Saturday, October 1, 2011

First brew of fall

Ahhh... fall at last! This has been a particularly brutal summer here in Houston. A month of temperatures in the 100's, and little to no rain to speak of for most of the year. A "cool" front moved through on Friday night - I never thought mid-to-upper 80's would feel so good! Especially nice was that it went into the 50's last night. So we opened all the windows in the house. Nothing like waking up on a crisp fall day. Almost enough to make me forget I still live in Houston...

So, I thought I'd take advantage of the weather and have a brew day. My wife and I were thinking that a nice idea for Christmas presents this year might be a mix-pack of homebrews I've been working on. So far, we've got the Wicked Widow Pumpkin Porter, a Chocolate Coffee Breakfast Stout, an Oatmeal Stout, and possibly the Lagunitas IPA (if there's any left!). So, I was thinking it might be nice to round out with a pale ale, and/or another IPA. I'd really like another crack at my favorite IPA recipie, the DFH 60min IPA clone. As luck would have it, Simcoe is back in stock at my LHBS! Unfortunately, they didn't have any Nottingham yeast, so Ray sold me some Safale US-05 (American Ale) dry yeast, which he said was probably the closest thing. I've been trying to do starters now for all my beers, but the conventional wisdom on these dry yeasts are that you don't need to make a starter for them, unless it's a pretty high starting gravity (like 1.060 or 1.070). The DFH 60min IPA has a starting gravity of 1.072, which means I probably should do some sort of starter. So, I had an idea - why not make a smaller beer (something with an OG in the 1.040 - 1.050 range) and then pitch the IPA on top of that yeast cake when the small beer is done? That will save me the cost of a second pack of yeast, plus I've always wanted to try re-using yeast. Now I just have to decide whether I want to simply pitch the 2nd beer right onto the yeast cake, or "wash" the yeast, which is a process of separating the yeast from the trub and "canning" it for later use. I've got a couple weeks to think about it...

So, that brings us to today. I've settled on an IPA recipe I found on Homebrewtalk that uses US-05 yeast. The whole hop bill is Cascade, so that should be fun - I'll get a really good idea of what the Cascade flavor profile is like. Right now, I'm sitting in my open garage. It's about 80 degrees (wouldn't even need to have my fan blowing on me if it weren't for the mosquitoes...). I've got a glass of Rogue Dead Guy in my hand, and my grains are mashing with about 12 minutes left on the timer. Life is good...

Yooper's Pale Ale
All Grain
Batch size: 5 gal
Estimated O.G.: 1.058
Estimated color: 12 SRM
Estimated IBU: 43.6
Efficiency: 65%

5 lbs 13.9oz Pale Malt, Marris Otter (3.0 SRM)
3 lbs 8.5oz Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)
1 lb 14.1oz Munich Malt (20 SRM)
7.5oz Caramel/Crystal Malt (60 SRM)
7.5oz Caramel/Crystal Malt (20 SRM)
0.85 oz Cascade Hops (60 min)
0.64 oz Cascade Hops (30 min)
0.85 oz Cascade Hops (10 min)
0.43 oz Cascade Hops (5 min)
0.5 oz Cascade Hops (0 min)
1.0 oz Cascade Hops (dry hop 7 days)
0.5 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast

Monday, September 5, 2011

Breakfast Stout clone

Recipe: Breakfast Stout clone
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 7.22 gal
Bottling Volume: 4.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.079 SG
Estimated Color: 59.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 60.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type %/IBU
13 lbs 3.2 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 76.2 %
1 lbs 6.1 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 8.0 %
1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 5.8 %
12.0 oz Roasted Barley (450.0 SRM) Grain 4.3 %
9.0 oz Black (Patent) Malt (530.0 SRM) Grain 3.2 %
7.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 2.5 %
1.26 oz Nugget [13.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 53.3 IBUs
0.57 oz Willamette [4.80 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 6.7 IBUs
0.50 oz Willamette [4.80 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 0.0 IBUs
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins) Other -
0.50 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining -
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 Yeast -
4.00 oz ground Sumatran coffee (Secondary 0.0 mi Flavor -
2.50 oz dark, bittersweet baker's chocolate (Boi Flavor -
1.50 oz unsweetened chocolate baking nibs (Boil Flavor -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 17 lbs 5.3 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 23.66 qt of water at 166.1 F 155.0 F 45 min

