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.

2 comments:

  1. Has the new stove recovered?

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

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