Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Begining: Adventures in Homebrewing Part I

I have had the itch to brew my own beer for quite a while now and thanks to a kick in the pants from my lovely wife (gift certificate and a book) my new addiction hobby has officially begun.

The first step was to study the craft, I've never been one to rush into things without preparing first. I found two books to be especially helpful, How to Brew by John J. Palmer and Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. How to Brew has a lot of info in it and can get pretty technical. If you want a book that's not as in-depth, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian is the book for you. I have also found reading the homebrewing forum over at to be very helpful. Now, on to the brewing...

The recipe was supposed to be Jamil's Chocolate Hazelnut Porter, only I was going to omit the hazelnut. Of course since this is my first time, I encountered a few problems and committed a few errors along the way.

First, the local - and by local I mean 35 miles away in Shawnee - home brew store, Bacchus & Barleycorn, didn't have any Munich malt extract so I went with more pale extract at the suggestion of the clerk. Second, I ended up pouring in a little extra extract than the original recipe called for so I ended up with about 9.1 pounds of extract instead of 8.8 lbs. Third, instead of leaving some wort in the kettle with all the trub, I strained it through a funnel with a strainer in it – I think Jamil's recipes factor in a half gallon of wort being left in the kettle. As a result I over-shot my original gravity by about .04 (assuming I can read a hydrometer and adjust for temperature correctly).

More problems, the first Wyeast smack pack of yeast never inflated like it was supposed to. Turns out the clerk gave me a year old smack pack, nice. After a quick call to Bacchus I was off to exchange it for a fresh one – 70 miles, round trip. Next time I'll be sure to pick up some dry yeast as a backup. Finally, I pitch my yeast at 6:30 pm, the wort was ready at about 12:30. Next I have problems getting the damn stopper to stay in my carboy, apparently you need to dry the stopper off after sanitizing it. As of right now, 24 hours after pitching, everything looks good. I'm getting a steady stream of bubbles coming out of the overflow valve and my temperature control looks good. I just hope the yeast can chew up enough sugar to leave me with a tasty brew.

So here's my recipe, notes, and more pictures. I'm thinking I'll call this one Jumbo Cocoa Porter or maybe Rookie Porter:

OG: 1.106
IBU: 33-36 (assuming I estimated the boil gravity right.)
Boil: 60 minutes
Pre-boil Volume: 4 gallons
Pre-boil Gravity: 1.056 (estimated)

Muttons Light LME, 9.1 lbs.

Steeping Grains:
Crystal 40˚, 1.0 lb.
Crystal 80˚, 1.0 lb.
Chocolate Malt, 0.75 lb.
Black Patent Malt, 0.5 lb.

Ghirardelli Cocoa Powder, 0 min., 0.5 lb.

Goldings 4.7%, 60 min., 1.3 oz.
Willamette 4.7%, 30 min., 0.8 oz.
Willamette 4.7%, 15 min, 0.8 oz.
Goldings 4.7%, 0 min., 0.4 oz
Willamette 4.7%, 0 min., 0.4 oz

Wyeast 1056 American Ale, 1 smack pack

Great Value spring water from Welpman Spring in Morgan County, MO

Brewed on 12/06/2008 by myself.

Steeped grains for about 35 min. at 150˚ - 170˚ (accidentally let it get too hot) in 3.5 gallons of water. I also squeezed the bag a bit which can lead to extra tannins and it may be possible that my steeping efficiency was higher than the estimate used in the recipe.

Added about 4.5 lbs of extract and a half gallon of water, turned heat up. Boiled for 60 minutes, added the hops (all pellets) and cocoa as listed above. IBUs may be lower than estimated due to pre-boil gravity possibly being higher than estimated. Added the rest of the extract.

Cooled wort with immersion chiller to about 80˚.

Transferred to carboy, and filled to 5.5 gallons. Took two hydrometer readings to make sure I was doing it correctly. 1.105 + .0012 adjustment for 70˚ = 1.106 original gravity.

Notice my yeast pack is still pretty flat, decide to break for lunch to give it more time to inflate, approximate time: 12:30.

