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01-25-10

Make your own Belgian Candi Sugar

I’m a big fan of drinking and brewing Belgian beers. Many Belgian beers require the addition of Belgian Candi Sugar. Brewers use the sugar for many reasons as it will help boost the ABV, increase fermentability, and thin the mouthfeel of the beer. As a homebrewer, I’m always looking for ways to save a buck and Belgian Candi Sugar is one of those ingredients that is super expensive. Luckily, you can easily make your own sugar without much effort. I’ve done this several times and I’ve been very happy with the results. In the steps below I will explain the process of making Belgian Candi Sugar and hopefully show you how easy it is.

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

You will need the following items in order to create your own Belgian Candi Sugar:

  • Table sugar (I use five pound bags of sugar)
  • Water (I use 2.5 cups of water)
  • Food grade acid (lemon juice or cream of tartar are my go to’s)
  • Boiling pot
  • An accurate thermometer that can sit in boiling mixtures for extended times (candy, fryer, or digital thermometer with a long probe will work fine)
  • Tin foil
  • Tray

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Back into homebrewing

I recently discovered that there is a homebrew store about ten minutes away from my new apartment. Score. This place just keeps getting better and better. I brewed a Belgian Blonde Ale yesterday which should come in around 4.5-5% abv. It is under the style guidelines, but they are meant to be guidelines, not the end all be all of what a beer should be. It is the first beer that I have brewed in about six months.

I will get the recipe and everything along those lines up on the site soon, but I just wanted to share the joy of homebrewing again. Isn’t that a book? I did run into a few problems while brewing. The biggest one is that the mash tun that I recently built (the last one had to go into the trash becasue it would not fit into the car on the move from Texas) leaked a lot. I know how to fix it, the problem is finding the parts. This particular cooler that I got has a one inch hole in it. From my past two mash tuns, they are typically 3/4 of an inch or smaller. What really sucks is that one inch fittings are tough to find and even tougher to make fit into such a small space. I will get it figured out soon enough.

The beer is happily bubbling away right now and I hope it will be ready to drink my the second week of next month. Hooray for getting back to homebrewing. I missed it.

Tripel update #3

The Tripel has come along nicely. Since the last update, the beer has finished fermenting full and is now sitting at 9% ABV. I am very pleased with that result. While the efficiency was terrible, you almost expect that in a big beer. As I said before I wish I would of made a session beer out of the excess sugars.

It is still sitting in the carboy waiting to be bottled. My only problem right now is having enough bottles. I refuse to buy bottles as they are expensive and the shipping is usually pretty bad. It also depresses me to think of all of the new beers I could of tried if I would of just bought a few six-packs. I might of considered buying them if there was a homebrew store in Lubbock, but that is not the case. The Dubbel got most of my collection of bottles becasue it finished first, but I am slowing adding back to the collection. Hopefully by next weekend I will have collected enough to bottle.

On a side note I tired one of the Dubbels’ and it wasn’t terrible. The carbonation is still lacking, but the taste is right there. With proper carbonation I think it could be an excellent Dubbel.

Hard Cider experiment

09-05-15-02Back in October I was really getting going with homebrewing. I was making a new batch a week. Something sparked my interest and I wanted to try and do a hard cider. It didn’t sound too hard, there was no boiling, just combining ingredents and waiting for awhile. I read around and found a few ideas on what to use and the kinds of cider to look for.

When you are making a cider the most important thing to do, if you are buying your cider, is to make sure that it has no preseratives. If it does, it is not going to ferment and in a few months you will have spoiled cider. Some people go through the trouble of mashing their own apples, collecting the jucies and all of that. For a first try, and possibly only try, I was not going to attempt that. I went with the following recipe:

  • 5 gallons apple cider from local orchard
  • 2 lbs honey
  • 2.5 lbs brown sugar
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • Champagne yeast (homebrew store was out of cider yeast and I had read champagne yeast would be fine)

09-05-15-01I went with the sugars to add a little flavor and alochol. The powdered sugar wasn’t something I was going to the store to get, but it was a buck for two pounds, so I figured why not? I got home and put two gallons in my boil pot. I wanted to raise the temp to around 120 degrees so that the sugars would disolve more easily into the soultion. The remain liquid I put into a sanitized bucket. Once disolved, I combined everything and let it sit for a day as was recomended by some research.

A day later I added the yeast and waited for things to happen. Another day passed and fermenation had clearly begun. The smell of rotten eggs is apparently pretty common, and I got to expericene the smell for myself. It was very strong and stayed for about two weeks. My original plan was to have this ready for Thanksgiving (heck I gave myself two months), but I quickly learned this stuff takes forever. After two and a half months it was ready for transfer to a secondary. It sat there until the end of April when I finally bottled it. It had fully cleared as you can tell by the pictures and it smelled pretty wonderful.

09-05-15-03I might of made a mistake when bottling, I put it into 22 oz bottles. I never got a good gravity reading on this with my hydrometer but I’m guessing it is in the 12-15% range, if not a little higher. I did not carbonate the bottles for fear of putting the wrong amount of sugar in there and the yeast has been dormant for a few months. I believe there are still some unfermented sugars anyway becasue it tastes a bit sweet and the cold weather came early this year, mean my closet with the access to the crawl space was pretty chilly. I’m waiting a little longer before I try a bottle for myself but I enjoyed what I tasted when I was bottling. I don’t know how good it is compared to other ciders but I enjoyed it and I think I would try it again given the chance.

SB Birthday Beer

09-02-16-01One of my dear friends is turning 21 soon and she asked if I could make a homemade beer for her. Naturally I was thrilled that someone other than my roommate and I wanted to drink my beer, so I accepted the challenge. She is a big tea freak and wanted some tea flavor in the beer. I decided that a wheat beer would be ideal for a tea flavored beer. Wheat beers carry a lot of complex flavors that I thought would compliment the beer nicely.

I made a trip out to my homebrew store last week and got all of the necessary supplies. Below is a list of everything I picked up:

  • 3 pounds American 2-Row Pale malt
  • 3 pounds Wheat malt
  • 1 pound 60 Crystal malt
  • 1 oz Saaz hops (3.6%)
  • 1 tube liquid American Hefeweizen Ale yeast

I know that most wheat beers generally have a 50% wheat grain bill, but I wanted to make this an amber colored wheat beer and the homebrew store was running a bit low on wheat malt. This is supposed to make about 4 gallons worth of beer. I started my mash trying to get the grains to 110 degrees for 15 minutes, then 125 degrees for 15 minutes, and then finally 153 degrees for 45 minutes. All of these different temperatures are an attempt to release different characteristics from the wheat.

I boiled for the normal 60 with a half ounce of the Saaz going for the full boil and the other half ounce going for the last 15. I took the beer off the burner and put two teabags into wort leaving them there for only a minute or so. theĀ  Everything went well and I cooled down the wort and pitched the yeast. The next day I took a look at my airlock and bubbles were firing away.

09-02-17-02I was unsure of the tea she wanted to use when I got my supplies. The day before brew day she gave me Chi Tea. I’m not a big tea guy so I made up a cup and found it to be very gingery. Not something I would put with a wheat beer with hefeweizen yeast. That’s the reason for such a short time in wort. I think the Chi would of gone great with a winter warmer type beer as the flavors are those I typically taste in a winter beer. At first glance I achieved an effieceny of 75% from my batch sparge and we are looking at an ABV of 4.3%. I’m pretty happy with that and I’m looking forward to trying this beer as it ages through and finally is ready to drink out of a bottle on her birthday in March.