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YAHBB: Yet another Homebrewing Book (TM). Yes, they keep coming along and I am one of the addicts that absolutely love books of all kinds. I have a large bookshelf, the kind with the glass doors that protect the books from dust and stuff, and now have two full rows dedicated to nothing but brewing literature. The latest is “Methods of Modern Homebrewing: The Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Craft Beer Brewing”, by Chris Colby. Chris likes really long titles.

Most of my readers know that I live in Bastrop, Texas. So does Chris Colby, and we are friends. My garage brewery is in photos in both of his books. So please consider all of this in my mini-review below, which is probably fairly biased.

We should also hear a few things straight from Chris’s mouth as well, as I sit down with him and talk about what he learned writing this book.

Matt: Chris, let’s start with the most important question. Zombie Apocalypse… what beer is worth braving the undead at the grocery?

Chris: These days, it would be a Pilsner. There are a lot of breweries making great Pilsners in Texas now. If it’s in the fall, I’d stick up on Octoberfest beers.

“Methods of Modern Homebrewing” (MoMH moving forward) picks apart method and presents the reader with options, based on modern approaches. At its heart, MoMH is a tutorial that can take a brand new homebrewer through the increasingly difficult steps required to transition from basic extract brewing to very complex all grain techniques. The really cool thing is that this book can bring value and inspiration to everyone. I wish I had it when I started brewing.

Matt: You cover a range of brewing techniques and concepts. Of these, which do you feel is the best starting point for a new brewer? Why?

Chris: I think a brewer should start with the type of beer he or she wants to brew. If he really wants to be brewing triple decoction bocks, brewing extract English ales as a warmup isn’t going to be cutting it. Know what you want to do and do it. (And of course, understand that if you pick something complex right out of the gate, your learning curve is going to be steeper and bumpier.)

The book itself is well illustrated and features lots of full-color photographs. Tables and side-bars are easy to read, however, the primary text feels a bit small and thin. The paperback format is nice and the pages fall open easily.

Matt: Of the more difficult and obscure brewing methods, which is your favorite and why? What does it do that a simpler or more direct approach cannot?

Chris: This may not qualify as obscure, but I do everything I can to get a good start to fermentation. I make a yeast starter for every beer and aerate with oxygen. At a minimum, I get a predictable start to fermentation in a reasonable time. I also think that I’m more likely to hit a reasonable FG and that the beer is less likely to have unwanted fermentation byproducts. I also think if you take care of fermentation, your beer will condition more quickly compared to a beer that had a slow start and maybe a lagging fermentation. 

One of my big issues with today’s homebrewing culture is that we (myself included) have overly complicated processes to the point they are intimidating to beginners, and every fool is an expert. Chris breaks the approach by the practical presentation of technique and leaning on years of experience in brewing.  He is also a scientist and avoids many of the old brewing myth pitfalls.

There is a small introduction to cover the highlights, but the real value is the featured recipe designed to work best with the technique discussed. Nothing gets wildly out of hand or controversial. You are almost guaranteed to get a good result,  assuming you can follow simple directions. There are lots of recipes at each level, and notes to take it from extract to all grain if you prefer.

Matt: You are also a passionate gardener. How have these passions come together? Are they synergistic and complimentary?

Chris: I grew hops for awhile, until the drought of 2011 wiped them out. I also grew barley a couple times; Robust (a 6-row malting barley) one year and Conlon (a 2-row malting barley) another. My next brewing and gardening combo is going to be catnip IPA. Catnip is a mint, and has an aroma that I think would work with hops well. Northern Brewer is a minty hop, so I think it would pair well with it. And perhaps it’s aroma would compliment some of the fruity New Zealand hops. I’ve already brewed a pale ale to try to get a handle on how much catnip I’d need. As it turns out, a lot more than I’d thought. I couldn’t detect any catnip in my experimental batch. But I have several second year catnip plants growing and tons of seed. I’ll make it happen this year.

“Methods” is a recipe book with about 50 unique beers. It’s a brewing technique book touching nearly every modern brewing technique. It’s even a reference book. I have never really seen a book organized to ease you through a homebrewing career, but this is one that can help you grow into more complicated skills, even decoctions or iterated mashing high gravity beers.

Matt: Other brewing book ideas?

Chris: I’d like to do an ingredients book next. It would cover malts (base and specialty), unmalted grains, hops, yeast water, and other. It would stress the characteristics of the ingredients (esp. what is measured), how to evaluate ingredients, and how to best use them in brewing. I’m going to pitch the book to my publisher this fall.

Bottom line: I bought this book. And was later given a free copy because Chris is a good guy. I gave the copy I bought away to a new homebrewer. You can find it & The Home Brew Bible at Amazon. So yeah, a biased opinion! See?

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It is inevitable. After a major competition, someone posts a horribly written score sheet to social media, and drama ensues; defensive lines are formed, names called. In my years of competing, the quality of score sheet feedback has been random. When reading paired sheets side-by-side, you can often tell who is the influencer on the table and directs the consensus score. You can also tell who is freshest through the training, throwing around feared words like oxidation or diacetyl or acetaldehyde or DMS. Recently judging the Texas Mead Cup, as well as a Tasting Exam, I thought I would share my thoughts on judging, and review the anatomy of a score sheet.

These are, of course, my opinions, and in some way my personal manifesto. I am not here to argue the merits of the Style Guidelines, the BJCP, the general organization of a competition, or critique any specific judge. To be fair, I often fail to meet this high personal standard. I am not a “better” judge than anyone else – so keep that in mind. Not much authority or “expertise” here to back this up.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is in no way responsible for how a competition is run or the individuals that judge. It simply provides an organization to train, recognize, and rank a judge’s experience, knowledge, and ability to communicate. Judges are volunteers, taking time to support a competition, most often without any reward or incentive (save BJCP judging points, required to progress in rank). BJCP Certification is NO guarantee that a judge is “good” or will provide excellent feedback. Good judges can consistently provide and describe their experience evaluating the entry, and provide reasonable feedback to improve the entry, and finally, score and rank the entry in a flight. BJCP endorsement is not required to be a good or even great judge but does provide organizers some idea of a judge’s experience and ability.

Judging has made me a more consistent brewer and mead maker(by my standards anyway). There are those magical moments when a brilliantly crafted entry is opened, and you can wallow, enjoying the aromas and flavors. There are also those incredibly challenging entries that have a single major flaw, but otherwise really good, and those, that you fear to put to your lips. It is a mental game of evaluation and detection. I love it. I try to use these skills when choosing my own entries hoping to compete well.

Navigating the Competition Process

In most cases, the organizer or judge coordinator will gather judges that have arrived on time, and begin pairing experienced with less experienced judges. Often that means pairing a BJCP judge with a non-experienced judge, or at least an experienced, but trusted judge with a less experienced judge. Having coordinated a few competitions, it can be frustrating to get enough qualified folks on the tables and judging.

