Moving into all-grain brewing

Gary Glass, President of the American Homebrewers Association appears in this video. The video shows him pouring crushed malted grains into a plastic ice-chest and adding hot water (hot liquor in beer geek speak) to the grains and making a porridge (aka mash).

There is a formula for deciding how hot (the strike temp) the water you add should be to get the desired temperature for the mash (the target mash temp is quite often ~149F-152F).

After the grain(the mash)  has steeped for a while (60 minutes is common), the liquid wort is drained out to be boiled. (The ice-chest has some tubing on the outside and some screening on the inside to allow the sweet wort out and keep the spent grains in.) After the wort has been captured, it is boiled (60 minutes is common) just as an extract batch would be.


Yeast Ranching notes

These are some notes I took when the owner/brewer of the soon-to-be-opened Kelsey Creek Brewing gave a seminar on yeast ranching to some members of the Lake County Homebrewers club.


To grow and cultivate (aka “ranch”) yeast you want clean clear wort with the trub precipitated out to mix with agar to put on the petri dishes. You will also need inoculation loops and  inoculation needles.

Required for yeast ranching:


Sprinkle agar over the top of the cooled wort. Do not dump the agar rather sprinkle in around (7g/250ml). No need to stir. Sanitation is not critical yet, since it will go into a pressure cooker which serves as an autoclave. Be sure to add nutrient to your wort.
After it has been used, every time you touch something in the pressure cooker you spray it with isopropyl 70 alcohol.

Pour the agar & wort solution using the “pacman” technique
Make sure the agar sets up ~45min before flipping over to lessen the condensation

Place a drop of diluted yeast solution on the dish with the agar. Then remember the spot and drop sterile saline on the yeast’s spot.

Then use the needle to drag the drop to streak it.

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Nice to haves:

  • Hemocytometer (local veterinary offices may have these lying around)
  • microscope

To check yeast viability a bulb flask is used (9 ml of sterile and 1 ml of yeast and 1 drop of methylene blue) and .0001 ml of of solution is placed on hemocytometer slide


This Week on Brew Disasters: Cloning Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

Basic beer brewing equipment. Includes four fe...

Nothing like my brewing equipment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Week on Brew Disasters: Cloning Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.

Note: a pictorial of the brewing process is toward the end of this post.

We here at Flog-This-Dead Brewing are excited to try brewing a new (to us anyway) beer: Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. The grain bill is 16 pounds; a 50/50 blend of wheat and barley. The beer has minimal brewing hops and, true to the Lagunita’s way, massive dry hopping, 4.5 ounces for a 5 gallon batch.

A huge thank you to the Jamil Zainasheff and Mike “Tasty” McDole of the Brewing Network‘s Can You Brew It and Lagunitas Brewing Company for sharing their Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale recipe with them. And, lastly, thanks to my buddy Paul for pointing me to the recipe and my loving wife for helping at just the right times.

As you may recall, we here at Flog-This-Dead Brewing just supplemented our temperature monitoring from a handheld Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer to a BrewMometer by Blichmann Engineering. So we started the strike water temperature for our mash at 20F above our desired mash temp, because we had found that after adding our grain the water cooled 20F. Apparently, having a thermometer probe further down makes a big difference and the mash temperature did not drop the 20F expected. Yikes, instead of a desired mash temp of 150, the mash temp was 170F! We yanked the bag of grain out of the mash tun and began cooling the watery wort down.

After cooling the mash conversion process started at a temperature of 149.5 and after 60 minutes finished at 137F. A batch sparge was used and the total wort produced was 10.5 gallons with a pre-boil specific gravity of 1.043 (1.033 @ 117F); a full 12 points below the 1.055 that was the target, the addition gallon produced had a lot to do with that (You would think I could subtract 9 from the yield of the first runnings, but no, I muffed it). One-half pound of corn sugar and one-half pound of dry malt extract were added to boost the specific gravity.

It took over about an hour and a half to get the wort to boiling for the 90 minute boil.

Total time for brewing day (including cleanup–that’s why it’s a hobby and not a business): 12 hours.

First impressions:

  • Appearance: 10L hazy-like smoggy LA day
  • Aroma: fruity, sweet,
  • Flavor: Sweet-malty, fruity, a sweetness lingers on the tip of the tongue
  • Mouthfeel: syrupy (it is wort after all)
  • Overall impression: Good start. Slightly maltier than hoppy.

