This Week in BrewZasters: MyBrewCo and the Accidental IPA (on purpose)

This past week I have had some good exchanges with Michael, the designer of the MyBrewCo.com website. Being a typical male, after reading in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine that MyBrewCo existed, I jumped in and set up my own “Batch-22 Brewery (tagline: There’s Always a Batch). After I set up the Batch-22 Brewery, I posted my observations on this site (here) and Michael had responded to those (see the comments).

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

Thinking there was no time like the present to start tracking my brewing online, I tried uploading an XML file for the Accidental IPA that was exported from my BeerSmith program. This led to an error message that the recipe didn’t meet the database’s needs.  Databases are notoriously literal and don’t handle human inconsistencies well. (Michael says the standard procedure for standards is to deviate slightly from the standard.) In the end, I created the recipe on the website by picking ingredients from its drop-down menus. (Note: now when you upload a recipe the site tells you that your “File has been uploaded. We’ll process the file and let you know if the recipes need repairing. You can navigate away from this page.”)

Brewing the Accidental IPA on purpose

As you may recall, the first version Accidental IPA was supposed to be an an American pale ale from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. However the original gravity was higher than normal due to some alignment of things* that weren’t there before in my brewing that affected the efficiency of the brew session (apologies for the awkwardness of the sentence).  More sugars in the wort means more food for the yeast which gives the beer more alcohol in the end.

Yesterday, the plan was to brew the Accidental IPA on purpose. As always, I got out the trusty Brewer’s Logbook from BasicBrewing.com for my notes–paper and pencil really help capture stuff as it’s happening. I hit the numbers that the beer needed: 12.5 gallons of 1.057 wort pre-boil and 9.5 (I wanted 10) gallons of 1.072 wort into the fermenters.

One reason for notes is that I follow Tasty McDole’s method of mashing, in that I don’t sweat trying to calculate the exact strike water amount (at 1.25 quart/1 pound of grain), but simply put in 10 gallons and then fly sparge (rinse) the grains. Keeping track of the strike water temps for different size grain bills for 10 gallons of water becomes important to put in your notes, if you want to replicate the results.

I also went to MyBrewCo.com and set up a “Brew Job.” (You may set up a Brew Job only if you are registered as a “Brewery.”) I picked my recipe, named it On Purpose IPA, picked the mash schedule from the Mash Template (Infusion, Mash Out, Fly Spare, Medium [body])**, the Brewing Method (all-grain), and a few other details and told the program to “Create” the Brew Job. The program then gives you an overview of the job, including the beer’s profile (tachometer-style dials indicate the IBUs, the predicted original gravity, final gravity, ABV, and color***).  Above the dials are tabs relating to the batch: Job, Brew Day, Mashing*, Schedule, equipment, Fermentable, Hop, Miscellaneous, Yeast, Actuals (actual volumes of wort produced), Readings, Notes, Carbonation, and Batch Split.

After the instructions, the “Readings” tab is probably the most beneficial/important. It is here you add a “Reading Type” (Gravity or Temperature). Within the drop-down menu of the Temperature choice you will find: “Ambient, Grain, Mash-In, Rest, Mash-Out, Boil, Into Fermenter, Pitch, Primary, Secondary, Container, Serving.” What was missing, for me, was Strike Water temperature****.  I track the strike water temperature so that I can duplicate (or, more often, tweak it up or down because the mash temp was off) the result next time. I would like to see the strike water temperature in there (maybe it is and I missed it). I would also like to see the mash temperature listed in the recipe–mash temp controls the body of the beer. (for more on mash temperature and the body of the beer, see Brad Smith’s write-up here.)

Brewing is a craft–a mixture of art and science. You may think of brewing as I do, a simple process of making a porridge, saving the liquid and tossing out the grainy bits, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. But as you get better and acquire more knowledge, you consider more and more steps/requirements–and there are lots of those. MyBrewCo tries to help you track and manage the stuff involved in making consistently good beer, while trying to be different/better than other online brewing sites such as BrewToad.com. I wish Michael luck in this and will continue to help in dialing in the process.

About MyBrewCo.com

The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:

  • “Create and upload Recipes”.
  • “Convert Recipes between brewing methods, unit of measures and automatically scale to equipment”.
  • “Let the system manage your efficiency and automatically scale recipes”.
  • “Manage recipe versions, copy and modify any recipe in the database”.
  • Create “An online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when a job is created”.
  • “Use our calendar or plug your brewing schedule into your favorite application using the internet calendar”.
  • “Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when” you are ready to do so.
  • “Manage Brew Jobs, view recipe and instructions”.
  • “Record brew day statistics for analysis.”
  • “Track efficiencies between equipment profiles”.
  • “Record gravity readings and track your beer’s fermentation”.

*Perhaps my grain grinder has the perfect alignment of its teeth so it gives the perfect crush or switching from brewing in a bag (BiAB) to fly sparging or something else made the mash efficiency go up.

**The choice of the Mash Template is quite important. On my first attempt I wasn’t paying close attention and missed this selection and the first choice in the queue was chosen by default. This would normally not be a big deal, you would go to where you could edit the mash schedule and change it. The only change allowed after the program creates the Brew Job is to change the name of the mash; the temperatures, times, and steps cannot be altered. You will need to delete the Brew Job and reenter the data.

