The Big Black Russian

I made a new beer last weekend.  I’ve been wanting to brew up a stout for a long time and I wanted to do something interesting.  So I’m going with a Russian Imperial Stout.  I’m calling this beer “The Big Black Russian.”

Brew day was last Sunday and it was a family affair this time.  Hawk came up and took a day off from remodeling his house to brew for the first time in about 18 months.  He brewed up an Oatmeal Stout.  Sue came by later in the afternoon with Orion.  Noah and Sierra also came by later.  The Stone’s called back to England via Skype and talked to Hawk’s parents while the beer was brewing.  Later, Sue and others barbecued hamburgers for a later lunch.  It was a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed brewing with Hawk and comparing notes and techniques.

I took a really good video, but we are having software problems with our video software and I can’t get it to process the video.  So, you’ll have to suffice with still photos.

The Big Black Russian is brewed with 1 1/2 gallons of coffee.  This is for a 7 gallon batch.  After the steep, I sparged the grains with the coffee to bring the boil liquor to 4 gallons.  I used some ground coffee from Winco.  It was called Java Rocket.  I chose the darkest, most full bodied coffee they had to chose from for my coffee.  I’ve never brewed with coffee before so this should be interesting.

I brewed up the coffee using our little coffee maker (4 full pots) and then stored it in this pot till it was needed.

Hawk arrived a little later and we began to get our equipment set up on the patio.

Here Hawk is stirring in his grains.  He didn’t use a grain bag for his brew.  I did.  After seeing the difference, I think he may use a grain bag next time.  Like I said earlier, it was good to see how we each did things differently.  This was one tip I did that Hawk picked up.  It looks good, doesn’t it?  I think so.  I’m looking for an opportunity to brew up an Oatmeal Stout too.

With the grains in the steep, it was time to sit back and just relax.  Not much to do while you wait.  So, we do the next best thing.  We sat back, smoked a cigar and had a pint!

In the foreground is Hawk’s boil pot.  The pot his grains are in is sitting on the ground and out of view.  In the background, in front of us, is my boil pot with my grains steeping inside.  Hawk suggested the blanket around the pot to help with temperature control.  Temperature control has always been an issue for me.  Brewing outside, exposed to the winds over the backyard, has its own issues.  I have used the chairs, as you can see in the photo, to create a wind break.  The blanket really helped though.  Nice call Hawk.

At one point, we had a third-party interested in our little adventure.  She wasn’t sure what to think.  She would come by and sniff about, but mainly she kept her distance and just kept her eye on us.

People often come by and rave about the view our house has of Boise.  On this day, I would contend that this was the best view in the city.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I have no home brews on tap right now.  This brew is a Deschutes Jubelale.  The Pumpkin Spice keg blew about a month ago.  Man, that beer went fast!

Once the steep was over it was time to get back to work.  Since Hawk did not use a grain bag, he had to strain his grains through a funnel and into his boil pot.  It looked good and smelled good.  But it made an awful mess.  We eventually transferred his grains into two extra grain bags that I had in my equipment and got it done.  Once the grains were in the bag it made it a bit easier for Hawk to sparge his grains.  Albeit, this isn’t the way he wanted to do it, but with the issues with the grains, this is how things turned out.  I think the brew will turn out fine.  We all learn with each brew.  I picked this tip up and used the coffee that was in the pot to sparge over my grains when I took them out.  It’s not a true sparge like you would do with an all grain set up, but it’s better than not doing it.  It helps get a little bit more of the goodness out of the grains before the boil.

Once the grains were sparged, they were set aside and the malts were added.  We both used dry malts for our brews.  I’ve turned to using dry malts almost exclusively over liquid malts.  It just seems easier and less messy to use dry malts.  My recipe called for 13 lbs of dry malt extract.  Yes, 13 lbs.  Course it called for 9 ounces of hops too.  Here I am spooning my malts into the boil and the first hop bag hanging over the side of the boil pot.

Finally, the 75 minute boil was over.  Here you see the wort chiller in the boil (to sterilize it) and all the hop bags hanging over the side.  I did have a small problem with one hop bag.  It fell open and spilled all the hops into the boil.  Oh well.  Small issue really.

We chilled the worts down, pitched our yeast and set up the primaries.  Hawk took his primary back to his house and I moved mine into the bathtub downstairs.

I took initial measurements of The Big Black Russian but they did not turn out well.  I have to think the coffee did something to the brew that the calculator did not take into account.  The calculator predicted an alcohol by volume of around 7.5%.  However, my measurement indicate that it may be as low as 4%.  That’s not good.  I have to think that subbing 1 1/2 gallons of water with 1 1/2 gallons of coffee had an effect that I did not anticipate.

I will be moving the beer from the primary tomorrow (April 4) and take new measurements then and see how they come out.  Unfortunately, this beer will be sitting in the secondary for 6 months before it will be ready to drink.  I planned that out so it would be ready around the end of September so we’ll have a nice good dark stout over the holidays.  But I will have to wait till then to see how it really turns out.

The flavor tasted good.  I tried some before the malts were added but after the coffee and the coffee tones were evident but not too strong.  I’m hoping that you’ll be able to taste the coffee, but it will be in the background.  Once the malts were added and the boil started, the flavor became sweeter.  That’s good.  Stay tuned for an update after tomorrow’s transfer.

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One Response to “The Big Black Russian”

  1. Update On The Big Black Russian « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] I kegged and bottled my winter beer this past weekend.  The Big Black Russian Imperial Stout.  All went well.  Ended up with 17 bottles to go along with my 5 gallons in the keg.  For those that missed the making of The Big Black Russian, you can see the original post at this link. […]

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