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How to Build a Kegerator

Among the most popular upgrades for home brewers of all abilities is to keg beer instead of bottling it. Using a keg has many advantages, but keeping the keg of beer properly cooled while also keeping it accessible can be difficult.

The kegerator is the solution to this problem. This small refrigerator with a built-in tap allows you to both control the temperature of your keg and fill up a pint of beer whenever you would like.

Many home brewers, prefer to build their own equipment. If you are among them, we highly recommend you check out the excellent infographic at PartSelect that walks you through building a kegerator, step by step.

How to Build a Kegerator Intro

 

Click Here to read more about How to Build a Kegerator.

Have you built your own kegerator? Share your stories and tips in the comments below!

Enhancing Yeast Starters

A great way to improve the overall quality of your beer and to ensure a great fermentation is to use a yeast starter.

This post builds on our previous posts, an introduction to Yeast Starters and 7 Questions and Answers About Yeast Starters.

If you would like to improve the process even further it is possible to enhance the yeast starter using one of a few different methods.

Swirling

As simple as it sounds, swirling a yeast starter every couple of hours will actually help you to grow more yeast. As the yeast starter sits still everything begins to settle to the bottom. When yeast piles up at the bottom of the flask it can not consume the sugars in the wort effectively, thus it can not multiply and strengthen. When you swirl the solution the yeast returns to suspension and can work more efficiently.

Constant Swirling

The only thing better than swirling your yeast starter regularly is swirling it constantly. This can be done with a stir plate. You can pick up a stir plate at just about any home brewing supply store. It is simply a platform that magnetically spins a little bar, which you place inside the flask with the yeast starter. As the bar spins it creates a vortex which constantly swirls the entire yeast starter. Stir plates can seem expensive for having a limited task, but the service they provide improves the output of your yeast greatly.

Aeration

A great way to help yeast proliferate is to add oxygen to the yeast starter. This can be done by shaking the flask fairly vigorously or even by setting up a diffusion stone to disperse oxygen into the beer. This setup can be tricky to pull off in a controlled yeast starter environment, and it brings other challenges. When oxygen is vigorously introduced into fermenting beer it produces diacetyl, which causes an off-flavor in the beer.

If you use this method of enhancing your yeast starter it will be necessary to refrigerate the starter for several hours to encourage the yeast to settle out. The liquid is then decanted off of the settled yeast, leaving only enough liquid to use in suspending the yeast so that it can be poured out. Since swirling the yeast starter using a stir plate introduces some oxygen to the wort anyway, you might find it easier to just use that method instead.

Temperature

This one is simple: no matter what type of yeast you are using, let the yeast starter incubate at temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees F to encourage yeast growth. Yes, this temperature works even if you are using a lager yeast that is generally kept at lower temperatures.

Yeast Nutrients

These days there is some debate about whether it is necessary to add yeast nutrients to a starter. Since liquid yeasts are produced to be quite robust and are packaged with nutrients already, it is possible that adding extra nutrients will not in fact be used by the already-satisfied yeast, but will instead be used by other organisms which will then grow and possibly cause off-flavors in the beer. Even so, many brewers still encourage the use of just a pinch of yeast nutrient for yeast starters. Often, the recommended quantity is just 1/8 of a teaspoon per pint of yeast starter. This enhances the viability of the yeast and speeds up fermentation.

Great Yeast Starter Information

An excellent video about yeast starters by Northern Brewer:

Have you tried any other methods of enhancing your yeast starters? What has worked well for you?

7 Questions and Answers About Yeast Starters

Taking your home brew to the next level requires some upgrades in your brewing process, and one of the most essential upgrades needs to be your yeast.

If you are brewing a strong beer, or would simply like to ensure that there is enough yeast to ferment your brew, the cheapest and most effective way to do so is with a yeast starter.

1. What is a Yeast Starter?

A yeast starter is a mini-batch of wort that is prepared to help yeast activate and multiply before being added to an actual batch of wort. A small batch of light dry malt extract is boiled and cooled, then a packet of yeast is added and allowed to grow for a day or so.

