Why Didn’t I Start Reusing Yeast a Long Time Ago?

Yeast From Primary FermenterOne thing that has constantly surprised me about homebrewing is that once you peel back the mystery on a particular method or aspect of brewing, pretty much everything turns out to be pretty easy. Which is part of the reason it’s such a rewarding hobby.

My latest discovery is reusing homebrew yeast. I’ve known since I started homebrewing that people would reuse and even “wash” yeast cake, but after reading about it and watching videos, it seemed like a process, which was difficult and was prone to introducing infection.

In addition, when you have racked your fermenter into a bottling bucket or keg, let’s face it, the stuff that’s left over is pretty nasty.

Well, a few weeks ago, I realized I had quite a few partial bags of hop pellets leftover from previous brews, so I decided to make a “kitchen-sink” beer to use up as much of those as I could. As chance would have it, the ideal day for brewing that was the day after I was going to be bottling a different batch of beer in which had used US-05 yeast. So, I decided that as long as I wasn’t going to spend money on hops and this was a largely experimental beer, I might as well try reusing the yeast from the primary fermenter.

I had read about an experiment where the brewer had used a pint or so of the yeast slurry at the bottom of a primary fermenter, along with new homebrew yeast which had been made into a starter. He brewed a batch, and split it into two fermenters, pitching the different yeasts. To make a long story short, there wasn’t much noticeable difference in the finished beers.

Well, that was enough for me, so in this latest batch, I just grabbed a little over a pint of the yeast cake from the primary fermenter. I put it in a mason jar in the fridge over night. The next day I took it out of the fridge in the morning, and when ready to pitch, I decanted off the liquid on top and pitched the sludge into my experimental beer.

Shop Liquid Beer YeastThe reused homebrew yeast took off pretty fast, and within four hours, it was bubbling away in the airlock. A little faster starting, but otherwise really nothing different than usual. I will say I noticed a larger krausen ring than I normally see. I cleared with gelatin, bottled, and waited.

I’ve been drinking this batch for about a week now. It’s not a heavy beer, but was meant to be a lighter beer. Not hoppy, but very well balanced. Very enjoyable, and in fact, as much as I hate to admit, it’s a little better than the previous batch which is a beer I’ve brewed quite a few times.

I am very happy with my decision to reuse the homebrew yeast cake from the primary fermenter, and I would encourage everyone to give it a try.

 

Do you ever reuse homebrew yeast? Why or why not?
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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch.

“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe

Hoppy Red Ale BeerThis beer started out as many good beers do: attempting to copy, or “clone”, someone else’s good beer. One of my favorite local nano-breweries produces a very hoppy red ale that I have fallen in love with. They list the grains and hops used on their menu, but neither the amounts nor the process.

It wasn’t very difficult to determine the grain bill amounts and the hops to use for the hoppy red ale beer recipe, but the hop schedule was pretty much a guess. I was able to match the IBUs they listed, but like I said, I wasn’t really sure of the hop schedule.

My clone beer tasted fairly similar, although not exactly the same; more copper than red, which is why I call it Copperhead. But it turns out that I started to like this beer better than the one I had been trying to copy. I assume that’s because there is a bit of pride in developing this beer, but also, it’s a fair bit lighter than the professional counterpart, and therefore I can drink more of it and not get as full.

This is the tweaked recipe from the third batch I brewed of this beer. This is absolutely the best beer I’ve ever brewed, and it’s a beer I love to drink. It can even be made into a session beer. This recipe makes a 5-gallon batch. Enjoy!

 

“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe
(5 Gallons, All-Grains)

Specs 
OG: 1.069
FG: 1.017
ABV: 6.8%
IBUs: 80+
SRM: 12

Ingredients

Grain Bill:
11 LB     Pale Two Row
14 OZ    Crystal 20L
8 OZ      Special B Shop Barley Crusher
4 OZ      CaraRed 

Hops:
.5 OZ     Warrior (60 minutes)
1 OZ      Simcoe (20 minutes)
1 OZ      Columbus (10 minutes)
1 OZ      Citra (Flame Out)
2 OZ      Citra (Dry hop – 7 days)

Yeast:
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (use two packs or make a starter)

Directions
The process is fairly straightforward. Mash all grains at 154°F for 60 minutes, using 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain. Sparge to about 5.5 gallons and then boil for 60 minutes using the hop schedule above, cool, and add to fermenter. Ferment at 68°F. After 4 to 7 days, when fermentation has slowed substantially, add the final Citra hops and let sit for a week. After two weeks total in the fermenter, I like to clear with gelatin, and then package and enjoy.