This is often an opportunity to provide a calibration session. In my opinion, this can help set the tone for judges, where a very experienced judge talks through their experience and relates it to the score sheet. Everyone can follow along, and provide their feedback. The calibration should be interactive, not leading.

Judge pairs are then assigned tables, and stewards start to bring out score sheets, flight sheets, and the lead/head judge is identified for the pair. The head judge reviews the flight sheets and may make recommendations on the ordinal position of entries, moving potential palate killers to the end. Beers/Meads/Ciders come to the tables and are evaluated. Score sheets are filled out followed by a short discussion to come to a consensus score. At the end of the flight, consensus on the best entries to move forward into a mini-Best of Show (mini-BOS or second round) is achieved and is not always based on scored rank. Judges should then take a break away from any judging, and prepare to judge another flight, depending on schedule, etc. Generally, the most trusted and experienced judges are asked to complete the mini-BOS and BOS, please do not be offended if you are not chosen!

Pet Peeve: Judges should NEVER hang around, watch or listen to the judging of categories where they are entered. Be honorable and get the heck away from your entries! If you are pouring, and recognize an entry (maybe someone in your club), let the coordinator know. If you are asked to proceed, be as fair as possible. Of course, judges should keep their voices down when discussing. Another judge may be the owner of the entry you are raving or complaining about. If you are handed a sample and know it is yours, then you should decline to provide feedback or an opinion. I keep a list of my entries on me and the categories they are entered into – and reference it because my memory sucks!

There is often a bit of competition between judges, especially those wanting to earn BJCP points, to sit at the mini-BOS and BOS tables. Generally, judges earn points for judging sessions and an additional point for competition BOS, but never extra points for mini-BOS. The judge coordinator and competition organizer most likely already have names in their heads for this. Let them know if you are willing and want to sit, but again, do not be frustrated if you are not selected, it is not personal. Too many people at that table simply slow things down.

Judges that have entries in the competition can only judge categories they have not entered, and cannot participate in any mini-BOS or BOS in which they may have an entry. In-experienced judges, without a competition entry, may be invited to observe the mini-BOS and BOS process. Here, judges quickly evaluate all of the entries at one time. It is common to have 6-12 cups or more on the table. Most judges take some short notes, and quickly eliminate any obviously flawed or out of style entries, leaving the few good cups. At this point, judges discuss, argue, and rank through a consensus process. In a few competitions, a second set of score sheets are written, but this is rare.

Anatomy of a Score Sheet

Because many new brewers enter competitions and get score sheets back with feedback, I thought it pertinent to give some insight into the organization procedures and how score sheets are generated. Keep in mind, competitions vary widely, but this is generally how things go.

Judges should prepare themselves mentally and physically for judging. This means settling down and getting comfortable, quiet, and friendly discussion about the style category, perhaps reading the guideline document. I take a judging kit along, with good pencils and erasers, a penlight, and pre-printed labels. Everything is set up, along with some towels to quickly address spills. I discuss with my judge partner the order of entries while hydrating before judging with a bit of cold water. If I am lead in the judge pair, I organize my sheets and flight sheet so all are accessible.

Below is my personal judging procedure. It is NOT presented as the BEST way to judge an entry, rather a way to get through a sheet consistently. I’ll add in a lot of opinions, which may be pedantic. That is fine. You don’t have to agree with me! There are many methods out there.

  1. Decant the sample into the cup and cover to capture aromas. I have a little metal cup cover that was a judging gift from a comp. As the sample warms up, the cover traps the aromatics and concentrates them. If you don’t have a cover, use another cup to capture those fleeting aromas.
  2. If there are immediate and obvious signs of contamination or packaging flaws, do a very fast sniff and sip. If you confirm the flaws, discuss with your judge partner if you should go to a second bottle. Bottling and shipping are very difficult and every entry should get a fair sheet. If a second bottle is available, talk to the steward or coordinator, and then indicate on the sheet that you went to the second bottle and why. If the bottle is not available, then proceed to judge.
  3. First, I judge APPEARANCE. I have a fairly standard and quick script for this, writing a simple sentence that addresses the key issues printed on the sheet. Comment on color, clarity, and head (retention, color, and texture), as well as a comment on style. You will note a common theme – use the queues provided on the score sheet!
    EXAMPLE: “Pale straw color tending toward orange. The light haze is acceptable, with a tall, dense creamy white head that persists with very fine bubbles. High carbonation supports the head, and is appropriate for a saison. Love the lacing!”
  4. Next, I move to the AROMA section, which I know is listed first, but I want the aromas to build up. Comment on malt, hops, esters, and other aromatics, as appropriate to the style, but also bringing in I/Q (Intensity/Quality) for each. I find I/Q easy to remember as I step through each of the characteristics.
    EXAMPLE: “Malt intensity is medium, with a low doughy note. Medium low toasty aromas elevate the malty character. Hops are medium-low, presenting a spicy noble character with a light floral accent. Yeast driven phenols and esters balance toward spicy white pepper and present a strong crisp Saison impression. I get a slight plastic phenolic note and smoke. Fruity esters are low.” I would then underline the plastic and smoke comment.
  5. FLAVOR comes next. I will take at least two full sips before picking up the pencil. Comment on malt, hops, fermentation characteristics, balance, finish/aftertaste, and other flavor characteristics, considering the style. Focus on I/Q for each characteristic.
    EXAMPLE: “Malt flavors are medium, presenting with a tart, doughy character that supports the medium-high floral and spicy hoppiness. Hop bitterness is medium and appropriate. Yeast-derived black peppery phenols dominate, and fruit esters are low. Balance favors the yeast character, phenolic and spicy. Finish is clean and crisp and lingering. Very nice and drinkable. Boozy, alcohol comes through prominently, which is ok for a strong saison, but has a distracting low fusel  character.” Depending on the strength indicated on the flight sheet, I would likely underline the entire last sentence.
  6. Onto MOUTHFEEL. This has been the weakest section on many of the sheets I have received over the years, despite the characteristics to lead the evaluation. Comment on body, carbonation, warmth, creaminess, astringency, and other palate sensations, as appropriate to style. Again, focus on I/Q in the descriptions.
    EXAMPLE: “Medium bodied, but the finish is bone dry. The very high carbonation level is appropriate. High alcohol is warming, but this is dangerously drinkable. No creaminess, no astringency. Very prickly carbonic bite that helps the dry effect. Excellent palate presentation, great job bottling such a high carbonation level!” I would circle the last sentence as a positive.
  7. Finally OVERALL. Rather than restate, I prefer to sum up my experience with the beer/mead/cider, with a key focus on style, and adress any major flaws (assuming I have not done so in the evaluation sections). Review those comments that are underlined or circled.
    EXAMPLE: “This is a wonderful beer that hits on all of the key characteristics of a strong, pale Saison. I detected a slightly smoky, plastic phenol, that combined with a low fusel alcohol note, may indicate that your fermentation went a bit hard, fast, and hot. I would suggest starting your fermentation on the cool side, then allowing the temperature to free rise over a few days to 68-72F, depending on the strain. Or select a more forgiving Saison yeast that throws fewer fusels, and pitch an adequate amount of viable yeast cells. Great job with this beer! I truly enjoyed it!” If you like a beer, say so! Ask for a recipe or otherwise encourage the entrant.
  8. Score each section, and add up. I like to assign an overall score in my head and work out score assignments for each section. Double check your math.
  9. Finally, fill out the rest of the sheet. I quickly scan the Descriptor Definitions, check those appropriate, and circle the words that support my analysis. I may also write low or good where appropriate. Then move down to the bottom box and indicators of Stylistic Accuracy, Technical Merit, Intangibles. These indicators and the score should align with your overall individual score as listed on the bottom left Scoring Guide chart.
  10. Wait quietly until your team judge is finished, and begin to discuss QUIETLY. With in-experienced judges, it may be necessary to confirm what they detect or help to redefine something. Never belittle or push or complain. Rationally work to create a consensus score, including making minor score adjustments to come within the competition’s desired judging delta. Remember that points are arbitrary and that you should be generous. The overall score and quality of feedback go a long way in encouraging the entrant to continue to improve and compete. Once consensus has been reached, check and organize the sheets, annotate the flight sheet, and move along. Feel free to share a good entry with the steward or comp organizer.
  11. Throughout the process, be still and reserved. It is common, as the alcohol begins to drop your inhibitions, to make noises or grunts when first smelling or tasting an entry. Do your best to avoid that, and to ignore it when your partner groans. Make your own judgments as fairly as possible. Do not wander around and talk to other judges, unless you can do so without interference. Never go to a table where you may have an entry!
General Thoughts

