Debbie Goes To Secondary

Today was a cold, windy day in the D. In fact it has been a very cold week. I tried to stay inside and warm,  but we had to go get our car hauler.

This weekend we are taking our Jeep up north to pre run some trails in preparation of Michigan’s largest winter off road event,  Snofari. Offroading is my other big hobby.  Maybe some day I’ll go into more about that.

Before we left I had a little time to go down and check on the Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale. Today marked four days into primary fermentation.  The CO2 blow off bubbles have slowed down a bit so I figured it was time to drain off the trub.

One of the neat things about fermenting in a conical as opposed to carboys or buckets is that going from primary to secondary is as easy as opening a valve.

First off, trub, what’s that?

Trub is the dead and dormant yeast, hop residue, and anything else that falls out off suspension over the fermentation process.  It’s a peanut butter like sludge that forms that the bottom of your fermentation vessel. Common practice is to get the beer off of this trub shortly after the bulk of fermentation finishes because it can impart off flavors into your beer. Usually this happens four days to a week into fermentation.



In that picture you can see a couple things.  First off the bottom outlet is the valve that gets opened to drain off the trub. Second in the stainless cup is the 16 ounces of trub that I drained.  I like to drain it as soon as I can, otherwise it begins to compact and becomes harder to get out.

But today wasn’t just yucky work. Today was also the first real taste test for the beer!  The upper port is a port that allows you to pull samples without risking contamination of the beer.  It’s also just  as easy as opening a valve.  Here is what came out.


Per my hydrometer, the specific gravity was down to a 1.008 from an original of 1.046. This gives us an ABV of 5%. Not too bad, it should be very easy drinking. No sense in wasting that sample. Bottoms up.

Currently the beer has a good flavor with a little sweetness and a nice malty finish.  The flavor of the Amarillo hops is there, but not an in your face way. This one is shaping up to be a good one. It just needs a little more time to condition.


Spent Grain Flour

Something that every home brewer thinks about at some point is, “What can I do with this 20lb wad of grain besides throw it out? ” I think about it every time I brew, how about you? Well, this weekend I finally decided to do something about it.

After I finished cleaning up my brew equipment I set out our entire collection of cookie sheets and using a soup ladle I scooped out as much grain as the pans would allow. I didn’t want the grain very thick on the pans so over the 5 pans I probably only had a few pounds of grain. I pre heated the oven to 200 degrees and set an hour timer. Every hour I raked the grains around and after about 4 hours the grain seemed sufficiently dry to proceed.



A closer view shows what the dried grains look like.



After letting the grain cool a little I dumped one pan at a time into my wife’s Christmas present,  a Vitamix 5200, and went to work. Each pan was roughly three cups pre-blend.


To get from grain to flour I started the Vitamix on low and gradually increased the speed until I hit 10. After a few seconds there I clicked it to high. I’m not sure if there is a specific time to blend, but I ran it until I didn’t hear a lot of solid chunks rattling around and it seemed to come out nice and fine.

The 3 cups of grain blended down to a little over 1 cup of flour.


This was the final haul of flour from my saved spent grain. I estimate about 5 cups of flour was made.


Overall I’m pleased with how this turned out. It’s great to be able to further use some of the brewing ingredients. Even if you don’t make flour the spent grains are good for compost or animal feed.

Going forward I’d rather have a food dehydrator for drying the grain. Maybe that will be a future brewery aquisition.

Now we just need to bake something!

Look forward to seeing some tasty spent grain and spent grain flour recipes in the very near future.

Everyday I’m shufflin…

New Years Eve brought a new addition to the Mighty Penguin Brewing bar.

The week before Christmas I was surfing through the Amazon Lightning deals looking for some last minute Christmas present ideas. This is something I’d highly recommend because you end up with all sorts of fun things you never knew you needed. HAHA.

I came across a Lightning deal for this little gem…

The Lightning deal was just too good and with free shipping I had to jump on it. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t the only one having a pre-Christmas impulse shopping spree because as soon as the deal went live they were instantly sold out and queuing up for the wait list. I added my request to the wait list and within 10 minutes I got a notification asking if I wanted to add it to my cart. I did, and picked New Years Eve as the delivery date since I knew it was a day I could count on being home early from work.

So after I had made my purchase I started to think about one little detail. How was I going to actually get this monster down into my basement? I had looked at 9′ tables in the past, but passed on the opportunity  because I didn’t think I would be able to swing it at the bottom of the stairs without hitting the wall. Buying something 3′ longer than the one you didn’t thin would fit makes sense right?

The stairway wall had to come out. I had considered this in the past, and the new shuffleboard table along with something else large needing to make the trip downstairs made this a necessity.


If I find the motivation I plan on finishing that out with some rough sawn cedar and a black pipe hand rail. Maybe even some old barn roofing to match the bar.

At around 4:00 on New Years Eve the big ABF semi pulled up in front of the house. I had grand visions of a crew of shippers pulling it out of the semi, taking it down the stairs, and putting it right where I wanted it to go. Hah. My dad and I walked outside to find one guy with a pallet jack trying to unload a 14′ pallet out of the back of the trailer and onto the lift gate. He said the shipping weight was listed as 480 pounds. Yes, 480 pounds. I died a little. It was too late to change my mind though so we had to charge forward. We managed to get the giant pallet almost to the front door and that’s when we lost the extra help.

Uncrating the table and removing the legs from the box revealed the play surface, 12′ long, 2′ wide, and all of 200lbs. With not too much effort or swearing we managed to get it inside the house and down into the basement. After a few minutes of attaching the legs and leveling it it was ready for the first game.

It seems to be a very well made table with a solid wood play surface. I’m sure it will give many hours of enjoyment for patrons of the Mighty Penguin Brewery.


First brew of 2015

Today I brewed my first beer of 2015. It was a rainy/snowy day here in southeast Michigan.  At first flame the temperature was 32 degrees with winds at 10mph. Not an ideal day for brewing, but this was the only weekend I’ll have this month to do it.

After rescuing my blow up santa from the ice I decided to set up my equipment under the roof on the front porch. Despite being a little cramped it worked out well and other than overestimating my boil off rate it was a pretty uneventful brew.




Today’s brew was a blonde ale that I have now named Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale. Based on my love of the Amarillo hops and the popularity of my Amarillo pale ale I figured having this on tap should be a solid go to beer for some of my “patrons” that aren’t into the craftier beers that I’ve made.


If it turns out it should be a very easy drinking beer with an ABV around 4.5% and a low bitter honey,  sweet malty flavor. The color will be a little darker than your typical blonde due to the honey and caramel malts I used.

I’ve done my part, now is all up to the little yeasties to do theirs. I’ll report back in a few weeks with some pictures and initial tastes.


Progress, not perfection.

Last night as part of our New Year’s weekend movie blitz we watched The Equalizer with Denzel Washington.  Good movie.  But one phrase from that movie stuck with me.

Progress, not perfection.

A quick Web search found that it is a very popular saying. But when Denzel says it, it rings louder.

It’s a great saying for home brewing. Every time we brew we chase perfection. Prefect sanitation, prefect recipes,  perfect process, perfect water,  perfect temperatures,  perfect everything.  But at the end of the day nothing will ever be perfect. We can shoot for that,  but I think we need to just strive to do a little better than last time and maybe someday that progress will lead us to perfection.

So that’s my motivational tidbit for the day.

Progress,  not perfection.

Mike Schaffer's Home Brewing Site