Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Coffee Pot Beer: Some notes.

Some thoughts on the whole "Coffee Pot Beer" thing:

 - It was a lot of work for about two pints of beer.  But, it was kinda fun, and if I can make it work so that it becomes a mostly hands-off process, it would make it a far more attractive option for making small batches of beer. So, I'm probably gonna try again.

 - The OG of the beer was 1.030.  This is pretty low, and means that at best, I will get a 4.0 ABV beer. At first, I was concerned that I had an incomplete mash, and because I topped off the fermenter with a bit of water to make up for lost wort.  But after crunching some numbers, it turns out that I just didn't use much grain.  So, the 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) be increased.  There was definitely room in the lauter-tun (or coffee filter basket) for more grians.  

 - There was a huge drop in volume during the boil. A shorter boiling time could help solve this, as could having a lid on the pot during boil.  This guy got 3 bottles out of each batch, meaning he had at least 36 oz. of beer.

 - The recipe.  Let's face it... it was way too much chocolate malt.  Also, I may have put in too much hops... 

 - I don't like using an open fermenter... I've never used one before, and I don't like not having an airlock.  Partly, the risk of something getting into the beer concerns me (but it's not that likely).  mostly, I like to have an airlock going glug glug glug as a visual indicator of active fermentation.

So... definitely not a complete failure, but there is definitely room for improvement.  I'll try it again sometime soon, and I'll try to post pictures, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coffee pot all-grain beer

Yes, you read the title correctly. I will attempt to brew a batch of all-grain beer in a coffee pot. No, I am not making this up. It has been done before. Yes, this is completely ridiculous.  I'm doing it anyways. Right now.

Now, regardless of how good or bad the beer may turn out, it at least demonstrates the 5 stages of all-grain beer brewing (mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, bottling), allowing you to see how the process works.  So... I'm gonna dive into it, and update as I go along.


What is mashing? Mashing is where we take malted barley (and possibly other grains) and convert it into sweet sugar-water (called wort (pronounded 'wert')) so that the yeast can eat it and make alcohol. You combine a measured amount of hot water and grains together and let them sit at about 150 - 158 degrees F for  an hour. At those temperatures, enzymes (pieces of protein that do stuff) break down the starches in the grains and turn it into sugars.

Here's what I did with the coffee pot:
 - Put 1 cup pale ale malt and 1/4 cup chocolate malt into the carafe.  (I didn't need to crack my grains before this. I had cracked them previously)
 - Added 2 cups (actual measuring cups, not the 'cup' measurement on the side of the carafe) in the water reservoir of the coffee maker.
 - Turned the pot on and let it run.
 - Once all the water was in the carafe, I stirred the grains and water with a wooden spoon. Leave the heater under the carafe on.

At first I was apprehensive about this.  If you mash too hot (over 158 deg.), you deactivate the enzymes, and you get no wert. If you mash too cold (below 150 deg.), the enzymes work really, really slowly, and mashing takes far longer than it should. But, 20 minutes in, the mash it holding at 154 deg... this may actually work.

UPDATE: The temperature is climbing... it's near 158 deg.  I'm gonna take it off the burner for 5 or 10 minutes, see if it cools down a few degrees.

UPDATE: Cooled down fast. It went down to 150 deg. in less than 5 minutes, so I put it back on the burner.  It's been there for 15 minutes and is only at 145 deg... I guess the burner can hold things at a temperature, but not bring them up? Anyways... it's a bit lower than it should be, but I'm gonna keep going anyways.


Lautering is where we seperate the wort from the grains.  We do this in several steps.  First, we strain the grains out.  Then, we pour the wort back through the grains (the grain act as a filter, and help remove small bits that may have been missed the first time.  After that, we rinse the grains with hot water, pulling every bit of sugary goodness out of the grains.

Doing this in a coffee pot is a bit tricky...

UPDATE: It worked.... after a few tweaks.  The original website called for pouring your mash through a coffee filter, collecting the wort, and then pouring the wort and 1 cup of water into the reservoir, repeating this 4 more times, adding a cup of water each time.  However, as soon as I
started filtering the mash through the coffee filter, I knew this was gonna take way too long.

Time for a different approach.  Screw coffee filter.  Get a mesh strainer, put it over your boiling pot (3 quart pot is a good size), and pour the mash into that.  Put all the grains into the filter basket (without a coffee filter), and put the filtered wort (plus 1 cup of water) into the reservoir. Run the pot.