You can read an Introduction to Yeast Starters Here.

2. What Are the Benefits of a Yeast Starter?

There are at least five huge benefits to using a yeast starter:

1. A yeast starter will help yeast multiply so that there is a sufficient number of yeast cells to perform the fermentation, especially when brewing a stronger beer or a higher-volume batch.

2. Have you ever checked the manufacture date of your yeast? The older it is, the less viable the yeast cells are. If yeast is getting old and is less healthy (less viable) than usual, a yeast starter will bring it back up to strength.

3. Yeast will take action faster when added to the wort, limiting the chances for other microbes to take over and infect the beer.

4. While the same effect of raising yeast cell count can be achieved by buying two packages of yeast, the yeast starter will give the yeast a little bit of a kick-start and reduce the “shock” of being pitched into the environment of a strong batch of wort.

5. The boosted yeast cell count and the kick-started yeast will accelerate the fermentation process.

3.  When Should I Use a Yeast Starter?

There is rarely a time a yeast starter will not serve a brew well. A yeast starter is not always necessary when brewing lower-gravity (less alcoholic) beers, but it still brings benefits that will improve the beer.

In many cases a yeast starter is crucial. Brews with an expected original specific gravity of 1.060 or higher require a yeast starter to provide sufficient yeast for fermentation of such a strong brew.

Many brewers actually swear by yeast starters on any beer with a starting gravity as low as 1.040. Some home brewing stores say that all of their employees use a yeast starter for every single batch that they brew.

4. When Should I Not Use a Yeast Starter?

It is safe to pass on a yeast starter for an especially small batch of beer or one that has a low starting gravity. In these cases, adding too much yeast might cause the formation of some off-flavors.

When dry yeast is used for fermentation (as opposed to packets or vials of yeast in a solution) it is actually cheaper to just buy more packets of dry yeast than to buy the necessary ingredients for a yeast starter. Dry yeast does need to be activated in water before pitching it into the wort, but this is different than making a yeast starter for it.

5. What Volume Should My Yeast Starter Be?

The volume necessary for your yeast starter depends on multiple factors including the batch size and starting gravity of your beer and the age of the yeast you are using. In general the liquid yeast that you buy from the local home brewing supply store can be sufficient for a five gallon batch up to a starting gravity of 1.060 if the yeast is relatively young.

It is important to remember that the viability of the yeast (essentially, its health) decreases rapidly. If your yeast package was produced a month ago it is only 75-80% viable, meaning it has lost 20-25% of that original fermentation power.

There are formulas that will help determine the proper starter size after taking these factors into consideration, but we recommend using the handy MrMalty.com Calculator to make this process a lot easier.

Most home brewing supply stores sell yeast starter kits in both a One Liter size and a Two Liter size. Some supply shops even sell yeast starter kits in a Five Liter size. We have found a two liter yeast starter kit to work well for most everything that we brew.

6. What Specific Gravity is Ideal for a Yeast Starter?

Even if brewing a beer with a very high starting gravity a strong starter wort is not ideal. Create a starter wort with a gravity of between 1.030 and 1.040. Wyeast Labs, one of the two big producers of brewers yeast, recommends a gravity of 1.040 for yeast starters.

The idea is to create a starter that makes it easy for the yeast to activate and start multiplying. Creating a starter that is too strong might actually overwhelm the yeast and prevent it from becoming stronger.

7. How Do I Make a Yeast Starter?

If you are unsure about the details of making a yeast starter check out our post about that (with video) Here.

Want to learn how to enhance your yeast starter? Read more Here.

Want to learn more about yeast in general? Check out this book.

What is Fermcap-S and How Does it Help Home Brewers?

On one of my trips to the local home brewing supply store an employee of the shop suggested I try something called “Fermcap-S.” It was a little brown vial of liquid, and he told me that it would solve any problems that I was having with boil-overs while brewing. I bought a vial and tried it out with great success, so I looked in to how else it could be used.

 

What is Fermcap Used For?

