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My First Extract Brew: American Blonde?

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muppix

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Long story short: I ordered more 'light' LME than I needed, wondered if I could use it to pimp up any of my subsequent kit beers, discovered that it would make a fine base for an extract brew - something I've not attempted before.

I headed over to the Recipe Builder™️ and put together this recipe based on a suggestion by @Banbeer in a previous thread. Apart from a terminal surplus of ignorance, my constraints are two puny stock pots (6l and 3l respectively) my hop collection (just Citra and Columbus, all pellets) plus the fact that my LME comes in 1.2 kg bags. I want to use one of those bags in its entirety and produce something that I can drink, hence the recipe. I'm aiming for 8 litres in total because I have two spare 5 litre vessels and want to put 4 litres in each, one of which will be dry-hopped in the name of experimentation.

I've a couple of questions for all you experienced Extract Brewers:
  1. Have I picked the right fermentable? Mangrove Jack's 'Light' LME isn't known to the builder, so I went for a generic-sounding 'Liquid Malt Extract - Light (4 °L)'. No idea if that's the right one since Jack is silent regarding the °L of his product.
  2. I'm shortly to be the lucky recipient of more 'Crossmyloof Home Brew Beer Yeast' than I can shake a paddle at. This variant is known to the builder, but it doesn't seem to matter if I configure my recipe to use one gram or one kilogram. How much do I add??
  3. I can see that for a (fermenter) target of 8 litres I have a Pre / Post boil size of 12.25 and 8.51 respectively. Is my understanding correct that I'll need to boil 12.25 litres of wort in order to end up with 8.51 litres, of which I can expect 8 litres to hit my fermenter? I know I'll have to do this in two batches since my biggest pot is 6 litres, so 12.25 might be a tad too much. If my understanding is correct then I'll have to scale down the amount of water and suffer an increase in ABV, if I want to use the full 1.2 kg of LME. Right?
Sorry, that turned into a bit of an epic. Please help me make this American Blonde into the kind of brew you can take to meet your parents instead of the kind of brew your mates keep bringing up when you wish they wouldn't. 😁

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darrellm

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My initial reaction to your post is that you're over-analysing it too much, but I guess with the advent of brewing software these days there's so many more variables to play with. I always tend to go with the "suck it and see" approach.
1. LME is LME, don't worry about the brand, just the volume.
2. 5g of yeast should be fine for 8L.
3. Boil volume isn't so critical with Extract brews, most Extract brewers boil less than volume and top up with cold water. You can do the whole brew in your 6L stockpot.
 

Scottyburto

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Pardon my ignorance but could you not just add boiling water to LME in the FV rather than boiling at all. If everything is sanitary isn't boiling LME unnecessary?
 

darrellm

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Pardon my ignorance but could you not just add boiling water to LME in the FV rather than boiling at all. If everything is sanitary isn't boiling LME unnecessary?
No, because it has no bitterness: it's different from pre-hopped LME you buy as kits, this is just LME.

You're effectively short-cutting the grain mash stage of AG by using LME/DME, you still have to do a hop boil to extract bitterness, and can do further late hop additions. It's a good way to dip your toe in the water towards AG brewing, as it can normally be done with what you already have in the kitchen, bar maybe a large stockpot.
 

muppix

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1. LME is LME, don't worry about the brand, just the volume.
2. 5g of yeast should be fine for 8L.
3. Boil volume isn't so critical with Extract brews, most Extract brewers boil less than volume and top up with cold water. You can do the whole brew in your 6L stockpot.
Cheers for the feedback. I probably am over-thinking it a bit, but I also have a tendency to under-think so better err on the side of caution. With that ...
  1. When it comes to LME, isn't the °L / kg important too, or was that what you meant by volume? I did a bit of digging since I had no idea what the °L number was referring to but guessed it might be meaningful since the recipe builder calls it out for generic LME - see my screen-grab in this post. I came across an explanation by John Palmer which was quite easy to understand, and I can now see why it's important.
  2. That makes sense - most of the kits I've brewed include 10g of yeast for 23 litres, so half that would have been my first guess too.
  3. That's a really good point, thanks. There's bound to be a lower limit beyond which the quality of the outcome takes a hit (e.g. boiling the LME with just one litre of water) but I'm now wondering if I can safely just boil half the water - 4 litres - with all of the LME and hops, then top up to 8 litres in the FV. It'll certainly be easier to cool down to pitching temperature if nothing else.
 

