Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whoops - Chemicals are Bad

So I should have done my research on mead, and purchased some yeast nutrient to go with our concoction. We have slightly conflicting reports on why our mead has yet to start fermenting, but we'll know soon.

One theory is that we used bleach, and the extra chemicals killed everything, both in the new and old yeast batches, but also in the honey-water must itself.

The second is that we just didn't have nutrient in there, and our yeast is still alive. We're going to start by testing the second theory, and adding yeast nutrient directly to our musty carboy. Wow, that sounds so wrong. If that doesn't work, we'll start a batch of yeast in a container that wasn't cleaned by bleach, using the yeast nutrient again, and then pitching it after it gets going and seeing what happens.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Next Up - Bottling Mead and Brewing Hard Lemonade

So the approaching summer caused my wife to make a request - hard lemonade.

We decided to use the smaller Mr. Beer carboy for this test recipe, but that means that we'll have to bottle the mead.

So my friend and his girlfriend are contributing to our bottle fund (which is nice because the bottles are over at his place, as it is his Mr. Beer kit), and he is hitting up the Brew and Grow for the 1 pound of ultra-light Dried Malt Extract (DME).

Right now, it looks like our recipe is going to be:

1.5 lbs white sugar (an extra .5 for a bit of an extra kick :)
1/2 lb ultra-light DME
1/2 packet champagne yeast (left over from the mead)
5 cans of lemonade concentrate (without potassium sorbate which apparently keeps the yeast from reacting)

Another thing I will definitely be doing this time is starting the yeast - 2 cups of warm water, 1/2 packet of yeast, and 2 Tbsp of cane sugar. Once that starts to foam, I'll begin putting in half cups of the lemonade concentrate/water/sugar/DME wort every 10 minutes for a half an hour - making sure it's still active.

Once that's all together, we'll toss it all in the carboy and make sure it's 2.5 gallons.

We have yet to decide if we're going to carbonate the lemonade or not, but we'll get to that after the 5 weeks of fermentation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I got sick last week, so I haven't been able to get to the Brew and Grow, but I'm going to try to get there this weekend, depending on how long it takes to fix my car.

Anyway, one of the funny things I realized was that I could use my lush friends to my advantage. I have recruited them for bottle collection. Every time I go over to their places now, I take an empty carton for a six pack, fill up on their bottles and bring them back home.

Now I just have to find an easy way to mass-sanitize them. My father in-law suggested the microwave, but I was wondering about any actual growth or sediment collection in the bottles, maybe I could fill them the water and then zap them for 5 or 6 minutes. I wonder if they sell bottle racks I can use to empty them out, and then turn them over to make sure they drain everything out of.

Any other ideas for sanitization are welcome too...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

English Brown Ale

It's unanimous that the English Brown Ale was a much better beer overall, so I will be returning to that with my next batch, but taking it a step further and attempting to improve it.

In addition to the Brewer's Best kit, I will purchase an extra 4 oz bag of chocolate grains. I haven't decided if I will use all of them yet, but I'd like the cocoa flavors to come out a bit more in the trial batch. In addition, I will also try to find and use the moss - I can't remember if it's Irish or Scottish at the moment, but it helps with clarity (and, I would imagine, body by virtue of making it clearer).

Now I just need to hit up the Brew and Grow to pick everything up.

(And after that, I think I'm going to make this recipe)

Saturday, March 6, 2010


So for Christmas last year I bought my friend a Mr. Beer brewer's kit at Target because it was $20 and I hadn't seen a system for under $50 before.

The beer - some IPA - was pretty bad, and he forgot about the system until I was daydreaming about having two carboys set up for different recipes. Well, we remembered it and decided to make 2 gal of mead with his system.

Champagne yeast

We boiled the water, brought it just under boiling, and then added our honey. We let that almost simmer for about half an hour (usually a bit over) to mimic pasteurization without actually boiling it to remove the flavor of the honey. We also skimmed off as much as we could of what formed over the top. Then we just cooled it out back (on a cold night in Chicago, we didn't feel like preparing an ice bath) with lids, and stuck it in the carboy. I had attempted to get a yeast colony going, but probably should have done it the day before. Oh well.

Now we're going to let it sit for about a month, bottle it, and not drink it for a very long time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Russian Imperial Stout

I created a Russian Imperial Stout three weeks ago, and it was very good, though I'm not a stout person myself. The English Brown Ale ranked higher on my list. I've also started collecting bottles to be able to have two batches going at the same time. The stout ingredients were:

6.6 lb. Dark Liquid Malt Extract (2 cans)
2 lb. Dark Dried Malt Extract
8 oz. Maltodextrin

Specialty Grains:
8 oz. Crystal 60L
8 oz. Roasted Barley
8 oz. Black Patent

1 oz. Bittering
.5 oz. Aroma

1 Sachet

I sanitized everything the way I did the English Brown Ale, and then I combined everything per the Brewer's Best procedure again, and had even more difficulty siphoning. I am going to try their recommended siphoning procedure next time.

On par with my last recipe, I opened a few bottles a week early. This stout wasn't anything to write home about for me, but I'm hoping another week will give it time to gel (and give me time to empty out a few more bottles for another batch).