Fermcap breaks surface tension, preventing excessive foaming. If you add it to the boil while you are brewing beer it will prevent a boil-over. I have read several stories of brewers boiling seven gallons of wort in a 7.5 gallon kettle successfully with use of Fermcap.

If you add Fermcap to the fermentor after the brew it will prevent excessive blow-off. It is often recommended if you are using a carboy for a fermentor because it prevents the krausen (foam created during fermentation) from filling up the neck of the carboy. I recently fermented a strong porter in an Ale Pail and I still had problems with the krausen exploding through the airlock and causing a mess. I did not use Fermcap on that batch of beer because I ran out of it, but now I wish that I had run down to the home brewing store to pick up another vial.

Another use for Fermcap that did not occur to me, though it may be the most useful application, is for yeast starters. Yeast starter kits come with a pyrex Erlenmeyer flask for boiling/cooling small volumes of wort to use for growing yeast. The problem is that there is a very high risk for boil-overs when using a flask due to the shape and volume of the container. When I create a yeast starter I actually boil wort in a pot and then carefully pour the liquid into the flask after it has been cooled. This is a difficult and annoying extra step. Now I realize that adding a single drop of Fermcap to the flask will prevent a boil-over and make the whole process a LOT easier.

How to Use Fermcap for Brewing

Fermcap comes in a little vial with a dropper attached to the cap. If you are adding Fermcap to the boil kettle you add one to two drops per gallon of liquid being boiled. If you add it to the boil you do not need to add it to the fermentor separately.

If you are only adding Fermcap to the fermentor use two drops per gallon.

If you are using Fermcap in a yeast starter you just need to add one drop, since there is just a small volume of liquid in the flask.

Be careful not to add more than the recommended doses, as this will elevate the levels of silicone in your beer higher than FDA recommendations.

How Does Fermcap Affect the Beer?

If you add the Fermcap during the boil it will not affect your beer at all. It will settle out during the fermentation and it will be left behind when you transfer the beer out of the fermentor. If you add the Fermcap just for the fermentation it will increase the retained bitterness of the beer by about ten percent.

 

8 Things You Should Know About “Cold Crashing” Beer



Beer clarity is essential for many beer styles, and can make or break a beer in a competition. There are many ways to help clarify your beer, and some are easier than others.

A semi-advanced home brewing technique used to improve clarity is a process called “cold crashing.” Just hearing the term may bring to your imagination a much different process than what is actually involved in cold crashing.

If done correctly, cold crashing will give your beer a clean, crisp appearance.

1. What is Cold Crashing?

Cold crashing is a process used to clarify home brewed beer by cooling it to near-freezing temperatures before bottling. Cooling the beer actually encourages yeast and other sediment suspended in the beer to flocculate (group together) and sink to the bottom.

This allows you to transfer the beer out of the fermentor for bottling while leaving behind much of the sediment that would cause a haze in the finished beer.

2. How is Cold Crashing Done?

To cold crash a beer you simply need to place it in a temperature-controlled environment. A lagering fridge that is outfitted with a temperature controller (this controller is most often recommended) is ideal. Regular refrigerators actually fluctuate in temperature which causes problems with the beer, while a fridge with a controller is held at a constant temperature.

The cold crashing temperature that is recommended varies from 33 degrees F to 40 degrees F, with 38 degrees F being the most common.

The recommended duration of cold crashing also varies. Some brewers say that only a day or two is needed, but it is most common to cold crash for one week.

3. Can Both Lagers and Ales Be Cold Crashed?

Although cold fermentation is only done for lagers, cold crashing can be done on both ales and lagers.

4. When Should I Cold Crash?

Cold crashing should not be done until fermentation has finished. This is usually determined by using a well-sanitized hydrometer or a refractometer to measure the specific gravity of the beer. When the specific gravity is steady for three days in a row fermentation can be considered complete (if gravity is decreasing from one day to the next, fermentation is still taking place).

Cold crashing can be done in either the primary fermentor or the secondary fermentor, although it is probably most common to see it done after secondary fermentation to encourage an even clearer beer.

