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My Very First Yeast Starter - it Really *is* that Easy

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/18/2012 at 05:36:51 AM

My wife observed today (and not overly happily) that my brewing footprint is growing.  Apparently, it was not enough for me to have a large glass bottle full of clarifying ale in our closet... no, I have added a new, mysterious concoction to the closet floor, as well, in the form of a sanitized tea jug with a small portion of foamy tan liquid in the bottom of it.  This new container is, of course, a yeast starter.
Incidentally, I have learned that the smell I associate so directly with beer is actually the yeast.  Call me a moron for not knowing that, but it's true.  Also, feel free to call me strange for sniffing both the airlock on my existing batch, and the top of my starter jug.  I like the smell, so help me!
Back to the subject at hand...
I have decided to hedge my bets on the next batch of beer - my imperial nut brown ale is supposed to be a high gravity brew (1.081 original gravity, even higher than my Yorkshire ale inadvertantly started at).  Despite the fact that my single tube of yeast (the limited edition Yorkshire Square Brown from White Labs) seemed to do well (even thrive) in my last batch, I want to make sure that I pitch enough yeast to handle this upcoming brew, so I purchased two "smack packs" of it (this recipe called for Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale) - and have made my very first starter from one of them.
I was a little worried about the process, but it couldn't have been simpler.  Last night, I simply boiled about a quarter of a cup of dry malt extract in just over two cups of water (this looked funny in my 24 quart brewpot, but I wanted to be sure that it was perfectly clean), cooled the mixture, then aded my yeast.  Noah (my four year old) had a great time helping
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I wouldn't bother with yeast fuel if you're making starters.

How big are your starters? For anything around the 1-1.5 liter mark, I have it on a stirplate for around 18 hours then pitch the whole thing. The issue with chilling and decanting is that you're putting the yeast to sleep - pitching the whole starter about 18 hours in means active yeast, raring to get at your wort!

posted by Martin on 2/18/2012 at 03:21:41 AM

Tags for this post: yeast, starter, smell, pitch, fermentation, ale

Beer on the Move - Racking my Yorkshire Brown to the Secondary

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/15/2012 at 05:55:07 AM


Today, after allowing it to sit for almost fifteen full days in the primary, I racked my Yorkshire brown ale to the secondary fermenter.  I had some adventures taking my gravity reading - I pulled a 1.020 on the first try, which would indicate that somehow, in just over a day. I had managed to LOSE fermentation.  Clearly, this was not possible  - one of the readings had to be wrong - so I worried about which I had gotten wrong.  I spun the thief to ensure that there weren't any bubbles interfering with the measurement... then finally realized that my hydrometer was sitting at the bottom of the thief, making it physically impossible for the reading to go down any more. 
I dumped that sample into a cup, took another sample, and pulled a 1.012 - exactly what my last measurement was.  On the bright side, I now had a double-sized sample to drink (I won't return a sample to the carboy to make sure that I don't introduce any bacteria to the beer).
Incidentally, I don't think that I was very fair to this beer on my first tasting; this time, I was ready for the lack of carbonation and how that affects the entire experience.  I have decided, on further consideration, that this beer has a LOT of potential.  There's a lot more flavor than I was thinking was present, and while the alcohol warmth is still there, it's not unpleasant.  I think that a few weeks will turn this into

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Tags for this post: auto, siphon, carboy, ale, yorkshire, brown, air, bubbles, leaky

Checking the Progress of the Yorkshire Brown Ale

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/13/2012 at 05:41:07 AM


Today was day thirteen of my Yorkshire brown in the primary fermenter.  The bubbling of the airlock has all but completely stopped, so the main part of fermentation should be done - but to be sure, one must take a new specific gravity reading.  If you get matching gravity readings on consecutive days, then you actually know that fermentation is done.
I have pretty religiously kept the carboy wrapped in a towel - this protects the beer from light, which is very bad for it - and also helps to keep the temperature more constant.  The carboy has been kept in my closet, though, so the temperature shouldn't have varied *too* much.
My target original gravity was 1.051, and my target final gravity was 1.013, which translates to a beer with an alcohol by volume of just a hair under 5.0% exactly.  When I brewed this batch, my orignal gravity reading was very high (you may recall), at 1.075.  Today's reading was 1.012 - almost perfectly on target.  This confirms my suspicion that fermentation is done, though I'll take one more reading to be very sure.  This also means that my worry of there being too much sugar in the finsihed beer is unfounded, since the sugar all fermented out to the expected saturation. 
The sample did smell sweeter than I expected it would, but the numbers don't lie, right?
At any rate, next came one of the best parts of brewing your own beer - getting to taste it. 
I knew full well that the sample would be

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Tags for this post: gravity, original, specific, final, abv, alcohol, volume, warmth, ale, homebrew, brew, brewing

A Change of Plans Regarding Primary Fermentation

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/11/2012 at 05:33:45 PM


There has been a change of plans in regards to primary fermentation of my Yorkshire brown ale.  After doing a fair amount of reading and research online, I have decided to leave my ale in the primary for an additional week.  Originally, I had planned on a week in the primary, followed by two in the secondary, but now, I intend to reverse those.

