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How To Make Beer - Part 3

Thursday, September 28, 2006

This is the last in a short series on how to make beer.  The picture above is a good example of what a "true" all grain brewer would be getting into.  A lot more equipment and time, but a better control over your beer.  On the other hand, if you want to try brewing an all-grain beer without too much of an investment, visit J. Kelly's Homepage.  Nice little set-up for very little cost.  Personally, I use the partial mashing technique (last Thursday's post) because it saves time and I also don't want to take up a lot of space with my hobby.  Keeps the wife happy.  Here are the steps in making an all-grain beer:
All Grain Brewing
1.  Heat 1 1/3 quarts of water for every pound of grain.  The temperature should be around 160 - 170 degrees F.
2.  Mix in the crushed grains and stir well.
3.  Temperature at this point should be 150 - 158 degrees F and water pH should be 5 - 5.5
4.  Hold this temperature for about 60 - 90 minutes to get a full starch conversion.
5.  In another kettle, heat up 2 quarts of water per pound of grain
6.  After the starch conversion, raise the temperature to 160 - 170 degrees F.  Keep at this temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
7.  Ladle the mash into a lauter tun.  A lauter tun is basically another kettle that has a false bottom that allows the wort through and keeps the grains behind.  Think big strainer.
8.  As the mash is draining in the lauter tun, take a sauce pan and draw off about 2 quarts of wort and add it back into the lauter tun.  This is call recirculation and what recirculation does is filter out any large particles.  This will take about 10 - 15 minutes and by that time you should have a clear liquid.  Add this to your brewpot.
9. Next begin to slowly add the sparge water (step 5) and allow it drain down through the grains.  This will take between 45 - 60 minutes. So you might as well grab a beer by this time.  Add the liquid to your brewpot.  At this point you should have 6 to 7 gallons of wort if doing a 5 gallon batch.
10.  Boil the wort for about 60 to 90 minutes and add the hops and other ingredients according to your recipe.
11.  Chill the wort.  Most "All-Grainers" use a wort chiller.  Siphon the wort to your primary fermenter and add yeast.
As you can see, there is a lot of time involved.  If you are using a hand cranked crusher, doing 10 pounds of grain will take some time.  Hopefully, you can get your partner involved in this and make a day of it.  Because, in most cases, it will take almost a good 8 hours.

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8 Winemaking Mistakes

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If you have been making wine for a long time or just starting out, your bound to make a few mistakes.  I have found that most of my mistakes have come from trying to rush things to much.  With wine, you need to take a more laid back approach.  Honestly, that's what I like about wine making.  I just need to practice it more often.  Here is a top 8 of winemaking mistakes and how to avoid them.

1.  Incomplete Fermentation - I've been guilty of this one on numerous occasions.  I've always been tempted to bottle my wine before it has completely fermented.  A good rule of thumb is to take a hydrometer reading and if is above .995 do not bottle.

2.  Residual Sugar - Usually a product of an incomplete fermentation or it might be that the yeast you are using can not tolerate a high alcohol content.  ie.  Yeast will ferment to 12% but you put enough sugar in it to ferment to 20%.  Wrong yeast for the wine.  Extremes in temperature will also do the trick by making the yeast sluggish or having it go dormant.  That is why it is essential to keep your fermenter is a controlled environment.  If you bottle this wine, make sure you use potassium sorbate to prevent the yeast from re-fermenting.

3.  MLF Fermentation - If the wine is below .995 on a hydrometer reading and it is still sending up bubbles, then a malolactic fermentation is taking place.  This is a secondary fermentation that takes place and converts the sharper tasting malic acid to a softer lactic acid  A by-product of this is the formation of CO2 which can cause exploding bottles.  Fresh juice and grapes are more likely to undergo a MLF.

4.  Geranium Smell - This is caused by sorbic acid which is a byproduct of sorbate and lactic acid.  This can be prevented by not allowing a sweet wine to undergo MLF or if it has using sulfite instead of sorbate.

5.  Acetic Spoilage - This is caused by oxidation and will give your wine a vinegary smell.  Easy way to prevent this is to fill your bottles up leaving just enough space for temperature fluctuations.  I usually go by how much space is in the bottle of wine I have purchased as a guide,

6.  Deposits in Bottle - This one I'm really guilty of.  In my case it is because I don't filter my wines.  I rack and at each racking try to keep the lees from coming through.  I do loose about 10% of my total wine production this way but I'm willing to live with it.  Besides, those last bottles that do get a lot of deposits are usually quickly consumed and the deposit free bottles are stored.