5. When Should I Dry Hop if I Plan to Cold Crash?

This is a common question that comes up with cold crashing: should the dry hopping process should be done differently.

“Dry hopping” is the practice of adding hops directly to the fermentor for the last few days of fermentation to impart some hoppy aroma to the beer. The question is whether the dry hopping should be done during the last few days of the cold crashing process rather than the last few days of the fermentation, before cold crashing.

There is concern that the hop acids which give the beer its hoppy aroma will dissipate over time, and adding them before the additional cold crashing time will reduce the overall hop aroma of the beer. While this might happen to a limited extent, it is generally advised that the dry hops be added at the regular point at the end fermentation. The cold temperatures of the crashing should prevent much of the aroma being lost.

6. Will Bottle Carbonation Take Longer if I Cold Crash My Beer?

Yes. Since cold crashing will remove some (but not all) of the yeast from the beer it will take longer to carbonate the beer in the bottle.

Bottle carbonation is done by yeast consuming the priming sugar that is added to the beer while bottling. The yeast gives off alcohol and carbon dioxide as a result, carbonating the beer. With fewer yeast cells it will take longer for this process to occur. Instead of setting aside the regular two weeks for carbonation you might be waiting three or four weeks, or sometimes even six weeks depending on the beer style.

7. Are There Other Methods of Clarifying Beer After Fermentation?

There are several different clarifying agents (or “fining agents”) that can be added to the beer after fermentation to promote clarity. Some examples are gelatin, Isinglass, Super Kleer KC, and Biofine Clear. A good example of how fining agents are used to clarify beer is shown in this video by Don Osborn:

8. Are There Methods of Clarifying Beer During The Brewing Process?

Yes, many of the proteins that cause hazing in beer can be precipitated out by cooling the wort rapidly after boiling using a wort chiller like this one:

Other additives can be used during the boil to help clarify beer as well. These include Irish Moss and Whirlfloc Tablets.

What methods have you found effective in clarifying your home brewed beer?


Batch Sparging, Fly Sparging, and Continuous Sparging

We recently talked about the processes of mashing and sparging while home brewing beer and what they involved. We only lightly touched on the process of sparging, which is also called “lautering.” There are actually a couple different types of sparging.

Batch Sparging

Batch sparging is the most simple form of sparging. After mashing you completely drain the liquid from the mash tun. More water is added to the mash tun, stirred, and then left to sit for at least half an hour before it too is drained. The two drained batches are typically combined to create the wort.

 

While batch sparging has historically been seen as less efficient than other methods, modern grains prepared specifically for brewing beer have allowed the efficiency of this process to become equal to other sparging methods. Batch sparging is desirable because it is a much faster process than other sparging methods.

Batch Sparging: Parti-Gyle Brewing

It is possible to create multiple different beers with the batches emptied from the batch sparging process because each successive batch will have a lower specific gravity than the previous and will create a lower-alcohol beer. Brewing in this fashion is called “Parti-Gyle Brewing.”

Usually in Parti-Gyle brewing the first batch that is sparged, called the “first runnings,” is used to create a strong beer, maybe a stout or IPA or a strong Scottish ale. The second runnings are used to create a middle-of-the-road beer,  such as a lower-strength Scottish ale. Any further runnings would be used to create a very light, low-alcohol “session” beer.

Fly Sparging

Fly sparging, also called “continuous sparging,” is a process that was created to maximize the efficiency of the brewing process by getting as much of the sugar out of the mash as possible. A “sparging arm” is used to slowly sprinkle water into the mash tun and the liquid in the mash tun is allowed to drain out at the same flow rate as the liquid is entering the container.

Equalizing the input and output flow rates allows the liquid containing the sugars from the mash to be drained from the mash tun equally, rather than allowing a “channel” to develop which allows water to flow out of the container while bypassing most of the grains and sugars. Channeling reduces the efficiency of the process.

Fly sparging is much more hands-on than batch sparging because it requires the brewer to monitor the input and output flow rates to keep them balanced, as well as monitoring the specific gravity of the water mixture in the mash tun. Usually when the specific gravity has dropped between 1.008 and 1.010 the sparging is stopped to prevent tannins and other undesirable material from entering the wort.

