Sourdough Baking Journal: Semolina in Sourdough?


Semolina/Bread Flour Batard Loaves – July 9-10, 2020

5848A5A9-0DC0-4892-9298-E0F4942D0E1BRecipe: After seeing a lot of posts about using semolina flour in sourdough bread in the two sourdough focused Facebook groups that I’m a member of I did some research and landed on the following recipe…For these loaves I used 67% bread flour and 33% semolina along with 20% levain (Mortimer), 2.2% salt, and 75% hydration. Because I made my levain the night before and wanted to get the loaves shaped and in the refrigerator as early as possible; I decided to forgo an autolyse and mixed all of the ingredients together at once.

Bulk Fermentation: 5.25 hours w/ 3 sets of stretch and folds. Followed by preshaping, a 30 minute rest and final shaping into batards. Overnight Retard/Proof: 18 hours  Baked 25 minutes covered and 25 minutes uncovered @ 450F.

Techniques Used: Being that this was my “eighth bake” I found it quite easy to follow basic recipe parameters once I decided to use 33% semolina flour. Because I had my air conditioner on and my Brod & Taylor proofer as an option for controlling bulk fermentation temperature, I was not worried about baking on a hot/humid day. In turn, after my 3 sets of stretch and folds I put my mixing bowl of dough in my proofer for the remainder of bulk fermentation which was set to 80F. Lastly, in an effort to only change one variable at a time in terms of avoiding a overly caramelized and tough bottom crust. I decide to add an extra cookie sheet/roasting try to on the oven rack below my bread pans (Lodge combo cooker and Challenger bread pan  for heat deflection and to preheat at 500F and bake at 450F (rather than starting covered at 500F)…

F847ED2B-9D2A-438F-9EED-E9D35B1E0FB2Results: Overall, I felt that the bottom crust was not any tougher than my previous loaves and the changes that I did make were effective (see pictures below). Next time I’ll rotate the loaves earlier and follow some advice that I got from Jim Challenger and do the following. I’ll completely remove my baking vessels, invert their lids, put them in the oven, and then put their bottoms on top in order to deflect even more heat during the uncovered portion of baking. In terms of appearance, I scored my first ever wheat stalks and am quite happy with how they turned out. The semolina gave the out of the loaves an attractive blonde/yellow hue, but the crumb was pale due to 2/3 of the flour being white bread flour. Flavorwise, both the crust and interior were balanced. I think I’ll have to use more semolina next time to really taste how much it can contribute to a sourdough loaf’s flavor profile.

For more pictures of these loaves and all of my sourdough recipes click on the ‘Sourdough Baking Journal’ page above.

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Jim Challenger of Challenger Breadware

Since I started baking sourdough bread this past May I’ve been baking in a Lodge 3.2 quart cast iron combo cooker and while my loaves have been coming out looking and tasting great. I’ve also noticed that it presents some limitations to me as a new sourdough baker and for my future baking plans. For example, well or slightly over-proofed loaves have been hard to carefully lower onto the skillet portion of the cooker. Secondly, while I’ve been happy with the evenness of the crumb in my loaves. I feel that if I had even a slightly larger baking vessel, I might be able to achieve more open crumb even when using up to 40% whole grain flours (e.g. 60% bread flour, 30% whole wheat flour, and 10% dark rye flour)…

As with my homebrewing hobby, I immediately began watching copious amounts of Youtube videos about sourdough baking and joined three sourdough Facebook groups within the first week of getting my starters going. In addition to “bread porn”, requests for starter management guidance, and feedback on finished loaves. One topic that is often discussed in these groups is baking vessels and how to master baking in them. So when I saw a post about how much a fellow baker loved her new Challenger bread pan, I immediately went to the company’s website to read up on what makes this cast iron unique. While scrolling through Challenger Breadware’s impressively designed website I came upon an affiliate application and quickly filled it out with information about The Brewed Palate. To my surprise, the company’s founder, Jim Challenger emailed me directly less than 24 hours later with the news that my application had been accepted. Then after a few back and forth emails it was decided that Jim would not only send me his revolutionary bread pan to review, but he’d also answer some questions whose answers I would share with The Brewed Palate’s regular readers and all those who I am able to reach in sourdough baking community.

