Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Wine Review: Te Awa Merlot 2004

From the Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, this beautiful ruby red coloured wine from Te Awa Winery has a leather nose, is very tannic and dry and has a lovely plum flavour. It is very enjoyable to drink and despite being labeled a Merlot it is actually a blend of Merlot (85%), Malbec (6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%) which provides a good level of complexity and interest. Drinking well now and the structure feels solid to last for a number more years.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Book Review: "How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time" by John J. Palmer

Having now brewed a couple of all grain beers I thought I should find out a bit more about what I should be doing and why I do certain things so I picked up this book that I had seen referred to in many places from the local library.

"How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time" by John J. Palmer is a superb book about brewing beer. It explains the basics (from kit brewing to extract to all grain), gets quite scientific and provides a number of recipes. For an absolute beginner of brewing this book may be a bit overwhelming. As somebody who has brewed many kits and recently got into all grain brewing (with Brew In A Bag) I found the book to be superb.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Immersion Wort Chiller with DIY instructions

As I previously posted, I have started brewing beers using the Brew In A Bag (BIAB) technique. A key component of making beer is being able to cool the wort (unfermented beer) down quickly to get a "cold break" and reduce the risk of infection.

Initially I thought I would simply use an ice bath but when you end up having over 16 litres of liquid in a pot of 39cm diameter pot it is not the easiest to manoeuvre. There are a number of alternative options commonly used for cooling down wort with the two key ones for home-brewers being immersion chillers and counterflow chillers.

Counterflow chillers adopt a tube in a tube design where you flow the wort through a (usually copper) inner pipe while cold water flows through the outer pipe in the opposite direction. Whilst this is more effective than an immersion chiller, it was going to be more complex to get this working with my setup and it does come with higher sanitation requirements due to the wort travelling inside the tube.

Immersion chillers adopt a simpler approach whereby you flow cold water through a coiled (usually copper) pipe that is placed in the wort. I decided to go with this approach.

I looked around to buy a pre-made wort chiller, but in New Zealand there weren't too many available and those that were I thought were overpriced for the 15 metre length I decided I wanted. I therefore opted to make one myself.

Finding copper pipe turned out to be harder than I thought, but I ended up buying 15 metres of 9.52mm (3/8 inch) copper coil from TradeMe (New Zealand's equivalent of eBay). The seller offered to coil this into a diameter of my choosing to send it (which was great), and so I opted for a 25cm diameter since this was a good size for my 39cm pot.

I pretty much followed the instructions in this YouTube clip to bend the copper tube and attach the hose and fittings:

I bought two 2 metre lengths of garden hose, two hose clips for attaching the hose to the copper pipe and connectors to attach one of the hoses to another hose connected to the tap. The hose clips were just big enough for the hose and this proved challenging in terms of them initially slipping when trying to tighten them but I finally got there with perseverance and some pliers. In terms of the hose connectors there wasn't one connector that alone had a suitable attachment for connecting to the hose attached to the tap so I had to get two different ones (no biggie). I've also attached the cold water to the pipe that goes to the top coil. My chiller doesn't look as elegant as the one in the YouTube clip but it does the job.

When running water through the chiller you don't need the tap on full, in fact you need significantly less than that; I probably have about a half full pipe when I'm running it. As the water runs through I have the other hose sitting in the sink for the hot water run off. The temperature does reduce rapidly; my experiences so far:
  • First brew: 16.5 litres - 18 mins to get from boiling to 22 degrees Celsius
  • Second brew: 18 litres - 29 mins to get from boiling to 22 degrees Celsius (I did however note at one point that not much water was flowing through so had to turn it up)
When I did my first brew I found the wort chiller did leak quite a bit, but after tightening up the connectors some more prior to my second brew I got no leakage most of the time until I did increase the water flow significantly and then a little bit came out.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Several small tracks in the Waitakere Ranges

I knocked off some small tracks in the Waitakere Ranges today:

  • Opanuku Pipeline Track - This was mainly a stone path and not the most exciting of tracks but it got more exciting near the top with decent mud pools to negotiate. The tunnel was the highlight.
  • Sharp Bush Track - This was a nice sedate wander through the bush with a smidgen of mud with a river crossing at the end (that I decided to do for completeness). Lots of beautiful kauri.
  • Walter Kauri - closed
  • Spragg Bush Walk - This was a dentle wander through the bush. It was flat for a decent proportion. One huge kauri on the walk. Takes a while to walk to each of the exits.
  • Goodfellow track - Lots of steps. Nice view looking back to Auckland. Pretty walk.
  • Large Kauri Track - 2 min return. Nice kauri.

Monday, 16 June 2014

My first Brew In A Bag (BIAB)

I have done a reasonable number of beer brews using kits, but decided this year that I really wanted to do a brew from scratch. After a bit of research I found that Brew In A Bag (BIAB) is one of the most common ways of brewing so I decided to give it a go.