Have you tried either type of sparging? Which do you prefer and why?

What Is “Partial Mash” Home Brewing?

There are a few different methods to home brewing beer.

The simplest is called “extract brewing,” which means that you add extract from malted barley in a liquid or powder form to water to create wort. The sugars from the malted barley are extracted ahead of time and sold to you in a condensed form.

All the equipment you need to create this beer is a large kettle for boiling the water and the malt extract together.

Most home brewers start out with extract brewing.

The most complicated method of brewing beer is called “all-grain” brewing, which gives you more control over the flavor of the beer by allowing you to control the sugars that are extracted from the malt.

Extra equipment is needed for this style of brewing, requiring you to at least buy a couple of insulated coolers to perform the “mashing” and “sparging” processes. A quick primer on what “mashing” and “Sparging” are can be found here.

There is a lesser-known home brewing method that lies somewhere in the middle called “partial mash” brewing. This is not as complicated and does not require as much equipment as all-grain brewing, but it gives you more control over the beer than extract brewing.

How to Brew Partial Mash

Partial Mash Brewing Equipment

Partial mash brewing barely requires more equipment than extract brewing.

Alarge kettle, one that can hold at least four gallons, to serve as your mash tun and boil kettle, is needed.

In addition a second pot that can hold at least two gallons of water, a thermometer, and either a larger strainer or a nylon mesh bag for straining the grain during the sparging process are all required.

How Partial Mash Works

In partial mash brewing a mashing process is essentially performed in the brew kettle, not in an insulated mash tun. The process works like this:

  • Measure out a quart of water for every pound of grain that you will be using.
  • Heat the water to ten degrees F higher than the first specified mashing temperature in the recipe.
  • Add the grains to the water and make sure that the mixture stabilizes at the desired temperature. The grains should be crushed, meaning they are cracked open but not ground into powder.
  • Maintain the desired temperature for the specified time.
  • Use low heat to raise the mash to the second designated mash temperature in the recipe and then hold this temperature for the specified time.
  • In the second (smaller) kettle heat up an equal amount of water to what you started the mash with (a quart per pound of grain) to 170 degrees F. This will be your sparging water.
  • Raise the temperature of the mash to 168 degrees F (referred to as “mash-out”).
  • Use the strainer or mesh bag to separate the grain from the water (saving the water, which has now become your wort).
  • “Sparge” by slowly pouring the sparging water through the grain to rinse out the sugars. Add this water to the wort.
  • Add water if necessary to reach your normal boil volume.
  • Proceed as usual with the boil, adding malt extracts at this point.

You might be surprised at how simple this process is. Instead of solely pouring in malt extract, just heat water and grains to specific temperatures for a specific amount of time to alter the overall flavor of the beer and then add the extracts afterward.

This really lets you control the specifics of the beer’s flavor without the extra  expenditures of all-grain brewing.

Have you tried partial mash brewing? How has it worked for you?

Home Brewing: What are “Mashing,” “Sparging,” & “Lautering?”

Most home brewers start out with basic extract brewing equipment and then over time, if desired, improve their gear and move into all-grain home brewing.

All grain brewing gives the brewer more control over their beer, but it is more complicated and requires extra equipment.

Extract brewing means creating the beer with malt extract, a liquid or powder that contains the sugars from malted barley in a condensed form.

In all-grain brewing you create these sugars yourself through a process called “mashing.”

What is Mashing?

In the mashing process malted barley is heated in water to a certain temperature and kept it at a certain pH level to convert complex starches in the barley into simple sugars that can be used by yeast to create beer.

When barley is malted (before you buy it) the enzymes are created that are needed to break down the starches that are already present in the barley. Those enzymes are utilized in mashing to get the sugars that are needed to ferment beer.

The enzymes are active at certain temperatures and pH levels, so great care must be taken to control these variables during the mashing process.

A table explaining the temperature and pH levels needed to activate certain enzymes is provided in the classic home brewing book How to Brew by John Palmer.