So without further ado, I present to you Jim Challenger, founder of Challenger Breadware…

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How’d you get into bread baking? Did you have any specific sources of inspiration? 

4E8E6701-A619-4D1D-A5AB-675B34A0977AJim: I’ve always cooked for my family, including all my kids’ friends. We started having pizza parties because well who doesn’t love pizza. All the kids went crazy for the pizza especially because they got to pick all their own toppings. One day it dawned on me that to make better pizza, I should learn to make bread. It is something that I’ve always wanted to learn, and I’d tried a few times in my life. I started with yeasted bread, but soon after I met Trevor Jay Wilson. He helped me, and he said if I ever wanted to make sourdough, I should just jump in right away. I became obsessed and that was almost 4 years ago.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How did you go from home baker to deciding to make your own bread pan? Do you have a background in engineering or manufacturing? 

Jim: I started developing the pan because I was just really frustrated with all the hacks I had to use to bake bread. I went from the tiny Lodge pan to the deep Le Creuset to the Baking Steel that I used for pizza. I broke my oven twice trying to keep it well steamed. I’m a programmer by profession and an entrepreneur at heart. I met a woman on Instagram (Sara Dahmen @housecopper), and she’d made her own cast iron skillet. We talked about my ideas for a real bread pan, and she hooked me up with her product designer and foundry. I was only going to make a few for myself and friends to pay back my initial investment. The Instagram bread community went crazy for them, and I was flooded with emails. I looked at my wife Lisa one day, and I said, We have to start a real company. We launched the company and the Challenger Bread Pan on August 1, 2019. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work, but I truly love giving this Pan back the community that has sustained me as a baker and allowed me to make really good friends all over the world.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): What are some of the challenges that arose as you moved towards starting your own bakeware business? 

Jim: Our first major challenge was the our original foundry could not make enough pans fast enough to satisfy demand. It took a lot of work to find a good and big enough second foundry to make our pans because they are difficult to manufacture mostly due to the handles we designed on the cover to make them safe and easy to handle. Our second biggest challenge is finding the best way to make these pans affordable to bakers all over the world and to let them learn about the Pan and baking bread in general in their own language. The size and weight of the Pan make it expensive to ship, and the customs duties can be really high in lots of different countries. We continue to innovate and invest in ways to help bakers everywhere.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Was it difficult to expand your business once demand grew rapidly? 

Jim: Yes, mostly due to the reasons I discussed above. In addition, everyone who I turned to told me to focus on the US first and forget the rest of the world. I’ve made far too many baker friends all over the world, and I refused and continue to refuse to give up on them.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Since expanding your business, have there been any issues that bakers have experienced with the Challenger bread pan? How have they been addressed?

Jim: Honestly, we have not had any issues that have been experienced by bakers. Everyone that receives the pan absolutely loves baking in it. We’ve been told over and over that bakers are baking the best bread of their lives once they started using the Challenger.

98209360_3127412533983543_8967292974132101120_nSide note: Upon being accepted as a Challenger Breadware affiliate I did a Youtube search for their bread pan and came across a video posted by a baker who initially was having difficulty with the bottom of his loaves turning out darker than he would like. In the description of the video he described a solution that Jim advised him to try i.e. ” to put the pan onto 2 overturned baking pans (see photo below).” While trying this method didn’t work for the baker, it is similar to what I do when I bake (see photo to the left). I set up my 2 oven racks into the lower portion of my oven and put a large baking sheet on the bottom one. I’ve found that this deflects a fair amount of radiant heat when baking with my Lodge combo cooker. However, the baker ended up coming up with his own solution that I found ingenious. “I then employed a small wire rack that I had laying around (perhaps from an old toaster oven). I bake at 500 for 20 mins then turn down heat to 450 and place the rack under the loaf which is on parchment paper for the last 20 mins.” One caveat that I think may be a matter of preference is that I didn’t think that the darker loaf shown by this baker was too dark (“burnt and tough”). Lastly, I also don’t always mind when the bottom of my loaves are almost as caramelized as the rest of their crust.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How often do you bake nowadays? Do you have a specific method/process of your own that you’ve developed as you’ve become a more experienced baker?


Jim: I try to bake bread every day. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I bake 16 loaves of bread that I give aways to friends in our community. It is one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done as a baker. For the first almost 55 days of the pandemic, I baked 12 loaves each and every day and gave them aways to families in need in our community.

