oxygenation foam v. krausen v. head retention

I’m brewing a spiced pale ale, right now the only spice added was 1.5 oz of cacao nibs at the end of the boil.  Malt is standard (light LME) and yeast is standard (US-Safale 05).  When I was oxygenating the chilled wort to pitch the yeast, I noticed no retention of foam.  This was concerning, usually the wort foams up when I oxygenate with the stir paddle.  I got to thinking that perhaps there was a little soap in the bucket after I washed it, though I did rinse it well.

Fermentation went fine, but I went to dry-hop and dry-nib (add cacao nibs), and there was almost no krausen stuck to the walls of the fermentation bucket.  Now I’m wondering what the head retention will be like in the final product.  In summary, I’m wondering what the correlation is between foaming during oxygenation, krausen formation during fermentation, and head retention.

Large proteins are important for head retention, are those same proteins involved in krausen formation?  If so, can you say that the two will be correlated?  Or perhaps the opposite – since those proteins are lost in a big krausen, will the final beer have worse head retention.

electric brewing

Apparently one can boil with an electric setup: drill a hole into one’s valuable kettle and install a heating element, then boil by plugging it into an outlet.  This would be a quicker and more economical way to boil your water, or heat up sparge water, instead of stove top.  It’s also a nice alternative to propane setups for larger boils because one does not need propane and can brew indoors.  Lately I’ve been pondering the glory of a 10 gallon batch (or even more) as opposed to 5, and this would be a great way to make it happen!





Anchor Porter clone

“…dark in the glass, but surprisingly light on the palate.  Anchor Porter® became the first modern American porter when it was introduced in 1972. As we celebrate its 40th anniversary, our porter continues to reward those who look beyond its intimidating appearance to discover its smooth, full-bodied drinkability. Anchor Porter® is the definitive American Porter.”


I’m sure this will be a delicious brew, it will be interesting to compare to the real Anchor Porter in a few weeks:

  • 0.5 lb dark (120 L) crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb Munich malt
  • 0.5 lb black patent malt
    –>Steep for 45 minutes.
  •  5.5 lbs dark LME
  • 3/4 oz (6 AAUs) Northern Brewer hops
    –>90 minutes
  • 1/2 oz (4 AAUs) Northern Brewer hops
    –>15 minutes
  • Pitch US-05 American ale yeast

black IPA version 2

My first batch of black IPA turned out great, so I brewed a second batch with a slightly different hop schedule.  It’s been in bottles for 2 weeks now, I’ll try one soon!

  • 0.5 lb Carafa Special II
  • 0.5 lb Black patent
  • 0.5 lb Crystal 60 L
  • 9 lb Light LME
  • 1.5 oz Chinook (60 minutes)
  • 1.5 oz Columbus (60 minutes)
  • 1.5 oz Chinook (30 minutes)
  • 1.5 oz Columbus (30 minutes)
  • 1 oz Chinook (dry hop)
  • 1 oz Columbus (dry hop)
SG = 1.070
FG = 1.020
ABV = 6.6%
IBU = 130

Irish stout, with coffee

The partial-mash irish stout was split in half, the first half 2.5 gallons were bottled without coffee, the remaining 2.3 gallons were bottled with coffee.  1 and 1/4 cups of coffee grounds were cold-brewed with 2 cups water for 9 hours.  I let the coffee drip through a coffee filter, then stirred the coffee into the 2.3 gallons of “green” beer.

My forum-cruising led me to the information that cold-brewing the coffee is the way to go, one can get the tasty coffee flavors without unwanted astringent bitterness.  I also read that hot-brewed coffee incorporates oils that kill head retention.

The final verdict, the regular stout tastes great, but the coffee stout tastes even better.  Next time I would add coffee to the whole batch, I think the amount of coffee was on target.

first go at partial mash brewing

Today’s brew is a 5-gallon batch of Irish Stout, the partial mash ingredient kit is from morebeer.com.  I’ll preface by saying the partial mash experience was fun, but it added a big chunk of time, maybe 2 hours, to the brew-day schedule.

Step 1:  Heat 1.25 gallons water to 170 degrees, gather the mash grains:

–3 lb. milled 2-row pale malt (left)
–2 lb. flaked barley (center)
–1 lb. milled black roasted barley (right)
Step 2: Add the mash grains, this brought the temperature down to 154 degrees, the target was 145-160.

Step 3: Add the oatmeal-like mash to a grain bag in a plastic bucket, which is better-insulated than the brew kettle.  Set the lid on the bucket, I also wrapped a towel around the bucket to insulate it better.  If the temperature falls too low, it’s not a big deal, most of the fermentables still come from the extract to be added later.
Let it sit 45-60 minutes.
In the meantime, rinse out the kettle and begin heating 2 gallons of water to 175 degrees.

