Brew # 13 - Australian Sparkling Ale

My first attempt at grain mashing, plus using liquid yeast for the first time. Let's hope this Australian Sparkling Ale is worth the effort.

Brew # 13 - Australian Sparkling Ale

Following a successful extract/steep brew I'm trying a new recipe that is based on John Palmer's Australian Sparkling Ale. However, I ordered the wrong malt, so, instead of steeping, I'm going to need to mash the grains, which is a first for me. This is also the first time I'll use liquid yeast.

Start date: 23 Jan 2021

Equipment

  1. 19 litre ("large") stainless steel stockpot w/ lid
  2. 15 litre ("medium") stainless steel stockpot
  3. 7 litre ("small") stainless steel stockpot w/ lid and straining basket
  4. Induction cooktop
  5. Snub-nose Fermentasaurus w/ pressure kit
  6. Digital thermometer
  7. Sanitiser in spray bottle
  8. Long handle spoon
  9. Funnel w/ strainer attached
  10. 2 x 5kg Ice

Ingredients

  • 2kg light dry malt extract
  • 1kg Joe White Vienna malt
  • 25g Pride of Ringwood (9% AA) hop pellets
  • 20g New Zealand Wakatu (6.5%) hop pellets
  • 100g dextrose powder
  • White Labs English Ale Yeast (liquid)

Cleaning/Sanitising

The Fermus had been soaking in Sodium Percarbonate for a few days, so I started by emptying and rinsing this wish tap water, then I stood this out in the sunshine to dry.

I sanitised everything that would come into contact with the wort whilst the wort was chilling. I sprayed the inside of the Fermus, the pressure lid, the outside of the thermo-well, the funnel and the funnel strainer with Iodophor. Then waited ~5 minutes and rinsed with pre-boiled, cool water.

Anything that was used pre-boil, or during the boil, was well cleaned, but not fully sanitised.

Brew Day

Mashing

  • Started at 11:25
  • Brought 5L of water to 60C in the small stock pot with pasta strainer/basket
  • This was supposed to be 4L, but there was too much gap between the basket bottom and the bottom of the pot, so I added water to ensure the water fully covered the grain
  • Added the grain to the water, which reduced the temperature by a few degrees (11:40)
  • Aimed to maintain temp at 56C for 30 mins (protein rest)
  • Varied between ~54 and ~59
  • I needed to add boiling water, but I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough room, so I removed the pasta strainer
  • There was still not enough room so I transferred the whole lot to the large stock pot - this meant a bit of rethinking
  • So, after a bit more than 30 mins, I added the 1.5L of boiling water (12:15) - this brought the temp up to 66C, which was perfect
  • Attempted to hold the temperature at between 65C and 68C for 30 mins
  • During this time, I started to add boiling water to the small stockpot - the goal here was to have 6.5L of water around 76C for sparging in 40-50mins
  • Stirred the wort occasionally
  • Continued to add boiling water to small stock pot (3 x 1.5L added in total)
  • After 30 mins raised the temp of wort to 70C for 10-20 mins (12:45)
  • Finally, I gave the wort one last blast to raise the temp. This was supposed to be to 75C, but I'd kind of given up trying to be this accurate. I think the wort got to ~73C. (13:05)
  • Removed the wort from the heat

Sparging

  • Added second strainer on top of pasta basket and poured the wort through both strainers, plus the funnel and strainer, into medium stock pot
  • The fine strainer in funnel was probably too fine for this job and it took a long time to get everything to drain through. I ended up having to stir and 'swish' the wort to remove the solids from the strainer. This might be why I ended up with so much solids in the final wort. This part of the process definitely needs improvement!
  • Once finished draining, I poured the wort from the medium to large stock pot then sparged the grains into the medium stock pot again using the "first runnings" wort
  • Transfered the wort back to the large stock pot
  • Sparge the grains again with the hot water from the small stock pot - this should have been around 76C, but I think mine had lost a bit of heat due to the time it took getting the other bits going
  • Pour "second runnings" into large stock pot - aimed for ~11.4L total, but I think I ended up closer to 13 or 14 litres

Boil

  • I added 1.5kg of DME and ended with an OG of 1.048 @67C. This is equivalent to 1.068 at 20C (using this calculator), which is a bit high, so I reduced the planned DME in the second add from 1.5kg to 0.5kg.
  • Placed the large stock pot with wort back on induction cooktop and start to heat to boiling (NO BOIL OVERS!)
  • I removed the liquid yeast from the fridge to raise temp to 21C - this was placed in brew fridge set to 21C
  • Once boiling, I added the 25g Pride of Ringwood hop pellets (14:10)
  • After 45 mins, I added the 20g New Zealand Wakatu hop pellets (14:55)
  • After further 15 mins, I turned off the cooktop (15:10)
  • Added 0.5kg DME + 100g dextrose powder + 5g Irish moss, stirring continuously (DME should have been more like 0.7 - 0.8kg to hit target OG)
  • I covered the stock pot with the lid and allowed to stand for 15 minutes
  • In the meantime, I did a mad dash to the servo to get two bags of ice