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wicked Widow Pumpkin Porter

Before moving to Houston 3 years ago, my wife and I lived in Tempe, Arizona, while we were in grad school at ASU. For a few years, we had the privilege of living within walking distance of 4Peaks Brewery, and I must say, we spent quite a bit of time there. I've never been much for "flavored" beers, but 4 Peaks made a seasonal pumpkin beer that was A-mazing. I heard through the inter-webs that the recipie on the Brewer's Connection site was pretty close, so I decided to start with that. I wanted to do it all-grain, so first I converted the extract to 2-row pale malt. Then, since I'm doing it all-grain, I decided to mash the pumpkin instead of adding it to the boil. Actually, I first baked the pumpkin in a 9x9 baking dish at 350 deg for 1 hour to caramelize it a little, then mixed it in with the grain bill. Finally, I added some rice hulls to the mash to avoid a stuck sparge with all that sticky pumpkin. The final recipe I came up with is below. The name "Wicked Widow" was a friend's suggestion; When I racked the beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket, I found a small dead spider at the bottom of the fermenter (I brew outside, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised...)!

Recipe: Wicked Widow Pumpkin Porter
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated Color: 30.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type %/IBU
8.8 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 4.4 %
10.4 oz Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 5.2 %
8.8 oz Special Roast (50.0 SRM) Grain 4.4 %
6.7 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 90L (90.0 SRM) Grain 3.4 %
4.5 oz Carafa II (412.0 SRM) Grain 2.2 %
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 60.0 Hop 19.2 IBUs
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] - Boil 5.0 min Hop 3.4 IBUs
0.17 oz Burton Water Salts (Mash 60.0 mins) Water Agent -
0.25 tsp Ground Clove (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice -
0.25 tsp Ground Ginger (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice -
0.75 tsp Cinnamon (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice -
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Fining -
22.00 oz Libby's Pumpkin (Boil 5.0 mins) Flavor -
1.0 pkg London Ale (Wyeast Labs #1028) [125.00 m Yeast -
8 lbs 1.3 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 64.5 %
1 lbs Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 8.0 %
1 lbs Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 8.0 %

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 12 lbs 8.5 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 17.71 qt of water at 164.6 F 154.0 F 60 min

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lagunitas IPA clone

Recipe: Lagunitas IPA clone
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 7.22 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 6.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 46.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt Name Type %/IBU
11 lbs 5.3 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 92.6 %
6.4 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 3.3 %
4.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 2.5 %
3.2 oz Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 1.6 %
0.91 oz Horizon [9.10 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 30.1 IBUs
0.75 oz Cascade [6.00 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 12.6 IBUs
2.63 oz Cascade [6.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 0.0 IBUs
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Fining -
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 Yeast -
0.26 oz Tettnang [4.80 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 3.5 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 12 lbs 3.7 oz
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 17.29 qt of water at 168.6 F 154.0 F 60 min
Also made an awesome pizza from scratch tonight. Mmmm...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oatmeal Stout

OK, just finished up building my first Mash Liquor Tun (MLT), so this will be my first all-grain batch. When making beer from grain, you need to mix water into the grain, and bring it up to a specific temperature which activates enzymes that convert the starches in the grains into the sugar that the yeast will eat. This is commonly done in one of two ways: (1) direct fire, in which the grain and water are put in a pot over a heat source (gas burner or something similar) to maintain the temperature, and (2) some sort of cooler into which the grain and hot water are added, and the lid closed to maintain the temperature. I went with the second option since it is generally cheaper. My first all grain is going to be an oatmeal stout.

Recipe: Yooper's Oatmeal Stout
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.69 gal
Bottling Volume: 4.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 35.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 39.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type %/IBU
7 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 63.6 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 9.1 %
12.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 6.8 %
10.1 oz Chocolate Malt (200.0 SRM) Grain 5.7 %
8.0 oz Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM) Grain 4.5 %
8.0 oz Black Barley (Stout) (500.0 SRM) Grain 4.5 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 4.5 %
2.1 oz Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 1.2 %
2.00 oz Willamette [5.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 39.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg British Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1335) [124. Yeast -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 0.2 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 22.45 qt of water at 167.4 F 156.0 F 45 min

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New Immersion Chiller

So, given the oppressive heat here, and the difficulty I've been having chilling my wort post-boil, I thought it might be time to build a new immersion chiller. Went to Home Depot and bought 50' of copper pipe. Carefully wrapped it around a plastic bucket. Then attached some vinyl tubing with some hose clamps and some hose adapters on the ends. I think it turned out pretty good!

