Adventures in Homebrew II: The Bottling

I've had our beer bottled for about two weeks now, but lots has happened in those two weeks and, as a result, my blog has suffered.  Solid Orange American Wheat has successfully been transformed from this:

Beer, after 24 hoursTo this:

Bottle #1And here's how I did it:

First off, I had to collect some bottles.  I haven't had good beer in months because of my low-carb diet, so I had to go scrounge in other places.  Laura Alberts was good enough to donate 12 bomber bottles, I had saved a couple up, and my cousin came through with a few Heineken bottles from a weekend on the boat.  I was planning on labeling them myself, so the stickers had to come off.

Bottles in the sinkAfter a few minutes soaking, they came right off.  I ran them through the dishwasher afterward, and put some sanitizer into the detergent compartment so that they'd all be sanitized.  This had the added benefit of making my dishwasher smell nice.  While they were being dried, I got the beer ready to be moved into its final destination.  First off, I had to transfer it into a bottling bucket so that the sediment didn't get reintegrated into the beer.

Sediment.  Gross.I hooked up my siphon, and away it went.

Siphoning the beerWhile that happened, I lined my bottles up and hoped that I had collected enough.  I wasn't really sure what would happen if I didn't, but I figured that I'd cross that bridge if I came to it.

BottlesI moved the siphon over to the bottling bucket and filled up each bottle, which became fairly tedious about halfway through.  Luckily, I had calculated correctly and had three bottles left over.

Finished bottlesThey sat in the guest room for a couple weeks, and then they were ready for initial tasting.  First, though, I had to make a label.  I whipped this up in Photoshop, printed it on some stick-on labels, and then they were ready to go:

Solid Orange Label

The first tasting was interesting.  There's not nearly as much orange as I was hoping there would be, and it's a little watery.  I'm going to let it sit for a little while longer though, as both of those things should improve over time.  The overall taste is very enjoyable, and I'm pretty impressed with how it turned out.  Hopefully, it'll hit its prime right in the middle of football season.


Adventures in Homebrew: Part 1

Homebrew stuff

I've brewed beer once before, with Elliott and Johny, and it seemed to turn out pretty well - but only after letting our Double IPA sit in my parents' basement for a little over a year.   I wanted to try again, and so Katie gave me a homebrew setup for my birthday this year.  Tailgating season is fast approaching, and I wanted to try to brew something that would be ready for the first game.  Enter: Northern Brewer's American Wheat Extract Kit!  The original plan was to do an orange-infused Kolsch, but that kit takes six weeks to complete.  Football is only four weeks away, so we switched gears to an orangey American Wheat.  Hopefully, this'll turn out something along the lines of a more orangey Blue Moon.

I hadn't really messed with the kit beforehand, so we had to go through and mark gallon measurements on both of the carboys.  I'm sure there was a more efficient way to do this, but 11 gallons later, we were ready to go.

Katie marking a carboy

The full extract kit was almost disappointingly simple.  Basically, all we had to do was pour some stuff in a huge kettle and wait.  The kit came with a little half-gallon jug of what they called a "wheat and barley syrup."  Last time I brewed, I remember putting barley and malt in a pantyhose-looking bag and letting it steep, just like you would tea.  Next time, I think I'm going to go full grain.  We'll see how this one turns out, I guess.


After letting the Willamette hops boil in the wort for about 45 minutes, we added some Cascade hops and the zest of four oranges.  This boiled for another 15 minutes, and then it was cooldown time.  The kettle dominated the sink full of ice water that I had prepared, so we had to resort to the frozen beer pong cupholders that I had in the beer fridge.

Katie with Cascade hopsOrange zestIce bath

The wort had finally cooled down enough that it wouldn't melt a carboy, so it was time to bottle it up and add the yeast.  We added some water to bring the concoction back up to 5 gallons, poured in the fermentation fuel, added another 4 oranges' worth of zest, and capped the carboy up with a blowoff valve.  I hung a blanket over the window of the guest bedroom and stuck it in there so that it'd be dark and cool for a couple weeks.

Carboy with beerThe instructions said that after 24 hours, there would be a layer of foam on top and air bubbling out of the blowoff valve.  Anxious, I opened the door the next morning to find this:

Beer, after 24 hoursSo far, everything seems to be good.  If you put your nose right above the blowoff and inhale, you definitely get a strong orange smell.  I'm very optimistic at this point.  2 weeks from now, it'll be bottling time, and after a couple weeks of bottle conditioning, they'll be ready to (hopefully) enjoy.  The North Texas game will be exactly 4 weeks from initial brew, so I guess we'll see what happens.  Can't be worse than Shock Top.

