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Guest Post: How Karolis Brews Beer at Home in Lithuania!

Juodas – Oatmeal Stout Stouts are one of my favorite styles to brew and I like them to be thick black, hence the name Juodas (Black). IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) the essential thing in the recipe is correct proportions -- the actual ingredients can be substituted in most cases. This a recipe I was brewing for years with some variations. I had some very good stouts, but being concise in brewing is the most difficult task, so a good recipe and the same ingredients might not always result in the same quality beer. Here is a recipe made with the BeerSmith software ( ):

This is the first time I’m using this brewing setup. Naturally, when using new equipment or employing some new process for the first time there have to be some mishaps…

The first thing I do is take additional sanitary measures and disinfect the room with UV light, because the air does not circulate so well in my sub-basement. Let’s start with the water, one of the four major ingredients of the beer. I make my own water -- that is, I use a reverse osmosis filter system to remove any salts and later add my own. My brew size is 20 gallons (about 80 liters) so this requires about 100 liters of water. I have a 200 liter plastic barrel to store filtered water. Filling two thirds of the container is enough for one brew. There is not too much space in my sub-basement kitchen so I keep the water barrel in a different room and use a trolley to move it around.

The first task is to fill and heat the strike water. About 50 liters is enough for the current recipe to have a proper water-to-malt ratio. The water is heated in a dedicated kettle called Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). Both HLT and the boil kettle have 6kW heating elements installed. Heating of 50 liters from about 12C to 75C takes about 40 minutes. During that time we can crush some grain.

For malt crushing I use pretty standard two roller grain crusher. Nothing really fancy, but it does the job.

My only complaint is that it can’t adjust the crush size on the fly. The rollers are moved by an electric drill. For the barley it ideally should be split into three parts, but crushing it more usually yields better extraction. I should probably reduce the distance between rollers for the oats, because I noticed that these don’t crush so well. I decided not to go into roller adjustments. This is where a more advanced crusher would help as it usually has simple crush size adjustments. The result is 20 kg of crushed grain that I keep in a special bucket. A better idea would be to do this the day before the brew day, but that’s not always an option.

Getting back to the kitchen we have strike water heated. We transfer this water to the Mash Tun (MT) using a pump. (The Mash Tun is a brewhouse vessel used for mixing the ground malt (grist) with temperature-controlled water. This is called “mashing” and the porridge-like result is called the “mash.”) I use two pumps in my brewing process and one of those is dedicated only to pumping water, another pumps wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer -- or whisky. Wort contains the sugars, the most important being maltose and maltotriose, that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol).

After transferring the water I add crushed malt and stir while adding it. The temperature in my case dropped to around 66C, activating enzymes to extract sugars. For this brew I used the single infusion method where I do not adjust temperature after adding strike water. With my system it’s possible to do HERMS (Heat Exchange Re-circulating Mash Systems) but for simplicity I decided not to go there with this recipe. The standard time for mashing is 60 minutes. During this time I also heated an additional 50 liters in HLT for sparging (moistening by sprinkling with water). After mashing I did some lautering (a process involving separating the mash into clear liquid wort and the residual grain. Lautering usually consists of three steps: mashout, recirculation, and clear the wort). The Lauter grant which is used as a buffer is more commonly commercial brewery equipment rather than homebrewer equipment.

This Lauter Grant is of my own design -- I made it from a fermenter. It works pretty well, and when the wort is clear (it was actually very much black) I started transferring it to the boil kettle. During this transfer I arranged a sparging setup where another 50 liters of water heated in HLT was added to the mash as a kind of shower to clean up the remaining sugar. So I started sparging and simultaneously transferring to the boil kettle.

Here’s where my troubles started. I noticed some little specks of grain in the boil kettle. I always used fine mesh to catch these specks in my previous setups -- but not this time. So I decided to do additional filtering. I transferred the remaining wort to the boil kettle, totaling 80+ liters of wort. I cleaned the Mash Tun and and connected to the boil kettle to transfer using mesh. Then my wife asked me for some help. So I thought to myself these two vessels have the same 20 gallon capacity -- it should be fine. I went up to get my daughter, and also made myself coffee -- it is cold in the sub-basement. While sitting and drinking the coffee I thought to myself “now hypothetically I return to the basement kitchen and find that something bad happened. What could that be?” This is me overthinking stuff. So I drank my coffee and went back. When I saw the next picture many Polish swear words came of my mouth.

