Tag Archives: brewing equipment

Hop pellets vs. whole cone hops… what’s the effect on character?

Whole HopsBuilding on my previous hopping experiment where I set out to find The Effect of pH on Hop Character, I decided to try something that I’ve been wanting to explore for some time now, the difference in character between whole cone hops and pellet hops. Honestly, I’ve only ever used pellet hops. Probably because of their ease and availability. They’ve produced excellent results in some cases and less than excellent results in others.

Two of my favourite breweries, Sierra Nevada and Victory Brewing, both swear by using only whole cone hops. I’m going to heed their experience and agree that there must be something to it. But what exactly? I’ve heard the extra processing that goes into pelletizing does have an effect on the resulting character, but again, to what extent? Generally I’m of the mind that the less processing in anything food related, the better. Let’s see if this holds true for hops.

photo 1I brewed 2 batches over the weekend of my standard Sierra Nevada Pale Ale recipe, exactly the same, except I used whole cone Cascades for the 10 minute and flameout additions in one, and pellets in the other. (pellets were used for the magnum & perle additions in both)  Some of you may say that I should have used all whole cone and all pellets to really know the difference, but this is the stock I had on hand. If it doesn’t demonstrate the differences well enough, I will try it again with all whole cone hops. Knowing that the utilization is different for pellets vs. cones, I relied upon Beersmith to calculate the variation and adjusted my additions accordingly to have matching IBU contributions in each batch.

First thing I can say right off the bat, if you’re using whole cone hops for the first time, use a bigger pot, or adjust your batch size to match the pot you have. Whole cone hops are very bulky and will absorb a lot of wort. If in your software (such as BeerSmith) you have the ability to adjust the amount of wort lost to trub, then at least double it as a starting point. (I’d suggest 1 gallon) This will account for the extra wort lost to the whole cone hops.

The second thing I can say is save yourself the frustration of getting your chiller plugged up and use some kind of filter in your brew kettle. A few ways to do this would be to use a bazooka screen, a stainless steel braid, or a blichmann hop blocker.  I didn’t think of this beforehand and had to remove my hoses, clear the lines, sanitize everything (to be safe) and try again, 3 times!. Stupid me, what a pain! haha. As a result, I had a longer stand time than I would normally have before I chilled my wort down. I’ll have to keep this in mind when tasting the final beers as it may have contributed more IBU’s to the finished beer.

I’ll let you know what differences I detect in a couple weeks when they’re ready to compare.

Cheers!

UPDATE: Adding a relay to your temperature controller…

updateIt was brought to my attention by a reader of Hoptomology that it would be wise to add a relay to my temperature controller build. The reason being it will render the contacts on the controller safer and extend their life. They are only rated for 10 amps and a refrigerator or freezer may draw more than that for a split second when it kicks on. Up until this point I haven’t had any issues, but it never hurts to go the extra mile when it comes to wiring and electricity. Safety should always be your first priority!

Another thing that should always be observed when using electricity with liquids nearby, is plugging the unit into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle instead of a normal one. This way you have added protection for yourself should you accidentally come into contact with your beer or sanitizer etc. and then touch the controls. Any short circuit due to the moisture will trip the GFCI and save you from a nasty shock. I tried installing a GFCI in the actual controller box, but found that it tripped the circuit quite often when it turned on, leaving my precious beer and yeast to warm up until I was able to notice. Instead, just plug the unit into a wall outlet with a GFCI, and you’re set. (Thanks for your input Henry!)

relayI bought the relay (Part # PB321-ND) and relay socket (Part # PB642-ND) from DIGIKEY. socketIt cost me about $31 shipped to my door. I’m sure you could find somewhere else cheaper, like a local electronics store, but I’m guessing the connections may vary slightly. I thought I’d stick with what I know and get the parts that were suggested by Henry.

Here is the updated wiring diagram with the relay added into the circuit.

TEMPERATURE-CONTROLLER-WIRI

Good Luck!

Cheers!

 

2012 Learn 2 Brew Day hosted by Amsterdam Brewery…

The home brewing community has always been big on encouraging and supporting up and coming brewers. Learn 2 Brew Day is a testament to this spirit. Started in 1999 by the American Homebrew Association, it is an event held around the world to encourage people to come out and learn how to brew their own beer. Seasoned veterans and newbie’s alike, it’s a place to share ideas and to be inspired by new ones. Everybody brews just a little different, so there’s always something to see.

The 2012 Toronto Learn 2 Brew Event was hosted by Amsterdam Brewing at their new brewery location in Leaside. The folks at Amsterdam have always been huge supporters of the local homebrewing scene in Toronto. We sincerely thank them for being so generous with their time and their space. The new brewery looks fantastic and we look forward to many more years of great beer from Amsterdam!