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2010: A Kitchen Odyssey

My kitchen was a total grandma kitchen.  Off-white cabinets, a single fluorescent light fixture down the middle of the ceiling, tiny little oven not located under the stove, white laminate countertops...not really what I want.  Katie and I decided that we'd tackle a remodeling job, and the kitchen seemed like the best candidate.  New countertops, new fridge, painted cabinets, new could happen.  First up was cabinets, because that seemed easy enough.  Some new paint, new hardware, and they'd be good to go.  I numbered the doors with masking tape, drew up a little map to remind myself of which doors went where, and began to tear everything down.

Disassembly went well.  We emptied all the cabinets quickly enough.  The hinges and knobs came off in less than an hour, and since we were going to try for the nice European-style concealed hinges and some fancy new IKEA LANSA handles, clearly all of the holes had to be filled and sanded.  Massive quantities of wood filler were utilized.  Katie and I knocked out the painting of the frames in a weekend.  We even painted the door into the garage and the one kitchen window.  It looked great.  I bought a Bosch random orbital sander that was a ton of fun to play with, and I filled my eating area with cabinet doors.  For some reason, the amount of sheer area that the doors would take up never crossed my mind, but I now know that you could probably roof a house with the wood necessary to build 23 cabinet doors.

Cabinet doorsMany a night was spent putting coats of Bistro White paint on these boards.  The frustrating thing about painting white over pale yellow is that it never really looks any different, so it's difficult to see what the final product might look like.  After the paint dried, it was time to try the 5/8" overlay, face frame hinges that I had bought from Home Depot.  I had done my homework on concealed hinges, so I was pretty sure that I could handle it.

Cabinets pre-hanging

Ready for hanging.

Nope.  My cabinets had a 3/8" overlay.  I trucked the hinges back to Home Depot, looked around, and realized that they didn't sell the 3/8" variety.  Rockler to the rescue!  I bought 22 packs of these bad boys and waited a week with baited breath.  The night they came, I raced home from work and drilled out a sample cabinet.  After hanging it on the frame, I quickly realized that these were completely wrong.  Apparently, I needed these - and for $25 a pair, that wasn't happening.

Option #2 was semi-concealed hinges.  "Use on doors with 3/8 lip," it says.  What it doesn't say is that these hinges will move the door over 1/8" and shift the door out of the frame an equal amount, so it won't close all the way.  Box #2 was heading back to Rockler.  Home Depot had a few boxes of self-closing hinges that looked identical to the shiny gold numbers I removed, so I drove over in a huff, bought all that I could find, and came back to the house to discover that they too shifted the door out of the frame.

Cabinet gap

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Clearly, this wouldn't work.  The hinges went back in the bag and back to Home Depot where I was laughed at by the girl working the Returns counter.  "Next time, you should only buy one or two to see if they work."  Sage advice, to be sure.  I ended up buying the exact same hinges that were on the cabinets in the first place, but in a satin nickel finish this time.  All of the hole-puttying and sanding was for naught, at least in the hinge area.

Cabinets hung

Finally, it was time for hardware.  I made a delightful little template out of cardboard and a ruler that I taped to the store-bought template, which proved to be too small to accommodate the gigantic handles we had picked out.  After trying it out on some scrap wood, I nervously drilled through the first door, set up the handle, actually fit.  It was straight, the holes were in the right place, and the planets aligned.  It couldn't have taken more than two hours to mark and drill the holes and attach the handles to the entire kitchen.A finished cabinetI'm currently working on screwing in all the little magnetic plates that hold the cabinet doors shut, since some moron didn't take the time to level them all when he hung them on the frames.

Cabinets with hardwareThe observant reader will note that two doors are not hung.  The cabinet door on the bottom is the one that I had experimented with concealed hinges on, and as a result had two enormous holes in the back that had to be reputtied.  The door on the top, for some reason, won't go back into its spot.  It's like the microwave has swollen on top, and so I'm not really sure what to do there.  I might fix it one day.

Cabinets with hardware, part deuxNext up: countertops.  Luckily for my sanity, I'm not even going to entertain the idea of installing those myself.  Hopefully, I'll be able to provide an update sooner rather than later.