How to remove paint from beer bottles

This question gets mentioned a lot on forums so I thought I’d share my method for removing paint from commercial beer bottles for reuse in bottling homebrew.  This works most of the time (New Belgium Lips of Faith bottles seem very stubborn) and it does take a bit of elbow grease, but you can do it.

GTFO, paint!

GTFO, paint!

What you’ll need:

Instructions:

  • Fill your pot with about 2 gallons of hot tap water.  (My pot is a 3 gallon cheap stainless steel pot I got at Walmart.)
  • I used a 1 oz / 1 gallon ratio of Star San and water.  So add 2 oz of Star San to the 2 gallons of water and stir gently.  Pro Tip: Filling the pot before adding the Star San keeps it from foaming up.
  • Fill your bottles with hot tap water and submerge them in the kettle.  This method saves on Star San, so you’re only using enough for the water that is actually in contact with the paint.
  • Let them sit for at least an hour.  It could take longer, you’ll start to see the paint sloughing off in a sort of gel.
  • Put on your gloves, don’t skip this part, put on the damn gloves.
  • Grab your scrub pad and start scrubbing.  If one bottle is being stubborn try another and let that one soak a bit more.  As I mentioned above some bottles are just really stubborn, I never was able to get the paint off that Lips of Faith bottle.
  • Once all the paint is scrubbed off rinse the bottles well.
  • Make sure to clean and sanitize before use like any other bottle.

I’ve used this method several times and it works great.  You may notice a “ghosting” on your bottles where the paint previously was, but it’s hard to see.  Now go bottle up some homebrew.

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Seibel Institute Sensory Seminar – Tasting off flavors in beer

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a tasting seminar and go through the Seibel Institute’s Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit.  The kit contains vials of the chemical compounds that sometimes get into our beer and impart flavors and aromas.  Some are desirable and some are most definitely not desirable… unless you’re trying to make a beer with notes of fecal matter and vomit.

Time to test our senses

Time to test our senses

The kit itself contains 24 vials of pre-measured “standards” representing some of the most common or important flavors and aromas in beer.  The seminar was led by Jamison Jackson, a flavor chemist from Coca Cola.  We used a popular commercial beer known for it’s neutral flavor as our “reference beer” and as a base for the compounds.  Many of them were very faint, and will definitely take practice to discern.  Some were very in your face and once you know what they are you’d be hard pressed to miss them in the future.  It was interesting to note that certain people really picked up on some flavors and aromas that others didn’t but that was flipped for other flavors and aromas.

Seibel Institute's Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit

Seibel Institute – Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit

Here’s a run down of the flavors covered in the kit and my notes on them.  I’ll list the descriptors we were given of each next to the compound name and then give my notes on what I got out of them.  If we didn’t taste one I’ll just list the descriptors and a note that I did not try that one.

Acetaldehyde (Descriptors: Green Apple, Bruised Apple, Latex Paint, Cut Grass)
– Aroma: Faint apple
– Flavor: Unsweetened green apple, grassiness notice in the throat
– Possible Sources: Incomplete fermentation, bacterial contamination, leeching from packaging in PET bottles.  Found in Budweiser.

Acetic Acid (Descriptors: Vinegar, Acidic, Sour)
– Aroma: Salt and vinegar potato chips
– Flavor: Vinegary, sour
– Possible Sources: Naturally produced during fermentation, can be imparted by wild yeasts, bacterial consumption of sugars

Almond / Benzaldehyde (Descriptors: Almond, Cherry, Amaretto, Marzipan)
– Aroma: Almond biscotti and faint cherry
– Flavor: Very faint almond
– Possible Sources: Beer has been stored too long, carryover from other products on bottling lines.  Flavor is easily detectable in Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Bitter / Iso-Alpha Acids (Descriptors: Bitter, Quinine)
– Aroma: None
– Flavor: Tonic water, bitterness (like hops with zero aroma or flavor)
– Possible Sources:  Hops adding during boiling, hop extracts.  Over concentration can produce negative results.
– Light can react with Iso-Alpha Acids and Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) to produce skunky odor/flavor in beer.

Butyric (Descriptors: Rancid, Putrid)
– Aroma:  Vomit, definitely vomit. (Butyric acid is one of the main compounds in vomit.)
– Flavor: Rotten meat?
– Possible Sources: Bacteria during wort production or in sugar syrups.  Bacteria in packaging.  Easily confused with Isovaleric Acid.

Caprylic (Descriptors: Goaty, Waxy, Tallowy)
– Aroma: Crayons, unscented candle wax
– Flavor: Like taking a sip of a box of Crayolas.
– Mouthfeel: Waxy, slick. (Not all compounds added a noticeable mouthfeel.)
– Possible Sources: Aging beer during conditioning, produced by yeast autolysis.

