Category Archives: Experiments

Summer Ale – Review

Summer has hit us. But after the last week in Melbourne you could be excused for thinking otherwise. Enough about the crazy weather, it’s time to review the Summer Ale.

Wow. That didn’t turn out like I thought. Even after trying the sample from bottling I wasn’t expecting this. The Summer Ale is not what I was aiming for. Wanted light, refreshing and something that could be enjoyed cold. This beer doesn’t do any of those very well. That said, this isn’t a bad beer. It’s simply a (very) different beer.

To start with there was probably too much malt. The colour is much darker than planned for, like an amber ale. The flavour reflects this as well. The wheat isn’t a strong as I thought. Not sure if that’s because there’s a really low percentage of wheat in the liquid extract I used, or the hops took over.

Summer Ale 1

Summer Ale 1 ready for drinking

The aroma is of strong stewed fruit and grapes. Yep, grapes and it comes from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Strange aroma this one the more you smell the beer the more complex it becomes. Some spice and earthy aroma comes out later, from the Belgian Saaz (aka Motueka) hops.

Fist taste is a mixture of a few things. Plenty of stewed fruit and tropical flavour. Some of the spice and grape of the aroma comes out, but not much. The spice builds a little, but the big fruit flavours drive this. The wheat base is there the whole way along and holds out quite well to the very long finish. It’s quite enjoyable.

Food matching? No idea. Something not too strong in flavour. Lightly fried meat like chicken or other bird would match this. Fish would work if not too powerful, maybe even pork. The beer has a fair bit of flavour, but could be overwhelmed by anything to spicy.

Is this beer a proper Summer Ale? No. Is this beer good? Yes. Not sure what style it is, maybe a pale ale or even an amber ale. But the fruit flavours throw it out a bit. There’s not much I can really compare this with.

This was the first time I used these two hops. Might have been better to try on a more familiar and simpler malt base to taste the flavour profile. I had issues trying to work out what was giving some of the flavours. The stewed fruit probably coming from the hops rather than the wheat/malt base. Fermentation wasn’t temperature controlled, ranging from just under 20°C to mid 20’s. With that range using US-05 yeast there shouldn’t be much flavours from yeast. The beer is a tasty one, and I’ll enjoy drinking this one. Now I need to make a proper summer ale.

-Mikey

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Testing the tester, hydrometer check

Been a bit quite around here. Sorry about that. Chas is taking it easy on the brewing front and I was away interstate for a nine day holiday. Back now.

As I mentioned in the write up of the bottling day of the Summer Ale, I cracked another hydrometer. That’s three dead in two years. Lucky for me I have a spare, but it’s still a pain. My preference is to have one really good hydrometer that I can use, and keep.

Over the last few days I was thinking about this, and feeling sorry for myself. I was also concerned that all the gravity readings for the Summer Ale might be wrong. What could I do? Then I realised I could check it against the good hydrometer. Get a reading with the broken one, and check what it is with the working one. I still have an older one with with a missing tip (where glass broke off) and thought it would be good to see what its readings were.

So, using water and a whole lot of table sugar that’s exactly what I did. I filled up a tube, added some sugar, stirred and shook it up, then took a reading with all three hydrometers. Then added more sugar tested with all three again, and repeated.

Gravity readings as follows:

Testing equipment

Testing equipment with tubes and hydrometers

  1. Not Broken = 1.000
    Cracked = 0.997
    Missing Tip = n/a (not enough to float in)
  2. NB = 1.005
    Cr = 1.001
    MT = 1.008
  3. NB = 1.025
    Cr = 1.021
    MT = 1.029
  4. NB = 1.048
    Cr = 1.043
    MT = 1.052
  5. NB = 1.060
    Cr = 1.055
    MT = 1.064

Overall it looks like the cracked one is 0.003 to 0.005 below what it should be. The one missing its tip is 0.003 to 0.004 above what it should be. Both of those are pretty close. The variations in the difference could be put down to me not reading the gravity correctly and/or sugar still dissolving into water. In theory I could continue to use these broken hydrometers and adjust by +0.005 or -0.004 each reading. That’s not ideal, so I’ll still buy a new one.