Obadiah Boondoggle

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Long story short: I ordered more 'light' LME than I needed, wondered if I could use it to pimp up any of my subsequent kit beers, discovered that it would make a fine base for an extract brew - something I've not attempted before.

I headed over to the Recipe Builder™️ and put together this recipe based on a suggestion by @Banbeer in a previous thread. Apart from a terminal surplus of ignorance, my constraints are two puny stock pots (6l and 3l respectively) my hop collection (just Citra and Columbus, all pellets) plus the fact that my LME comes in 1.2 kg bags. I want to use one of those bags in its entirety and produce something that I can drink, hence the recipe. I'm aiming for 8 litres in total because I have two spare 5 litre vessels and want to put 4 litres in each, one of which will be dry-hopped in the name of experimentation.

I've a couple of questions for all you experienced Extract Brewers:
  1. Have I picked the right fermentable? Mangrove Jack's 'Light' LME isn't known to the builder, so I went for a generic-sounding 'Liquid Malt Extract - Light (4 °L)'. No idea if that's the right one since Jack is silent regarding the °L of his product.
  2. I'm shortly to be the lucky recipient of more 'Crossmyloof Home Brew Beer Yeast' than I can shake a paddle at. This variant is known to the builder, but it doesn't seem to matter if I configure my recipe to use one gram or one kilogram. How much do I add??
  3. I can see that for a (fermenter) target of 8 litres I have a Pre / Post boil size of 12.25 and 8.51 respectively. Is my understanding correct that I'll need to boil 12.25 litres of wort in order to end up with 8.51 litres, of which I can expect 8 litres to hit my fermenter? I know I'll have to do this in two batches since my biggest pot is 6 litres, so 12.25 might be a tad too much. If my understanding is correct then I'll have to scale down the amount of water and suffer an increase in ABV, if I want to use the full 1.2 kg of LME. Right?
Sorry, that turned into a bit of an epic. Please help me make this American Blonde into the kind of brew you can take to meet your parents instead of the kind of brew your mates keep bringing up when you wish they wouldn't. 😁

American Blonde into the kind of brew you can take to meet your parents
So you want to take an American Blonde to meet your parents? What does your wife think?
 

Scottyburto

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No, because it has no bitterness: it's different from pre-hopped LME you buy as kits, this is just LME.

You're effectively short-cutting the grain mash stage of AG by using LME/DME, you still have to do a hop boil to extract bitterness, and can do further late hop additions. It's a good way to dip your toe in the water towards AG brewing, as it can normally be done with what you already have in the kitchen, bar maybe a large stockpot.
Couldn't you just boil hops in water? Again forgive my ignorance but isn't the presence of sugar/malt/adjuncts redundant? In AG aren't you boiling for reduction of wort and sanitation. With x hops at x min intervals surely you're just getting different levels of bitterness and oils irrespective of liquid.
 

MrRook

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You can get bitterness at less than boiling. Isomerization begins at 180f (82c) or so. A steep at 180-200 will get you a low level of IBUs which works well with many styles.
My usual procedure is to mix 1/4 of the extract in 1/4 the water do my steep then mix in the rest of the extract and top up to full volume with cold water and pitch the yeast.
IMG_20210119_180504_burst_01.jpg
 

Scottyburto

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You can get bitterness at less than boiling. Isomerization begins at 180f (82c) or so. A steep at 180-200 will get you a low level of IBUs which works well with many styles.
My usual procedure is to mix 1/4 of the extract in 1/4 the water do my steep then mix in the rest of the extract and top up to full volume with cold water and pitch the yeast.View attachment 40057
This was what I was getting at as the OG post stated he only had small stock pots.
 

