Yeast Washing: A how to

Yeast is the single most expensive ingredient that you will purchase as a homebrewer. Per unit it blows away any other ingredient. Grain is generally $2.50 and under per pound. Hops runs $2.00 and under an ounce. And we don’t really put water into the equation since it’s cheaper than anything else. Yeast on the other hand is usually $6-12 a vial or smack pack depending on the store, variety, and rarity of the yeast stain you buy. Even dry yeast runs around $3.00 a unit. For this reason, many homebrewers like to reuse yeast and thus, bring down the cost per unit of their yeast. But what happens if you want to brew a stout and then a light colored ale? There really isn’t a good way of getting all of the beer and wort separated fully.


I’ve been trying to make some strides in my homebrewing costs and I stumbled into yeast washing. The idea behind yeast washing is that you take a yeast cake, add water, and then pour the slurry into smaller containers. You then give the slurry time to separate and repeat. The heavy materials (dead yeast, hop particles, etc) will settle to the bottom and the healthy yeast will remain in suspension or layer on top of the heavy materials. You then pour the good stuff into another container and get rid of the heavy materials. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. (more…)

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Belgian IPA Tasting Notes

I posted my recipe for the first version of my Belgian IPA not to long ago and I wanted to update you on how it actually tastes. The idea behind this beer was to blend an American IPA along with a Belgian Tripel. At the end of the day this beer came out to be 9% ABV and 75 IBUs.

The beer poured out of the tap a nice clear orange color. The image makes it look a bit darker than it actually is. The head is plentiful, a little too much so, and doesn’t fade until well into the drink. It leaves a nice lacing. I’m going to attribute the head to the hops and wheat malt. I did carbonate this one a bit higher than normal as well. The nose has a slight hop aroma but is overwhelmed by heat and Belgian spices.

The heat hits you quickly and then fades away. There is a decent malt body and it is very clean. I didn’t get any bready or toasty notes when drinking this ale. The Belgian spice notes are strong and a bit peppery. I think the yeast was a bit muddled and the true yeast flavor got lost. I’m going to try a different approach with the yeast next time out. This beer was built off of the yeast cake from two previous batches. I think the previous flavors and different fermenting temps gave the yeast a few characteristics that I would rather not have.

The hops were present, but they need to be there much more. I tried to cheap out a bit and go with higher alpha acid hops to get more bang for my buck and I don’t think it worked very well. The hops tasted a bit old. The next time I make this beer I want to add more bitter and aroma hops to help balance out the heat and malt.

I’m about halfway there on this beer. I like it a lot for a first run but it needs some help. In addition to the hop and yeast changes I wouldn’t add as much sugar and sub in more base malt. With a yeast cake the size of what this beer had to work with, I think the simple sugars produced a bit too much heat. I would also ferment this one a bit colder. All good things in time I suppose.

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Brown Porter Brew Day

This is the first Brew Day post that I have done in almost half a year. I am really trying to document my homebrewing more this year and this far I think that I have done a decent job. My Brown Porter recipe was pretty straight forward and didn’t have a complicated hopping schedule or anything else that would cause difficulty. I am getting more used to using my grain mill now, as this is the third batch of beer brewed using it, and I think that I have all of the kinks worked out.

 The image above shows that nice grain crush that my grain mill has been giving me. While I crushed the grains, the mash water was heating up on the burner outside. Once the water reached the correct temperature, I combined it with the grain in my cooler and hit 152 degrees Fahrenheit on the dot. Go me!

Pictured above this are the cracked grains pre-water. You can clearly see the darker grains, chocolate and roasted barely, that will give the beer its darker color. I then drained the first runnings out of the cooler and added the strike water. I held the strike water in the cooler for about ten minutes before draining it as well. I collected a little over six gallons total. I then boiled for an hour and followed the hopping schedule as noted in the recipe.