7.  Poor Color in Reds - This is because you did not let the skins soak in the wine long enough.  Keep the skins in the must for at least 5 days and at the most 10 days.

8. Patience - Just learn to take things at a slower pace.  Don't rush with your wine.  Slow down and smell the grapes.


Special Note:  I participated in Problogger's How To writing contest last week.  There were well over 300 different posts and quite frankly, to many interesting ones to list here.  You can check out the entire list by clicking here.

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How To Make Beer - Part 2

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Last week I covered how to brew your batch of beer using the extract method. This week we will cover partial mashing. With this method you will be crushing pale malt and using it as a partial substitute for malt extract. You will still continue to use speciality grains (see October 2005 post) to add additional flavor and character to your beer.

Partial Mashing Steps

1. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water per pound of grain to your brew pot. So for example, you are using 5 pounds of grain then you will need 7.5 quarts of water or almost 2 gallons. Your water should have a ph reading between 5.0 to 5.5 to achieve optimal results.

2. Heat water to between 160 to 168 degrees F.

3. Add crushed malt to water and mix well. Ideally when you crush the malt it shouldn't look like cornmeal. The husk on the grain should be split but not completely off. Personally, I tend to crush my speciality grains to a cornmeal consistency. It seems to me that I get a thicker more flavorful wort that way. I have also done it for an all-grain batch, but it tends to be messier and more of a hassle when draining and sparging.

4. Stir the wort and check the temperature. You want get the temperature to 158 degrees F. Once that is done, cover the brew pot and maintain that temperature for 60 minutes.

5. In a separate pot, heat 2 quarts of water per pound of grain to between 160 to 170 degrees F.

6. After the starch conversion (original pot with grains) has simmered for 60 minutes, raise the temperature to between 160 to 170 degrees F and hold for 15 minutes.

7. Pour the mash into a strainer that is suspended over your brewing bucket. I bought a large stainless steel colander to use in cottage cheese and it fits perfect over the brewing bucket. Allow to drain for a few minutes.

8. Next take the strainer full of grain and put it over your brew pot and pour the cloudy wort from your brewing bucket over the grains in the strainer.

9. Pour the sparge water over the grains and allow to drain for 5 to 10 minutes.

10. Remove the strainer, add your extract and begin your beer.

Next Thursday: All-Grain Brewing

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Corn Meal Beer

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This is one of the very first beer recipes that I recorded. Prior to that time, I just was messing around and getting my procedure down. I knew how to make the beer, but never recorded any of the results. Just remembered what worked and what didn't work.
I made this beer a couple of months after visiting the Yuengling Brewery, where I was told that they used corn meal in making their beer. So, stupid me decided to try to make a beer using some corn meal in it. Well, let me tell you this the corn meal is messy. If you are not careful, it will stick to the bottom of your brewpot and burn. It also felt like it added about 10 pounds to the wort. And, Filtering can be a real hassle. The Benefit -- It does add a unique flavor to the beer and when young (2 weeks) will taste like Rolling Rock. After about 6 weeks, the malt and corn flavors blended and there seemed to be a more smoother body and tasting beer.
This recipe will make about 4 gallons.
Corn Meal Beer
64 ounces Alexander's Pale Malt Extract
24 ounces Dry Malt Extract
10 ounces Carapils Malt
6 ounces Crystal 10 Malt
8 ounces Corn Meal
1 ounce Liberty Hops 4.7% Alpha
4.8 ounces Corn Sugar for priming
1 packet Doric Dry Yeast
Irish Moss
Original Gravity 1.055
Finished Gravity 1.022
1. Crush the Carapils and Crystal Malts. Steep in 1 gallon of water for about 60 minutes. Strain and add the wort to your brewpot.
2. Add about 1 - 1 1/2 gallons water to the brewpot and turn up the heat. Slowly add the malt extract and the dry malt extract to the brewpot. Stir while adding to prevent the malt from sticking to the bottom and scorching.
3. After the wort begins to boil slowly add the corn meal and stir. Then add the hops and boil for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, add Irish Moss and continue boiling for another 15 minutes.
4. After 60 minutes of boiling, remove the wort from the heat and chill down. Add about a gallon of clean water to your fermenter and then add your wort. Add additional water to take the total wort up to 4 gallons.
5. Pitch your yeast at the wort temperature that you feel comfortable with. I pitch mine at "blood temperature" which is around 98 degrees. Of course, I open ferment too, which is something you will not find in most homebrewing books.
6. Allow the wort to ferment for about a week and then take a hydrometer reading. If the reading is low enough (at least 65% less the the original) then you can bottom your beer. Otherwise, rack over and allow to further ferment for another week.
7. After bottling, let the beer age for about 2 weeks before trying. Personally, I try one each week to gauge how the beer matures.
Hope you enjoy this recipe. At first I thought it was more a pain then anything else, but after it aged, it was one of my best tasting beers.

