Archive for October, 2010

KIT#2 – Coopers English Bitter

Kit: Coopers English Bitter
Music: Nick Cave “Dig Lazarus Dig”, Midnight Oil
Date: 31/10/2010
Time: 3pm – 5:30pm
OG: 1.023(!) (corrected for temp at 22C)
Expected FG: Don’t Know (someone suggested 1.008)
Expected ABV: 3.8% (from moderator on Coopers Forum)

Bottling Date: 14/11/2010
Actual FG: 1.006
Actual ABV: ?

Sanitised using VWP in the usual fashion. This time I re-hydrated the yeast properly – I covered the jug in foil and placed a thermometer in water. I cooled the water by putting the jug in a bowl of water cooled with mini ice-packs. Worked a treat – had to keep an eye on the temperature though, as this method cools the water quite quickly. The temperature was exactly 30C when I sprinkled the yeast. Stirred with the thermometer and left to stand for about 25-30 mins. Probably a bit too long.

I sprinkled 500g spraymalt into the FV and poured in 1.5l boiling water, swirled to dissolve the malt. Added the can of malt extract and rinsed the tin out with another 500ml boiling water. Trashed the wort using the paddle and created lots of bubbles. Started to add cold water and mixed well, aerating the wort. By this time, there was a huge head on the wort. By the time I neared 5 gallons, I was afraid the head would fall out of the FV. Just made it though.

Then I realised i had left the paddle inside the FV!! [MISTAKE #1] Figuring my hands were clean enough after all that sanitisation, I retrieved it using my hand and rinsed under the tap.

Took a sample in the trial jar using the baster.

Took temperature, was shocked to see the wort was at 20C! Thought it would be a lot hotter. I used 3l boiling water and no cold spraymalt when I did the Muntons IPA. Need to be careful of that in future. no delay in pitching the yeast – gave it a swirl in the jug and swirled it into the FV. Gave the FV a stir with the paddle and popped the lid on it. Attached air lock filled with boiled water.

Took the temperature of the wort in the trial jar. 22C. The hydrometer reading gave me 1.022! Even adjusted for 2 degrees in celsius, this reading seems way too low. After doing a bit of reading online, I now know this brew is going to be pretty low in alcohol, but 1.022 would mean it would have to ferment out to 1.000 just to give an ABV of 2.5%!!!! It’s possible that the wort had not been mixed thoroughly at the top of the FV where I took the sample from. Must remember to mix better and take sample from deep within the FV.

By 11pm, the wort had started to bubble a little. No stir from the airlock though… surprise surprise….

01/11/2010 – Some foam on top this morning and some very gentle bubbling but no krausen. Put a post up on Jim’s Beer Kit about the low OG.

02/11/2010 – Some serious krausen on top now. Big buildup of CO2 in FV also. No bubbles in the airlock though! The lid on my FV must be really loose.

10/11/2010 – Dry-hopping an English bitter with Cascade? Okayyy… We’re not exactly striving for authenticity here, then?? Racked to secondary and dry hopped with 20g Cascade. Took gravity reading. 1.006 at 21°C which makes 1.007.

14/11/2010 – Bottled to a mixture of PET and glass using 1 carbonation drop per 500ml bottle. Removed floating hop bag from FV. Sanitised with 19l StarSan. Little or no sediment in FV this time. Gravity 1.007. Taste was sweet and fruity with plenty of bitterness coming through. I’ve better hopes for this than the IPA. Two weeks to carbonate and a week to condition.

29/11/2010 – Put one bottle in the fridge overnight and sampled. There’s a nice bitterness there, but like the IPA, it’s also got that fruity/sweet taste. Maybe they both need more time to mature. Pretty low carbonation, same as the IPA, but is perfect for the “bitter” style. I’m going to have to bulk prime in future I think. I’m going to leave at room temperature for another week before moving to shed.

03/12/2010 – Tried another bottle and it’s tasting pretty damn good! Loads of cascade hops on the nose which reminds me of 5am Saint – surely no bad thing! A pleasing ‘pop’ when I cracked the bottle open, so definitely more carbon dioxide developed since last week. I also noticed there was a layer of gas sitting on top of the beer when I opened the bottle. Presumably this carbon dioxide had not been absorbed into the beer because it had not been left in a cool place. So we’re looking good. The fruity taste has dissipated somewhat, and there’s lots of bitterness now. Very pleased. For the moment. Will move some bottles to cooler room and leave some at warm temperature for purposes of comparison. Now, if only the IPA was developing as well…

05/12/2010 – Moved just less than half of the bottles to the shed. Very cold out there at the moment. I want to see if the bottles condition further – hopefully the CO2 will be absorbed into the beer, instead of sitting on top it, after a few days conditioning. Will test again this weekend.

