Sunday, November 1, 2015

Perlick 630 Series Faucet - Easy Installation

Oh the dull drudgery of bottling! What better catalyst for throwing oneself into the world of beer kegging could there ever be. With kegging those seemingly endless hours spent cleaning, removing labels and sanitizing countless numbers of bottles becomes a thing of the past. A single five gallon keg holds the equivalent of four dozen 12 ounce bottles and a keg is much easier to clean, sanitize and fill than all of those bottles. Kegging also saves a lot of time and that time saved will be much better spent enjoying delicious draft beer at home.

Using little more than a bottle of Co2 and regulator, a short length of beer line and a picnic tap you will be able to pour yourself a draft beer almost anywhere. In time you may want to expand your basic kegging system to include a high quality beer faucet and tap. One easy way to install a beer faucet is to locate it on the side of a refrigerator. But before drilling any holes be sure to check to make sure that there are no wires or refrigeration lines in the way of the drill bit.

I spoke with the General Electric customer support folks and they confirmed that the sides of my Americana model A3316ABSHRWW refrigerator did not contain any hidden wires or tubing. If the side walls of the refrigerator are free of obstructions then installing the beer faucet in the side is your best option. Although door mounted beer faucets are another option the beer lines will need room to move around inside the refrigerator whenever the door is opened and closed.

Having Beer On Tap Is Awesome, Having Two Beers On Tap Is Even Awesomerer

Some homebrewers hold off on kegging until they are no longer devoting all of their free time to brewing beer. If you have never installed a beer faucet before the process may seem overwhelming to you at first. But it is reassuring to know that installing a beer faucet is easy to do once you know how. Once your new beer faucet is installed you will be able to drink fresh draft beer anytime you want without ever having to leave your home. 

What Is Needed To Begin

Before getting started there are a few things you will need. An electric drill with a 7/8 inch hole saw is used to drill the hole through the side wall for the nip shank. A pair of channel lock pliers or a wrench is needed to tighten the flange nut onto the shank end inside the refrigerator. A small screwdriver is needed to tighten the hose clamps that secure the beer line to the barb end connectors. The main parts used in a beer faucet installation are the beer faucet, a nip shank, a tap handle and a drip tray.

Beer faucets can be ordered in several styles and types, I prefer using stainless steel over the chrome or plastic types. Stainless steel faucets are durable and they will never pit, rust or corrode under normal use. The Perlick taps are made using a patented design that uses less internal parts than other beer faucets. This design greatly reduces the chance of any mold, mildew or bacteria from growing inside the faucet and tap. Combined with the benefits of all stainless steel construction the Perlick beer faucets do provide you with years of trouble free use. 

Making Beer Faucets Your Own By Using  Custom Tap Handles

The Tools That Are Needed:

Electric drill
7/8 inch diameter hole saw
Wrench or pliers to fit a 1 1/4 inch nut
Slotted screw driver
1/8 inch drill bit
Utility knife or scissors
It can easily take a day or more to hunt down all of the parts needed for a brewing project. Knowing in advance which parts to order and having the correct parts on hand before starting the installation will actually save you a lot of time. I decided to install a Perlick Forward Sealing Faucet (304 Stainless) model to use in my installation. I had previously installed the stainless steel Perlick Creamer Faucet and wanted the new faucet to match the same look.

The Parts That Are Needed:

1 - Perlick “Forward Sealing” Faucet (304 S/S)
1 - Nip Shank 2 7/8"  with 1/4" Bore (For 1 1/2" Thick Side Wall)
1 - Drip Tray 4" x 4 1/2" with 1" Back
10 feet - 3/16" ID x 7/16" OD FOXX SuperFlex PVC Tubing
2 - Small Stainless Steel hose clamps
1 - Barbed Swivel Nut, 1/4" Flare, 1/4" Barb
1 - 1/4 Inch Threaded Beer Post Connector
2 - Stainless Steel sheet metal screws 1 inch long (for drip tray)

Starting The Installation:

Mark the location and then drill a small diameter hole in the side of the refrigerator where you want to install the faucet. Run the drill bit through both the outer and the inside refrigerator walls. Next use a hole saw to drill through the outer metal wall of the refrigerator, using a medium drill speed while pushing lightly on the drill. Remove the metal circle cutout from the hole and then drill through the foam insulation until the tip of the hole saw pilot bit comes through the inner wall of the refrigerator. Take care not to use too much force when drilling through the plastic inside wall of the refrigerator. The goal is to drill a clean hole through the inside wall without creating any cracks in the plastic.