If your mash reaches a good efficiency, your starting gravity should be about 1.069. I generally come in a little less than that. If you have room in your fermenter, and want to make this a session beer, you can simply add enough water to bring the OG down to 1.050. This beer is flavorful enough that it can handle that much dilution. It does change the beer, but the result is still a VERY drinkable somewhat-red-to-copper hoppy ale.

Hope you enjoy this hoppy red ale beer recipe! Cheers!
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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch.

Why I Don’t Keg

Bottled Homebrew BeerI’ve been brewing for years, and I still break out the beer bottles when it’s time to package my beers. Oh, I’ve thought many times about investing in a kegging setup, but I still can’t justify it to myself, either in terms of price or function. Just like most things in life, there are pros and cons when it comes to bottling vs kegging homebrew. When I balance them out from my personal point of view, the scales tip towards bottling, and here’s why.

First and foremost is the cost. For the amount of beer I brew, I’d need three or four kegs at a minimum. The cheapest I’ve seen for a set of four used kegs (without the related hardware) is $130. Yes, I might find a good deal on craigslist, but I live in Boulder County, Colorado, a home-brewing hotbed, and finding good used brewing items is very difficult. Of course, beyond the kegs themselves, I’d need the CO2 tank, regulator, hoses, etc. In the end, it would be several hundred dollars to get started. If you have the funds for a draft system, by all means go for it, for those of us on a tighter budget, kegging will just have to come later.

The other reason I don’t keg is lack of space. I have a “beer fridge” in my basement, so I suppose at worst I can commandeer half of that for kegs, but we actually use the beer fridge for food too, so I can’t use the whole fridge. I could probably find another fridge on craigslist for free, but I don’t really think I want three refrigerators in my house!

The big benefit of kegging, many people say, is the ease by which “bottling day” is reduced to just filling a keg and slapping it on a CO2 thank and that’s that. And, I know that works for a great many people, but to be honest, bottling never really seemed like that much of a chore to me. I generally rinse my bottles well after use, so on bottling day, I throw them in the dishwasher on “hot wash” with no soap, take them out, give them a shot of sanitizer with a bottle rinser, fill and cap. Bottling at batch of beer really only takes me about 90 minutes, and I realize kegging is quicker, but in the grand scheme of things, 90 minutes isn’t a huge deal for me.

Shop Draft SystemAnother benefit of bottling – beer bottles are essentially free. I still buy beer, and when I do, I re-use the bottles whenever possible. Also, I just picked up over 100 bottles off of craigslist for free because I am brewing a batch for a wedding, and didn’t want to lose 50 or so of my own bottles. Though in a pinch, or if you want a special kind of bottle, most homebrew shops do carry beer bottles.

Lastly, I know this doesn’t fit into most brewer’s pros and cons list for bottling vs kegging, but I like beer bottles. I like that I can grab a six-pack and take it to a friend’s house; I like that I can have several varieties in my beer fridge and grab whatever I am in the mood for; and finally, there’s just something inherently nostalgic about a bottle of beer that you don’t get with a keg hidden off in a fridge somewhere.

If you’ve been considering getting a kegging setup, but you have reservations about doing so, just know that there’s nothing inherently wrong with bottling your beer, and you’re no less of a brewer because of it. There are pros and cons to everything, and it is no different when it comes to bottling vs. kegging your homebrew.

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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch. John also makes and sells brewing-related items, which are available at Fermentropy.com.

Starting a Homebrew Club

Homebrew ClubThe comedian George Carlin once jokingly told people rather than waiting for someone else to make a path, you should go out and make one of your own. I think the same concept applies to starting a homebrew club. If there isn’t one in your area, don’t wait for someone else to do it, get out there and start one!