While this is going, keep the lid of the coffee maker open, so you can watch the level of wort in the grains. The last thing you want is an overflow, making a sticky mess everywhere.

Once all the wort has filtered through, put it back in the reservoir, and add 2 cups of water (I know it says one cup at a time, but I'm impatient).  Run it again.  Repeat this one more time (you should have added a total of 5 cups of water, not counting the mash water at the start).

You should have about 11 'cups' of liquid in your coffee pot (remember, the markings on the carafe are not accurate cups.  They're actually about 6 oz servings...).  Go ahead and just top it off to the 12 'cup' mark, which is actually 2 quarts.  Go ahead and put this wort into the boiling pot, and get that on the stove.

Now, before you do anything else, CLEAN YOUR FUCKING COFFEE POT! Run a few cycles with new water and a new filter each time.  Wipe down anywhere you may have spilled wort.


Boiling is where we add things to our beer (usually). Things like hops, spices, and other additions take place.  We boil our beer for about an hour, because the hops that we add need time to release the alpha acids, which in turn give beer it's bitterness.

Put your wort on the stove, bring it to a boil, and add your hops (reserving one or two pellets).  If, like me, you're using dried hops, not pellet hops, drop me a line and let me know how much to use. I have no idea... I went with about 15 hop flowers.

Boil this for 45 minutes.  You don't need a rolling boil... somewhere between a simmer and a full boil should be ok.

UPDATE: At the end of the 45 minute, add you remaining hops and boil for 5 more minutes.  Then take it off the heat.


This is the step where you let your wort sit and let the yeast turn it into beer...

While the wort was boiling, you should have been sanitizing your fermenter(s).  For this experiment I am using two quart jars, one of which turned out to not be necessary.  Put a splash of bleach into the jars, added some water, put the lids on and shake them up.  After letting them sit for a few, rinse them out with tap water.

Carefully pour the wort into the jars.  I poured everything into one jar, then poured it into the other jar through a strainer to remove the hops.  In retrospect, this was a bad idea; once there were hops in the strainer, it made the wort splash all over, and I lost maybe half a cup (not good when you only have quart of wort at this point).

If you need to, top off the jar with water so you have at least 28oz of liquid.  Put the jar in a pot with cold water, and let is sit till it's near room temperature.  Once it's below 85deg., sprinkle in some yeast (i used a bit of champagne yeast I had in the fridge). Cover the top of the jar with a square of cheesecloth, put the ring of the lid on to hold it down, and then set the flat part of the lid on top of that. Put the jar somewhere dark and quiet, where it can sit undisturbed for about a week.

Now, some of you may be asking why the beer isn't sealed in some airtight container with an airlock to let out the excess CO2.  The type of fermenting we are doing is called open fermentation.  It relies on sanitary practices to keep the beer safe.  Once the yeast has taken hold, it will create a blanket of CO2 above the surface to help keep bad bacteria out.  The purpose of the lid on top is not to create a hermetic seal, but to just keep out dust and dirt.

However, if you wanted to put it in a growler or other fermenter, attatch an airlock, and ferment in a closes system, you're welcome to do that, too.

The final step, bottling, will have to wait until fermentation is complete.  I'll post about that when it happens.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My first all-grain beer

About a month and a half ago, I decided to explore the deep end of beer brewing pool: all-grain brewing. To complicate things further, I decided to do this on a whim, at a friends house, with no-one else around who knew anything about brewing.  It was ugly.  Messes were made, curses were uttered, and more than one frantic phone call was made to an acquaintance who is far more knowledgeable about all-grain than I. But in the end, I prevailed, and had two gallons of  a strawberry wheat beer fermenting happily away.
It looks like beer...

Flash forward to last week, when I finally found the free time to bottle the beer (which had been sitting in secondary for several weeks).  Two gallons fit quite nicely into a dozen bottles and three bombers.

Cut to last night, where I opened the first bottle to give it a try. What is it like? Well...

First off, the title 'Strawberry Wheat Beer' is a bit misleading.  There is no hint of strawberry red in it's coloring.  There is no scent of fresh strawberries in the nose.  And, unless you're looking for it, you're not likely to notice the very, very faint strawberry note in the taste.  However, it is a damn fine wheat beer. It's quite light in body, with a subtle (almost too subtle) hop bite to balance things out.  I have no idea the alcohol content, but would guess about 4.5% based on the recipe. This would have been a great beer to have about two months ago to combat the August heat.

When I next get around to brewing a batch of beer (hopefully soon!) I'll post about the whole complicated process. Until then, cheers!