About 10 homebrewers showed up bright and early on saturday morning, cars full of gear and gadgets, with apprentices in tow. Everything from a ’3 tier gravity system’, to a fully automated ‘R.I.M.S system’, to a ‘brew in a bag system (B.I.A.B)‘ complete with a pully system to haul the spent grain out of the brewpot. There was a porter, an IPA, an ESB, a Hefeweizen and many other styles to watch as they came into being.

The atmosphere is very Continue reading

Introduction to kegging Part 1: Ball Lock and Pin Lock kegs

At some point in time, if you’re serious about brewing your own beer, you’re going to probably want to invest in some kegs. Using kegs has many advantages. First, it is much quicker to carbonate your beer using forced carbonation from a CO2 tank, and easier to control. Secondly, and probably the biggest reason that home brewers use kegs, is it eliminates the need to clean, sanitize, fill & cap all those bottles. I still prefer having my beers in bottles even though it’s more work. Having my beer in bottles actually curbs my consumption, as I don’t perpetually keep filling my glass from the tap, but it’s the control and speed of carbonation that really sells me on using kegs.  They are also great vessels to lager your beers in as it’s much safer and easier to move around a stainless steel keg than a glass carboy.

KEG SIZES

There are various sizes and styles of kegs in existence, all which come with various types of connections. The kind that is most commonly used by home brewers is the 5 gallon soda keg, or “Corny” (Cornelius) keg. In the days before the “Bag-in-Box” system was used for dispensing soda pop, both Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola had kegs designed for dispensing their products. The basic design is similar, both are made from stainless steel, but the connection type for each is different. Pepsi- Cola manufactured them with a ‘ball lock’ connection, and Coca-Cola used a ‘pin lock’ connection. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these kegs floating around, which is great for us!

CONNECTION TYPE

Here’s a view of the connection posts for each:

PIN LOCK

BALL LOCK

 

 

 

 

 

Which style you chose may have more to do with what’s available to you than anything else. I have a mix of each style and both work fine. Having said that, the ball lock kegs have a manual pressure relief valve that you can use to vent excess pressure before bottling or dispensing, which is very handy. With pin lock kegs, you need to depress the poppet on the gas side to release pressure, which if you’re not careful and on top of your sanitation, could introduce the potential for contamination. It can also be a bit messy sometimes since the ‘gas in’ and ‘beer out’ connections aren’t always clearly marked, you just have to know that 2 pins are the ‘gas in’ and 3 pins are the ‘beer out’. I’ve sometimes chosen the wrong one and soaked myself with beer!!!

SOURCING KEGS

Do a random search on the internet for ‘5 gallon kegs‘ and you’ll find a multitude of options. You can usually find used kegs anywhere from $20-$70 depending on where you get them. Sometimes you’re in the right spot at the right time and somebody’s offloading a bunch for next to nothing. Otherwise, you may need to buy them from a home brew supply store. Try and find ones that have been pressure tested, cleaned, and have new O-rings if possible to start. It just gives you one less thing to worry about. Old O-rings will be embedded with soda residue and smells that just don’t come out, so it’s easier just to replace them. I’ve personally bought great kegs and replacement parts from Patrick at Ontario Beer Kegs here in Ontario. I’ve also bought from Keg Connection in the States. Don’t forget to check Craig’s List and Kijiji every once in a while as they do show up from time to time!

Once you familiarize yourself with kegging, you can learn how to disassemble your kegs and replace the O-rings, which is something I’ll explain in a future post.

Cheers!

Upcoming Posts:

  • Introduction to Kegging Part 2: What you’ll need
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 3: Cleaning and reassembling your kegs
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 4: Carbonating your beer
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 5: Bottling with the Blichmann Beer Gun

Brewing a Stone Pale Ale…

After reading The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance, I got inspired by Greg & Steve’s passion for brewing. Their obsession with hops, and their unflinching drive to make beers that they love, is undeniable.

Stone released their first beer in July of 1996, 3 months before I finished a 5 year stint in Los Angeles. Man, did I miss out on some good beer! I hadn’t discovered brewing or even craft beer at that point. The only beer I knew how to put back was Corona. Things have certainly changed since then. Little did I know I was in the heart of the U.S. craft beer revolution there in California.

I’ve not yet had the good fortune of trying some of Stone’s beers. Beers like “Arrogant Bastard Ale“, Stone Smoked Porter or Stone Levitation Ale, but fortunately enough, some of these recipes are kindly included in the book. I’m planning a family vacation this fall down to Florida, where I’m determined to sample as much of these beers and other great U.S. craft brews as I can.

Being a big fan of your standard American Pale Ale, I was interested in brewing their first release, Stone Pale Ale. Particularly because it uses Ahtanum Hops, which I’ve never tried before. I went looking for some a few months back, but had no success, so I instead brewed it up using Amarillo instead of Ahtanum, and substituting Safale US-05 for the White Labs English Ale (WLP002)  as suggested in the book. The beer still came out delicious and was a big hit around our neighbourhood. A couple weeks ago, I happened to be searching Continue reading