Brewing the Old Ale

In the last post we discussed the hows and whys, now let us find out the whats.

Since this is an experiment,  I settle on a 5 liter batch.  With a planned gravity of 16.0 ºP, it only required 0.85 kg of fermentables.  As noted in the previous post, I only used 1.39 kg of grain, which only required 4.2 liters to mash (at my standard mash water ratio of 3 liters per kg of grain).  That isn’t much to work with, but with my ‘L’ shaped heat stick and 5 gallon cooler it worked just fine. I mashed at 66ºC (150ºF) for one hour. I missed my expected mash gravity slightly on the low side (1.045 versus 1.048), but that is fairly respectable given the micro batch size.  I used a little 7 liter (8 quart) stainless steel pot as a boil kettle, which is just perfect for these tiny batches.

When the boil was done I put the 7 liter pot into an old 33 quart enamelware pot and added water to the enamelware pot.  This was a little after  two o’clock in the afternoon. A brewing friend, Jim, came over to help bottle a batch of beer we had made in December.  After we were finished I cleaned the keg that had the collaborative brew and then transferred the Faux-toberfest into the three gallon keg.  Then I transferred the So Brown into a different five gallon keg.  The bottom line: I got back to the Old Ale about 6 pm and I figured it would still be a little to warm to pitch.  Much to my surprise I found it was about about 19 º C (66º F). Perfect.

I had two 1 gallon glass jugs sanitized and ready to go.  Another nice thing about these small batches is you don’t need no fancy racking cane, you can just poor the wort from kettle to fermenter.  With the glass jugs on a scale, I was able to transfer exactly 2.5 kg of wort into each fermenter.  And as you can see from the following photo, there is an immediate difference in appearance between the trub and non-trub batches:

Old Ale Wort Before Pitching and Aeration

The sample on the left is the trub-free wort, the sample on the right is full of suspended trub particles. Not too surprising, so far.

Now it was time to pitch yeast.  I want to use dry yeast, as it is much easier to pitch in a consistent and sanitary way.  I also decided to pitch un-rehydrated yeast directly into the wort.  This is a questionable practice, as it is usually better for the yeast if it is carefully rehydrated in warm water.  But remember Papazian’s First Rule: RDWHAHB.  Since this is just a small experiment consistency between batches is most important, a small negative flavor impact is acceptable as long as it applies to both batches.

The final OG for this batch turned out to be 15.5 ºP or 1.063 (versus my target of 16 ºP  or 1.065).  The recommended pitching rate for ales is generally 750,000 cells per milliliter per degree Plato.  For this beer that works out to about 60 billion cells total, or 30 billion per jug.  The Danstar website claims somewhere in the range of 7 to 14 billion cells per gram of Windsor yeast, however, Jamil Zainasheff claims he has measured 20 billion cells per gram consistently with dry yeast.  I had done a little experimenting with bread yeast and found I was getting about 3 grams of dry yeast per teaspoon.  So about one half teaspoon per jug should have given 30 billion cells.   I pitched three quarters of a teaspoon just to compensate for my rehydration laziness. After pitching, I aerated each jug with oxygen for 30 seconds, till the kreusen was just to the top of the neck.

Now here is where a found a little surprise.

After putting the jugs into the fermentation chamber I noticed that the kreusen on the trub-filled batch had completely subsided, which can be seen in the following photo:

Kreusen about 30 Minutes after Aeration

I set the fermentation temperature to 20º C (68º F) and left it for the night.  The next morning I inspected the progress and found fermentation underway in both batched.  The kreusen on the trub filled batch was full of nasty looking debris, and the wort itself still shows a significant amount of suspended debris:

Old Ales at 14 Hours

So the race is on.  Let’s see where they finish.

Added 17 January 2012:

Well, that was a quick fermentation.  Both samples finished near the same gravity (4.3 ºP / 1.017).  This works out to about 73% apparent attenuation and 6.2% ABV.  Both samples are shown post fermentation below.  Not only does the trub sample show heavy sedimentation and a really nasty ring on the jug, it is still a slightly different color.  What is odd is that before fermentation the trub sample was tinted brown, versus the black colored control.  Those colors have switched, post-fermentation:

Old Ale - Post Fermentation

Both samples are going into the refrigerator for a couple of days.  I plan to bottle his weekend.

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