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How To Make Beer - Part 1

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So, your tired of the mass produced swill that you have been drinking.  Your ready to make a change and you want to make your "perfect" glass of suds.  Well, grab a beer, sit back and for the next few Thursdays, learn how to brew your own beer.
Now, in the old days, making your own beer was a long process and still is for the all-grain brewer.  But, thanks to modern technology, you don't have to spend hours making beer.  There are 3 basic methods in making beer.  You can be an extract brewer and this will also include those who use a kit, a partial masher, or an all grain brewer.  If you are a beginner, then you might want to make quite a few extract batches before move up.  I will cut down on your frustration factor big time.
The outline for this series is pretty simple.  I'll go over the steps of the 3 basic brewing methods, talk about some equipment, and give some helpful hints in brewing.  Today we will cover the steps in making an extract beer.
Extract Brewing Steps
1.  Fill your brewpot about 2/3 full of clean water and set on the stove.  I usually use bottled water since it doesn't have chlorine.
2.  Turn burner to medium-high
3.  Some people at this stage warm up their extract while waiting for the water in the brewpot to boil. I don't. 
4.  As the water begins to boil in the brewpot, open your extract and slowly stir it in with a long handled spoon.  Don't dump it in and hurry up and stir it.  It might clump if you do it that way and scorch on the bottom.  I've done it and it is a real pain to clean up.
5.  At this point, I take some of the warm wort out and put in the empty extract can.  Swirl it around to get as much extract as you can and pour it in the wort.  I usually do this several times to each can.  Makes for easier cleaning later on.
6.  Top off the brewpot to about 2 - 3 inches from the top.  Bring the wort to a boil (you might need to turn up the burner)  DO NOT, put a lid on the brewpot because it will boil over a create one heck of a mess.
7.  Boil the wort for the time of the recipe.  During this stage you will be adding hops and for the last 15 - 20 minutes adding Irish moss.  The Irish moss helps to clarify the beer by pulling the solid material out.
8.  After boiling, you must chill the wort. There are several different ways.  I pour cold water into my primary fermenter and then pour the wort into it.  Other people fill the sink with cold water or ice and chill down the brewpot. 
9.  After the wort has chilled below 100 degrees, take a hydrometer reading.  Use the chart that comes with the hydrometer to figure out how much more you need to add to your reading.  For a reading around 100 degrees, add .007 to your reading.
10.  Add the yeast.  I usually add my yeast around "blood temperature" (98 degrees), while others will only pitch around 70 degrees.
11.  I open ferment for the first 12 hours.  I tie a clean grain bag around the top of the fermenter and allow it to "breath".  After 12 hours, I put the lid on along with the airlock and allow it to continue fermenting for about a week.  If you are not into the open fermentation (most people will tell you that it will become contaminated and bad), then put the lid on and allow the beer to ferment.
12.  Keep your fermenter in a cool place during the week and keep it out of direct sunlight.
13.  After a week, take another hydrometer reading and either transfer to a secondary fermenter or begin bottling.  Your hydrometer reading should be 65 - 75% below your original reading before fermentation. ie.  Original reading 1.050  After a week it should be between 1.012 to 1.017.
If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to e-mail me.
Next Thursday:  Partial Mashing

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Pear Wine

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pears are plentiful this time of the year.  Some of your friends and nieghbors may have tried pawning off a bunch to you.  Do what I do, accept them and then begin to make them into wine.  This is a simple recipe for pear wine and one that you should enjoy making.