Approaching the judging process with humility and with the Golden Rule front of mind, may help you to write sheets that mirror what YOU hope for and expect from the very best competitions. Put yourself in the shoes of the entrant, who may either be a very experienced brewer or an absolutely brand new brewer. There is NEVER a reason to be RUDE or INSULTING to any entry.  Figure out how to write about awful entries without being a jerk.

Write your sheets with the audience in mind. The score sheets you write for a BJCP exam should be written for the graders, to help them understand your ability and knowledge. Sheets for an entrant should be oriented toward helping them understand your experience with the entry, and gently direct them toward how flaws may be fixed, or suggest minor recipe tweaks. Leave the big fancy aggressive words behind, and never assume anything about the entrant or their brewing processes.

It is so easy to be “judgmental” and “harsh” when writing a sheet. Far easier to be negative when confronted with extreme flaws. State flaws simply, and without derision. Better to say, “Butter flavors overwhelm the malt character.” than “Butter Bomb! Diacetyl!” Then provide some advice in the Overall Impression section, or if the flaw is massive, use the appropriate section. Underlining negative notes also helps to identify the key flaw(s) that impact that section’s score.

I tend to avoid writing the chemical name of a flaw, ester, of phenol, more than once. I would rather present a better description and use the Descriptor Definitions to outline the technical names. A sheet that reads, “Strong artificial green apple and latex aromas are inappropriate for a robust porter” communicates your experience better than just writing, “acetaldehyde is overwhelming” despite the space savings.

Slow down while writing. It is not a race. With experience, you can write a sheet in 8 minutes, but most judges I know take 10-15 minutes. Don’t let yourself be rushed. Handwriting is the bane of many judges and you know if you write legibly or not. If you struggle, then write in larger block letters, taking your time. I find this helps me to organize my thoughts and present a logical argument. Also – look critically at your handwriting as you get deeper into flights. It becomes easy to “slur” your writing and language as you drink.

If you start to feel impaired. Please stop. Excuse yourself and hydrate. Sometimes, eating a small snack will help. And most of all, please, do not drink beers/meads/ciders between sessions. We need responsible and sober judges. Save the party to the end, and make sure you get home safely!

My goal, overall, is to provide good information and encouragement to help the entrant. They should clearly understand what you are saying and how you came to your conclusion. They may disagree. Own what you write. I love to get emails from entrants – especially when I solicit a recipe or make a compliment!

Please refrain from posting score sheets online in a plea to reinforce your opinions of how crappy it was! At the least, do so after removing the judge’s information? Problems with sheets or scores should be addressed with the competition organizer. Trust me, they want to know.

As I mentioned, this is a high bar. I fail to meet it too often. Hopefully, you can glean some tips to make your judging and score sheets clearly communicate your experience.

The post Judging and the Anatomy of a Score Sheet appeared first on Accidentalis Brewing.

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Between March 8 and 11, a herd of mead makers (and a few bee-keepers), converged on the beautiful and scenic Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado in celebration of mead. This year, the weather was gorgeous, hanging in the 50’s – 60’s, with clear views of the mountains.

Home brewing beer has its NHC (Ninkasi) and MCAB. Mead brewers have Mead Free or Die, the Domras Cup, and the SuperBowl of mead making, The Mazer Cup. This is the perfect setting to celebrate safely!

American Mead Makers Association

March 8, 2017 was the first American Mead Makers Association conference. Attended by 75+ individual and commercial AMMA members, the day was jam-packed with interesting and educational presentations. Many topics were covered: the state of the Mead industry, how to market on a budget, how to start a meadery, a CBD-infused mead demonstration, a barrel cooperage demonstration and discussion on barrel aging mead, and how to filter.

The presentations ended with Ken Schramm (Schramm’s Mead, The Compleat Meadmaker) laying out the challenges ahead of the craft Mead industry, and storytelling as only Ken can do!

Closing presentation, “Where Do We Go From Here?” – photo by Vickie Rowe

The evening ended with the MeadUp, a party where many commercial meads were poured. This was a chance to talk with Susan Ruud (Prairie Rose Meadery), Sergio Moutela (Melovino), Jeff Herbert (Superstition Meadery), Eric Lowe & Mike Simmons (Meridian Hive ), and many other great mead makers, all friendly and generous with their time!

You will detect a theme moving forward. So yes, a party nearly every night! Bring a steel liver.

The conference and Mead Up was organized by Vickie Rowe (GotMead.com) who is now the AMMA Executive Director. I want to give her a shout out for an amazing job and very cool conference experience.

The AMMA is the nascent organization to support and promote mead as a craft beverage. While it is currently focused on commercial issues, it is also a place for individual mead enthusiasts to participate. Given the rapid growth in this craft beverage category, the AMMA has been driving hard on The Mead Act, designed to give mead makers the same advantages as commercial wine and beer manufacturers.

Please join the AMMA, even as an individual! The singular needs are both in terms of money (to support programs, research, and political issues) and resources (volunteers with specific skills and ability).

AMMA Strategy Breakout Discussions.

