Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blow Off

I said I'd be back with new homebrewing definitions and this situation brings on some very colorful vocabulary.
Let me set the scene.  You've just poured a batch of must into a carboy to ferment and gone off to do something else, like write articles on Blogger.  When you return to your brewery some time later, you discover that the fermenting process has knocked the airlock off the top of the carboy and spilled a peach concoction all over the kitchen floor.  Yeah, that just happened to me.
Sometimes yeast gets very active and the wort or must can expand in the early hours of fermentation.  It's a desired effect in its own way but it works better for rising bread than brewing beer, wine, or mead.  It signals that fermentation is happening and the yeast are awake and getting down to work.
There are a few methods for dealing with blow off.  To start with, leave some head space in the carboy.  Don't fill it too full with wort or must.  That will leave the brew some room to expand into before reaching the airlock.  Experience will tell you where the fill line is for a particular recipe in your equipment.  Additionally, most carboys come with both an airlock and blow off tubing.  To use the tubing, sanitize it with the rest of your brewery gear and install one end in the stopper in place of the airlock and sink the other end under water.  A reserve of sanitizing solution can be held back for this purpose or plain tap water can be used.  You just need to ensure that the hose acts like the airlock and only allows CO2 out, keeping out air and foreign bacteria.
Within a few days, the yeast will settle down and won't be forcing any more material out through the hose.  You can replace the hose with the airlock assembly at this point.  Good luck!

Please drink responsibly. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Peach Puree

I made up a new batch of mead.  My first batch, which was a short mead meant to be consumed right after brewing, was a melomel style, honey with any fruit, in this case oranges.  It just misses qualifying as a pyment, which is honey with white or red grapes; I used California raisins with the oranges.   Second batch used almost the same recipe as the first, just in larger quantity.  Actually, it ended up being almost a bochet, which uses caramelized honey.  You see, I had let the honey crystallize and had to turn it back into liquid in a double boiler; that almost didn't go well.  Also, I swapped out the raisins in favor of blackberries, pushing the recipe towards a bochetomel.
This new batch is a complete departure from the citrus-fed bread yeast of the past.  I am using real champagne yeast, for one thing.  That is definitely going to change the flavor of the end product.  It's still a melomel mead, using peaches as the fruit.
Oh, this one has been an adventure.  It takes a while to ship twelve pounds of honey anyway, but when your order also includes a new recipe kit by famous actor and internet personality Wil Wheaton, well, things get delayed.  Parallel to that, I had ordered 25 pounds of peaches from a food coop and when the honey and yeast didn't arrive alongside the peaches, I had to scramble to slice and freeze the fruit.  Eventually, all the ingredients were present but then thawing the peaches made a mess due to cheap plastic bags.
Here's where the title comes from.  In the middle of laying up the must, I decided to run the thawed peach slices through the blender to make them easier to pour into the carboy.  For next time, I think I'm going to puree the fruit first before freezing.  I could also can the slices to preserve them that way, in case I don't get all the ingredients together at the same time again.
Anyway, this peach melomel will be a short mead and I'll write a follow-up on my impressions when it's done fermenting in a few months.  There's a few other varieties I want to try out in the future.  Being so close to Hatch, N.M., a capsicumel is a definite must try.  I'd also like to try fermenting a braggot, a morat, and maybe even an intentional bochet.  I have a few rose bushes in the yard so a rhodomel is also an option.  Keep brewing.  Salud!

Trademarks are properties of their respective owners and are used as examples only, without endorsement or commercial consideration.  Please drink responsibly.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Must You

