Author Topic: A few batches in...lots of questions needing answering!  (Read 2154 times)

Offline seanthanna

  • BeerSmith Apprentice Brewer
  • **
  • Posts: 5
  • BeerSmith 2 Rocks!
A few batches in...lots of questions needing answering!
« on: November 29, 2016, 11:38:31 PM »
Hello all,

I'm a relatively new brewer looking for some help.  I've done a few batches and most have turned out pretty well but I was sticking to pretty basic instructions. 

My latest batch I tried to step it up a notch and am trying new things so naturally I have some questions.  I'll try to lay them out by section of the brew cycle.  And by all means if anybody has any feedback on any methods I'm not already questioning myself, I'm all ears!

FWIW, I did a partial mash using a BIAB method.  6lbs of Golden Promise and 6lbs of DME.  I did a partial boil (about 4-4.5 gallons).

--Mash--
My first issue is I had issues keeping my mash temp.  I use a induction Cooktop (nuwave 1800w) and thought I could just keep it at the 155 settings and stir every so often to keep it at my 152 target but that was a huge flop.  Not sure if it's the Nuwave, the kettle, or my instant digital pen but my readings were all over the place depending on where I stuck the pen...as much as a 10 degree difference though the temp never went above 162 and never below 145.  To combat this I stirred often.  Eventually (after about 45 minutes of fighting the temp) I was able to maintain a fairly consistent temp but it took about 90 total minutes since the start of the mash to pass the iodine test. 

Questions:

1) Did boiling it for 90 minutes have any negative effect on the mash? 

2) Any ideas why my temp would be so different depending on where I was taking the measurement?

--Boil--
While the NuWave did get the 4+ gallons of water to boil, I had to keep the lid on to keep it vigorous. 

Questions:

1) Does keeping the lid on have any negative effect on the boil?  I've read that you want some of those compounds to escape and I was capturing them and throwing them right back in when removing the lid. 

--Hop Additions--
I just added my hop pellets at the times indicated directly in the kettle with no bag. 

Questions:

1) was that a bad move?  See racking to secondary below for why I think it might have been....

--Whirlpool--
I had never done this before and couldn't find good instructions for it with the equipment (or lack thereof) I had.  I ended up just gently stirring the wort to try and simulate a whirlpool and then adding the hops. 

Questions:

1) What is the best way to do a whirlpool (the poor man's method)?
2) Was I supposed to let the wort cool before doing this? 
3) Is manually stirring it like this acceptable or am I introducing too much O2?

--Cooldown--
Used wort chiller and 1.5 gallons of drinking water to cool down to 70 in 30 min. 

--Transfer to fermenter--
Aggressively dumped about 5.5-6 gallons of wort into the fermenting bucket to aerate it.  Took a sample and got my OG at 1.078.  Pitched my smack pack yeast that I broke and shook about 3 hours earlier and kept at 70 degrees. 

Questions:

1) should I have aerated it more?
2) When taking gravity samples I've been using my wine thief and just dropping the hydrometer right in there.  Is that a good method?  One of the issues I've been having is there are bubbles around the readings and therefore I can't read it very clearly and since the hydrometer is in the wine thief, I can't spin it anymore other than the initial spin. 

--Dry Hopping--
Last time I dry-hopped I did it all in the secondary.  This particular recipe calls for double dry hopping so I decided to do my first in the primary.  After 72 hours, the airlock activity had halted so I took a gravity reading and got 1.014.  Took it again the next night and got the same so decide to toss in my first round of dry hops directly into the fermenter (again no bag or filter).  I also put a carboy stopper underneath one side of the bucket to try and clear one side for ease of racking later.  I also gently rotated the fermenter nightly to try and get the hops distributed.

Questions:

1) Does it make sense to tilt the fermenter?  Seems like it would make it so the high side would be where the siphon would go.
2) Is rotating the fermenter doing more harm than good?

