Brew Day #53 – Porter

giphyIn honor of the Halloween weekend we decided to do something that scares most people, trying something new. We’ve never made a porter before and to be honest, we haven’t tasted to many we’ve liked but we felt it only right to man up and face our fears! After a “market research” session (sitting around and drinking different porters) we got some inspiration and dove in. We decided the first attempt should be simple so we can improve the beer over the next couple of attempts. Below you’ll find our receipt and we’ll try to provide an update on how it turned out in later post. Wish us luck and Happy Halloween!

Fun Fact: The porter was originally called a “Entire” or “Three Threads” beer because it was a combination of three beers mixed together at the bar/pub in England. The name porter was adopted because the mixture was known as a working class beer that was often consumed by street and river porters. To learn more about the history of porters check out “Porter: The Entire History” blog post by Anchor Brewing or “What the Hell is a Porter?” on BeerAdvocate.


Fermentable – Light LME, 2-Row, 60°L, Brown Malt, 120°L, Black Malt

Hops – Bitter: Northern Brewer

Estimated ABV: 4.25-4.75%

Estimated IBU: 16ish


Brew Day #30 – Peach Wheat Ale

PeachesToday we brewed a our first beer with fruit and we’re calling it a Peach Wheat Ale.  The inspiration for this beer was the anticipation of summer and creating something everyone, especially the ladies could enjoy during those sweltering summer days in Philly. We used our Pale Wheat receipt as a starting point but basically created a whole new grain bill and hop combination to work with the peaches. We decided to wait a few days to add our fruit in the hopes to get some great peach flavor, color and aroma, while still being able to get clarity with secondary & cold crashing. Here’s to summer and we’ll keep you posted on the progress!

In case your looking to add fruit to your beer, here is a great resource: MidWest Supplies.

Fermentable: 2 Row, Flaked Oat, Flaked Wheat, 20° L, White Wheat, Carapils, Vienna, Golden Naked Oats, Wheat LME, Peaches

Hops: Bitter – Hallertau; Aroma – Magnum, Saaz

Extras: Yeast Nutrient & Irish moss

Estimated IBU: 81ish

Estimated ABV: 5.5%

Why Measuring Gravity Is Important

hydrometerTaking readings of your home brews Original Gravity (OG) and Final Gravity (FG) is imperative to calculating the all-important Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of your beer. When we first started brewing we invested in a hydrometer but didn’t really use it because we didn’t want to lose beer on reading but had no idea the level of alcohol in our beer. If you haven’t invested in a hydrometer and beaker I suggest you get one immediately, They are not very expensive ($10-$20) it allows you to see if your hitting your targeted OG, see how the gravity is progressing from primary to secondary fermentation or Current gravity (CG) and establish your FG.

What is Original Gravity (OG)?

It is the measure of all the sugar dissolved into your unfermented wort. You take this measurement after your cool your wort but before you put in your yeast.

How to get your Target OG?

We use Brewers Friend Receipt Calculator to determine our targeted/estimated original gravity but you can also try to calculate it manually. The below information came from BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog and can help you determine your estimated OG:

To calculate OG for a recipe, you need to know the “potential” contribution that each grain or extract in the recipe will make. This corresponds to the contribution that a pound of grain or extract will add if dissolved in a gallon of water. The maximum potential is approximately 1.046 which would be a pound of pure sugar in a gallon of water.

Liquid extracts typically have a potential of around 1.036, dry extracts run around 1.044, and pure sugar runs close to 1.046. Grains vary tremendously – from a low of 1.025 up to highs in the 1.040 range. Even Pale malt (which is often around 1.036-1.038) varies depending on the maltster.

Once we have the grain bill and potentials for each extract or grain in the recipe, the next step is to calculate the “points” for each grain contribution and total them up. This is done simply by multiplying the potential points for each grain by the weight of the grain.

Recall that points are simply the fractional part of the potential – so an extract with a potential of 1.046 is simply 46 points. So for a simple stout with 8 lbs of pale malt (1.036 potential) and 1 lb of roast barley (1.025 potential) would give us:

36 points * 8 lbs = 288 points

25 points * 1 lb = 25 points

Total = 313 points.