Since I had the equipment required for brewing kits I just needed to supplement this with a huge pot, a wort chiller, a grain bag, hop bags and a fake bottom for the pot (of which I used an upside down metal colander).

I bought a 50 litre pot with a 0.5cm thick base (I suspect it's a bit thinner) on Trade Me and made a wort chiller (I will write a separate post about that).

I decided to follow the BIAB Pale Ale recipe from Brewers Coop. This consisted of the following key ingredients:

  • 5.3kg Pale malt
  • 300g Pale crystal malt
  • 300g Carapil malt
  • 73g NZ Cascade pellet hops
I purchased all the ingredients from Brewers Coop and they also combined all the malts.

The pot is rather huge on the stove. 

I put 26 litres of water in the pot (with fake bottom inserted) and it took about 30 mins to get up to 68 degrees Celsius. I then turned the heat off and put the grain bag into the pot (with the top of it coming over the sides, poured the malt into it and left it to sit (with some insulation of towels) for 90 mins. The grain bag was unfortunately a bit too small so I couldn't have it over all edges, but it was good enough.

I then turned up the heat to get the brew up to the mashup temperature of 76 degrees Celsius, whilst stirring along the way. This was followed by removing the grain bag from the wort (the name given to boiled up malt) which was quite heavy and made more difficult by the pot being up high on the stove and also wanting to hold it there for as long as possible to get the wort pouring out of it straight back into the pot. I got about another couple of litres by just leaving the bag sitting in another pot (with another fake bottom), but didn't apply pressure since I was worried that over extraction would taint the flavour. The fake bottom was also removed at this point (after a bit of a struggle fishing for it).

I boiled up the wort and 30 mins later added 14g of hops (for bitterness), 30 mins later added another 14g of hops (for flavour) and 15 mins later added 28g of hops (for aroma); given I had acquired 73g I had some left over. I put each of the hops into hop bags so that I could easily remove them at the end of the brew.

After 80 mins of boiling, I added a teaspoon of Irish Moss and inserted the wort chiller so that it could be sterilised for 10 mins before I turned it on. At the same time I turned on the wort chiller I removed the hop bags. The wort chiller took the boiling wort to 22 degrees Celsius in about 15 mins. It is important to cool quickly to get a "cold break" and reduce the risk of infection.

With the help of Jane, we then strained the wort into a cleaned and sterilised fermenter. The wort in the pot was very heavy and it was quite a struggle. I suspect I should look at syphoning for future brews. I then took a hydrometer reading (1.06 OG) and added some rehydrated Safale US-05 yeast. The resulting brew was about 16.5 litres (from the 26 litre starting point. The resting temperature was initially 24 degrees Celsius, but it has already dropped to 23 degrees and should come down overnight (18-20 is where I tend to like it) and hopefully the fermentation will start tomorrow. All going well, I should be bottling in 2-3 weeks.

Friday, 3 January 2014

My favourite hikes in the Waitakere Ranges

I have been doing quite a bit of hiking in the Waitakere Ranges over the past year and was recently asked what my favourite hikes were.
  1. Whatipu Road at top of Omanawanui Track --> Omanawanui Track --> Whatipu (Lunch on the beach) --> Kura Track (it is long and steep near the end). This is a very scenic track and there are some challenging portions.
  2. Scenic Drive --> Waitakere Reservoir --> Fence Line Track --> Long Road Track --> Upper Kauri Track --> Cascade Track --> Anderson Track --> Waitakere Tramline Track back to the Reservoir. This is a decent walk and from recollection took about 4 hours.
  3. Arataki Vistor Centre (on Scenic Drive) --> Slip Track --> Pipeline Track --> Lower Nihotupu Dam Road --> Hamilton Track --> Huia Dam Road --> Huia Store for lunch and then the return trip.
  4. Constable Road --> Goldie Bush Walkway --> Mokoroa Falls Track and then back via the Mokora Stream Track (if you want a technically challenging walk that you _will_ get wet feet on.
  5. Piha Road --> Kauri Grove Track --> Kitakita Falls --> Kitekite Track --> Piha for lunch and then back by whatever mixture of tracks.

Flatter tracks that have something vaguely interesting that come to mind:
  1. Beach walk from Karekare to Whatipu (or Pararaha) and back. There is a small tunnel along the way you can go through too.
  2. Auckland City Walk in the Cascades portion of the Waitakere's is apparently a good introductory walk. I haven't done it. It is only 1.5km so is very short.
  3. Walk around Lake Wainamu near Bethells Beach. There are also huge dunes here. Don't attempt Houghton Gully Track (if you're after a flat track) since it goes up and up and feels like it will never end. The walk around the lake isn't huge.