I had been brewing for a couple of years before someone started a homebrew club in my town. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it. Nothing has advanced my brewing, and my love of brewing, more than our club’s monthly get-togethers. In our very first meeting, I asked about the off-flavors that I seemed to be encountering, convinced that it was from the local water. Based on my description, other members told me that it likely wasn’t the water, but temperature control was the culprit. Sure enough, when I got better control over my fermenting temperatures, with a temperature controller and a small fridge, my beer drastically improved.

As to what a homebrew club does, well that should be fairly obvious: we gather at a local micro- or nano-brewery and we drink and talk about making beer. People often bring one of their latest creations so we can all try it. Sometimes, people bring a beer they don’t like for us in order to see if we can agree on what went wrong.

In addition to the “mundane” things your club can do, our club has had a few special events, such as homebrew swaps, an experiment where we all brewed the same single-hop IPA each using a different hop (and then comparing), and a few tours of the local breweries.Shop Beer Growlers

The thing about starting a homebrew club is that it doesn’t take much effort at all. Surprisingly little, in fact. Our club was set up by someone simply creating a Facebook page, confirming with a local nano-brewery that we could meet there, checking with the brewery and the local police as to whether it was OK for us to bring our own beer (thankfully, it was OK in both cases), and then putting up a sign and sign-up form in the local homebrew shop.

We don’t charge any dues, although we do charge if there will be something that someone has bought. For instance, one of our members gave a presentation on lager styles and brought quite a few samples of the various lagers, and we each chipped in $5 to pay him back.

So, if you’re interested in meeting like-minded brewers, and having a blast while learning about all things related to brewing beer, starting a homebrew club will definitely be a rewarding endeavor.
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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch. John also makes and sells brewing-related items, which are available at Fermentropy.com.

I Am a Clarity Convert

Clear BeerWhen I first started home brewing several years ago, like most new brewers, I was only concerned with getting a beer that tasted good and that was something that I enjoyed drinking or sharing with friends and family. In reading various home brewing forums, I knew that there were a lot of people who went out of their way to get the clearest beer they could. It seemed to me that this quest for beer clarity verged on a waste of time.

However, as I grew in the hobby, I came to appreciate the desire for clarity. It started with just one off-hand comment from a relative…

Several years ago, I set out to copy one of my favorite beers from a local nano-brewery. They did not publish their beer recipe, but they did list the ingredients on their beer list. I tried my best to recreate the grain bill and hop schedule, but never quite could match the beer. But, to make a long story short, over time, this beer morphed into a substantially different brew, but one I liked a lot! During a family party, I offered this beer to some family and my brother-in-law, who is also a home brewer, mentioned almost out of earshot, “Look how clear it is!”

I hadn’t even been setting out to clear the beer to that degree, but I had been saving several bombers of this batch specifically for this party. Since they were in the fridge for about six weeks, they got pretty clear. I must admit, I enjoyed both the pride I felt in his comment, and I really did enjoy what the aesthetic of that clear beer added to my drinking experience.

A year later, my local homebrew shop was having a contest, and I decided to enter beer made with this beer recipe. Again, I left it in the fridge for six weeks, and the shop stored it in their fridge for about four more weeks before judging. The comments from the three judges all specifically remarked on how clear the beer looked, and it was one of the factors that led to this beer taking second place overall.

shop_beer_bottlesSo yes, now I am a clarity convert, and now I set out to clarify my beer. I started with Whirlfloc tablets. It works well, but I wanted more, so I turned to cold-crashing and fining with gelatin finings. The process of using gelatin to clarify your beer is fairly straightforward, but if you’ve never tried it, I’d place this technique high on your list of things to add to your brewing repertoire. It really doesn’t take a lot of work at all, and as far as bang-for-your-buck is concerned, I can’t think of anything that is so inexpensive, so relatively easy, which adds so much to enjoyment of beer.

How important is clarity to you? What techniques do you like to use to clarify your beer?
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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch. John also makes and sells brewing-related items, which are available at Fermentropy.com.