Mash Tun Build

I built the MLT from a 10 gal Home Depot beverage cooler, a cooler bulkhead kit with a stainless steel ballvalve, and a stainless steel braided hose to filter the wort, from I drilled some holes in the lid and filled it with great-stuff expanding foam to make it more insulative.

Cheap Mash Paddle

Getting ready to make my move to all-grain, and thought I'd better make a mash paddle. Fortunately, I found just the thing at Academy Sports; it's a wooden crawfish paddle. I cut a few holes in it with a hole saw and sanded it down nice and smooth. I'd eventually like to make something a little nicer, but this should get the job done just fine for now. While I was there, I also picked up a propane fryer stand so I can boil 5+ gallons of wort at one time!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Worst. Brew. Day. Ever

Ok, so I just thought I'd share my experience from last night. I have 2 young daughters (3 yrs old and 11 mos old) so brewing during the daytime is generally difficult. I've had the ingredients for Yooper's DFH 60 min IPA clone and have been itching to brew it for a while now.

This weekend was my birthday and father's day, so I figured good a time as any. Got started as soon as the kids were asleep (8:30-ish). Made a few changes in this batch - LHBS was out of simcoe, so at their suggestion I substituted falconer's flight. Recently bought a 15 gal boil kettle, so I had to scale recipe from 2.5 gal to full volume boil. Also, fitted the hand-me-down immersion chiller w/ vinyl hose and lawn hose adapters. Since I live in TX and tap water is 80 deg or more, I also bought a big steel tub for an ice bath.

Boil went smoothly, then all hell broke loose. Hose popped off chiller, running hose water into wort. While putting ice in tub, my leg brushed the propane burner frame giving me a 2nd deg burn. Couldn't get down below 100 deg after all the ice melted, so I racked it to fermenter, holding the siphon hose w/ a couple ice packs in my hands. Got it down to 80 this way. Pitched yeast around 3am this morning. Discovered wort was scorched as it took half an hour to scrub black s#!t off bottom of new kettle. Put it in my newly constructed fermentation chamber, only to discover that the peltier I used was way undersized, so now it's been fermenting at over 89 deg for about 10 hrs. I think this may qualify as my worst brew day...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peltier Thermoelectric Fermentation Chamber

OK, so this will be my first equipment build. Houston stays pretty warm during the summer months, so if I'm going to have any success brewing in the summer, I'm gonna need some way to keep my brew cool. I picked up a cheap mini-fridge on craigslist. The plan was to carefully remove the compressor and cooling lines, and install them in a larger, insulated box. But, when I got it home, I discovered that it is not your standard cooling system; this unit has what is called a peltier device. Basically, there is no compressor, and no coolant. There is just a metal plate which, when a current is applied to it, gets cold on one side of the plate, and hot on the other. The idea is to build an insulated box, and mount the peltier on the back wall of it, with some fans to move the cold air around. I'm sizing the chamber so that it could hold up to 3 carboys at one time, so that I could have one active brew, and a couple aging.
In this picture, you can see the main components removed from the fridge. The peltier is the part in the middle that looks like a big heat-sink with a computer fan attached. below that is a circuit board to control it. Top left are the temperature control knob and door light switch, and on the right is a circulation fan for the inside.

OK, now that the goods are removed from the fridge, it's time to build the new box. I built the frame out of 2x2s and 1x2s.
This is a shot from the front - the small boxed-in area in the back is where the peltier will go, as you can see in the next picture.

I had to rig up some sort of drain to deal with condensation, since water dripping down the inside would eventually ruin the particleboard interior. So, I cut a piece of pvc pipe in half to catch the condensation, and ran a small vinyl drain line through a hole in the pvc to a drain pan on the back of the chamber.

The circulation fan attaches in front of the cold-side of the peltier to keep air moving over it, and cooling the air inside the fermentation chamber. The temperature control knob will be attached to the back wall of the chamber, left of the fan. It doesn't need to be terribly accessible, since it will always be set to maximum cold, and the temperature will be controlled by an external controller.

Circulation fan mounted in front of peltier.  You can see the heavy-duty wires running from the external temperature control device to the back of the unit, where it will be wired to a standard outlet.
External temperature controller.

The external controller affords much greater precision and accuracy in controlling the temperature, and also allows me to use both heat and cooling, depending on the ambient temperature. Installing a heater, whether it's a brew-belt, or warming blanket, will be as simple as plugging it into the second outlet.

Top outlet for cold, bottom for hot.

Each wall of the box is insulated with 2 layers of 1" thick, aluminized rigid foam insulation board. I believe it was R5. The interior was then lined with plasticized masonite, in the hopes it would be somewhat moisture resistant. I caulked all of the joints, and put a gasket around the door opening.

