John Byer of Great Fermentations recently posted a helpful article on the basics of oaking beer. John is currently helping lead GF’s wood aging project, which has already led to a pretty fantastic Templeton Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Porter. This project will definitely be something to watch in the months/years to come. There has even been some speak of lambics and sours in the future. Here’s his post via GF’s blog:
One thing you might hear about as you get further along into homebrewing is the need for a “yeast starter” or “pitching rates.” Below 1.060 gravity you can still get away with a single smackpack or vial of yeast and end up with a fermentation that finishes and has enough oomph to clean itself up afterwards. But when you start looking into big Imperial style beers, barley/wheat wines, Double IPAs, etc a single serving of liquid yeast is simply not enough yeast to finish off such a big plate of sugar. So now we need to make a starter!
For a typical big beer between 1.060-80 you will need at least a 1-Liter Erlenmeyer flask and you will need some DME (Dry Malt Extract) and you will need to brew up the DME for 1.040 of yeast starter goodness. You need about 10g of DME per 100mL of starter so 1L will come in at 3.5 oz of DME boiled in 1L of water for about 15-20 minutes. What I like to do is get the water boiling in the Erlenmeyer flask to sanitize it and then carefully pour the boiling water into a saucepan and boil the wort with the DME. Once you have boiled the wort pour it back into the Erlenmeyer flask and chill it down like you would if you were brewing a small beer. An ice bath in the sink will suffice. This is why I put the wort back into the flask because I have found that the flask fits easier in the sink than a saucepan with a handle.
You can spend upwards of $100 for a cheap stir plate or even more for a professional agitation unit OR…. You can build your own for anywhere between $15-30.
I just recently built one using this video as inspiration:
The one place where my build differs from Fo’s is I used a Thermaltake Mobile Fan II External USB cooling fan for the magnet mount. This somewhat limits where I can plug in my stir plate as I don’t have a laptop but I didn’t feel like splicing the wire. Splicing wire is not hard at all but I’m lazy and just felt like going the USB route and it works great. Make sure you have a variable control for your fan RPM however. When you first plug in/turn on your stir plate with your suspension in place the bar may not move right away and you will need to slowly increase the rate of spin to get it turning, taking care not to “throw” the stir bar. Once the bar is turning you can then turn down the RPM if you so choose or leave it where it is. As far as I know the speed at which the bar is spinning has little to no effect on the actual process. So long as you are agitating the yeast cells and keeping them from flocculating and settling out, your stir plate is doing its job.
Making pear cider is not as hard as it may sound. If you are comfortable brewing beer, you should have no problem making a good cider. As will all things fermented, remember that sanitation is key. I’ve compiled an easy step by step set of instructions for making cider from organic pear fruit juice. Here is a list of what you will need for a 5 gallon batch:
1 – 6.5 gallon carboy/food grade bucket w/ airlock or blowoff hose
1 – Small sanitized funnel
5 – Gallons of organic pear juice. (I’ve used R. W. Knudsen’s Organic Pear Juice)
1 – Package of yeast (I’ve used Wyeast Labs 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast)
1/2 – tsp of Yeast Nutrient
2 1/2 – tsp of Pectic Enzyme (Settles out free floating pectin in pasteurized juice, and will help you clarify improve your cider yield)
1/4 – tsp Potassium Metabisulphite (to kill of any wild yeast if using unpasteurized/ juice)
1/2 tsp of Potassium Sorbate
Step 1: Make sure that your carboy/bucket is sanitized. I usually do a wash and scrub with unscented Oxyclean or PBW, a double water rinse, and then sanitize it with a no rinse acid based sanitizer like Star San. This step is very important because we will not be boiling the juice like we would wort in brewing beer. I activate my yeast packet in the morning and let it sit while I clean my equipment. Take your time! Give your yeast at least a few hours to reproduce before pitching it into your juice.
Step 2: Once your yeast is ready to go, portion out your ingredients and get them ready to go. Make sure that your measuring spoons are clean and sanitized as well. Start pouring your juice into the fermenter. I usually pour off half of the juice, and then add the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, potassium metabisulphite, and any additional sugar to the remaining juice in it’s container so I can shake them together. This allows the ingredients to dissolve into the juice before adding it to the fermenter. If you are using pasteurized juice (which most of you will likely be using for this recipe), it will be cloudy. The pectic enzyme will help break down the free floating pectin in your juice, which will remove the haze from your finished product. Another thing to note is that the Original Specific Gravity of your juice should be at around 1.050. If it is not, you can add 2.25 oz of brown sugar or 3 oz honey per gallon to raise the OSG by increments of .005. A solid 1.060 OSG will yield between 7 to 9% abv with cider/mead yeast.