The following afternoon, fortunately after letting everyone sleep in late, was the AMMA Annual Meeting, which has been integrated with The Mazer Cup for a couple of years. Here, we broke into groups to help brainstorm ideas for a strategic business plan and organizational projects. This gave every member attending the ability to comment. We also raised a little over $2,000 to help bolster the financial resources of the AMMA.

Please note that the AMMA and The Mazer Cup International are independent of each other. The Mazer Cup competition is an all volunteer organization not directly affiliated with any commercial Meadery or the AMMA. 

The Mazer Cup International

In the evening, there was an opportunity to take the Sensory Calibration Session with Pete Bakulic, president of the Mazer Cup organization. We started with a Saw Palmetto Gewürztraminer pyment, aged for 15 years, brewed by Glenn Exline. This was incredibly complex and not much like a wine at all. Prominent tobacco and grape aromatics, some caramel and fruit leather and stone fruit. It was just amazing and perfect.  Pete walked everyone through tasting techniques and thinking processes. We finished with advice to judges for the coming two-day competition judging.

Pete walked everyone through tasting techniques and analytical processes. We finished the session with Ryan Thomas providing judging advice and procedures for the coming two-day competition judging.

Commercial Judging

The competitions are run by Glenn Exline and Ryan Thomas, and an excellent team of volunteers, The Mazer Cup is an incredible judging and stewarding experience. If you attend, please volunteer as a steward or a judge. Both roles are informative and enjoyable, but can also be a lot of work. The Mazer Cup is a master class on running a top notch competition.

Friday is the commercial judging, and if you are BJCP Certified and Mead Endorsed, ensured to get into several flights of incredible mead! I had the opportunity to sit with both Susan Ruud as well as Sergio Moutela. Not for the faint of heart, however, as I managed to get mostly sack (read strong) entries through the day. Three flights and a mini-bos, left me somewhat exhausted.

The Mazer Cup sets the standard for excellent stewardship. Mead is poured away from the table (to keep judging blind), and served in polished wine goblets. A steward sits at the table to manage all of the paperwork, and division of the table (two or three sets of judges), and keep the samples flowing and the table clutter free.

The evening ended with another party. The Mazer Cup Mead Mixer featured 20+ commercial meaderies, pouring their wares, along with some welcome small dishes and deserts. All funds raised (tickets and donations) go to help fund the Community Food Share of Boulder and Broomfield Counties.

This is a great chance to taste both available and pilot batch mead offerings, many of which you can only get at the meadery itself. It is also an opportunity to explore the amazing variety and innovation that is driving craft mead. And as if you didn’t drink enough, an after party in a suite took the party well into the early morning.

Home Brew Judging

Saturday, the amateur competition was judged. Where the commercial meads were great, the home brewed meads were equally amazing. Six hours of judging, I needed a meal and a nap. The competition was brutal. I personally gave at least three entries a score of 45 or better. And I am pretty picky.

My friends from Meridian Hive. Medalling like a boss! Four freaking Golds! The Mazer Cup Awards Ceremony

The evening ended with the awards ceremony, an amazing dinner to reward all of the commercial meaderies and volunteers. It is crowded, loud, and a tremendous celebration of mead. The Mazer Cup really takes care of the judges and stewards, with reserved tables.

Jeremy Voeltz, or AZIPA on Homebrewtalk, earned two cups!

I watched and cheered as friends collected their awards; especially happy with my friends at Meridian Hive who took FOUR gold medals! And homebrewer friends, such as Jeremy Voeltz and Billy Beltz won multiple Mazer Cups! Sadly, I didn’t place this year.

A LOT of mead was consumed. And, as expected, the party moved up to a suite and continued till 4 am (or so I heard, I went to bed). Many blurry eyes and dragging folk were checking out the next morning!

Billy took a total of two cups as well… Next year, his meadery, Lost Cause, should be competing on the commercial side, leaving room for us mere mortals! Conclusion

The Mazer Cup has grown to become one of the hardest competitions to place. Home mead makers are rivaling the best of the best commercial mead makers! Anyone that loves mead needs to put this competition on their bucket list! Warning – the competition entry limit was exceeded in just a few days so you need to be ready when announced! It is also supporting a very good cause.

The AMMA needs all of us and resources to continue to propel the industry forward. If we consider all that the AHA and BA have done to help both homebrewing and craft beer, the AMMA is poised to become the same to craft mead beverages. If the strategy session is any indication, the resources available to members will be extensive and extremely valuable. Current members have access to beautifully produced digital editions of the American Mead Maker Journal. Get involved!

Finally, I encourage you to review  The Mead Act. This is very important legislation designed to level the competitive playing field for craft mead at the Federal level, including a broader definition. Currently, mead is poorly defined and very limited in scope. The requirements for formula and limitations on ABV firewall craft mead from competing on wine and beer shelves.

AMMA and its members are paving the way, we can help!


The post A Celebration of Mead and Makers appeared first on Accidentalis Brewing.

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Leaning forward from my last post about lessons learned, I am putting a plan together to help me hit a stretch goal of consistency. While this may seem obvious, I am pretty serious about eliminating “possibly” problematic issues, and striking highly consistent and predictable brewing. So here are my “Keys to Consistency.”

Key #1: Eliminate the unpredictable

Let’s kick off with the most obvious issue: unpredictability. Since I am human, my ability to repeat a task is based on practice and muscle/brain memory. The easiest concept here is shuffling off tasks like timing and milling to a machine.

My mill is a Monster Mill MM3-Pro, direct driven by an All American Ale Works 180 RPM mill motor, connected via Lovejoy shaft couplers. This thing is a beast. However, I have been mucking around with the gap settings as I started to condition my malt. Conditioning allows for increased whole husk retention and better lautering.

I tried to reduce my gap sizes to increase mash efficiency (without any good reason). Somewhere along the way, my mash efficiency dropped dramatically. So I need to do some bench trials and find the right mill setting. Going lighter with the conditioning water (1% by weight, rather than 2%) should allow me to have a fairly coarse crush.

Revisit mashing schedules and programmed presets. I utilize the recipe function on the Brew-Magic to pre-program my favorite mash profiles. I noticed with my last brew that I had made some changes along the way and managed to save these over the old profile. The result is that the times and temperatures no longer match my BeerSmith profiles. This should be SET AND FORGET with the Brew-Magic.

Establish a protocol checklist for various measurements, including mash pH, DO, and gravity. With a written protocol, the measurements have more direct relevant meanings. This should also allow me to reduce the number of measurements, and integrate naturally into the brew day.

Most important, be MENTALLY present during the brew day and take sharp observations. Use your senses and get the rhythms down. The sounds of pumps and burners will shift if something changes. Watch for possible dangers.

Key #2: Maintenance and Calibration

I have spent more money than I care to know on meters and other measurement devices, not to mention my systems. Let’s start with the obvious.

