Friday, September 16, 2011

All Grain Brewing

I have officially upgraded my brewery. That black burner puts out over 210,000 BTU's! A small upgrade from the old gas stove...

So here is the new set up. My three tier system now consist of ladders, saw horses and the ground. 180 degree water flows out of the bucket on the top level to the mash tun (pictured below full of grains) then the wort (sugar water) flows out of the mash tun into a collection pot (two pictures down).  

The 180 degree water goes into this apparatus called a sparge arm. It sprinkles the water into the mash tun so it does not disturb the grain bed.  

When the water makes it all the way through the mash tun it flows into this collection pot. This process is called the "sparge". During the sparge you slowly let the wort out of the mash tun until you get a clear stream without debris. 

You then put all the wort into this large aluminum brew kettle. We usually get about 6 1/2 - 7 gallons of wort. 

This is Master Brewer and friend Nissen checking the specific gravity of the wort before the boil. In this application specific gravity is a measure of sugar suspended in solution. 

Now its time to put this awesome burner to the test. It use to take us over an hour to bring the wort to boil. With the new burner I believe we had a rolling boil in 25 minutes!

It is very important to cool the wort down to around 75 degrees from boiling as fast as you can. Those two copper tubes sticking out of the kettle are part of a heat exchanger called a wort chiller. It is pictured in the second image. Cold water goes in from a hose and hot water flows out into the bucket next to the kettle.

Once the wort is cooled down it is "racked" (transfered) to a "carboy" (large glass fermentation vessel) using an auto-siphon. After the carboy is filled you need to aerate the wort. We use a large plastic spoon handle to mix air into the wort. Once it is properly aerated we inoculate the wort with our yeast culture and put an airlock on the carboy. It is then stored in a cool dark place for three weeks. I racked this particular beer straight into a keg and was drinking it before it was a month old!   

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Squash vine borers!

Two months ago was the first time I had ever heard of anything called
a squash vine borer, so when I walked outside one afternoon to see
these drooping leaves I had no idea what could possibly be going on.
It took about an hour for me to figure it out, though the signs were more
than obvious. 5 plants had been invaded. The vines looked corroded and
had the "sawdust" appearance. The worms had burrowed a foot and a
half into our largest squash vine, splitting it open at the base.

My understanding is that not much can be done if you are an organic gardener.
So the first thing I did was plant 6 new squash plants elsewhere in the yard.
Then I defiantly set to work trying to help the infected plants. I slit the plants
open with a razor from the base up to where the plant was nice and healthy.

And that's where I found these guys. Now I knew without a doubt we had
borers!! Sorry there's no picture of them in the plant. I was so angry I just
flipped them out before I thought to take one. Then I smashed them.

I tied the vine back together where I cut it open because that
seemed like the thing to do. I read that you need to get the plant
to root above the damage and so I thought it would help if I could
keep the damaged part functional long enough for the rooting to
take place. After I tied it up I buried the section above in soil.

The last thing I did was sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the damaged
parts. I saw smaller brown larve looking things in the vine and I
didn't want to take any chances. I have never heard of putting DE in a
plant but we've had no problems. In fact, it's been 2 weeks since
this all happened and there's new growth on this squash plant. It
has also maintained fruit production. So far we haven't lost any plants.