DMS / Dimethyl Sulfide (Sweet Corn, Tomato Sauce, Vegetable)
– Aroma: Light vegetable
– Flavor: Light vegetable, corn? (This one was hard for me to pick out.) Rolling Rock is an example of a beer with DMS.
– Possible Sources:  Major source is s-methylmethionone (SMM).  SMM is produced during germination and kilning of malting barley.
– Comments: Two-Row barley produces much less SMM than six-row in the malting process.  SMM is converted to DMS from heating malted grain.  DMS can be greatly reduced using a vigorous boil, however it is important to coil the wort quickly so it does not continue to produce DMS.  Approximately half of the SDMS

Diacetyl (Descriptors: Buttery, Creamy, Butterscotch, Milky)
– Aroma: Unpopped microwave popcorn
– Flavor: Buttery popcorn
– Possible Sources: Natural part of the fermentation process.  Fermenting at low temperatures (such as lagering) can cause Diacetyl, raising temps allows the yeast to consume the diacetyl, this is called a Diacetyl Rest.

Earthy / 2-Ethyl Fenchol (Descriptors: Wet Soil, Dirt)
– Aroma: Like opening a bag of potting soil
– Flavor: A big cup of potting soil
– Possible Sources:  Contamination of water and via migration through packaging by the chemical 2-Ethyl Fenchol.  Normally imparted via tainted groundwater but can also come from post-packaging storage in damp cellars where microbes in the walls of the cellars produce 2-Ethyl Fenchol that migrates through semi-porous packaging into the beer.

Ethyl Acetate (Descriptors: Nail Polish, Acetone, Estery)
– Aroma: Like a nail salon, Acrylic?
– Flavor: Slight flavor or nail polish
– Possible Sources: Natural part of the fermentation process, can be imparted by wild yeasts.  Present in all beer but high-concentrations are undesirable.

Ethyl Hexanoate (Descriptors: Apple, Estery, Anise)
– Aroma: Apple, fruity, perfumey/floral? (Reminded me of a strip club. Don’t judge me.)
– Flavor: Fruit, flowers, anise
– Possible Sources: Produced by yeasts during fermentation.  Can make up a significant part of the character of certain beers but is generally undesirable and high concentrations.

Geraniol (Descriptors: Rose-like, floral)
– Aroma: Citronella, definitely.
– Flavor: Citronella
– Possible Sources: Imparted via hops, important component of hop oil.  Concentration is determined by the type of hop, boil conditions and fermentation conditions.

Grainy / Isobutryaldehyde (Descriptors: Grainy, Green Malt)
– Aroma: Grainy
– Flavor: Faint raw graininess
– Possible Sources: Can be from grains that have not been stored long enough but can be controlled by sparging and wort boiling practices.
– I had a hard time detecting this one but a couple others said this was the most dominant flavor of the night.

Hefeweizen (Descriptors: See Spicy / Eugenol and Isoamyl Acetate)
– We didn’t try this one.

Indole (Descriptors: Farmyard, Fecal, Jasmine)
– Aroma: Smell like a porta potty or RV toilet, a mix of waste and that sanitizer used in those toilets.
– Flavor: Same as aroma, like an RV toilet or porta potty
– Possible Sources: Contamination from coliform bacteria during fermentation, use of adjunct sugar syrups that have been spoiled with bacteria.  DMS is often present with Indole.

Infection (Descriptor: See Diacetyl and Acetic Acid)
– We didn’t try this one

Isoamyl Acetate (Descriptors: Banana, Fruity, Peary, Estery)
– Aroma: Banana Laffy Taffy
– Flavor: Banana Laffy Taffy, without a doubt.
– Possible Sources: Naturally produced by yeast during fermentation.  Can be desirable but will have serious impact at higher levels.  Found in lagers and German wheats.

Isovaleric (Descriptors: Putrid, Cheesy, Sweaty, Old Hops)
– Aroma: Dirty feet, parmesan cheese (very strong)
– Flavor: Very sweaty and cheesy
– Possible Sources: Use of degraded or old hops, excessively high hopping rates.  Can be produced by brettanomyces.

Lactic (Descriptors: Sour milk, Yogurt)
– Aroma: Just like it says… sour milk
– Flavor: Hint of sour milk
– Possible Sources: Contamination by lactobacillus bacteria.

Mercaptan / Ethanethiol (Descriptors: Rotten Vegetables, Drains, Natural Gas)
– Aroma: None?
– Flavor: Perhaps a bit of rotten veg?  Could be contaminant from previous sample.
– Possible Sources: Formed by yeast during fermentation.  High concentrations can be caused by yeast autolysis (or cell death) during maturation of the beer.  Mercaptan is added to propane and natural gas to help detect leaks.
– It was noted from the host that he feels this could have been a bad sample as the aroma should have been more pronounced.