Apparently, another week in the primary will help to ensure that my yeast can fully do their jobs, and should help reduce any off flavors in the finished beer.  From what I understand, the secondary is really more about clarity and conditioning than actual fermentation and flavor.  That being said, I don't want to sacrifice clarity, so I may end up just adding a week to the total process (two weeks primary plus two weeks secondary).

I can't wait to see how this batch turns out - but I want to make sure that it's the best beer that it can be.  I won't rush things and end up compromising my final beer.  I've waited long enough to get started in homebrewing; another week won't kill me.

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Tags for this post: change, primary, secondary, fermentation, clarity, flavor

Yorkshire Brown Ale - Post Action Report

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/11/2012 at 05:33:35 PM


Here is the followup post to how my very first homebrew session went - as you may recall, I was doing a dry malt extract recipe for Yorkshire brown ale.
I found it to be a very enjoyable process.  First off was making the grain tea, where I steeped my specialty grains in hot water for 25 minutes.  I then added water and brought the whole thing to a boil (nearly boiling over in the process).  From there, I removed it from the heat, stirred in my dry malt extract and a gallon of water, returned the mixture to boiling, added my bittering hops, and boiled for an hour.  Easy peasy.  My recipe did not call for flavor or aroma hops, so I didn't have to worry about the timing on these (though I did add a packet of yeast fuel with fifteen minutes left in the boil).
Next up, I cooled the batch down with my wort chiller, then poured it into my 6.5 gallon carboy (essentially a big honking glass bottle).  Following, I aerated via lots of shaking and sloshing, and finally, I added my liquid yeast (a limited edition variety from White Labs). 
I will admit to being fairly concerned, since my orignial gravity reading was way too high - I was expecting 1.051, but actually pulled a 1.075 (consistent over several samplings).  I double checked, and yes, I got a 1.000 for plain water... so theoretically, my hydrometer is not broken.  If that reading is correct, it

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Tags for this post: first, batch, yeast, liquid, original, gravity, ale, brown, yorkshire, ferret

My Very First Homebrewed Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/11/2012 at 05:32:55 PM


I make this first homebrew blog entry as I prepare to make my very first batch of beer.  I'm pretty excited at the prospect; I've done a lot of research on the internet, have read countless recipes and tips... but I'm still anxious at the prospect.  Will I have the hydrometer issues that so many seem to have?  Will I manage to properly sanitize everything (and avoid funky flavors)?  Bottom line - will I come away with good beer?

We shall see, I suppose.

I'll be making a Yorskshire brown ale - specifically, Yorkshire Square Brown (limited edition), from Austin Homebrew Supply (the dry malt extract option).  I know that I'll have to steep the specialty grains as part of the process... I wonder how that will go.

I'm a huge fan of British and Belgian ales - give me something with some body and character, without hops that just bludgeon me over the head.  This recipe seems to fit the bill perfectly.  If all goes according to plan, I'll have drinkable beer in around five to six weeks.

All of my gear is brand new, thanks to Santa Claus... or more accurately, thanks to my wonderful wife.  I made up a wish list, and she essentially got everything on it from Austin Homebrew as my Christmas gift. 

Originally, I had made up my list and she shared it with my mother - who promptly replied that she would not be purchasing any beer making supplies, period.  My mother and I exchanged emails over this, as

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Tags for this post: homebrew, beer, first, try, yorkshire, brown, ale

Christmas in January?

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/11/2012 at 04:47:27 AM


Today felt a little bit like Christmas - my friendly UPS guy delivered  three boxes from Austin Homebrew Supply.  Of course, I did already know what was coming, but it was still a lot of fun to open them.

My order consisted of four cases of twelve ounce longneck beer bottles, six cardboard four pack carriers (enough to transport one case of homebrew at once, if I so choose), and all of the ingredients necessary for my next batch of beer - an imperial nut brown ale. 

This next beer will be a different experience for me in several ways.  First off, I had to assemble the ingredients for the recipe (which I got off the Internet), as opposed to the prepackaged kit that I bought for my first batch (the Yorkshire brown ale).  Austin Homebrew didn't have everything listed exactly like the recipe dd, so I made a substitution or two... we'll see how that afects things.  Secondly, this one is a big beer - the original gravity is supposed to hit 1.081, with a final  gravity of 1.016... or, in other words, an alcohol by volume of just over 8.5%.

To deal with this fact, I bought two packs of yeast (Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale) to do a double pitch, but I am seriously considering making my first starter.  I'm also considering making a starter *and* pitching the second pack "as is" to ensure that I'll have more than enough yeast.  If I do that, I'll surely

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Tags for this post: christmas, beer, ale, airlock, bubbles, primary, secondary, yeast

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