Sunday, January 5, 2014

Home brewing update

Since my last home brewing post, I've made two other beers and I'm in the process of making another.

I made the Festa Brew Double Oatmeal Stout and Red Ale.

Double Oatmeal Stout
The Double Oatmeal Stout turned out pretty good, but it didn't really look or taste done until after 3 weeks of being bottled. I think it's still getting better as it ages too.

I did manage to find the Red Ale at the Orleans DeFalco's. Its 2-week age was last Thursday, but it still didn't taste quite ready. I suspect it will also be much improved after 3 weeks.

I also picked up the Festa Brew Blonde Lager just over a week ago. We racked it on Friday. As a lager, it needs cooler temperatures than an ale for the fermentation process — like 9-15c. For the first 6 days, while it was in the primary, the temperature hovered at around 19c. After we racked it, I decided to move the carboy to a cooler (unfinished) part of the basement. Unfortunately, it's not as accessible or convenient for full-time use. Right now it sits on the concrete floor, not far from the fresh air intake of the furnace, using some of the cold winter air to keep it cool. :) My thermometer says the air temp is around 10-13c. If it can stay fairly consistent, it might work out.

I got a few beer-related goodies for Christmas that I'm excited about.

First, I got a Jet Carboy and Bottle Washer. It screws onto the end of the basement washtub faucet, making bottle cleaning a whole lot easier. I can now use hot, high-pressured water rather than soaking and/or using a bottle brush. I did, however, have to do that to one stubborn bottle which still didn't get it entirely clean. But I found a way to clean it anyway, and I'll get into that a bit later.

I also got a Sulphiter. I'll use the description from DeFalco's web site: An acrylic bowl and spring washer mechanism. This device allows you to rinse and sterilize bottles in a seamless task saving time and energy. Can be mounted on top of bottle drainers. This was probably one of my most wanted items. We currently waste a lot of Diversol and water, soaking bottles in a chest cooler, before rinsing them for bottling. This should help cut the waste. I should note, however, that putting this thing together was a pain. It's a spring-loaded mechanism and trying to get the spring compressed, while staying where it should be so the mechanism works, was no easy task. Let's hope it stays that way while in use.

A 45 Bottle Drainer! Not only is it useful for keeping the bottles clean after sterilizing and rinsing, it holds the number I'd need for bottling a batch. I don't know why, but I have a hell of a time figuring out what I need every time. If I fill the tree, I know I have enough. :)

A pair of IPA glasses. Does the beer taste any better in them? I'm not sure, but they look kinda cool. I drank my last West Coast IPA from one of these glasses. It was delicious, but I suspect the aging had more to do with it. I can't wait to make another batch.

Two beer books: Radical Brewing and the third edition of The Joy of Home Brewing. I'm really bad for not finishing books, but I don't think I'll have a problem with these two.

Cleaning stubborn bottles

I mentioned that I had difficulty cleaning a bottle. There was some kind of residue along the bottom edge of a bottle. I know you're not supposed to use clear bottles, but I do have a few 750ml ones. The bottle brush bristles couldn't get low enough to scrub it off. I tried soaking it with Diversol. I tried scalding hot water and dish soap. Nothing seemed to work.

Using a small piece of a J-cloth, some hot water and dish soap, and two rare earth magnets, I was able to wipe the residue off the inside of the bottle.

I wrapped one of the rare earth magnets with the piece of J-cloth, and used a twist-tie to hold it inside. I pushed the cloth and magnet inside the top of the bottle, into the soapy water. Using the other magnet, I held it on the opposite side of the bottle and simply dragged the inside magnet over the residue for a few minutes until I was satisfied that it was clean. Once it was clean, I dragged the magnet to the opening of the bottle until it came out.

A couple of things that I learned while doing this:

  1. You definitely need to secure the magnet inside the cloth, otherwise it will slide out, leaving the cloth floating freely inside the bottle. Thankfully it was small enough that when I poured the water out, the cloth came out with the water.
  2. Used the smallest piece of cloth that you can. Remember, that bundle needs to come back out the same hole it went in, and when its wet it expands a little. The piece I used was a little too big I think, so dragging it out was a slow process. Patience paid off.
That's all for now... cheers!


  1. So you want to brew beer, eh ?

    As a fellow homebrewer, I have the following advice to offer.

    First off, there are much better books than what I see in your pile. While Papazian is popular, his books were never brewing texts and are now really lightweight. I highly recommend Dave Miller's The Complete Handbook of Home Brewing. Its a bit dated now, things like hops have changed, but it does a great job of introducing beginners to the basics and then some. Before you invest in a bunch of equipment, I'd follow that up with Dave MIller's Brew Like A Pro. Once you've got that digested and have a few brews under your belt, Gordon Strong's Brewing Better Beer should be your next read.

    You'll want to ditch bottling as soon as possible. Kegging makes the hobby much more enjoyable.

    Finally, I recommend joining your local homebrew club, even if you don't brew (much). You won't find a more dedicated, hard core group of beer lovers anywhere.

    Good luck ! Nice blog.

  2. One more thing... if you want great beer, you need to brew all grain. Forget about the kits and forget about extract brewing. Brew in a bag kinda works, but all grain is where its at. It takes some time and equipment to get set up, but once you do, it makes making great beer easy.

    1. I found the last two comments awaiting moderation... I don't recall ever receiving notification that they existed. I apologize for not publishing them sooner.
      Thanks a lot for the info! I did start off with extracts, and I do plan on expanding to all grain eventually.