Friday 18 June 2021

Pirate Life - South Coast Pale Ale - Beer Review

Brewed By: Pirate Life
Beer: Eazy Hazy
ABV: 4.4%
Malts: Pale, Wheat, Oats, Carapils
Hops: Cashmere, Wai-iti, Taiheke
IBU: Unknown

Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale can

"This landmark pale encompasses our founding vision of ingenuity, our unwavering commitment to quality and the laid-back spirit of the South Coast - or as we Pirates prefer to call it, home.

It pours a luminous yellow, with a fluffy head of foam. Expect aromas of citrus and peach. On the palate, tropical fruits pair with sweet malt and a fine hop bitterness. It’s light-bodied, crisp and highly crushable."


I first tried this beer on tap at a pub I visited a few weeks ago. It left a lasting impression after a couple of schooners, so when I saw it on special at the local bottle shop I didn't hesitate to grab a couple of 4-packs.

I've had other Pirate Life beers before, and have always found them to be pretty damn good - and this one is no exception. As claimed by Pirate Life above, it's a very lightly coloured, and light bodied beer with minimal bitterness and plenty of hop-forward flavour.

A very easy drinking and as Pirate Life put it, "crushable" beer - would definitely buy some more of these again!



Friday 4 June 2021

Lallemand New England - American East Coast Ale Yeast

The latest recipe pack I purchased included the Lallemand New England - American East Coast Ale yeast - and I noticed a few things about this yeast that were interesting so I thought I'd create a post to point them out and outline my experience with this yeast.

Lallemand New England American East Coast Ale Yeast - 11g Packet

Lag Time

Lallemand's website claims that the lag phase for this yeast "..can be longer when compared to other strains, ranging from 24-36 hours." Lag time refers to the time from pitching your yeast, till when you see signs of active fermentation. Too little lag time (ie. fermentation begins too quickly) can be problematic and lead to incomplete fermentations, or off flavours being developed. And too long a lag time can also be problematic is it gives bacteria and wild yeast the opportunity to infect your wort. A generally accepted target for lag time is approximately 12 hours.

So, 24-36 hours is therefore 2-3 times longer than what we're ideally aiming for. On my first attempt of using this yeast I saw a lag time of over 48 hours before seeing signs of active fermentation. There was another factor at play in my case though which was a low wort temperature. I pitched the yeast at around 21 degrees celsius, and over the next 36 hours the temperature dropped to 15.4 degrees celsius - awfully close to the lower part of the range Lallemand specify on their website. This temp drop was caused by the cold ambient temperature where I live (even though I had the fermenter insulated and in a dedicated brew fridge that was switched off).

But as the old saying goes, "relax, don't worry, have a home brew" (RDWHAHB) - and after 48 hours I was very relieved to see fermentation underway. I was certainly starting to get nervous and working out what my contingency plan was, although luckily I didn't need it in the end.

So if you're using this yeast, be prepared for a longer than usual wait time, especially if your wort temperature is at the lower end of the acceptable range.

Pitching Rate

You probably can't read it in the image at the top of this post, but the pack the yeast comes in recommends a pitching rate of 1.0g/L. Most standard homebrew batches are 23-25L so this would require at least 2 packets to satisfy this criteria.

I only realised this directive after already pitching the yeast (and trying to figure out why the lag time was so long - as per the section above). I put a post out on some home brewing social media pages I'm a member of asking for other peoples experience or feedback with using this yeast. The responses were mixed - some suggest they always pitch multiple packets, others say that if the OG of your wort isn't too high (ie. less than 1.050) then a single packet should suffice.

For my first brew with this yeast, the OG was 1.049 and it took over 48 hours to really get going - as I described in the above section.

I'll report back with the results of this beer/fermentation after pitching a single pack of this yeast.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Juice Bomb Hazy IPA - BrewZilla Brew Day

Brewing the Cheeky Peak Juice Bomb Hazy IPA marks a number of firsts in my brewing journey. This is the first brew where I'll be making adjustments to water (using brewing salts such as calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and calcium chloride). It's also the first brew where I'll be adding whirlpool hops - also known as a hop stand. I'm also deciding to not use the top screen to allow me to easily stir the grain during the mash to try and improve efficiency, and it's also my first time using Lallemand New England East Coast yeast. Here's how it all went.

Water Adjustments

Setting up for brew day - I've got my mash water in the Brewzilla heating up in the garage - and my sparge water in a separate pot on the stove, also heating up to the target sparge temperature of 75C. First thing to do is open my packets of brewing salts and measure the recommended amounts for the mash and sparge water and add them in. The set of eBay scientific scales that measure 0.01g seemed to do the trick, although I must admit I haven't tested them with an exact known weight to confirm their accuracy. 

