Monday, July 1, 2013

Experimenting with small batch brewing.

Being a scientist, trained in experimental manipulation of the environment to see how organisms react, I decided to start to do experimental manipulation on beer, at a smaller scale, to see what kind of flavors that I can pull out. The environment for this experimental manipulation is the wort that would be turned into beer by yeast (the organism). My normal homebrew system is 19 liters (5 gallons) but at Saugatuck BrewingCompany, where I work, we brew on a 10-barrel system (1200 liters or 315 gallons). My system might be good for experimenting for SBC, but the small batch system for my homebrew system is 3.8 liters (1 gallon). Even though I work at a brewery, I will continue my hobby of homebrewing.

To ferment in my small batch system, I use 2-1.9 liter (0.5 gallons) growlers from various brewing companies. Currently, I have only done two batches, both meads. This is because I do not have a mashtun that would be proper for this scale. This is my next purchase, a small cooler that I can convert into a mashtun for this purpose.

My experimental brew that I did on 30 June 2013 was a mead (which I previously mentioned). I had two 0.9-liter (1-quart) mason jars with honey that I used for this experiment. One jar was from honey that I collected from my hive last summer and the other was collected from a colleague of mine when I was a graduate student at Miami University of Ohio. The second jar was late season collected in the fall of last year and both sets of honey came from areas that surrounded Oxford, OH. 

The late season honey had solidified, so I put the jar in a pot of 55°C (130°F) water to liquefy it. I also added the early season jar to the pot to help with reducing the viscosity, to that I could pout it easier. Each jar contained approximately 1.1 kilogram (2.5 pounds) of honey in it. While adding the honey to the fermenters, I started to boil water to bring up the volume in the fermenters. This was where I started to add complexity to my experiment.

In the water that I boiled, I added a small amount of solidified honey. I did this to help in the utilization of the hops that I added. Lowering the pH by having some sugars in the water helps in utilizing hops, because just making hop tea in plain water could run the risk of giving harsh-tasting, vegetal or astringent polyphenols (as explained in “Malt Extraction: Late Addition Brewing” in the May/June 2013 issue of Zymurgy). Once the water started to boil, I added 7 grams (0.25 ounces) of hops to the boil. The hops that I used was from the 2012 crop of the Chinook that I harvested last year. I boiled to 5 minutes and added then cut the flame and added the other 21.5 grams (0.75 ounces) to the boil.

Once the boil was complete, I cooled the water with my immersion wort chiller to approximately 25°C (77°F). I then added the water to each growler until the volume came up to the bottle neck, giving room for formation of the krausen. I shook each growler for 15 to 20 minutes to thoroughly mix the honey and give oxygen to the wort. I then took a gravity reading then added one package of yeast to each fermenter. The O.G. was 1.128 and should be 15.9% ABV mead. 

I will let this ferment for 6 months before bottling it. What I am looking for in this mead is a little bit of bitterness (Beersmith calculated it to be 19.2 IBU) and have a citrusy/grapefruity taste from the hops.

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