Cool

  • I added the two bags of ice to a laundry sink (deep) and filled to half way with cold water
  • I placed the stock pot in the ice bath to cool
  • I stirred the wort to reduce the temp more quickly, taking care not to contaminate the wort with the ice water and to not splash the wort whilst hot
  • I moved the ice water around the pot in the opposite direction to the way I was stirring - I'm not sure how effective this was, but it seemed to help

Aeration

  • The wort dropped to ~35C in about 10 minutes
  • I poured into the Fermus through the funnel and strainer taking care to ensure the strainer is locked in place beforehand (although it still dislodged)
  • Final wort volume was 10.5 litres
  • I shook the wort in the Fermus to aerate
  • Added cold filtered (not boiled) water to just over the 24 litre mark, aiming for a final temp of around ~23C and not less than 22C
  • I went for 24 litres because of the amount of solids I could see collecting in the bottom of the Fermus. This was around 1.5 - 2 L and I want to be sure I get my 19L at the end!
  • Whole wort was aerated again before being placed in the brew fridge set to 21C
  • I used a thermometer in the thermowell to check the 'true' wort temp and this stayed high (>24C) until I went to bed. I left overnight for the temp to stabilise and before I attempted to measure original gravity.
Aerated wort with a foamy head

Measuring Original Gravity (OG)

In previous brews I've not measured OG, either because I've forgotten or not bothered. And because this is one thing that the Fermus really doesn't make it easy to do with a hydrometer.

I tend to be left with a heap of solids in the wort - hop pellets or protein. So using the butterfly valve on my first Fermus meant that I pulled whatever was at the bottom of the wort out to measure. The only time I tried the OG came in at 1.070, which I know was wrong, but the hydrometer was practically sitting on the solids in the bottom of the measuring tube I used.

This brew, I'm using the snub-nose, so I don't even have the butterfly valve as an option. I thought about maybe lowering the tube into the wort from the top opening, then measuring with a hydrometer, but the more I thought about this, the more I figured it would be just as easy, and probably more sanitary, to drop a properly sanitised glass hydrometer into the wort and measure from that. The challenge then became how to remove the hydrometer.

Then I remembered the weird claws that I've seen people use to remove pickles from jars. And so I bought this Super Extension Claw from Jaycar for $9.95. They had another model, this Magnetic Pickup Tool with Claw and LED ($14.95), but I was worried that it's grip strength would be too strong for glas hydrometer and maybe crack it - don't want glass chards in my wort, thank you.

Anyway...it worked. OG came in at 1.042, slightly down on target (1.045), but I'm happy I got that close given that most of the sugars came from the dry malt extract and I was guessing when I added the 0.5kg at the end of the boil. Next time I'll add a bit more (need to work out how much).

With my OG reading done I had to chase the hydrometer around the wort for a minute to get it back, but I managed to snag it with the tool and extract far enough to grab it with my fingers. Nothing but the sanitised hydrometer hit the wort, so I was happy enough. I will do this again.

Yeast Pitching

I'm using a single White Labs English Ale Yeast (liquid) this team, which means no starter required for this volume and OG. Just open the pack with sanitised scissors, of course, and squeeze the yeast in.

Pitching the liquid yeast

Primary Fermentation

  • I placed the Inkbird digital thermometer external probe into the thermowell (one improvement of this Fermus over the previous one)
  • Attached the PRV/spunding valve to ensure the Fermus doesn't explode

It took a couple of days for things to start happening. The yeast appeared to floculate on the surface after 24 hours, but I could see from the PRV that little to no CO2 was being produced. It wasn't until +3 days that a Krausen appeared and I could see that the PRV gauge had wrapped itself. Adjusted the PRV to release some pressure.

  • I checked the pressure regularly and adjusted the PRV to ~30PSI
  • I was planning on letting this sit for about 10 days, but I put another brew on and so this ended up being in the fermenter for about 2 weeks before I cranked the temp up to 25C as a diacetyl rest - not sure it's going to help
  • Left for 4 more days before starting to crash cool - stepping down temp in 0.3C intervals ever 2 hours over a couple of says
  • It then sat for another 3-4 days at 3C before I measured the gravity and transfered to a keg - in the Fermus for a total of 4 weeks

Kegging

  • Placed a cleaned and sanitised keg into the keezer for 24 hours to chill to ~4C
  • Pressurised to 8PSI
  • Perform closed transfer of beer from Fermus to keg
  • I should have attached the CO2 to keg at 49PSI for 36 hours to carbonate, but I ended up leaving it there for nearly 60 hours

Drinking

Sadly, this experiment went very, very wrong. The beer tasted like fruity dishwater. The over-carbonation looked like it might help make the beer more drinkable, but, after much deliberation, this became the first keg to be poured down the drain.

Improvements for next time

  • Use more dry malt extract (or do a better job of mashing)
  • Try a different mash technique - this was very complex and very difficult to achieve using the induction cooktop. Maybe gas would be better, but I think use the Esky jug and a simplified, one-step mash process. This should be okay for Vienna malt, which contains some enzymes already.
  • First filter should be coarser, but need a way to remove the solids from the wort - final wort had 1.5-2L of solids in the bottom of the Fermus - I compensated by adding water to the 24L mark
  • Avoid doing this ever again!!!