Get an accurately graduated pitcher: Bonus if it is marked in Liters and Quarts. Check it by using weight to confirm it is accurate. My new pitcher is marked appropriately, and when tared weighs 1 gallon of water exactly 8.36 pounds on my postal scale. I use this occasionally to calculate any changes to dead space or losses in my system and then adjust my equipment profiles in BeerSmith.

Get accurate scales. I use a digital postal scale to weigh malts and a jeweler’s milligram weight scale for hops and mineral additions. Make sure to check both for accuracy across a range of known weights, and confirm the manufacturing claims and tolerances. You can buy small reference weights cheaply at Amazon for the milligram scale. In this case, you will be able to replicate a previous brew recipe with precision and confidence.

Buy quality hydrometers and thermometers. I have the philosophy of buying the best possible equipment I can afford. Hydrometers are cheap, as are thermometers, but you get what you pay for. Look at NIST certification on a thermometer, which will push you into the $50+ range. Accept accuracy over speed.

My original hydrometer from 6 years ago apparently slipped the registration scale paper, so I now have a set of hydrometers for high gravity, mid gravity, and finish gravity. Sacrifice a little DME and make solutions in the general gravity range of your beers and test them. I absolutely love my finish gravity hydrometer. And treat them very gently… no dropping them into a dry test jar and handle by the bulb, not the stem.

A digital meter is a commitment. That means making regularly scheduled maintenance and calibration, as well as proper storage. Make sure your meters are in working order and stable. Stability is as critical as accuracy, meaning that the meter won’t drift out of calibration during a brew day.

Establish a measurement protocol and write it down. Take a sample, always chill it, check the pH or DO or TDS, then rinse in cold RO/DI water and store. Always calibrate before the brew day. Always decant the calibration solution into a cup, never stick a meter in the whole bottle, and dispose of the solution after.

Meters in wort will invariably get some contaminant, don’t propagate it into your calibration solutions. Check your batteries. Change storage solution regularly, and if you see bacterial growth in the storage solution, get some probe cleaner. Replace old calibration solutions.

Key #3: Note Taking

Consistency means DOING things the same way in a predictable manner. However, things change and bad habits form. Documenting the same information each time we brew will provide some data to look at. My friend over at ericbrews.com has a really nice brew day sheet that I plan to use.

Ericbrew’s Brew Sheet

As you can see, the brew sheet has detailed areas to gather information. Importantly, it also has a place to note deviations from your expectations. A record of these brew sheets will allow you to look back over the past and make an evaluation. Look for your weak spots and put a plan in place to address them.

Be diligent. I have started and stopped taking really great notes several times. I get lazy, or distracted, and fail to gather up my notes. This is my stretch goal. I plan to setup my calendar such to remind me to copy over my notes into BeerSmith, as well as copy over a clean manual copy for my records. This way, I have two records.

I also find it educational to do the calculations manually. This is helpful for a number of reasons. Understanding the differences between mash efficiency and brewhouse efficiency, or being able to estimate OG manually, helps me to disconnect from BeerSmith more often.

Key #4: Practice & Brew

I like to brew often and iterate recipes with minor tweaks. The more often you brew, the more good technique becomes muscle and brain memory. If you do the math, brewing once a month gets you 12 in a year. Double that to twice a month, and you double your ability to get deep into how your system performs, and more importantly, how consistently you can hit your desired numbers. 24 brews in a year is a great dataset to determine how well you are doing. Give yourself permission to make a mediocre beer if testing recipes or yeast strains.

Stay focused and minimize distractions during the brew day. This can be impossible for many people, but it’s how I love to brew. I also love having friends to brew with, but will likely schedule a ‘sloppy’ brew day just for fun, rather than focus so intently. If there is something that consistently distracts you, plan for it.

Commit to minimizing system changes. Anything, from changing your mill settings, to adding a pump, can create discontinuity.  Make a huge note on your brew sheet the milestone changes. It is always a great idea to just run with water first, and work out any possible issues (leaks, valve configuration, etc.) before committing to the expense of ingredients. These are opportunities to do a deep clean. If you do make a system change, plan for the possibly unpredictable results.

Commit to a specific mash schedule and repeat it over and over. Step mashing or infusion mashing requires close attention to temperatures and volumes. Understand the time commitments and make sure to evaluate batches side by side if possible. If you make changes, note them. Don’t expect to have your first decoction/step mash/reiterated mash or whatever to go right the first time out – so set expectations appropriately. Regardless, relax a little and enjoy the process.

Example: I replaced my copper CFC with a stainless CFC in-line with my whirlpool. This allows the boiling wort to sanitize the CFC before I turn on the chilling water. Then using a timer, I have been measuring the chill time using tap water and comparing the tap water temps to the temperature of the 11 gallons in the kettle.

My biggest issue is that my tap water is typically very warm and the temperatures variable. I have been experimenting with 15 gallons of ice water pumped through the CFC to knock off the last few degrees, with the goal of being able to reach pitching temperatures. I need an inline thermometer to check the wort temps coming out of the chiller to optimize flow rates. Of course, remember wort has more mass than water, so it will take a little longer to chill than just tap water. Wort will always behave differently.

Key #5: Clean and Sanitize after brewing

Fortunately, I am fairly OCD about cleaning and sanitation. Given the complexity of my system, I NEED to be sure everything is clean and anything south of the hot side is pristinely clean and sanitary. This is difficult in a garage.  Cleaning and sanitation are preventative and protective of your investments.

Keep your kegs and bottles absolutely clean. I like to clean my kegs and fill with StarSan. I then push all that out with CO2 at 5 PSI or so into another clean keg. This gives me properly purged kegs with sealed lids under pressure, ready to receive beer, a little foil over the disconnects keeps the dust away. Bottles get cleaned and sanitized and stored with a little foil, and upside down in the original box. Again, ready for use, and just a little rinse on the outside to deal with any dust. Cleaned cases of bottles or kegs are labeled, so I know what I am grabbing.


The engineer in me really likes this as a plan to check my skills and equipment. The creative side says, meh, just make beer. It is always a dance in my head between the goal-oriented OCD brewer and the lazier guy.

At the end of the day, the goal is what is important. Keeping those goals in mind, and rewarding yourself for success, help keep your momentum moving forward.

The post Keys to Consistency appeared first on Accidentalis Brewing.

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I firmly believe we learn from history, even our own. While it may seem pedantic, I learn through doing and, most often, making mistakes. So here’s my top 6 things I learned in this past year. Consider it confessional and cathartic.

1. It takes a while to recover from a complete reset.

I decided early in the year to completely reboot my brewing approach. I was getting bored, and a little frustrated with my beer’s quality. While they were good, and earning decent competition scores, it felt like I was throwing good effort after bad with little improvement. I went through my brewing processes and made several adjustments, and changed far too many variables at once, resulting in several months of brewing without hitting goals. I nearly threw in the towel.

Built this to replace my Chill Wizard. Dual pumps configured to pump chill water and wort and whirlpool. New stainless CFC in the box.

