Homebrew #3: To Helles and Bock

I couldn’t decide on which subtitle to go with, so here’s all of them:

  • Milled my own feckin’ grain, biatches!! (Not because I wanted to though…)
  • First time using extracts, and I feel dirty
  • Near-miss on a C02 explosion
  • There are 20 beers with this name, so I’m thinking “One Way Ticket to Helles and Bock” (more later)
  • This post is very late (brewday was June 6), because I don’t want to computer after a day of computering

Continuing from last time

Wait, how do I brew with extracts…

I had the recipe and ingredients, and decided to research how I was actually supposed to do this (the recipe wasn’t really explicit). It’s funny that I’d only done all-grain up to this point, and now I was about to do the “easy” or “beginner” brew with extract (and some specialty grains).

The tutorial from American Hombrewers Association, “Extract with Specialty Grains Homebrewing” was insanely helpful, and I also read a few relevant chapters from How to Brew. What a narcissist, calling his method of extract brewing “the Palmer method”! I’m kidding:

I doubt I was the first person to come up with the method, but I was one the first to write about it extensively. “Extract Late” is a rather clumsy title, so in this newest edition we will just call it the “Palmer Brewing Method,” since many people call it that already.

– Mr. Palmer from “How to Brew”

Eventually, I’d written out and refined my own personal steps to my satisfaction.

Basically, I was going to add half the recipe’s dry and liquid extract before the boil, and the rest after the boil (but waiting 15 minutes to “sanitize” it).

By the end of this brewday, I was somewhat over my aversion to extracts, but still felt a bit dirty… as if I’d been cheating. However, I know it’s somewhat more suitable to my home setup (the volumes fit nicely in my kettle and fermenter, I get a bigger yield, and there’s less loss). At least I still had grains in there; that made me feel better.

Three-fucking-pots of boiling water…

I’d also read that for extract brewing the water quality was more important. Specifically, that I should use distilled water (free from extra calcium and so on).

The r/homebrewing subreddit, by contrast, seemed to believe that water quality was less important for extract brewing.

Well, for fuck’s sake.

I went with the book’s advice. I decided to use water filtered with my pitcher filter and boil it. This activity wasn’t terrible, but it’s something that should’ve been done the previous day. Boiled water needs time to cool, and it would’ve been better to let it all chill in the fridge overnight to spare me the extra hassel on brewday.

Tedious filterin’ and boilin’

I was doing other things while filtering and boiling, but still. At one point, I had three pots going at once, which made the kitchen even hotter than hell.

J asked me if I needed a fan. You know that one of the mottos here is, “asking for help is a last resort”. I said I was fine, but he brought a fan anyways (I guess he was worried that I’d keel over?)

Meanwhile, another “problem”…

Milled my own Feckin’ grains

… because I’d forgotten to add a milling fee to my shopping cart, whoops. As mentioned, I was not doing a kit.

Thankfully, I only had a small amount (0.75 lbs) of specialty grain (could your imagine if I’d had 10 lbs of grain to deal with).

After light research on r/homebrewing and referring to photos in the book, I went with this blender solution.

I’d also not bothered to order muslin bags. I used a vinyl mesh produce bag. Seemed to work, and it’s reusable.

Boring Cleaning Stuff

I’ve been using distilled water for my Star San sanitizer solution, because that’s supposed to make it last indefinitely.

However, no matter how hard I try to prevent it, I always get debris in my solution. I mixed a fresh batch for this.

Tea bagging time (the Mash)

The book had a nice tip about adding the Dry Malt Extract (DME) while the water is cold. Also, adding the DME before the “mash” is supposed to do something good to the ph or something. I don’t remember the exact details, and I’m not a feckin’ scientist, okay.

So I put my first half of DME into the water (1 package that was 1 lb), and then brought it to the requisite temp. Steeped the grains as usual, but only for 30 minutes.

It was refreshing to only need 3 gallons at this stage.

Meanwhile, I’m dealing with the mentioned hassel of cooling down water that will become my “top-up” water at the end. (“Is this what it’s like at a nuclear plant?”)

Boiling Time

After letting the small grain bags drip and stuff, it was time to add the first quantity of Liquid Malt Extract (LME).

This shit is like molasses.

While waiting, I started wondering if I could brew a beer with actual molasses… (would it be gross… or maybe something the Newfies would like??)

Some boring procedural details:

  • Brought to rolling boil (212 F).
  • Boil reached, added 60-min hops, which were the Perle hops.
  • Added Hallerauer hops after 50 minutes.
  • Turned off the heat and added the rest of the DME and LME. 15 minute wait.

I let J smell the hop pellets first, and he has a really good nose. He mentioned things that are written on the package. As y’all might know, hops are a necessary evil to me. I add them for the balance, not to make a “hoppy” beer.

Meanwhile, I was already chilling the feckin’ top-up water in the sink. Rotating pots between fridge, freezer, and sink with ice packs. Again, really something I should’ve done a previous day.

More Chillin’ and Fillin’

I was trying to determine the best way to add it all together. The “top-up water” would also bring down the wort temperature, if it was cooler.

I aimed for 68 F for the top-up water, and 72 F for the wort.

I put 5 Liters of top-up water into the fermenter pail first.

When ready to put the wort through the strainer into the pail, I scrambled to find a string to stanitize and use to keep the strainer in place like last time.

Because, you know… “Asking for help is a last resort”.

Anyways, I did that, and it was rather cool to see how high the volume was. I added only another 2.5 liters of top-up water, but even that was probably too much. I think I got cocky and filled the pail too close to the top.

Gravity and Yeast

I filled the tube and got the hydrometer reading ready. I kinda let it sit there while I made sure I put the yeast in at a good temp.

I “pitched” the yeast at 70 F (the prescribed range was 68 to 72).

After spinning the thing around a few times, it looked like an Original Gravity of 1.066 (the target was 1.068).

Again, if the gravity isn’t exactly the target, I’m still not totally sure what I’m supposed to feckin’ do about it.

More Mistakes from Cockiness

I may have just been tired at this point, I don’t know.

After taking this photo, I’d “topped it off” with even more water….

Even though I’d filled my pail more than ever (like, only an inch from the top) and it was an extract brew, I just put a regular airlock into the lid, instead of a blow-off hose. I guess that because I’d never had any activity in the airlock with my previous brews, it felt like a waste of effort. But, I should’ve realized that this one would need a blow-off hose.

So yeah… a near C02 explosion was immenent… Stay tuned…