Batch #4-09: Stout

Style Basic Stout
Ingredients Cooper’s Stout Pre-Hopped Malt Extract Kit
Brewing Date: Sunday, March 22, 09
Primary Fermentation: Sunday, March 22, 09
Original Gravity: ??? (broke my hydrometer)
Secondary Fermentation: n/a
Bottling Date: Monday, March 30, 09
Final Gravity: ???
Release Date: Friday, May 1, 09
Alcohol by volume: unknown
Final Release Name: Friar Tuck’s Stout


I started this batch about 5 weeks ahead of schedule.  I was anticipating not having enough bottles, but I have 20x 25oz bottles, and enough 12oz bottles to make the equivalent of 60x 12oz bottles.  This will be overlapping the second batch (which is only 11 days into conditioning), and may introduce storage challenges with so many bottles in conditioning at the same time.  I’m up to the challenge.

2:15PM :: I boiled the extract in 2 liters of water for 25 minutes, initially adding 35oz (1Kg) of corn sugar as the water was steaming but short of boiling, and then the malt syrup after the water began a full boil.  I went back to corn sugar for this batch because I actually like the cane sugar sweetner in the second batch less than the corn sugar in the first.  I stirred the wort vigorously in the brew pot for the first several minutes, and kept it on high heat for the first 10 minutes of the full boil. Luckily, I checked the pot after letting it sit for a few minutes, and caught the foam about an inch from boiling over the lip.  I then backed the heat down to 1/2, and let the boil continue with only occasional stirring.

I cooled the wort, as usual, in an ice bath for 15 minutes, then poured it into the fermentation bucket with 2 gallons of cool water already inside the bucket.  I then topped off the fermentor at a little over 5 gallons with cool water.  I could not take an initial gravity reading because I dropped (hence broke) my hydrometer while moving the equipment into the kitchen.  Bummer.  I am hoping I can get a new one tomorrow and take a late reading.  I also decided to see if preparing a yeast starter in a water/sugar solution would reduce the time in the lag phase, so the yeast I pitched was already moist and producing trum when it was added to the wort.  3:30P I sealed the container and stored it in the garage.

The weather this week is calling for 80 degree F highs, and mid 50 degree nights.  The garage temp should therefore be between mid-50’s and 70 this week–very promising.

In the short term, I think going the way of investing in small fridge with a temperature regulator is a good next step.  The weather in May is going to get hot, even in the garage (it’s Florida).

23 Mar 2009 6:15AM — Hmmm, no sign of yeast activity.  Should I be worried?  There is pressure against the water in the S-airlock, and the air bubble is almost at the bottom of the first tube–so close to going “over the hump” and pressing through the airlock.  After 2 minutes no movement.  Ugh.

23 Mar 2009 6:45PM — Went to the garage and heard bubbling–and I sighed in relief.  The interval between bubbling cycles is a consistent 8 seconds (measured with a stop watch over 2 minutes).  Sweet.  That’s the most consistent interval of all three batches.

29 Mar 2009 6:00AM — The bubbling cycle is still at 40 seconds, so bottling today is out.  This has been an active fermentation cycle: the bubbling rate increased to 3-5 seconds on Wednesday and into Thursday.

30 Mar 2009 6:00PM — The bubbling cycle is over 2 minutes…no hydrometer to verify completion, so it’s time to bottle.

30 Mar 2009 10:15PM — Transferred the batch to the bottling bucket.  I had no problems this time with the siphon–I think I found the trick that works for me.  I let the racking cane sit in the bucket (with the  cap on its end).  I then fill the hose with water, and block the lower open end with my thumb.  I then attach the upper end to the exposed end of the racking cane.  The trick is to make sure the tube is totally full, so that the racking can’s end actually enters water in the tube, and there is a bit of water leaking off the end around the outside of the racking cane as it enters the hose.  When I release the lower open end, the volume of air in the siphon is minimized. Interestingly, the air never totally clears the tube, but wetting the upper edge of the racking cane makes a much better seal.

This batch produced 45x 12oz bottles, 1x 24 bottle, 5x 11.5oz Perrier bottles, and 2x 25oz bottles, plus the usual glass to sample.  I had plenty of 12oz bottles, because of some friends answering my call for empty bottles (thanks guys).

This batch has a very good initial flavor.  I used no priming sugar for this batch (realized I forget this step when it was too late), but I’m hoping that the conditioning will keep the taste of this batch crisp despite my oversight.

4 April 2009 8:30PM — Curosity about conditioning sans food for the yeast gets the best of me, and I try a bottle that’s been stored at room temperature.  It barely generates any head, and what is there dissipates quickly.  The taste is very dry (after all, it is a stout), but the beer is very, very flat.  So the absense of priming sugar is causing virtually no carbonation to form in the conditioning process.

5 April 2009 5:00PM — I decide to open 5 five bottles, to see if I can add some priming (cane) sugar.  I put the sugar into the first bottle, and watch the bottle fizz over the top with carbonation and spill on the counter top.  OK, that won’t work.  I then decide to try it with a bottle I had in the fridge.  That works fine, so I reseal it, and put it in my room temperature bin.  I want to see if that temperature change, along with the new sugar, is going to cause pressure problems, i.e. explode.

13 April  6:00PM — the bottles I added primary sugar too have not exploded, and I open one bottle to check it.  The head is much better, and there is carbonation in the beer.  I open another bottle which has not had priming sugar added–it’s still flat.

I decide that I will need to add priming sugar to the bottles.  The only way to do this is to refrigerate the bottles first, and add the sugar when the beer is cold. I found out I can put 18 bottles in the fridge at a time, so I can do this over two days.

14 April 6:00PM: I add the priming sugar to the first 18 bottles–no overflows, recap the bottles, and put them back into room temperature storage.

15 April 6:00PM: Next 18 bottles are done.  This one had two bottles overflow a little.  It seems it only overflows when the sugar does not go straight to the bottom of the bottle.  If it floats, some interaction causes the beer to quickly foam.  I put the final bottles in the fridge at 6:00PM before adding the primer to these 18, so at 11:00PM I finished the final set of bottles and everything is now back at room temperature storage.

17 April 7:30AM: Just a quick check to see if any bottles have committed harikiri.  Nope, all is well.

22 April 6:00PM: I refrigerated a bottle, and try it around 9:00PM.  It has a good head which is not anywhere as thick as the batch of bitter or lager  The head has a nice smooth consistency, and dissipates just as smoothly like the head in the previous batches.

The carbonation is now quite good.  The flavor is dry, and has a very, very mild fruity aftertaste.  This is more like a Mackeson Triple X in flavor instead of Guinness, just nowhere as thick.  Also, while the alcohol content of this batch is unknown, it is stronger than the last batch.  I estimate it is in the 4.X% range.

This would be a great beer with a steak dinner (hmmm, that’s a good idea!)

03 May 2009: I received some good feedback on this brew from others.  I had heard stout is a forgiving type of beer, and maybe that was the case with this batch: or maybe not.  I like the stout and look forward to the next batch of it.