Stovetop: 2nd edition

Yesterday was a learning experience. Today, I do it again. The biggest problem was definitely with the pots. The one I was mashing in gave up too much heat, and it wouldn’t fit inside the large kettle, so I couldn’t make a double boiler. I was really worried about directly heating the mash (going to hot and leaching tannins or scorching the grain, melting the grain bag, etc), so maintaining 153 degrees was a challenge, and in fact, I’m not sure I succeeded (didn’t quite hit the expected gravity, but wasn’t horribly off). Today, the 2 gallon pot is resting inside of a 4 gallon pot that I was able to pick up this morning. Half an hour in and I just measured the mash at 153.1°. I just have to fire the outer pot every once in a while to maintain. The mash is done and I’m definitely feeling better about this than I did with yesterday’s batch. Pulled the grain bag and the first runnings were at 152.7°. Maintaining temperature throughout the mash is what we call “good.”

The boil. however, didn’t go as well. Even in the 4 gallon pot, my stove had a hard time getting the beer up to a boil. Slow to boil means not a very good hot break (a bunch of proteins in the beer clump together and “fall out,” so that junk doesn’t end up in the finished product. Additionally, it only barely reached a boil, it was never a rigorous boil. I believe a side-effect of a minimal boil is that the liquid doesn’t really stir itself up, and so the wort begins to burn & scorch. So this batch will likely have some excess carmelization and  be way darker than expected. Gonna have to find a way to improve my boil…

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Something different

Trying something new today, should be cool. Hope it’s cool. I’ve decided to make a beer for my friend Naomi’s wedding party. The wedding is out of town somewhere, so she’s having a party for friends in town – campout at the farm, bonfire, etc. I hope to show up with 5 gallons in her honor. I want something easy and accessible for the masses, so I’ve decided a clean marriage (wink) of wheat and honey is a good way to go. Wheat beer is a gateway for those who aren’t into beer, and weddings have long been tied to honey and mead (as in honey moon). I really want to get this right for my friend, so I’m trying the method I read about in the book Beer Craft. We normally do 5 gallons at a time, outside on a turkey fryer. Today, however, I’m scaling down to 1 gallon, and brewing inside on the stove. And thank God, because it’s 90 degrees out there! I can also afford to try two varieties side by side, so I’m brewing one version with white wheat, and if time permits, I’ll do a second batch with red wheat. Whichever one comes out better (hopefully both are good), I’ll have plenty of time to scale it up and make a full batch.

Mashing on the stovetop

Mashing on the stovetop

I started with a 2 gallon stockpot on the stove, with a mere 2 lbs of grain (for comparison, our most recent brew had about 14 lbs). This is steeping away somewhere between 152-155, depending on where I put the thermometer. About 50 minutes in, I’m finding it difficult to maintain 153, especially since the temp varies within the mash. I think I’m going to try and get different pots next time I do this. They recommend a 3 gallon & 2 gallon, so you can do a double-boiler type setup. Sadly, the handles on my 2 gallon stockpot stick out too far and it won’t fit in my 9 gallon kettle. I’m also discovering that the 9 gallon is just too big for my stove. The flame only hits a fraction of the base of this thing, and I think the extra metal ends up giving the heat a way to escape. In fact, I seem to have hit an equilibrium point. The thermometer keeps bouncing back and forth from 210.7 and 211.1. So close to boiling, but not quite there!

9 Gallons on the stovetop

9 gallon pot is just a bit big for the stove…

It is burbling a bit (that’s a word), so I decided that’s going to have to be enough for this round. Tossed in the hops, and I’m going to let some liquid boil off. Once it’s down to about 1.5 gallons, I’ll transfer to the 2 gallon pot and I can get this thing DONE. In the meantime, I’ll sit here and ponder how I might split up this yeast pack so I can have some yeast for tomorrow’s batch (assuming I can get better pots for tomorrow).

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Coffee? Again? OK!