--Racking to secondary--
With all these hop additions I figured it would make sense to clear the beer and rack to secondary.  Took another gravity reading and it was still 1.014 so figured primary was completely done.  Using auto-siphon I transferred it to a 5 gallon glass carboy.  the bottom 3 inches or so was pretty thick. I used a clip to keep the siphon above that line for a while and it ran clear but there was only about 4 gallons in the carboy when it started getting cloudy and then it got downright thick.  I was determined to get as much beer in there as possible (and reduce the headspace) so I kept at it...I'm guessing this was probably a mistake as there were a few times it got stuck and I had to repump the siphon.  At one point I even took the siphon completely out, washed and sanitized it, and started over.  A couple of times during the re-priming, I heard bubbles in the carboy...ugh.

Questions:

1) Did I oxidize the s*** out of this beer? Or will racking kick up some C02 to get it out of there?   Or does that only apply to headspace and the O2 I forced into the wort is in there for good. 
2) Is it normal to have that much trub in the primary?  I know I didn't use hop bags and didn't leave it in the primary for very long and did not cold crash so is that to be expected?  Should I have done one or all of those to combat this?  Or does it not matter as it will all settle now in the secondary instead of the primary?
3) Even though there was a lot of trub, there still seemed to be beer in there too...Is there anyway of getting that all out so that all you're left with is a pretty solid trub that you can be assured you're not losing beer?


I know I just used up a years worth of questions but I wanted to type them out while they were all fresh in my head. 

Any and all help is much appreciated. 
« Last Edit: November 29, 2016, 11:49:42 PM by seanthanna »

Offline Oginme

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 2251
  • Goats, guitars, and a home brew; Life is good!
    • Longvu LaManchas
Re: A few batches in...lots of questions needing answering!
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2016, 02:01:15 PM »
Well at least you got it all out of your system (for now)  ;)

Answers below in red

Hello all,

I'm a relatively new brewer looking for some help.  I've done a few batches and most have turned out pretty well but I was sticking to pretty basic instructions. 

My latest batch I tried to step it up a notch and am trying new things so naturally I have some questions.  I'll try to lay them out by section of the brew cycle.  And by all means if anybody has any feedback on any methods I'm not already questioning myself, I'm all ears!

FWIW, I did a partial mash using a BIAB method.  6lbs of Golden Promise and 6lbs of DME.  I did a partial boil (about 4-4.5 gallons).

--Mash--
My first issue is I had issues keeping my mash temp.  I use a induction Cooktop (nuwave 1800w) and thought I could just keep it at the 155 settings and stir every so often to keep it at my 152 target but that was a huge flop.  Not sure if it's the Nuwave, the kettle, or my instant digital pen but my readings were all over the place depending on where I stuck the pen...as much as a 10 degree difference though the temp never went above 162 and never below 145.  To combat this I stirred often.  Eventually (after about 45 minutes of fighting the temp) I was able to maintain a fairly consistent temp but it took about 90 total minutes since the start of the mash to pass the iodine test. 

Questions:

1) Did boiling it for 90 minutes have any negative effect on the mash? 

You mashed it for 90 minutes, correct?  Not boiled?  Taking that as having mashed for 90 minutes between 162 and 145, you didn't do any damage.  It is not uncommon to mash at longer times than an hour.  Most of the actual enzyme activity takes place in the first 15 to 20 minutes.     

2) Any ideas why my temp would be so different depending on where I was taking the measurement?

Yup!  Variability happens!  Select a spot in your mash kettle/pot to read your temperature.  Personally, I take mine at about 1/3 up from the bottom of the pot and 2/3 of the way from the center to the side.  The name of the game here is consistency in how you are conducting your mash so that you know how and can repeat it in the future.  My process is to hit the strike temperature, turn the heat off and mix in the grains.  I stir (vigorously) for about 10 minutes and then stick my thermometer in to see what the temperature of the mash is.  I then put the cover on and place the pot into my oven which is preheated to 170F.  I allow the oven to come back up to temperature and then shut it off.  The heat of the oven and the insulation it provides will hold the mash temperature fairly constant.  Lower mash temperatures will gain a degree or two, higher ones will lose a degree or two, but this is over the course of an hour mashing.  Again, as long as I am consistent in my practice, the recipe will turn out the same next time I brew as the current time.

