It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have nothing to do but brew, drink, and eat. But you could make your future brewing a little more productive with the very clever — and slightly challenging — UberFridge.
Homebrewer Elco Jacobs has posted a very detailed and easy-to-follow guide on how you turn an Arduino Nano and Asus router into an internet-connected temperature controller for your fermentation needs. Total cost? A couple of hours and about $100-$125, assuming you have a fridge. Not the cheapest project, but given that fermentation temperature has a major effect on the outcome of your homebrew, it’s not the worst money you could spend.
Jacobs has posted the code needed to run the whole system on Google Code, but his guide is definitely the place to start.
You can learn a lot from old hombrewers. But sometimes old myths don’t die. We pulled six myths from the homebrewing either and put them to rest.
1. Don’t use aluminum brewing pots. This myth just costs you money. Aluminum brew kettles work just fine — despite what you may read on message boards. They also tend to be cheaper than stainless steel brew kettles, saving you money.
2. You need secondary fermentation. In most cases, you don’t. It can help clarify some beers, but it’s almost never necessary. Plus, you introduce a lot of infection risk by transferring your beer, to say nothing about the additional oxygen you expose your beer to.
3. Homebrewing will save you money. If you’ve brewed, you know this isn’t true. Like all hobbies, brewing is going to cost you money. And unlike professional breweries, you’re not making enough beer to benefit from economies of scale.
4. Don’t squeeze your grain bag. This myth comes because people think squeezing will release the tannins in the grain. But tannins are only released by chemical reaction, not the pressure of your hand. Feel free to sqeeze your grain bag to get as much wort out of it as you can — it will increase your original gravity and won’t add any additional tannins.
5. Plastic fermenters let too much oxygen in. Considering investing in a glass carboy? Don’t worry about it. Unless you’re fermenting beer for a very long time (three or more months, at least), a plastic bucket isn’t going to let in enough oxygen to impact your beer.
6. Don’t prime with table sugar. Table sugar in your wort will impact your beer, probably negatively. But priming with table sugar is just fine — there’s so little of it compared to the sugar that has been fermented in the wort that you’ll be fine. Don’t beleive us? Prime a few bottles with a tablespoon of sugar and compare.
Bob Stempski was looking for a way to enhance his failed homebrew. What if the hop utilization wasn’t great? What if he wanted variations of a base recipe? What if he was just sick of mixing plain old vodka with his beer (and aren’t we all)?
Actually, I have no idea what Bob Stempski was thinking when he decided to make hop-infused vodka, but it was actually pretty smart. He’s posted the entire recipe online, complete with great photos.
Hop Vodka Recipe
1.5 oz bag of pellet hops (bittering are best)
2 cups cheap vodka
2 cups water
1 French press
1 Bottle for storage
1 Measuring cup
Mix the pellet hops with the vodka in the french press. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Don’t press the french press yet.
After the hops have steeped, plunge the french press to extract the oils. Pour the vodka and hop mixture into a bottle.
Lift the plunger and fill the french press with water. Stir the hops and water, wait 15-20 minutes, plunge again, and pour water into bottle.
Save the hops by placing them in a bag and freezing them. You can re-use them as part of a future brew, but they will be much less efficient.
Refrigerate the hop/vodka/water mixture for 5-7 days without disturbing it, allowing the mixture to separate.
Gently — very gently, without jostling the bottle — put the bottle in the freezer. Freeze the mixture for 24-48 hours.
After the mixture is frozen, turn the bottle upside down on top of another container. The hop-infused vodka won’t freeze, so take the first 40% of the bottle and use it as hop vodka.
Take the hop infused water and toss it, or throw it in a batch of homebrew at some point in the process.
The weather is warming and gardening season is just weeks away. If you’re homebrewing and enjoy gardening (or even if you don’t, hops are fairly resilient plants), consider spending $10-15 on a few hop rhizomes. Distributors will begin shipping rhizomes within the next two or three weeks, and you can store them until it’s time to get them planted.
Many hop varieties will grow just about anywhere, provided they get at least 6-7 hours of sunlight each day. And the best part is that if you buy them now, they’ll keep coming back each year, stronger than before. In all, a single rhizome will get you few batches of homebrew in the first year and even more each year after that.
While many Americans have a three-day weekend to celebrate the birthdays of some of their first and greatest presidents, it’s a perfect weekend to homebrew. We’ll be doing a buckwheat honey IPA of our own, but, in honor of the holiday, here are two recipes from American homebrewing pioneers: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
To Make Small Beer
Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses (sic) into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask—leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working—Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.
Jefferson had an approach that is easier to replicate in your kitchen. Thinking of brewing in honor of the forefathers, well, Thomas Jefferson’s beer may be achievable:
8 lbs pale malt 4 lbs wheat 1 lb molasses
1 1/2 oz east kent goldings 60 min 1/2 oz east kent goldings 10 minutes american ale yeast
1.5 cups spent grains (or alternatively, 1.5 cups of your favourite grain meal, prepared and still wet)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Mix in the peanut butter, regular butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Then add the flour, baking soda and salt. Once that’s all mixed, stir in the nuts and chips.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 425F for 8-10 minutes until the tops are just getting golden, but before the bottoms burn. Let sit on the pan for about five minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
We wrote Friday about the White House’s choice of craft beer for President Obama’s Super Bowl party. As it turns out, there was more than just craft beer on the menu — there was also a homebrew, an unknown style of ale brewed with White House honey.
