Brew Day, Immediate Thoughts… Magic Soft Upgrade

Otter SMaSH Nelson

Just washed up, finished. 5.5 hours from heating liquor to knock out to fermenter. Had a neighbor come over part way, made cleaning a lot more efficient.

So, very simple 10.5 gallon SMaSH recipe, Otter SMaSH Nelson:

20# Marris Otter, milled twice with a new 0.040″ setting (I replaced the thumb screws on my Monster Mill 2-roller)

1 oz. Nelson Sauvin at 60, 30 and 15 (the 15 with some irish moss)

2 oz. Nelson Sauvin at Flameout, steep for 30 minutes (chill/recirc at 15 minutes to about 95F)

Nottingham Yeast, rehydrated

Added the recipe while heating the liquor, with a single infusion 152F for 75 minutes, 1.25 Qt/Lb thickness. This is thicker than usual and I had to really work to eliminate dough balls. Mash Out for 10 minutes at 170F. Mineralized to “Yellow Bitter” in Bru’n Water – and a tiny bit of acid in both hot liquor and mash. Longer mash to ensure conversion.

Fly sparge lautering, took just over 45 minutes. Chose to fly to measure impact on efficiency.

Used a few drops of de-foam, and ran off into the hop spider to collect any miscellaneous husks or malt. Neighbor came by during lauter – helped through the rest (and had a few beers!). Clean up with wet vaac during boil.

Reduced my original hop additions to 5 total, but will dry hop with 2 additional ounces after primary.

Have been only achieving 65-70% mash efficiency the last few brews. Today, with the slow fly sparge, I achieved 86%. Some of this is from the Marris Otter, with a slightly fatter kernel than standard 2-row. The rest I attribute to the fly sparge. I am not a patient man, but really concentrated on a slow even lauter (I also sparged with RO water, low alkalinity and about 173F).

Started boil when I saw clear surface break, added first hop addition. Big fluffy hot break formed about 30 minutes in – noticed during the flavor hop addition. Hop spider worked very well, wort out of the kettle was fairly clear. Oxygenated at 0.12 LPM with slow flow through the Chill Wizard.

The new software, brewing from a ‘recipe’ worked very well. The timer and a beep (I set the alerts in the system configuration) helped to indicate when each step needed attention. Of great appreciation, the step timers started only after the step temperature was achieved. I was a bit concerned as hitting and maintaining mash out required some of the old system shuffle, but I also had a fan blowing to cool me off a bit – the Brew Magic is a giant heat sink… the little wind took some of heat from the tun. Everything stabilized when I turned the fan off.

Conclusion: I will continue to add new ‘recipes’ to represent specific mash schedules. I have already setup several of these in Beer Smith and look forward to repeating them with new brews. The interface required a bit more interaction than I expected, but mostly the issue was swapping out between notification screens. A heating notification occurs when you are heating the mash faster than 2 degrees a minute. That exits to the graph and not the primary screen. You need to Arrow Key back to that screen. Otherwise, everything worked better than I expected.

Now someone PLEASE turn off the heat and humidity here in Central Texas! No double brew days in the summer here.

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Those other blogs…

Bierworks Sampler

I got a little friendly flack for posting content from other blogs, videocasts, etc. Fair enough. But I thought I would point out and review a few blogs that I religiously follow – and have made it onto my blogroll.

Appellation Beer / Stan Hieronymous : If you don’t know of Stan or at least his books, you should. Appellation Beer explores beer writing, and links to various other topics and blogs that I would otherwise miss out. Google Appellation so you understand the word, then visit Stan’s site regularly. Always engaging discussions on the business, branding and culture of beer. Why should you follow this? Insights into how the rest of the world views US beer culture and legitimate watches on how traditional (and the new) cultures are changing.

Beer and Wine Journal / Chris Colby & James Spencer: Both names are well known and respected. Colby for his tenure at BYO, viking nature and all around experimental personality. James for the Basic Brewing franchise. Many of us viewed the DVDs from Basic Brewing. While Chris is the predominant writer, the occasional update from James comes through. Chris/James explore a lot of brewing related material – with lots of speculation followed by experimentation to confirm or deny the supposition. There are great recipes and concepts and the focus spans from extract brewing to advanced all grain. A disclaimer: Chris lives not too far from me, and we have become friends. That should not harm his reputation in any way… mine of the other hand, well…

Brülosophy / The Brülosopher: A very active brewer, experimenter and blogger. While NSFW at times, the exBEERiments are always interesting and often entertaining. Marshall is constantly poking at brewing myths and often reviews (and encourages) homebrews. The exBEERiments are directed by readers and drive right to the heart of a matter, recently looking at Primary vs Secondary fermentation procedures. You will find Marshall active on both AHA Forum and Homebrewtalk. / Sean Terrill: A now inactive blog, I keep hoping that Sean will start posting again. Sean takes a very engineering approach to many topics, and his work on Batch Sparging, Refractometer Correction, Starter Calculations, etc. continue to inform the homebrewing community. Sean remains very active on the AHA Forum. He is not a fan of Chico yeast…

The Mad Fermentationist / Michael Tonsmiere: Mike, with the release of American Sour Beers, and with the dedication of his blog to all things wild and sour fermentation has become extremely respected. He also consults for Modern Times Beers in San Diego on their wild beer program. Even if you do NOT like sour beers, Mike’s attention to detail and culinary approach to brewing is valuable. His advice, encouragement and quirky approach to brewing has been an inspiration.