Traditional Pear Wine Recipe

1 gallon water
5 lbs very ripe pears
1 lb raisins
2 lbs ultra fine sugar
1 ½ teaspoons acid blend
½ teaspoon pectic enzyme
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 package wine yeast

Boil water in large pot. Chop pears and place in primary fermentation container. Add the sugar and citric acid to the container. Pour water over fruit and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool until room temperature. Add the pectic enzyme and let liquid rest for 1 day. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and place in warm, dark location. Stir daily for 1 week. Rack into secondary fermentation container. Seal with airlock. Rack into bottles in 3 months. Let rest for at least one year.

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Beer and Wine News

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Surfing the net and found some interesting news articles about beer and wine.  Hope you enjoy them.
Article from Food Navigator
New barley enzymes could mean more efficient beer brewing
9/7/2006 - US scientists have discovered heat tolerant barley enzymes, which could make malting more efficient for beer, and also provide benefits for the production of bakery goods and breakfast cereals.

The three new barley enzymes can yield up to 30 percent more sugar than enzymes found in conventional barley lines, said the scientists from the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS).

The enzymes are said to perform exceptionally well at temperatures of 70 degrees Celsius, or 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and because they produce more sugar, they result in more fermentable product for brewing beer.

Comment:  Hope they come out with a version for the homebrewer.  It will give us the option of either cutting back the grain by 30% or give us higher octane beer.

From Days that End in "Y"

Organic Beer in Massachusetts

September 3, 2006 8:06:03 PM

Jon Cadoux of Peak OrganicBurlington-based company Peak Organic just started selling its organic beer here about two months ago. The 29-year-old entrepreneur Jon Cadoux has been homebrewing for years and decided to combine his business experience, which includes a Harvard MBA, with his passion for homebrewing and organic foods. No numbers for Peak Organic are mentioned specifically, but the whole organic beer market has grown from $9 million in sales in 2003 to $19 million in 2005.

If I recall correctly, I saw the beer at Trader Joe's. I'll have to pick up a six-pack in the near future and see how they are. Until then, there are always BeerAdvocate reviews.

Comment:  I have not used any organic grains in making my beer.  I do like the idea that they were not sprayed with any chemicals.  Honestly, I think that "natural" or better beer is why we homebrew.  I'm gonna' try and hunt down some organic grains and give it a try.

Article From The Mercury News

Daniel: Sept. 11 propelled couple into winemaking

By Laurie Daniel
Special to the Mercury News

Momentous life events have a way of making people take stock and change direction. A brush with serious illness and my 40th birthday prompted me to pursue wine writing as a career. For Peter and Rebecca Work of Ampelos Cellars in Santa Barbara County, the catalyst was the events of Sept. 11.

The Works were on the corporate fast track with a human-resources outsourcing company they'd helped start. They were making regular trips to Newark, N.J., where they were negotiating a contract with Prudential Financial.

On Sept. 10, 2001, the couple took a red-eye from Los Angeles, landing in Newark the following morning. Peter had an appointment on Wall Street at 9 a.m., and he planned to take a Port Authority train to the World Trade Center station. It was a trip that would have put him under the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. -- just a minute before American Airlines Flight 11 tore into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Fortunately, the Wall Street appointment was canceled as they were on the way to the airport Monday night. But as the couple tried to get home from Newark after the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded all flights, they began to wonder whether this high-powered life of travel and meetings and IPOs was what they really wanted. They got as far as Kansas City in a rented SUV before the airlines started flying again. When they finally landed in Los Angeles, Peter says, the couple knew it was time to make a change.

``9/11 made a significant impact on our life, there's no doubt about it,'' Peter says.

Two years earlier, the Works had bought 82 acres in the Santa Rita hills, the appellation at the cool western end of the Santa Ynez Valley. It's an area that has rocketed to prominence on the strength of its dark, concentrated pinot noirs. The Works loved wine and visiting wineries, and they thought it would be fun to plant a few grapes and make a little wine as a weekend project.

``We just fell in love with the whole ambience around the winemakers,'' Peter says, adding that he thought it was a ``cool lifestyle.''

The couple hired a vineyard consultant who persuaded them to plant 15 acres in 2001. They looked around at what grapes other people in the area were growing -- pinot specialist Sea Smoke is a neighbor; Lafond, with pinot, syrah and other grapes, is down the hill -- and decided on a mix of two-thirds pinot and one-third syrah. They planned to sell most of the grapes.