I've been brewing again recently, laying up a melomel.  That's a type of mead made with honey and fruit.  If I reserve some for aging, the aged mead is a great or long mead as opposed to the short mead consumed immediately after brewing.  That aging could be years.
Knowing some of the terminology lets you follow conversations and recipes a lot easier.  I've seen many recipes where they just assume you know all their jargon and use that to weed out the people who aren't "serious" about joining them.  I worked in IT so I've seen that garbage my entire career.  Here's some definitions to get you on top of the curve.
Malt is the roasted and boiled grains used to make beer.  Extract kits turn the malt into a syrup to make things easy for beginners.  I use extract kits and may never start brewing with all-grain recipes.
Hops are flowers that add spice and flavor to beer.  They also preserve beer which is why so many craft recipes and IPA style beers are so hoppy.  IPA was a style brewed in England and shipped to their colonies in India, hence the name India Pale Ale.
Wort is unfermented beer.  It's the malt, hops, water, and maybe spices but no alcohol because yeast hadn't worked on it yet.  Must is unfermented wine or mead.  Water, fruit and or honey but again no alcohol.
Yeast normally comes in packets of emulsified live yeast bacteria.  It looks like granules.  The granules are broken down and release the yeast by soaking in warm water.  This is called proofing and gets the yeast ready to turn wort or must into beer or wine.
Brewers need to ensure that only the yeast they've bought get to participate in fermentation.  They use special chemicals to wash and sterilize their equipment.  The washing process may be abbreviated as CIP, or clean in place.  Alternatively, the brewer could let wild bacteria ferment the wort or must and call the resulting product lambic but using unknown varieties of bacteria like that makes it hard to be consistent from batch to batch.
Lees are the tired and dead yeast plus fruit, hops, grain, or whatever left in the bottom of the carboy after fermentation.  The carboy is the glass or plastic jug that the fermentation happens in.  Racking moves the fermented product into another carboy and leaves the lees behind to be washed away or composted.
That's most of the jargon which slowed me down when I didn't know the definitions.  I'll bring you more definitions as I learn them.  Good luck!

Please drink responsibly. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Warband

Big Linux gaming news this weekend.  I turned on Steam to see a welcome announcement, that Mount & Blade: Warband is not only on sale right now, but also has a new Linux client and Workshop support.
A native Linux client for this popular Medieval RPG is great for Linux players like me.  Keeping the entire workflow of playing, recording, and editing on the same operating system should make things more stable.  I might use this as a launch point to begin recording and posting gameplay videos instead of just watching everyone else's and playing on my own.
Also, with Steam Workshop support in addition to the Linux client, players don't need to sort out mods with Wine anymore.  Players can just install compatible mods from the workshop.  
As these things usually go, I think we can expect Bannerlord, the sequel to Warband, to come out on multiple platforms when it is released.  That fraptious day may be a little further off, though.  I've heard the developer Taleworlds needs a new publisher after Paradox Interactive decided not to print this one.  
Regardless, this is a fun game and I look forward to conquering Calradia on my Linux gaming PC.  

Bugged By Comments

I've just discovered an odd bug occurring on my computer.  I can't post comments on YouTube.  That may be the curse you wish on most YouTube commentators but I swear it was going to be a civil remark.
A bit about my computer's background.  It's the iBuyPower i-series 301 I was just talking about.  Running "Precise Pangolin", Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, but I've changed out the default browser for Chromium.  The biggest suspect culprit right now is Pipelight and or Chrome UA Spoofer.  These plug-ins enable such basic and necessary functions as Netflix viewing on Linux PCs.  Now, I've had issues with Pipelight  and YouTube before which is why I suspect it now.
The behavior is that clicking on the "Share your thoughts" comment box on any YouTube video flashes a pop-up window with a very long URL which immediately closes.  The comment box doesn't have focus after the window goes away so I can't start typing and the window doesn't stay long enough to copy the URL but it's a YouTube page.  This happens both while the video is still running and after it has ended.  Like and share works and I can make comments while sharing to Google+, just not on the video.
Well, that's something of a bug report, then.  Circumstances, behavior, and basic configuration.  More than what I used to get at work.  You cannot know how many customers called up with nothing more than "it broke".  That's so undefined there's no starting point for troubleshooting.  How many customers have cussed at me for trying to get enough information to even bother opening a ticket?  Too many.  I'm thankful I left that line of work so I can leave the bug reports in the hands of other people.  I'd better get back to gorging on videos or I'm going to be a mopey mess.

By the way, I was going to say "a wok" on this week's Still Untitled. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Bought Power

This is a quick review of a computer system I bought several months ago.  I bought the iBuyPower i-series 301 "gaming" desktop.  As it turns out, this system is no longer offered, unfortunately, because it's been such a great value to me.  It came with an AMD Radeon HD 6450 graphics card, bottom of the stack and next to be discontinued.  And also Windows 8, which we'll get to.  I'm actually quite happy with this system and give it a qualified endorsement.