muppix

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Thanks @MrRook and @Scottyburto - I'm gathering some useful knowledge here. To summarise the last couple of messages, is it fair to say that with regards to extract brewing:
  • It's the hops which need hot water in order to give up their goodness, not the LME
  • Therefore I only need to heat enough water for the hops, anything more helps with mixing / aeration
  • The water doesn't need to reach a rolling boil, as long as I'm above 180 ℉ / 82 ℃ I'll get some isomerisation but it will increase with temperature thereafter.
Apologies if I seem to be labouring the point, but this is interesting to me because I want to be proficient in extract brewing albeit as an intermediate step to AG, and because I only have small pots.
 

muppix

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My usual procedure is to mix 1/4 of the extract in 1/4 the water do my steep then mix in the rest of the extract and top up to full volume with cold water and pitch the yeast.
Good to know. Out of curiosity, why steep any of the LME at all when you're just trying to extract hops goodness at this point? Wouldn't boiling water on its own for this purpose use less energy? I understand that it's easier to mix in the cold water at the end if the LME has an increased viscosity, I'm not clear on why some of it needs to be there from the start. Sorry if I've missed something - I'm still very green.
 

MrRook

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Good to know. Out of curiosity, why steep any of the LME at all when you're just trying to extract hops goodness at this point? Wouldn't boiling water on its own for this purpose use less energy? I understand that it's easier to mix in the cold water at the end if the LME has an increased viscosity, I'm not clear on why some of it needs to be there from the start. Sorry if I've missed something - I'm still very green.
I guess you could just boil hops in water; not sure how well it would work.
I started out doing it like this when my living situation changed and since it works for what I want I see no reason to change it.
 

muppix

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I went ahead with this extract brew yesterday afternoon and thought I'd report back.

Everything went pretty well actually, despite me not being able to cool the post-steep wort as quickly as I'd have liked and probably pitching too much yeast - I intended to rehydrate 2-3g in each of two sterilised ramekins since I'd be splitting the wort into two vessels, but my scales weren't up to the job and I'd dumped the best part of a 10g sachet into the first dish before I realised. Nothing for it but to add the rest to the second dish and then visually try to match the two, which wasn't all that easy since both dishes already had clean water in from the start and now contained an uncooperative paste. Did the best I could.

About 5 hours after pitching there was half an inch of foam in one of the vessels and maybe a quarter inch in the other. Imbalance in yeast? The foamier of the two vessels was the one I poured last, which means it invariably had a bit more hoppy sediment than the other. 14 hours in and both vessels have an impressive amount of Krausen for such a short space of time - looks like my head-space estimate was good. One airlock is popping every 1-2 seconds, the other has a bit of a leak which I need to fix this afternoon.

My full list of ingredients, the method used, as well as the raw brew notes are pasted below in case anyone's interested. Can't wait to see how this one will turn out!

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muppix never said:
The Ingredients
  • Tesco Ashbeck bottled water, around 9 litres
  • 1.2 kg Mangrove Jack’s light LME (i.e. 1 whole bag)
  • 20g Cascade hop pellets (planning to dry-hop one FV later)
  • 10g ale yeast
The Plan
  1. Add half the LME to large pot, top up to 4 litre mark with water
  2. Heat to around 90 ℃ while stirring
  3. Throw in 6g Cascade hops and start 45 minute timer, maintain temperature
  4. When 15 minutes remain, add another 6g Cascade, maintain temperature
  5. Fill fermentation vessel with 2 litres ice cold water
  6. Hydrate 5g ale yeast according to manufacturer’s instructions
  7. When the timer’s done, turn off heat and mix in the rest of the LME, transfer immediately to FV
  8. Top up to 8 litre mark with hot / cold water to achieve pitch temperature of 18 or 19 ℃
  9. Stir vigorously for 2 or 3 minutes, take OG reading – should be around 1.044
  10. Add the hydrated ale yeast, fit lid and airlock, leave at 18 or 19 ℃ for 10 days
Brew Notes
Having a plan is all very well, here’s what really happened. These notes were made on-the-fly and I’ve not had a chance to tidy them up, maybe I never will. Bit tired right now.

