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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

The Bell’s Beer Home Brew blog has moved. It’s new location is:

http://bellsbeer.blogspot.com/

I will endeavour to monitor this site for comments and questions but all future posts will appear on the new site.

I hope you continue to follow my progress.

Thanks for reading.

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I have decided to box up some of the Munton’s IPA, in order to ensure that at least some of it lasts for a few months. This should allow me the freedom to pinch a beer when I fancy one, but still allow me to learn how my beer tastes after a longer maturing period.
Boxed Muntons IPA

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Hydrometer Test

Given the fact that the Munton’s IPA appears to have stopped slightly short of the target gravity according to the hydrometer reading, I thought I should test the hydrometer’s accuracy. An accurate hydrometer should measure exactly 1.000 in pure water at 20 degrees C.

I filled a bottle with water from the hot and cold tap, and after more messing about than I think it should have taken, I finally had a bottle containing 20 degree C water. I popped the hydrometer in and took a picture…

Hydrometer Test

The line visible around the water level is the 1.000 line. It was noticeable that this line is below the top of the bell of water gathered around the hydrometer, but (when trying to read it from above the water) it appears to be slightly above the true level of the water. I would have liked to have been able to test this in coloured water, so that I could more accurately see where the correct level is with an opaque liquid like beer, but of course mixing the water with cordial would have added sugar and invalidated the experiment.

This was only a very quick experiment, but it has been useful. It showed that the hydrometer is pretty accurate. I also think that it means I have been very slightly over estimating the gravity of my beer. I had assumed that the actual level I was recording would be just out of sight below the visible level but looking at this experiment I believe the level I should be reading should be visible.

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Before starting this experiment I had expected stickers to look more professional, but paper to come off more easily. I was not exactly very accurate with my predictions. Paper, regardless of how it was attached, made the most impressive looking labels, and all the labels came off incredibly easily.

My intention, based on these results, is to use paper, attached using milk, for bottles that I will give to people, and stickers attached straight to a dry bottle for my own supply. This is because the paper labels will require more work, what with having to neatly cut them out and applying the milk carefully, but will give a really good finish. The stickers will be much less effort but should still look ok if applied carefully, and will still be effortless to remove.

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Having inspected the bottles for appearance, I soaked all 6 bottles in hot slightly soapy water in the sink for 10 minutes, without touching them at all. On returning to the sink, I was surprised to find all 6 labels floating around the water. Not one of them even needed peeling off?

Removed Labels

I had expected the labels using stickers to be a bit of a pain, but there was very little to choose between all the bottles. The milk label had left the milk residue on the bottle, but this effortlessly wiped off. The sticker applied with glue stick had lots of glue residue left on the bottle, but this also came off with a single wipe. All the other bottles were pretty much spotless, with perhaps a single tiny residue on some, which again wiped off instantly.

This part of the experiment has shown that, given I would give each bottle a quick wipe anyway when cleaning and removing the labels, there is nothing to choose between the methods of attaching the labels as far as removal is concerned.

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It has been over a week since I started the label experiment so its time to find out the results. In this post I will order the labels by appearance, in reverse order:

Appearance:

6th: Sticker pressed on jumper first

Label pressed onto jumper first

The label is a little scruffy looking. It has a few major crinkles on and slightly light and dark patches on it. The corners are also peeling off. The method definitely has an amateurish look.

5th: Sticker on wet bottle

Label attached to wet bottle

There are a number of crinkles on this label too. (One of these does seem to be due to ‘seam’ on the bottle though.) The edges are all fairly well attached though. Still not a very professional finish.

4th: Plain Sticker

Plain Sticker

This label has a few crinkles. It has some slightly light and dark areas. The edges seem to be attached fine. Another pretty poor finish though.

3rd: Sticker with glue stick

Label with glue stick

This has only minor crinkles on. The colour of the label is more consistent (though I think this is because the whole label is dark because you can see more of the bottle colour through it.) The edges are all perfect. Of all the labels done with stickers, this is the only one that looks nicely finished.

2nd: Paper with glue stick

Paper with glue

It was a very difficult decision between the two paper labels for first place. Both had good and bad points, but both looked excellent. They both have perfect edges and no crinkles. This one with the glue stick suffers only from a couple of bobbles under the label where bits of glue or something got under it. The glue stick appears to have left the paper slightly darker, but only very slightly. This is a professional looking label.