It was as if I was back again learning to brew on the Brew-Magic without experience. Over the past few months, I have had to isolate single issues – crush, water chemistry, mash techniques, troubleshooting. All this while trying to integrate LO2 into my processes. I may finally have a handle on things.

Only change a single variable at a time. Just one. Brew iterative batches to compare, and compare as honestly as possible. Chase consistency over efficiency. Simplicity is often the better decision. Set your expectations properly… huge changes introduce many variables.

2. I may be wrong or I may be right

Apologies to Billy Joel, but I have made errors in measurements and expectations, perhaps out of hubris, or perhaps just bad luck. I let some notes get tossed out before recording them into my log. This left me scratching my head as I was troubleshooting. I didn’t have all the data I needed to make an educated guess.

I discovered that one of the thermometers I used often was off by a few degrees. And realized that my hydrometers didn’t really match up. I replaced my old hydrometers with high-resolution versions. The old thermo is marked and ready to go into the smoker (and not in the brew house). I had to replace a pH probe that was not stable. Recognize that all of these things can cause confusion, and calibration and stability should be part of your maintenance schedule.

Keeping good notes is essential. While I have written about this before, I got lazy, yet again. The brewery is a messy environment, so instead of taking my log book or laptop out, I take notes on my brew sheets (printed from BeerSmith and Bru’n Water) and they can take a beating. I used to close my brew days by copying the notes into BeerSmith and my log, but I lapsed. On occasion I picked up the wrong water sheet in the garage and added the wrong water chemistry. Not a horrible error, but certainly embarrassing.

Take detailed notes and have the discipline needed to record and save your notes. Good note taking breeds confidence as you can confirm information batch to batch.

Brew day notes copied over from my paper notes. 3. Brew the same recipe over and over

Ok. This might be a little on the anal retentive side, but trying to nail a style or recipe requires iterative brewing. There are many things to master: technique, recipe creation, fermentation, etc. It helps to have a passion for something, like a light lager. Again, change a single variable as you re-brew, even if it is simply changing malt vendors. Learn what variables matter for that style – on your system – with your approach. You may get sick of that particular style – so break up the monotony.

Review the beers with your notes: what changed and how impactful was the change? Can you confirm that the malt/hop/yeast/ferment change was the outlier? Find trusted friends to help judge those beers side by side. Better yet, blind triangles will help remove bias and provide data points that you may not otherwise gather.

Caveat: Most brewers are happy with a lot of style variety and not concerned with consistency. You should brew however and whatever makes you happy. Consistency is something that I strive for. The result is a level of confidence that allows me to risk ingredients in larger batches.

4. Little things that make a difference

When I say little things, lemme ‘splain. No time. Lemme sum up. I keep a stack of disposable Solo cups handy in the brewery. They are incredibly useful – great for weighing hops, minerals, and for a quick wort sample. Same for my wall paper tray. It is long enough to handle my whisk and steel spoon, and a catch basin for many of the little gaskets, clamps and other widgets I need so often that needs sanitation.

Lot’s of spray bottles (I keep 3 full at all times) of StarSan or SaniClean, so I am not searching relentlessly when I need one. A chest of tools and spare parts, ready when I need them. Not to mention Mason Jars (and new lids) – lots of them. They are useful for so many things, especially yeast handling, and easy to sanitize in a pressure cooker.

Oh I love milk crates. Great place to safely store CO2 and O2 bottles. And wonderful to support delicate carboys.

While these things don’t directly improve my beer, mead, or wine, they sure take a lot of the anxiety away. Collect useful things and discard those that just don’t work. Of course, it helps if the significant other doesn’t mind some clutter. Just don’t let it stack up like I tend to do.

Extra “little things” are handy when a fellow brewer needs help. Be generous and I bet you might benefit from some reciprocal love when you are missing a tri-clamp or short a bit of c-malt sometime. I recently ‘passed along’ a retired brewery to someone wanting to move into all grain. Only took an hour or so to clean everything up nice and spiffy. Felt awesome to pay it forward!

Time to organize. Lots of random gaskets, hose clamps, TC bits, etc. 5. Understand your motivations

Learn what makes you happy. For many home brewers, this is a simple hobby. An escape from a daily grind that results in a fresh beer in the glass. For others, home brewing is about competition and loading up on bragging rights. For a smaller subset, it is a consuming passion. Digging deeper and deeper into brewing can become (sometimes overly so) an obsession.

What makes you happy? Hitting your expected numbers dead on time and time again? Or sharing your sparkling golden bounty with friends and family? What goals have you set for your home brewing career? Are they realistic? Good goals are achievable, measurable, and easily defined.

One of mine is to win a gold medal in a major competition with a light lager this year. That means I truly need to get a grasp on packaging, which has been a problem for me. I hate bottling. Hate it.

I am goal oriented, detailed, and passionate. I naturally apply the same ethos to my brewing. However, as mentioned, it can be a zero sum game. I constantly read both technical and historical brewing books, and try to apply what I learn. I am also naturally impatient, often making big leaps (and too many changes at once), and then disappointed. While failure is an option, repeated failures are often dispiriting. I can give you a bunch of ways NOT to make a good beer! Manage disappointment through managing expectations.

Skip the ego. I have tried to be less authoritative and more humble in giving brewing advice. Be open-minded and considerate of a fellow brewer’s approach. When judging, find the positives before criticizing. When teaching classes, I try to use more literal demonstrations and less raw data, although many folks want chapter and verse, and it often doesn’t fit their brewing system.

Each brewer is responsible to find the gear, techniques, and style that suits them. At no time should you feel bullied or jealous or defensive in the face of a self-proclaimed “advanced” brewer. If they denigrate or laugh at your system,  avoid that toxic person. I hope that each brewer would attempt to make the very best product possible, and learn through experience. I would also hope that a brewer who has some success, will pass along their experience in a humble and generous fashion.

6. Dump that beer

I am sitting with three kegs of beer that will be dumped after I finish this article. One is a poorly executed saison that drinks more like a slightly spicy English Brown ale and has a slight contamination issue. The other is what I call my onion helles – my first LO2 attempt massively overdosed with bisulfites. Both beers are pretty lousy and yet I hang onto them. While my fermenters are a bit light right now, I need the space. I also don’t need the reminder of those particular failures. Time to move along.

Bad beer becomes really old stale bad beer over time. If cellar space is an issue, then dump the stuff you won’t enjoy or dispose of it in another way (ethanol removal devices are technically illegal). That said, make sure to troubleshoot the what, why, and how of the failure. Then dump it without guilt or angst.


Well that was cathartic and also somewhat random.

The post Learn from my mistakes… appeared first on Accidentalis Brewing.

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Meet Ricardo

About a year and a half ago, I met this energetic dude with a strong Southern (that is Argentinian) accent, that was coming back to Austin after spending a few years in Munich. Ricardo engaged the Zealots, looking to get back involved. Even while shipping beers over from Germany, he was taking medals in the US. If you were at the AHA HomebrewCon (jeez I still can’t say it), Ric and his lovely bride were bopping around the Zealot’s booth in lederhosen.