Using A Hole Saw To Drill The Hole For The Nip Shank
A small vacuum cleaner does a good job of cleaning up any foam particles created during the drilling process. Once the hole has been cleared of foam remove the flange nut from the barbed end of the nip shank. Next align the beer faucet with the collar end of the nip shank and then firmly tighten the collar to connect the faucet. Push the barb end of the shank through the hole and secure the assembly in place by holding the faucet level while tightening the flange nut.

7/8 Inch Nip Shank With 1/4 Inch Barb For Beer Line

With the beer faucet connected to the nip shank and the assembly firmly secured to the refrigerator wall connect a 10 foot long length of 3/16 inch inside diameter beer line to the 1/4 barb end of the nip shank. Using this combination of beer line diameter and line length allows me to carbonate and serve my kegged beer with the Co2 regulator set between 10 to 12 psi. Soaking the 3/16 inch beer line end, in near boiling water for a minute, will soften it enough to slip onto the larger 1/4 inch diameter barb. With the beer line firmly over the barbed end of the nip shank secure it in place using a small stainless steel hose clamp.     

3/16 Inch Beer Line Connection To 1/4 Inch Barb End
To connect the beer faucet to a keg you must first attach the barb end of a 1/4 inch swivel nut to the end of the beer line and secure it with a small stainless steel hose clamp. With the beer line attached to the nip shank and the swivel nut and both hose clamps tightened, the swivel nut can be tightened onto a beer out post connector. Snap the beer out post connector onto a keg of carbonated beer and then pour a cold one to enjoy as you check and make sure there are no leaks.

Let Your Creative Side Show With Custom Tap Handles

The drip tray is mounted to the side of the refrigerator using two short stainless steel sheet metal screws. Before drilling the holes make sure that your tallest beer glass will fit between the top of the tray and the bottom of the beer faucet. Then center the beer tray underneath the beer faucet, while holding the tray level, then mark the tops of the slotted mounting holes on the wall using a pencil. Locate the pencil marks and then use a 1/8 inch drill bit to drill through just the metal outer wall of the refrigerator.

Loosely thread the screws into the side of the refrigerator and then slip the drip tray mounting slots over the screw heads. With the drip tray hanging from the two screws tighten the screws, leaving a 1/8 inch space between the wall and the screw head. When it comes time to clean the drip tray you should be able to lift it off the mounting screws without having to use a screw driver. In less time than it took to write this article I was able to install another Perlick beer faucet in my refrigerator and so can you.     

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Screwy's California Steamin' Common Beer

Seven years ago I was invited to fly out to California to conduct some company business. Soon after arriving at my hotel in San Francisco I met up with a friend to grab a few beers at a bar located on Fisherman's Wharf. When it was his turn to buy he ordered up a round of what he described as "a really great tasting beer" brewed at a local brewery. That round of beer was to mark the very first time I ever tasted a beer brewed by Anchor Brewing. I had never heard of Anchor Steam Beer, or Steam Beer, or the California Common Beer style before. As I was about to take my very first sip I could tell that I would be tasting a beer unlike any I had ever tasted before. This beer was delicious, it had a very distinctive flavor and aroma. This was my official introduction to craft beer and I liked it, a lot!

You see back home in New Jersey where I lived not a friend, friend of a friend or relative had ever mentioned anything to me about craft beer. My introduction to craft beer was happening at a time when mainstream beer like Budweiser, Rolling Rock and Pabst Blue Ribbon were as likely to be found at barbecues and picnics as ketchup, napkins and mustard. Yet there I was genuinely enjoying my first glass of craft beer while sitting at the epicenter of the American Craft Beer Revolution. It was impossible to know it at the time but this friendly round of drinks would ignite in me a passion for beer that has continued to burn even to this day.  

