The past month or two has been a little light on the brewing front, as I’ve been working on completing my new brew tree, a three-tier system inherited from Eagle Brewing’s David Gaughan. David was busy moving to his new premises – the Port & Eagle – in Kaiapoi, and needed himself rid of the equipment that he originally went commercial with. Stay tuned for my first brew on the system!
To ensure a tasty beverage would be available on tap (the saison had just kicked!) I decided to put down a cider with a Belgian twist. Sophie is dead-keen on cider, and has been pestering me to brew another for some months. Mill Orchard apple juice had been on sale at the local super recently, so I purchased six three litre bottles for <$30. This juice is unfiltered, unsweetened, and contains nothing but pure apple juice and vitamin C. The building blocks were good!
Sophie listens to me talk about beer A LOT. To keep her involved, and maintain her interest in my ramblings, I decided to let her brew this one. Excitingly, we also had the new Tilt Repeater beta unit ready for testing – more on this later.
Brew day was outrageously straight-forward. Sophie sanitised the top of each bottle of juice with StarSan, then poured each into my sterilised plastic carboy. Given we planned to add other fruit and back-sweet during kegging, we elected to start with only 18L of juice, hoping to get to 19L post-top up. A packet of Fermentis BE-256 (an excellent Belgian strain that I happened to have lying around) was pitched directly into the carboy. OG of the juice measured at a healthy 1.048.
Once the airlock was attached, we popped the fermenter into my newly acquired, much larger fermentation chamber at 20°C, which Dany had recently helped me re-wire. After a momentary lapse, I remembered to drop my sanitised Tilt Hydrometer into the brew, and we were away!
Marcus Owens, Tilt’s COO, has been extremely kind in sending me a Tilt Repeater Beta unit for testing! The Repeater unit (see here) is a new and very exciting product from the makers of the Tilt Wireless Hydrometer. Those of us lucky enough to own both a stainless fermenter AND a Tilt may find that we struggle at times in asking the Tilt to reach our Bluetooth device (phone or Tilt Pi), as opposed to when using the more Bluetooth-friendly plastic fermenters. This problem is even further accentuated if having to transmit not only through the metallic fermenter, but also through a fermentation chamber. Enter the Tilt Repeater – an extremely handy device that sits outside of your fermenter and repeats the signal from your Tilt sitting in the fermenting beer. This supposedly adds an extra 25 feet of range.
The Tilt Repeater works by connecting to your Tilt Hydrometer wirelessly, a very simple process which involves pressing a button inside the unit a certain number of times that corresponds with the matching colour of your Tilt Hydrometer unit. For example, I have a Pink Tilt unit, which needed 8 button presses. Once connected the Repeater flashes a green light for confirmation. Following this, pop the repeater back in its plastic housing, and place it OUTSIDE your fermenter (not in the beer!), and let your app do the work.
I’ve initially trialled the repeater using a plastic fermenter, as my stainless steel unit is still having a few final adjustments made. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how easily it connected to and transmitted the Tilt’s data.
Overall I felt the Repeater unit performed very well. I didn’t feel that the frequency of logging was affected, and the range seemed much the same through my fermentation chamber (read: fridge) as without the unit. I’m excited to see how it performs once my Tilt Hydrometer is in a stainless batch! Also, ignore the sudden drop in gravity mid-log – this was where I added a whole bunch of peaches (see below) and confused the heck out of the floating unit.
One small issue I haven’t puzzled out just yet is the gaps in data logging with my Tilt, even when used without the Repeater. With the app’s logging interval set to minimum at 15 mins, it’s not infrequently I’ll find an hour or two where no data is logged to my Tilt Excel Sheet. This does raise another bugbear for me – the Tilt app strangely won’t log data if the phone’s screen is off. Hence, my Tilt app is running on my spare Samsung S5, running continuously with a ‘black-screen’ app allowing the phone’s screen to remain on at all times, allowing data to be continuously logged from the Tilt app. Not the ideal solution, but one that appears to work.
Could these data logging gaps be native to the Tilt, the app, or my make-shift phone-based system? I’m not sure, however I’m keen to hear from the developer what his thoughts are, and will update you all once I hear back.
Tilt talk aside, once fermentation had slowed with our cider, we added 1.6kg of fresh blackboy peaches, with stones removed and then mashed into what looked like a berry coulis. Once this extra burst of fermentation had finished, I attached a CO2-filled balloon, crash-cooled and find the cider once it was below 10°C. Once it hit close to 0°C, I racked the cider into a CO2 purged keg, with 1 campden tablet per 5L, 0.5tsp potassium sorbate per 5L, and 1.5L of apple juice concentrate (made by freezing then half-thawing a 3L bottle of the same apple juice used at the start of the recipe). This then went into the kegerator, and was hit with 15 PSI of CO2 while I went away hunting for a week.
I’m predicting that the peaches contributed the following sugars:
– 7.5% sugar content (thank you, Google)
– potential of dextrose (ppg) = 1.046
– 1.6kg peaches used, hence 3.5 lbs
– gravity points added (total) = 0.075 x 46 x 3.5 = 12 gravity points
– points added per liter = 12/18 = 0.66 points per liter (not very much!)
This turned out to be a delicious cider indeed. Tart, tangy, with a good solid peach note – Sophie was immensely pleased with her first brew. The Belgian esters are pretty muted here, though I’m sure they’re adding something to it overall. Assuming a cumulative starting gravity around 1.049 (1.048 for the juice + 0.00066 from the peaches), this brew finished at 0.999, making this a whopping 6.4% ABV drop! In the glass it’s vibrant pink like grapefruit juice, far more the colour in the left photo than on the right.
Overall, a satisfying, easy process, and a good trial of the Tilt Repeater. Next step will be testing the unit in my stainless fermenter.