Thursday, December 31, 2015

Brewing a Carob Kitchen Sink Stacktrace Porter or A Comedy of My Many Errors

I decided to brew a batch of beer and I wanted to use up any random brewing ingredients I had, so I decided to make "Carob Kitchen Sink Stacktrace Porter".  I had made a carob porter before based on a recipe in The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing "Goat Scrotum Ale" p. 199, so I started from there again, with a few modifications based on my current inventory.  I added "Stacktrace" to the name because a stacktrace is the list of everything that happened during execution of program - generally looked at when something went wrong - and things going wrong is a key component of this brew.

Ingredients I used:
  • grains:
    • 1 lb. crystal malt (110L I think)
    • 0.25 lb. black patent
    • 0.25 lb. roasted barley
  • 5.1 lb. dry malt extract
  • boiling hops:
    • 1 oz. crystal hop pellets alpha = 4.7%
    • 0.5 oz. crystal hop pellets alpha = 3.3%
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 0.45 cup honey
  • 7 oz. carob chips (leftover from previous carob porter)
  • 2 tsp. gypsum
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • finishing hops:  1 oz. galena, alpha = 13.4%
I used a kitchen aid grain grinder attachment to grind the grains into a 4-gallon pot (I'm very grateful that my sister-in-law and her husband gave [loaned!?!?] us their KitchenAid and that my wife Alex has a grain grinder for it):

I added 1.25 gallons of water to the pot while grinding the grains.

I put the pot on the stove on high heat and waited for it to boil ... and it boiled over (error #1):

Since it is a practically brand new stove, I didn't want to just rush forward and blast the sugary mess with heat, which would have guaranteed it never came off.  I used a strainer to remove as much of the grains as possible:

Then I became the anal retentive chef and and cleaned everything:

I then put the pot back on the heat, and it boiled over again (error #2).  Yes, I really did that twice.  I caught it much more quickly the second time, so I was able to quickly sponge up the mess.  Sorry Alex!  With the mixture back at a boil, I added 2.1 lb. of old dry malt extract I had, including this hardened lump:

I then added the molasses and the honey.  Side note:  the recipe actually calls for 1 cup of molasses, but I only had 1/3 cup, so I used this sweetener comparison, specifically this information on the relative amount of sugar in 1/2 cup of each:
honey:  139 g
molasses:  93 g
I needed 2/3 cup molasses, so I multiplied that by the ratio of the sugar in molasses to the sugar: in honey
2/3 cup * 93 g sugar molasses / 139 g sugar honey = 0.45 cup honey
I added the honey to the measuring cup already containing the molasses until it reached slightly above the 3/4 mark (0.33 cup molasses + 0.45 cup honey = 0.78 total).

I then added the boiling hops and the carob chips.  I boiled with the lid off and noticed that it foamed up to within ~1 inch of the top of the 4-gallon pot, and was possibly in danger of foaming over, so I turned the heat down for a bit.  The foam was fairly stable, and when it began to subside I turned the heat back up - which brought the foam back up, but not to the point of overflowing from the pot.  Here's a video showing the high-foaming boil, and then cutting to the later, low-foaming boil:

I also noticed that the solid piece of dry malt extract was gooey on the outside but not dissolving quickly.  So I fished it out with a slotted spoon, cut it into somewhat smaller pieces, then put it all back in.

After a while the foam began to subside, so I put the lid back on partially, playing with the size of the opening until I discovered a lid position where the foam would be stable.  Eventually the foam subsided and I was actually able to boil it with the lid completely on, although I checked it frequently to see if it was foaming up again.

After 22 minutes of boiling, I added 2 tsp of gypsum and 1 cup of brown sugar.  The delay was not for any good reason; I simply forgot to add them initially (error #3).

Edit:  my friend R Fox asked me what the gypsum is for.  Gypsum's chemical name is Calcium Sulfate dihydrate.  I believe it acts to make the water harder / more acidic, if the water is soft to begin with.  My water is probably hard enough, but I haven't tested it and I also know that tap water can vary quite a bit - I believe the gypsum also acts as a buffer, effectively attempting to hold the pH of the water in the same place regardless of the starting pH of the tap water.

31 minutes into the boil I added the new dry malt extract.  Again, not for any good reason; I really did also forget this, one of the most important ingredients (error #4).  The wert foamed up again very strongly - as I did before, I turned the heat down a bit to keep it from overflowing, then turned it up again once the foam had subsided a bit.  I never put the lid back on because the foam never completely receded.

At the 43 minute mark of the boil there was still a substantial amount of foam, so I decided to continue boiling for another 15 minutes.  At the 58 minute mark the foam was greatly reduced, so I added the finishing hops, and then at 60 minutes I turned off the heat and added a gallon of cold water.  I added the cold water to cool the mixture so that it would be easier to handle, especially during the transfer to the carboy.  I then put the lid on and put it outside in the coldest corner of the garage, and then sterilized my equipment.

I put ~1 gallon of water into the sterilized carboy, and then siphoned the wert into it.  The siphon quickly jammed - the wert was thick and had lots of material floating in it.  Since I was using an auto siphon I was able to force the blockages out, but it wasn't pretty.  I had to hold the siphon significantly above the bottom of the pot and there were a few cups of wert slurry left when I was done.  I then added water to the carboy to bring it up to 5 gallons, added the yeast, put the overflow airlock in place:

Now to wait ~2 weeks and then transfer to a secondary fermenter.

Edit update:  It's bubbling nicely!

Edit update 2016-01-18:  We were away for ~11 days and the temperature in the house during that time was 40 F.  When we returned, there was much more liquid in the beer carboy - and much less in the bubbler pitcher.  I suspect that the cold temperature caused the pressure of the gas in the head of the carboy to drop, causing water to be pushed in.

I racked the beer into a secondary fermenter, making sure to aerate it and I gave it a good shake as well.  There was some limited bubbling immediately after I put a regular bubbler back on.  Next time we're away I'll keep the beer down by the boiler where it should be slightly warmer.


  1. Has the new stove recovered?

    1. Alex has to be the ultimate judge of that, but I think it's cleaner than it was before I started :)