The next step is to apply an “efficiency” factor to our process. The potentials given for the grain are the maximum possible amount you could draw from the grains if you crushed them under laboratory conditions with no losses. Real mashing processes and subsequent sparging, boiling and transferring are not ideal – so a typical brewhouse has an efficiency number far less than 100%. The brewhouse efficiency number includes all of the losses in the system into the fermenter including mashing, lautering, boiling, trub loss and transferring the finished wort to fermenter. A typical brewhouse efficiency number for a home system is 70-75%. In this case we’ll use 72%

313 points * 72% efficiency = 225.4 points

Now we just divide by the “into fermenter” volume which in this case is 5 gallons:

225 points / 5 gallons = 44.8 points/gal

And that is the original gravity estimate if we convert it back to specific gravity – 44.8 points gives us an OG of approximately 1.045

How to Calculate the ABV: (OG – FG) x 131 = ABV%


Partial Mash – How to & Conversion chart

As we progressed in our home brewing from kits we found there was a particular underlying taste (bitter caramel) we didn’t like about our beer. We couldn’t figure it out; was there something wrong with our process? The type of ingredients we were using or maybe the receipt provided? Then after researching online we went to our buddies at Philly Homebrew Outlet and they drop some serious knowledge on us. The flavor we didn’t like was the amount of Liquid Malt Extract (LME) recommended/provided in the kits. Since we were brewing 5 gallon batches the PHO team recommended we start out with doing a partial mash before we move into full mash (all grain receipt) to see if we could avoid the undesirable flavor. We tried it and it was just the things we needed!

LME to Grain Conversion: We usually try to replace every 3 – 3.3lbs of LME for 5 – 6lbs of grain but check out this handy chart to come up with your own method.Conversation Chart

How to make a partial mash:

  1. Steep all grain in 2-3 gallons of water @ 150° for 60mintues (we place ours in the oven to help control temperature fluctuation)
  2. Heat up 1-2 gallons of water to 170° to sparge the grain/mash
  3. Sparge the grain: Remove grain/mash and place into another pot. Pour water over and vigorously stir water for 3-5mintues
  4. Combine and begin your Boil.

Bottle Priming vs. Kegging (Forced Carbonation)

Like most home brewers we started bottle priming our beer because that’s the option home brew kits. There is also a little bit more of an investment* then asking friends to save bottles for you to reuse. Some people say there are advantage to both but we stand strong on kegging or forced carbonation is the way to go! !

Bottle Conditioning or priming is great as a first attempt at brewing but it’s hard to control the volume of carbonation in your beer which takes away from the flavor; basically ruining the final product and your ability to enjoy it. A lot of factors impact bottle priming and a tried-and-true formula of boiling 3/4 cup (4-5 oz by weight) of corn sugar in 2 cups of water per 5 gallon batch. No matter what, always right it down as a method of being more accurate to achieve your ideal carbonation level.

draft beerAlthough it will cost more for you to be able to force carbonate/ keg your beer you have so much more control of your carbonation level. You also cut your wait time from secondary fermentation to drinking from weeks to days. That’s not the only benefit, now you can have draft beer at anytime and you can always bottle your kegged beer.  Quick tip: To Bottle from a keg you will need to sanitize bottles & caps, get them near the temperature of the kegged beer, fill and cap. You can now let them get to room temperature but AVOID direct light (misnomer beer gets skunked because of temperature transition but it’s actually direct light that skunks your beer) 

If you chose to force carbonate check out this carbonation chart provided by It’s a great resource when figuring out what PSI to set your regulator at. Quick Note:  It’s always smart to make sure you carbonate your beer cold to get the best absorption of CO2 quickly.Carbonation Chart

*You’ll need to buy a few things including a kegorator($370-$500) or you can always make one. Check out our post on “Make Your Own Kegorator”. This is what else you’ll need:

Ball Lock Corny Keg ($50 – $75), CO2 Regulator ($50 – $150), Ball Locks & Hoses ($20 – $50)

Knowing Your Hops

As we’ve grown with our knowledge of brewing we have looked up a lot of things and knowing your hops is key to making a perfectly blended beer.  Here are a few FAQ’s we often had and have been asked.

What Are Hops?

Hops are the delicate female flower of the Humulus Lupulus plant, or hop vine and a close cousin of the Cannabis plant. Hops contain an essential oil with a very bitter flavor. This bitterness counters the sweetness from the malt to create a more balanced beer, and it also acts as a preservative (Hence the creation of IPA’s for long boat rides across the Atlantic). Without the bitterness you would have a cloying, overly-sweet drink. Yuck!

Bitterness, Flavor, Aroma

By changing either the quantity of hops or when they are added you can completely control your beer’s bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hops added at the beginning of the boiling process will contribute bitterness, but not much flavor or aroma. Added at the end of the boil, hops will contribute flavor and aroma, but not much bitterness.