For my first attempt at adjusting water, I'm keeping it simple and only using 3 ingredients - calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and calcium chloride. Super easy to do after entering all the values from my water report in the Brewfather app!

I also added half a camden tablet to the mash water and half a tablet to the sparge water to remove chlorine/chloramines from the water.

First step - water adjustments

Mashing In

Total grain bill is just over 5.5kg including 1.6kg of wheat and oats. Definitely one of the best parts of any brew day is the smell when adding the grains and this was no exception. Amazing. Seemed to take an eternity to add all the grain - having a second person to stir while slowly pouring the grain in makes it so much easier though. Once all the grain is added, give it a good stir to make sure there's no dough balls then let it rest for 10 minutes or so to settle before starting the pump to recirculate.

Stirring the mash

The design of the Brewzilla means that there is a significant discrepancy between the temperature that is displayed on the unit and the actual temperature of the mash. I use a digital thermometer in the top of the mash to measure the temperature and then adjust the Brewzilla accordingly. For this brew, my Brewzilla temp was set at 73C in order to hit my mash temperature of 66C - well - within half a degree at least.

Brewzilla set to 73C

Mash is close to target temp of 66C when measured at the top with Brewzilla set to 73C

After the 10 minute rest, fire up the pump and get that mash recirculating. Adjust the flow speed in order to try and maintain a steady water level in relation to the overflow pipe. I stopped the pump a couple of times through the mash to give the grain a good stir. I also decided to try not using the top screen for this brew in order to make this process quicker/easier - removing the top screen to stir the mash would otherwise be tricky - didn't fancy sticking my hands in 65C water to fish it out!

Recirculating the mash


After the 60 minute mash had completed, the malt pipe was lifted and sparge water was added. With all the wheat and oats in the grain I was a little nervous about a stuck sparge, but thankfully the water drained and flowed through without any problems at all. Took about 10 minutes in total, and the estimated sparge water volume from Brewfather was pretty much spot on. Got my 30L pre-boil volume so now we're ready to ramp up to a boil.

The Boil

I always set the temperature to HH as soon as I lift out the malt pipe for sparging in order to get a head start on ramping up to boil temperature. For whatever reason it seemed to take longer than usual to reach a boil - perhaps the cooler ambient temperature outside. 

Another thing I like to do while waiting to reach boiling temperature is run the recirculation arm through the hop spider. This helps to filter out any grain that escaped the malt pipe during the mash.

Pro tip - run the recirculation arm through the hop spider to filter out any grain while waiting to reach boiling temperature

We eventually reached a nice rolling boil and some constant stirring for the first few minutes to avoid the dreaded boilover and dreaded cleanup associated with it. This recipe only calls for a 60 minute hop addition which was added to the hop spider.

With 10 minutes left in the boil the provided yeast nutrient was added, and then with 5 minutes left the whirlpool arm attachment was added as well as the immersion chiller to give them a few minutes in the boil to sterilise them.

Whirlpool/Hop Stand

This was my first attempt at adding whirlpool hops - also known as a hop stand. For those who aren't familiar this involves dropping the temperature of the wort after the boil to 80C and then adding hops for flavour/aroma and letting them steep at this temperature for 20 minutes. The idea being that the lower temperature minimises the bitterness extracted from the hops, but still releases a lot of the flavour and aroma from the hops.

At the end of the boil I shut off the heating elements on the Brewzilla and then began running water through the immersion chiller. I had my trusty thermometer measuring the temperature of the wort, and within a minute or two the temperature had already dropped from 100 to just over 80 degrees. At this point I shutoff the water flowing through the chiller, however the temperature kept dropping. It went as low as 73C - not a complete disaster but certainly lower than my target of 80. I adjusted the temperature of the Brewzilla and switched the large heating element back on. Added the whirlpool hops anyway and switched on the pump with the whirlpool arm attached. 

Brewzilla with whirlpool arm and immersion chiller

Took about 5-10 minutes before the target temperature of 80C was reached again - so I'll remember next time to switch off the water through the immersion chiller as soon as the temperature drops below 90.

Chilling and Transfer

Once the whirlpool/hop stand was completed, I turned on the water through the immersion chiller again to get the wort temperature down to pitching/transfer temperature. It was a cold morning so I think the colder temperature of the tap water helped to cool it down faster than on previous brews which was nice. I wait until the temperature on the Brewzilla reads 28C before transferring to the fermenter.

Holding the transfer hose high above the fermenter to promote splashing and oxygenation of the wort prior to pitching yeast

As depicted in the picture above, when transferring from the Brewzilla to the fermenter (Fermzilla), I like to hold the hose high above the opening of the fermenter to allow the wort to fall in and cause splashing to help promote oxygen intake of the wort.

