Friday, January 27, 2012

California Common Brewday (In Over My Head and Total Cagematch)

So after the troubles with fermentation temps in my basement, I decided to brew something that would that would be ideal for the cold winter temps..

I had a year old sample of Wyeast 2112 (a lager yeast that thrives from 58 to 68 degrees) sitting in the fridge for almost a year. I successfully built up the sample with two steps of starters giving me enough yeast to pitch into a 10 gallon batch. So, given the fact that my basement was 58 degrees, and I happened to have just the right yeast sitting around, I decided to brew a California Common. (Think Anchor's Steam Beer)

I have brewed this style before (it was even my first extract brew) but I decided to start from scratch on the recipe, just so I could call it my own... First I'll give you the ingredients of the recipe, disclaimer: I typically get 83-ish % efficiency, you may need to adjust to your own efficiency.

For 11 gallon batch:
17 lbs 2row
2.5 lbs Crystal 60L

60 minute boil:
1.75 oz Northern Brewer pellet hops 12.3% AA FWH
1 oz Northern Brewer whole leaf hops9.2% AA 20min
1 tablet Whirlfloc 20min
1 oz Northern Brewer whole leaf hops 9.2% AA 5min
0.25 oz Northern Brewer pellet hops 12.3% AA 5min

First of all, I got a grain mill for Christmas... I was excited to use it for the first time, but I get such great efficiency from the crush at my brewstore, I was a little worried about not crushing fine enough and getting poor efficiency or crushing too fine and getting a stuck sparge. Actually this was the one part of the brewday that went perfectly... my normal high efficiency and no signs of a stuck sparge.

A tip I read on the message boards, I used a credit card to measure the gap on the rollers of my grain mill. I then ran a little bit of grain through and made small adjustments until I liked the look of the crush.

New mill ready to go, full hopper and drill hooked up to drive shaft to make milling faster and easier...

Close up view of the resulting crush, really happy with results. I think I will probably never mess with the settings again...

Normally with All Grain using a cooler for the Mash Tun, you would mix a measured amount of hot water at a certain temp with your grain and hope to hit your conversion rest temp (like 154 degrees) and then leave it there foe 60 minutes while conversion takes place. But... you can make it more complicated... You can do what's called a step mash. A simple example for a step mash would be to mash in at 133 degrees for the protein rest (protein rest can add body and clarity) and let it rest for 20 or so minutes, then raise the temp to your normal conversion rest (154 in this case), rest for an hour, then mash out and continue per usual.

There are a few ways to raise that temp, I'll only talk about those using a cooler where adding external heat with a burner is not an option (bc that's how I roll)... 

For a simple step mash you would mash in to 133 with a very thick mash (I like 1.125 quarts of water per pound of grain) let it rest, then calculate how much boiling water (212 degrees obv) to add to bring it up to your target temp. Add that, stir it in, hit your conversion temp, and proceed with your normal process...

Also, there is a method called decoction... Mash in to 133 for your protein rest, with a normal grist to water ratio (say 1.5qt to 1lb grain) let rest, scoop out a measured amount of the mash (more grist than water) heat to conversion rest temp, let it rest a short period, then heat to boiling temp. Return decoction to main mash and this should bring the total mash temp up to your conversion temp...

I had never done either before this batch... I was going big and trying the decoction method, but did it work out?? not so much... 

I mashed in at 1.125 qt/lb and hit my 133 degree protein rest. I let it rest 10 minutes while I pulled my decoction. Following the advice of my local brewstore, I used a colander to pull the decoction to keep it as dry as possible... I pulled 8 qts of grain and started heating over a low flame on my smaller turkey fryer while stirring constantly. Here were my issues in numbered list format:

1. due to dryness of grist, no matter how much I stirred, I could not get consistent temp readings...

2. no matter how much I stirred, the grist burned to the bottom of the pot. I think even the low flame was too hot... next time I'll do it on the stove.

3. when I thought I had most of the grist up to 212 degrees I added it back to the mash (leaving behind the burnt stuff) and it only brought my main mash temp up 2 degrees. Conversion will NOT happen at 135 degrees.

So... because I mashed in on the dry side I was able to add boiling water to the mash to bring up the temp, I hit 152 and let it rest for conversion. The downside of this, was that I had not calculated the additional strike water, so I had to compensate by reducing sparge water so I would still hit my desired preboil volume...

After that mess... I proceed with mash out (including First Wort Hops (discussed in Black Fri.P.A. Brewday)), sparge, boil with all hop additions as listed... Normally I use hop pellets because they are easy, but my brewstore only had 2 oz of Northern Brewer in pellets and I had to take the rest in whole leaf... Never. Freaking. Again. After chilling, I started to drain the keggle into the fermentors... The whole hops clogged it immediately. I tried using the siphon action of lifting the drain hose up to back flow and loosen things up... fail. I tried stirring things up with my brewing ladle while trying to drain... also fail. I tried washing and sanitizing my arm and reaching in to loosen things up... also also fail. I tried to use my autosiphon to siphon out of the keggle and into the fermentor, that clogged too... also also also fail. I ended up having to literally ladle 11 gallons of wort from the keggle to the fermentors... at least it was well aerated... So I had chilled all the way down to 60 degrees (I usually call it good at 70), this yeast likes it cold... 

This brewday was a slugfest from beginning to end, but I think I came out the winner...I took gravity reading: 1.054, 81% efficiency, IBUs (international bittering units) calculated at 52.5, and color calculates at 10 degrees SRM... All that means is, so far, (I think) I have hit all the specs for the California Common style dead on. And with the long protein rest, whirlfloc, and high flocculation of the yeast strain, this should get super clear. And as a bonus, I picked up no hint of the burned grist in the gravity sample, though I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the final product...

Drinking my Black Fri.P.A tonight, which is fiiiinaly on tap after 8 weeks of slow fermentation. pretty happy with it, wishing for more hop aroma, thinking maybe of dryhopping in second keg, we'll see.

That's it for now... my hands are cramping, and if you read this far, I'm sure you've had enough... Later!

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