Posted tagged ‘FCF’

Day 463

December 12, 2012

Felt a bit better today–no fever, just an annoying cough, which was a good thing since I had to get up before the crack of dawn to go online and choose my timetable for second semester.Then off to college for the last Tuesday of the semester.

We wrapped up History of Rock & Roll by asking the question “Is rock & roll dead?” Certainly the patient’s symptoms are not good: the top touring acts are currently the Rolling Stones, the Who, AC/DC and other bands from the 60s and 70s. Classic rock radio stations are booming. And the main audience for classic rock–the Baby Boomers–are in their 50s and 60s. What happens when the Boomers turn off the radio? Where is the next generation of rock going to come from, and what will it sound like? Is rock in its terminal phase? Or will it cheat death and revive, as it has done several times in the past?

At the end of the class, we received our take-home final exam–we have three days to complete what looks to be a couple of hours of work.

In Business Ethics, our final exam isn’t until tomorrow, so it was the last class of one-on-one debates. Prof. Perry did share with us that he would be comparing the marks from our mid-term exam and our final exam and only taking the higher of the two. Therefore, if we were happy with our mid-term mark, we can skip tomorrow’s 8:30 a.m. exam. Since I was very pleased with my mid-term exam mark, I think at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning I will be enjoying a second cup of coffee, possibly in my pyjamas.

On to FCF, where we did have a final exam. It was my favourite type, rigourous but fair, covering all topics in the class, the percentage of marks and time on the exam roughly corresponding to the percentage of time we had spent on the topic in class. If you had been paying attention in class, and had reviewed the previous tests and exams, it was pretty straightforward, and was probably a good indicator of how well you undestood the various concepts.

One more exam tomorrow, so off to study study study.


Day 456

December 4, 2012

We are nearing the end of the story in History of Rock & Roll.  It’s the 1990s, and alt rock has hit the stage. But what happens when alt achieves the things that differentiates it from mainstream, namely radio play and record sales? Is it alt rock any more, or just another case of “sell out”?

And what about rap music? Has it reached its zenith? The intriguing concept was put to us that all rock music goes through three stages:

  1. Pioneer
  2. Perfecter
  3. Parasite (or Pretender, if you prefer)

So Carl Perkins was a pioneer, the Beatles perfected the form, and Electric Light Orchestra lived off of pseudo-Beatles music for most of the 70s. Go ahead, take your favourite age of rock music and fill in the three blanks. Rap would appear to be no exception to the Rule of the 3 Ps, so will it continue to thrive, or will it be replaced by something else that rediscovers innovation? That, of course, raised another interesting question: can any rock band survive success?

On to Business Ethics: more one-on-one debates.

In FCF, the final class before next week’s exam was all review. Just a quick skim of all the things we have covered took two hours.

And then the college threw a party for the beer, wine and food students. Free food! Yay! Free beer! Bigger yay! (But it was only two small glasses of beer: Smaller yay!)

Day 449

November 28, 2012

Commuting 65 km (40 mi) to the college has its disadvantages, of course: weather and road conditions, early mornings, late evenings… and if a class is cancelled, you can’t just head back home, watch some TV and then return to campus for your next class. Which is what happened yesterday morning–I arrived at 8:30 am to discover that our Brewhouse Calculations class had been cancelled due to teacher illness. Rather than waiting six hours until History of Beer, I decided to drive home and stay there to work on outstanding papers and projects for the rest of the day. So yes, I skipped class for the first time since high school. (But instead of hanging out at the Bar-Head Tavern like I might have done in high school, I actually got a lot of work done. <Sigh> Irresponsible youth was a lot more fun, I must say.)

Today, in History of Rock & Roll it was on to the terrible Eighties–the “Me Decade” of musical drivel that foisted Phil Collins, Madonna, Milli Vanilli and rap music on us. Oh yes, there were a few bright spots, such as AC/DC’s Back in Black, Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. But mainly it was just a bad time for rock. (The premiere of MTV didn’t help either–since they were in desperate need of music videos in the early days, a lot of bad bands with bad hair (such as A Flock of Seagulls) got a lot of airplay.)

On to Business Ethics for Round 2 of student-versus-student debate.

Beer cocktail

Our beer cocktail. Tune in next week for the recipe.

In between classes, it was time for more gin tasting as my partner and I strove to find a new recipe for a beer cocktail. This week, we came up with the perfect formulation that also looks very cool. Beer cocktail presentation day in Sensory Evaluation is next Wednesday, so I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet regarding the recipe, but I will give you a sneak peek.

On to FCF, where we finished up the semester with a look at waste management strategies, and an in-depth look at brewing with Brettanomyces  [pronounced breh-TAN-no-MY-sees], a rogue yeast that for most of the 20th century was greatly feared and loathed by all brewmasters.