And now for the original gravity (OG) reading - the recipe was expecting an OG of 1.053 - actually managed to get 1.049 so still a few points what was expected, but I try not to worry too much about not hitting all my numbers. Even with this OG it will still be a 5% beer with plenty of body and flavour.

OG reading of 1.049 - a few points below target

Pitching Yeast

This is my first batch using Lallemand's New England East Coast Ale yeast strain. I've never had an issue with simply sprinkling dry yeast over the top of the wort and leaving it to do it's thing so that's exactly what I did with this batch

Lallemand New England East Coast Ale dry yeast sprinkled over the wort

Yeast pitched and the fermenter is in the dedicated brew fridge with inkbird controller attached - and now the waiting game begins!

After 48 hours I still hadn't seen any signs of fermentation starting - except for a few very small bubbles on the surface of the wort. The Lallemand website states that this yeast is known as a slow starter and delays of 24-36 hours are normal/expected. I think another part of my problem was the temperature had dropped from my pitching temperature of 21 degrees, down to about 15.4 - right at the lower range of the recommended temperature for the yeast which could also increase the lag time. I had the fermenter in my dedicated brew fridge (switched off), but the cold winter nights were obviously having an impact. So I moved the fermenter inside to warm it up a bit for a few hours - and was happy to see some solid signs of fermentation the next morning - what a relief!

Some healthy signs of fermentation ~72 hours after pitching yeast

4 days after pitching yeast there was a healthy krausen and plenty of activity - and the temperature has been steadily rising from 16 up to 18 degrees.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping in the Fermzilla is still an art I'm yet to perfect. One of the draw backs of fermenting under pressure, is that the pressure needs to be released from the fermenter before it can be opened (at least with the all-rounder model that I have). The problem with this is that when the pressure is released, it can cause the krausen to rapidly expand - which is what happened to me, during both dry hops with this beer.

The first dry hop at high krausen wasn't so bad, and I managed to vent all the pressure from the fermenter without any krausen spilling out the lid.

The second dry hop, after fermentation had finished, was different, and I ended up with a 'krausen overflow' after the pressure release (even after releasing the pressure slowly). 

I'll be trying different methods on future brews to try and find a more reliable method of dry hopping and releasing the pressure without causing issues such as this in the future.

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Wednesday 2 June 2021

FermZilla - Webbing/Strap Fitting Instructions

The straps are a great and effective way of attaching the Fermzilla to the included metal stand. This makes it much easier to move the Fermzilla by picking it up by the handles and having the base move with it - a must have accessory! Unfortunately they don't come with any instructions on how to fit, so I made some myself.

Follow the steps below to attach the straps

  1. Start by fitting the small hole at the 'center' of the webbing over the top of the Fermzilla
  2. Run the length of the strap under the metal base support and back up to the clip
  3. Feed the strap through the clip from the underside - use the upper gap as pictured below
    Feed the strap up through the bottom

  4. Feed the strap back down through the gap at the bottom of the clip and pull tight

    Feed strap back through the gap and pull tight

  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for the other 2 straps/clips
  6. Tidy up any excess bits of strap with rubber bands - especially useful if you are using the 35L fermzilla (as the straps are universal so they can also be used with the larger 65L fermzilla

Tuesday 1 June 2021

FermZilla - How to open stuck lid?

The FermZilla is a pressure rated fermenting vessel and one of the common problems users seem to face is not being able to get the round lid off. There is a small rubber ring seal around the lid, and when combined with some lubricant it creates an air tight seal which is obviously required for pressure fermenting, but means there's a reasonable amount of force required to remove it. The other part of the problem is the lid only has a pressure release valve (PRV) and carbonation caps on it, so nowhere to really get a good firm grip on to exert the force sometimes required to remove the lid.

One option is to loosen the collar above the lid and then add CO2 to pressurise the vessel and 'pop' the lid off - which works, but can be a little dangerous and also wastes a little bit of precious CO2. 

The method I use is similar - and involves loosening the collar above the lid, and then using a tap spanner to 'pry' the lid off but leveraging the under side of the one of the carbonation caps - as per the picture below

Use a tap spanner to 'pry' a stuck lid off the Fermzilla

As depicted by the arrows in the photo above, by pressing down on the tap spanner, it will exert force upwards underneath the carbonation cap to pry the lid off the Fermzilla. Make sure you loose the screw collar that sits on the top of the lid before trying this though!

One thing we've noticed over a period of time is that prying the lid off using this method can cause the underside of the carbonation cap to not seal correctly and therefore leak pressure. The solution is simple though - exert some force directly back down on the carbonation cap (this is easier to do with a quick disconnect attached to it).

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