively.

 

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Brewpi #2

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The 2nd controllable part of the brewing process is the fermentation temperature. To do this there is the brewpi. Whilst the name suggests the raspberry pi is the main feature you’d actually be wrong. It’s our friend the arduino again.

The arduino is used to control a couple of SSRs which turn on a fridge or heating element and do the maths for indirect heating or cooling to maintain a temperature profile for your beer. For some beers like wheatbeer and lagers you need different profiles to generate the different flavours from the yeast.

Where the raspberry pi comes in is the network graphs and more complex programming.

This weekend I got a cheap fridge from eBay ready for fermenting in! I also used the London Hackspace laser cutter to make a project box for the electronics.

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Brewpi

So the next step to really good beer is water quality and temperature control!

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To do this a good way is to use a fridge or freezer and a temperature controller.  Fridges make excellent fermenters because you can use the light bulb to heat and the fridge element to cool. The brewpi uses a raspberrypi and an arduino.  The software is developed and all you need is the hardware and a good project box to hold it all in.  So on a visit to the London Hackspace to watch some beer being brewed I was happy to be shown how to make the box on the last cutter. Now just need a fridge, some ssrs and a temperature probe or two!

Water quality wise I have hard water… and the analysis goes on!

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eBIAB #7 Dark German Wheatbeer!

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Brew day 2 – my wife and son were off in Hereford for the weekend, so I squeezed in another brew day – this time making a much darker brew.  This one was a Weissbier Dunkel – http://www.brewtoad.com/recipes/weissbier-dunkel

This was also my first solo brew using a recipe I’d adapted for the BIABacus.  I got a gravity of 1048 whereas  I was aiming for 1.051, so not bad.  I didn’t bother with dicoctions or step mashes.

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Much simpler hop recipe (just one addition at 60 minutes) and the wort tasted lovely.  I pitched a WLP-300 yeast.  Yeast is the most important part of German Wheatbeers – you need a special kind to get the correct banana and clove tastes!

 

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eBIAB #6 Making some beer!

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With the new SSR fitted, it was time one again to brew!  I used the standard NRB Amarillo BIAB recipe from the BIABacus at http://www.biabrewer.info.

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We raised the water to 71’C to hit our strike temperature.  The grain was stored inside, already in the bag ready to go.  If the grain was colder than room temperature, we’d have to increased our strike temperature to take this into account.  You can see above the bag already added and giving a stir to break up all the lumps.

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After the grain is stirred and at the right temperature, we wrapped up the grain in a sleeping bag and used my coat over the top (not pictured).  At this point, have a beer!

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Halfway through the 90 minute mash, the temperature had dropped about 4’C, so we raised the bag up and turned the element back on.

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At the end, we’d really squeezed the bag out and put the dried grain in the composter.

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Now it was time to raise the temperature up and give it a boil.

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Here it is – boiling.  It did this for a further 90 minutes.  The hop additions weren’t pictured, but I used three brewing socks to make the additions through the brew.

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We added curtains halfway down the garage to keep the steam at bay and used a fan I’d found in a skip to push the steam out the double doors.

 

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Taste testing with an absurdly long spoon is necessary.

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Immersion heater in, you can see the hop bags.  Five minutes before this I added a protofloc tablet to aid with clarity.

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I pitched the lot (cold break and hot break) into the fermenter.  Everything smells fine to me.

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I used the drop into the fermenter to aerate the wort.

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Lots of bubbles! So well aerated that I couldn’t easily pitch the dry yeast.   Next time, maybe I’ll make a starter!

I really enjoyed the brew – a few things didn’t go as planned and the immersion cooler hose ends had gone AWOL so we had to run round looking for those at the last minute, but it was fairly relaxing.  The wort tastes excellent and I’m looking forward to the beer.  My only concern is I only used half a protofloc tablet (thinking they were the same as whirlfloc tablets) and I tossed in all the break rather than filtering, but I’ve been told conflicting views.  We’ll see how it works out.

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