What does this mean for the Summer Ale? Not much. As original and final gravity reading would have been out by (about) the same degree, it’s still 3.3% alcohol. And it will be time to try it very soon.

– Mikey

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Bottling Summer, in the cold

Sunday was bottling day for the Summer Ale. Was a fairly straight forward affair with just me doing everything, and all done in about an hour. The best thing was that I didn’t stuff the beer by acidently oxygenating it, like I did with the Super Stout.

Summer Ale 1 bottled

Summer Ale 1 all bottled

Given there was 14 litres of beer I decided to bulk prime. First time I’ve done it since making the mistake with the Super Stout. I took my time and planned it out better. The only hiccup I had was when the end if the bottling wand feel off into one of the bottles. Learning from that time that happened, I quickly turned off the tap before losing to much. No other problems.

The sample I took had a gravity reading of 1.005 which is lower that I had hoped. But in a good way. After original reading was so low I wanted the final gravity to be under 1.010, and here we are a bit under that. Happy with the outcome.

Summer Ale 1 sample

Summer Ale 1 sample for tasting after gravity reading

There was a nice tropical and earthy flavour to the sample. The colour was a fair bit darker than I thought it would be. Both those have me thinking that I’m sure if I would call it a Summer time beer. After a couple weeks I’ll crack open one and find out.

On a side note, have found that my hydrometer has a very fine crack in it and some liquid has got in. Not sure if that was before the reading of the original gravity, final gravity or just in clean up. Needless to say, I’ll be using the spare one for next brew and buying (another) new one.

– Mikey

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Not a not, it’s nearly Summer

After a bit of a busy October I knew it was time to get back to brewing. And on Sunday last week that’s exactly what happened.

Chas came around to lend a much needed hand. Was good to be brewing again, even if it was ‘just’ an extract only brew. I was going to have another shot at doing the not-beers. I’ve been thinking about a couple options to get a better outcome than last time. But that’s for another day.

I got a request that to make a summer ale. We’re in November and summer is nearly upon us. If some of the 30° C days recently are an indication you could say summer is already here. Anyway, with the heat on it’s way, and me still not sorting out the shed for fermentation fridge, it was now or never.

I spent about a week here and there looking up info on Summer Ales. Quickly realised it’s not a style of it’s own. Sure there’s the English Summer Ale as a type, but was I was looking for war more of a feeling. Light, easy drinking, not too much alcohol, something that can be enjoyed cold… basically a drink to have on a hot day.

Summer Ale fermenting away

Summer Ale all wrapped up and fermenting away

I landed with a cross between an American Blonde Ale and English Summer Ale, with more wheat. I’m not a fan of most wheat beers, so this is a bit of a jump of faith for me. Lots of looking up recipes for all grains, partial and all extract beers. I’m pretty happy with what I chose to go with.

  • 1.5 kg of Liquid Malt Extract – Briess Bavarian Wheat, for 35 mins
  • 400 g of Dry Malt Extract – Briess Pilsen Light, for 5 mins
  • 5 g Warrior hops, for 33 mins
  • 3 g Nelson Sauvin + 3 g Belgian Saaz hops, for 13 mins
  • 3 g Nelson Sauvin + 3 g Belgian Saaz hops, at flame out
  • A bit over half a pack of dry US-05 yeast

Original gravity came in at 1.028 which was a lot lower than calculated (1.044). Maybe the calculations were based on something wrong, or maybe the measurements were out. Not sure.

Ended up with 14 litres rather than the 13 planned. So, the 15 litre fermentation vessel was very full. That wasn’t a problem at the start, after a couple days the fermentation was quite slow. But some time in the following few days (I rarely check until bottling) there was a blow out. Airlock changed and now bubbling away again. I hope there wasn’t an infection. Normally the fermentor is out of the way enough to keep it safe. Will wait and see.

Bottling next week. Should have a good idea how it turns out. Hope it ends up a bit dry otherwise going to be less than 3% alcohol. And that might make it a little too light on body.

Oh, and we finally got around to doing a review of the Pale Trial Ein beers. Expect that up within the week.

