We here at Kodiak LOVE!!!!! Belgium type of beers. Our favorite is the Belgian Dark Strong Ale in the Winter months and in the summer months we like to brew the slightly lighter style, the Belgian Tripple Ale, which is on the lighter side of color, with a hint of orange spices. The Belgian’s are enormously delicious beers, and to us, nothing compares!!! sure we like other style too, but we feel like a King of the Bears in the woods when we drink the Belgians!
It is also true that the Belgian’s are typically higher in Alcohol content, but I can’t imagine anyone complaining about that! If its good enough for a monk, it should be good enough for you!
Anyways, everything said – we really think it is important to understand the History of the different beer styles and regions they come from, especially if the Belgian’s are also your favorite beer too, because here specifically, there is a lot of History!
Wikipedia just so happens to have a great page already written about this and so without further delay here is the link, Cheers!
This process comes under different names, re-using, re-capturing, rinsing, cleaning, etc.. etc., but basically after you remove the beer from the fermentor – there is a lot of nice and high quality yeast that is left over. You can re-capture this yeast and use it again and again, and again……
Benefits are many!
save money, high quality yeast usually costs $8 a pack, so you can reduce the bill of each brew batch substantially
to brew a stable beer that comes out the same all the time, it is important to use the same strain of yeast to be consistent
you can easily make a lot more yeast than what you started out with from the packet, so if you wanted to say brew a bigger batch of beer, say 10 or 20 gallons, there is no need to buy 4 packets at $8 each – because you can easily make that your self
the yeast becomes better over time and creates even better beer, the more you re-capture the same yeast, the better the yeast becomes
It is best to collect yeast strain that you will use frequently, because if you collect some rare yeast that you don’t use a lot, just be prepared to use more real estate space in the fridge and potential stares from the wife (unless you have a dedicated fridge). And so it is best to collect a house/classic strain, that works over broad temperatures.
Here is how we do it at Kodiak. We put two clear growlers filled with water already into a nice 3 gallon cooking pot (also filled with water) and we heat that up to boiling and let it boil for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, let it sit for a minute or two and remove the growlers out of the pot with a heat glove and put it on the side to cool. Put caps on it but don’t tighten them, let them cool!
ALL the water that will make contact with the leftovers needs to be cool, it can’t be hot!!!
We like to transfer the bottom stuff let over from the fermentor into the cooking pot that we just used. So pour in some water into the fermentor from the pot and shake it well, then transfer the ingredients from the glass carboy into the (empty) cooking pot, put a lid on it. Let it sit for a good 30 minutes to separate out into layers, see below:
You will have water mixed with beer as the clear liquid on top, then a nice light layer of yeast, and a darker layer at the bottom of throb (left over beer reaction stuff)…
You want to get rid of the beer/water mix if there is an excessive amount out, and pour in the rest into 1 of the empty growlers. As you are pouring into growler #1 the lighter yeast layer towards the end of that, the throb will start (the darker stuff). You don’t want to transfer the throb out of the pot or (however you do it), leave that behind, that’s the whole idea between doing the layer washing, leave the throb behind, the darker lowest layer. If some transfers, that’s ok; but leave the majority of it!
Put in some clean fresh water from the boil into that and shake well and let it sit in the growler again for 30 minutes.
Here is how the growler will look after transfer, after shaking, looks like mud….
After 30 minutes pour the contents (using the same method) into the 2nd growler, let it sit there for 30 minutes. If you have more empty clean growlers you could give it a 3rd transfer, but we at this point just leave it as is, label the growler and put into fridge!
Here is how the layer looks after separating in the 1st growler:
See that nice light layer at the bottom ? that’s what you are after. In this example and article, we actually didn’t even employ transferring into the 2nd growler, because this works so well!
Keep in mind that the yeast that you just recovered, there is much more of it than when you started from the yeast packet that you bought for $8 at the brew store. Some people divide into smaller jars, where each jar = 5 gallon batch, but we just leave as is.
On the label I would also put the date of the re-capture!
Starters are done to wake up the yeast and get it nice and active, so that by the time it is introduced to the wort (un-fermented beer), it goes right to work. Starters do a better job of converting all the sugars and preventing any unwanted flavors in the beer. This generally reduces the fermenting period and just overall does a better job in making better beer.
