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Brew and Wine Hobby
  • East Hartford, CT
  • United States
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Brewing with Herbs

Started this discussion. Last reply by Mike Patient Mar 12, 2012. 6 Replies

Hey folks, its that time of year if you're an herb grower: they're ready, dry, and... now what? See, I hear about herbed beers all the time, but I've tasted very few. Most people don't bring them in…Continue

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To chill a brew

This is a frequently debated point, so I'd like to offer a bit of insight on the ups and downs of various chilling methods. First off, let it be known: the answer will always depend on how much beer one is brewing at a time. Some solutions just aren't cut out for certain volumes. My criteria is simple: what is the least expensive yet still fully effective/efficient method for each size. This always comes down to "how fast is it done" because, well... shoot, unless we want to make an infected beer, this matters! Even if we want an infected beer, it matters for the sake of controlling the infection. Right. Without further ado...

 

Brewing a "small batch."

By small I mean a few gallons or less. Minus the points on adding water, the next section will suffice very well.

 

Brewing 5 gallon batches, partial boil.

This means boiling less than the full volume, but usually around 3 gallons or less of boil. For less than 2.5 gallons, using a saline solution with ice in either a bucket or a sink is sufficient, as cool/cold water will still be added into the batch to make the full volume. Even without that step it is likely fine if a bit of external agitation is applied (do not stir unless working in full sterile conditions -- no, you're not).

I do not recommend adding ice, not ever. Simply put: you're going to tend to take on the aromas of the freezer. Perhaps there are ways around this, but the next issue is finding that "right amount." To prepare ice like this, vs doing an ice bath in salt water, then if needed adding cold water doesn't speed the cooling up nor is it more effective in preventing off flavors, so I discourage the practice.

If boiling 3 or more gallons, an argument could be made to step into some equipment as explained on the 5 gallon, full boil section. Rather than argue it, I'll be blunt: the closer you are to 5 gallons of boil, the more time you will save with a chiller. It isn't necessary until you reach "I don't add more than 1/2 gallon of water to my boil when I'm cooling it down." At that point, you're hitting that critical volume where you just aren't going to get it cold as fast as a chiller would using the ice bath.

 

Brewing 5 gallon batches, full boil.

Use a wort chiller! No, this isn't a joke, mechanical means are required unless you create dry ice routinely (and I'd say that's mechanical up front, so that's still going to count). Immersion chillers are the sensible choice for this size batch. They require little maintenance (hosing them down once done with the cooling is enough), can be made sanitary simply by placing a clean one in the boil about 15 minutes before the end, and are the least expensive option. The added plus that if you think you'll upgrade to a larger brew system, they retain their usefulness as a pre-chiller for tap water in the next options. 

 

Brewing more than 5 gallons, less than 12 (roughly)

This is where the options become "you can go either way." Immersion chillers still work -- provided you bought one big enough. This is something to plan for, a slightly large one is acceptable in smaller batches, but go with one too small and you may retire it sooner in favor of the next options. 

  • Counterflow Chillers (cfc): a decent cfc will cut down the time it takes to chill your beer drastically. See what I mean here (this gentleman is a customer of our shop and has developed the nicest cfc I've seen so far -- yes, we carry these proudly. The best thing about these devices is that they work on gravity or by being pump-fed. A pump will improve the chilling, but they will work better than immersion without a pump. They are more expensive than immersion chillers.
  • Plate chillers: These are always more expensive than any other option, even when that doesn't seem to be so. For example, a great cfc may cost $185, while a plate chiller may run as little as $115. Unfortunately the plate chiller requires a pump, so you're also looking at a $100+ price tag to run it. Also, the smaller plate chillers won't handle much more than 10 gallons as well as the larger ones (Blichmann Engineering's Therminator boasts a confirmed 10 gallons in 5 minutes when using a pump and 55 degree ground water). 

 

Brewing more than 12 gallons

Go with a plate or cfc, or create a mechanical arm / motor unit that may be applied to the pot before end of boil for sterility, for the sake of moving the beer faster through the surface area of the immersion coil. Okay, that's far fetched, but possible and safe if done well. Eventually the counterflow chiller doesn't scale well and requires too much to make it cost-effective, so at a certain volume (I'd argue over 20 gallons) a plate chiller just makes the most sense.

 

 

Is there a correct option? No, all have their quirks and requirements. I cannot ever discourage immersion coils -- I still use one for my 10-12 gallon brews. The brewery I'm involved with uses a massive plate chiller, and I wouldn't have it any other way at that scale (unless using a coolship, where applicable, but that's not something we're doing at the brewery).

