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Transition to AG brewing and Recipe Design (Part 2)

Posted by xnoom on 11/03/2016 at 09:29:06 PM


Part 1

Brew 5: Second All-Grain + BrewPi

I wanted better control over fermentation temperature, so I picked up a BrewPi Spark (a little more expensive, but requires much less of a time commitment to piece together than the original BrewPi).


The installation was anything but pretty, using powerswitch tails stuck to the side with mounting tape to control the fridge and fermwrap.  While not ideal, the door gasket sealed well enough to stay in the mid-30s with wires running past it into the fridge.

I picked another highly rated kit from Northern Brewer, Waldo Lake Amber.  I also grabbed my local water report and plugged the numbers into Bru'n Water.  I didn’t know exactly what I was doing with it yet, but I was pretty good at blindly adjusting numbers until things turned green.

This brew was a bit of a learning experience on my system.  I undershot mash temp, which I tried to adjust… which led to overshooting mash volumes and undershooting boil gravity.  But, I had miscalculated mash tun dead space (protip: when measuring dead space with a pick-up tube below a false bottom, make sure to measure with a hose attached!), so my fermenter volume was too low.  All of this left me with a pretty sweet efficiency of 58%, but I had gotten a better handle on the measurements for future brews.

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Nice write up. Can you elaborate more about the brew pi spark? How is the user interface to use, the wifi to PC software and can you log in remotely to change the temperature in real time??


posted by B Dub on 11/25/2016 at 10:41:02 AM

Tags for this post: all grain, equipment, transition, brewing

Transition to AG brewing and Recipe Design (Part 1)

Posted by xnoom on 11/03/2016 at 07:41:20 PM


I started homebrewing with a friend several years back, doing all extract+specialty grain.  The beer was fine, but not great… brewing was just a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon while hanging out.  I knew there were many improvements to be made, but that was a rabbit hole I wasn’t ready to go down.  We made ~20 batches this way, primarily to have beer on tap for parties (kegging upgrade came after bottling 1 batch...).

In mid-2012, I moved and didn’t brew for a couple years.  But during this time, I became much more interested in the rapidly growing variety and quality of available beer.  After re-reading How To Brew a couple years later, I decided to get back into it.

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Tags for this post: all grain, equipment, transition, brewing

PSA: Whirlfloc-T Usage Instructions, and Some Related Musings

Posted by chino_brews on 10/31/2016 at 12:03:24 PM


TL;DR: Add Whirfloc-T directly to your kettle 10 minutes before flameout using a dosage of 0.2 to 0.4 tablets per 5 gallons of clean beer. More may be needed for kettle-soured beers. This applies to Whifloc-T, which is the tablet form of Whirlfloc, and not to any other formulation of Whirfloc.


There has been some confusion (and disagreement) regarding the usage of Whirfloc-T, especially on when to add it to the boil kettle. I corresponded with Mike Miziorko, the Product Development Manager at BSG Craft (aka Brewers Supply Group), who is answering technical questions for Kerry Brewing Solutions in the U.S.A.


First of all, there are several different formulations of Whirfloc, including Whirfloc-T and Whirfloc-G. This applies only to Whirfloc-T -- the tablets available at home brew suppliers -- and not to any other formulation.

The issue with Whirfloc is that the active ingredient, kappa-carageenan, needs some time to gelatinze and dissolve in the wort, but will denature over time. How much time depends on a number of factors, especially pH and temperature.

Kerry and BSG recommend adding Whirfloc-T to the kettle with 10 minutes left in the boil. The general recommended dosage rate for home brewers is 0.2 to 0.4 tablets per 5 gallons. I've tweaked my Beersmith ingredient profile for Whirfloc-T to use a rate of 50 mg per liter IIRC. The specific recommended range is 30-80 mg per liter. For low-pH beers, you might need to use up

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Tags for this post: Whirlfloc, homebrewing, home brew, beer clarity, clarifying beer, clear beer, cold break, finings, kettle finings

Announcing the Divisional Round Winners of the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/28/2016 at 03:01:31 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally arrived! Earlier this evening, judging was finally completed in the American Beers Division, which wraps all judging for the first round of the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge. The simple issue was that judging is done entirely by volunteers, and we had quite a few no shows in Fresno (Continental Beers)... and far more in Chicago (American Beers). Sadly, there isn't a lot you can do to force people to volunteer their time to judge, so we simply had to do the best we could. We did learn a few tough lessons this year, and we will keep those in mind for 2017.