At the close of each business day I whiled away my free time taking in all of the character, sights and sounds of the San Francisco Bay area. On my previous business trips to the area I returned home with warm memories of tasty Sourdough bread, street mimes, huge delicious Dungeness crab dinners and the playful honking of the Sea Lions at pier 39. This trip would be different. From this trip I would be returning home with a new sense of excitement. I had experienced something profound, a new type of beer that tasted really good and I needed to share what I had found with everyone I knew.

Fritz Maytag Was Just One Of Many Who Saved The Brewery

The California Common Beer Style

There are several paths to follow when researching the California Common Beer style and each of them approaches the style from a different perspective. A well known and respected source of information for all styles of beer including the Common Beer style is the Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines. The Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP for short, is the authoritative source for brewing classic versions of nearly every style of beer imaginable. According to the BJCP Guidelines the Common Beer should finish somewhere between 4.5 to 5.5% ABV and be hopped with enough Northern Brewer hops to add tantalizingly rustic Bay Area aromas of wood and mint. The beer should be clear and the color somewhere between 10 and 14 SRM giving the beer a medium amber to light copper color with an off white colored head and good head retention.

Then there are the historical points of reference that date all the way back to the great California Gold Rush. A German brewer named Gottlieb Brekle first opened his brewery in San Francisco around the late 1850's to brew his Steam Beer. The original brewery was bought by his son-in-law Otto Schinkel and Ernst Baruth in 1896 who changed the name to the Anchor Brewing Company. Anchor is well known for fermenting their original Steam Beer atop the San Francisco brewery roof, using the cold night air to keep the beer cool as it fermented.

Throughout the tumultuous history of the brewery it has managed to overcome the death of two owners and an earthquake and fire that destroyed the original brewery. All of this happening just as America was to welcome in the start of the Prohibition Era. The Anchor Steam brand continues to live on today nonetheless after being rescued by investors who believed in the brewery and the quality of the beer it produced. Included among them was Fritz Maytag, the most recognized and respected name in the history of craft brewing, who in the mid 1960's bought a controlling interest in Anchor Brewing for a few thousand dollars.

The grain bill for the California Steamin' recipe can be as simple as using only two malts, a Pale Ale malt as the base with up to ten percent Crystal malt added to the grist for color and a slight hint of caramel. The flavor and aroma of the California Steamin' recipe comes mainly from Northern Brewer hops and fermentation using a 'California Beer' lager yeast strain. I prefer to use White Labs WLP 810 - San Francisco Lager Yeast, at one and a half times the pitching rate typically used for fermenting Ales. This unique strain of Lager yeast has the ability to ferment at temperatures as high as 65F while still producing a Lager like fermentation. The recipe produces a beer with a grainy malt flavor and a light toast background and should be carbonated within a range of 2.4 to 2.8 volumes of Co2. Finishing at 5% alcohol the recipe produces a beer that has a medium light mouth feel with a bitter and dry finish.

Anchor Steam And Dungeness Crabs At The Crab House

The California Steamin' Recipe

The California Steamin' recipe is my interpretation of how a good tasting California Common Beer should be brewed. The recipe is based on beer style information published by the BJCP and is available for free on their website. The entire beer brewing process is part art and part science and ultimately the best classroom for learning will the brew room. Brew day is when everything comes together. It is where sanitization, yeast handling, pitching rate and fermentation combine with the grain and hops in the recipe to influence the taste of the finished beer.

Every step in the brewing process has some affect on the beer and documenting what went right, and possibly what went wrong, on each brew day will help future brew days go more smoothly. The ability to take good notes is especially important when tweaking a recipe or a new brewing process so that any adjustments made can be referred to when brewing future batches. As for the finished beer having someone other than yourself evaluate your beer and then comparing their impressions with your own is also advisable. The honest feedback received from a home brewer after sampling a previous batch was very helpful to me even though his evaluation of the beer was very positive.

"The taste was smooth and easy. It finishes with just a hint of the hops. It's not as bitter as Anchor Steam (and I know it wasn't supposed to be a clone so I just use that as a reference point). As it warmed up nearing the bottom of the glass the hops and caramel presented themselves a bit more and gave the beer a rich, yet light and crisp feel. Good stuff.

The bottom line here is that this is a damn fine beer, crystal-clear and tasty. Perfectly carbonated. Very well brewed and very refreshing."