-Mikey

 

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Apples and milk, in bottles

It’s not really milk that went into the apple cider. I simply like the idea that lactose sugar is milk sugar, and therefore milk. The important thing is that the Sneaky Milky Cider has been bottled. Plus the samples tasted pretty good.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 FG

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 the Final Gravity reading

On Saturday evening I got busy and bottling. There are three batches across three carboys. Each had a splash over two litres in them. These were some very small batches, the smallest I’ve ever done. Used the auto syphon again which works pretty well. Manually priming each bottle wasn’t a huge pain as the batch sizes were small, plus I used a few 500 ml bottles which sped things up.

Sneaky Milky Cider 2 FG

Sneaky Milky Cider 2 the Final Gravity reading

Gravity readings were a bit all over the place. I’m not surprised given the range of ingredients across the batches. The first one dropped from 1.060 to 1.012 which means after bottling will be 6.8% alcohol. The second one was more pronounced falling from 1.055 to 1.004 turning it into 7.2%. Then the third was more reasonable going from 1.055 to 1.011 and hitting 6.3%.

After gravity readings were done it was tasting time. The first batch had a nice sweet and apple flavour. There was also a hint of sour to this, but wasn’t overpowering or distracting. The second batch had similar characteristics but cleaner. That said, the sourness was more pronounced and it wasn’t as sweet as batch one. The last batch was noticeably different. It had a bigger mouth feel and overall rounder flavour. As a result this batch didn’t have the same noticeably sweetness or apple flavour.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 for tasting

These ciders are only going to be bottle conditioned for a week before most of them are consumed. They will be the sweet cider option for those not drinking beer at a party this Saturday. The beer on offer will be the Pale Trial beers, 1 to 5 of both Eine and Zwie. I’m looking forward to hearing feedback on all of them. And I how that there’s enough to go around.

-Mikey

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Sweet like apple, sweet like milk

Sneaky Milky Cider 3

Sneaky Milky Cider 3 Original Gravity reading

A few months back in February I made the Sneaky Cider. Once I tasted it I knew this was something to revisit. It was easy, quick and nice enough. Nothing amazing but great vale on effort put in.

The biggest issue with the cider was the dryness. All the sugar in the apple juice was used up by the yeast, all converted to alcohol. That’s good if you want a strong cider, and you don’t want sweetness. Problem is, most people want cider to be sweet. Hence this being an issue.

I have been thinking how to overcome this issue for a while. The big companies, and even smaller commercial brewers, trend to put sugar or fresh apple juice back in. That’s fine if you can (1) remove all the yeast and (2) keep the carbonation or force carbonate. On a small home brew scale that’s not so easy.

Looking for alternative options to sweeten the cider, there are a few. Some range from easy to complex with quite a number tried and failed. But before looking up all these options I had thought of using what I use for beer. Lactose sugar. Yep, milk sugar.

Lactose is used in stouts as it gives both sweetness and helps with the creaminess. The creamy flavour mouth feel is not something you really associate with cider. But I’m hoping it’s either subtle or non offensive. Preferably both.

So, on Monday night I made Sneaky Milky Cider 1, 2 and 3. All use the basic 2 litres of apple juice and have sugar added to them. Details below.

Sneaky Milky Cider 1-3

Sneaky Milky Cider 1 to 3 in the carboys

Sneaky Milky Cider 1

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • Around 80 grams white sugar (measuring was off)
  • 80 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.060
  • Half a teaspoon of Champaign yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Sneaky Milky Cider 2

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • 80 grams white sugar
  • 40 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.055
  • Half a teaspoon of Champaign yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Sneaky Milky Cider 3

  • 2 litres of apple juice
  • 80 grams white sugar
  • 40 grams of lactose
  • OG = 1.055
  • Half a teaspoon of US-04 yeast
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient

Amounts of sugar are based on what the original Sneaky Cider was. I’m not sure if there’s too much, or not enough lactose. Also, there was a bit more than two litres of juice in each bottle. About 200ml more. That shouldn’t make any difference to the final product.

