Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Batch Number 1"

Last summer we purchased a home brew started kit through Groupon.
311 home brew bucket

We said it was going to be our winter hobby... but like everything else this winter (cross-country skiing being another ::tear::) the time has passed us by and we just haven't been able to get everything done that we've wanted to. BUT we finally set a time to brew some beer.

We went over to the local Midwest Brewing Supply store and picked out an ingredient box. They have MANY MANY different types of beer kits, making it easy - with everything you need right there. We decided to first try out a 'Copper Ale'.

An old friend of mine, Brandi - my first co-counselor at Camp Barnabas, now lives in Minneapolis. It so happens that her and her husband are beer brewing connoisseurs and offered to be of GREAT help and guide us along our first batch. So they came over for lunch and helped us learn about the exciting hobby of beer brewing. And boy are we grateful, as they taught us a lot of things the directions wouldn't have. And of course everyone was patient as I documented every-step-of-the-way :-D

Oh and the title of this blog actually comes from a few weekends ago when Kyle, Brandi, her husband, Sam, and I went to a local brewery to try their first growlers they were selling to the public. They had some mix up with late hops or something and were calling the beer 'Batch number one'. Hopefully there aren't any errors in our beer.

It was a multi-hour process... but not completely hands on for 5 hours. A lot of prepare-mix... wait, mix-dump-mix... wait. So we played a few games in between.

First step.... getting 5 gallons of water to boil.
boil water boil

Once the water was hot, we took the grains (malted barley) that came in our kit. Oh the guy helping us out at Midwest Supplies, crushed the grains for us in the store. Actually he showed us how to so we can do it ourselves next time. Using their machine beats breaking them up with a beer bottle at home! So we dumped the grains in this sock like thing to make sort of a tea bag, to steep in the pot.
tea bag of barley

grains steeping

Then we set the timer and let the steeping begin. I can't remember exactly how long this was, but once the timer went off we came back to check the temperature and take the grains out.
steep done

Ahhhh look at this, now it has it's color. yum, yum.
grains out

Next was time to add the powered malt extract and whisk that in, being careful there are no clumps.
kyle whisking

I got the picture, then jumped in to help Kyle - we traded off pouring ever-so-slowly and whisking.

After the powered malt was mixed in, it was time to add the Barley malt Extract Syrup. Boy was this stuff thick!
adding syrup 1 adding syrup 2

MMMmmmmm look at that color
wort stage

The stage we were at here is called the Wort Stage, which means teh beer before the yeast (the non-alcohol beer). The grains turn into sugar, then when we add the yeast (the last step), the yeast will eat the sugar, thus making alcohol.
wait for another boil

So we had to bring the water back to a boil.
boiling beer

As you can see there's some foam that collected on the top, we scooped that out (which had some graining pieces in it) and removed that from the batch. Then it was time to add the hops. Sam instructed us to be careful when adding the hops, as he has caused the pot to boil over in the past. So we lowered the heat to avoid a boil over and carefully added the hops. Which look a bit like hamster food :-P
bittering hops

pouring hops in

There are two hops in this recipe (sometimes 3), and after adding the first batch, we let the water boil for about an hour (45 minutes). The first addition of hops is called the bittering hops. Then 45 minutes later we added the second group of hops, which is called the flavoring hops. (if there were a third batch of hops, that would be called the aroma hops)
flavoring hops

Now you can see that green slug that is forming on the top from the hops. The beer is starting to smell really good at this point (really good in my opinion). And you can also tell there's quite a bit of liquid that has boiled out. But that's okay because we'll be adding cold water here in a bit to make of the lost amount.
green slug

Next came the COOLING part. Now this is suppose to be done in a rather timely manner. Our friends brought over their copper coils (real name=wort chiller) this is a handy device that you hook up to cold water, (sterilize it, stay tuned) gets dropped in the beer and cold water is ran through the chiller to help it cool. We did not purchase one because they are rather expensive and Brandi said they'd bring their's over.... problem was we didn't have a faucet that has threads on it to hook the hose up to. But we learned that in winter, we have the next best thing SNOW! So we filled the sink with cold water.
cold water sink

And added snow to the water to get it nice and cold (we only had the lid on the beer when we put the snow in to keep the snow out of the beer)
snow cold water

Now comes a VERY important part. Since we will no longer be heating up the beer (since boiling water sanitizes) it's VERY important to make sure no foreign bacteria gets in the beer... because it could effect the yeast and worst case scenario ruin the beer "OH NO". See brewing beer is much like a science experiment... we have to pay special attention to all that goes in. So we got our buck of sanitizing liquid ready and sanitized everything that was going to be going into the beer. Which is also why we didn't want ANY of the snow to fall into the beer. There could have been some crazy bacteria in that snow.
sanitizing bucket
Wow our floors are ugly.

