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Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

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Bonus! (Fun with Byproducts)

I hate just throwing away all that good spent grain after I’m done brewing.  Luckily, there are some great things you can do with spent grain so that you only have to get rid of most of it!

Spent Grain Cookies

Spent Grain Cookies

Yesterday, once I got everything going in the fermenter, I pulled up this great recipe from Omnomicon for spent grain chocolate chip cookies.  These things are delicious, with the grains adding a kind of rustic hardiness — manly cookies that chew back!

Let’s call it… I don’t know, a Black Splash.

The beer I made was an American Stout (extract with a lot of flavoring grains), so my leftover grains had a bit of thick, black liquid pooling in the bowl beneath them.  I took a taste: an oily dark/burnt grain character with a mild sweetness (as you might expect from a bunch of black, crystal, and Munich malts).  A bit tannic, but very interesting and overall fairly pleasant.  I had to try doing something with it, so I thought it might be good as a whiskey mixer.  So I tried a 1: 1 ratio of this stuff with Bourbon whiskey, mixed on the rocks.  It was okay, but missing something.  My wife was thinking as I was: some kind of citrus character would be good.  I cut a slice of orange and gave it a good squeeze.  Better — pretty good in fact!  It was sort of similar to an Old Fashioned, with the black slurry standing in for both the sugar and the bitters.  I think it could stand a bit of tweaking (maybe a tad more sugar, for one), but it was a pretty good drink for saying it was done on the fly.


I have yet to make spent grain dog treats (which are often not that far off from the human versions) but these are another popular use for brewing leftovers.  Here is one recipe from BYO.  My dogs would be so pissed if they knew this was an option.

So these are a few ideas for brewing byproducts, anyway.  I really hate wasting things, and I mentioned how I still have to get rid of most of my spent grains (none of these projects use up much of the brewing quantity).  However, even disposing of my leftovers won’t be bad from now on, as my friend wants to take it all for composting (which is another good use for spent grains).  Great!


Debris Slide Fresh Hop IPA

We hit our hop harvest season again here in the Willamette Valley last month, so I did the proper thing and made another fresh hop IPA.  This one is based on last year’s model, but with a little more LME, a different yeast selection, and a different hop profile.  I tried to make it Saaz-forward again, but this year I didn’t get quite enough Saaz to use that hop exclusively in the mid- and late-boil additions.  So my [Golden] Nugget hops made up the difference where needed.  Still, I had a ton of bright green hops rolling around in the sticky, hop-oil-infused wort – a pretty sight!

Compared with last year’s version, this one has more of a heft to it (a good thing).  On the downside, there is a harsher bitterness to this one, especially at the finish – not to the degree that it’s bad, but I wish the edge wasn’t there quite so much; it seems to somewhat mask the fresh-hopiness of the flavor.  This sharpness could be due to the slightly longer boil time, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the weird “Golden Nugget” hops taking on more of the hop duties in lieu of the softer Saaz.  (I did keep the overall alpha addition schedule the same from last year, however.)

I’ve got no photos to share for this time around, so please enjoy the below link to the the namesake for this beer (note that this is, syntactically, a command and not a request):

Style: Fresh-Hop American IPA

Brew Date: Sunday, 9-22-13

Base Malt: 8.0 lbs. light LME

Steeping Grains: 1.0 lbs. Carapils, 1.0 lbs. Centennial-10, 0.75 lbs. Munich Light, 0.75 lbs Wheat, 0.5 lbs. Centennial-60 (all steeped for 35 minutes between 152-160°F)

Yeast: White Labs WLP001 English Ale (pitched at 73°F, started 3 nights before [Thursday night], conditioned on stir plate)


  • [Golden] Nugget* at 11% α (estimated)
  • Saaz at 4% α (estimated)

Hop Schedule:

  • 1 oz. Nugget (dried) at 70 min
  • 12 oz. Saaz (wet) at 35 min
  • 3.5 oz. Saaz (wet) and 2.0 oz Golden Nugget (wet) at 0 min
  • 2.25 oz. Golden Nugget (dried): secondary fermentation stage dry hop (duration of secondary)

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.054 at pitch 9-22-12, 3:00pm
  • 1.013 final (at kegging 10-14-13)

*We got this breed of hop (2 of our 3 hop plants) prior to my getting into brewing, just because we liked hops. This is an unfortunate hop to have as a brewer, as it seems to not have been bred especially for brewing, and the online homebrew community is peppered with not-so-definitive Q&A threads about this hop and what exactly it is, even.  Nonetheless, it has worked fine for me (as a bittering hop) so far.

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.

My First Wet Hop Adventure

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As this is the first Autumn that I’m growing hops and brewing, I decided to go for a fresh (a.k.a. “wet”) hop beer.  And what better candidate for a fresh hop beer is there than the trusty IPA?

I love hoppy beers, but my wife doesn’t like them super hoppy, and as the two of us will be drinking most of this stuff, I thought I’d go for a nice even-keel IPA as a base design.  I therefore found a recipe for a clone of Lagunitas IPA — a beer we both enjoy.  I’ve found that there’s a lot of shooting from the hip when it comes to using fresh hops, which is another reason I started with a fairly mellow, balanced specimen of American IPA.  This will allow me more latitude for erring on the side of too many hops rather than not enough.

Because fresh hops (hops that are used straight off the vine and have not been dried) weigh more than dry ones due to water content in the hop cone, more hops are needed by weight to make up for this (and still get the same alpha acid contribution for your beer).  Opinions vary in the brewing community, but five times the wet hops by weight seems to be a safe middle ground for this correction factor.

Also, I’m not using the same hops that Lagunitas uses.  I have Nugget and Saaz.  Saaz, a more delicate noble hop known for excellent aroma and flavor, is what I’ll use primarily.  I like the idea of using Saaz because of its sought-after characteristics.  Low-acid hops like Saaz aren’t often used so exclusively in beer, partly because more of them are required, and the beer therefore costs more to produce.  However, I have way more hops than I’ll be able to take advantage of, even with vacuum-sealing and storing some of them.  I’ll use the (higher alpha) Nugget for my full-boil bittering hops only, mostly because they were harvested earlier and have had a chance to be dried, and fresh (wet) hops are not good for full-boil utilization (long boils of fresh hops result in grassy, planty flavors).

So, I have to account for 1) different hops and 2) wet hops as opposed to dry.  Thus, I have to make two corrections.  What I did was convert all hop quantities in the recipe to their equivalent AAU units.  Then, estimating the alpha acids of my hops (based on average ranges), I determined how much of that hop (dry) would be needed instead.  Then I multiplied by five to determine wet hop quantity.

My recipe is converted and ready to go, and so are my fresh Saaz hops.  The unfortunate thing is that it’s looking like it might rain, which will complicate my wet hop weight situation.  I’ve got to pull these hops and brew in the next couple of days, so hopefully things dry up soon.

Backyard Hops

Here are some photos, taken yesterday, of my hops.  We started growing them a few years ago, before I started brewing.  I’ve given them out to brewers before, but this will be the first year I get to use them to brew myself.  The outer ones (on the left fence and on the right) are nugget.  The center one is Saaz.

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