There are many other great beer blogs, but these are the few I keep coming back to time and again. Something else… some of these guys need your support. They are their primary or secondary (see what I did there?) incomes. For the cost of a few pounds of malt, you can help these folks continue to pursue writing and bringing great recipes and information!

Cheers and Prosit, Matt

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Brew-Magic Upgrade, the Recipe Function

In my previous post on the Magic-Soft V3 update for the Brew-Magic V350, I walked through my perceptions of how the Brew-Magic performed with the software update, and was very pleasantly surprised at the ease of hitting strike temperatures. I have had a few more chances to brew, but been fearful of exploring the Recipe functions, as I did not spring for the Wifi update.

Certainly being able to connect a laptop to the network and edit or drive recipes with a keyboard will be much more efficient, and the USB function was disabled with this update, so connecting via USB is out of the question. With a few questions for the Brew Magic team, who was very quick to respond, I managed to use the Recipe functions.

A couple of quick notes before we begin:

  1. There are 4 Recipes pre-loaded, the first three of which cannot be edited or deleted. I have not tried them, so no comment other than – don’t get confused if you cannot edit them – those are protected. The fourth is a simple cleaning step for the mash tun – at 122F.
  2. Remember to use the Arrow Keys. I mistakenly believed that only 1 free slot was available to contain personal recipes. Arrow down to reveal more pages. There are many slots available to use.
  3. Make sure to properly calibrate the touch screen. Many of the buttons are very small – calibration will help the experience significantly – check your manual for instructions.

I have questioned all along, at least in my case and that of many homebrewers, the need for putting a recipe onto the system. Homebrewers brew such a variety of recipes, many with odd or unusual mash schedules, that it seems silly. I could have 20-25 different specific recipes a year, and quickly run out of room. However, I more and more tend to use common mash schedules for certain beer styles, and have setup customized Mash Profiles in BeerSmith to accommodate this. It seems to make sense to me that I should “set and forget” certain mash schedules as recipes on the system as well. This allows for one very key benefit, repeatable timing and temperatures.

I am a firm believer that the advanced brewer should be able to replicate any brew, and such is a direct measure of skill, note taking and attention to detail. Being able to more directly program my intended mash regiment could be extremely helpful. Below is a basic attempt (if overly complicated purposefully) to add a Saison Mash recipe onto the system. I brewed with this schedule this weekend – the results are in the fermenter chugging away.

Step 1: Exit any Brewing Session that is active. This was my first mistake. I tried to create a recipe on the fly and it didn’t go well. Being in a Brewing Session limits the edit-ability of your recipe.

Access Recipes from this Screen

Access Recipes from this Screen

Once you have entered the Recipe Book, you can select a blank slot or select an existing recipe to edit. Note, recipes #1-#3 are not editable nor erasable. If you need a new page, use the down arrow key.

Use the Up and Down arrow to see more pages of Recipe slots

Use the Up and Down arrow to see more pages of Recipe slots

Black Recipe Page

For the sake of illustration, I already created a recipe called ‘Typical Saison’ referring more to my mash schedule than actual recipe. Click recipe name, and then touch the green highlighted ‘Load Recipe’ button.

On the first Recipe screen (see the check icon with 4 dots next to the home icon), you will enter the basic parameters. Touching any of the raised fields will launch a mini-keyboard. Here I filled in general statistics, not necessary the ‘real’ parameters.

Recipe Page 1

Using the Arrow Keys takes you to the additions pages, where you will add both grains, hops and other adjuncts as required. Note that Units must be entered, there is no global variable setting. This is convenient as I use Lbs and Oz for grain, and grams for hops. It would be important to add all of the ingredients if you were using this as a recipe manager, even the yeast selection. There are two additional pages – enough room for a complex list of ingredients.

Recipe Page 2

By clicking the Arrow Right key, we move to the next icon, Mash. Here you can enter up to 4 mash steps, specify the Temp and the time. Note that degrees temperature are set at the main screen as either Fahrenheit or Celsius as a global variable.

Below are the four possible steps I might take in a wheat heavy saison:

Mash Step 1

And I added in both a rest at 148F, 156F and a mash out at 170F. I used the Notes field to describe the specific of the rest. As I mentioned, I see this as the most useful component. When you load the recipe and start it – you follow the timers and instructions as directed on the system, eliminating some of the larger variables. I often lose time on my counters if I step away or am distracted for a bit. This way – the system will alert me to a change step.

Finally, we use the Arrow Right key – and reach the Boil page. Here, you set the desired boil time, 90 minutes in this case as I am using Pilsner malt.

Boil Screen 1

Using the Arrow Down key, we access the Boil Additions. So all of the key points of additions of hops, finings or spices can be added in.

Boil Additions

When you are done, use the Arrow keys to navigate back to the Home icon. Here you have options, Brew starts the system into brewing the recipe. The Door icon exits the recipe and doesn’t save it. The Save icon, obviously saves the recipe into the right slot and finally the Trashcan deletes the entire recipe and frees up the slot.

Conclusion: While I have yet to brew with the Recipe function, I intend to take advantage of the feature moving forward. I see a lot of convenience removing some of the ambiguity and inconsistency in my process. I have been brewing a lot of saisons – experimenting with ingredients. This should result in a more detailed comparison, and eliminate possible errors in reproducing a mash schedule. Programming the system is a bit time consuming, and the touch screen is not the best interface for people with big fingers, but is workable. I plan to sit and unify my custom mash schedules between the Brew Magic and Beer Smith, which should only take an hour or so of work.

I have to wait to make a determination if my assumption is correct. But I do see the value of unifying my mashing steps and processes on the Brew Magic. I makes the repeatability factor much more important to me now.


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