Open Day – Summer Lightning

To celebrate the launch of Brewnode, I invited a few friends around to sample my wares.  I had all the ingredients for a replica of the classic Summer Lightning from Hopback brewery.  I decided that it would be good to give a go and brew live on the day. I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea or not since I’ve never had a brew run complete automatically from start to finish. But hey, why not?

Recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Pale Ale, Golden Promise 5.5Kg
Challenger Hops 30g for 60 mins
Challenger Hops 30g for 30 mins
Golding Hops 35g for 15 mins
East Kent Goldings 50g Dry hopped for 7 days
Mosaic Hops (panicked addition) 50g Dry hopped for 3 days
Yeast WLP002 English Ale Yeast

You might notice the addition of some Mosaic dry hops. That’s not in the original recipe but I panicked a bit about the taste during fermentation.

Mash

With hindsight, the initial mash temperature was too. This meant that the average temperature during the mash was only

Fermentation

Active fermentation lasted only 3 or 4 days but I left it for about 2 weeks before transferring to a keg. I took a sample after about 10 days and I was not impressed. So much so that I had a decision to make as to whether leave it as is and hope for the best. Or take action and attempt to turn it into something more palatable.

I didn’t have the bottle to run with it as was, so I decided to chuck in a large amount of Mosaic hops into the fermenter. I know this was not in the plan and diverged significantly from he original intention. But I am glad I did because the change was remarkable. The aroma changed almost immediately from a stale smell to a fresh citrus.

Tasting

Like previous brews, there was a definitive chill haze. I now suspect that cold break in the fermenter is the cause. I chill straight from the kettle to the fermenter through the plate chiller. This means that all of the cold break ends up in the fermenter.

I had to buy some Summer Lightening to compare mine against. Over the past 20 years, what used to be a classic in my mind had turned into a rather bland and fizzy lager like drink. I exaggerate of course but the aroma of Goldings just doesn’t compare to what I’ve become used to.

Conclusions

  • Start with more liquor.
  • Increase malt variety to give more body.
  • Let BIAB drain.
  • Use less bittering hops.
  • Chill to clear before carbonating.

 

Black Hat

The main difference with this brew from the previous (Hop++) was the addition of Carafa malt to give the black colour. It was interesting to see that this malt has no husk and doesn’t look like a grain at all. The lack of husk avoids extra tannin making into the beer. Leaving the colour to dominate.

One other change I made was using an east coast yeast because this was where the Black IPA style originated.

 

Recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Maris Otter Pale Malt 5.1Kg
Pale Crystal Malt 0.45 Kg
Carafa III Malt 0.35 Kg
Simcoe Hops 30g for 70 mins
Simcoe Hops 15g for 40 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g for 15 mins
Mosaic Hops 26g Dry hop for 4 days
Citra Hops 46g Dry hop for 4 days.
Yeast WLP008 East Coast Ale

Points of Note

  • The significant amount of dry hops appeared to have little effect. The same amount in a beer (Hop++) without the dark malt had more aroma.
  • There was a definite chocolate taste.
  • The colour was actually more dark brown than black. This visually detracted at times from the taste. Next time, I will add more Carafa malt.

Brew 3 – Hop++

For this brew I wanted to compare the difference between WLP01 and WLP02 yeast strains. I used the same recipe as  my previous brew  (API IPA) but changed only the yeast. Well that was the intention.

Hop++

Recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Pale Malt 5Kg
Crystal Malt 0.07 Kg (Should have been 0.7Kg -doh!)
Simcoe Hops 9g for 60 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 60 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g for 30 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 30 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g for 15 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 15 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g Dry hop for 7 days
Mosaic Hops 9g Dry hop for 7 days
Citra Hops 50g Dry hop for 4 days.
Yeast WLP002 English Ale Yeast

All seemed well during the mash until I started to take some gravity readings. Two things surprised me. Firstly the colour was a lot lighter than expected. This was backed up by the correspondingly low gravity. Something was not right.

After puzzling for a while I realised that I had made a dumb mistake weighing the malt. Instead of adding 700g of caramalt, I had only added 70g!

The boil and cooling went well. The gravity into the fermenter was only 1040 but it tasted great. Given the nature of this brew, I figured that a significant amount of dry hops would do no harm. So 50g of Citra was added for 4 days. The final gravity was 1022 which comes out at 3.3%. Resulting in a light hoppy summer session IPA.

Hardware Mods

As a result of the problems encountered last time, I made a couple of improvements to the hardware.

Kettle Check Valve

I fitted to the input of the Kettle from the Mash Tun a one way check valve. This prevents the Kettle contents siphoning back into the Mash Tun.

Mash Tun Output Filter

I moved the filter from the input of the Fermenter to the output of the Mash Tun. This was needed to prevent the Mash pump clogging.  I used the Fermenter filter because any crud was being filtered before reaching it.

Brew 2 – API APA

I wanted to make a pale ale a little lighter in colour than My Little Dead Pony. Using less hops to reduce the bitterness and also putting fewer in post fermentation because I thought I previously over did it.

Recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Pale Malt 5Kg
Crystal Malt 0.7 Kg
Simcoe Hops 9g for 60 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 60 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g for 30 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 30 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g for 15 mins
Mosaic Hops 9g for 15 mins
Simcoe Hops 9g Dry hop for 7 days
Mosaic Hops 9g Dry hop for 7 days
Yeast WLP001 California Ale Yeast

Mash

Given the failure of the recirculating mash last time, I tried an immersion brew this time.