There was an agreement by us both that the beer produced by this recipe was a very good example of the California Common Beer style, although it could have used a bit more hop bitterness and flavor from the Northern Brewer hops. Only after reviewing the brewing notes from that batch did I realize I had omitted running the BU:GU calculation on the recipe, instead I relied only on the IBU calculation to build the hop schedule. Thanks to feedback on the beer and carefully recorded brewing notes I was reminded to include the BU:GU calculations in the current version of the recipe. This updated recipe increases the amount of hops used and adjusts the hop schedule to add the additional bitterness and flavor found lacking in the prior version of the recipe.   

The Water Profile

The water supply in the San Francisco area is sourced from Sierra Mountain snow melt and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite Nation Park. The area water is considered to be low in total dissolved solids, very soft and low in alkalinity. For brewers like myself who live in an area where the local water supply is unlike the water in the Bay Area, building a brewing water profile for the California Common Beer style takes little extra effort. While it is true that water quality varies from one location to another, it can also vary throughout the year even in the same location. Fortunately there are ways to level the playing field by using water collected from a reverse osmosis filter, or by using distilled water as a base for creating the brewing water profile. Another alternative is to sample and make adjustments to the water available to you prior to the start of each brewday.

Replicating The San Francisco Bay Area Water Profile

Having the ability to prepare your brewing water a day or two ahead of time will leave you with one less thing that has to be done on brew day. Waiting for brewing water to stabilize in between water adjustments and pH readings can prolong a brew day by hours. I start by filling a 15 gallon container with RO water and then stirring in the brewing salts and minerals needed to build my water profile. I prefer to add acid or base adjustments in small increments and then wait 20 minutes for the water to stabilize before taking the next pH reading. Using small adjustments and allowing time in between readings will lessen the chance of overshooting or undershooting the target pH value.

After searching online for a profile designed for use with a California Common Beer I was able to find one water profile that appeared to be a good match. The water profile is designed for brewing a balanced beer that favors maltiness just a bit more. The sodium level of the profile was increased by adding a small amount of baking soda to give the beer a rounder malt finish. The magnesium level in the Common Beer water profile also appeared to be lower than those used in styles like an IPA or a wheat beer.  

California Steamin' Water Profile 15.0 Gallons
06.00 g - Gypsum (calcium sulfate)
16.00 g - Calcium Chloride
03.00 g - Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate)
05.00 g - Baking Soda
05.00 ml Lactic Acid

pH = 5.46 @ 73F (calculated)
Chloride/Sulfate ratio 1.71
Residual Alkalinity = -126
101 ppm - calcium
005 ppm - magnesium
024 ppm - sodium
136 ppm - chloride
080 ppm - sulfate

Mash For 90 Minutes @ 154F

The Bittering Unit To Gravity Ratio

When trying to determine the perceived bitterness level of a beer recipe it is important to look not only at the International Bittering Unit value alone to get that information. In fact in order to get a complete picture of bitterness the calculated IBU value of a recipe should also be weighed against the original gravity units of the recipe too. The ratio of hop bitterness to malt sweetness can be easily calculated using the IBU and OG of the recipe. The perceived bitterness of the California Steamin' recipe falls near the upper end of the BU:GU scale with a value of 0.745. For the purpose of comparison a Wheat beer has a BU:GU value of .500 which is right in the center of the scale while a Standard American Lager has a value of .250 which is near the lower end of the scale.

The math involved in calculating the BU:GU value for any recipe is not difficult to do. For example the bitterness value of the California Steamin' recipe is 38 IBU and that value can be entered directly into the calculation. The OG of the recipe is 1.051 and after dropping the 1. and multiplying the remainder of 0.51 by 1000 the resulting number is 51, which is also used in the calculation.

Estimated Wort Properties

    IBU  = 38
    OG   = 1.051
    SRM = 12
    FG    = 1.013
    ABV = 5.0%

Calculate the BU:GU ratio for this recipe by dividing 38 by 51 to get .745 as the answer. Basically the higher the BU:GU number the more perceived bitterness the finished beer will have when drinking it.