Ricardo (Ric) and I have discussed low oxygen quite a bit, and it has been clear for a while that LO2 was already intrinsic to Ric’s brewing philosophy. He has been Ric-Rolling through the 2016 Lone Star Circuit, most recently winning the individual category by a respectable 38 point lead. This is no small feat in a circuit that is front loaded with great brewers!

I got the opportunity to crash a recent brew day. Ric was experimenting with sugar and yeast to reduce DO in the mash water, rather than a preboil and metabisulfite addition before grain in. He simply added 11 grams of table sugar and 11 grams of dry yeast to the mash water, and held the temperature around 90F for 30-45 minutes. Then the mash was brought up to strike temperatures for grain in.

A very small amount of sodium metabisulfite, ascorbic acid, and BrewTan B was then used in the mash at grain in to scavenge any O2 uptake. Ricardo doesn’t have a DO meter (and I forgot mine), but it appeared to work very well. There was very little (if any) darkening of the wort, and the cast wort was incredibly flavorful and delicate!


(M) How did you get started in brewing?

(Ric) I have been a craft beer fan since a Grad School Happy hour at the late Waterloo Brewing Co (Austin, TX) in 1995. In 2007, a co-worker invited me to homebrew at his house (and take the beer with me). I chose the Austin Homebrew Supply’s American Barley Wine in mini-mash form, went through the motions and bottle conditioned the beers in 33cc flip-tops.  I remember the beers being pretty good (a bit fusel-y).

I was hooked after that. I started doing whole grain after moving to Munich in 2010.

Sidebar: An interesting detail is that I never force carbonated a beer in my life. All my beers have been bottle or keg conditioned.

(M) Having come from Argentina and Germany, what is your general impression of the US’s homebrewing culture?

(Ric) I came to the US in 1991 for Graduate School, and although I returned for three years in 1999, I did not have much contact with homebrewers.  The German homebrewing culture has a much longer tradition but has not experienced the exponential growth the American culture has had.

There are not as many homebrewers in Germany as there are in the US, but the level is very good. Most of them can and do brew lagers regularly. Another oddity is that the homebrewer group in Munich is at least 40-50% retired pro-brewers, most of them only drink/ like Munich beers (Helles, Dunkles, and an occasional Weizen or Bock).

(M) Describe your favorite meal and what beer to pair with it? (For the record, Ric’s wife is a tremendous cook!)

(Ric) What about me??? Third place at recent Chili cookoff, not too bad!  Back to the question, my favorite pairings are those that enhance both the food and the beer. I love a good dry IPA (Pliny-like) with sweets like carrot cake; I also like Goulash (enter your favorite chili here) and Schlenkerla smoked doppelbock. Munich Helles goes well with light food, bread, and even fish or chicken if not heavily spiced. For pork and beef, a Märzen, Dunkel, Dunkelweizen or Bock.

(M) What is your position on low oxygen brewing?

(Ric) On the hot side, the scientific data shows a benefit for flavorful, light lagers (eg Munich Helles). The data is not validated at the homebrew scale but given the potential for oxidation is much higher at our scale, I think that good homebrew research is likely to show a difference in light, flavorful lagers. There is no data on other styles, and I think if any differences exist, will be much more difficult to prove.

On the cold side, the research is very clear, every brewer should be a LO2 brewer.

(M) Describe your general brewing process, including hot and cold side operations.

(Ric) I brew 5 gallon batches in a BIAB system with recirculation. I condition the malt before milling.  I use RO water for light beers, and Austin water treated for chlorine/ chloramines.  Most of my mashes are hochkurz (step mash), adding a protein rest for dark beers. I sparge for big beers but not for normal beers.  I normally bitter via first wort hops, and boil 90 min for pils malt and 60 min for the rest of the beers.

I use an immersion-chiller, and transfer the beer to an auxiliary fermenter without much focus on the hot break. I chill this fermenter to almost freezing over 12-24 hours and then transfer to the primary. Whether starting from dry, liquid or slurry, my pitch is always active yeast.

All my beers are transferred to kegs for conditioning. I condition lagers via spunding valve. I let my ales finish fermentation and then I keg them with table sugar and gelatin. I bottle big beers without kegging them.


What may be lost in all of this is that Ric’s system is designed with brilliant simplicity. A single vessel with an electric element, BIAB, circulation via short lines with a pump, eliminates the potentially unnecessary complexity of a RIMS or HERMS. Even if using a cooler or other mash tun configurations, simplicity works to your advantage. This should be very clear in contrast to my post about tightening up my Brew-Magic system. Simple techniques, such as a mash-tun cap and gentle transfers, as well as fewer possible points of failure, go a long way to managing oxygen uptake.

Something that Ric and I have discussed in detail is that nearly ALL of the scientific research on oxygen’s role in brewing comes from commercial and academic research looking at mass manufacturing scales. The relevance to homebrewing, as he mentions, has not been proven, yet the principals remain. Science is science after all.  So while I continue to explore in a more sloppy manner, Ric is systematically testing variables. Of course, neither of us have access to labs and equipment required to prove anything. That leaves, for now, subjective sensory evaluation.

Ricardo’s process is not as tightly rigid as proposed by many of the LODO proponents, despite his hawkish attention to detail. His process is based on sound fundamentals; proper water chemistry, mash pH management, excellent yeast and fermentation hygiene. Perhaps more importantly, his procedures are consistent and predictable, which allows Ric to experiment by changing a single variable or troubleshoot a problem. I always learn something new brewing with people!

Ric’s Go-To Helles Recipe
Recipe Details
Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
25 L 90 min 19.0 IBUs 9.0 EBC 1.048 1.011 4.8 %
Actuals 1.047 1.01 4.8 %
Style Details
Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Munich Helles 4 A 1.044 - 1.048 1.006 - 1.012 16 - 22 5.9 - 9.9 2.5 - 3 4.7 - 5.4 %
Name Amount %
Barke Pilsner 5 kg 78.74
Munich I (Weyermann) 500 g 7.87
Acidulated (Weyermann) 350 g 5.51
Carahell (Weyermann) 300 g 4.72
Carafoam (Weyermann) 200 g 3.15
Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh 60 g 90 min First Wort Pellet 2.7
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh 50 g 5 min Boil Pellet 2.7
Name Amount Time Use Type
Dry Yeast 11.00 g 160 min Mash Water Agent
Table sugar 11.00 g 160 min Mash Water Agent
Calcium Chloride 5.00 g 100 min Mash Water Agent
Brewtan B 1.50 g 100 min Mash Water Agent
Ascorbic Acid 1.00 g 100 min Mash Water Agent
Metabisulfite Sodium 0.50 g 100 min Mash Water Agent
Immersion Wort Chiller 1.00 Items 30 min Boil Other
Whirlfloc Tablet 0.50 Items 15 min Boil Fining
Yeast Nutrient 3.00 g 10 min Boil Other
Brewtan B 1.00 g 5 min Boil Water Agent
Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Munich Lager II (2352) Wyeast Labs 71% 11°C - 16°C
Step Temperature Time
Saccharification beta 63°C 25 min
Saccharification recirculation 63°C 35 min
Alpha with recirculation 71°C 30 min
Step Time Temperature
Primary 14 days 10°C
Secondary 4 days 10.5°C
Tertiary 8 days 0°C
Aging 28 days 0.5°C
Imperial Organing Yeast L17 - Harvest - 2 cans started in 1500 mL wort at 6.5C for two days
Mash pH 20 min - 5.08
Mash pH 40 min - 5.26

Yeast pitched 4-Dec-2016 - 6C
Temperature increased to 10C over 48h
Kegged on 18-Dec - Gravity 1.015
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My last article sparked some questions about my Brew Magic Mods. Below, you will find the two most requested, and parts list.