The Flog This Dead Brewing‘s recipe:

Target Wort Volume Before Boil:  8.00 US gals  Actual Wort Volume Before Boil:  10.50 US gals
Target Wort Volume After Boil:  6.00 US gals  Actual Wort Volume After Boil:  7.50 US gals
Target Volume Transferred:  5.25 US gals  Actual Volume Transferred:  5.50 US gals
Target Volume At Pitching:  5.25 US gals  Actual Volume At Pitching:  5.50 US gals
Target Volume Of Finished Beer:  5.00 US gals  Actual Volume Of Finished Beer:  5.00 US gals
Target Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.053 SG  Actual Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.048 SG
Target OG:  1.079 SG  Actual OG:  1.056 SG
Target FG:  1.018 SG  Actual FG:  -No Record-
Target Apparent Attenuation:: 75.50%  Actual Apparent Attenuation: 100.00%
Target ABV: 8.10%  Actual ABV: 7.40%
Target ABW: 6.30%  Actual ABW: 5.90%
Target IBU (using Tinseth):  29.9 IBU  Actual IBU:  31.8 IBU
Target Color (using Morey):  5.3 SRM  Actual Color:  5.3 SRM
Target Mash Efficiency: 70.00%  Actual Mash Efficiency: 82.30%
Target Fermentation Temp:  64 degF  Actual Fermentation Temp:
Ingredient Amount % MCU When
2-Row Malt  8lb 2oz 47.30% 2.4  In Mash/Steeped
White Wheat Malt  6lb 2oz 35.60% 2.5  In Mash/Steeped
Torrified Wheat  1lb 12oz 10.20% 0.6  In Mash/Steeped
Toasted White Wheat  3.12 oz 1.10% 0.5  In Mash/Steeped
Extract – Light Dried Malt Extract  8.00 oz 2.90% 0.3  Start Of Boil
Sugar – Corn Sugar/Dextrose (Dry)  8.00 oz 2.90% 0  Start Of Boil
Variety Alpha Amount IBU Form When
Nugget 13.00%  0.39 oz 15.9  Loose Pellet Hops  90 Min From End
Willamette (rhymes with damn it) 5.20%  0.28 oz 3.9  Loose Pellet Hops  45 Min From End
Tettnanger 4.50%  1.18 oz 7.7  Loose Pellet Hops  15 Min From End
Willamette 5.20%  0.32 oz 2.4  Loose Pellet Hops  15 Min From End
Cascade 5.90%  0.85 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Centennial 9.50%  0.85 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Chinook 11.50%  0.85 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Simcoe 12.50%  0.85 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Amarillo 8.50%  0.63 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Columbus 15.50%  0.53 oz 0  Loose Pellet Hops  Dry-Hopped
Other Ingredients
Ingredient Amount When
Irish Moss  1.00 oz  in boil
DCL S-04-SafAle

Ungrateful yeast

Sacharomyces cerevisiae cells in DIC microscop...

Yeast cells reproducing. Note the buds forming on two of the cells. (Image via Wikipedia)

It’s been more than 37 hours since we pitched with Wyeast 2007 (Pilsner Lager) yeast into the cooled wort of the house pale ale and there is still no indication of fermentation. Wyeast 2007 comes in a “smack-pack.” The package had expanded, so the yeast were active at 6pm on Sunday when they were pitched into the 62F wort.

At a specific gravity of 1.050, this beer isn’t a high gravity beer (1.060 and above), so a lack of aeration should not be an issue. Could it?

Kräusen on top of wort pitched with pilsner lager yeast.

Update: A foamy head of Kräusen has appeared on the top of the wort some 42 hours after the yeast pitch.

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.

Stuck fermentation?

Carboy fermenter. Image via Wikipedia

Ten days have passed since I brewed a batch of “Hop Grenade,” an IPA. The image on the right is pretty much how my fermenter looks. After ten days, the yeast are still eating. CO2 continues to escape from the airlock. The bubbling isn’t as active as it was seven days ago, still it’s still percolating. The batch tasted pretty darn good. I detected no off-tastes.

This batch’s starting specific gravity was 1.075. It’s now at 1.030.

The recipe for this (coupled with my notes), my second batch Hop Grenade, was:
2-Row Malt, 12lb 0oz, (80.0 % by weight of grain bill)
Caramel 40L Malt, 1lb 0oz, (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)
Carapils Malt, 1lb 0oz, (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)
Corn Sugar, 1lb 0oz (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)

Input 11.0 gallons hot liquor (it’s really hot water but since it’s for making beer and we are particular about the minerals and pH of the water it’s “liquor.”)

66% conversion efficiency expected. Mash (mash is the hot porridge made by combining hot water and the milled grain) at 152F for 60 minutes. No sparge (sparging is rinsing of grain to get all of the sugary goodness).

Output 8.0 gallons wort (raw, unfermented beer)

Wort’s Pre-boil gravity: 1.051

Boil wort for 90 Minute

Hop addition Schedule:

Simcoe 0.80 oz … 60 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.80 oz  … 60 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.20 oz … 30 Min From End
Simcoe 0.20 oz  … 30 Min From End
Simcoe  0.60 oz  … 15 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.60 oz  … 15 Min From End
Amarillo  0.60 oz … 10 Min From End
Simcoe  0.40 oz … 1 Min From End
Amarillo  0.30 oz … Dry-Hopped
Simcoe  0.30 oz … Dry-Hopped
Citra 0.30 oz  … Dry-Hopped

The only thing I have done different from what I have done in the past was to make a yeast starter with White Labs WLP001-California Ale

So, to summarize, I have a batch of beer that indicates the yeast are actively fermenting after 10 days. The specific gravity is 1.030 (starting was 1.075). And, it tastes fine.