We have made many great beers simply by pitching dry yeast over the top, but other better method do exist and this is one of them.
an Erlenmeyer Flask (made out of Pyrex) used is laboratories, [able to withstand extreme cold or heat temperature exchanges], cover top with aluminum foil
2 cups of water
DME – Dry Malt Extract, 1/2 cup, the light versions don’t much affect the final beer recipe
Mix the water and DME in a pan, mix that all up and bring it to a rolling boil, then as soon as the boil happens, let that boil for 10 minutes, turn off.
Transfer the wort into the Erlenmeyer flask and then you can dip that into cold water with ice and cool it that way, its a small volume of wort, so won’t take long to cool, you don’t need any fancy equipment to cool it with.
If you don’t use the flask, the quick temperature exchanges of hot to cold will probably crack the glass, so that’s why you want to use it, plus it looks cool :- ) like you know what you are doing!
Get it down to about 75 F or about there. Put your yeast into the flask, if you are OCD, then get it off the sides of the flask, so it is nice and clean. Put some aluminum foil over it.
Leave it at room temperature just like you would your wort.
You are making basically a mini-beer, so you want to employ all sanitation principles like you would normally do with making regular beer.
This recipe is good for 5 gallon starters, if you are going to make larger batches, then you might need a bigger flask, use common sense :- ) ask people if you are not sure, join a beer forum.
Stir Plates are a good idea, most semi-serious+ brewers own and use them all the time…
you can buy one or make one if you want to, here is a DIY:
Many various techniques exists, some people drop after fermentation is over and before bottling, and yet some simply cold-drop the kegs already filled with the beer for about a week, before serving, I will explain both.
Most home-brewed beer is left in a lot of its natural state, most people don’t use filters for example, there are debates over its pros and cons. If you don’t filter your beer, there is always going to be a small amount of yeast and other floaters that will make it out of the fermentor and into kegs or bottles (if you bottle).
Even when you can’t see it, yeast is suspended in the beer and it does affect its look, color, taste and overall body of the beer. So what a lot of people do, is take the keg and cold-drop it, or simply put, put it into a fridge (whatever setup) as cold as possible, but still above freezing and leave the keg there for about a week.
All the yeast and other floaters that are suspended in the beer will fall to the bottom of the keg, a thin layer will form at the bottom (not in any way bad), so then all the beer that comes out will be nice and clean, crisp, nice color, taste, and everything will improve SUBSTANTIALLY.
If you were to split a batch of beer into two kegs, and cold-drop one and not the other, you would see and experience the differences, if you want to do a comparison.
If you don’t employ a cold-drop and simply put the keg into the keggenator fridge, it too will help, the cold temperature will basically do the same thing, but will take a little longer, so don’t worry if you can’t get it to almost freezing.
Some people apply this technique to the fermentor after the fermentation is done and over with, for about a week, so then when the beer is transferred to the kegs or however bottled, there too you will gain a lot of benefit.
Brew stores of course sell grain, they also should sell kits, in the very least extract kits and better stores might even sell all-grain kits. But the best way to learn is to get your own grain, weight it, crush it – this will give you the flexibility you are after, so you can tweak the recipe if you think it would come out better in a slightly different way.
There are basically two types of grain categories base grain and specialty grain.
Base grains make up the base of your beer, that’s why they are called that and typically the American 2-row barley is used for the base grain (but there is also 4 and 6-row too) and wheat too if you are going to brew a wheat beer.
As for specialty grain, there are quite a bit of those, a lot actually – so the best way to get familiar with all of them and look at them is to go to your local brew store. Grain is not that expensive, base usually sells for $1.00 per pound, and a typical 5 gallon batch might need anywhere from 8 to 12 pounds of base grain, so you are not talking a lot of money.
Also the better stores will sell 50 lb bags of grain for some additional discount.
To be able to buy grain directly from the Malt house requires a federal license in most cases, which most home brewers lack, unless they also running a micro-brewery in the back of their house or something like that…. :- )
Each specialty grains does something to the beer, to its profile, to its taste, its body, its color, its outcome, and this is well known and so with beer software you can make your very own beers (via trial and error) from scratch if you want!