Once we got the beer cooled to about 70 degrees (I think that is what he said) we poured it in it's fermenting bucket.
pour beer in

Yes this is the same bucket we had the sanitizer in. Because well we needed to sanitize the bucket as well. We emptied out the sanitizer, put a little off to the side in case any last minute sanitizing needed to be done. Then we tested the temperature again.
beer temp

We also poured in the cold water to bring our batch back up to the 5 gallon mark. You might ask why we didn't sanitize this water... well Sam said they usually don't, they just use tap water and it seems to work just fine. So that's what we did too :-)

Next we measured the potential gravity with our hydrometer. And some other details I don't remember. (we weren't even drinking during this... that's just how BAD my memory is, heehee. Luckily Kyle's memory is GREAT so he makes up for where I lack)

Then we moved the beer to it's storing location, which happens to be in our spare bedroom. Now that the bucket was where it was to be for the next few weeks, it was time to add the yeast.
opening yeast

The yeast is the star player of this ordeal.
pouring in yeast

Since we just had a Copper Ale, which isn't as 'temper-mental' as the staff member of Midwest Supplies told us, it wasn't as important to have a pricey type of yeast, so we just used what the kit came with. (many times you can upgrade your yeast). Awww look at that yeast!
yeast in bucket

Then we put the lid on
lid on

and got the air lock ready to put in the little hole you see on the top of the lid. We just filled the airlock with water up to the max fill line.
air lock 1 air lock 2

Pushed the airlock into the hole... and NOW we wait a few weeks.
now we wait

There was a little complication with putting the airlock in, but I didn't feel it was important to document it. All is well now :-)

And that completes our ' How we Brew Beer ' blogging special, lol. Stay tuned for part 2 - the BOTTLING!

Snow insulation

A while ago when I had first blogged about our crazy amounts of snow and how, unlike Missouri, our November show is here until March (February) I had a friend ask if all the snow piled by the house added any insulation.

Well I had hoped it did, we by no means would shovel AWAY from the side of the house. But the other day I was cleaning the ice (because it's melting) that had formed on our front porch and noticed this:
side of the house

Looks like the house is warm enough that it melts what is right next to it, creating a little tunnel like space. Now I know the answer to the question :-) Although I 'thought' it would insulate... it really doesn't. OR maybe it helps to keep the heat in, which is why it was melting cuz the house was staying warm... hmmmm?

Friday, February 11, 2011


I just talked about my new gadget in my latest blog post. And here is the picture I choose for the week! It was a random thought, as I was having a hard time thinking of what to take a picture of as the week came to a close.... but it works!
Tassimo 6/52

My new gadget!

Alright, there's quite a bit of back story to this post... and I'm not sure where to start. Let me start way back when....

In 2007, when Kyle and I lived in Atlanta, we got an offer in the mail for a free coffee maker. We just had to fill out the mail-in form, buy two things of coffee and they sent us a free drip brewer! It was actually a pretty nice coffee maker and we didn't really drink LOTS of coffee, but it was better than the 1 cup drip brewer we had at the time.

Around 2008, I discovered the Kerig. I was in love with this coffee maker and always looked forward to my tri-monthly oil changes so I could make a cup at our local mechanic's :-) I didn't really want to buy one because we already had a coffee maker.

Oh I should also preface that I'm not a morning coffee drinker, I prefer to drink green tea, because for one I don't drink any caffeine during the day and I don't like plain coffee so I would have to load it with creamer and sugar - and I don't like the calories that comes along with that. Green tea offered just enough caffeine that I got a little morning pick-me-up but not nothing over the top.