Warning: If your Brew Magic V350MS is still under warranty, I do not recommend making substantial changes to the kettles.

Most of the parts may be purchased at BrewHardware.com. Sadly, Bobby doesn’t carry the 1/2″ tri-clover fittings, but you can find them at BrewersHardware.com or from BrewMagic.com. I highly recommend both companies.

Brew Magic Mod 1: Loc-Line

I noticed that many people were using a segmented articulated hose to control wort return location and direction in a number of HERMS and RIMS designs. Out of curiosity, I bought a length and friction fitted it with a short piece of silicon hose to the 1/2″ inlet pipe on the inside of the Brew Magic Mash Tun. I was very happy with the performance, and it allowed me to place the output very precisely, without carving or channeling the top of the mash bed.

When I started measuring DO uptake, I discovered that I needed an air tight connection, as that pipe inlet is typically above my mash volume. I measured with the friction fit silicon hose (as provided by Sabco), and could attribute about 1.5-2.0 DO increase during a 90 minute mash period. With the Loc-Line, fitted as mentioned before, I was still getting into the 1-1.5 DO uptake range. I had to find an air tight solution.

What you will need:

  • A 1/2″ compression fitting with 1/2″ MPT threading. I bought mine here.
  • A Loc-Line kit, such as this from BrewHardware.com.
  • A 1/2″ to 1/2″ MPT female adapter. I had one lying around.
  • PTFE plumbers tape. White or blue. I prefer the slightly thicker and wider tape for a more airtight fit.

It is easier to put the compression fitting on the MLT if you can detach it from the stand, set on its side, and orient the inlet tube on the bottom. My compression fitting came with a stainless steel and nylon lock ring. I suggest using the nylon one. Simply slide the large nut on the tube, with the nylon lock ring, and then the body of the compression fitting. With two wrenches tighten the fitting. Be gentle, but firm, and do not over tighten. The fitting should not move or twist it at this point without a wrench.

Use plumber’s tape on all threads. You only need enough to wrap the thread with a slight overlap. Then screw on the female 1/2″ adapter. You want this fully engaged; my adapter didn’t fully cover the threading on the compression fitting, but is on as far as the threads will allow.

Next, remove the 1/2″ MPT to Loc-Line adapter; it snaps off with pressure. You can use an elbow adapter or a straight one. Both work equally well. Screw this into the female adapter using plumber’s tape. Then, re-attach the the Loc-Line. If you are having difficulty, use a thin smear of keg lube on the tube to help it along. It will snap into place.

Now you have full control of your mash return hose. I position mine at the bottom of the tun for grain-in to underlet the mash with a slow gentle pump from the HLT. Then I reposition it about an inch below the mash water for circulation.

Brew Magic Mod 2: Whirlpool Arm

Whirlpooling is a standard practice to settle hops and trub. Since I replaced my false bottom with the perforated ring, the whirlpool made more sense, as I was loosely bagging my hops. I was also concerned that stirring would splash too much and take up oxygen.

Since I already had a pump on the Chill Wizard, I decided to add a three-way valve, and use the pump to whirlpool. This allows me to both quickly drop the temperature to below 140F (to prevent SMM formation) and adequately spin down any break material. I run for 5-10 minutes, then stop and let the kettle settle before final chilling.

Again, let me warn that this will likely invalidate your Brew Magic warranty, and requires drilling a hole in the kettle.

What you will need:

  • A 14″ weldless whirlpool arm assembly. I got mine from Bobby at BrewHardware.com. This is a newer version of the one I bought. Follow the instructions.
  • A 1/2″ tri-clover to female NPT fitting
  • A 1/2″ Ball Valve, with 1/2″ tri-clover fittings. I like these. This is for flow control.
  • (2) 1/2″ tri-clover BUNA gaskets and clamps, just like what you have already.
  • A set punch
  • A step drill bit. I marked mine with a sharpie.
  • Some lubricant for drilling.
  • A rasp or round file.

Note: I like having extra and compatible parts so I chose to stick with 1/2″ tri-clover fittings. This will work fine with any fittings you prefer.

Locate where you want to add the whirlpool arm inside, considering where the dip tube and other bits are located. I wanted the outlet low enough to prevent splashing or surface turbulence. Using a sharpie marker, I marked around the arm fittings. I triple checked this, making sure I had room under the kettle’s lip to tighten things down properly and not interfere with the dip tube. I transferred this position to the outside of the kettle.

Find a secure location to work, and stabilize the kettle on its side, taking care to not damage any of the ports. I removed the site glass and thermometer to protect them. Take your set punch and firmly dimple the center of where you wish the hole to go. This may take a few hard strikes to dimple, the kettle is really strong. Look inside to confirm the dimple shows centered to where you marked your fitting. If this is good, proceed.

Wearing eye protection, put a little lubricant on the spot and bit, and start drilling. Add more lube as the drilling starts to generate smoke. Go slowly and carefully with firm pressure. Keep a few ice cubes or a cold rag and cool off the work every few minutes.

Your step bit will drop once each step level is cleared – so don’t get surprised. Once you have created a  13/16″ hole stop drilling. Run the drill again carefully from the inside to remove burrs. A round file can also help to knock down any rough edges and some fine sand paper to smooth. Dry fit the coupling along the way so it just fits without threading through the keg.

Clean up the oil and steel shavings carefully. I suggest wearing gloves.

Assemble the whirlpool arm per the vendor instructions, and tighten down using PTFE plumber’s tape on all threads. Add the tri-clover fitting to the 1/2″ MPT outlet, then clamp on the ball valve. Then you can attach a pump outlet to circulate. Give it a wet run with StarSan or SaniClean, making sure to clean out any remaining lubricant or shavings.

The longer whirlpool arm accommodates 5-6 gallon batches as well as full batches.

The post Brew Magic Mods: Loc-line and Whirlpool appeared first on Accidentalis Brewing.

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