BU:GU Ratio : 38 / 51 =  .745 (BU:GU Ratio Of Popular Beer Styles)

A Vigorous Boil For 90 Minutes

The Grain Bill

I had originally planned on using Pale Ale malt and Crystal 60L malt to brew this recipe, that is until I picked up my order at the LHBS. They had run out of Pale Ale malt and failed to call and let me know the day before. I had no choice but to change the recipe on the spot to use Pilsner and Crystal 90L malt instead. I increased the boil time from 60 to 90 minutes to drive off the DMS buildup attributed to brewing with Pilsner malt. Modifying the original hop schedule to adjust for the longer boil was not a problem and at this point I felt relieved knowing my morning brewing plans were still on.

02.00 pounds Crystal 90L  (8.75%)
21.00 pounds Pilsen Malt   (91.25%)
23.00 pounds total grain bill

The Hop Bill

I bag my pellet hops before adding them to the kettle to limit the amount of hop debris that would otherwise collect at the bottom of the kettle. If there is too much hop debris in the kettle it can get sucked up from the bottom and then easily clog a counter-flow wort chiller. Clearing out clogged chiller equipment is not something I want to be doing while trying to cool down ten gallons of boiling hot wort. The hop schedule was pretty straightforward the three additions were added to the kettle at the rate of 1.5 ounces at 60 minutes, 1.5 ounces at 30 minutes and 2.0 ounces at flame out. 

5.00 ounces Northern Brewer (German) pellets
5.00 ounces Total Hop bill

The Yeast

For the California Steamin' recipe the yeast pitched was propagated in 4 liters of starter wort made from extra light DME and two vials of WLP 810 San Francisco Lager Yeast. The starter wort gravity measured 1.040 after it had cooled down to room temperature. Two vials of liquid yeast were also at room temperature when they added to the starter wort inside the 5 liter Erlenmeyer flask. The starter was then spun on a stir plate for 72 hours before it was cold crashed for two days prior to pitching it on brew day.

WLP810 - San Francisco Lager Yeast™ In 4 Liter Starter

Early on brew day morning I removed the flask and set it out on a counter top to warm up to room temperature. Once the fermentors were filled I oxygenated the cooled wort for a minute, decanted the extra wort from the flask and then pitched the yeast. Yeast nutrient was added to the boil about 10 minutes before flame out just as I would for any beer I brew.

A typical five percent alcohol beer fermented with an Ale yeast requires an optimum pitching rate of approximately 350 billions yeast cells. Pitching the optimum number of yeast cells relative to the original gravity of a beer is a way to insure there will be enough yeast cells to fully ferment the beer down to its rated attenuation. The same five percent alcohol beer fermented with a Lager yeast would require approximately double the Ale yeast cell count, requiring 700 billion yeast cells to ferment the beer down to its rated attenuation. I decided to pitch the yeast for this recipe using a cell count somewhere in between a Lager and an Ale pitch rate. Two vials of fresh yeast added to four liters of starter wort should produce approximately 500 billion cells when using a stirplate and that what my pitch rate was based on.

When making a yeast starter using a stirplate I watch for the yeast to reach high krausen and then wait for the krausen to fall completely before switching the stirplate off. After another half a day passes the yeast cells will have had enough time to complete the fermentation cycle and store up energy before going dormant. Not long after that I cover the flask opening with sanitized plastic wrap and move it to the refrigerator to cold crash. Usually by the end of the following day even the least flocculant cells have had enough time to fall to the bottom of the flask.

White Labs WLP810 - San Francisco Lager Yeast™
2 Vials In A 1.040 Gravity 4 Liter Starter

Putting It All Together

I set the mash efficiency of my brewing software to seventy percent when developing recipes for my 15 gallon eBIAB RIMS brewing setup. After having brewed at least ten batches of beer on this system, and documenting the original gravity readings from each batch, I know that the actual original gravity closely matches the calculated original gravity. To maximize the brewing efficiency of the system I ask to have my grain double crushed when I order them from my local home brew shop. I also mash the grains for 90 minutes followed by a 10 minute mash out before lifting the grains from the kettle to sparge them with 168F water.  

I have found that the percentage of alpha acid in hops can vary quite a lot depending on the year they were harvested and even between the different brands available for purchase. This difference makes it important to set the alpha acid values up in the brewing software so that they match the alpha acid value of the hops used in a recipe. The closer you can get the brewing software settings to match those of the brewing system and the ingredients used in a recipe better the chances are that the finished beer will come out as expected.

