Tuesday 18 June 2024

Pacific Pale Ale - All Grain Recipe

Foreword

We've produced a couple of beers that haven't turned out recently - more specifically, they are way too bitter and really lacking any hop punch or aroma. We're thinking the culprit here may be excessive sulfate levels in our water profile (using the Brewfather Hoppy water profile), so for our next batch we're going to make a fairly simple "Pacific Ale" recipe - aptly named as a nod to the original Stone & Wood Pacific Ale that features galaxy hops and wheat malt.

Simplicity is the name of the game here, so we've got a basic malt bill consisting of mostly pilsner malt, with a bit of malted wheat thrown in as well. We originally planned to use Galaxy hops, but as they were out of stock from our local homebrew shop, we've substituted Simcoe instead, along with Mosaic hops for some fruit forward and citrusy hop flavours and aroma, and some leftover Nelson Sauvin in the dry hop. We buy hops in 100g packs, so our Simcoe and Mosaic calculations use whatever is leftover from the boil hops in the dry hop, hence the seemingly random values here.

Importantly, to address the suspected water chemistry problem (ie. sulfate level), we've grabbed the recommended profile from award-winning Australian brewery, Black Hops - as specified in their water chemistry blog post on their website. They've kindly shared the water profile they use for their Pale Ale, so we figured we'd give it a go to see how it works for us.

This profile has 150ppm of sulfate - significantly less than the 270+ppm rate that the Brewfather Hoppy profile had us using. With 50ppm of chloride, this gives us a 3:1 sulfate:chloride ratio that should still present a bit of bitterness, without being too overpowering and still letting hop flavour and aroma shine through.

Vitals

Batch Volume: 22L 
Boil Time: 30 minutes
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.048
Final Gravity: 1.011
IBU (Tinseth): 29
BU/GU: 0.60
Colour: 6.5 EBC
Expected ABV: 4.9%

Mash

Temperature: 65°C - 60 minutes
Mash Out: 75°C - 10 minutes

Fermentables

4.3kg - Gladfield Pilsner Malt
0.4kg - Gladfield Wheat Malt

Hops

30 mins - Mosaic - 11g - 12 IBU
10 mins - Mosaic - 10g - 6 IBU
10 mins - Simcoe - 10g - 6 IBU

Hopstand 15 mins @ 80°C - Simcoe - 20g - 3 IBU)
Hopstand 15 mins @ 80°C - Mosaic - 15g - 2 IBU)

Dry Hop - Simcoe - 70g - 3 Days
Dry Hop - Mosaic - 64g - 3 Days
Dry Hop - Nelson Sauvin - 18g - 3 Days

Yeast

Mangrove Jacks - M66 Hop Head (Dry - 1 packet)
(Originally planning to use Verdant IPA)

Fermentation

20°C - 14 days

Carbonation

2.4 CO2-vol

Water Profile 

Custom "Black Hops" water profile (refer to Foreword above)

Ca2+ (Calcium): 64
Mg2+ (Magnesium): 5
Na+ (Sodium): 29
Cl- (Chloride): 50
SO42- (Sulfate): 151
HCO3- (Bicarbonate): 37

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Thursday 13 June 2024

Does the RAPT Pill work in a stainless fermenter?

The RAPT Pill from KegLand is an incredibly popular piece of homebrewing equipment, providing an affordable and easy to use way for brewers to monitor the progress of their fermentations. (If you're after more detail on exactly what the RAPT Pill does, check out our RAPT Pill Review).

With the increasing popularity and affordability of stainless steel fermenters, more homebrewers are embracing stainless vessels of some description for their fermentations. This inevitably raises the question as to whether the signal from the RAPT Pill is strong enough to protrude the stainless steel walls of such a vessel so it can connect to Wi-Fi for submitting it's telemetry to the cloud.

The answer - is yes, it does work, but how well it works in your particular situation depends on a number of things.

The RAPT Pill utilises older 2.4GHz Wi-Fi technology, which although is slower than the newer Wi-Fi standards, it has much stronger signal strength and penetration, so it works better when needing to work through surfaces like stainless steel.