It’s on again. Andrew and I are again toiling away, this time on an entirely made up recipe. This is simultaneously exciting and mortifying, I really don’t know how it will turn out, but that’s all part of the process. Basically, I started with the basics for a robust porter: Two row malt, black patent, and caramel 20 (if memory serves). Then I threw it out the window, added munich and chocolate malts, and traded out the caramel 20 for a mix of 60 and 120. Then, for good measure, we’ll throw in coffee and chocolate. Chocolate Caramel Coffee Porter is the plan. I’ll try to update once in a while as we go.

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Coffee and Chocolate and Porter, oh my!

We’re at it again, and I’m going to do my damndest to keep really good track of every stage. So now, at 2:50, we have 5.5 gallons of water coming up to a boil. I’ll come back and add as we go.

3:15 done boiling out the chlorine, now we let the water cool. At 170, we can add the grains and extract all sorts of specialty flavors.

It has taken forever to cool down to 170, just now getting there at almost 4:00! But now we can drop in the grain, all 6+ pounds of it. And half hour later, we are bringing it back to a boil to add the extract (yeah, you read right, this is an extract brew) and begin the hopping. This is also the part where we sample the next beer, Great Divide Double Wit (Belgian Ale).

4:38 we’ve got the grain bag out, the heat back on to boil, Star Trek First Contact on the SyFy channel, and we’re having the Southern Tier Jahva to keep our spirits up.

And we found out the mistake we made this time around! Left out the oats, so we just added it during the boil. Hope that doesn’t screw up too much… We also got half the coffee we meant to, but that might play into our tastes. The chocolate smells wonderful! It’s now around 6:30 and we’re running the wort chiller. Ours sucks, so this will take a while. We’re having Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout to bide the time.


Look at the dark roasty goodness!

And finally, we rack to primary! There was a brief delay while Andrew ran to Schnucks for a strainer; we needed one since there had been a small mishap with our hop bag, resulting in a lot of loose hop leafs floating in the wort. Once we got all the worty goodness in the carboy, we pitched the yeast (future goal: I want to do a yeast starter soon, seems like a popular way to go, plus should help kickstart the ferment), snapped the ceremonial hug photo, and moved the beast into the fermentation cellar (i.e. Andrew’s pantry). By the time we finished cleaning up and putting away (most of) the stuff, it was already starting to bubble every couple of seconds. If all goes to plan, I expect we’ll be transferring to secondary in two weeks, bottling two weeks after that, and partaking two more weeks later.

PS We don’t have a working name for this batch, but looking at the title of this post, I’m thinking maybe “Oh My Porter.” We’ll print up labels with George Takai

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Tasting Carol-Weiss v2


While the water for the newest Two Jews concoction comes to a boil, we’re opening the first bottle of Carol Weiss v2. It’s very cloudy, but a nice orange color, with a good head. Aroma is mildly citrus, and the flavor is more lemon citrus than orange. It’s light and drinkable, very “accessible,” or as Andrew puts it “the girls will love it.”  Hannah gives her approval: “good job, guys!” Can’t say more, have to go check on the boil…

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Quick Update

Really?  Neither one of us has posted a follow up to the Biere de Geaux still?  It’s almost all gone, already!  We did suffer a hiccup or two with it, but overall, we were pretty happy about the brew.  “What kind of hiccups,” I hear you ask?  Well, for one, we over-primed the beer and ended up with some highly carbonated stuff.  The first one we opened gushed like a geyser.  And one day we suffered what I called a “four-fold catastrophic failure of pressure containment at the bottle-conditioning facility.”  In other words, four bottles exploded in my kitchen.  I got home from work and my whole house smelled like a coffee shop!  Oh yeah, and the next day a bottle of it actually exploded in my hand, so… that was nice.

“What about the beer itself,” I hear you asking now?  Oddly, we ended up with a couple infected bottles.  That was a little worrisome after the first bad one, but we found that it was only a few bottles.  Either a few somehow didn’t get sanitized right, or they got infected during the bottling.  And these bad bottles?  They sucked.  Somehow you couldn’t even taste coffee in them.  We’re talking about 3 ounces of espresso in each bottle, and I couldn’t even taste it!  But the untainted bottles?  Awesome.  We’ll be tweaking it (maybe 1 – 2 oz of espresso per bottle next time) next time around, but we really had fun with this one.