A few months later, the 9/11 attacks stunned the country, and the Works. In January 2002, they sold their house on the water in Long Beach and moved to Santa Barbara County. And they jumped into the wine business with both feet.

They bought a little wine in barrel for Peter to blend and bottle; at harvest time, they bought some grapes. Peter now makes the wines in Lompoc in a facility he shares with Ken Brown and his eponymous brand; the Works' son Don, the assistant winemaker at Sea Smoke, is Peter's consultant. The 2004 vintage marked the first harvest from the estate vineyard. The couple also planted 10 more acres -- mostly pinot and syrah, with a little grenache, pinot gris and viognier -- that year.

The Works decided to call their winery Ampelos, the Greek word for vine. The winery shares its name with a resort the couple owns with Peter's sister and brother-in-law on the Greek island of Folegandros.

I haven't tasted all the Ampelos wines, but the ones I've sampled are impressive, especially for such early efforts. The 2004 estate pinot noir ($32) displays bright cherry and raspberry flavors, accented by some exotic spices and a hint of mineral. It's well-structured, but the tannins are very accessible.

The 2004 estate syrah ($34) is dark and a little meaty, with ripe blackberry fruit and a note of violets. It's still quite young and tight and won't be released until November. Even then, it should benefit from a few more months in the bottle.

The 2005 rosé of syrah ($16) is made from grapes purchased from a warm part of the Santa Ynez Valley. It's fresh, fruity and dry, with juicy raspberry flavors, bright acidity and just a bit of drying tannin on the finish. The winery also produces a little viognier and a ``syrache,'' a blend of syrah and grenache, both of them made from purchased fruit.

None of the wines is in huge supply: The Works made just 850 cases in 2004 and plan for production to top out at 4,200-4,500 cases. They can be ordered through the Web site, www.

Since making their abrupt career change nearly five years ago, the Works haven't looked back. Peter acknowledges that owning a winery and making wine ``is more work than I had envisioned.'' That said, does he still think being a winemaker is a ``cool lifestyle''?

``Totally,'' he replies.

Comment:  This is one awesome article.  To think how close they came to being a number.  Makes you want to think if it is not time to start your own winery and enjoy life instead or working like a dog.

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Sweet Potato Wine

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


With Thanksgiving just a few months away, I thought that I would post this recipe for sweet potato wine.  I'm not sure if I personally would try sweet potato wine with my turkey dinner.  I'm more of a smoked ham and yam person.  Maybe, I'll make a batch for next year's Octoberfest.  Brats & wine, hmmm.  Sounds good to me. 


  • 12 cups chopped sweet potatoes or yams
  • 5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups light raisins
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrients
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 1 campden tablet
  • water
  • 1 package wine yeast

Peel and chop sweet potatoes fine. Place in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer 25 minutes. Chop raisins and put into primary fermentor with sugar. Strain liquid into primary fermentor and squeeze all liquid out of the pulp. Pulp can now be used for sweet potato pie or other recipe.

Add enough water to make up to 1 gallon. Slice oranges thinly. Add all other ingredient EXCEPT yeast. Stir to dissolve sugar. Let sit overnight.

Next day, Specific Gravity should be 1.090 - 1.100. Stir in yeast. Stir daily for 5 to 6 days or until frothing ceases. Siphon into secondary fermentor and attach airlock.

For a dry wine, rack in three weeks, and every three months for one year. Bottle.

For a sweet wine, rack at three weeks. Add 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup wine. Stir gently, and place back into secondary fermentor. Repeat process every six weeks until fermentation does not restart with the addition of sugar. Rack every three months until one year old. Bottle.

If wine is not clear, or still has quite a bit of sediment forming between rackings, Fine the wine as follows:

Use wine finings or plain gelatin. Gelatin: use 1 teaspoon per 6 gallons of wine. Finings: 1/2 teaspoon per 5 gallons or as per package directions. Soak in 1/2 cup cold water for 1/2 hour. Bring to a boil to dissolve. Cool. Stir into wine. Let sit 10 to 14 days. Rack. If not clear enough yet, repeat process. DO NOT increase amount of gelatin or finings. The mixture will stay suspended in the wine, preventing it from ever clearing. Bottle once wine is clear.

The wine is best if you can refrain from drinking it for one full year from the date it was started.

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