Whether the signal will be strong enough to connect to the Wi-Fi network in your particular scenario depends on a number of things. The Pill signal needs to penetrate the walls of your stainless fermenter, but if it's located in a fermentation fridge, then it will need to penetrate the walls of the fridge too, which being reasonably well insulated will have a further impact on signal strength.

The next big thing will be where your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point is in relation to your fermenter. If it's at the other end of the house and the Wi-Fi signal needs to penetrate the stainless fermenter, fridge, and several walls of a house, it's unlikely it's going to work. Moving your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point as close to the fermenter (preferably in the same room) can help also, or putting a Wi-Fi signal booster/repeater nearby.

But what can you do if you're not able to move your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point closer to your fermenter? The simple option is to leverage the RAPT Temperature Controller which integrates very neatly with the RAPT Pill. By doing this, the RAPT Pill is able to connect to the RAPT Temperature Controller using Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi. The RAPT Temperature Controller then relays the telemetry from the Pill to the cloud. This of course requires the RAPT Temperature Controller to have a strong enough signal to connect to the local Wi-Fi network as well - but this isn't anywhere near as difficult as it obviously won't be located inside your stainless fermenter, and wouldn't usually be inside the fermentation fridge either.

This is what we have been doing for several years now, and never have any signal issues with our RAPT Pill connecting via Bluetooth to the RAPT Temperature Controller. In our situation we have the Pill in a stainless fermenter, in a fermentation fridge with the Temperature Controller fixed to the outside of the fridge door, and using this setup we see constant and reliable telemetry updates to the RAPT Portal from the RAPT Pill, via the RAPT Temperature Controller.


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Tuesday 11 June 2024

Raspberry Sour - BrewZilla Brew Day

Here's how our brew day for our Raspberry Sour went;

We started out with our usual water adjustments - fairly minimal for this particular beer as we're using the "Mild Ale" profile in Brewfather that has relatively low levels of sulfate and chloride.

We adjust our sparge water to get a pH in the 5.2 - 5.6 range, but we were thinking about this more and wondering if this is too low? As when the sparge water mixes with the grains it will lower the pH even further, so if we start at around 5.3, is this causing our pH to drop below the ideal 5.2-5.6 range after coming into contact with the grains? Or have the grains already released the majority of their enzymes in the actual mash so don't have much of an impact on the "secondary" sparge water? 

Reading further into it and the generally accepted range is 5.6-5.8 - we might start aiming for 5.6 for our sparge water pH rather than getting it too low as we did here (5.34).

Doughing in with just over 4kg of grain and 20L of water was easy and left plenty of headroom.

Our latest toy is the mash stirrer drill attachment pictured above. Think of it like a giant kitchen mixer. After doughing in and wetting the grains with our regular mash paddle, we fired up the drill with this attachment and was pleased with how easy and painless it was - much faster and more efficient than manually having to stir it all through! Did it improve efficiency though? 

After letting the mash bed settle for 10 minutes we took our first pH reading of the mash, 5.49. A little higher than we wanted, especially since we're souring this with Philly Sour so we'd prefer the starting pH to be a little lower. 

Another 0.5mL of phosphoric acid to the mash and we got an updated pH of 5.29 - much better

We began recirculating the wort using our sergeant sparge head

Mash temp was 65°C which we managed to maintain fairly well throughout the mash. 

The recirculation and sparge got pretty slow at times - although we only had a relatively small amount of oats (100g) it still certainly seemed to thicken everything up, but nothing a bit of stirring the grain bed couldn't fix.

An uneventful sparge, and our pre-boil volume of 25.5L was reached.

Pre-boil gravity of 1.042 - 1 point higher than expected in the recipe. Although not completely unexpected to get a slight improvement in efficiency, we've certainly never managed to do it when including oats in the grist, even with a small amount. Is this attributed to the drill mash paddle attachment? Quite possibly - but in any case using this certainly made stirring the grain bed quicker and easier for us, even throughout the 1 hour mash where we used it several times, so we'll be using this for all our brews moving forward.