There were several reasons for this emnity. Firstly, unlike your friendly neighbourhood Saccharomyces brewing yeasts, it is able to eat up all sugars, no matter how large or long the glucose chain. (Saccharomyces chokes on anything larger than maltotriose, a short string of three glucose molecules.) This means a beer infected with Brett becomes a very dry beer with a thin mouthfeel, because the Brett has eaten all the sugars, even the long chain sugars that contribute to fuller mouthfeel. The alcohol content can also climb, since Brett is able to convert all sugars into CO2 and alcohol.

Secondly, Brett will throw odd flavours into the beer: depending on which strain of Brett, this could be sourness, strong fruity esters, and what can only be charitably be described as barnyard aromas.

Once Brett has entered your brewery, he almost never leaves without a fight. Brett is extremely hardy, and extremely difficult to eradicate.

Lastly, Brett is not domesticated like Saccharomyces, so when you let it off its leash, you are never sure what it is going to do. Even the flavours and esters it throws off can vary depending on the types of sugar it digests.

Nevertheless, more and more craft brewers are adding Brett to their beer, especially for bottle- or cask-conditioning, to give their beers more complexity. This is nothing new of course. For many years, Guinness added Brettanomyces A to Guinness to dry it out. For centuries, Belgian lambic brewers threw open their windows and invited Brett L into their beers for the resultant complex sourness, extreme dryness, higher alcohol and yes, barnyard aromas.

Don’t know if I’ll ever brew with Brett, but it is fascinating to see a part of the industry wholeheartedly embracing what the rest of the industry sees as the brewing equivalent of the cockroach.

Day 442

November 23, 2012

And now, sadly, History of Rock & Roll moves into the late seventies: disco, with its thumping 120-beats-per-minute bass line; disco’s angry nemesis, punk; and punk’s safe and sanitized version, New Wave.

In FCF, we looked at how dissolved oxygen negatively affects beer. There is always a small amount of oxygen in the headspace of a storage tank, keg or bottle. What I hadn’t realized before was how fast oxygen reacts with stuff inside beer, and how this instantaneous reaction then draws more oxygen into the beer.

Of course, good old Henry’s Law states that a gas in the headspace will dissolve into the beer until the partial pressure of the gas reaches equilibrium in both the headspace and the beer. But oxygen is highly reactive, so as soon as it enters beer, poof! it latches onto something, meaning that there is no more free oxygen in the beer. This invites more oxygen from the headspace to dissolve into the beer. That oxygen instantly binds to something, making room for more oxygen… and so on.

The really bad part is that when oxygen bonds to something, it is bonded for good–there is no practical way to remove the oxygen. Now this wouldn’t be a problem, except that oxygen messes with compounds that change the flavour of the beer, giving it a cardboard or papery taste.

Oxygen in beer is just bad news.

This segued into preservatives that were used in beers, and how they worked by mopping up free radical oxygen. (Not too many craft bewers use preservatives, but it’s always good to know about them.) This naturally (or artificially) led us to a quick overview of natural and artificial flavours.

Speaking of added flavours, apparently a Toronto bar would like to get a cask of Call of Brew-ty: Black Hops, the intensely hot and spicy smoked chipotle schwarzbier that had people crying with joy (okay, crying with pain) at Cask Days.

When I got the text from the brewery today, my first thought was, “Seriously?”


Day 435

November 13, 2012

We’re up to the early 1970s in History of Rock & Roll. Yep, bell bottom jeans, platform shoes, polyester leisure suits, big hair. How did the period 1970-75 produce so much good music (Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Steely Dan, Queen), so much bad clothing, and so much REALLY BAD music? (The Bay City Rollers, Tony Orlando & Dawn, and The Captain & Tennille, who some day will have to answer for inflicting “Muskrat Love” on the world.) But if the bad music was really so bad, how did it prosper?

Although I lived through this period, I didn’t think at the time about why the good music/bad music dichotomy had happened–it just happened. So it’s very interesting to sit in a class and hear the reasons about why. (However, there was no theory about what had caused the bad clothes. And I will  continue to deny that I ever wore them.)

My head filled with “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it was off to Business Ethics, where we argued the pros and cons of child labour. I was on the “Pro” side of the argument, and I am pleased to report that by the time our side was finished, child labour  not only seemed viable but indeed necessary for the economic vitality of our country.

All of this was to prime us for our next major in-class activity which starts next week: one-on-one debates. We have already been assigned a debate opponent, and our topic. In my case, I will be arguing that it is ethical for celebrities to endorse products that they don’t actually use or like.  Hrm, have to think about that one.

