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CCHBS News for June 2006

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  1. Recipe Specials for June
  2. All-Grain Brewing Class June 17th
  3. Erlenmeyer Flasks in Stock
  4. Immersion Wort Chillers: just like BBB's
  5. Spotlight on Technique: Optimum Yeast Pitching Rates

Recipe Specials for June

Pacific Gravity will be featuring Small Beers in August. Luckily, we've got a few recipes for beers with original gravities below 1.040 and we're putting them all on special for June.

Melrose Mild was our original low-gravity beer. If you've never had a Mild Ale, think of them as what "lite" beers should be ? low in alcohol but with plenty of flavor from dark grain. Try it now for $20.

Notting Hill Pub Bitter is an example of an English Ordinary Bitter. This style is a session beer, a style you can drink in a long evening's session at a pub and still be able to get home. Brew it in April for $20.

Finally, we've got Little Mac Scottish Light, a Scottish Light 60/- beer. If you're wondering, 60/- stands for 60 shillings in the old-style British monetary units. The name comes from the cost of ingredients for a barrel of the beer, which was the lowest-gravity Scottish ale. We won't be selling it for 3 Pounds, but you can still enjoy the style for a paltry $20 during June.

All-Grain Brewing Class June 17th

If you've been curious about learning how to step up from extract to all-grain brewing, we'll be teaching a class in all-grain brewing on Saturday, June 17th. The class will start at 11AM sharp, so make sure you're there on time. We'll be brewing not one, but two batches: a 10 gallon batch using the Pacific Gravity club brewing system and another 5 gallon batch using the no-sparge approach, which requires much less equipment. So whether you're interested in learning how to brew at home with a minimum investment or on the club system, plan on attending. And if you want to use the club system later, make sure you arrive on time and stay all day, since learning to set the system up and put it away are necessary before brewing on your own.

Erlenmeyer Flasks in Stock

People have been asking us to stock Erlenmeyer flasks for a while now, and we've finally found a reasonable source. They're made of Pyrex© or a similar glass that allows you to boil wort for your yeast starter in the same vessel you'll ferment it in. If you're not sure whether you should be making yeast starters, you should read the Spotlight below. The 1 liter flasks sell for $14.95 and the 2 liter flasks for $24.95.

Immersion Wort Chillers: Just like BBB's

We've worked out an agreement with Beer, Beer & More Beer to sell some of their products. One of these is the new line of wort chillers we're selling. They're a good design that puts the maximum cooling capability at the top of the brew pot, which is where the heat rises during chilling. They also come with heavy-duty fittings for attachment directly to garden hoses.

Spotlight on Technique: Optimum Yeast Pitching Rates

We often have beginning brewers coming to us wanting to make strong beers like IPA, or even Barleywines, who are surprised when we recommend that they make a lower gravity beer instead. The reason is simple; while the various yeast companies make excellent products, commercial reality is that they can't provide a package that contains the optimum yeast count for a low gravity batch of beer, much less something stronger. The result is that most homebrewers are chronically underpitching their yeast.

Recommended yeast pitching rates for a ale is about 1 million yeast cells for every milliliter of wort, for every degree Plato. ( Double that for lagers.). Doing the math for a 5 gallon batch of 1.044 degree wort (6 lbs of malt extract) works out to: 209 billion yeast cells. For a 5 gallon batch at 1.064 (9 lbs of extract), you'll need 304 billion cells, for a batch at 1.088 (12 lbs of extract) you'll need 418 billion cells.

According to Wyeast and White Labs, the liquid yeast packages we're currently selling contain about 100 billion cells each. So to reach the ideal pitching rate, you'd have to buy 2 packages of yeast for a recipe using 6 pounds of extract, 3 packages for a typical IPA recipe and 4 packages for a Barleywine. That's a lot of money! Dry yeast is a little better, with an 11 gm package containing over 200 billion cells. But dry yeast is available for relatively few styles, so it's not always a good solution.

A better solution is to make a yeast starter a couple of days before you brew. But even then, you may be underpitching. While a 1 pint starter will increase your yeast cell count to the point where it's closer to an optimum count, it won't get you all the way there.

So how big a starter do you need? According a Wyeast microbiologist:

1 quart starter = 150 billion cells within 24 hours
2 quart starter = 200 billion cells within 24 hours
1 quart starter pitched into a 4 quart starter = 400 billion cells

Of course, while it's fine to pour all of a smaller starter directly into your batch, a 5 quart starter would affect your finished beer, since starters are usually made from unhopped, low gravity wort. A better approach for a big starter is to make your starter 4-5 days in advance, so it will ferment completely and the yeast will settle out. Then pour off the spent wort and pitch only the yeast slurry at the bottom.

Luckily, it's easy to make a starter. Simply boil a quart or two of water, depending on how big a starter you think you'll need. Then add either 3 oz. (~1/2 cup) of DME for a 1 quart starter or 6 oz. (~1 cup) DME for a 2 quart starter. It's also good to add 1⁄4 tsp. of yeast nutrient, at this point. Boil it for 5-10 minutes, cool it, then pour it into a sanitized jug that's big enough to hold the starter and provide space for any krausen that develops. Or boil it in an Erlenmeyer flask and skip the sanitizing. Shake well to aerate it or, if you have it, use oxygen. Then pitch your yeast, cap with an airlock let the yeast go to work. The result will be better, more consistent beers!

The data used in this article (and much more) may be found here and is used courtesy of Jamil Zainasheff, who knows something about making better, more consistent beers.

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