Waiting for the boil, so time to measure out our first hop addition. A whopping 12g of Hallertau tradition.

We also took another pH reading out of curiosity to find a pre-boil pH of 5.43. Perhaps indicating that our relatively low pH for our mash water didn't have a negative impact on lowering the final mash pH too much.

Rolling boil underway

Only a 30 minute boil for this one, with a second hop addition added with 5 minutes remaining along with our yeast nutrient and whirlfloc

Post boil gravity (original gravity) reading of 1.044 - as per the pre-boil gravity, 1 point higher than expected.

Chilling time - now that the weather is getting colder, so is our ground water, so we were able to achieve pitching temperature in under 20 minutes using the standard stainless steel immersion chiller, something we've never been able to do before. Helps that Philly Sour yeast recommend a slightly higher ferment temp of ~23°C too so we don't have to get the actual pitching temperature super low.

Before transferring we turned off the whirlpool recirculation to let things settle - amazing how the whirlfloc works here to help everything drop down much faster.


We pitched our 2 packets of Philly Sour yeast at around 25°C and left it drop to around 23.5°C overnight to find slight fermentation activity the next morning. Lallemand state in one of their Philly Sour videos that pitching warm is fine to do.


After brewing late on Friday night, and having fermentation beginning on Saturday morning, we decided to add our 2.5kg of frozen raspberries on Sunday night - approx 36 hours into fermentation.


Not a particularly cost effective exercise having to buy 5 x 500g bags of frozen raspberries, but it ended up costing about the same as a few bags of hops that we wouldn't hesitate to spend to drop into an IPA. We initially planned to use 2kg, but decided to up it to 2.5kg after reading a few other stories from people who wish they had added more fruit. Haven't come across anyone who said they added too much fruit to a fruited sour.


We attempted to blend the frozen raspberries in an electric blender but soon discovered this just didn't work when they were frozen. They just gunked up the bottom around the blades and didn't mix well. We quickly gave up on this then tried mashing them with a potato masher which yielded some improvement, but still a bit difficult when they're frozen, We really wanted them squashed to help get as much juice and sugar out of them as possible.


Plan B was to add them to a large stock pot and gently heat on the stovetop to help defrost them, and get them to around fermentation temperature (23°C) to avoid disrupting the wort temperature when adding them in. This worked pretty well we think - the final product can be seen below - nice and saucy. The constant stirring whilst heating up broke them down well.


Full disclosure - we were pretty negligent with our sterilisation here - and although everything we used was clean, it wasn't sanitised. We didn't bother with this for a number of reasons. Firstly, we were lazy and it was late on Sunday night. Secondly, the fruit was frozen and hadn't been pasteurized anyway and we had no intention of doing this. Thirdly, we're hoping that by the time any infection could take place from adding the raspberries, the wort would be at a lower pH that wouldn't really allow any nasty bacteria to take hold, and there also shouldn't be any available oxygen in the fermenter either since it's sealed off with a spunding valve (only set to 1psi). Perhaps we're wrong, but hey, even if something unforeseen happens we'll let it ride out and see what we're left with!


Fermentation is tracking along nicely, though it is noticeable how much slower Philly Sour yeast works compared to other ale yeasts.


You can see the large dip in the red line (gravity) in the middle here is where the raspberries were added. We're guessing that some stuck to the Pill hydrometer that causes some funky readings for a brief period there.


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Thursday 6 June 2024

2024 Homebrewing Trends - Brulosophy General Homebrew Survey Results

We're big fans of Brulosophy, and every year they conduct a survey amongst the homebrewing community to gain various data points, and then share the results publicly via their website. It's pretty neat and a great way to gain some insights into trends in hombrewing.

We previously wrote about the survey results that were posted back in 2022, so after missing last years results we thought it would be interesting to jump in again and see what has changed and any other trends that may be happening currently in the brewing community.

