We’re not dead.
I know it’s been a while since we posted, but we kind of took a little time off for the holidays, and we’ve also been working on some new exciting projects equipment wise. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but we’ve decided to go electric! We’ve been buying lots of equipment in the past month, and should be starting construction soon. Glen should be working on some posts about it, so keep an eye out for his post in the (hopefully) near future.
Ok, on to today’s brewing notes. Travis and I each brewed a batch this afternoon. He picked a scotch ale and I picked a cream ale. Neither one of us have brewed either of these styles before. Because our equipment and setup are in a little bit of flux right now we decided to make things a little simpler by doing 5 gallon extract kits that we purchased from Austin Homebrew Supply. This was actually a nice little change of pace I thought. Although we brewed two batches, things went really smoothly. It never felt rushed.
Even so, we still kept moving forward in our quest to learn and expand our process. The focus today was all about the yeast. Up until now we’ve kind of been a little lackadaisical in this regard. You become really focused on the early parts of the process; mash, sparge, boil, hop schedule, etc…; and when you’re done with those steps you’re maybe a little tired, and you just want to pitch the yeast and clean up. At least that has been us. Some of our recent beers seemed like they maybe didn’t ferment as vigorously as we thought they should, the lag time between pitching and noticeable fermentation were high, and we’ve also started to notice small off flavors that could be a result of the yeast not fermenting efficiently enough. When the yeast is doing it’s thing well, it is converting the sugars in the wort into alcohol. If the conditions are off, and the yeast isn’t performing efficiently it converts sugars into alcohol but leaves some byproducts around. We mostly use White Labs liquid ale yeasts in our beers. This is better than many dry yeasts, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free pass.
The things we did different today are:
1. Let the yeast warm up to temperature earlier. Bring the yeast vials out the fridge either first thing in the morning of brew day, or even the night before. Anywhere up to 24 hours in advance of pitching is ok. The idea of making a yeast starter was suggested, and we might try this in the future. The reason we decided against it for today was because liquid yeast starters are usually done by making a mini-wort (boil water, add DME, maybe a few hops, chill) and pitching the yeast into it. This needs to be done a day or so in advance and I didn’t have any DME, or the right equipment. It is also suggested that the mini-wort be as close as reasonably possible to the wort that it will pitched into, i.e. it’s nice if they can be the same styles, similar gravity, etc…
2. Yeast fuel. A little capsule containing nutrients that the yeast can use to help them along during the initial stages of fermentation was added to the boil with 10 minutes remaining.
3. Aeration. Oxygen is a critical ingredient to yeast metabolism early in the fermentation process. Yeast is pretty unique in that it is both an aerobic and anaerobic micro-organism. Aerobic organisms are living things that use oxygen in the metabolic process (Humans for example); anaerobic organisms don’t require oxygen. While yeast are both, they are more efficient and faster when there is oxygen. When the wort is boiled, it drives out the dissolved oxygen. We need to put it back in somehow, this is why you slosh the carboy a bit after pitching the yeast. Well, we think even that isn’t enough, so we bought an aeration system. This is a small device with a small pump that pushes air through a hose with an aeration stone attached to the end. The end with the stone goes into the wort and air is dissolved into the wort through it. Each batch was aerated for 30 minutes in the carboy before the yeast was pitched.
Hopefully these steps will lead to a more efficient fermentation, and ultimately better beer. We’ll let you know in a couple of weeks!
Well, in the cream ale at least. The plan for the scotch ale is to actually condition it by letting it age in the keg for about a year. Not going to lie, we’re a little concerned we won’t be able to wait that long.