Metallic / Ferrous Sulfate (Descriptors: Inky, Blood, Tin)
– Aroma: Blood, metallic
– Flavor: Blood, pennies… I said PENNIES.
– Possible Sources: Contact with poor quality metal or pipework, can promote stale or oxidized flavors.

Papery / Trans-2-Nonenal (Descriptors: Cardboard, Oxidized)
– Aroma: Not much.
– Flavor: Cardboard, paper
– Possible Sources: Oxidation, usually occurring during storage of finished beer.  Packaging and temperature can have a big impact on this.  Can also be imparted during boil due to pH changes in the wort and the production of Trans-2-Nonenal.  The production of Trans-2-Nonenal is complex and not fully understood.

Spicy / Eugenol (Descriptors: Clove, Allspice)
– Aroma: Phenolic spices
– Flavor: Same.  Clove and allspice as described.
– Possible Sources: Produced during the aging of beers as phenolic compounds.  Desirable in certain Belgian styles but undesirable in others, such as pale lagers.

Vanilla / Vanillin (Descriptors: Ice Cream, Custard, Cream Soda)
– Aroma: Like opening a cream soda
– Flavor: Like drinking a cream soda
– Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy
– Possible Sources: Produced by the breakdown of barley cell wall materials or phenolic flavor components during aging.

I really enjoyed this seminar and feel like I learned a lot.  I met some other great brewers and a few of us went out for dinner and beers and more tech talk after the seminar.  I highly recommend any brewer or beer enthusiast to take this course if you have a chance.

Brewed and Bottled – Rainy Day IPA

This weekend we bottled up our Rainy Day IPA.  It’s a very sessionable at 4.0% ABV and not too hard on the palate at 42 IBU.  This is Brian’s recipe and was based on a few clone recipes of Founder’s All Day IPA.   The recipe included Maris Otter, Caramel and Rye malt along with Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops.  Based on the samples we tried at bottling this should be a great beer.

Rainy Day IPA

Rainy Day IPA

We brewed this one on 12/28/13, our last beer of 2013.  The weather didn’t want to cooperate with us and it was cold and rainy and windy, all around crappy.  We had to set up a tent/awning to keep the rain out of our boil kettle and heaters cranking to keep us from freezing to death, OK… maybe 40°F wouldn’t freeze us to death but we live in the South so anything below 50° is freezing as far as we’re concerned.  Considering how nature was being such a mother the brew day went pretty well overall.

We also got to try out some new gear for this brew day.  We replaced the braided hose in our MLT with a bazooka screen and we got a pH meter that we used for the first time.  I won’t go into a bunch about pH meters as there’s plenty of reading out there if you choose, but we purchased the Oakton Eco Testr pH 2 and we have been happy with it so far.  It has an overall 4 star review and the price was $47.43 when we ordered it.  After we use it a bit more I’ll probably do a more detailed ‘review’ of it.

Capped and Cased

Capped and Cased

There are pros and cons to adding new gear to your brewhouse.  Improvements are always nice but anything you add to the equipment will change the results of your brew, hopefully for the better, but you still have to adjust for the changes made.  As an example, the bazooka screen flowed much quicker when we were lautering and sparging, we had to keep an eye on the flow and adjust so we didn’t move too quickly, I think this may have cost us a couple points of gravity but we know now for next time.  Using the pH meter I found the pH of our water out of the tap is 8.8, normal range is 7.0 – 8.5 so it’s a bit on the hard side.  I haven’t looked yet to see if I need to make any tweaks there however the mash pH was 5.4 so we fell within the acceptable range.

Everything else went smoothly.  We kept this in primary at 62°F for 2 weeks the dry-hopped for a week, cold-crashing it the last couple days before bottling.   I’m really stoked to try this one and with the lower ABV it should be ready fairly quickly.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and it will rain here in a couple weeks so I can try it out in its intended environment.

Here’s a little data porn for those that like this stuff.  I chart out the fermentation temps and then mark the low and high points during primary fermentation and any anomalies.  We use an STC-1000 temp controller on our fermentation chamber and, as you can see on the chart, it kept us within +/-  0.52°F for the whole two week fermentation.  That’s pretty solid control.

Click the chart to view that sucker full size.

Rainy Day IPA - Fermentation Chart

Rainy Day IPA – Fermentation Chart

The Beer Exchange – Web app for beer trading

BEXShareImage1

Just thought I’d share this info on a cool sounding site that’s coming up.  If you’re a beer trader it sounds like one to check out.  Stay tuned for an update on our Rainy Day IPA, we’ve got it dry-hopping now and we’ll be bottling it Saturday.