Then probably about the same time my friend gave me her old electric tea kettle. I LOVE THIS THING! It was great for tea, just turn it on and it heats up my water while I'm finishing getting ready.

Okay now to present day. Oh another side note, just because I didn't favor coffee did not mean I didn't LOVE espresso drinks! (wow a lot of not's in that sentence) I am a lover of Starbucks, but it wasn't a regular thing - it was a special thing.
Like in Chicago...
morning jumpstart

daisy starbucks

In New York....
blizzard sled on sidewalk
Okay I know you can't see the Starbucks, but we're sitting in one and drinking it when I took this picture :-)

Like buying a thermal mug... then having it break (but then buying another) :-)
326 broken cup

And evening camping with our Starbucks via!

Oh I'm not ready for present day yet. I told you there was a lot of back story, lol. Go back to May 2010! While visiting my brother we made our own 'Starbucks'/espresso drinks.

Aliyah got a little frothed milk as her cappuccino :-)

So since this experience I wanted my own espresso maker. But I couldn't quite find the one I wanted, so I never really acted on it. Just kept my eye out when I'd see them in stores. And since I was more of a tea drinker I didn't really worry about it.

Okay NOW to the present... I got a new job! I now work the second shift, 3:00 to 11:30pm, still part-time, but later than I'm used to. So to get adjusted I had been spending a lot of dough at Starbucks. I needed that extra kick that the tea just couldn't give me to make it through til midnight. Now what I always get at Sbux is the Tall-Skinny-Vanilla-Latte. Which runs a little under $4. Four dollars a day for 5 days in a row (my weekend shift) is $20 hmmm that's a lot to be spending regularly. So I began to think back to this buying an espresso maker idea again.

THEN just a few days ago I was catching up on a friend's blog, Three Baking Sheets to the Wind. If you haven't already came across this amazing little blog, I suggest you go take a look. Ali (the author) is a wonderful writer, she's funny and has great unique blog entries! She loves good beer and loves baking!! Last month she had a giveaway for a Tassimo T20 Brewbot. I had NEVER heard of this amazing machine! It was a single cup coffee brewer (much like the Kerig) BUT the best thing of all... it brews espresso! Cappuccinos, Latte's, oh my! The answer I had been waiting for had arrived, I now knew what my next espresso machine purchase was going to be. Ali does a great job of explaining it, but I needed to get a picture of the week this week so I got a few of my own machine while I brewed my batch yesterday before work.

Starbucks makes the little 'Tdiscs' they are called (and about 9 other brands). It makes the normal coffee (for Kyle) and the frou-frou stuff for me (the lattes) as well as many other drinks like cappuccino, hot chocolate, tea, espresso, and some kind of cafe crema. Squeeeee I love it!

For the Latte & Cappuccino there are two Tdiscs, a milk disc and an espresso disc

How does it make such wonderful goodness? It reads the bar-codes on the little Tdisc packages.

MMMMMmmmm the perfect pick-me-up at 2:30 on a 1 degree day :-)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I forgot to post my fifth week photo. Here it is:
swarm field

The Swarm game!

Hmmm now I just need to get a photo for this week, only two days left!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Following the Rabbit Hole

Remember the other day (well I just posted it today) but the other day I saw the bunny tracks on our front sidewalk. Well after each fresh snow I kept seeing their tracks and wondering.... "where in the world are they headed off to?" The tracks were coming down our front sidewalk, around the house, then I noticed them going back to the alley. Well I wouldn't blame them for wanting to take the path already shoveled for them, poor little fella's could freeze to death if they hopped on the land snow and fell through.

Well I found where they were going, first I saw the path by our deck.
rabbit hole

Then I noticed a little trail through the side gate
following the rabbit hole

Ah HA! I knew it, they were finding shelter! That makes me feel better.
rabbit hole zoomed out

Now I want to set some carrots out or something for them. I wonder what they're eating!?!

While I was out I thought I'd make my mama happy again and take some more pictures of our snow :-) I told ya, it's not going anywhere anytime soon!

Here's the side of our house
side of house

Here's our neighbor's icicles
neighbor icicles

And here are ours and our other neighbors icicles
backyard icicles
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