Listed along with Hinterland Pale Ale & Amber Ale from Wisconsin and Yuengling Lager and Light from Pennsylvania was Honey Ale…from the White House.
The First Lady’s office confirms that the White House chefs made one batch of beer using about a pound of honey from the First Lady’s honey hive, on the South Lawn of the White House.
The chefs used the traditional methods to brew the beer, and the First Lady’s office confirms that the Obamas paid for the equipment.
The batch was made so that the nearly 200 Super Bowl guests – from members of Congress to celebrities like J-Lo — could sample the new beer.
I would absolutely love to see the White House homebrew setup. Is it full grain, partial mash, or extract? 5 gallon batches? What kind of gadgets does it include — immersion or counter-flow chiller, temperature controllers? Which chef also serves as the official White House brewer? Whatever the case, homebrewing has come a long way since Jimmy Carter got things started in 1979.
After yesterday’s news about the insane ABV restrictions on breweries in Mississippi, we were a little disheartened by the idea of beer regulations and the lack of common sense behind many of them. But completely restoring our faith in common sense is this news out of North Dakota:
North Dakotans who make wine and booze already can get a state license to sell their beverages, and a Minot lawmaker wants people who make home-brewed beer to be able to do the same. …
Ruby says the license would let home beer brewers sell their suds. They could offer beer tastings and set up stalls at trade shows. They could also sell their beer to wholesalers for wider state distribution.
Good news? We think so. It means more revenue for the state, better beer for residents, and new opportunities for hombrewers. This is the type of policy that could easily lead to at least one great new brewery — it will let homebrewers raise the capital, learn the business, and build and audience without needing to drop hundreds of thousands on equipment. It lets breweries grow more slowly, and makes them an easier investment.
Every state should adopt something like this – true nanobrewing that can lead to great things.
Almost a year ago, our friend Joe wrote up his experience using spent grain to bake brewer’s beer bread. He didn’t have great results, and ended up with an under-baked, not-so-great-tasting bread. After a recent brewing session, I decided to revisit his experiment and see if I could make it work. For the most part, I did.
The recipe is below, and I’ve annotated places where I think you could run into trouble. Baking, like brewing, is science — there’s not a lot of room to mess around with the process or ingredients and still achieve what you want. But when you combine the two to make this spent grain bread, there’s actually a lot of guess work that goes into it.
Also, keep in mind that different grain bills will obviously produce different tasting bread — I used a darker Amber that was 17% Belgian Special B, 17% American Roasted Barley, and 66% Crystal Malt 80L.
Brewer’s Beer Bread with Spent Grains Recipe
To start, you will need the following:
2 cups spent grain – wet-to-damp, but not soaking wet
1 cup of 100 degree warm water
1 packet of standard bakers yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups of flour, +/- 1 cup depending on the wetness of the spent grain (see procedure)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)
Handful of oats (optional)
Dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water and add the packet of yeast. Cover loosely and let sit for 30 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, make a spent grain mush. Try to break down the husks as much as you can, but don’t over do it. You want something closer to the consistency of smooth oatmeal than to grits.
Put the spent grain mush, 2.5 cups of flour, water/sugar/yeast mixture, and salt into a mixing bowl and start mixing. A Kitchenaid or something similar will save a lot of work, but you can mix with a spoon or hand mixer until it gives out, then start kneading by hand.
After you’ve combined the ingredients, you want the dough to be cohesive and not sticky — a slight tack is ok, but you don’t want it wet, and it should hold a shape without oozing or anything. Keep adding flour until that happens. I think I used about 4 cups, but the final amount of flour is completely dependent on how wet your spent grains were to begin with. Knead it for a few minutes to allow for the gluten structures to develop — they’ll hold the CO2 from the yeast during proofing and baking.
Take the final dough and place in a clean, lightly-oiled bowl for 1-2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch the dough and put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or some type of silicone baking mat. You can also split the dough in two and put it in greased loaf pans, but I think it will lead to a soggier bread. I prefer the boule-style approach. Either way, scatter the handful of oats over the dough.
Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
That’s it — instead of throwing the spent grains away, slather it with some Irish butter and eat it with Guinness beef stew.
If you’re like me, you know White Labs from the vials of yeast you pick up at your local homebrew shop. But White Labs also does professional-level beer testing, calculating IBUs, ABV, the amount of bacteria in your beer, and plenty of other things.
For the past four years, White Labs has run “Big QC Day,” letting small craft breweries (and homebrewers) have their beer tested just like the big guys. They’re running the program again this year, so for just $139, you can send a couple of bottles off and have them tested. That may seem like a lot, but if you’ve been brewing for a while and have your recipes nailed down, or if you want to start shopping your beer around to local bars, this would be a great first step.
…Participating breweries have submitted two beers each (or more, depending on how many tests they ordered) for a variety of tests described below. The tests, which have involved about 10 percent of craft breweries, have provided a picture of the state of craft beer in general. Each year, the percentage of contaminated beer has dropped, among other results.
Big QC Day 2010 involves the following tests, among others: microbiological analysis overall, microbiological analysis by test, aerobic bacteria, alcohol, anaerobic bacteria, calories, color, density, IBUs, real extract, total VDK, wild yeast, pH, apparent attenuation, real attenuation.