  • Noticed that Brewer’s Friend recipe shows Cascade as having 7% Alpha Acids, but mine are labelled 4.9%. When I changed the percentage on BF I was too low, so I altered the 45 and 15 minute drops to 10 g each instead of 6 g each.
  • Hops added bang on 90 ℃ and the brew turned green and threatened to foam, but settled down again with stirring
  • Going to pitch 2 x 3g Ale Yeast instead of 5g since I’m using two Ashbeck FVs instead of a single vessel. Instructions say to soak yeast in clean container at fermentation temperature using previously boiled water. Wonder how much yeast I’ll lose since it’ll be a sticky mess instead of an easily pourable sand.
  • Added the remaining 600g LME at the 5 minute stage, temperature dropped to 88.5 ℃ but recovered for the remaining time.
  • Prepped cool bucket with about 2 litres cold water, poured in boil – 94.6 ℃. Topping up to 8 litres took a whole 5 litre bottle of Ashbeck, did I really lose more than a litre of water in boil?!?
  • Even with 5 litres of near-freezing water we’re still too hot at 39 ℃ so I’m dropping this bucket inside a larger one filled with cold water.
  • 15 minutes on and I’ve only dropped 10 ℃. Off to prep the yeast.
  • Digital scales not registering anything as I add the yeast to the two ramekins of previously boiled water, presently at 19℃. Poured most of a 10g bag into one before I realised, tried to correct by emptying the remainder of the bag into the other ramekin and then visually evening it out, which is nearly impossible since it’s a grey sticky mess now. Just going to hope for the best and cross my fingers – 5g of yeast (give or take) per 4 litre FV is quite a lot.
  • Bucket’s still at nearly 30 degrees, way too hot for the yeast. Removed it from the ice bath and decanted into the two 5 litre FVs, the latter of which may have received more hop sediment than the first despite stirring beforehand. I used a funnel instead of the bottling wand, at least both brews are well and truly aerated now. Individual ice baths while I measure SG from the sample collected from the bucket before separating.
  • Gravity comes in at 1.044 – bang on as predicted by the recipe builder. Impressive!
  • Yeast pitched at 21 ℃ and not too difficult, since most of it had dissolved completely in the ramekins and could be poured into the FVs via a funnel, rinsed out using a splash of wort and the turkey baster.
  • Both vessels are using my new airlocks secured with grommets rather than the glued-in bungs I used last time, but at least one of them is leaking as I can see the levels equalise on both sides when I squeeze and release the sides of the bottle. I’ll have a go a drilling some fresh tops tomorrow to see if I can get a better seal for the grommets.
Lessons Learnt
  • Get better at preparing / estimating amount of cold water needed – shouldn’t need to chill with another vessel when there’s a dedicated freezer and plenty of bottled water available.
  • Get some decent scales! Need to be able to measure hops and especially yeast with better accuracy.
 

muppix

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It occurred to me that I might have made a bit of a schoolboy error during this brew. Instead of ensuring that both fermentation vessels received an equal concentration of wort, should I have strained out the boiled hops and other sediment? In hindsight there's no reason for that junk to be in the fermenter since I've already gotten all I want from the hops during the steep, and now I'm worried about introducing grassy flavours by leaving it in, or introducing oxygen by trying to correct my mistake and racking to a fresh set of vessels.

@MrRook and @darrellm - what do you do? Remove the boiled hops before fermentation? Use a hop sock or similar? I'm wondering if racking to new vessels might be the way forward while I still have some CO2 being produced, or if I should just leave it well alone and chalk it up to experience ...
 

darrellm

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I do remove the hops before transferring to the FV but I use leaf hops so it's much easier to do, pellets are a PITA....plus I can't grow pellets :laugh8:

I'd leave it, once fermentation is done put them somewhere cool and everything should drop to the bottom.
 

muppix

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Cheers guys. I'm not too worried about the sediment as such during fermentation (my syphon has a good filter) but I don't want to end up with iffy flavours. Will do better next time.

As for growing my own hops, I looked into that too but let's just say that conditions aren't exactly suited where I live: plenty of rain and high winds for most of the year, winter can be even worse. 😉
 
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