Experimenting with a Large Batch

Making one gallon batches of beer is a lot of work – for just a little bit of beer. In an effort to cut down on the amount of work per brew, I’m trying a few things:

  • Only fermenting for a week:

For my last brew, I brewed in the middle of the week (I can’t remember the exact day) and bottled the following Saturday. That means it took about a week and a half to ferment. I was hoping fermentation would only take a week. But, it looks like it needs that extra half week for complete fermentation.

Needing a week a half to ferment is too bad because I was hoping to go from brew day to enjoying the beer in just two weeks. The timeline left me just about a day and a half to bottle condition (i.e. carbonate in the bottle) and that just wasn’t long enough.

For my next exercise, I’ll take better notes on the exact timeline I precisely bottled. (I wasn’t taking copious notes because I was between blogs/URLs. Going forward, I’ll have a better idea of just precisely how long fermentation and bottle conditioning take.

  • Using Extract

I’m sure some purists are going to be in arms over this one. But, I think I’d rather brew with an extract than not brew at all. Brewing with an extract means half as much time over the stove on brew day. That’s over an hour of times savings.

I might go back to doing brew-in-a-bag in the future. But, at least for my next brew, I’ll still be doing extract.

There are a couple consequences with extract. Firstly, it’s more expensive than all grain. But, and more importantly, you’re losing customization. There are only so many extracts available. So, if you want an extract based out of 50% rye malt, too bad. It doesn’t exist. Using extract means less choice.

For now, I’m OK with the additional cost and the lack of flexibility in malt selection. I prefer to use add-ins to make the beer special – and from the variety of malt used.

  • One batch of wort – three beers.

I attempted to do a double batch using extract – and ended up two and a half batches. Here’s what happened:

Two gallons of water plus 3 lbs. of malt extract equals 2.5 gallons of wort. So, I filled two one-gallons carboys with beer and growler with the rest. After fermentation, I used a different add-ins for each fermentation vessel. These result was three distinctly different beers (because the add-ins were so distinct themselves).

  • No Secondary – add-ins at bottling:

One way to get interesting flavors into your beer is to add them to your secondary fermenter. In an effort to speed up the process, I didn’t use a secondary. Instead, all the add-ins went in at bottling.

For the sour beer, I added the lactic acid at extract. Using lactic acid as an add-in at bottling is two-for-two. Twice I’ve tried this technique and both times it’s come out wonderfully. I’m currently out of lactic acid extract. However, if I consider doing a sour again, I’ll be reaching for more lactic acid.

For pumpkin spice beer, I added way to much spices and seasoning. I’ll see how this turns out, as I’ve yet to drink it. I think the problem with this technique is that you get the actual powder in the beer. That’s weird. I think I may to re-think this technique. (When using a secondary, spices go into a cheesecloth setup and hang out in the secondary. That way, the powdered spices don’t actually get into the beer.

For my third attempt at a bourbon beer, I soaked woodchips in bourbon. I then added the bourbon to the bottling bucket. My only remorse over this system is that I used too little bourbon. The flavor is too subtle relative to the dark malt used. I’m not sure of the merit of this technique given that variable.

 

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