17/12/2010 – I’ve only about 12 bottles left I think! I’m reasonably pleased with this one. There’s a bit of Cascade coming through which might be masking some off flavours there, but it’s very, very drinkable. I really must leave a couple of bottles aside for consumption in a couple of months time. Would definitely do this kit again, but will be doing it in an ESB style next.

04/01/2011 – Finished this batch now! Excellent. It’s a nice kit, but I think it needs some extra hops. Got some Fuggles pellets so will use plenty of these next time.

05/01/2011 – Even though I was pretty pleased with this one, I don’t think I’d use American hops in this kit again. I think there’s more appropriate kits to do that kind of hopping with. But I would definitely dry-hop with something like EKG or Fuggles. I actually think this kit is so good I’d use it to “use up” hops, and just throw a load of leftovers in it.

Despite the small amount of extra malt that goes into this one, I’m not sure I’d change it. It makes a really good session bitter. Would be interesting to double the malt though and steep some crystal in it.

KIT#1 – Muntons Gold IPA

Kit: Munton’s Gold India Pale Ale – Troops Tipple
Brew Music: Mark Lanegan “Field Songs”, ELO
OG: 1.050
Expected FG: 1.014
Expected ABV: 4.8%

Bottling Date: 24/10/2010
Actual FG: 1.016
Actual ABV: 4.5%

My first lesson in home-brewing: calm first-time brewer nerves by drinking beer. I opened a BrewDog 5am Saint, a Cains Lager and finally an Erdinger Urweisse.

So, the kit was a Munton’s Gold IPA purchased from “”. I was using the following guide from

Boiled kettle for yeast re-hydration.

The first thing I did was sanitise all of my equipment: 2 fermenters, plastic spoon, thermometer, hydrometer, can opener, glass measuring jug, 2 plastic jugs (one to contain thermometer, can opener etc. the other filled with sanitiser). I used 4 tsp of VWP sanitiser in 2 gallons of hot tap water. Closed lid and shook vigorously, then added other equipment and allowed to soak for 15 minutes.

Removed trial jar and filled with sanitising solution, put in hydrometer and thermometer. Set aside.

Fill 1 plastic jug with sanitising solution. Rinse the other plastic jug in plenty of cold water. Place airlock and can opener in second plastic jug.

Remove glass measuring jug and rinse well with cold water. Filled jug with 200ml water, a mixture of boiled kettle water and tap water (!). Also should have covered with foil [MISTAKE #1]. Re-hydrated yeast. Water should have been cooled to 30C but I sprinkled the yeast in at 32C. [MISTAKE #2]

Boiled kettle for water to soften tins of malt extract. Added 2 tins to large saucepan and added 2 litres of boiling water. Left to stand.

Rinsed fermenter with several changes of hot top water and cleaned with a soft cloth. Took care to clean the rim of the fermenter and the lid, especially around the lid seal. Set aside.

Removed cans of malt extract from saucepan using oven gloves. Opened cans with the sanitised can opener and emptied contents of both cans into the fermenter.

Filled kettle twice and added 3.5l of boiling water to the fermenter, according to packet instructions. Mixed well using the large spoon and verified that no extract was sticking to the bottom of the fermenter.

And now, for my biggest newbie mistake… I pitched the yeast without checking the temperature of the wort. [MISTAKE #3] I immediately realised my mistake and took the temperature, it was 27C, maybe 28C. Although the yeast now seems to be working, it’s possible that this mistake may contribute some ‘off’ flavours – specifically some fruity esters.

Anyway, mixed well after pitching yeast before realising my fourth mistake. I had pitched the yeast before taking a gravity reading. [MISTAKE #4] I took a sample of wort by dipping the trial jar into the fermenter. It was very difficult to read the gravity because of bubbles in the trial jar. However, I took some photos of the reading and I’d estimate it to be 1.050. When adjusted for temperature, the OG is 1.052.

Closed lid on fermenter and attached airlock. Put in corner of kitchen, resting on cardboard. Disappointed not to see immediate results. How predictable. Patience grasshopper.

11/10/2010 – Finally, some krausen on top! Plenty of krausen touching off the fermenter lid too. No sign of bubbles in airlock.

12/10/2010 – Opened fermenter again, same (slightly less?) level of krausen. Krausen is mostly white/cream but has patches of dark sediment on top. Yeast? (Seems to be normal – checked photos of krausen online) Started monitoring temperature using baby room thermometer. Room is about 20C at night when cooking/heating is on. Temperature is 18.5C in the morning (at it’s coldest). Presumably, this is okay as the wort is supposed to be a degree higher than the room temperature?

13/10/2010 – I just can’t leave this thing alone! Despite my best intentions, I opened the fermenter again after still seeing no activity in the airlock. Still plenty of bubbling going on but nothing too vigorous. The krausen has become very light, a lot of the dark sediment which was on top of the krausen has disappeared – presumably dropped down into the wort. Wort definitely looks clearer and there is a more “beery” smell!