Step 4: Use a pyrex cup to add the 175-degree sparge water to the mash in the bucket until 2 inches of water cover the grains.  Collect 2 cups of wort, and pour it back into the bucket, repeat 3 times.  This recycling helps keeps grain solids out of the wort.
Step 5: Get a second bucket for a collection vessel, barely open the mash bucket valve to achieve a slow flow rate (desired is 1 cup of wort per minute).  As the wort drains into the collection bucket, continue to add 175-degree sparge water to maintain a level 2 inches above the grain bed.  This promotes even sparging.  This process should take 40 minutes, according to the instructions.
–For me, the grains in the grain bag pressed up against the bucket valve opening, which prevented wort from flowing.  I had to lift up the grain bag a little bit every now and then to get the wort to flow.
Step 6: When the sparging process is complete, move all the wort back into the kettle and bring it to a boil.  Save a little bit for a gravity reading to gauge the efficiency of the partial mash.  I ended up with about 3 gallons of 1.036 wort.  At this point, you’re ready for the standard extract brewing protocol.

The rest of my brew schedule:
60 min: add 1 oz. Magnum hops (14.1% AA)
30 min: add 6 lbs. Light Malt Extract (syrup)
5 min: add 1 tablet of Whirfloc, a clarifying agent

When the wort cooled, I pitched liquid yeast for the first time, I’ve only used dry yeast until today.  I let the yeast warm up, but only for about 30 minutes instead of 3-6 hours like I was supposed to.  Liquid yeast, it’s all on you now.


warm fermentation temperature

I’ve been learning that proper fermentation temperature has a big effect on the quality of the beer.  My apartment is typically 70-75 degrees, and active fermentation can raise the temperature up to 10 degrees!  This is too warm, except for certain styles such as Belgians.  I can’t say that I’ve noticed the effects of warm fermentation in the taste of my beers because of lack of fair comparison, but in more than half my batches I’m a few points too high in FG.  It leaves me wondering what changes in quality I might notice if I find a convenient way to cool down the fermentation.  I pulled this temperature post from www.winning-homebrew.com.

Fermentation temperature control is the single most important thing you can do that will make the most dramatic improvements in your beer. And it can be a big problem, especially when brewing in the Deep South. Winter brewing is great but summer brewing can be brutal in the 100°+ days. Without temperature control, it’s simply impossible to brew most beers correctly. Many homebrewers underestimate its importance and therefore are doomed to brew mediocre beers. Some of the major problems associated with fermenting too warm are:

  • The biggest problem is the off flavors from esters and fusel alcohols that the yeast produce. Sometimes the flavors are not so much “off” as they are inappropriate for the style.
  • Your yeast can blast out of the starting gate, consuming everything in sight, then run out of nutrients before finishing the sugar. This usually ends in an incomplete fermentation.
  • Poor temperature control often results in fermentations that are too hot, causing the yeast to become too sensitive to alcohol toxicity (meaning that they will die off from the alcohol before their usual tolerance is met).
  • Yeast begin to die off from heat stress, leaving the remaining yeast to do all the work. In effect you ended up under-pitching the yeast and will get off flavors as a result.
  • Since yeast metabolism generates a lot of heat, starting fermentation at too high of a temperature will quickly lead to problems as the temperature will climb in the 80°F+ range and yeast die off.

I’ve heard some people employ a strategy of keeping fermentation at the cooler end of the desired temperature for a given yeast strain, then letting the temperature climb to the higher end of the range when fermentation slows down to help the yeast finish the fermentation and clean up the by-products.

My plan is to utilize a common trick: put the fermentation bucket in a small tub of water, put a shirt over the bucket, and point a small fan at the bucket – only during active fermentation.  The evaporative cooling can drop the temperature by about 10 degrees.  I almost bought a small chest freezer on Craig’s list, but that’s more expensive and more bulky than desirable.

dumping trub in primary fermentation

When I transfer cooled wort to the bucket for primary fermentation, I attempt to pour, strain, pour as much wort as possible, and transfer as little trub as possible.  Ultimately I let a good chunk of trub slip into the bucket, I don’t transfer all the wort, and I ultimately feel dissatisfied with my execution.  In particular I don’t like seeing wort get left behind.  However, I was talking with the brewer from Fullsteam, and in his homebrewing experience he does not think the amount of trub that makes it into primary fermentation affects the beer much, especially if you add finings.  What it does affect is how clean the yeast is if you plan to harvest and repitch.  I haven’t gotten into harvesting yeast at this point: it’s a bit of work, and I’ve been trying diverse styles so they typically don’t use the same yeast anyway.  So as things stand for me, I’m not going to trouble myself with filtering, and I’m going to make it priority #1 to not waste any wort, get it in there!  I’ll still keep things civil and leave out the solid trub that easily stays in the bucket.