The light switch is mounted just inside the door opening, and I attached a paddle to the door to depress the switch when the door is closed.

The temperature probe is at the end of a long wire, which I can tape to the side of a carboy to get an accurate read of the beer temperature.

I screwed the cover from the back of the mini-fridge onto the back to cover the circuit board and fan. Finally, I put some casters on the bottom, and a couple pull-latches to keep the door closed tight.

7/6/13 update: The peltier used to cool this chamber turned out to be a bit under-powered.  When I tried to use it in my garage in the summer, I had to put frozen bottles of water inside to help try to keep it cool.  I've decided I'm going to rebuild this using a conventional compressor and coil type unit.  For now, I've just attached my temperature controller to an old minifridge.  Will post more on this when I start my new build.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Year Hops!

So, I ordered some hops from I decided to go with Cascade since from what I've read, it seems to be pretty good at handling warmer climates. I received the rhyzome (it looks like a small piece of root) in the mail, along with some twine and a book called The Homebrewer's Garden, which has some great information on how to plant and grow hops, among other herbs you can use in beer. My wife picked up a half-whiskey barrel to plant them in, so I put a 6 foot stake in it with some twine to train the hop vines up. The first year, they aren't supposed to produce, or even grow, that much - they're mostly establishing their roots. Next year, I plan on transplanting them into the back yard.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New 15 Gallon Brew Kettle!

My new, 15 gallon, stainless steel brew kettle from has arrived!  I can't wait to break it in!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Second Batch - Dogfish Head 60 min IPA clone

OK, so I haven't had an update in a while.  I tried the first bottle of my first batch at around 10 days.  Frankly, it was pretty good!  Not amazing, but good.  As the weeks have gone by, the carbonation seems to have gotten better.  It doesn't seem to form a great head, but I think it's getting better with age.

So, now on to batch #2.  A friend is having a crawfish boil at the end of March, and I decided it would be good to have an IPA to bring.  So, I looked around on and found a Dogfish Head 60 min IPA clone.  It's a little more advanced than my first, all-extract, batch.  The basic flow was like this: steep a pound of malt grain in a grain bag in hot water for 20 min.  Discard the grain, and add malt extract.  Bring to boil and add several types of hops continuously for 60 min.  Cool the wort, add to fermenter, and pitch yeast.  So, we decided we would brew on Saturday.  Headed down to my LHBS only to find he had everything but a particular brand of hops called Simcoe, for which there is really no good alternative.  So, we packed up the kids and took a roadtrip down to De Falco's on the other side of Houston. Of course, in order to justify driving an hour each way for 2 oz. of hops, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the Houston zoo...

OK, so back to the house, stopped at Rudy's for dinner, put the kids in bed, and now it 9:00 - brew time at last? Unfortunately, no.  The recipe I had stated a 2.5 gal boil.  I therefore figured my 3 gal pot would be sufficient.  Unfortunately, it's 2.5 gal before adding the almost 10 lbs of extract!  So, off to the local grocery store to pick up an $18, 36qt aluminum pot made for steaming tamales.  Yeah, it's a little flimsy but, hey, whatever gets the job done...

So, got the pot, got home, and unfortunately discovered that our glasstop electric stove is not really up to the task of boiling 2.5 gal of water + 10 lbs of extract in a 36qt pot.  Go figure.  It got there eventually.  Boiling/hopping the wart was fun.  It didn't take long for the whole house to smell hoppy...

After boiling for an hour, you're supposed to cool the wort as rapidly as possible.  Ideally this would be done with a wort chiller.  But I don't have one of those, so I was left trying to cool it in my sink filled with icewater.  Only, the ice maker in the fridge decided to stop working.  Oy vey.

After getting the wort down to 75-80 deg, and rehydrating the yeast in warm water, I poured the wort through a strainer into the fermenter and shook it up to aerate it.  Topped it up to 5 gal with bottled water, and pitched the yeast around 2:00 am.  Total brewing time?  About 4 hours.  Yikes.  Looks like it's about time to invest in a propane burner, a wort chiller, and a "real" brew pot.

I took a gravity reading right before pitching the yeast, and it read 1.022 SG.  This was a little worrysome, as it was supposed to be more like 1.070 SG.  The specific gravity is a measure of how much "stuff" there is dissolved in the water, and we assume it to be mostly sugar.  By measuring the gravity before and after, you can estimate how much sugar the yeast have eaten, and therefore estimate the alcohol content.  I'm not sure why my reading was so low, but my best guess is that I didn't mix up the wort and added water enough, and so only sampled the water on top.  I don't see how you can add 10 lbs of sugar to 5 gal of water and not increase the specific gravity...  At any rate, by 1:30 this afternoon the airlock was bubbling.  So, I don't think the yeast are having any trouble finding food!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

All bottled up!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Bottling Day!