15/10/2010 – The krausen hasn’t changed much in appearance, still plenty of bubbles and a very agreeable, beery smell. 5 days and still fermenting!

17/10/2010 – Racked to secondary fermentation. Wort was at 20.5C. Calculated gravity at 1.016. Target gravity is 1.014, according to Munton’s instructions. Tasted wort, not bad, quite beery, but still a little too sweet. Sanitised siphon, secondary fermentation bucket with 2 gallons of VWP solution, same as primary fermentation. Rinsed siphon with plenty of hot water and filled with cold water. Attached to racking tube and siphoned to second bucket. Made every attempt not to introduce oxygen by placing the end of the siphon under the wort, but there was still a thin layer of bubbles/foam on top. Not sure if this is okay. Cleaned lid and airlock with hot water and reattached to secondary fermenter.

21/10/2010 – Prepared a 1l StarSan solution using 1.5ml concentrated sanitiser, taken with a pipette. Sterilised baster, thermometer, hydrometer etc. Took gravity reading of 1.016. So, gravity has not changed at all in 4 days. Clarity is excellent, as it was 4 days ago. The taste is also the same, seems to be quite sweet which I’m now thinking might actually be fruity esters. A sign of pitching the yeast at too high a temperature perhaps? I didn’t think it tasted particularly hoppy either (though I’ve read that this Muntons kit has very subtle hopping for what’s supposedly an IPA…). Smells like beer though…

24/10/2010 – Had mop and floor cloths ready. Place secondary FV on worktop. Place spill tray (baking tray) on chair. Prepare StarSan solution (1oz per 19l) in other fermenter. Sterilise 2 jugs, thermometer, hydrometer, siphon, racking cane, siphon clip, 6 bottle caps. [MISTAKE #5] Forgot to sterilise bottle tree! Placed bottle tree on sink drainer. Sterilised bottles in batches (34 PET Bottles, 34 PET caps, 1 clear PET bottle & cap, 5 crown caps, 5 glass bottles). Prepare siphon and runoff dish. Fill sink with warm water to clean off bottles after filling (prevents sticky bottles!)

Placed bottles in spill try and add 1 carbonation drop per 500ml PET bottle.

Recorded gravity of 1.016 at 20C. This gives 4.5% ABV and a real attenuation figure of 53.7%. Had a taste, still the same strong fruit flavour, not unlike lemonade! :-/ A bit of hops coming through now though, I think.

09/11/2010 – Moved to shed for conditioning and clearing. Bit nippy out there at the moment. The clear PET bottle (wrapped in a brown paper bag) has expanded so that it doesn’t stand on it’s own any more. Hopefully a sign that the carbonation has worked well.

13/11/2010 – First taste after 4 weeks conditioning. Just over 2 weeks conditioning at room temperature. A few days in shed. Chilled for about 5 hours in fridge. Tastes odd. It’s a lot less carbonated than I expected it to be. Either 1 carbonation drop per bottle isn’t enough or all the yeast flocced out. Seems quite hazy too. The taste is still far too sweet with very little bitterness coming through. Will try again next week. A disappointing first taste.

05/12/2010 – All is lost, it seems. Carbonation has not improved and flavour has not improved much, if at all. Think I might be chucking most of this one. I’ll keep 10 bottles or so (just in case it comes good), but I could use the bottles for something decent. I’ve got it into my head that the flavour is “plasticy”, but I’m not sure. If it does taste of plastic that generally means that there were traces of chlorine in the FV. Just in case, I’m going to sanitise with StarSan all the way next time. It’s also possible the fermentation simply stuck and the yeast flocced out, not cleaning up some the off flavours. It would make sense, given the higher than expected FG.

17/12/2010 – Tried another bottle, it’s definitely changed again. Might also be a bit more carbonated. But I still couldn’t finish it. Will hold onto it for another month and then decide.

03/01/2011 – This has changed again. There’s a little more bitterness coming through, but it’s more of an aftertaste. The plasticky taste has dissipated somewhat also. Finally, it’s starting to become drinkable, but it’s still disappointing. It will probably be a struggle to get through it. I think I’ll be giving a few of these away!

31/01/2011 – This developed into a pleasant enough drop. It’s certainly drinkable. I think I did pitch the yeast at too high a temperature. I don’t know where the plastic taste comes from. Perhaps the bleach sanitiser. Only a few bottle of it left. I think I would try it again (as a split batch), but under my new sanitisation regime.

14/03/2011 – Two bottles of this left. It’s really matured into quite a pleasant beer. There’s still a slight background off flavour. Pity it took so long to condition. Did I rack it off the yeast too soon? Did I pitch the yeast at too high a temperature? Sanitisation not good enough?

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