I forgot that I had not closed a port at the top of Mash Tun. A few liters spilled on the floor and under the furniture. Took me some hours to clean the mess. So after cleaning this up I transferred the wort to the boil kettle and started pre-heating. It took something like a half an hour to reach the pre-boil temperature of 95C. The controller alerted me, and I checked and it was 95C on the controller, but the wort seemed much nearer the boil, but I did not check with my Thermapen (a thermometer). I left the room for a minute or two and after I returned I saw that the boil was already vigorous and some wort had spilled onto the top of the oven. The lesson is not to leave a room when the boil is nearing.

My first thought was “Why has this happened?” so I checked the controller and it was still showing that it was pre-heating! The controller missed the temperature by 2 degrees C. In short, I should have RTFM (Read The F**king Manual). Later I spent an hour adjusting the temperature without much success, but it was boiling somewhat. So at some point I decided enough of the boiling for now. To sanitize the wort it needs 10 minutes of boil, so, for sure, it was boiled. Now it was time to cool and fill the fermenters. (Another nasty thing was condensate dripping from the steam extractor, and I will need to work on this for the next time.)

Next I assembled a setup for chilling and inline aeration.

I designed the stand. My original thought for inline-aeration (aeration is needed to increase yeast cell growth) had one troubling question – will I be able to know how much I filled the fermenter? This is the first time I used a new aeration compressor, which is actually medical equipment.

In-line aeration setup

I started the flow and saw what I was afraid of most: output was literally spewing foam! Not practical! I used Hop-Stopper 2.0 ("Extract every last drop of wort, save time, and maximize hop flavor"). It worked well, as you can see:

Hop-Stopper 2.0 It worked pretty well!

Let’s get to the fermenters: I split my wort into multiple batches, using four fermenters. This way I could use different yeast and fermentation temperatures for each to create more variety.

Ready to ferment! Lager and ale are in the two taller fermenters

After connecting my BT signal amplifiers (real time monitors) I saw that my fermenter with a heating belt had heated to over 45C. My first thought was “God damn, I killed the yeast!” I pulled the plug and left it for the night. In the morning, I checked and was not surprised that the beer was fermenting fine. The Voss Kveik yeasts (traditional Norwegian yeasts) are monsters after all. These beers finished fermenting first. A bathtub is perfect for soaking used empty beer bottles. I used the Enzybrew 10 cleaning product. Some bottles have labels that don't soak off, and I don’t even try to remove them.

A keg being rinsed with hot water, and empty beer bottles soaking in a tub

The four beers I brewed:

  • Black Kveik, a Stout, 5.78% alcohol This beer was fermented using Lallemand Voss Kveik yeast (a Norwegian farmhouse ale yeast). The fermentation temperature by mistake had reached above 45C. Later on I fermented it at around 33C. This beer was kegged and primed with sugar for carbonation. This was the first time I tried to carbonize beer in the keg using sugar. For Kveik yeast you also need to heat it. Added spunding valve to monitor the pressure. Pressure has risen to 2 bars in less than three days.

  • Black Diamond, a Porter, 5.78% alcohol This beer was fermented at 12C using Lallemand Diamond lager yeast. From initial tastings this seems to me a result the same as using Nottingham yeast. Should be a good beer once it matures. It takes at least a month for a stout to truly open.

  • Black Notty, a Stout (using uncontrolled temperature fermentation), 6.04% alcohol Fermented using Lallemand Nottingham yeast. This beer was left to ferment without any temperature control and from initial tastings this one is a candidate to be best of all four batches!

Black Notty (uncontrolled) ready for bottling, ready to start capping, capping in progress

  • Black Notty, a Stout (controlled fermentation), 5.51% alcohol Fermented using Lallemand Nottingham yeast. This batch was transferred while using inline aeration that resulted in a bucket of foam, so I was not sure how much there was. Turned out to be about 10 liters. Fermentation temperature was about 19C and it was kept constant. It’s interesting that this beer has highest S.G. (Specific Gravity) out of all batches. It could be that I made a mistake while priming this beer, because I added sugar syrup after the keg was filled and did not stir. I still waited for 15 minutes before bottling. So it is a possibility that sugar was not distributed equally and and this sample contained some of this priming sugar. I need to keep this batch somewhere safe and watch out for over-carbonation. Let’s make this an experiment to see how consistent carbonation is.

Next post will be tasting notes! To be continued, Karolis


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