Category Archives: General

Three Years Later 17.01.16

This site has been moving toward dormancy for a while now, so let me make it official. It has served as a personal log for me while I was getting to know the ins and outs of the brewing system I put together in the summer of 2013, with the added bonus of broadcasting those notes along with other general brewing advice to the world. At this point I’m very comfortable with the system, and my notes, which tend to be short and predictable, are kept in a spreadsheet I created, which automates things like adjusting for temperature on gravity readings and performing efficiency calculations.

In closing, let me make a few general remarks on what I’ve learned about brewing over the course of the last three years of using the small system.

  • Yeast makes beer, so concentrate on the cold side. Almost everything that happens on the hot side of the process is small potatoes in comparison.
  • The 10L system makes brewing much more practical. The ability to use the oven & stove efficiently and to clean the gear in the kitchen sink is massive.
  • When you find a yeast strain or recipe that you really like, use it again and again. It’s easy to over-explore and under-exploit.
  • Write a program / spreadsheet from scratch to calibrate / adjust measurements and perform efficiency calculations. It will give you a better understanding of the brewing process.

Farewell and RDWHAH.

Homebrew Aging Experiment 03.08.14

What effect does storage temperature have on the aging of bottle conditioned homebrew? At the beginning of August in 2013 I put a bottle of oatmeal stout, brewed in June, into the fridge, and another into the coat closet. One year later, I chilled the closet bottle for a day, and opened both for comparison.

First stage: the triangle test. Both my special guest taster and I were able to correctly identify the odd one out. You might guess, based on the picture below, that the sample on the left is the correct choice, but in fact, it’s the sample on the right. There was a slight difference in appearance, but it isn’t captured well in the photo below (the difference was more clear when a full glass was poured). The difference in taste was much more apparent.

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The beer that aged in the closet was clearly sweeter and boozier, with lower carbonation and head retention. It had notable prune and sweet dried fruit flavours, while the fridge aged beer retained roasty coffee flavours that were almost absent in the closet beer. This is conventional wisdom confirmed, as you’ll frequently see ‘sherry-like’ in descriptions of the effects of oxidation on dark beers. Moreover, this change is attributed to the oxidation of melanoidins, which also fits with the disappearance of the roast grain flavours.

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So, one year is enough time for a room temperature aged dark beer to lose much of its original character, which could have been retained quite well had it been in the fridge. I’d like to do a similar comparison after only a few months of aging, and check if the effect is already noticable. It would be very interesting to taste the fridge aged beer alongside itself prior to aging, but that’s an experiment which is essentially impossible for a homebrewer, as the same recipe will never produce exactly the same beer.

Nitro Pour Trick

I really love a good stout, particularly when it’s poured with a stout faucet and nitrogen to produce that delicious creamy head. I’ve avoided brewing stout in the past for lack of the stout tap and kegging system required for a nitro pour. But recently, while looking around /r/homebrewing I discovered this link embedded in a comment. Not only is it possible to reproduce the same creamy head without a kegging system and a stout faucet, it’s actually very easy. Just go to the local pharmacy and pick up a small plastic syringe.

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Fill the syringe with a few mL of air and a few mL of beer, then quickly inject the mix back into your glass, with the tip of the syringe just under the surface of the beer. You’ll see the characteristic nitrogen bubble waterfall, which doesn’t last as long as a true nitro pour, but it generates the same thick creamy head.

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The head should be creamy and persistent, just like it ought to (click the photo below and you can see how dense it is). A word of caution: start with a very small amount of air/beer mix. It only takes a little, and using this trick on anything with a higher level of carbonation is known to produce explosive results. The typical 1.5 to 2.0 volumes used for english ales seems to work well.

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Note that this will remove a significant amount of carbonation, which changes the flavour of the beer. A beer with less carbonation will taste sweeter and more full bodied, which is exactly the desired effect for a dry stout, but would be unwanted in many other styles.

Introduction

I live in a small apartment in Montreal, and I love homebrewing. I love to read about it, talk about it, and think about how to do it better.

This blog is here because the typical way to make beer at home involves equipment that takes up much more space than I have at my disposal in my own apartment. I’ve been brewing with friends for a few years using the standard 19L system, but this summer I thought I’d take a shot at putting together a new apartment friendly brewing system. It needs to be efficient, it needs to be compact, and it needs to make use of the burner and temperature controller already in my apartment (my oven/stove).