Three Hop Categories

Most brewers struggle to discriminate the wide spectrum of hop flavors. We have found that it helps to organize hops intothree main categories.
1) German/Czech Hops—A deep, rich spiciness that is a classic characteristic of European lagers.
2) English Hops—Mellow and floral, they blend into the malt gently, unless used in large volumes.
3) American Hops—Pungent, and sometimes citrusy, with jump-out-of-the-glass aromas. Note: German or English hops grown in the U.S. will retain most native characteristics.

Check out this Hop Chart to get a better understanding of all the hops in the world:

Hop Chart

Whole versus Pellet Hops

MoreBeer! sells hops in two forms: whole hops and pellets. Whole hops are the entire hop flower. Pellets are whole hops that have been pulverized and compressed. The majority of homebrewers prefer pellets. Yet, good quality beer can confidently be made with either type. Pellets are much more easily handled, measured and stored. They will also dissolve into the boil faster, making them the preferred choice for additions at the end of the boil. Whichever type you select, we strongly recommend using fine mesh, nylon Hop Bags to minimize the amount of the leftover hops that enter your fermenter.

Alpha Acid (AA) Ratings

Alpha acid is the chemical component in hops that creates bitterness. The higher the alpha percentage the more bitter the hops. But don’t be afraid to use hops with higher AA ratings; simply use less per batch. For example, when added at the beginning of the boil, 2 oz of, say, Northern Brewer hops with a 7.5% AA will yield the same bitterness as 1 oz of Magnum hops with a rating of 15%AA. We
list the typical Alpha Acid content for each hop.

Which Hop Should I Use?

Some hops are better for bittering, some are better for flavor/aroma, and some are actually dual purpose. Dual Purpose hops can be used for either bittering and/or flavor/aroma. The recipes you may have, along with our product descriptions, can help guide your choices. Kent (British) Goldings – Universally the first choice for an aroma hop in English Ales. Very mild with pleasant, flowery overtones. Most hops stand out against the malt. This unusual hop actually blends in and complements the malt flavors. You truly cannot add too much unless you are dry-hopping.

Discover Dry Hopping!

Do you want to experience absolutely incredible hop flavor and aroma? Try dry hopping — adding hops to the fermenter (or keg) after fermentation. Put one ounce of pellets into your bucket or carboy after the first week of fermentation. You won’t need a bag as the pellets will sink to the bottom over the next week. Dry hopping can also be done in a keg with whole hops and a fine mesh, nylon hop bag.

Grow Hops at Home!

Homebrewers with a green thumb may find satisfaction in growing their own hops. MoreBeer! sells a large selection of high-quality root stock, called rhizomes, anually during late March to early May (only!). Sign up for our email newsletter on the front page of the site and we will alert you in February when we start pre-selling rhizomes.

Here’s a fun infographic to explain more about hops, what they are, where they come from and how to use them.



Write it Down

We suggest you get a notebook to document everything you do. It’s easy to forget what you decide to do in the moment and it makes it easy to compare what you’ve done to what you want to do. When creating a receipt make sure to list the type and amount of: Fermentable, Hops, water (ph balance) and any extras you might use like Irish Moss or Yeast nutrient.

Another key element to help you have a target goal is calculating your receipts ABV, IBU’s and SRM’s before your start. You can find a great FREE calculator at Brewer’s Friend.

The last suggestion we have is creating a calendar of your brews to keep track of your Brew Date, Transfer to Secondary and Carbonation period. It can also help you determine what type of beer to brew next because who wants to run out of beer because you didn’t plan accordingly.


Making a Starter

As we graduated from full extract, to partial extract we learned making a starter 24-48hrs before brew day is essential to flavor, consistency and maximizing those yeast-ies.  We have our own method and ratio for each category of beer we make but this video is a great resource for your first attempt.


Make your own kegorator

Moving from bottle priming to forced carbination is an investment but we tried to save where we could and want to pass our knowledge along. You will need the below items to make your own two draft/keg kegorator. Good Luck!

4.4 cubic ft fridge ($100-$200/new) – We got ours on Craigslist for $50 so be resourceful on this one.

2 Draft Tower ($85-$100/per – Online)

2 Kegs ($65-$85/per – Online)

Dual Regulator ($90-$150)

Co2 Tank ($90-$150) – Refill price is dependent on your area

Some good old fashioned elbow grease…This video is a great resource for how to convert a fridge to a kegorator.

Home Brew Kits

Home Brew Kit

Like most home brewers your introduction to the hobby is a home brew kit. We started with a Brewer’s Best kit and a start equipment set. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get into the art form while using a proven process with an accompanying receipt. We would recommend you start out with an Pale Ale because they are considered an easy to intermediate level to complete successfully.

Best of luck to you!