You’ll see that I’ve used US-04 yeast in one. This is an ale yeast, but it should ferment clean enough. The reason for using this is to see if it won’t convert all the apple sugars. As the alcohol gets higher the yeast should slow down or even die. This would then leave some unfermented sugar, and the cider would be sweeter. We’ll wait and see.

-Mikey

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Yeast adventures, capping it for now

The second round of experiments with yeast are done. Over a couple evenings in the last week I bottled the Pale Trial Zwei.

Pale Trial Zwei - carboy 1-5

Pale Trial Zwei in carboy 1 to 5 (left to right)

From the first impressions it looks like the yeast characteristics from Pale Trial Ein have carried over. There’s a strange tart and dry-sourness, especially from the first carboy. Carboy 2-5 were bottled on a septate day, so I can’t do a five-way comparison.

The good news is that the Galaxy hop flavours have come out well. There hasn’t been the big bitterness that I was getting with the Victoria Secret hops. Nice tropical aroma and flavour at the front. One these condition for a few weeks they should be good for the spring sun.

Pale Trial Zwei - sample 1

Pale Trial Zwei the sample from carboy 1

The one thing I really wasn’t sure about was how healthy the yeast might be. I didn’t know if there would be too much yeast, grown from the last batch. Maybe it wouldn’t be healthy enough, stressed from the last brew. Or maybe it would need more nutrients, which I deliberately didn’t put in. Plus I didn’t keep an eye on the fermentation. That said, it looks like things went smoothly.

Final gravity readings ranged from 1.010 to 1.008 and I’m happy with that. The OG was 1.047 and after bottle conditioning alcohol should be between 5.6% and 5.4%. That’s very respectable for a pale ale. The cause for the range in final gravity may have been due to a few things. Possibly sediments in the sample, possible yeast health, or a number of other things with the yeast.

Pale Trial Zwei - samples 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei samples from carboy 2 to 5

The bottling by myself was a bit of trial and error. The first carboy I used the old hand siphon. That is, two tubes with a pump thing. Have been using it for a while but works as long as you’ve got the flow going and don’t stop-start too much. For the rest (done on another night) I was able to use the Auto Syphon as the other carboys have a bigger opening. Had a bit more trouble with this due to the seal between the top and the tube. After a lot of trial and error I worked out better to pull the end out of each bottle and fill the next without trying to stop the flow. Lost a little, but not as much as stop-start. Something to work on. In an attempt to try and reduce beer loss, I left beer in the Auto Syphon between carboys, so mixing left over from one with the start form the next. Bottles marked, but not expecting anything noticeably different.

Pale Trial Zwei bottled 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei all bottled with bottles from carboy 2 to 5

Looking forward to trying these brews. I’ve had a bottle of each of the Pale Trial Ein bottles. They’ve settled down a fair bit. I didn’t do a side by side comparison, but the differences seam to be there. Will do a proper review in a week or two.

Been a bit slow getting new content up. Few reasons for that. I’m letting my fermentation times run a bit longer, like this one for three and a half weeks. I’m brewing less, next one in a few days. Chas isn’t brewing, he’s got a bit of a stockpile. But might be fixing that this coming weekend. And a few reviews haven’t gone up yet. I’m going to try and get a few of them up over the next couple weeks.

-Mikey

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Tiny magic things, yeast adventures

I’ve talked to a fair few home brewers over the last two years. Pretty much all aspects of brewing have been discussed. One thing that comes up every now and then is the use, growth and reuse of yeast. Something I’ve mostly avoided, until now.

Since day one of homebrewing I’ve used dry yeast. And, up to only earlier this year I’ve pitched it into the wort dry. Since then I’ve done some rehydration of yeast. And even a couple basic yeast starters. Nothing serious.

Off the back of the Pseudo Lager I wanted to capture that yeast. It was a basic US-05 yeast that did what it shouldn’t have been able to do. It took a strong pale ale extract brew and brought it down to a low 1.006. That’s around the lowest I’ve ever got a final gravity. But what was exceptional was that it did it over a period of a month. All the while temperatures ranged from as high as 14°C down to 0°C, maybe lower. I remember one professional brewer saying that the beer was probably stuffed. Yeast being “turned on and off” is not a good thing, by all accounts.

