Saturday, February 26, 2011

German Shenannigans

It's 70 degrees on a Saturday...time to make something for Spring.

Getting ready to make some, not like Playboy. Hefeweizen.

Mash for 90 minutes then boil for 90 minutes. This shot shows when the proteins get so hot they boil over, so you have to spray water or blow on it..until they are hot enough and sink back to the bottom. "Hot break"

After cooling the wort add some of these sadistic sugar monsters.

Aerate and then pitch the yeast in a fermentor, seal with an airlock. Airlocks allow CO2 to be formed in the fermentor without blowing the thing up. A beersplosion would be a party foul. CO2 escapes through a water or sanitizer seal...that thing on top that looks like it comes in a chemistry set for kids.

After a couple of weeks, into a keg and carbonate, then put it in my 3 tap kegerator. I just replaced the single tap with a 3 tap...variety is nice. Right?

Hefeweizen is a German wheat beer. Residents of Munich are said to drink 75 gallons of beer per person per year and in the summer a good part of that is Hefeweizen. Oh's spring but in Texas that's hot enough for some light beer. Hef is a light golden beer with an off white head with hints of citrus and banana. It's often served with a slice of orange. 2 weeks til drinkability...I think this one is going to be great. Expected alcohol content 4.5%, average to low compared to many beers...and I thought the Germans could drink. I think I'm part German? Speer drinks beer, ya that sounds right.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Clone

To continue from my last far the nut brown is not that great, a little too heavy and almost like a porter. The Irish Red turned out really good, still a little heavy but good flavor. But neither are quite our favorite style.

Nut Brown 4.8% Alcohol

Irish Red 5.1% Alcohol

I made a 90 minute IPA last weekend and found out what 90 minute means...90 minute boil instead of the more typical 60 minutes. Here's what makes an IPA taste so strong and bitter...about 5x more hops than a lot of beers. Hops come as whole hops, in smaller pieces, or in pellets and my brew shop only has them in pellet form. This is a blend of 3 types.

Also this IPA recipe called for about twice as much barley as the other beers I've made, about 15 pounds! Ready for mashing...when 152 degree water is added for an hour. This is after it has gone through a mill to crush every grain to get full flavor.

After mashing, I drained it into the boil pot, and then sparged (refill the mash tun with hot water, aka ice chest full of barley) to collect 7 gallons of before yeast is added. Then boil for 90 minutes adding hops every 7.5 minutes. I took a hydrometer reading of 1080 after cooling the wort. Then into the fermenter and after 3 days, the reading is 1015. So the difference is 65, divided by 7.46, which is 8.7% alky-hol. Those little yeast bastards totally ate the shit out of that sugar (which makes CO2 and alcohol as byproducts). Probably because I used two packs of yeast...200 billion yeast cells. Next time I will try a yeast starter which you can make at home, instead of spending an extra $8 on yeast.

Next step: rack (syphon) to a secondary fermentor to get the beer off the yeast at the bottom of the fermentor, then keg, carbonate, chill and get drunk off 2 glasses. Only about 315 calories per 12 oz glass! That's some nice alcohol content....let's see how it turns out. I tried it off the fermenter and it's good and bitter. Becca says fruity too. I think that's from the yeast strain from the recipe..."fruity esters."

Tomorrow I'm brewing up a hefeweizen from a Paulaner clone...basically 5.25 lbs german wheat malt, 4.75 lbs 2 row pale malt, and bavarian yeast. It should finally be a lighter more drinkable beer than my first three attempts...something for the, my wife. Time to drink somethin'. It's Friday night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Olive you!

Last week I made olive oil dough, and we made home made pizzas for dinner. They turned out great, but we were so busy eating them that I didn't snap a picture. I also made focaccia, which is similar to the prep for the pizza dough, but topped with a drizzle of olive oil, some rosemary and a sprinkle of sea salt.

To use up the rest of the olive oil dough, I just formed it into a boule and baked it as I would a normal boule. It yielded a gorgeous, moist bread. The crust was chewy and satisfying to bite in to, but not super crusty. It would have made gorgeous sandwich bread, but we ate the whole loaf plain, or dipped in olive oil, before we had the chance to make a sandwich.

Olive oil dough boule,

Olive oil boule crumb.

Because the olive oil dough is so versatile, I think it will be a staple in my kitchen. It can be a pizza, focaccia, boule/sandwich bread, or you could toss in some kalamata olives and make kalamata olive bread. Which, of course, I did! The recipe stresses to use the best quality kalamata olives you can find. Your best best is probably a fresh olive bar at Central Market or the like. This bread also benefits from a high quality, flavorful olive oil. 
Kalamata olive bread.

