Monthly Archives: May 2011

Homemade stirplate

stirplateI recently made a stirplate (with massive help from my good friend Nate) for yeast propagation using a computer fan, magnets from an old hard drive, an A/C power supply from a cell phone, a combo switch/potentiometer from Radio Shack, bolts and a washer from Home Depot, and a plastic container from Target. The whole thing cost me maybe $8.

The single hardest part of this project was cracking into an old hard drive. This required lots of small screws to be removed, and some serious prying.

Once you get the magnets, you can start to test your wiring. Take the fan, and glue the washer to the fan, and once the glue sets, stick one of the magnets to it. Take the A/C power supply, and cut the power cord so that you have the wall plug and the wire. Strip the wire ends, and do some (careful) testing with the fan to make sure that it spins in the right direction.

Next, put the potentiometer inline, between the fan and the power supply, and get your connections set so that you can adjust the speed of the fan with the potentiometer. This is important so that you don’t throw the stirbar when you start up the stirplate. Once you know where all your wires go, you can start to assemble.

Take your plastic container, and set the fan in it, with your bolts put through the fan. Adjust the height of the fan by using the nuts on the bolts to raise the height of the fan. Ideally, you want the fan right up next to the lid, without actually touching the lid. Give it some space, as the lid will come down with your sample sitting on it. This will take some testing. Fill your planned sample jar (erlenmeyer flask) with as much water as you think you might use, and put it on the lid, and plug in your power. If your fan can spin freely with your flask sitting on top of the lid, you’re all set. Take off the flask and lid, and glue the fan in place. I also glues the bolts at each corner just to minimize movement.

Drill a hole in the side of your container for the power to come in, and drill a hole on the opposite side for your potentiometer. Run your wires in through what will be the back, and put your potentiometer in the front opening. Re-test all your connections to make sure that the fan still spins the way you expect when you turn on the potentiometer, then glue, sauter and glue some more until nothing moves.

Close the lid, put on your flask, and turn it on with a stirbar inside. It should look like this:

Stirplate vortex

Local Hopped American Bitter

Our local Black Bear Microbrew still has some whole cone Cascade hops from a hop farm in Monson, ME. They have been kept airtight in a freezer, and I was asked to do a pilot brew with them to assess their viability for flavor and aroma. These hops look beautiful and still smell quite fresh if you squeeze them.

I assembled a session bitter recipe using english malts and yeast, using whole cone cascade hops for flavor, and Centennial hops for bittering.
whole-cone-cascade-hopsI was given a large bag of hops, about the size of a bagged lunch, which surprised me to weigh only 6oz.  When I went to weigh out the flame-out addition, the bowl I was adding them to overflowed before I could get to 2oz!

I have since added an ounce in primary for dry-hopping, and plan to add another ounce in the keg for keg-hopping.

Batch recipe:

Recipe: Whole Cascade Test Batch

Volume At Pitching: 4.75 US gals

Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.030 SG
Expected OG: 1.041 SG
Expected FG: 1.011 SG
Expected ABV: 4.0 %
Expected ABW: 3.1 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 35.0
Expected Color: 8.7 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 72.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 70.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 66 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 6lb 8oz (86.3 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Wheat Malt 8.00 oz (6.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 8.00 oz (6.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Roasted Barley 0.50 oz (0.4 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Cascade (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used 10 Min From End
US Cascade (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used Dry-Hopped

Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Summer Witbier with Allagash house yeast

allagash-white-starterI’m into the fifth month now of my “year of the session beer” project, and starting to get a little bit weary of the english styles, so this time I decided to try a few new things. First, I asked my friend Nate to help me build a stir-plate based on his build experience, which was a smashing success. And, being a Mainer, I though Allagash would be a good source for a summer yeast, so I bought two bottles of reasonably fresh Allagash White, and pitched the dregs from the bottles into a meager starter (around 1.025 OG).

The starter took off well, and the yeast continued on for nearly a week — in fact, the krausen was quite full, close to an inch high, when I decided to crash-cool it for decanting and pitching. That’s some dedicated yeast there Allagash!

I then brewed a witbier, but instead of the standard coriander and orange zest, I decided to get the citrus and bitterness from Cascade hops.

The recipe for this beer is as follows:

Recipe: 2011 Belgian Wit (allagash yeast)

Recipe Overview

Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.036 SG
Expected OG: 1.039 SG
Expected FG: 1.009 SG
Expected ABV: 3.9 %
Expected ABW: 3.1 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 20.0
Expected Color: 3.6 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 70.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 66 degF
UK Pale Ale Malt 5lb 8oz (61.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Wheat Malt 3lb 8oz (38.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 0.40 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Cascade (4.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End

Yeast: Allagash House Yeast (White Labs WLP400?)

Recipe Notes

I brewed this beer on April 24th, and fermentation is still going.