Another factor is your starch test for completion.  Make sure you are reading the color of the fluid and not the particles of grains in the fluid.  I put a few drops from my mashing spoon onto a white plate and then hold the plate at a slight angle to allow the fluid to run just a bit into a drop of starch indicator solution about an inch or so away from the original drop. One of my first partial mashes, I ran into the same problem that you did and realized after fretting for 45 minutes after the mash was done that most of the weak blue color was in fact from some of the larger grain particles.   


--Boil--
While the NuWave did get the 4+ gallons of water to boil, I had to keep the lid on to keep it vigorous. 

Questions:

1) Does keeping the lid on have any negative effect on the boil?  I've read that you want some of those compounds to escape and I was capturing them and throwing them right back in when removing the lid. 

Yes. Well maybe.  You really want to allow the steam from the boil to help remove the precursors of DMS (Dimethyl sulfide) which can leave you with a creamed corn/canned corn type of aroma and flavor.  Can you maintain a rolling boil with the lid partially covering the pot?  If you are really having a hard time getting to a boil on your stove, your options are (a) a new stove, (b) moving out to a propane or LG burner, c) doing a reduced volume boil and then topping off in the fermentor, or d) decreasing your batch size.

--Hop Additions--
I just added my hop pellets at the times indicated directly in the kettle with no bag. 

Questions:

1) was that a bad move?  See racking to secondary below for why I think it might have been....

Nope.  I used to use a hop bag, but no longer.  I find I get better utilization from the hops just dropping them in au naturel, so to speak.  To compensate for this, I plan on having a liter of wort remaining as trub (out of a 10 liter batch) to contain all the coagulated proteins and hop residue.  Sometimes I don't need that much wort left over, but it helps in being consistent in my process. 

--Whirlpool--
I had never done this before and couldn't find good instructions for it with the equipment (or lack thereof) I had.  I ended up just gently stirring the wort to try and simulate a whirlpool and then adding the hops. 

Questions:

1) What is the best way to do a whirlpool (the poor man's method)?

I'm really good at the poor man's method!  Once the heat is off and I've taken a sample for gravity readings, I gently start stirring the wort in ever increasing speed around the kettle to create a nice whirlpool.  Then I dump my hops in and slap the lid on the pot until my timer tells me it is time to chill the wort down or until it tells me it is time to add another round of whirlpool hops. 

2) Was I supposed to let the wort cool before doing this? 

It is up to you.  Some people like to allow the wort to chill down to 180F (or some other target temperature) before adding the whirlpool/steep hops. Again, just be consistent in you you conduct your whirlpool additions, you should end up in about the same area of aroma/bitterness from that step.

3) Is manually stirring it like this acceptable or am I introducing too much O2?

While there may be something to be said for hot side aeration (HSA), I of the opinion that there are so many other areas down the road that are not controlled that have a bigger impact than my stirring.  I start out gently stirring and the wort is hot so the O2 saturation rate is greatly reduced from that of room temperature.  While I ramp up in speed, I try not to create a lot of turbulent flow (splashing, foaming) when I am done.

--Cooldown--
Used wort chiller and 1.5 gallons of drinking water to cool down to 70 in 30 min. 

--Transfer to fermenter--
Aggressively dumped about 5.5-6 gallons of wort into the fermenting bucket to aerate it.  Took a sample and got my OG at 1.078.  Pitched my smack pack yeast that I broke and shook about 3 hours earlier and kept at 70 degrees. 

Questions:

1) should I have aerated it more?

It depends.  When I make higher gravity (OK, 1.078 does just make it into that category), I oxygenate using a diffusion stone and bottled Oxygen.  Lower gravity, I super chill my wort to a little below pitching temperature and then pour it using a funnel with a screen into my carboy. This adds a lot of air into the chilled wort and I have always had good luck with pitching into that.  I do also, however, use my gravity sample and pitch the yeast into that and give it some time to start working before pitching, so my wort has already been woken up and is active.  In the end, there is only so much air you can entrain into your wort. 