I took a guess at the initial kettle temp of 86C. I found a problem with my preheat routine. In order to warm up the equipment, in particular the mash tun, I heat the liquor up in the kettle and transfer it to the mash tun and back again to the kettle before adding the grains. What I found was that when the water is returned to the kettle that it is too cold to begin the mash. A further boost to 75C is required before beginning the mash.

Preheat & Mash
Preheat & Boil. Note dips during boil were due to stirring of the pot.

Problems

  • Software Bugs
    • brew 40 85 60 => no emitter name @ vessel.js line100
    • brewmon.start has hardcoded brewname
  • Mash pump clogged. Need to add a filter.
  • Need a check valve on kettle input to prevent siphoning back into the mash.

Dead Pony Taste Test

I wanted to compare how my inspired brew compared to the original. Given the problems experienced during the brew it is no surprise that they are not the same.

First of all, the beers look different. My Little Dead Pony is significantly darker. The aroma also is noticeably different too.  I am no expert but I would almost describe my brew as being “off”. Not in a particularly bad way but just a bit odd. Brewdog’s aroma is much more hop-like whereas mine is not that reminiscent of hops.

Taste-wise, things improve somewhat. Mine is very bitter – in a good way. A nice strong after-taste lingers. But if anything, it’s probably a little too bitter. Again I still prefer Brewdog’s because I can’t help feel that there’s something wrong with my brew.

Brew 1 – My Little Dead Pony

Well, I’ve finally bit the bullet and decided to brew. I know the software was far from complete but  the hardware was ready to go and as they say “you learn from your mistakes”. So here goes.

If this brew-day was filmed, I reckon it would have made a great disaster movie. You know the script. Things begin calmly, the world is good. Then there’s a small problem but it seems under control. Then another problem unexpectedly arises which compounds the first problem. Then things escalate and it all goes open loop. Everything that can go wrong does, it seems like the end of the world.  But then the hero arrives at the last minute and figures out how to save the day. The world is right again. That was my first brew day!

The whole process was semi-automatic. Driven from the command-line step by step.  I don’t trust my code enough to fire and forget just yet.

The Recipe – My Little Dead Pony

This recipe was inspired by Brew Dog’s Dead Pony Pale Ale. I tweaked a few quantities, mainly increases in malt and also hop quantities during the boil. I felt Brew Dogs use of hops was a bit stingy (at least during the boil).

Ingredient Amount
Maris Otter Pale Ale 4 Kg
Caramalt 0.45 Kg
Pale Crystal Malt 0.3 Kg
Citra Hops (Boil 60 mins) 20 g
Simcoe Hops (Boil 60 mins) 20 g
Citra Hops (Boil 30 mins) 10 g
Simcoe Hops (Boil 30 mins) 10 g
Citra Hops (Dry Hop 4 days) 75 g
Mosaic Hops (Dry Hop 4 days) 50 g
Simcoe Hops (Dry Hop 4 days) 50 g
WhiteLabs California Ale Yeast

WLP001

Sanitizing

Before starting I manually ran Starsan through all pipes. Paying particular attention to the route between kettle and fermenter via the chiller.

Mash

The intention of the mash was to recirculate at 65C for 75 mins. This slightly lower temperarture and longer time is from Brewdog’s recipe published in “DIY Dog”.

This had to be stopped after 15 mins because the mash was sitting at  only 60C. I manually had to switch on the heater because the kettle was only at 56C and the wort was not very sweet.

The grain bed also became very dry so I pumped all of the kettle contents into the mash. Had to override pump because it was pumping too often. Also had to manually open the mash inlet valve.

The kettle was at 70C but the mash was only 57C. I notice that the element was scorched. I don’t think it was running dry but something was seriously wrong.

So I pumped all the wort from the mash tun back into the kettle. Heated it to 80C and back to the mash tun again. Did another cycle at 75C.

The wort gravity was low and very thin to taste. It was clear that the sugars were not fully extracted. So I essential did an immersion mash until the OG was reached and not unsurprisingly tasted nice and sweet. The total mash time was very long indeed but I felt it was more important to extract the sugars than to stop the mash based upon time.

 

Erratic mash followed by the boil.

Chill

The chill command began fine. The cold inlet opened and flowed through the chiller into the drain. Then the other valves opened and the pump switched on to transfer the wort from the kettle to the fermenter.

The fermenter temperature appeard to be down to 16C, so I pitched the yeast. It was only then that I noticed that the cold input value to the chiller has closed. Refreshing the display showed that the fermenter temperature was sitting at 37C!

Initial Chilling

I tried to pump cold water from kettle but couldn’t. I though there was a blockage so I had to connect the mains cold supply directly to the fermenter and run the coil output to a big bucket. Eventually I  got the temp below 20C.

Fermentation

  • Initial ferment algorithm seemed to go well. I awoke at 0530 and checked the temp – all was well so I went back to bed. Got up at 0730 and the kettle was boiling and the ferment temp was back up at 30C.
  • I though I fixed some issues but debugging was impossible since the system was live. I had hoped it was fixed but not yet. The temp kept on going through the roof. Eventually I spotted my stupid mistake. The control algorithm was monitoring the mash thermometer instead of the one in the fermenter – doh! After fixing that the ferment temperature stabilized at the desired temp of 19.5C.
  • Fermentation lasted a couple of weeks. After which the gravity reduced from 1050 to 1012. Giving a final ABV of 5.0%.

Conclusion

It was an eventful mash process but the wort tasted good  in the end nevertheless.

The fermentation temperature was initially too high but I got it down from 33C to 21C in 30 mins. Not ideal but I think within limits.

I’ve got bugs to fix:

  • Recirculating mash is currently flawed and needs further development.
  • Chill valve is closing prematurely.
  • An air lock develops sometimes when regulating the ferment temperature

Fully automated brewing system using NodeJS