Demographic

Unsurprisingly, the demographic amongst surveyed homebrewers hasn't changed, with 98% identifying as male - exactly the same as it was in 2022. 94% are Caucasian. 

The most common age bracket is 30-39 years and 40-49 years, both having 31%, giving a total of 62%. An interesting change up from 2022 where 30-39 years was 39% and 40-49% was 26%. Most likely because of some brewers reaching the 40 milestone in the past 2 years?

What is it with middle aged white guys and brewing? Though we must admit we're guilty of being in this bracket also.


There's been a slight change in geographical split, with USA climbing from 62% in 2022 to 68% in 2024, and Europe sliding from 20% in 2022 to 17% in 2024. Oceana and Canada also saw a drop of 1%, with a value of 6% each in 2024.

Is this indicative of a change in the homebrewing market, or simply a change in respondents?

Brewing Profile

Back in 2022, there was a fairly even spread of brewers by years of experience with around 20-28% for the 1-3, 4-6, 7-10 and 10+ years of experience brackets. Those with less than 1 year of experience have dropped from 4% to 3% from 2022 to 2024.

Looking at 2024, and there's definitely been a drop in those with 1-3 years of experience, now at 14% which sees a 10% drop from 2022. The 4 year mark seems to be the magic number, where if you stick at it for 4 years you'll likely be a lifelong brewer.


For brewing education, books are making a slight resurgence, growing from 24% to 30% as the main source of brewing education from 2022 to 2024. Podcasts have marginally grown as well from 8% to 11% in 2024. Friends remains consistent at 9%, but online has actually seen a drop from 57% to 48% (online was split into video vs written for 2024) which is mostly accounted for by the growth of books and podcasts. Interesting that in the current online and digital age, that books are making a comeback and online has seen such a decline.

66% of brewers are brewing a single batch per month, a slight increase on 64% back in 2022, with the total number of gallons being produced remaining relatively stable as well over the past few years.

An interesting trend is the continual decline of the most popular beer style to brew - American Pale Ales, IPA and Double IPA's. These styles were, and continue to be the majority but you can clearly see that trend slipping consistently since 2018.

This notable decline has been met with an almost equal incline of the Pale Lager category. We noticed this trend back in 2022 also, but it's continuing to grow. So what is causing this? A number of factors we would suggest. The improvement in homebrewing equipment quality, and affordability, like PET plastic pressure capable fermenters. This makes pressure fermentation more accessible to the average brewer which can help produce better results by suppressing off flavours under certain conditions. There's also the rise of hybrid yeast strains like NovaLager that can turn out awesome lagers at ale temperatures, with next to no lagering period required.

Essentially, brewers now have the knowledge, equipment, and ingredients to make lagers at home that are just as good as commercial ones, without all the expensive high-end equipment. And improvements across all these areas mean they can be turned around and enjoyed more quickly, meaning brewers are more likely to embrace them as an option to brew at home on the weekend.

The other beverages being made by homebrewers remains relatively consistent, with cider remaining stable after a dip in 2021, and a slight increase for mead from 2023 to 2024


For recipe design, Brewfather remains the go-to favourite, climbing from 35% in 2022, to 40% in 2023, and 44% in 2024. This is our favourite brewing software app also, so doesn't come as a great surprise to us - you in our Why Brewfather is the Best Software for Homebrewing article


Brewing Basics

The popularity of all grain brewing has remains steady, with a 1% increase from 95% to 96% from 2022 to 2024. This is great as all grain brewing certainly yields the best results in our opinion, so the more people making beer this way, the better. And with the increasing popularity of single vessel home brewery options, and their affordability, it's little surprise to see this popularity remain.


Speaking of all-in-one brewing systems, it looks like their popularity has started to level out with their numbers remaining consistent from 2024 to 2023 at 43%. Have we reached market saturation here? Quite possibly. All the other all grain brewing methods have remained relatively consistent over the past couple of years after a steady incline from 2018 to 2022 for all of them.