Take a look at the link above and read what each type of grain does to a beer, takes a while to learn all this, so don’t worry about it.
Most brew stores, the better ones will have a room dedicated to this, if they have the space. Ask the rules if you never been there before, but generally speaking you find your grain bin, weigh the grains in the order that you need them, dump the grain into some bag and as last step you throw all the grain into a mill to crush your grain. The stores mill will be pre-set, as most are.
If you want the grain crushed a certain way other than the pre-set, don’t crush the grain, bring it home with you and use your own technique or mill setup.
There are all kinds of mill setups out there – and so instead of showing one picture, here is a link to the Google search via image and you can see many different setups:
This bear has brewed many batches of beer for private use and has totally neglected to do any sort of gravity measurements at all. The beer came out really good, definitely had alcohol in it (trust me) – but because it was for private consumption and this bear can get sometimes kind of lazy (yawn), this bear didn’t even bother or even care to take the measurements – bad bear! just bad!
In reality you should take these reading and records them, learn – keep a log, even if you re-do the same batch over and over, because its important for a variety of reasons, which I am about to explain.
This device measures the relative density of wort/beer or SP (Specific Gravity)… there is also:
OG – Original Gravity (gravity taken after brewing beer finished, but before fermentation starts)
FG – Final Gravity (gravity taken after fermentation is done)
O.G. 1.056 (minus) F.G. 1.012 = 0.044 then multiply that by 131 to get 4.192% alcohol by volume approximate (example).
The hydrometer rating should be taken at a specific temperature of 59F / 15 C, and rarely people when taking readings get it that right temp, so that’s why you take a temperature reading. In addition you can use a calculator that also has temperature adjustments for the formula, so record the temperature too for both OG and FG readings in your log.
The less dense the liquid is (after fermentation), the deeper the hydrometer will sink into the liquid. The more dense it is (before fermentation), the less deeper it will sink into the liquid.
also – look at your hydrometer, it will say at what temperature to take the perfect reading, and it was calibrated at, on mine it reads 60 F and it should tell you the alcohol by volume right on the scale inside the glass. Some are made differently, so look at yours.
If you pick up a recipe that someone wrote or it came with a kit that you have purchased, it will have printed the expected OG range that you should get after finishing to brew beer.
Usually it is very difficult to get it spot on, so a Range is provided, and as long as you are within this range, you should be ok, example OG Range: 1.056 ~ 1.061.
You probably have noticed that the gravity reading number goes down after the fermentation is over, that is because the yeast will convert sugars into alcohol and alcohol is less dense and the gravity meter measures what ? density, super simple at the high-level.
To give you an idea, the hydrometer is also used in other applications, not just beer; for example in the salt water aquarium hobby, you start with fresh water, then add salt until you reach a certain safe and acceptable range.
If you are going to brew beer for commercial consumption, than this is super important, because if you claim that the beer is 7.2% on the beer label, but it is 5.1%; than you have a problem, don’t you ?
So it is a good idea from day one to get used to doing this and it will help you to understand another critical aspect of brewing and that is the efficiency method that you are employing during the mash phase to extract the sugar from the grain.
How will you know if the mash is doing well, if you never take a reading and you assume this ? you won’t know!
So even if you are not a commercial brewer, but want to confirm that you are doing the mashing correctly and your method or setup is working as intended, there is only one way to know and that is to take a gravity reading! Or what if you employ a new method and you want to compare to see which one does better ?
There is also another type of measuring device called a Brix Refractometer; but it needs to be calibrated, the hydrometer, not so much.
There is a benefit to this tool! While you are mashing, you can put a drop of the wort into the Brix and it will tell you the specific gravity, so that’s a plus for this tool and a lot of people use it for that reason, before you begin the process of actually brewing beer, so that if the reading isn’t right, you maybe have time to make some adjustment to improve the mashing process.
Its best to own both if you are a serious home brewer :- )
and they come in different shapes and sizes, including laboratory grade equipment that is tested and certified. We recommend the old fashioned way of using the hydrometer – cheap, reliable and did I mention its cheap ? and it don’t require batteries ?