So it’s my first brew of the summer today, and I’m able to do so due to my brand new SS Brewtech temperature controller system (see un-boxing review and initial test articles). With temps in my kitchen 23c and above (up to 30c on the hot days), I can’t really brew a decent beer without proper cooling, unless I wanted to let a Belgium ale and yeast go mad.
So with all the set-up ready, I got my New Zealand hops out of the freezer where I store em – I’ve got two fairly new hop varieties, Rakau and Enigma. Both seem to be all rounder hops, both suitable for their high bittering capabilities (high alpha oils) and also full of flavours good for dry hopping.
I used my Braumeister, but instead of a 4/5 stage mash, I just went with two steps, a 65c light/medium body temp for 80 mins, and then 10 mins at 74c just to mash out. I sparge with 75c water from my separate hot water tea urn – to make up the water ready to boil. With Braumeisters you’re really just washing sugars out quickly – it’s not a true sparge as the pumps have done most of the work during the mash.
As the last of the sparge water drains through, on went the boiling stage – just a 60 min boil this time, with a small first 10g hop addition (majority of the boil hop additions were Rakau, as it’s my leaf hop – saving most of the Enigma for late additions / whirlpool and dry hopping.
10 mins from the end a whole whirlfloc tablet – you’re meant to only need a half but all in it went. More hops go in just after the boiler is turned off and the cold water turned on for cooling – it’s a big thing these days to add hops after flame-out (even below 90c), to capture nearly all the oils in those hops for flavour and aroma.
My home made cooler does the job very quick getting down to pitching temps, and I transfer to the stainless conical fermentor – I just transfer via a silicon tube and let it drop a distance, getting oxygen into it enough for it to really foam up. I used to use an air-pump, but I seem to get enough just from the drop/splashing, and there’s less chance of infection and less cleaning to do.
I usually take the sample for measuring gravity half way through the drain – to get some of the cleaner wort. And it looks a cracker – really nice light gold, and easily the clearest wort I’ve got out of the boiler so far. It’s crystal once settled, I just have to hope I can keep it like that once in the keg!
OG is 1.056 which I’m hoping comes down to 1.010 (the .5 kg of sugar will all ferment out, so I’d expect it to get near that mark). That will make for a 6% beer which is the strength I was looking for. There seemed to be well over 5 gallons in the fermentor, so I’ll be hoping for a full corny keg and possibly a bottle or three.
The cooling system works a treat too – when I turn it on it’s 26.5c – a touch warm but OK. So I set the temp to 20c, add pre-chilled water to my cool box (I filled a keg with water and put in my fridge for 24 hours). Then I added in two 2kg ice-blocks (frozen in 2litre ice-cream tubs), and a few 500 mil coke bottles with frozen ice. Hopefully that lot will last 24 hours until I can add two more blocks etc. The pump works well, and temp drops to my set 20c in probably 10 minutes? Fast and fairly silent.
Because the new lid loses some head-space, I bought the blow-off tube attachment, which lets me fit 1/2 inch silicon tubing to a container half full of sanitiser. I half expect to see the krausen blow through with less space, so this system stops it going through a air-lock and blowing the water out and leaving the beer exposed. It also helps keep the much off the lid of the fermentor too!
The temp drops another 0.4 c – which the instructions explained (cold water in the coil continues to cool the wort).. and takes nearly 3 hours to rise to 21c, at which point the pump kicked in again and cooled down the 1c in probably 2 minutes if that. Looks like it will only need the pump every 2+ hours, and only need it for minutes. Looks like a great efficient system!
To check the calibration, I also used my other temperature probe/controller to check temperature using the mid-mounted original thermowell in the conical – and that showed a temp about 0.3c away from the one mounted from the lid, proving the FTSS is calibrated well (or that both my probes are wrong!).
UPDATE: Over 24 hours later and the cooling system is still working fine – I’ve set the target temp down to 18c now, which means it cycles every two hours from about 17.7 –> 19c, when it kicks in the pump and brings it down to 17.9 before it cuts off, then drops to 17.7 before very very slowly going back up. The blow-off tube doesn’t look like it was needed – the Krausen must be just below the lid level, but it’s bubbling away nicely in the starsan. Better safe than sorry. Three days later and fermentation is slowing down – so I’ve raised the target temp back up to 19c, which means it will cycle 18.8 ->20c. I will take a gravity reading soon, but I expect the yeast has done the majority of the sugar -> abv work, as I added two packets of Nottingham to give it a really good start. From now on it will be all about the yeast cleaning up the beer and settling out. I’ve read you give the yeast a bit higher temps during this secondary phase – to aid it with the tougher work making sure the beer is properly fermented out, with all sugars (simple and complex) being turned into alcohol, leading to a nice dry beer.
So it will be a month before I get to properly taste this beer – I’ll be trying to get it cleared and nearly bright before kegging and force carbing for a week in my beer fridge. It will hopefully be good – I’ve no excuses now, as with the Braumeister, the Chronical fermenter, plus the temp control system, I’ve pretty much got the state of the art home brewing set-up.