Bottling day has finally arrived!  I stopped by my lhbs (local home brew supply) and picked up a few items to make my life easier: a spring-valve bottling wand, a vinator, a brew hauler carboy sling, and some bottles.  The bottling wand is a length of hard plastic tube with a spring valve at the end.  Once you get the siphon going, you pinch it closed with a plastic valve and attach the wand on the end of the hose.  Then, all you need to do is insert the end of the wand in the bottle and press it against the bottom of the bottle to begin the flow of beer.  When the bottle is filled, just lift up on the wand and the flow stops!  Ingenious.  The vinator is a device for sanitizing bottles.  It consists of a small dish filled with sanitizer, with a thin tube mounted vertically in the middle.  You turn the bottle upside-down, insert the tube into the neck of the bottle, and press down.  This pumps sanitizer up into the bottle where it coats the inside and then drains out.  Again, ingenious.  Finally, I needed to buy some bottles (my plan was to empty enough the old-fashioned way, but I didn't get nearly enough in time).  Fortunately, my lhbs was selling a used case of 12 20-oz amber bottles with ceramic ez-tops (like the Gorolsh bottles) for $3!  So, I only had to buy one case of 12 bottles to supplement.

Bottling turned out to be pretty easy, but prepping and sanitizing the bottles was someone time-consuming.  First, I soaked them all in water with a scoop of oxyclean overnight to remove any labels and gunk.  Then, I brushed the inside of each one with a bottle brush and rinsed them 3 times.  From there, I put them all in the dishwasher and ran it on "rinse only".  Finally, I sanitized them all with the vinator, and put them all back in the dishwasher rack to drain until bottling time.

The beer was in the 5 gal carboy, and needed to be primed before bottling.  Priming consists of adding a little bit of sugar to the beer just before bottling.  This re-activates the yeast in the bottle.  The yeast eat the sugar and give off CO2.  The CO2 fills the head space in the bottle, and then forces itself into the beer as the pressure in the bottle builds, carbonating the beer - a process known as "bottle conditioning".  So, I dissolved 4 oz. of corn sugar in 2 cups of boiling water on the stove.  I poured the sugar water into a 5 gal bucket, and then siphoned the beer from the carboy into the bucket.  From there, it was a simple matter of siphoning the beer into the bottles using the spring-valve bottling wand.  Then cap, and viola!  The beer is bottled!  It is supposed to sit somewhere warm (~65-70 deg F) and dark, and relatively easy to clean in case a bottle explodes from the built-up pressure.  So, for now the cases are sitting in a plastic tub in the upstairs bathtub.  Now I just have to wait 3 more weeks...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Racked Out

I racked the beer to a 5 gallon glass carboy for secondary fermentation.  I went back and forth on this.  Some time on revealed that many home brewers have moved away from two-stage fermentation.  The basic idea is this: after primary fermentation has finished, there is a layer of sediment (called trub) that settles to the bottom of the fermenter.  Conventional thinking was that letting the beer stay in contact with the trub for too long would result in off-flavors, and cloudy beer.  So, by transferring (racking) the beer into a second container, you get it off the trub, and get a clearer beer.  The thing is, many brewers now say that letting the beer stay in contact with the trub for a few weeks may actually help the flavor, and that clarity isn't really adversely affected by it.

Well, I decided to go ahead and do it for a few reasons.  For one, I thought it would be good practice for how to siphon, etc.  Secondly, I was just plain anxious to see (and taste!) my new beer!  But primarily I thought it would be helpful when it comes to priming and bottling.  Priming the beer involves the addition of sugars right before bottling, allowing some fermentation to occur inside the bottles (referred to as "bottle conditioning") and resulting in carbonation of the beer.  In order to do this, my options were to a.) add the priming sugar directly to the primary fermenter, potentially stirring up the trub into the beer, b.) adding the priming sugar to the carboy, requiring a funnel, or c.) rack the beer into the carboy for secondary fermentation, and then rack it back into the bucket with the priming sugar.

But really, I just wanted to taste my beer.  :-)  And I have to say, it's pretty good!  I should be able to bottle it next week.  Another couple weeks in the bottles and I'll have my first finished beer!