Sunday, November 20, 2011

Washers: Man’s Best Friend

The time was finally here! The curse of 1.020 had been lifted; we had hit the Final Gravity of 1.016 for three days in a row, now it was finally time to keg!
In preparation of filling the keg I planned to flush out and clean the entire tap system. This included washing the keg, cleaning the pipes, and finally sanitizing everything. The keg was easy enough to clean. Throwing in some soap, add water and shake. It is when I went to clean the keg lines that everything went terribly wrong…

To clean the lines I had to hookup the CO2 and pour a glass of soapy water from the now clean keg. Sounded simple enough right? After hooking up all the hoses I turned on the gas. First I heard the unmistakable whooshing sound of CO2 escaping. Then water started shooting out where the keg hose met the tap. As I frantically shut off the gas, Rachel opened the garage door before we passed out, probably should have done that first now that I think about it.
After re-assessing our situation we discovered that we had not put a washer where the regulator connected to the gas tank and one where the keg line connected to the tap. Now, before you judge, remember that none of the equipment I assembled came with instructions and I am one of those people who struggle to make cereal without directions. 
After a quick trip to Lowes I had the washers. Once installed the gas and water flowed like a charm. Soon the keg and beer lines were sanitized and we were finally ready to keg!

Thanks to the auto-siphon within minutes the keg was filled.
We closed it up and said goodbye for a couple of weeks while we wait for it to carbonate. Lucky for us Thanksgiving is coming up. While we are spending time away from home spending time with our families and friends the beer will be carbonating. Finally on the homestretch for the first batch, hopefully the next time I write about this beer will be a review. Till then, Prost!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Curse of 1.020

Sorry for the break between posts. Not much new has been occurring and that is exactly the problem.
Up until now everything has been going great. After having a fantastic brew day and great starting fermentation something seems to have gone awry. I have encountered the Curse of 1.020.
Okay, this may get a little wordy and boring, for that I am sorry, but don’t worry! There are pictures!
A little background is needed to explain what is meant by 1.020. Beer is determined to be done fermenting by use of a hydrometer. To simplify what a hydrometer is, picture a thermometer with a longer, fatter, bottom. The hydrometer is placed in a sample of your beer and floats, or if your imagination is not quite that good, you could look at the picture below. Depending on the level the hydrometer is floating you will know if your beer is close to being done (also determines how much alcohol your beer could and does have). As the fermentation process proceeds, the hydrometer will float lower and lower till it reaches its “Final Gravity” (FG). The FG I am trying to attain is between 1.016 and 1.012. Unfortunately the reading on the hydrometer is currently 1.020 and has been for the last two weeks.
What could possibly cause such a terrible thing to happen? After researching online I have come up with a couple of different reasons.
1.       I am using malt extract and a stovetop to boil when I brew. Some of the extract may have caramelized on the bottom of the brew pot and are no longer able to be converted to alcohol by the yeast.
2.       Since I live in Texas temp can vary wildly and over the last two weeks temps outside have ranged from 90° to 30° F. While I tried to keep the temperature fairly constant I am not sure I was able to achieve this.
3.       Like the Texas A&M football team I love so much, the yeast got to halftime and quit.
So there I sat with the Curse of 1.020 hanging over my head. After researching some of the Homebrew forums I made a trip to the local homebrew store, Homebrew HQ, to see what they had to say on Saturday. They guy I spoke to suggested two options.
1.       Use something called Yeast Energizer in conjunction with gentle stirring to restart the yeast and the fermentation.
2.       If that did not work he suggested adding in additional yeast to finish the fermentation.
 Well, after getting back home we added the yeast energizer. Three days later, nothing had changed.
No that is not a repost of picture one, that is me missing my FG again. Tonight I am attempting Option 2. I added the yeast and will let it sit for about a week. Why won’t I be checking in on it? Glad you asked! Rachel and I are taking our long awaited trip out to San Francisco to celebrate me getting old. So until the next time, Prost!