Dry yeast is slowly increasing in popularity, climbing from 43% to 50% over the 2022-2024 period. We exclusively use dry yeast, and have achieved excellent results doing so. There's many benefits to using dry yeast - longer shelf life, ease of use (direct pitching), no need to oxygenate wort, doesn't need to be stored cold (though it is preferable), and is generally cheaper. We expect to see this trend continue in future years as well.

Kegging as a method of packaging is also seeing a steady increase, with all 3 kegging options combined giving a total of 82%, a 5% increase from 77% in 2022. As homebrewers are becoming more aware of the impact and ways to prevent oxidation, particularly for hoppy beer styles, it's good to see this trend continuing to grow

Brew Day Profile

Coinciding with the stability of all-in-one electric brewing systems, outdoor electric brewing has remained relatively consistent at 43% and 5 gallons remains the go-to batch size for most home brewers.




It also appears that brewers are being more careful with their brewing water, with a slight and steady increase in those using unfiltered tap water from 2022 to 2024, and slight increases in those using filtered tap, RO and purchased RO water.


Coinciding with the popularity of Brewfather for recipe creation, it is also continuing to grow in popularity for calculating water adjustments, climbing from 27% to 36% in the 2022 to 2024 period. Other popular options including no adjustments, Bru'n Water and Beersmith also lost small amounts as well during the same period.

There's plenty of other stats and charts included in the report that we didn't cover here - mainly because they remained consistent and unchanged from previous years. We really tried to strip it back and focus on the more interesting and prevalent trends, but we encourage you to take a look for yourself at the Brulosophy 2024 General Homebrewer Survey Results 

Thanks to Brulosophy and to everyone who responded to the survey









Wednesday 5 June 2024

Raspberry Sour - All Grain Recipe

Foreword

This one has been on our to-brew list for some time now, so it's finally time we had a go at our first sour beer.

We'll be using Philly Sour yeast which provides an easy and convenient way of souring the beer without needing to introduce other strains like Brettanomyces which can cause infections in subsequent batches if not cleaned/sanitized adequately.

We plan on using frozen supermarket raspberries, and won't be doing any other preparation on them aside from (obviously) letting them defrost. They will be added around 24-48 hours after fermentation begins to help drive the acid production of the yeast (read more about this in our Philly Sour Yeast Overview post).

For the grain bill, we have mostly pilsner malt, along with smaller amounts of malted wheat, malted oats and some gladiator (dextrin) malt.

Small amounts of Hallertau Tradition will be added at 30 and 5 minutes to give some underlying bitterness and a subtle hop character.

For the water profile, we're going to use the Mild Ale Profile from Brewfather, which has relatively low levels of all key minerals, but a slightly elevated chloride to sulfate ratio to reduce bitterness and promote mouthfeel.

Vitals

Batch Volume: 22L 
Boil Time: 30 minutes
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.047 (with raspberries), 1.044 (without raspberries)
Final Gravity: 1.011
IBU (Tinseth): 7
BU/GU: 0.15
Colour: 6.3 EBC
Expected ABV: 4.6%

Mash

Temperature: 65°C - 60 minutes
Mash Out: 75°C - 10 minutes

Fermentables

3.5kg - Gladfield Pilsner Malt
0.5kg - Gladfield Wheat Malt
0.2kg - Gladfield Big-O Malted Oats
0.1kg - Gladfield Gladiator Malt

2.5kg - Frozen Raspberries (added around 24-48 hours after fermentation begins)

Hops

30 mins - Hallertau Tradition - 6 IBU
5 mins - Hallertau Tradition - 1 IBU

Yeast

Lallemand Philly Sour (2 packets - dry)

Fermentation

23°C - 14 days

Carbonation

2.4 CO2-vol

Water Profile 

Brewfather "Mild Ale Profile"

Ca2+ (Calcium): 29
Mg2+ (Magnesium): 4
Na+ (Sodium): 29
Cl- (Chloride): 65
SO42- (Sulfate): 40
HCO3- (Bicarbonate): 37


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