Return from lunch at about 2:30 - Nutcracker on tap has a lot more hop flavor and aroma than the bottles I had. Decided to give up on yeast and headed to Bacchus for a replacement. I should have also picked up some dry yeast.

Aerated wort with a Mix-Stir Agitator – I used two approximately 30 sec. bursts. Finally pitched yeast at 6:30pm. Figured out you need to dry the stopper in order for it to stay in the bottle.

12/07 9:00am – looks like a small kraeusen has formed. The blow-off tube managed to come out of the water bucket so no bubbles to note. Secured tube back in bucket.

12/07 9:45am – Bubbles!

12/07 2:30pm – Bubbling has increased to a steady rate and kraeusen looks about ½ inch thick, maybe less. Room temp = 60˚ Fermenter temp = 66-67˚

12/07 6:45pm – 24 hours since pitching, bubbling is still steady and kraeusen looks about the same as before. I was hoping to have more activity by now, obviously I should have pitched more yeast. Room = 60˚ Fermenter = 67˚

More updates and pictures will be posted below.

[Update 1]
12/07 10:00pm – Fermenter temp approaching 68˚, adjusted space heater setting down 2˚ - I suspect fermentation will heat up in the next 24 hrs. Fermentation appears to have picked up a tick. Observed some foam in the kraeusen expanding and collapsing.

[Update 2]
12/08 5:30am – Fermenter still at 68˚ and room is still around 60˚, turned space heater down another 2˚. Kraeusen looks about the same as last night.

12/08 6:40pm – Room = 60˚, fermenter = 69˚. Bubbling is still constant, kraeusen looks a little puffier.

12/08 9:45pm – Room = 62˚, fermenter looks like it's getting close to 70˚. Kraeusen is thicker and not as dark. Cut the space heater, opened door to let cool air in from unfinished part of basement and turned a fan on the fermenter.

12/08 11:30pm – Room = 63˚, fermenter = 68˚ Kraeusen looks even thicker than it did two hours ago. I'm not sure why the room temp keeps going up. I'm going to leave the door open and fan on over night.

[Update 3]
12/09 5:30am – Room = 58˚, fermenter = 63-64˚ Kraeusen has increased to about 3 inches, very poofy. Looks like the cooler air helped keep the temp down, turning fan off for day, room temp should drop a little more as outdoor temps drop.

12/09 9:10pm – Room = 55˚, fermenter = 60˚ Looks like high kraeusen has come and left. Lots of foam residue on the top of the bottle, almost to the neck. Turned space heater back on (set to 58˚). Almost a one second gap between bubbles.

[Update 4]
12/18 4:00pm – Day 12 - Fermenter and room about 62˚. Gravity = 1.028, a little higher than I want it to be. Chocolate and roast aroma and flavor a bit of bitter from the hops. Not as sweet as I expected, not a bad thing. Finish is a little grainy. Switched from overflow to a double-bubble airlock. After asking a few questions on-line, it's possible that my original gravity was not as high as measured. Apparently you're supposed to mix the wort up after you add water so you can get an accurate reading, duh. Turned heat up to 70 and gave the fermenter a little swirl to help the yeast finish.

[Update 5]
1/8/2009 – Day 33 - Bottling day. Siphoned about 4 gallons into bottling bucket and filled 27 twelve and twenty-two ounce bottles. Final gravity stayed at 1.028, hight than I wanted it. Beer has a pronounced chocolate flavor, no real off flavors detected. Should make a nice dessert beer.


  1. Awesome! A newbie homebrewer in my neck of the Midwest.

    Good brewing to you,
    Bad Ben

  2. Congrats! Great pictures. May your homebrewing journey be a long one.

  3. Welcome to home brewing!

    You might find to be more useful than beeradvocate's homebrewing forum, if you haven't found the site already.

    Looks good!

  4. If you haven't found us already, you may enjoy The Brewing Network podcasts and forum.

    BTW, with a 1.106 OG beer I usually pitch the yeast from a 1 gallon starter. :)

    Push Eject