At 15 minutes I added the wort chiller and Irish Moss in addition to the hops. At the 10 minute mark I added some yeast nutrient as well. I boiled off a little over a half a gallon of water during the hour long boil. During the winter, the water coming into the wort chiller is super cold and this beer cooled down from 212 to 65 in about 15 minutes. During this time I transferred the IPA to a keg. I then put my new Brown Porter wort right on top of the yeast cake from the IPA. I left the hop particles at the bottom of the boil kettle and collected five gallons of beer. I did better than my expected gravity of 1.052 by getting a 1.053. It was the first time that I have ever done better than expect. I generally fall a few points below where I want to be. I think it was mostly due to the higher water to grain ratio of ~1.6 qt/lb then the normal 1.25 qt/lb. I started seeing bubbles in the airlock within two hours of this beer being put into the fermentor.

As a sidenote: I had to hook up a blow-off tube for this one because the fermentation was very active.

I will have some tasting notes up for this one as soon as it is ready to drink. The same goes for my IPA. (more…)

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Belgian Dubbel Brew Day

08-22-03Last Saturday around the time of this post I had a chance to brew my Belgian Dubbel. The wife went to see the Time Travelers Wife, which gave me a few hours of time to brew. The whole idea behind the beer was to save some money on yeast and have another Belgian style beer on-hand since I’m really digging Belgian beers right now, so is the wife. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply again and followed the ingredients that I had originally set-out on using. I didn’t order a half pound of wheat malt from them becasue I already had a pound on hand. One problem, they shorted me a half pound of Belgian Pale malt. Crap.

08-22-02I decided to go on with brewing anyway and get that half pound reimbursed at another time. I threw all of the grain into the mash tun and heated my strike water to 165ºF. Being that I roughly had 6.5 lbs of grain and wanted to keep a water to grain ratio of 1.25 quarts per pound the 2 gallons of water reached that temperature very quickly. I then let it all sit there for an hour and again, it only dropped 2ºF from 152ºF to 150ºF in that hour. I’m really happy with my new mash tun.

On my last brew, I had a terrible efficiency, so I wanted to fix that up a bit. I collected my first runnings and threw it back on top of the grain and collected it again. My thinking was that the water was still hot and I could grab some extra sugar.  I heated up another two gallons of water to 180ºF for the second and third runnings. On both I let them sit in the mash tun for 10 minutes. By the end I had collected 3.5 gallons of wort for the boil.

08-22-04I did my 60 minute boil using .5 oz of Styrian Goldings hops and 1 oz of Saaz hops for 15 minutes. I also threw in some Irish Moss to try and help clarity. Why I didn’t do this for the Tripel is still a good question. I cooled down the wort and pitched it on top of the yeast cake from the Tripel as that is now in a carboy.

I was shooting for a gravity of 1.062 but actually got 1.053. It was better than the Tripel but still pretty poor. Only 65% or so. I’m not sure if the problem is coming my mash, the water, or 08-22-01how Austin Homebrew Supply is crushing the grain. I’m inclined to lean towards the latter after talking to some people my the local homebrew club. Maybe new brew I will borrow on of their grain mills.

This brew marks my first experience with Belgian candy sugar as well. I used a dark variety of it. I was a bit concerned about scorching, but during the wait time with the second and third runnings I dumped all of it (1/2 lb) into the boil kettle and stirred like a madman. The kettle was sitting on the floor under the mash tun. The liquid was still hot and it dissolved pretty quickly. No scorching at all! I’ll have a few updates on both of my beers soon.

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Tripel upate #2

08-17-01On Saturday I reracked my Tripel to a carboy and also brewed the Dubbel, which was pitched onto the yeast cake of the Tripel. I’ve been getting a stuck fermentation in my mini fermenter so I got my trusty refractometer out and took a reading from the real thing. Don’t you know it, that is stuck as well. Crap.

I pondered my options while it was transfering over and decided to boil some water with some corn sugar and pitch it in. I only used 2 tablespoons worth to try and jump start fermentation. On the plus side, it is tasting excellent. I don’t think it is going to be as strong as I had hoped, but the taste is there, and that is what is more important. You can’t tell from the picture, but the beer is starting to clear nicely. I’m going to leave it sit for another few weeks and test occasionaly to see if anything else happens. If not, I’ll be looking forward to my great tasting 5% Tripel. Crap.

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