 

“How to Brew” is a great resource for every brewer to have at the ready when they brew, but you can also find it online at www.HowToBrew.com and the table referenced above can be found Here.

What Brewing Equipment is Needed for Mashing?

Mashing, at least for home brewers in the early stages of their brewing, usually requires the use of insulated coolers with a false bottom and a ball valve.

The vessel in which the mashing takes place is called the “mash tun.” Such setups are sold at any home brewing store and look like this:

These coolers come in different sizes, typically varying from five to ten gallons. The size needed depends upon the batch size and type of beer being brewed.

Stop in to your local home brewing store and talk to one of their experts to determine the exact setup that will meet your desired standards.

You may also need to add an instrumentation for monitoring temperature and pH to your home brewing arsenal to ensure a high-quality mash.

What is Sparging or Lautering?

Sparging and lautering are two words that refer to the same thing.

After the mashing process the sugars that were converted from the barley are in suspension in the water in the container. Hot water (usually at a specific temperature) is added to the mash tun to run through the grain and pull all of the sugars along with it as it runs through the false bottom (which allows the water out while holding the grain back) and out through the valve in the container.

This creates the wort that is then boiled and hopped to make the beer.

Are you planning on making the jump to all-grain brewing soon?

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Extract Recipe

Without a doubt my favorite beer of all time is Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. 9% abv and 90 IBUs. Perfection.

To find a bottle of this beer I currently have to drive at least six hours to get to a state where it is distributed, so I decided to try brewing an extract version of this beer last weekend to see if I could make some for myself. There are a couple of recipes for this beer out there online, but they are mostly partial-mash and all-grain recipes. I was able to find one beer recipe that converted the partial mash into an extract recipe, so I went with their recommendations.

Finding an Extract Recipe
The ingredients called for in the extract procedure that I found required all dry malt extract (DME) for the boil, with a few pounds of crushed grain being steeped at the start. There was some controversy online about what type of malt to use – pilsener? Light? When I went down to the local home brewing store that was solved for me – they were wiped out of DME. Not ideal. I could have driven across town to a different brew store, or I could have ordered some online, but with a baby due any day now I wanted to get the brew done. The original recipe called for 8 pounds of DME, but I ended up with 9.15 pounds of liquid malt extract (LME), which is less efficient than its dry counterpart, and a pound of DME. The liquid extract does not produce as much fermentable sugar as the dry, but I was not sure what the exact conversion was at the time. The amount of specialty grains being steeped is pretty huge compared to what I usually use, so I was hoping that would also compensate some.

This is what I ended up brewing with. The expected original gravity of the beer was said to be between 1.080 and 1.088. The batch I made came out at 1.072. Oops. I am guessing that this would have come out closer to the expected gravity if I had used all DME instead of LME. The beer will be less alcoholic than it is supposed to be, but we will see how the flavor compares.

Here is the procedure I ended up using to brew the extract clone of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA:

Ingredients (5 gallon batch):
Grains
1.5 pounds of crushed 2-Row Malt (steeped)
1.7 pounds of crushed Amber Malt (steeped)
9.15 pounds of Gold LME
1.0 pound of Golden Light DME

Hops
2 oz Amarillo
1 oz Simcoe
1/2 oz Warrior

Dry Hops
1 oz Amarillo
1/2 oz Simcoe
1/2 oz Warrior

Yeast
Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread Ale)

Other
1 tsp Irish Moss

Procedure

-A day ahead of time begin a yeast starter. Usually it is recommended that you create a 2 Liter yeast starter for expected original gravity of 1.080 or higher, which I did. This used 1 cup of golden light DME and 4 cups of water to create some “wort” for the yeast to begin working on so that it could multiply and be ready for the heavy-duty wort it would have to ferment after the brew. I also used a stir plate for the first time to encourage even more growth of the yeast, and I loved it!

-Steep 1.5 pounds of 2-Row grain and 1.7 pounds of Amber grain (27°L) at 150°F for 20 minutes.