1st: Paper with milk

Paper with milk

The winner for appearance is the label attached with milk. Just to confirm, there is no smell at all. The label itself is perfect. Its the whitest of all the labels – the milk seems to have left the paper in really good condition. The only downside of this method is the bottle itself around the label has some stains on, signs of the messy milk. I imagine with some practice just the right amount of milk could be applied to avoid this.

Final Appearance Notes:

The paper labels are clearly preferable to the stickers. They are thicker, and had less wrinkles. Either of the paper solutions would be a great way to attach labels. One interesting point is that having brought the bottles out of the cold brewery room, after a day all of them had considerably less crinkles, but even after this the order didn’t actually change.

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I have decided to put labels on my bottles, at least to start with. I know this will mean some extra work, but if the beer is sufficiently good, I hope to give a good proportion of it away to friends, and family (either because they have helped to fund my new hobby, or to prove to them that home brewed beer can be very tasty).

I am already well aware of the hard work involved in removing labels, so after a little research on the web, I have decided to conduct a small experiment to judge the various techniques for sticking the labels. I will judge them on presentation and ease of removal.

Labels Test

As you can see I have put labels on to 6 bottles, each attached in a different way. From left to right in the picture, these labels are:

  • sticker attached to a wet bottle
  • sticker attached to dry bottle (the control sticker)
  • sticker which has been stuck to a jumper several times to remove some of the stickyness
  • sticker with addition of glue from a glue stick
  • plain paper attached using glue stick
  • plain paper attached with milk (tip from Jim’s Homebrew forum – see my blogroll)

I will leave these for around a week before judging their appearance. I will then soak them in warm slightly soapy water and judge how easily the various labels come off.
Initial Observations:

  • wet bottle sticker -looks crinkled already
  • control sticker – looks great, easiest to apply
  • jumper sticker – corners peeling off from where I peeled it off my jumper several times
  • sticker and glue – looks great
  • paper with glue stick – looks superb – best so far as paper is slightly thicker than stickers
  • paper with milk – slight crinkle and messy to do – both could be avoided with careful application

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Oh so cold.

Cold Temperature

I recently made my first visit to my closest home brewing shop, Harvey’s in Fareham, which is just 11 miles from my house. (Check out their somewhat limited website 4u2brew on my blogroll.) I somehow managed to spend around 40 quid, but I’ll save talking about most of the things I bought for when I actually get chance to use them.

One item I had wanted for a while and finally managed to get on my visit was a thermometer. I was amazed that I couldn’t get hold of a simple glass one like I used to use at school from anywhere else. Anyway, I wanted it to measure the temperature of “The Brewery” which I suspected is too cold most of the time for ideal brewing conditions. (I will also use it in the future to check the temperature of the beer mixture before adding the yeast.) I found that the room temperature seems to stay at about 18 degrees C but increased a little when the heating is on in the house. I recalled reading that anything below 20 degrees is not good for brewing, but after asking a few experienced brewers on jimsbeerkit forum (check my blogroll) it seems it should be fine.

However, the recent failure of my boiler has sent temperatures down to 16 degrees C, which is definitely too cold, but there really isn’t much I can do about it. The boiler man came today and is due back tomorrow with the required parts. I’ve got my fingers crossed that all will be well after he has returned. It’s bad enough being freezing cold, and not being able to get a shower, but if it ruins my first home brew beer too – it doesn’t bare thinking about.

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The Brewery

Brewery1

As you can see, I’ve been very busy. I have turned the cupboard under the stairs into something that is slightly more deserving of the name “The Brewery”. I have fitted 3 big shelves (all held up with 3 brackets and very big screws) carpet tiles, a light, and a suitable poster. I cannot believe it took me all afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, but Im really pleased with the result.

Brewery2

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More bottles…

More Bottles

Thanks to some kind colleagues at work, I now have an extra 50 brown 500ml beer bottles. (Unfortunately, I now have 50 500ml brown bottles to clean and de-label). This brings me up to the 3 sets of bottles that I wanted, with the 48 bottles ordered with my equipment and the lager bottles, assuming they stand up to the job. This means I should be able to brew 3 different beers, giving me a choice of tipples, and then brew new ones whenever I have enough empty bottles.

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