So, these magical tiny organisms had not only survived, but produced some pretty good beer. Could I get them to make more?

I looked up how to reuse yeast. And there are a few ways. The simplest is to pour new wort directly onto the yeast cake, once bottling of the last beer is done. This is a crude method as you’ve got all the dead yeast and left over hops as well. That not-good stuff is called trube. I say not-good because I haven’t come across anything yet that says it’s specifically bad for the beer.

The next method is referred to as washing. Again, you need to get the yeast after bottling. But this time you don’t have to, and can’t, use it straight away. You’re suppose to pour in some pre-boiled then chilled to room temperature water into your fermentation vessel. Boiling is important because you want water without oxygen, or as little as possible, and the heat should kill anything bad. Then you want to chill because heat kills yeast. Once at temperature dissolve the whole lot in the water and pour into sanitised vessels. These should have some kind of air seal as you don’t want any more oxygen. Put in fridge and wait for the cloudy stuff to settle. At the end there should be clear-ish water/beer at the top, a thin white layer if yeast, then a thick bottom layer of tan/brown coloured trube.

There’s a bit more to it, as I came to realise when I did that with the yeast from the Pseudo Lager. Long story short, I had to throw it all out.

Pale Trial Zwei - empty carboys

Pale Trial Zwei to fill these empty carboys

And that brings me to the last brew a couple Sundays ago (31 August). The Pale Trial Zwei was almost the exact same as Pale Ale Ein, but with Galaxy hops replacing the Victoria Secret hops.

  • 14 litre boil
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 40 mins
  • 15 grams Galaxy hops @ 30 mins
  • 11 grams Galaxy hops @ 15 mins
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 5 mins
  • 12 grams Galaxy hops @ 0 mins

Gravity came in at 1.047, less than Pale Trial Ein. That’s somewhat expected a there was more water in this by the end to dilute the malt.

And then pitched the wort onto the yeast cakes of Pale Trail Ein.

So, this experiment is to see if this can work as a successful way to reuse yeast. Plus want to see if yeast characteristics from one brew can carry over to the next. This second part is going to be the most interesting as the five Pale Trial Ein beers are different in colour and flavour.

Bottling will be next weekend. Look forward to letting you know how it turned out.

-Mikey

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Gift of the Dad, the bottling

Sunday week ago (31st) was a bottling and brewing day at my place. The five carboys of the Pale Trial Ein were ready for bottling and Pale Trial Zwei needed to be brewed. And Chas was there for it all.

Was great to have Chas back after a bit of a break. Bit of craziness and some well oiled processes made the day run smooth. Or as smooth as possible.

Pale Trial Ein ready to bottle

Pale Trial Ein in the carboys and ready to bottle

Will talk about the brew in another post because there’s a lot to talk about with the Pale Trial Ein. This is the pale ale that I brewed three weeks back. Used some of the equipment and ingredients I got from my Dad.

As there were five carboys of pale ale, and I wanted to keep them separate, we didn’t bother with bulk priming. But we did get to finally use the Easy Siphon I bought a few months back. Once we got it working it worked a treat. The bottling process was slowed down by needing to prime each bottle. That was made harder when I ran out of carbonation drops and had to measure out sugar. Uhg. Needing to take five gravity samples didn’t help.

Comparing the Pale Trial Ein beers was interesting. The first thing is the different colours. Wow. How is that possible? But there you go, same batch in five different carboys with only a couple minor differences in ingredients can make a big change.

Pale Trial Ein samples

The five different samples of Pale Trial Ein (1-5, left to right)

To recap, and make this easier to explain, here are the five types:

  1. Normal yeast nutrient (the one I’ve been using all year)
  2. Normal yeast nutrient plus a Campden tablet
  3. Just newly acquired yeast nutrient (the really old stuff I got from my Dad)
  4. Just a Campden tablet
  5. Newly acquired yeast nutrient and Campden tablet

It was clear that those with the Campden tablets (2, 3 & 5) were darker. But the normal yeast nutrient (1 & 2) was also slightly darker than the newly acquired stuff (4 & 5). And the one with just the tablet (4) is the darkest.