We had a couple of hours between classes, so I drank gin cocktails. Well, sort of. We have this project coming up in Sensory Evaluation where we have to present a beer cocktail to the class. My partner and I have an idea that mixing Belgian wit and gin will work, but the devil is in the details, so this afternoon we  tried mixing them together with varying amounts of other ingredients. Results were encouraging, but we still feel there’s room for improvement. More experimentation is obviously called for.

Following that, I had the strangest urge to have a nap in FCF. Huh. And it was such an interesting topic: centrifugation; that is, using a centrifuge to remove solids such as yeast or trub  from your wort or beer. These machines have many benefits compared to filters–high throughput, very efficient, little chance of clogging, no expensive or unhealthy filter media to buy and store, etc. However, because they are relatively expensive, they are largely unknown in the craft beer world. Large brewers who can afford them use them extensively for everything from recovering as much wort as possible from spent grains to removing all but the smallest particles from finished beer just before sterile filtering.

We also took a quick look at pasteurization systems. Again, these are usually not found in craft breweries, firstly because they are expensive, and also because many craft brewers believe that pasteurization alters the taste of the beer in unacceptable ways. Pasteurization isn’t meant to sterilize the beer–the temperatures involved would render the beer undrinkable–but only to kill most microorganisms and make any remaining almost unviable. Each minute the beer is raised to 60°C is rated as 1 Pasteur Unit (PU); brewers generally want to apply about 10-15 PUs to their beer, the exact amount depending on the brewer. How the heat is applied is also up to the brewer–a slow gentle rise in temperature and holding it just at 60°C for a longer period of time will affect the flavour one way, suddenly heating the beer to much higher than 60°C for a shorter period of time will affect the flavour very differently.

There are two main types of pasteurizers in breweries:

  • tunnel pasteurizers: the already bottled beer is sent into a rather large machine. As the bottles advance on a conveyor belt, they move under water nozzles that spray hot water until the beer’s temperature rises above 60°C; the bottles then pass under cooler sprays which quickly chill the bottles.
  • flash pasteurizers: the unbottled beer is sent through a steel tube. Heat, in the form of steam or hot water, is applied to the outside of the tube, instantly raising the beer’s temperature above 60°C as it passes by.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each system–the tunnel pasteurizer is the size of a room, the flash pasteurizer is the size of an office desk, etc.

Now, time to hunt up some more ingredients for our gin & wit cocktail.


Day 428

November 8, 2012

History of Rock & Roll was really far out, man. We had this assignment thing, man, where in groups of 3, we were expected to lay our head space alongside a band manager in 1968. What was the name of our band, what was its groove, its product, its look, its vibe? Then we had to fire one of the band members with a “Dear John” letter. Then we had to convince a promoter to book our band–whose name, btw, was The Blue Cosmic Alliance. Can you dig it? We had a groovy time. Outta sight. Got to split, check you on the flip side. Peace & Love, man. ☮

We returned to 2012 just in time for Business Ethics, where we discussed the ethical implications of pricing your product. What is a fair price? What is predatory pricing? Is price gouging ethical, or are you simply selling what you can?

In FCF, it was carbonation, Part Deux.

In today’s exciting installment, we learned that yeast converts 46 percent of sugar to CO2. Remember that number, we’re going to need it. Likewise, we learned that one litre of CO2 weighs 1.96 grams. While seemingly unimportant, this factoid allows us to do some calculations around the production of CO2, specifically how much sugar we need to add to a given volume of beer in order to carbonate our beer via a a secondary fermentation.

Step 1: Convert the desired volumes of CO2 to grams/L. (A volume of CO2 is exactly what it sounds like–the amount of CO2 at 20°C that would fill a given vessel with 1 atmosphere of pressure.)

The conversion formula is:

volumes per litre desired x 1.96 g/volume (see, I told you we’d use that number) = number of grams/L of CO2

So if we wanted to get a secondary fermentation to produce 2.6 volumes of CO2 in the beer:

2.6 volumes/L  x 1.96 g/vol = 5.069 g/L

Step 2: Determine how much CO2 is already in the beer from primary fermentation.

The temperature at which the beer originally fermented determines how much CO2 was dissolved into the beer during fermentation, so we simply have to look at a number on a chart of fermentation temperatures.  If we assume our beer fermented at 10°C, there is already 2.32 g/L of CO2 dissolved in our beer.

Step 3: How much sugar do we need to add to produce enough CO2?

This actually depends on the sugar’s fermentable factor–that is, how much of the sugar can actually be eaten by the yeast. If it’s all glucose, then it’s 100% fermentable. If it has more complex dextrins, only a certain percentage will be fermentable.

sugar x its fermentable factor = [(CO2 desired – how much CO2 is already dissolved in the beer) x volume of the beer]/0.46 (46% is how much sugar is turned to CO2, remember?)

