Getting Out The Trub

Posted on 01.05.10 9:54PM under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Lambic, Stories, Zok

I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy over a week of paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s. With such an extended stay at home, it’s almost a given that there should be a time to brew somewhere in there. As it turns out, the holidays are busy times full of seeing family and stuff like that. But in the end, I managed to carve out a perfect brewing day – January 1st. I still haven’t decided if it was Brew Year’s Day or New Beer’s Day, but either way the pun is bad.

I have had these bacterial cultures in my fridge for a while, and I decided to finally put them to work. I made a lambic. Half malted wheat and half pale malt, with a handful of what we dubbed “bunny hops” boiled for 60 minutes. I skipped the whole raw wheat turbid mash four hour boil thing, and went pretty standard with an infusion mash around 148°F for this one.

I happened to have a bag full of really really old hops from the great and knowledgeable Zok. As we were looking through the hops and came across this paper bag with “hops” in it, naturally the instinct was to take a whiff. There was some smell there, but it wasn’t hops. It was just generic vegetative matter. We decided that they smelled like bunny food, and as we broke them apart in our hands we honestly wondered if they were hops at all.

But I decided to use them anyway, and once I dropped them into the boiling kettle of wort it was clear that they were hops. It is amazing how something that smells so unappealing raw can blossom into the wonderfully spicy smell of delicate European hops boiled in sugary wort.

Naturally, this wild beer will sit for a long time in the primary fermenter, and it was clear from the outset that a bucket just wouldn’t do. As it happens, I have a few glass carboys that I just never use because they are a lot harder to clean than a bucket, and I never primary ferment for more than two weeks anyway, so the oxygen permeability thing isn’t so much of a concern. Especially since most beers don’t last more than a few months around here. But a lambic just begs for glass.

So it was time to learn some new techniques for getting wort from kettle to fermenter. I mean, you can’t exactly use a kitchen strainer to fill a carboy, and my funnel is not well-suited for use with the strainer or the carboy (except maybe for yeast). I hardly planned at all, and was left trying to figure out this problem as the wort quickly cooled from the wintry cold chiller water.

In the end, I decided the autosiphon was the way to go. It would just go right from kettle to carboy, and since I use diffused O2, I wouldn’t have to worry about the pouring back-and-forth aeration regimen.

It worked awesome for the lambic. I got a mostly clear runoff, or as much as you could expect from a half wheat mash with no Whirfloc, and small layer of trub at the end on the bottom of the carboy. This was probably at least as well as I could have done with the strainer-into-the-bucket act I am accustomed to.

So I tried the same thing with the second brew of the day: an IPA. I figured why not try the IPA in glass, and see if it makes a difference. Maybe I’m exaggerating the difficulty of cleaning a carboy. After all, PBW is magical given a few hours to soak. Time will tell if I am about to make the switch to glass, but so far I do like watching the fermentation activity.

It’s funny to make two beers in the same day that can often end up being so different. For the lambic, I wanted the oldest, lowest alpha hops with the least aroma I could find. And for the IPA, each hop pellet was lovingly smelled, appraised, and praised for its freshness as it was measured out. The lambic enjoys a simple grain bill while the IPA likes to experiment with different ways to get those 10 SRM.

The IPA did not have such a successful trub removal. For about half the siphon, the wort was super clear. I was excited! But then all the material started coming through the siphon. I don’t know if it was just cold break or the six ounces of hop pellets mostly added in the last 20 minutes. But there ended up being a few inches of lighter-colored debris in the bottom of the carboy.

It looks less bad now that fermentation has been agitating the beer for so many days, but I’ve come up with a better plan to remove that stuff next time I use glass. I can strain through the kitchen strainer into a bucket and then siphon from the bucket into the carboy. That essentially gives me two levels of trub removal – one through the strainer (which used to be the only level), and a second through the siphon.

I just hope I remember to use this method next time.

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