Before we get to the scores, please allow me to publicly thank the gentlemen who really made this competiton happen. These are our Site Directors. They are:
  • Matthew Chrispen, Commonwealth Beers (Austin, TX)
  • Aaron Collier, Continental Beers (Fresno, CA)
  • Mark Price, American Beers (Chicago, IL)
  • Matt Mella, SMaSH Beers (Washington, D.C.)
Seriously, if you meet one of these guys, buy them a beer.

It goes without saying, that the other key item that makes this such a great competition is the amazing contributions from our sponsors. All told, our sponsors donated right at eight thousand dollars worth of prizes this year. When you shop for homebrewing gear and supplies, please do your best to help support our sponsors!

Now, then. Let's get to it. The Divisional round winners for the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge are as follows.

American Division

1B. American...
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Tags for this post: beer, competition, brewing, challenge, winner, winners, prizes, BU

The Deadline for the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge is Almost Here!

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/01/2016 at 10:42:14 AM

The time has come. The end is nigh. The day of reckoning is at hand. Also, other assorted clichés stressing urgency.

Folks, it is now September 1st. Response to this year's BrewUnited Challenge has been wonderful - we've received forty percent more entries than we did last year - but there are still some spots left against this year's expanded entry cap. If you register right now, you can still enter any beer outside of a SMaSH (though we do have a wait list for that category if you are still interested, as we always have a few cancellations). Understand, those spots are limited - there are fewer than five spots left in the American Beers Division, and roughly eighty spots left overall - but the spots are still there.

The official, absolute last day to register for this year's BrewUnited Challenge is September 15th. However, we start accepting beers at our judging sites on September 26th - and all beer must be received no later than October 7th. If you bottle condition, you probably want to be brewing right away (if you have not already done so)... and keggers won't want to wait much longer, either.

As of this post, we have some thirty-nine sponsors who have contributed nearly eight thousand dollars worth of prizes. Please, allow that to sink in - eight thousand dollars. This is just NUTS. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in every Division will receive a crazy prize package, the overall winner will...
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Tags for this post: BrewUnited, challenge, competition, homebrew, deadline, prizes

A Bitter SMaSHing - a BrewUnited Challenge Misadventure

Posted by gruuk on 8/16/2016 at 10:48:58 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed the first BrewUnited challenge, so I was happy to see there was 2016 edition and joined almost right away! I quickly picked what style I was going to brew in each category, though the one I was most excited about was the SMaSH as it restricted options even more and would force me to try new-to-me methods to brew something resembling a Strong Bitter.

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to brew well, my goal is to have fun brewing something I would like and learn a few thing along the way.

The Ingredients:
I wanted to use a base malt I already had (or was going to have for one of the other BU entries); the ones that would probably fit the bill flavor-wise would be Maris Otter and Golden Promise, but color-wise Vienna and Munich II would be a lot more practical. I went with Maris Otter - color be damned, this one tastes best.

Regarding hops, I thought of going either with the familiar Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, but I had a 1oz bag of UK Progress that was pleading to be used; since my batches are usually 1.75 gallons for 2 gallon buckets these days, 1oz would do (barely - this would become an issue).

While I do have a stir plate and have used liquid yeast a few times, I like dry yeast because I'm lazy. Until recently for any English-type beer I would simply have gone with the predictable S-04, but recently I've been giving Danstar Windsor...
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Tags for this post: SMaSH, BrewUnited, Challenge, strong, bitter, beer, brewing

My BrewUnited Challenge Roggenbier

Posted by jay.thomas62 on 8/16/2016 at 10:05:21 AM

The BrewUnited Challenge is truly a challenge. This year’s restrictions and limitations seem to be more difficult than last year’s Challenge. Research, research and more research are needed to come ahead on this one. What is the target beer and what is traditionally used to make that style of beer?

In this case, I decided to make a Roggenbier - having never made that style before. Which makes it somewhat easier (at least in my own mind). Starting with a clean slate and no preconceived notions of how or what the ingredients are needed. I started out reading the Beer Judge Certification Program 2015 Style Guidelines. Then after that, I got online to read up on that style at However that somewhat conflicted with what I read online from so called homebrew experts on what traditional ingredients are used. So I decided to go with a no wheat version. Right or wrong, I was restricted on the number of grains I could use.

Unfortunately I was unable to find a true Roggenbier at my local liquor stores and was not able to make assumptions on what grain bill may work from the taste and aroma of the beer. Ultimately I came up with this.