Hardware

The 301 came with an AMD FX 4200 quad-core processor and Radeon HD 6450 graphics card.  The cost effective option for the budget gamer, as they say.  With 4 GB memory to stretch out in, the performance is more than adequate for my gaming library.  I actually have to get into editing video or compiling software to tax the system resources.  Gigabit ethernet, 1 TB HDD for storage, USB 3.0 and enough ports to plug in all my controllers, headset, and webcam; I don't know what else to say about the hardware.  I did add a sound card, Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi if you must know, to move sound processing off the CPU and free up those resources.  It improved performance but the real boost came from software.

Software

Windows 8 came pre-installed and was actually a drawback to me.  The typical complaints from a long time Windows user.  It isn't as familiar as Windows XP, it doesn't look like XP, it takes up more system resources than XP, and on and on.  I've been getting into and preferring open source software so I made the computer dual-boot with Linux.  I used GParted to carve up the hard drive and installed Ubuntu from a Live CD.  Linux takes up noticeably less system resources on a PC compared to Windows.  Even better, all of the programs I wanted to run, even and especially the games, are available on Linux.  
I'm using the 12.04 LTS version of Ubuntu, so-called Precise Pangolin.  I must be getting old; I prefer stability and don't need the drama of the nightly builds which is why I chose the long-term support (LTS) version.  Version 14.04 is the latest LTS and was released in April; I'll be upgrading to that when it hits the general repositories later this month.  
After I had the operating system itself sorted, I loaded up my applications.  The Ubuntu Software Center, aka "the respositories", is where you get most of your software from.  The software center has many game titles on its own.  First-person shooters, real-time strategy, and my favorite, dungeon crawlers.  
But everyone else wants to keep the game library they've already bought.  Gaming software Steam has a native Linux client, it's in the Software Center, and it has a growing library of games which run natively on Linux so, of course, it was one of the first to get installed. That gets me my games like Half-Life and Team Fortress 2 that are made for Linux.  Then I installed Wine, WineTricks, and PlayOnLinux, and through that installed the Windows version of the Steam client.  That gets me my other games like Doom and Mount & Blade which don't have Linux versions but play anyway through the Wine "emulator".  If you prefer GOG for your games, PlayOnLinux looks like the easiest way to install those.  Another favorite of mine, Minecraft, is written in Java so it runs on Linux easily.  Just download the "jar" file and set it to run as an executable.  
Anyway, I mention all this gaming software because the iBuyPower i-series 301 was billed as a budget gaming PC and it's doing a very fine job of being exactly that.  

Conclusion

I don't like the games that have a reputation for taxing system resources.  I prefer lighter weight titles.  Even with the "budget" components in this system I haven't bogged them down yet with my library of games.  It's a dirty little secret that PC customers buy more computer than they need.  This $500 gaming rig has been handily sufficient for my needs.  

Standard disclaimers apply: Trademarks are property of their respective owners and used without commercial consideration or any endorsement implied beyond what is stated.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Classic

I was shopping for camping accessories today and noticed that it is Rayovac's 100 year anniversary.  They deserve some respect for staying in the flashlight and battery business for a century.  Anyway, I saw that they've re-released their classic metal tube flashlight as an LED torch.  Most kids of a certain age remember finding one of these in their grandparents' kitchen drawer and making it their lightsaber.  Now you recognize it.  Solid aluminum body, that multi-position switch.  Vrrrmmmm, whoo-kish, whoo-kish.  Yeah.

My first lightsaber
And because it is apparently retro flashlight day, Coleman has also released their classic lantern as a 4 D-cell powered LED photon generator.  This staple of campsite illumination is powered by 4 D-cell batteries or a rechargable cartridge.  I opted not to buy the cartridge, sold separately, not because I prefer batteries but their rechargable cartridge can only recharge off of a wall outlet.  I don't consider it camping if there's one of those nearby.  With its advertised run time, I'll be home again before I need to replace the batteries anyway.

Trademarks are property of their respective owners are used without endorsement or commercial consideration.