Kalamata olive bread, crumb.

I went to Ace Mart restaurant supply today and picked up some more fun equipment, then headed over to Sprouts for ingredients. I think the one I'm going to make next is brioche! 

Monday, February 21, 2011


Ciabatta means slipper, and gets the name because of its shape. I've done a couple loaves of ciabatta now. It's supposed to have nice, big air pockets inside. It's wonderfully chewy. We enjoyed some with penne and pesto last night, and again for lunch today.

My first try at a new type is always a learning experience. My first ciabatta was a bit sunken in the center. It was still tasty, I brought it to Bunco along with some sun-dried tomato bruschetta and it was gobbled up!

First attempt at ciabatta

2nd attempt had a better shape.

A look at the crumb. Nice big air pockets.

My ciabatta is made from the same dough as the boule. It's amazing how the same dough can yield a different type of bread when shaped and cooked differently!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How we began baking.

I've always LOVED bread. Not sliced sandwich bread, but gorgeous crusty, chewy artisan breads. Sourdough, hard rolls, baguettes, I could eat it for every meal.

I had tried my hand at baking bread at home on occasion, both by hand and with a bread machine. I was never excited about the results. The loaves were usually dense, and lacked the chewy crumb and crisp, caramelized crust that just *makes* a good loaf of bread. Not only were the results mediocre, the process was somewhat labor intensive and uninspiring to me. I've never been much of a cook. I resigned myself to getting my kicks from the bakery section at Central Market.

I saw a thread on that was dedicated to a technique of baking from the book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." The thread provided a link to the master recipe and instructions from The thread on thebabywearer had many replies raving about the success they had thanks to this technique. My interest was piqued.

The master recipe contains only four ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt. I had all the ingredients and supplies in my house, so I decided to give it a whirl. My first attempt at the boule wasn't perfect, but it was delicious. And it was chewy, and crusty, and amazing. I could not BELIEVE I made it myself, in my own kitchen, and it was so simple to do. I was hooked.

My first attempt at an artisan boule.

A subsequent attempt.

Since then, I've baked a loaf, sometimes two, every day. I've branched out in to different variations and techniques. It's an adventure, and normally my first attempt at a new variation isn't as pretty as it's supposed to be. But they have all, with the exception of one fail, been delicious!

If you'd like to give it a try yourself, the master recipe can be found here. If you make it, let me know how yours turns out!

How we began brewing.

I received a Cooper's Brewery Micro-Brew Kit for Christmas 2010. Becca and I have both always enjoyed good beer. The Cooper's kit comes with a Lager mix, so that was my first homebrew. I enjoyed making it and quickly followed it with a Cooper's IPA.

The bad news is that Cooper's mixes didn't produce very tasty beers, so I decided to give all-grain brewing a try. Using a kit (extract brewing) versus all-grain brewing is kinda like baking a cake from a mix versus from scratch. There's a local store in the area, Homebrew Headquarters, that sells the grains and other ingredients and supplies for all-grain brewing.

I chose a nut-brown ale to start.
Large boil pot, hop sacks, equipment.

Mashing. 152 F degree water extracts sugars from 7.5 lbs pale malt, 1 lb crystal malt, and 0.3 lbs chocolate malt.

Boiling wort with hops added in hop sacks.

Cooling the wort (beer without yeast or fermentation). Cool to 70 degrees F before fermenting.

Hydrometer reading of pre-fermented beer after sealing in fermenter with air lock. 1050 original gravity reading...perfect, water is 1000. So final gravity should be around 1005 to 1015, equating to about 5-6% alcohol.

I put the Nut Brown into a "corny keg," which is a 5 gallon keg that used to be used for soda systems until boxed soda became more popular. They are cheap now due to being obsolete and used mostly for home brewing. We bought a kegerator with a single tap and I changed it out to a triple now we have 3 beer choices on tap.

I force carbonated the Nut Brown to 40 psi for 15 minutes and let it sit over night and chill at 20 psi. The next day, down to 15 psi and left it hooked up to the carbon dioxide tank. We pulled the tap and poured it into a cold glass...not bad. Not amazing but tasted like real beer instead of Cooper's crap. It almost tastes like a beer you'd get at B.J.'s, a local restaurant and microbrewery.

So far I've also made an Irish Red for St. Patty's, which is ready almost a month early, and I just put it into a keg tonight and carbonated it... waiting for it to cool and taste tomorrow! We tried it warm and flat tonight just for fun....Becca said it tastes like cherries. Tomorrow we'll see...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hello there...

We started this blog to document our experiences as we learn to homebrew beer and bake artisan bread!