And the flavours, too. Side by side comparison of yeast nutrient was clear. The stuff I normally use (1 & 2) had more smooth full hop flavour up front, but a really bad bitter and metallic taste at the back. The newly acquired (4 & 5) was softer and less hop fruit flavour but rounder and mellow overall with no harsh kick.

When comparing the Campden tablet ones (2, 3 & 5) to non-Campden tablets (1 & 4) it’s clear. The ones with the tablets have a richer hop fruit flavour. And the one with only the Campden tablet (4) is a fair bit dryer from up front to end.

Have to say that the newly acquired nutrient and Campden tablet (5) was the best one. After that, normal yeast nutrient and Campden tablet (2). Then newly acquired yeast nutrient (3). Then just Campden tablet (4). And lastly just the old yeast nutrient (1).

Pale Trial Ein bottled

Pale Trial Ein in bottles, see the numbers on the top

And finally, the gravity readings. They pretty much all came in at 1.014 which isn’t really a surprise. The one with just newly acquired yeast nutrient (3 & 5) came it at 1.015. The beers will end up at 5.8%-5.9% alcohol after conditioning in the bottles. I do hope the bitterness settles down a bit.

To summarise, Campden tablets are awsome. And the really old yeast nutrient is better than the stuff I’ve been using. Go figure. Next post from me will be the write up on the brew.

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Gift of the Dad, the brew

A few weeks ago I got some old home brew equipment from my dad. Then I cleaned it. Now it’s time to brew with it.

I realised the first brew had to use some of the ingredients from the find. This means trying to sanitising with Sodium metabisulfite. That’s going to be interesting as I’ve never used the stuff before. Nutrient salts I already use and will be straight forward. Using a Campden tablet looks like that should be easy. I can see that tannic acid will be helpful in stabilising the beer and clearing it up at the end. But, there’s a fair bit of info saying I need to filter afterward which I’m not set up for. Will have to skip that. One thing I can’t see any use for is Pectinase . That’s more for cider and wine where you need to breaking down plant material.

Plenty of options. Plus, I’ve got eight carboys. Maybe I could test some with and without stuff. One could be a control with a beer I’ve made before (or as close as can be). Then make a second with Sodium metabisulfiteas the sanitiser. Then a third with Sodium metabisulfite, plus a campden tablet… you can see where I’m going with this. To summarise I’m thinking the following.

  1. Control – using the existing yeast nutrient normally use
  2. Same with a Campden tablet and sterilised with Sodium metabisulfite (and all the others after this)
  3. Just the found nutrient salts
  4. Just a Campden tablet
  5. With the found nutrient salts and a Campden tablet
Pale Trial Ein cooling down

Pale Trial Ein cooling down in the sink

Now, what to brew? Should it be the second attempt in the not-beers? Maybe another attempt at an IPA? Or should it be something completely new? What I needed to brew was something simple that worked out. The Pale Ale with just Vic Secret hops was ideal.

As there was going to be a large volume of beer I decided to swap out the dry malt extract with liquid malt extract. It’s cheaper that way. Have decided to call this Pale Trial Ein, ‘cos it’s a pale ale and a trial. Ein is German for one as this will be the first of probably a few goes, and German is the language my Dad grew up with.

  • 14 litre boil
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 40 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 30 mins
  • 10 grams Vic Secret hops @ 15 mins
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 5 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 0 mins
  • 1 flat teaspoon of US-05 yeast in each carboy
Pale Trial Ein done

Pale Trial Ein done and in the carboys

Simple but long day. It took 30 mins to heat up water. And chilling took over an hour even after dumping in four trays of ice and a whole two litre ice block. Might be time to invest in a wort chiller if I continue these big batches.

Worked out that there was about 17 litres of wort at the end. Didn’t top up the carboys. The original gravity reading came in at 1.055 which is pretty good. If the yeast brings that down to 1.014 then I’ll have 5.6% beers. But that’s all dependent on what happens in each carboy.

-Mikey

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