Step 3: Once all of your juice has been added to the fermenter, immediately pitch your yeast and aerate your batch. Providing the yeast with plenty of oxygen will help promote healthy yeast cell walls, which in turn will allow your yeast to propagate through your juice quickly. This will reduce fermentation lag time, and decrease your chance of bacterial infection. As you can see from the picture, I inject oxygen using an oxygen regulator and difuser stone.
Step 4: Allow your cider to ferment for 7-10 days. Once fermentation has ceased you can cold crash your batch or move it to a secondary for clarification. I would suggest letting your cider at sit least a week to allow yeast and unfermentables to settle out. Store bought juice is pasteurized, which naturally creates a large amount of pectin in the juice. The pectic enzyme added in Step 2 is critical if you want clear, non-cloudy cider.
Step 5: Dissolve 1/4 tsp of Potassium Metabisulphite and a 1/2 tsp of Potassium Sorbate into your batch. This “shuts off” your yeast activity and allows you to back sweeten your cider (which will be dry and tart) with more juice, brown sugar, or honey to taste. From here you should keg.
We at BIMP have made some outstanding cider using this method. It works great with any organic juice you can buy at the store. Please post any comments or recipe suggestions below. Enjoy!
This is a step away from my usual posts, but I thought it would be a cool thing to try. EdWort of homebrewtalk.com posted a thread on making Apfelwein (German Hard Cider) from 100% preservative free apple juice, corn sugar, and wine yeast. The recipe is super simple, apparently tastes fantastic, and can be made in as little as 6 weeks. What’s the downside? Haha, from what I understand Apfelwein gives you a ridiculous hangover. In fact, there is even a disclaimer at the bottom of Edwort’s recipe. Either way, I’m super interested in creating some Apfelwein of my own.
The faster you cool your wort off after your boil, the less likely are are going to bump into issues with off flavors from oxidation and bacteria contamination. Wort chillers are also used as a way to cold shock free floating proteins in your beer that will later cause “chill haze.” A good “Cold Break” increases the clarity of your finished beer by causing these proteins to drop out into your trub. There are two types of wort chillers: immersion and counterflow. An Immersion Wort Chiller is a coil of copper tubing (usually between 25′ and 50′) that connects to a hose attachment.
This type of chiller is placed in your brew kettle after your boil and cold water is pumped through the tubing. The wort heats up the water as it leaves the system and quickly chills your wort. Depending on the temperature of the water you are pumping through your system, your beer will cool below 80˚ F in 30-45 minutes (and sometimes longer if you don’t also use an ice bath).
A Counterflow Wort Chiller is much more efficient. Wort is pumped through copper tubing that is housed inside a hose or larger copper tube. The hose/larger copper tubing allows for cold water to be pumped in the opposite direction of the wort. In some builds (Chillzilla), the inner tube carrying the wort is spiraled which creates turbulence in the water hose. This increases surface area of copper containing hot wort that is exposed to cold water, and maximizes the chillers ability to cool your wort. A counterflow wort chiller can bring the temperature of your hot wort down below 80˚ F in under 10 minutes. This is a HUGE deal! Not only do you save time, but you also decrease your beers chances of oxidation/bacterial infection. Counterflow wort chillers can also be used in conjunction with an immersion wort chiller. Connect your chillers together with your immersion wort chiller closes in a bucket of ice water, and you’ll be ready to pitch your yeast in record time! Purchasing a counterflow wort chiller is definitely not cheap, but there are some great homemade builds out there. If your game check out the builds on Ronblog or Tiber_Brew’s thread on Homebrewtalk, otherwise support your local brewshop!
Stir plates are a great way to increase the potential of your yeast. By constantly stirring your yeast starter you can increase the amount of Oxygen in your solution, knock CO2 out of suspension, and keep the yeast in constant contact with the nutrients it needs to reproduce. With the power of these forces combined your yeast becomes Captain Planet! Actually what it really does is create much more yeast cells (with healthy cells walls) than your typical smack pack or dry yeast pack. Stir plates generally cost anywhere from $60 – $100 (and sometimes more). I’ve found a great thread on Homebrewtalk.com that walks you through building your own on the cheap. There is also another good one at Brewiki.org.