A little info from the site’s creator:

Hey everyone. I just wanted to drop in and let you all know I’m working on launching a web application dedicated to craft beer trading called The Beer Exchange. It comes complete with custom designed ISO:FT lists, partner matching, trade proposal and management system, user reputation system and more. We’re getting ready to launch the beta version and wanted the Redditors to know the sign up is free and open to anyone right now.

http://www.TheBeerExchange.io

If you want to sign up please do, and if you’re interested in helping to direct feature production or spread the word please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or post in the comments. I’ve been working on this for a while and have a good idea of what I want to be able to do in the app, but I would love to hear some of your pain points as well.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?

Chemistry of Beer – Free online course offered by OU.

Chemistry of Beer main page

I’m posting this a bit late but it’s an open course so you can join anytime.  This is a full, 16 week course for the Chemistry of Beer offered by OU.  It will covered some advanced chemistry however the professor has said the course was designed with the assumption that many people taking it may have a limited chemistry knowledge.

If you’re chemistry isn’t up to par but you’d still like to take the course here are a few suggested (FREE) resources others have compiled to brush up on your knowledge.

I hope this course isn’t over my head!  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to get very technical with chemistry.  It does sound like the professor realizes he may have a lot of people in the course that are basic homebrewers with limited knowledge so hopefully we’ll be good to go.

Look at my awesome beer label.

A couple weeks ago we brewed a pseudo-clone of Founder’s All Day IPA.  You know how movies that are total bullshit will say something like, “inspired by actual events.”?  Well that’s what this beer is, except for the bullshit part… we hope.  We still need to dry hop it but I took gravity today and we’re done fermenting and we nailed a very sessionable 4.0% ABV with this one.  It smells great and it tastes awesome, I can’t wait to try it after dry hopping, carbing, etc.  This was Brian’s recipe, and since his last creation ended up being a soy sauce IPA I’m pretty glad to see this one seems to be coming along nicely.

But this post isn’t about the beer, it’s about the label.  Which is awesome.  Brian and collaborate on the labels and both of us throw in ideas and I usually do the photoshopping.  Sometimes we have similar ideas, and sometimes we don’t.  This time we were 180° apart.  I was thinking of a simple shot of an IPA glass on a table with the view looking out through a rainy window pane… because something like that is in line with my Photoshop abilities.  But no, not Brian, he’s all like, “I think we (he meant me) need to do something like this (insert Singin’ In The Rain movie poster) for our label.  Maybe replace the heads with hop cones?”  OK, Brian… fine…. I’ll give it a shot.  I thought I was going to get off easy with a stupid beer in a window, pfft.

But I have to say, I like the results.  That was a pretty good idea he had there – and it helped me to continue to develop my Photoshop skillz.  It’s not perfect, but it is pretty sweet.  We’ll post more info on Rainy Day IPA when it’s done, I may have to wait for a rainy day to try one.

Singin' in the Rainy Day IPA

Singin’ in the Rainy Day IPA

And for comparison, the original movie poster…

Singin' in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain

2013 Brew Year in Review

The Christmas paper has been cleaned up, the hangovers are clearing and we’re ready to roll into an amazing 2014.

2013 was a really big year for us at Mostly Harmless, as it was our first year brewing.  We jumped in with both feet and in a few cases forgot to check the depth of the water before doing so.  All in all we’ve learned an unbelievable amount about brewing, we’ve brewed and shared some great beers and we’ve made some new friends.  I’d say that makes for a successful year.  Here’s a review of what we accomplished last year.

In April 2013 we brewed our first batches of beer.  A stout that we converted from a Mr. Beer kit and an extract ESB batch.  The stout was not very good and the ESB was tasty but lighter than we expected.  Fast forward a few months and we now have a 15 & 6 gallon boil kettle, MLT, countless carboys, wort chiller, Thermapen, fermentation chamber, keezer, hydrometers and refractometers, pH meter and a host of other gadgets and gizmos.  We’ve gone from a simple extract batch to all-grain in 8 months time.  We’ve brewed 15 batches of beer totalling 70 gallons, 2 batches of wine totalling 8 gallons and 6 batches of mead totalling 14 gallons (a few 1 gallon batches here).

We reformulated our stout that was not very good and ended up brewing one of the better stouts I’ve had, of course we’re out of it now so we need to brew more.  We accidentally discovered we make really good mead, so we’ve put some additional efforts into that.  We brewed up a couple batches of quick wine that was quite popular at parties and we made a SMaSH brew dedicated to a friend that got us a bit of exposure on Twitter and even had people offering to buy our beer, they were quite disappointed when we said we were homebrewers and couldn’t do that.

2014 should be a big year for us.  We’ve got our last brew of 2013 in primary now and we’ve got a saison on deck for out next brew.  We also plan to brew another batch of our stout soon and hope we can recreate what we did last time.

We still have plenty to learn but we’re having a great time getting it all figured out, I can’t wait to see where we are at this time next year!  Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s a quick look at what we accomplished in 2013.