Using the above example for a 18.9 L pin of beer, and assuming we are using a completely fermentable sugar:

sugar x 100% = [(5.069 g/L – 2.32 g/L) x 18.9 L]/0.46

= [2.749 g/L x 18.9L]/.46 = 112.95 g of sugar required

So, if we add 112.95 grams of sugar to our pin, it should be carbonated with 2.6 volumes of CO2 when we tap it.

One thing to note is that this method assumes the container is completely filled with beer, so no gas is wasted filling empty head space.

We also studied some calculations to determine how much fresh wort to hold back from fermentation in order to add it later and kick-start a secondary fermentation, and also a formula to determine at what point during fermentation you could simply cap a fermentation tank and allow the CO2 to build up and self-carbonate the beer to a desired level.

However, the formulae are long and my candle is burning to a nub…



Day 421

October 31, 2012

In History of Rock & Roll, we got all cosmic, groovy and beautiful. Yeah man, it was psychedelia, mind-altering substances and love beads as we covered the period 1965-1969. Dylan goes electric. Summer of Love. Hippies. Communes. Sit-ins. Protests. Hendrix lights his guitar on fire. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Woodstock. And then <sigh> the Hell’s Angels kill a spectator at Altamont as the Rolling Stones watch. In a flash, the era of flowers and free love is over. Within a year, Hendrix, Joplin, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison are all dead. The Beatles break up. And rock again teeters on the edge of oblivion. Next week, rock & roll tries to survive the 70s (and disco).

In FCF, it turns out that we are now finished with the “F” in FCF (Filtration) and have moved on to the “C”: Carbonation. Carbon dioxide is a rather stable gas at room temperature, but for commercial storage, we apply a great deal of pressure to it and force it into liquid form, which we can then store (under great pressure) in gas bottles or tanks. From there we can dispense it via a regulator to carbonate our beer.

(You can also drop the temperature or apply even more pressure–or both–and end up with solid CO2, better know as dry ice. But I digress…)

However, it turns out that as much as we like CO2 in our beer, the CO2 doesn’t like being there. It only dissolves into water because it forms carbonic acid with water molecules, and it will flee from the water if presented with an opportunity–a rise in temperature, for instance, or a drop in the pressure of the gas above the beer (such as when you pop the top on a bottle of beer).

CO2 is totally ruled by Henry’s Law: “At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.” In a nutshell, what this means is that if you hold beer under a head of pressurised CO2, some of the CO2 will dissolve into the beer. It seems that Mother Nature abhors having a lot of molecules of CO2 above the beer, and none in the beer, so over time, some of the molecules will migrate into the beer until equilibrium is reached.

However, simply putting the beer into a gas-tight tank, then pressurizing the head space above the beer with CO2 is slow. Really slow. It’s the “OMG This Is Taking So Long” method, since it can take hours or even days, depending on how much surface area of beer is exposed to the head space.

Then there is the slightly faster method of bubbling CO2 into the beer through a pipe. This may be a bit faster, since the bubbles do increase the amount of surface area touching the beer, allowing CO2 to dissolve a bit more quickly.

This method could be much faster though, if instead of making large bubbles, you produced eensy-teensy weensy bubbles, since overall, the smaller bubbles of a certain volume would have a much greater surface area than one large bubble of the same volume. That’s where a carbonation stone (or sintered stone) comes in. A carbonation stone is composed of sintered steel–steel that is fractured through and through with tiny passages and holes. If you force CO2 through sintered steel into beer, the gas emerges as a fine mist of bubbles–perfect for carbonating beer relatively quickly. The only problem is that you have to use extra pressure to force the gas through the sintered steel.

But if you’re really in a hurry, the way to go is a cross-flow system. This (expensive) carbonator has a large snake-like pipe that twists back and forth. Inside the pipe, running along the centre is a long tube of sintered steel. You pump the beer through the pipe in one direction, and push CO2 through the sintered steel tube in the other direction. The beer, as it travels through the pipe, is subject to a veritable blizzard of CO2 every centimetre of the way. By the time the beer has travelled the length of the pipe–a few seconds at most–it is fully carbonated. If you are very clever about it, you can even run your beer from the fermenter to the filter then through the carbonator and straight to the packaging line, obviating the need for a bright tank. However, getting the right flow of beer and counterflow of CO2 to produce exactly the right amount of carbonation can be tricky. In addition, if something happens and you have to bring the beer flow to a halt, even for a few seconds, the beer sitting in the carbonator gets over-carbonated and has to be dumped.

Next week, more fun with CO2, including exploding gummy bears.


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