Lastly, speaking of beers that went well, we’ve got another beer ready to transfer to secondary.  It’s a repeat of a beer that went over well with a lot of our friends before the Jews got their own kit.  We’re planning on enjoying those bottles right around Andrew’s birthday.  Isn’t that right, Andrew?

Lila Tov, dear reader.  ‘Till the next batch…

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Serving up the first brew

Today, I shared one of the very first 2JBs with some of my co-workers.  This was only the second time anyone has tasted the finished product from our very first batch.  (The first was at Cicero’s, when I brought one to share with the folks who came out for Tim Reider’s birthday.)

This first 2JB concoction (as yet unnamed… maybe AYU, rhymes with hi you?) was a fun little accident story.  Andrew & I procured our brew kettle and mash tun from another homebrewer, who threw in a 10 pound bag of grain and a recipe for an Irish Red.  I think it was an Irish Red…  We Jews were eager to brew our first batch, so we got the rest of our ingredients and started the brew the first chance we got.  Well, we were a little too eager. Continue reading

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The Beer Gets Frisky

Before the transfer.  See all that gunk in there?It was a big night for the Two Jews’ Brew! After (checks his calendar…) just shy of three weeks, we transferred the beer to secondary. For those without brewing experience, this means we siphoned the beer out of the carboy (the thing I’m always hugging in the pictures) and into a secondary fermentation vessel. This allows us to get rid of all the inactive yeast and sediment that has “fallen out” or settled to the bottom. More importantly, and the reason for my excitement, secondary is when you usually throw in your additives. That’s all the things that aren’t (strictly speaking) official beer ingredients, like your pumpkin spices, or raspberry puree, or in our case fresh brewed espresso. Yep, today the Two Jews Brews American Brown got its caffeinated freak on and entered adulthood as an Espresso Brown.

First off, thanks to Tony, Ben, and the rest of the knowledgeable and friendly folks at Foundation Grounds in Maplewood. What I know about coffee wouldn’t fill a Starbucks “short,” so those guys were a HUGE help. Take a look at the picture here. That’s not beer in those growlers, that’s one whole gallon of cold-brewed Bona Fide Espresso.  So we transfered the 4 gallons of beer into a secondary container and added in the coffee.  But not before we set aside one growler of the beer for comparison (so we can make adjustments in the future and have a better idea of what flavors are coming from the beer and what from the coffee).  So in a while (between 2-4 weeks, I think), we’ll bottle up what I hope will be the first of many batches of the 2JB Espresso Brown.  I can tell you that we tasted a little sample of the unfinished beer after adding the coffee, and that is why I have some wonderful feelings for the Foundation Grounds folks right now.  The flavors will definitely change as the beer “matures,” but what I tasted tonight sure seemed like a good start!  The sweetness of the beer and the bitterness of the coffee are well balanced, so if that profile is maintained as it ages, we’re going to be pretty proud of this one.  More to come later, but for now: Lila Tov!

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Mea Culpa

I am just not good about updating!  I tried to make constant updates on the day of, but found that I was just juggling too much, between the actual brewing and trying to be a good host and socialize with our volunteers/observers.  So here I am, a few days later, posting a recap of Two Jews Brews’ first brew day. Continue reading

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Update 1

Pouring the wort from the mash tun.

Sitting with Andrew on his back porch, waiting for 5 gallons of water to reach a boil.  It is a gorgeous day to make beer!  We’ve got things sanitized, the grain is milled, excitement in the air, and Estephie just joined us with a bottle of Charleville Half Wit Wheat.

Half hour later: the grain is in the mash tun.  We are now making wort, which is beer without the yeast in it yet.  For this step, we’re having Boulevard’s Rye on Rye.  More to come!

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