That's not the real conclusion; the real conclusion is up to you. Now for some humor and "don't ever do this." These are things people try that I must stress can go very wrong.

  • Using a snowbank. This is perhaps the slowest method. The logic is "I'll put the pot into the snow, snow is cold, it'll make it cold!" Well, sure, but it will melt the snow. This creates space, that space is filled with hot air.... insulation becomes the theme. "But I can load that space with snow as it melts!" Yes, and by the time you've chilled the beer down, you could have brewed another batch. This is not a joke. Don't try this, 3 hours is the average cooldown time.
  • I'll just put it in the fridge. You know that this is a bad idea, deep down, but I'll explain why: you're going to damage more than just your beer. Half-cooking the food that is near; the massive temperature change bringing loads of humidity into the fridge; smaller levels of thermal exchange means you're still not going to chill it fast enough... Oh, just don't. Please. There isn't sufficient thermal conductivity, for the technical answer.
  • I'll drop Ice into my partial boil. Hey! Didn't we already cover this?
  • I'll stick it outside overnight, it'll be good by morning. This actually could work. The real point of so much of what we do when brewing is to MINIMIZE risk of things going wrong. This is the opposite, it is asking for trouble. Might work well enough though. If this appeals, you might want to consider being a sour beer brewer.

Missing a few good or bad ideas? Sure. Hopefully you feel confident in making a choice that suits you but, as always, ask if you want more information!

Summer ferments, the long story.

It is hot outside! Most folks I know take that to mean "time to enjoy my wine/beer, I'll make it later." Well, okay, if you're stocked well and like that cycle... no, wait, there are some pointers to think about anyways.

 

Heat does NOT hurt all fermentation. No, it's not good for that white wine with the delicate flavors, or the American ale that just shouldn't have that ester... but what about wines and beers that work well with ester profiles? Or phenols that develop in higher temperature ferments? 

 

I've mentioned many times, brewing a Saison is perfect for the heat. They are delicious, mature quickly enough to enjoy in those still-hot-days in September, and want 85 degrees (give/take 5 degrees) ferinheight.  What other beers brew well in the higher (but not that high) temperatures? Ever try a steam ale (known as California Common ales, though the process lends the name steam ale from the original and trademarked name via Anchor Brewing)? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_beer for reference. 75 degrees is perfect. Really nice beer, ready to drink pretty quickly. Other ideas include tropical Stouts (they benefit from the ester profiles, and can age a bit), or if you're able to stay in the 70 degree range, wheat/rye ales. 

 

Notice the trend: mainly these are beers that should have yeast profiles. Yes, it is all about the yeast -- that is of course the reason people shy from brewing right now: "it's too hot!" So there are other options, and they are good ones! 

 

What about wine (Brewers, don't stop reading yet... more to come)? Red wines benefit from yeast profiles when using alternate yeast choices, but one must be careful. The big bold yeast profiles can come with a cost of tannin rich wines, so this is a choice for the "fruit bomb" or "fruit driven" styles of wine making. Don't try this on the Amarone kit wine, it'll make a mess of the flavor. California styled Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Zinfandel can really benefit from a yeast that produces big esters, fermenting at over 75 degrees is great! Don't push past 80 by much, as the wine will hit higher temperatures than the ambient space. I like White Labs Cabernet yeast for the big nose, and it is tolerant of 90 degrees. 

 

Then we get into bacteria. Want to make that big Brett Beer? 85 degrees or more for best results. This is the time. Check this out: https://www.wyeastlab.com/vssprogram.cfm?website=3 -- yeah, seasonal sour strains. Neato!

What else?

Kombucha! 

I'll write more about that later. Off season for fermenting? Ha! Not a chance.

Wow, a new website!

Folks, sorry for the down time with the website. This isn't my strong suit, so bear with me -- we're getting a real, working site. Again. Wait, we tried that before... but we mean it this time! 

...and this is the beginning of it. Better than the nothing that happened about a month ago. So, yes, we're back. 

That being said, the storefront is still underway and is not quite ready, but you're welcome to check it out in the mean time. Our physical address has been and remains open, and will continue to do so. While we're polishing this website, here's some basic store info:

 

Location: 12 Cedar St, East Hartford CT 06108

 

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 10-6, Thursday 10-8, and Saturday 10-5. 

 

Phone: 860-528-0592

 

This is a work in progress, but I'm happy to hear feedback at any time. With luck, we'll have a faster, smoother site and... before long... a full store and inventory you can see right here (and even purchase from online). Thanks so much for your patience, patronage, and support! Without it, we wouldn't be continuing to grow and improve! 

 

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SMASH- Let the brew show off a Hop!