Have you had a similar “stuck fermentation” that kept on fermenting? What did you do?

From no brew to homebrew – equipment

Bottling Hardware

Bottling Hardware (Photo credit: ilovebutter)

Are you interested in getting into home brewing? Would you like to make ales and beers that are as good as (or better than) what you can buy in the store or find on tap? You can. I know you can make good beer because I make good beer–without high tech equipment. The equipment should cost less than $100 and you can make beer for between $.50 and $1.50 per bottle (depending on what you want to make).

Here’s a link to a post, From no brew to homebrew: Make your own beer in 3 simple steps, on what you’ll need to get started. Basically what you’ll need is:

1-Ingredient kit. (For starters, go with a kit that uses malt extract. Don’t start with an all-grain kit right out of the chute. The link above has links to a number of online kits.)

2-Equipment kit. (The link above also has links to a number of online kits.)

3-cleaner, sanitizer, and a few other things (like bottles).

All of the equipment kits should have:

  •   A plastic fermenter with airlock (either food grade buckets with lids or plastic carboys). Some homebrewers prefer only glass carboys because glass doesn’t scratch. Plastic will accumulate scratches over time that will harbor batch-destroying bacteria, so it’s a good idea to replace them after several uses. The recommended replacement period ranges from five uses to one year. Glass breaks and makes shards that cut and puncture. Replacing 20 plastic buckets is much less expensive than one trip to the emergency room. 
  • A priming bucket for bottling. After the beer has finished fermenting, it’s transfered to a priming bucket where sugar is mixed with it (for ‘conditioning,’ aka carbonation, in the bottle).
  • A hydrometer. The specific gravitity (OG-original gravitiy) at the beginning of fermentation and at the end of fermentation (FG – final gravitiy) determines the alcohol content. Do not bottle if the specific gravity is still dropping!
  • A bottle capper.

Beyond those things, you should have:

  • 2 1/2 cases of 12 ounce bottles (non twist offs and not clear or green-light makes beer ‘skunky’)
  • A 20 quart brew pot (if you can’t fit a 20 qt on your stove, you’ll need to do a partial boil. For how to do a partial boil MoreBeer has instructions in PDF format here.)
  • A food grade thermometer (candy thermometers work). I use a Taylor digital thermometer. They’re inexpensive (under $20) and won’t shatter in your wort.
  • An auto-siphon with 4-6 feet of tubing
  • A bottle filler with 3-5 feet of tubing

Here are parts 1 & 2 of Alton Brown of the Food Network giving good information on home brewing. He shows how to do a partial boil with whole hops (this is a style preference, most hops you’ll be able to find are pelletized). The only niggle I have is he says that “dry hopping” is the addition of hops at the end of the boil. Dry hopping is the addition of hops in the fermenter after fermentation has stalled.

Cloning Dogfish’s Shelter Pale Ale…

Pale Ale

Image via Wikipedia

…And making a delicious hash of it.

A while back I found a clone recipe at for a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale. I decided that it was as close as I was getting to tasting the real thing, so I brewed it three weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Simco hops for the flavoring at turn-off of heat; I subbed 0.5 oz of warrior hops instead (since didn’t have Simcoe–in the future I’ll try a 50/50 mix of chinook and Citra as a sub for Simcoe). I also first wort hopped (FWH) this batch. FWHing does not appear to make the beer more bitter than a 60-minute addition.

The Bader Brewing recipe calls for malt extract, but since I wanted to go all-grain, I subbed in 14 lbs of pale ale malt (using a 6.5 gallon outcome with 65% efficiency for the grain calculation). And, instead of using corn sugar for the bottle conditioning (carbonating the beer in the bottle), I tried a commercial method and used speise (unfermented wort).


This is a single-step infusion mash at 155º F (68º C) with 14 lbs. (4.9 kg) American pale ale malt grain, 6 oz. (.25 kg) crystal malt, 120°L grain, and 2 oz. (.17 g) amber malt, 35ºL (substitute dark Munich or carastan if needed). Sparge slowly with 175º F (79º C) water.

Mashing grains within a mesh grain bag

Collect approximately 6 gallons (27.3 L) of wort runoff. Add 0.5 oz of warrior hops to wort. Bring wort to boil for 60 minutes. Add yeast nutrient and whirfloc and wort-chiller (to sanitize) after 45 minutes of boiling.

Cool the wort to 75º F (24º C) and pitch English ale yeast. Aerate the wort. Cool to 64º F (20º C). Hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Bottle when final gravity has stabilized (around 1.014). Condition for 2 weeks, if you can wait that long.

Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.042 SG
Expected OG: 1.052 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Apparent Attenuation: 73.0 %
Expected ABV: 5.1 %
Expected ABW: 4.0 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 32.0 IBU
Expected Color (using Morey): 9.6 SRM

Wort (the unfermented raw beer) in the boil kettle.

Beer fermenting in Better Bottle (TM) carboy. The 1/2″ blowoff tube drops into a bucket of water.

Sam Calagione explains the safe harbor idea of Dogfish Head’s Shelter Pale Ale