Monday, 25 November 2013

Late and dry hopping with a WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery, the results speak for themselves...

Recently a request came out from the good people at WilliamsWarn for brewers using their equipment to send in best experiences of dry hopping using a WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery and so in this post I will share mine thus far.

As a lazy but cost conscientious home brewer (like many of us out there), I think the following method I used for more than a few of my most recent very well hopped creations, returns a very good bang for buck per gram of hops, whilst keeping to a minimum the amount of time and work required by the brewer.

A few of these beers produced in this way have been entered into both local (Nelson) and national (NZ) home brewing competitions and have resulted in certificates, ribbons and also a trophy!

My "dry" hopping method is still in development, however I will briefly outline the process I have been using, which some reading this may think introduces a risk of infection to your beer, but I can tell you that I have made at least 5 beers this way without any noticeable souring or other signs of infection.

As the title of this post indicates "late" hopping is also employed, which is always an optional addition, but one I have used in almost all my beers made to date as it suits my personal taste to drink a more aromatic beer.  

The very detailed and well written user manual for the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery covers late hopping and the use of a coffee plunger (French press) for doing so, and I recommend any WilliamsWarn owner to purchase themselves the largest Bodum coffee plunger they can find as I think it is now an essential part of my brewing equipment.  

Why a Bodum? Because the cheap one I first tried was a waste of time and money!

So on with the dry hopping method please, I hear you ask...

Basically what I have been doing is boiling and steeping some of my hops and only steeping others and adding the liquid to my wort prior to beginning fermentation, then I save the left over hops in a refrigerator to add to my now fermenting beer a day or more later in a muslin bag.

Why?  Because prior to this when I was dumping the hops I had simply steeped to add as late additions to my wort I noticed there was still plenty of noticeable aromatics left in the resulting green muck and I felt bad throwing such goodness away so soon!
I thought that surely with such a small batch size (23 Litres) that these hops still had some purpose and flavour left in them?!

Of course I or anyone reading this could chose to not boil and/or steep the hops first, but add them completely dry in either pellet or cone form.  I did this with my first attempt at dry hopping a Pale Ale with acceptable results.

When brewing with extract and using a WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery, late hopping is essentially done by making a green tea out of the hop or mix of hops you have selected to add to your brew, otherwise known as "steeping".  To increase bitterness (IBUs) the brewer may decide to use a hop that is high in Alpha Acids and boil these for a set amount of time, then from this steep the resulting green hop mash to separate out the liquid, which is then added to the wort.  

There are a number of dual-purpose hops available that not only have a high Alpha Acid rating, while also having very good and distinctive aromatic qualities.  So if the brewer chose to use one of these types and did not boil them too long, their duality may be fully utilised and extracted.  If you are in NZ or you can get NZ hops I recommend varieties such as Nelson Sauvin and Waimea, but there are plenty to choose from worldwide.

If you wish to give this a go, I suggest the following method:
  • Get a 1.5 Litre (12 cup) or larger coffee plunger (100g of hops per 1.5 Litre)
  • Also get a muslin "hop bag" large enough to fit inside your new coffee plunger
  • Now find a small plastic ball that will work as a float inside the muslin bag (50mm diameter should be fine up to 200g of hops).
  • If you don't own any dental floss, please also add this to your shopping list.
  • Decide carefully on the hops you want to use to match the style of beer you wish to produce.
  • Boil any bittering hops separately to others, then steep the green muck and add to your wort (or directly into your sterilised WilliamsWarn).
  • Steep any other late hops and add this to your wort.
  • Save all the hops you wish to add as "dry" additions in a sealed or covered container in a refrigerator. 
  • Begin the WilliamsWarn fermentation process with it's lid only just sealed and with all pressure set to be released (otherwise you may not get the lid off later as needed), so unwind the VPRV most but not all of the way out.

If making an Ale wait at least 24 hours and if a Lager maybe 36 hours, then prepare and add your "hop bomb":
  • Sterilise your muslin hop bag as well as the float/ball and the tongs/fingers/spoon you will be handling it all with.  
  • Also sterilise your WilliamsWarn 2 Litre jug plus about a 1 metre length of dental floss 
  • Place all the saved hops into your mostly sterile hop bag, with the float/ball on top (line your 2 Litre jug with the hop bag, then scoop the hops into it).
  • Tie a knot as close to the top of the muslin bag as possible, maximising the size of the bag.  Or from a large box of Rice Bubbles you can get a very handy plastic clip to do this job!
  • Tie one end of the length of dental floss to the end of the hop bag, do it tight in precaution to your knot coming undone...
  • Now remove the lid off your WilliamsWarn with your latest beer fermenting inside and place upside down in a clean location nearby (so do not put it down flat on the floor).
  • Smoothly and quickly insert your loaded and sterile hop bag into the beer, which will mostly float to begin with.
  • Allow about a 0.3m length of sterile dental floss attached to the top of the hop bag to remain inside the WilliamsWarn brewery and drape the remaining loosely over the back.
  • Replace the lid to your WilliamsWarn and tighten it up as per normal and if you can help it try not to sever the dental floss to hop bag line.  It's not a problem if you do cut it as the hop bag should all stay sealed and float near the surface inside, the remaining floss will just make it easier to remove later.  Do not over-tighten the lid, just do it until a seal is formed but no more.
  • Set the VPRV (Variable Pressure Release Valve) on your WilliamsWarn and monitor the pressure for at least the next 24 hours to ensure all is going well.

Once fermentation is complete and put your new beer into it's cooling phase in preparation for it's first clarification, get ready to perform a "hop bomb extraction":
  • If you don't have one, get a bucket or large pot ready nearby to your WilliamsWarn.
  • Unscrew the VPRV and release all pressure from your WilliamsWarn so that you may be able to remove it's lid.
  • Remove the lid from your WilliamsWarn.  If it does not budge try releasing more pressure or obtaining larger arms.
  • Using sterile tongs or fingers (please wash your hands), remove the heavier than before muslin bag full of wet hops, by pulling up on the line of dental floss.
  • If you wish, use a clean spatula to squeeze out of the muslin bag some extra hoppy goodness (and some beer) back into your brew against the inside of your WilliamsWarn brewery before dropping the spent bag of hops into your nearby bucket (this will make your beer more cloudy to start with, but it should clear later).
  • Replace the lid to your WilliamsWarn and screw the VPRV all of the way in before resetting CO2 pressure to meet the final desired level of carbonation in your beer.
  • Continue as per normal and allow the beverage to fully cool before performing the first clarification, once you believe most of the yeast has flocculated and settled in the brewery's sediment bottle. 
  • I have never bothered, but if you are concerned about oxidising your beer you could try manually inserting COgas on top of your fermented beer while the lid is off, however I do not think this is required if you are swift in your actions and do not disturb the beer too much.

If you have read this far, I am pleased you made it and will be even more pleased if you tell me your results in attempting something similar, or different for that matter!

And as I eluded to earlier, some of my beers made this way have been "recognised" in competitions.  This includes my first ever Wheat Beer that I wrote about in my last post and also my very latest creation that was my first attempt at an Indian Pale Ale, which won me the "Ching Cup" for the Best Ale section at the very recent Nelson A&P Show here in the Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand (as judged by local and world famous in NZ beer bloggers Fritz and Maria)

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