Posted on April 19, 2013 by Bill from Brew and Wine HobbySMASH beer! No this is not the Hulk of beers.  Anger won’t turn it green.  Single Malt And Single Hop beers are a simple and elegant way to experiment.  By picking a good base of a 2-row/pale/crisp malt with known characteristics you can…See More
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SMASH- Let the brew show off a Hop!

Posted on April 19, 2013 by Bill from Brew and Wine HobbySMASH beer! No this is not the Hulk of beers.  Anger won’t turn it green.  Single Malt And Single Hop beers are a simple and elegant way to experiment.  By picking a good base of a 2-row/pale/crisp malt with known characteristics you can…See More
Apr 19, 2013
Brew and Wine Hobby posted a blog post

SMASH- Let the brew show off a Hop!

Posted on April 19, 2013 by Bill from Brew and Wine HobbySMASH beer! No this is not the Hulk of beers.  Anger won’t turn it green.  Single Malt And Single Hop beers are a simple and elegant way to experiment.  By picking a good base of a 2-row/pale/crisp malt with known characteristics you can…See More
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Intro to Brewing Class (Thursday Evening Edition)- call to reserve at Brew & Wine Hobby 12 Cedar Street East Hartford,CT 06108 USA

April 18, 2013 from 6pm to 7:30pm
These expanded classes are launching February 1st, and include a great deal of extras beyond our average class.  These, we expect, will mostly be filled via our Living Social deal — please check their site if interested. [note, expires in one week from launch on 1/17/13]What you learn:  everything you need to know to successfully brew your own beer at home with grains, extracts, hop additions… the whole boil process, good sanitation practices (and…See More
Apr 11, 2013
Brew and Wine Hobby posted a blog post

Wine On Premises now available

We’ve done it: we’ve launched our wine making on-premises here at Brew & Wine Hobby. This is a bit of growth out of the old formula of running classes here. We will still have public sessions (and they will be education-based).  Details below. The private wine making sessions (booked by one person, for one to eight people):What you get: 26 bottles, consultation on wine selection (including discussion on how soon to drink, etc), and two visits (approximately one month apart, to each be…See More
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Your Details
We are Connecticut's oldest brewing supply store- revitalized with new ownership! We carry over 60 grains, 100 pre-made extract kits including: True Brew, Brewers Best, Coopers, Brewferm, Mountmellick, Muntons, and Woodforde, WYeast, White Labs, hops- and all the beer making supplies for an endless combination of brewing adventures!
Are you one or both of the following?
Home Brewer, Beer Blogger
Website
http://www.brew-wine.com
What are your favorite CT Beers?
The one in my hand!

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At 8:36pm on February 11, 2011, Bryon Turner said…
Thanks for all the one-on-one assistance in recipe building and ingredients gathering. Sunday should be fun.
At 7:28pm on January 21, 2011, Bryon Turner said…
At 8:03pm on January 12, 2011, Bryon Turner said…
Glad to have you on the CT Beer Trail!

Brew and Wine Hobby's Blog

SMASH- Let the brew show off a Hop!

Posted on April 19, 2013 at 12:30pm 0 Comments

Posted on April 19, 2013Bill from Brew and…

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Wine On Premises now available

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 8:01am 0 Comments

We’ve done it: we’ve launched our wine making on-premises here at Brew & Wine Hobby. This is a bit of growth out of the old formula of running classes here. We will still have public sessions (and they will be education-based).  Details below.

 

The private wine making sessions (booked by one person, for one to eight people):

What you get: 26 bottles, consultation on wine selection (including discussion on how soon to drink, etc), and two visits…

Continue

So as the days start fading and we head towards Thanksgiving day, I start looking for a darker more complex beer. Next on my docket will be a nice Robust Porter. Let's take a look at the style from t…

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 11:22am 0 Comments

So as the days start fading and we head towards Thanksgiving day, I start looking for a darker more complex beer. Next on my docket will be a nice Robust Porter. Let's take a look at the style from the BJCP guidelines as to what we are trying to get to for the right feel:

Aroma: Roasty aroma (often with a lightly burnt, black malt character) should be noticeable and may be moderately strong. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready,…

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HOPS, STUFF, & MORE

Posted on October 14, 2011 at 8:45am 0 Comments

BY RICH • OCTOBER 6TH, 2011

 

Folks, we’re trying to get the best things available. While we have access to Ruby St Brewing all grain system (and the most competitive prices, just ask), it is a bit large for our humble floorspace. Oh, we’re still looking into that, but for now I’d like to share what we’ve squeezed in.

EQUIPMENT

Blichmann Engineering’s Top Tier brewtree is now in stock (with three…

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