-Bring to boil and add 9.15 pounds of Gold LME and 1.o pound of Golden Light DME.

-Boil for 20 minutes before adding hops. This helps to rid the wort of extra proteins that hinder hop utilization, so hops will be used more efficiently when they are added.

-Mix all of the boiling hops together. Start the 90 minute boil, and add the mixed hops evenly throughout the boil. Dogfish Head has a shaker set up to continuously add hops throughout the 90 minutes. What I found recommended, and what I did, is to add 1/4 oz of hops every 8 minutes throughout the 90 minute boil. This works well.

-Add 1 tsp of Irish Moss with 15 minutes remaining in the boil.

-Cool the wort as rapidly as possible. For a five gallon batch it is easiest to do this with an immersion wort chiller. An ice bath can work but is not recommended because it is inefficient and can cause side effects such as off-flavors in the beer because of this.

-Place in primary fermentor 1-2 weeks, until fermentation stops. (It has been bubbling like crazy for three days as I write this).

-Transfer to secondary fermentor and add dry hops for 5-7 days.

Thoughts After Brewing
It is obvious that there are improvements that can be made to this recipe. I was short on time and wanted to give it a shot, so we’ll see how the above procedure comes through. Once I try the beer I will come back and update this post.

Update: Thoughts on the Finished Product
We left this beer in the primary fermentor for two weeks and then racked it to a secondary fermentor for what ended up being three weeks. The dry hops were in the secondary for about five days, I think (it’s all a little fuzzy because we had a couple-day-old newborn in the house by then).

For the first few weeks after bottling I was worried. After two weeks of bottle conditioning I tried one, knowing that it would probably still be a little green, but the aroma of the beer was awful. I was very worried that there was some type of infection in the beer. If you have tried the real 90 Minute IPA you know that it has an almost sweet aroma. The way most avid beer drinkers describe it, and I apologize if you have not heard this before since you will think of it every time you drink the beer, is the aroma of cat urine. That is the smell that the hop style is supposed to give the beer though, so that is a good thing. This beer did not smell like that. It smelled like garbage. I gave it a try anyway and the taste was actually pretty decent.

I had a friend try a different bottle of it on the same day and he had the same results. I saw some potential in it and I didn’t taste any off-flavors so I decided to wait a little longer to see what would happen.

Now, a month on, the beer is fantastic. It does not quite have the same potency of the real thing, which is expected since I did not convert the measurements for the malt extract precisely. It also lacks a little bit of the aroma out of the glass. I think this might have something to do with the duration of the dry hopping. I have read all kinds of ideas about how long to dry hop: one day, three days, five days, seven days….I will just have to try some different durations in the future.

The taste of this clone is awesome. You can tell that it is not the real thing but you can also tell that it is close. I will try a few tweaks on the ingredients in the future and probably get it closer. It would probably be easier to achieve the exact flavor by brewing it all-grain or partial-mash, but I have some satisfaction from making a pretty good clone using extract brewing methods 🙂

Do you have any recommendations for improving this extract clone of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA?

Why the Blichmann BoilerMaker is Amazing

It is amazing what can be achieved with a little home brewing ingenuity. When I brew beer I have several separate pieces of equipment that I use: a brew kettle, a thermometer, a racking cane, and a mesh strainer. What stands out about these pieces of equipment is that you can buy a brew kettle that has all of these home brewing tools built right in.
Blichmann Boilermaker
The Blichmann BoilerMaker series is a set of brewing kettles that come standard with a thermometer, a ball valve and draw tube, and a sight glass, and you can easily attach the Blichmann HopBlocker to get rid of most hop residue without a mesh strainer. This is amazing! So many fewer instruments to clean and store separately!

Blichmann HopBlocker

The BoilerMaker series comes in sizes ranging from 10 gallons to 55 gallons, so if you are thinking about taking your beer brewing a little more seriously I would recommend considering a BoilerMaker. Blichmann is already the ubiquitous name in home brewing equipment anyway, so you know you are getting good quality.
What do you use for a brew kettle? Are you thinking about upgrading soon?