Too Many Bubbles

Remember my swing-top pale ale? I took some glamour shots of it last night with my fancy new camera. And now, about twelve hours later, one of them is bubbling. A lot.

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I bottled these on Monday. They shouldn’t be bubbling like this ever, let alone after five days. I’m heartened by the fact that it’s only the one bottle and not all of them (I have about thirty). Only two of the bottles are swing-top, and I know that I filled those two first. My best guess is that this one was first of all, and it got a little too much trub from the bottom of the fermenter. That trub contained a lot of yeast, and those yeasts are having a field day. That’s what I’m guessing. Because really I have no idea.

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Conveniently, this is a swing-top bottle, so I just opened up the top to relieve some pressure. This brought up a whole lot more bubbles. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of this thing and what it means. Are more of these bottles ticking away? What would have happened if I’d taken this down the basement right after its glamour shot? (It would have exploded, that’s what!)

So what’s the plan? I’ve put the delinquent bottle in the fridge to slow it down. I discovered it at 11am, not a time I usually drink a liter of beer, but I’ll try it tonight and see how it is.

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And I guess I’ll do a more thorough inspection of the other bottles and hope for the best. Maybe store them wrapped in bubble wrap. Or outside.

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Movin’ Up in the World

I have joined the ranks of the fancy.

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No, I didn’t get a mug. I got a real camera.

Finally, I can take the pictures my cat deserves.

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It’s a Canon Rebel T5, which my friends in the know say is the right speed for a beginner. I bought it refurbished from Canon, because even this mother of all starter models costs about a month’s rent new.

My friend pointed me toward a good basic lens to get when I want expand my repertoire. It’s apparently dirt cheap. It’s $100. I’m used to less expensive hobbies.

This is something like an investment, though. Until now I’ve been taking pictures on my phone. It took decent pictures when I got it in 2013, but its time is past. It couldn’t pick up every little seed on this leek blossom.

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Or show that hair stuck to this onion in such minute detail. Why is there a hair on this onion? Already my perception of the world is opening up.

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Or select such a narrow depth of field on my swing-top bottled Cincinnati Pale Ale. Is this a good picture, or is this a lame abuse of aperture? I don’t know. I barely understand aperture as it is, and I still have a lot to learn.

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At least as I learn it should be easier to stumble across decent pictures.

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More Beer

I’m making beer now just to move these ingredients out of my cupboard. It’s getting out of hand in there. The real culprit is the twelve pounds of grain I bought last weekend, but I don’t have a pot big enough to handle it yet. There’s an 8 gallon stockpot with my name on it somewhere between China and here, but since it hasn’t arrived yet I’m sticking with extract recipes I can brew in three gallon batches and then dilute.

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Of course, when I start working with five or six gallons at a time, I’ll really have no hope of lifting anything by myself. This time, at least, I was smart enough to stop filling at the three gallon mark and was able to schlep water around like the independent woman I am.

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The recipe du jour was Cincinnati Pale Ale, the recommended starter beer in John Palmer’s How to Brew. First I dumped in 2.5 pounds of amber dry malt extract (DME to the pros). For whatever reason it didn’t sink into the water as spectacularly as last time, and I was very disappointed. But the show went on.

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I mixed in the DME and turned the stove on full blast. As it was heating, I ran a hot bath for 3.3 pounds of amber liquid malt extract (LME). Why 3.3 pounds? Because that’s what the recipe says, and that’s the amount I’ve found it sold in by two separate brands, now. I suspect a conspiracy.

Once it was warmish, I added it to the wort and heated it up to a boil.

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Before the boil started, I had to do some high math. The recipe called for 6 AAUs of bittering hops. The recommendation was 12% Nugget. I bought myself some Nugget, but they were 14%. This means they’re just a tad bitterer than the recommended. For my last batch I fudged the amounts, but I thought I’d do it right this time. To calculate how much hop to use, you’re supposed to divide the target AAUs (in this case 6) by the AA percentage of the stuff you’ve bought (in this case 14). This came out to 0.42 oz of 14% hops (as opposed to 0.5 oz if it had been 12%). Perfect.

Here’s the thing. A difference of 0.08 oz is scarcely a difference at all. I should know because I weighed it out. I started with 0.5, then picked the hop pellets off the scale one at a time until it went down to 0.45. Then I kept picking them off until I hit 0.4. My scale doesn’t have the precision for 0.42, it turns out. So I threw a few pellets back on top of 0.4 and called it even.

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I added the Nugget hops at the start of the boil. With some time to kill until the next hop addition, I decided to check in on my long-neglected wines. The pear wine from A Sudden Windfall seemed more or less ready, so I took advantage of the already-mixed sanitizer and set to work bottling it. In the end I got twelve bottles of something that tastes a little like pear and a lot like ethanol. The recipe says to let it age in the bottles now for a year – we’ll see if that happens.

I got so caught up in my bottling that I lost track of time and forgot to measure out my carefully calculated 0.9 oz of Cascade hops. At the 45 minute mark, I panicked and just threw the whole 1 oz packet in. So much for math.

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I cooled the wort down and pressured Ben into helping me aerate it. The mouth of this carboy was big enough to fit my funnel, so we had a much easier time getting the wort into it. I was a fool, though, and put the extra water in first. This got the wort and foam a little closer to the top than intended. A lot closer, in fact. There were some casualties. I will not do the water first again, and I’m not sure what compelled me to do it this time.

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With most of the wort in the carboy, I added my hydrated yeast. I cleaned up the floor and got the hired help to move it into the closet with last weekend’s specimen. That one seems to be doing well – the krausen (pro term for big foamy mass of yeast and gunk on top) has more or less fallen. According to the recipe, I should be bottling it any day now. Maybe I will.

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Or maybe I’ll just keep accumulating carboys until my closet is no longer my own.