Share this recipe on reddit
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Tags for this post: roggenbier, rye, beer, BrewUnited, challenge, video

Challenge Accepted: Brewing for the Brew United Competition

Posted by Matt on 8/04/2016 at 11:55:39 AM

I'm competitive. I'm the guy who isn't satisfied unless something is difficult, the sick sort of person who enjoys video games like Dark Souls and books like Infinite Jest. Last year, I had the privilege of organizing a site for the Brew United competition, and due to some life changes I wasn't able to swing it this year. The competition deserves better, and while it was a tough decision to make, I decided I couldn't give the competition what it is due. 

The silver lining is that this year I'm able to enter the BrewUnited Competition as a participant, and I rapidly discovered that my typical process for recipe formulation is definitely not conducive to this sort of challenge. 

My Recipe Process

If you've seen my Building Behemoth blog posts over at To Brew a Beer, you;ll get a glimpse into my needlessly complicated and time consuming recipe formulation process. 

That's right. That is not an isolated incident. I literally do it for every single beer that I brew. 

I'm a data person, and looking at beers I enjoy/NHC winners and working backwards is how I approach my brewing. Unfortunately, due to the ingredient restrictions in the competition, that wasn't exactly working. Here's an example:

As a side note, I'd like to point out the 2014 NHC winner. IBUs seem crazy, and I even without any boil off it seems like a lot of hops for bittering with such a high alpha acid. If anyone has a correction
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Tags for this post: Brew United, Brew United Competition, Oatmeal Stout, Stout, Vienna, Vienna Lager, American Lager, Toasting Oats, Toast, Toasting

Help Promote the BrewUnited Challenge, and win a Javelin PRO Digital Thermometer!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/26/2016 at 12:51:08 AM

2016 BrewUnited Challenge Logo

In 2015, it took twenty-seven days for the BrewUnited Challenge to meet our entry cap of three hundred beers. This year, we hit that same number in seventeen days. However, things have slowed down just a bit - as of right now, we're right at three hundred fifty entries out of our five hundred beer cap, with fewer than five SMaSH entries left.

Now, I fully understand how these things work; people tend to enter right as entries begin to be accepted, things trickle off, then there is one more big push right at the entry deadline. I have no doubt that we will easily make our five hundred beer limit... but to tell the honest truth, I'm a bit impatient. I'm tired of waiting, and I'd like to be able to approach further new sponsors with the fact that we're already full.

Well, my impatience is a good thing for you! To help get us over the hump, I've decided to appeal to your need for cool brewing equipment - namely, I am happy to announce a fun little contest where BrewUnited will give away a Javelin PRO digital thermometer (link is to my review of the regular Javelin).

The point of the contest, of course, is to get the word out about this year's BrewUnited Challenge. The following items will get you entered into the contest: ...
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Tags for this post: BrewUnited, challenge, contest, 2016, javelin pro, thermometer

My Son Went to Germany... and All I Got Was This Awesome Drinkware

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/21/2016 at 12:52:00 AM

Six weeks ago, my eighteen year old son, Caleb, got to undertake the opportunity of a lifetime. His seventeen year old girlfriend's father works for Mercedes, and had been sent to Germany for a year and a half. The entire family was moving over there for a full year; to soften the blow, they offered to use their sky miles to allow Caleb to purchase a ticket at a ridiculously discounted rate, and also offered to allow him to stay with them for most of the summer. While he was understandably upset at his girlfriend being gone for a year, the trip was an offer he couldn't refuse.

Luckily, Caleb had taken four years of German in an International Baccalaureate high school program, so it didn't him too long to be able to converse pretty comfortably with the locals. The seven hour time difference meant that we didn't get to talk to him much, but the magic of Facebook messaging allowed us to stay in touch pretty well. He got to really experience the culture, and spent time not only in Germany, but in Austria, Belgium, and France.

Of course, being eighteen meant that one slice of culture that he got to experience was the legal use of alcohol. Now, he has tasted pretty much every beer that I've brewed, plus a nice selection of commercial beers - but it's always just been a taste. There was apparently an Irish pub that the family visited on a regular basis, where...
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Tags for this post: Germany, son, stein, horn, drinking, beer, ale

Batch Size (gallons)5.5
Recipe typeAll Grain
Style15D. Roggenbier (German Rye Beer)
Original Gravity1.056
Final Gravity1.014
ABV5.51% (basic)   /   5.51% (advanced)       [what's this?]