Monday, September 17, 2012

Brewing White House Porter for new brewers

The news that the White House had started its own homebrewing operation and the subsequent FOIA release of the recipes has gotten the attention of a lot of folks new to brewing.  Even experienced homebrewers are taking a go at the recipes from what I've heard in the home brew shop and local homebrew meetings.  Most of the experienced folks have converted it to an all-grain recipe.

So a new brewer was asking for advice last night on Twitter regarding brewing the White House Porter.  He had all the ingredients gathered, and fortunately hadn't started before asking for assistance.  Upon reviewing the instructions again, as I'd gotten the recipe a few days back, I noticed some gaps that would trip up someone new to brewing.

The recipe assumes you know how to brew.  First off - there's no mention of equipment needed.  It is easy for a new person to miss pulling together things like a spoon, funnel, measuring cup, can opener.  Planning ahead can be crucial to the brewing process so you don't end up in a pickle when you need something and don't have it at hand or clean and sanitized when you need it.  The recipe also doesn't mention sanitizing, which means you better know what implements you are going to need, so you can sanitize them before you start.

One of the things I told him was to pay lots of attention to sanitization and if he uses bleach, to rinse everything three times with tap water; including all the pots, hose, racking cane, thermometer, spoon, measuring cup, funnel, strainer, everything.  If he was going to use StarSan for sanitizing, he wouldn't have to rinse as much.  They claim you can leave it on, but I don't.   

I also told him to practice with the siphon hose.  It is one thing to get the flow going, it's another to get it to stop and start again without spraying the floor, yourself, counter and everything in between.  I told him that I've used a hemostat with much better success than the kit-provided clamp.

The recipe calls for just dumping the honey and the LME into the wort.  It is a lot easier if you warm them up first so everything comes out of the can or bottle quickly without having to use a spoon or stand there for 15 minutes waiting for the last thick drips to stop.

Although the recipe calls for adding cold water to help bring down the temperature of the wort, it will still need a lot of chilling to get down to 70 degrees. I told him to think about how he was going to move 50+ lbs of hot wort splashing in a kettle from the kitchen to the bathroom to chill it.  Also, did he remember to get enough ice to fill the bathtub.  The wort needs to be chilled in about 30 minutes in order to avoid any off flavors.

The instructions also don't mention prepping the water by either boiling it or letting it stand overnight to remove any chlorine.  That could be especially bad for the water used to hydrate the yeast.

Finally, again with the sanitization, it doesn't remind the brewer to sanitize the racking cane, hose, pot, bottles and caps before the final step.

The final advice I gave the brewer was to pay attention to sanitization and rinsing, temperature and timing; and he would have a great chance of success.


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