2) When taking gravity samples I've been using my wine thief and just dropping the hydrometer right in there.  Is that a good method?  One of the issues I've been having is there are bubbles around the readings and therefore I can't read it very clearly and since the hydrometer is in the wine thief, I can't spin it anymore other than the initial spin. 

I've done something similar in the past.  You can remove some of the air bubbles by spinning your hydrometer.  I used to pour the sample into a graduated cylinder to get my measurements. 

--Dry Hopping--
Last time I dry-hopped I did it all in the secondary.  This particular recipe calls for double dry hopping so I decided to do my first in the primary.  After 72 hours, the airlock activity had halted so I took a gravity reading and got 1.014.  Took it again the next night and got the same so decide to toss in my first round of dry hops directly into the fermenter (again no bag or filter).  I also put a carboy stopper underneath one side of the bucket to try and clear one side for ease of racking later.  I also gently rotated the fermenter nightly to try and get the hops distributed.

Questions:

1) Does it make sense to tilt the fermenter?  Seems like it would make it so the high side would be where the siphon would go.

I guess.  I don't worry too much about it and just position my siphon so that the tip is just touching the trub on the bottom.  I will then slightly tip the carboy to allow the wort to run down towards the siphon tube.  Once the trub starts moving or sliding down towards the opening in the siphon, I remove the tube and call it good.
2) Is rotating the fermenter doing more harm than good?

--Racking to secondary--
With all these hop additions I figured it would make sense to clear the beer and rack to secondary.  Took another gravity reading and it was still 1.014 so figured primary was completely done.  Using auto-siphon I transferred it to a 5 gallon glass carboy.  the bottom 3 inches or so was pretty thick. I used a clip to keep the siphon above that line for a while and it ran clear but there was only about 4 gallons in the carboy when it started getting cloudy and then it got downright thick.  I was determined to get as much beer in there as possible (and reduce the headspace) so I kept at it...I'm guessing this was probably a mistake as there were a few times it got stuck and I had to repump the siphon.  At one point I even took the siphon completely out, washed and sanitized it, and started over.  A couple of times during the re-priming, I heard bubbles in the carboy...ugh.

Questions:

1) Did I oxidize the s*** out of this beer? Or will racking kick up some C02 to get it out of there?   Or does that only apply to headspace and the O2 I forced into the wort is in there for good. 

Maybe, but there is still some active yeast which will scavenge up some of the O2.  I have to admit that I rarely use a secondary and then only when I am making a major addition of fruit or sugars.  I do what I can to avoid any splashing or air entrainment in the siphon tube and once I've hit sludge, it ends.   I don't worry too much about head space in the secondary.  In the end, only time and your taste buds will tell!

2) Is it normal to have that much trub in the primary?  I know I didn't use hop bags and didn't leave it in the primary for very long and did not cold crash so is that to be expected?  Should I have done one or all of those to combat this?  Or does it not matter as it will all settle now in the secondary instead of the primary?

This is one of the reasons that I do plan on having about a liter of wort left over when I transfer into the carboy for primary.  It really doesn't seem to make a difference in quality of the beer that I or others have been able to tell, but it does make a difference in the quantity of beer I can siphon out of the carboy to bottle.

3) Even though there was a lot of trub, there still seemed to be beer in there too...Is there anyway of getting that all out so that all you're left with is a pretty solid trub that you can be assured you're not losing beer?

Cold crashing it will compact the trub somewhat.  Time is the other factor which will lead to a denser trub mass and more clear beer above.  I've learned over the last 115 brews or so to be patent.  I start out planning on 2 to 3 weeks in primary, several days cold crashing, and a couple gently bringing it back up to room temperature before bottling. 


I know I just used up a years worth of questions but I wanted to type them out while they were all fresh in my head. 

When you have more, feel free to ask!

Any and all help is much appreciated.
Recycle your grains, feed them to a goat!