Archive | April, 2011

Homebrew: Weissbier

29 Apr

Last year I bought a Groupon that gave me a lesson in homebrewing and a full kit for $35. I knew it would pay for itself many times over. This is the third batch of beer that I’ve brewed, and the second one that was successful to the bottling stage. So here are some instructions step by step how to use a 5 gallon homebrewing system to get hopefully the best wheat beer i’ve had. The kit i bought this time is Brewer’s Best Weissbier which was the easiest kit available at my local brewer’s hobby store, but some flavors are available on Amazon.

Brewer’s Best Weissbier

6.5 gallon homebrew bucket
Large stew pot (>5 gallons, or two 3 gallon ones)
Plastic hose and autosiphon
48 12-oz beer bottles, nontwist top
48 new bottle caps and capper
C-Brite cleaner or B-Brite cleaner
1 gallon water jug
1 large cooler
glass dropper (optional)

Ingredients (Found inside the kit):
Two cans of malt extract
Flavoring hops
Bittering hops
Active brewing yeast
Priming sugar pellets

Additional ingredients (Optional):
Blueberry flavoring

Heat 2.5 gallons of water and add one can of malt extract. While mixing, bring to a boil, then turn heat down and add a second can of malt extract. Let it simmer for 45 minutes. If you have two smaller pots, split the ingredients and transfer liquid from one pot to the other back and forth to ensure that the whole mixture is homogeneous.

The first step of the process above can be started, then cleaning can be done concurrently. Mix C-Brite powder with the appropriate amount of water in a 1 gallon jug to create a mild cleaning solution, and use it to rinse all tools and surfaces that will be used for the brewing process. Cleanliness ensures that the whole batch of beer doesn’t get contaminated and thrown out. Clean tools by putting them all in a large container (the homebrew bucket) and pour C-Brite over everything liberally. Remember to rinse the lid of the homebrew bucket too.

Add flavoring hops, and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Add in bittering hops and simmer for another 15 minutes or less.

If you can fit the pots into the large cooler, fill the cooler with ice and water and set the pot of liquid into the ice bath to cool to 70 degrees F. Cooling the wort (the cooked liquid) quickly is important to prevent contamination, but the last time I did it, it took a stupid hour for me to cool everything but it was still ok.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the yeast by mixing it in a bowl with some water. Using warm water is preferable.

Make sure the spigot is tightly screwed into the homebrew bucket or the hole in the bottom will cause all your wort to go to waste. Pour the wort into the 6.5 gallon bucket. Add in water (around 2 more gallons) until the total volume is 5 gallons. Add the yeast mixture.

Take a hydrometer reading. A good resource on hydrometers and what they do is at How to Brew by John Palmer. I’m not going to go into it but this is the time when you measure the specific gravity of your brew mixture.

Now, simply put the lid on the bucket, fill the airlock halfway with water and stick the airlock into the lid, and put the homebrew bucket somewhere cool for about a week.

After a week or when the bubbles stop forming in the airlock:

Bottling also requires thorough cleaning. Cleaning 50 bottles is a huge pain in the butt so some people prefer to brew in the larger 22 oz bottles instead of 12 oz bottles. But I’ve come up with a pretty good way to wash everything. I have a large cooler that can probably fit 12 bottles lying down on their side. I fill that cooler with more than enough water to submerge a bottle, and for each 12 bottle batch I do one soap bath, one water rinse, and one C-Brite rinse. The soap bath gets rid of all the old beer and crusty old that might be in your old beer bottles. The water bath rinses away the soap pretty well, then the C-Brite does a second rinse and also kills of any more germs that are left. To save some water and time I take two bottles in my hand, submerge them, then dump out the liquid back into the cooler, and set the cleaned bottles aside. This cleaning process can take an hour but you just have to remember you are making 50 beers per batch, and it will be worth it for a long time. Also, rinse the bottle caps in C-Brite at this time.

Again, take a hydrometer reading before bottling. This allows you to calculate the percentage of alcohol in the beer.

Bottling is pretty simple if you have the right tools. I have a length of plastic hose that fits snugly on the spigot to the homebrew bucket and the autosiphon. For 12 oz bottles, first put four pellets of priming sugar in each bottle (different priming sugar packets might have different instructions.)

The autosiphon puts exactly the right amount of beer into each bottle. Push the siphon downward to dispense, and fill the bottle completely to the lip, so that when the autosiphon is removed there is about an inch of air on the top of the bottle. Cap the bottle using a capper (which comes with most kits as well.)

To add flavoring, the instructions say to mix a certain amount of the blueberry flavoring to a certain amount of beer. I roughly calculated it to be four drops from a dropper into each bottle since I had already bottled the beer. Take in the flavoring into a glass dropper and put four drops into each bottle before you add the beer.

The beer sits in this secondary fermentation process for another 3 weeks or so. Since at the time of this post it has been about 3 weeks, I will be tasting the beer soon and updating with the results. Cheers!

Second Try Syndrome…(Banana Cream Pie)

24 Apr

I suffer from a horrible, debilitating disease I call Second Try Syndrome. It turns my egg yolks into foam, renders my custards sugarless, and leaves pie crusts half-filled.

The first time I attempt a recipe, I read each line of directions twice. I measure out each ingredient before I begin and never forget to preheat the oven. You know…like a normal person.

The second time around, I start glancing instead of reading. I do some things from memory. I stop paying close attention to my KitchenAid and just let it run.

When I made this banana cream pie the first time, the result was a gorgeously smooth custard. The second time? Ehh…it solidified. So. Lesson learned. Don’t overbeat your eggs. Don’t forget to add the sugar. Or the cornstarch. And don’t be lazy and make your own damn crust.

Banana Cream Pie
Recipe courtesy of DK and his boss

1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean and pod, halved lengthwise and scraped (I substituted 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 large bananas, sliced

In a saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk and vanilla, taking care not to let it boil over. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Temper the eggs with hot milk, then pour through a sieve back into the saucepan.

Heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens. Pour through sieve over butter into a separate bowl and cover with saran wrap. Make sure to poke holes in the saran wrap to let out steam, and let cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

While the custard is cooling, prepare the pie pan. A graham cracker crust works well with this pie, but my store-bought one cracked when I tried to serve it. DK makes a crust from the recipe on the Honey Graham box. In any case, line the crust with sliced bananas. I used several layers of thinly sliced bananas since this is the only source of the banana flavor.

When the custard is cool, pour it into the crust and smooth with the back of a spoon. Top with whipped cream and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Be careful with the pie. If you’re too excited to shove it in your mouth, this might happen:

And that’s just sad. :(

Length of procrastination: 1 hour of hands-on time, if you’re not stupid like me. 12 hours of omgomgomg-can-I-eat-it-yet? time.

Connie’s Cake

18 Apr

My roommate Connie’s birthday was a few weeks ago, so my other roommate Victoria and I decided to make her an ice cream cake. We used the same recipe that I used to make Bobby’s last summer, but swapped out the vanilla cake for red velvet and the Neapolitan ice cream for strawberry. Also, Victoria is much more skilled than I am at slicing strawberries, so they actually looked like little hearts.

This cake was baked, cooled, assembled, and frosted in the two hours that Connie was out rock climbing. We had another friend try to stall her for as long as possible and actually managed to hide the cake in the freezer before she came back. Of course the first thing she did upon returning home was open the freezer door (at which time I slammed it closed and insisted that there is nothing of interest in there). Just in case the sudden appearance of a bajillion dishes drying in the dishwasher didn’t give it away.

Photo credit goes to Connie because I fail at taking pictures of anything. And at hiding cakes.

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