The Original Gravity Sample Color Looks Perfect

The first time I brewed using an electric brew in a bag system I had to figure out how much grain and brewing water would fit inside my kettle without causing it to overflow during the mash. With eBIAB systems heating the strike water, mashing the grains, sparging and then boiling the wort are all done in a single vessel. Before being able to successfully brew beer on an eBIAB brewing system, after having brewed for years on a traditional three tier brewing system, I had to learn a different set of calculations. Having a separate hot liquor tank, mash tun and brew kettle made calculating mash thickness and preboil volumes pretty straightforward because the three vessels combined provided more volume to work with. The volume calculations when using only a single vessel took a little more thought since all three processes had to share the same space.

With eBIAB brewing the strike water and grain used in the mash are added to the kettle at the beginning of the mash. The grain is placed inside of a fine mesh bag so that the sugars can be extracted into the wort while preventing any grain from getting into the kettle. At the end of the mash the mesh bag and grain are raised above the wort, rinsed with sparge water and then discarded. Once the wort is heated to a boil the remainder of any eBIAB brewing process is exactly the as any other type of brewing process.

The 1.056 Original Gravity Reading

It may take a few brew days to become familiar with all of the volume calculations involved when first attempting eBIAB brewing. I found that using brewing software like ezBIAB Calculator© helped to make all of the kettle size, water, grain and hop volume calculations easy to do. After entering the kettle size in gallons and the amount of grains and hops that will be used in the mash, brewing software makes it easy to run what-if type calculations to answer all eBIAB brewing questions related to kettle size, water, grain and hop volumes.   

11.75 gallons: Pre-boil Volume
10.00 gallons: Packaged Volume
Efficiency: 70%
Estimated Wort : IBU=38, OG=1.051, SRM=12, FG=1.013, ABV= 5.0%
Actual  Wort : IBU=38, OG=1.056, SRM=12, FG=1.012, ABV= 5.9%
BU:GU Ratio     :         38      /        56 = .6785 Range: 0.25 (sweet) to 1.0 (bitter)

Mash at 154° F for 90 minutes
Mashout at at 168° F for 10 minutes
Sparge at 168° F until 11.75 gallons of wort has collected in the kettle

Summing It All Up

I like to record the highlights of each brew day soon after I finish brewing. After transferring the fermented beer into kegs I was able to take a good look inside the fermentors. I noticed how tightly packed the WLP 810 yeast was on the bottom of the fermentor, it appeared to had the consistency plaster. The remaining beer that was sitting on top of the yeast cake remained clear even after it had been sloshing around over it. The other thing I noticed was how hard and tough the krausen ring created during the fermentation was. The ring was hard and crusty unlike the rings left behind when fermenting beer using other yeast strains like US-04 or WLP-400.      

Yeast And Beer Stone Left In Fermentor After Kegging The Beer

Near the end of the boil wort was pumped through a counter flow chiller to sanitize the inside of the chiller and to create a whirl pool in the kettle. The hops used during the boil for bittering, flavor and aroma were removed from the kettle before adding the final knock out hop additions. It took about fifteen minutes for the wort to settle down inside the kettle allowing the cold break to fall below the valve opening. Once the wort had cleared it was run through the counter-flow chiller and then collected in the fermentors.

The 1.012 Final Gravity Reading

The fermenting beer was held at 65F throughout most of the primary fermentation before the temperature was raised one degree each day for three consecutive days. Once the final gravity had been reached the beer was cold crashed at 36F for three days it and then kegged and force carbonated using 15 psi for ten days. While California Steamin' will be ready to drink ten days after kegging allowing it another four weeks to condition will help the beer to achieve peak flavor before serving it. 

Screwy's California Steamin' Common Beer
The preferred serving temperature for the California Steamin' beer really depends on your own personal preference and can vary from one beer drinker to another. For a crisper pour I like to serve my beer at 36F and then finish the glass before the beer reaches 45F. As the beer warms above 45F the crispness will begin to fade allowing more of the malt flavor and hop aroma to become noticeable. Pour yourself a tall glass and then savor every sip as you enjoy the full range of crispness, flavor and aroma this beer has to offer. You will be glad you did!