***The color that the program gives is a 10 SRM and the beer is probably a 4.0-5.5 SRM.

****The rule of thumb is to heat the strike water 10F more than the mash temperature desired due to the cooling provided by the grain (at 1.25 quarts of water per 1 pound of grain).

Online Brewing Software – MyBrewCo.com

Over time, I will be copying recipes over to https://mybrewco.com/. MyBrewCo is, according to the site, a “free online brewing system to manage your brewing, share recipes and connect with friends.”

It looks to have promise, but I found some drawbacks as well. I have entered the Accidental IPA recipe onto the site (see that here). I could not enter my outputs from that recent brewing session. Apparently, only “Brew Jobs” can be entered and those occur on a date in the future (or that day). Also, the notes features and mashing information–for all-grain batches–is limited or missing. The xml file upload did not not work for the BeerSmith generated xml (which according to the beer xml site is xml compatible); I had to pick out the ingredients off the site’s system.

MyBrewCo.com is working on more features (see here). I am not seeing the brewing management tools such as the ability to take notes during brewing sessions that every brewer needs and there is no forum, which would seem to be necessary to “connect with friends.”

Despite these drawbacks, MyBrewCo.com does have some good features. The ingredients lists were extensive when I was posting the recipe.

This week on Brew Disasters: House Pale Ale

English: Bathams brewery Mash tun, the spent m...

Aftermash. Spent grain being spaded out of mash tun. (Image via Wikipedia)

This week on Brew Disasters we’re brewing a totally new and untried recipe (at least by us at Batch-22). We’ve got the recipe for a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone from the Beverage People (I immediately changed the hops, so don’t blame them; blame me for the recipe) that we want to enter in Beer-vana. With entries due in only four weeks, we’re under the gun. [Queue theme song]

The recipe:

Two-Row Malt  9lb 0oz
Caramel 40L Malt  8.00 oz
Carapils (Dextrin) Malt  8.00 oz
Ahtanum  1.00 oz  60 Min From End
Ahtanum  1.00 oz  30 Min From End
Cascade  1.00 oz  10 Min From End
Cascade  1.00 oz  1 Min From End

Original specific gravity ~ 1.048-1.052

ABV ~5%, IBU ~ 40

I also am subbing a Wyeast 2007-Pilsen Lager for the White Labs WLP001-California Ale since the basement temps are around 52F, darned near ideal for lagers.

I’m still working to find a good house pale ale recipe. Or, perhaps, I have had good pale ale recipes and have had poor execution. These are my brewing notes from yesterday.

For this all-grain recipe, I chose to batch sparge, so the maximum amount of  sugars could be extracted from the 10 pound grain bill. The goal was to have about 8 gallons of wort with a specific gravity of 1.036-1.042 before beginning the boil. After the boil the goal was pale ale wort with an original gravity of 1.048-1.052.

And, I wanted to mash and sparge with equal amounts of water.

The grain will soak up a percentage of the water and hold onto it. So, I started there.
The formula for water loss due to grain absorption is 0.13gal H2O/lb x grain bill (1.3 gal/lb x 10 lb  = 1.3 gallons. If I wanted 8 gallons I needed to start with 9.3 gallons of hot liquor (liquor in brewing terminology is water plus any needed amendments e.g., gypsum).

Next, I decided on how much water to grain I wanted in the mash. I picked 1.5 qt H2O per pound of grain. 10.00 lb x 1.5 qt/lb = 15.00 qt = 3.75 gallons H2O

I heated a tad over 5 gallons (3.75gal + 1.3gal = a tad of 5 gal) to 163F for the mash water. I heat 5+ gallons to 163F (10F above the mash temperature desired), and then “doughed-in” the milled grain (your local homebrew store can help you mill the grain so that it’s not too fine).

After I doughed in making a grain soup,  the temperature was 136F and not 153F. A drop of 27F, and not 10F. So much for rules of thumb. Since I use a keggle with a hand-made false bottom for mashing, I lit the burner under the keggle and set the burner to a low flame (to minimize caramelizing the wort. NOTE: don’t try this if you use an ice chest to mash) and began recirculating wort to equalize the temperature within. Once the mash reached 153F, it sat for an hour to allow the enzymes present on the malted barley to break down the grain’s starches into simpler sugars that beer yeast can digest. After the hour, recirculated wort (Vorlaufed in beer-geek speak) until it ran without bits of grain in it.  I heated the mash up to 168F. Once in the 168F ballpark, I drain into boil pot and measure output (I also put a wire mesh between the bucket and the spigot to catch wayward bits of grain). I measured 3.33 gallons of output (the false bottom area still held about 3 gallons too).

I heated 2.75 gallons to 170F and added that to the grains and stirred it well so the liquor (aka hot water) would need to make new channels in the grain bed. Then it set for 10 minutes. I recirculated, drained, and measured. The two outputs added up to 8 gallons. The pre-boil gravity was a corrected 1.038. (Note: you can’t read hydrometer numbers without correcting for the temperature of the liquid. Hydrometers are calibrated to read 1.000SG in 59F water).

Once the output had been measured (8.0 gallons), it went into the boil kettle.

The wort boiled for 75 minutes. 30 minutes before flame out the wort chiller is placed into the boiling wort to sterilize it. The specific gravity at the end of the boil was 1.050. The yeast was pitched after the wort had cooled to 62F.

The Better Bottle Carboy is now in the basement and the thermal strip reads 52F. After 12 hours there is no sign yet of bubbles from the blow-off tube.

Tune in later to see if fermentation has started.