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Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

Archive for the category “Gear”


Unbeknownst to me at the time, the last porter recipe I picked out ended up being a “Brown Porter” (based on OG and other traits), which is not really the standard porter we craft-beer-drinking Americans are used to. I liked it fine for what it was, but I had wanted a deeper, more flavorful porter and thought I had screwed it up. So anyway, I’ve brewed another porter, ensuring this one is a “Robust Porter” per BJCP’s style guidelines. This one is based on BYO’s Jolly Roger Double Mocha Porter (found in Jan-Feb 2012 issue), with the only real changes being in the bittering hop variety and yeast type.

My New Kegerator!

It turned out to be pretty good! Dark and robust as I hoped, and balanced. I missed my final OG target of 1.016(?), which may contribute to the richness of the mouthfeel. At the end there’s bitter-roasty finish, which my wife and I like, though there might be a touch of astringency associated with it. Not sure if such a finish would get me docked in a BJCP evaluation or not, but it seems nice to me.

I kegged this in my brand new kegerator system: a Nostalgia kegerator kit which I modified (with way too much trouble) for a Cornelius keg. Nice to have a good beer on tap at home! Just in time for the April skies…

Darklands Robust Porter


Grain Bill:
8.0 lbs. light LME
0.25 lbs. Crystal 120
0.25 lbs. Crystal 150
0.25 lbs. Carafa Type II
0.25 lbs. 2-row black patent
0.5 lbs. kiln coffee malt
0.5 lbs. chocolate malt

Yeast: WLP001 California Ale (one vial in a 1.0L starter)

Hop Schedule (60 min boil per recipe*):
0.6 oz Chinook hops (17.6% alpha) for last 45 min.
1 oz. Willamette hops (5.6% alpha) for last 20 min.
1 oz. Willamette hops (5.6% alpha) for last 5 min.
*Why a 60 minute boil on an extract beer with a 45 min. hop duration?!

Gravity Schedule:
1.056 at pitch, 2-23-13
1.020 at kegging, 3-17-12

•Yeast started about 17 hours before pitch.
•This was my first extract brew with a wort chiller (immersion). Much better than the ice block thing.
•More on the Nostalgia kegerator thing later. It was a good deal but there are a few things to watch out for if you want to modify it.


Using a Wort Chiller

I just bought my friend’s immersion chiller and put it to use for chilling the wort of a porter that’s currentlyfermenting.  It’s a nice, fast method compared to the ice-gallon-block method I was using.  Below are a few tips and tricks I picked up:

  1. Immersion Chiller

    Immersion Chiller

    Hook up your chiller first and ensure it’s in working order before brewing.  Make sure your connected chiller can reach where the hot wort will to be located at brew time.

  2. Blast a bunch of water through your chiller just before running your chill water through it to purge the air from the lines.  Air in the line can manifest in pockets (bubbles) in which no water is contacting the copper tubing wall, thus reducing your chilling efficiency.  (Though I hadn’t thought about this at the time [even though it makes total sense!], I did this by accident.  My friend who sold me the chiller told me about this afterward.)
  3. Gently move the chiller around and use your thermometer to stir the wort as it cools for better efficiency, faster cooling, and a more accurate reading of your wort temperature.
  4. Calculate your wort chill target temperature (to quickly and cleanly get to a nice finished pitching temp) by following these steps:
    1. Before brewing, run cold water from your make-up source (sink tap or whatever) until the water stream gets to steady-state temperature.  Measure this Make-up Temperature (MT).
    2. Determine the target Pitching Temp (PT) per the requirements of the yeast strain.
    3. As your wort is about to finish, estimate the Volume of Wort (WV) in your pot.  All you can really do is estimate if you’ve got no volumetric marks in your pot – but try to be as accurate as you can. Remember, your chiller takes up a little volume.
    4. Find the target temperature of the undiluted (pre-make-up) wort using this formula         

  WT = (PT* TV – MT*VM) / VW

   (derived from formula below)

 The Formula:


WT = the final temp you want to chill the undiluted wort to (°F)

PT = Pitching Temp (°F)

MT = Make-up Water Temp (°F)

VW = Volume of wort in kettle at end of boil (gallons)

VM = Volume of make-up water you’ll need to use (gallons)

TV = Total volume of your beer (VW+ VM)

Note: °C can be used, and other volumetric units can be used, but of course you must use consistent units across the whole equation!

Example of chill temp calculation in use:

  1. My cold faucet tap water measures about 53 °F.
  2. I have yeast that should pitch at 70-75 °F, so I’ll set MT to 72 °F to give some leeway in either direction (say, if my VW estimate was a little off).
  3. My final volume of wort in the pot after 60 minutes (accounting for volume taken up by the wort chiller) appears to be about 2.75 gallons.
  4. I’m making a 5 gallon batch, so make-up water will be 2.25 gallons.  Thus:

WT = (72* 5 – 53*2.25) / 2.75 = 87.5 °F

So I want to stop chilling and add make-up water when the wort reaches 87.5 °F.

Stir Plate: Up and Running

I bought a 1.5″ stir bar and threw it in my 2000ml flask to test my new stir plate out.  Works great!  At some frequencies the water excitations can throw the stir bar off to the side of the flask but it’s pretty easy to adjust away from any odd behavior.  It’s been test run for long periods without derailing. Here’s a video of it running.

Stir Plate Project: Progress Photos

I decided to make a stir plate for my yeast starters.  You can buy a finished stir plate or stir plate kit, but a make-your-own stir plate is a popular project with many home brewers.  I thought it sounded like fun.  Like many before me, I used an old computer fan for the stir motor and a magnet from a hard drive.  Power adapter is courtesy of an old hair dyer cord. I got an on/off switch and potentiometer from Radioshack.  For the enclosure, plastic “project boxes” are cheap at Radioshack, or you can use anything around the house — cigar box, you kid’s art project from last year, a shoe — but I wanted it to look kind of cool, so I went snooping around the nearby Goodwill Store.  I found a little jewelry box that looked to be about the right size.  I took it home and sanded off the 70’s laquer job, with the plan to do a nice two-tone paint job.  Below are some record photos of the project.

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