I’m always trying to learn to be a better bread baker because there’s always so much to learn. My goal is to always help beginning bakers because I remember how frustrated I was at the beginning. I developed my Keep It Simple Sourdough (KISS) recipe for beginners along with a video that’s available on our website. I continue to play and tweak with this recipe and process trying to break it down into its simplest form.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): With all the beginner sourdough baking guides out there nowadays, how would you recommend that a new baker prepare to bake his or her first loaves of bread?

Jim: To me, I believe that the biggest problem that beginning bakers have is that most recipes contain far too much water for a beginner. It’s why I developed my KISS recipe and process. I also recommend that beginning bakers stick with one recipe until they’re really happy with the bread they’re pulling out of the oven, and they should make bread with all-white flour until they’re happy too.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): In addition to the Challenger bread pan, what other pieces of baking equipment (vessels/tools/implements) do you use on a regular basis that you’d recommend for other bakers to have in their kitchens (new and experienced)?

Jim: All the tools and baking equipment that I use everyday are in the Baker’s Arsenal on our website. We are working on new products that will be coming out this year that will also help bakers bake better bread every year, and we will continue to offer recipes, videos, tips, and techniques on our website. Our goal as a company is to help people bake better bread every day — without frustration!

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?

Jim: This is a great question! Better and healthier eating is one of the things that I think really draws people to bread. It’s been the backbone of cultures for 1000s of years. Until commercial yeast was invented around the turn of the 20th century, bread was always made with natural living yeast. It’s why it’s so much healthier and tastier than the bread people purchase in grocery stores. To me, living foods are fermented foods, and the fermentation makes them healthier for you.


Thank you to Jim and his wife Lisa for accepting me as a Challenger Breadware affiliate. I’m looking forward to reviewing/baking with your bread pan and working with you on spreading the word about your contributions to the worldwide bread baking community.



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Palate Pleasing Projects 2: Living food

Since my last update I’ve continued with two of the three projects that I shared my progress on (sourdough bread and ethnic (international) cooking), and took on one fortunate additional project. I was able to make my first batch of homebrew after taking a four month unplanned break from doing so. On Sunday, June 21st I finally made my first Ethiopian tej mead and am looking forward to sharing updates on its progress with you in future posts.

Now, why did I call this post “living food?” While ethnic or spice driven cooking does not contain living yeast like my two sourdough starters (aka Randolph and Mortimer). The spices, herbs,  and vegetables used are full of healthy and sustaining nutrients and leave me feeling like I’m truly in touch with each ingredient that I choose to cook with. Furthermore, in recent years old world food preparation and cooking methods have defined much of what it means to be a “foodie.” Living food is defined by fermentation, a process which contributes to the creation of a plethora of aromas, flavors, textures, and probiotic benefits. In other words, it unlocks the life within natural ingredients and allows our bodies to run efficiently and sustainably. Lastly, getting to know each element of what it takes to get the most of each ingredient that we cook with can only increase our appreciation for the end results on our plates and in our glasses. L’chaim to living food and drink!

Current Projects:

Sourdough bread

Since baking my first two sourdough loaves on May 10th I’ve baked nine more loaves. I’m happy to say that despite some steps and end result characteristics not fully meeting my expectations in some cases. All of the loaves looked and tasted great. In addition, to continuing to experiment with different percentages of dark rye and whole wheat flour, I’ve started baking with spices, herbs, and vegetables. As shown in the picture below, I’ve baked an olive/black pepper/lemon zest boule, sourdough focaccia with red onion, green olives, and grape tomatoes, and two roasted garlic/fresh thyme boules. Next, on Wednesday June 24th, I recieved my Brod & Taylor folding proofer and slow cooker after a two month wait due to high demand. I’m hoping it’ll help me dial in my bulk fermentation times and achieve better results overall. In terms of upcoming loaves, I recently purchased loaf pans in order to bake sandwich bread and caraway seeds and a second batard banneton so I can bake two dark rye batards at a time.0C9E7A57-7302-475D-8AC4-F953F9ACB6E1_1_201_a


Ethnic Cooking

Positive reviews on an Indian meal that I cooked for a friend and his wife on May 25th led to the creation of Make It Kosher meals, a home catering service focusing on kosher ethnic meals for those living in my local area. Reviews have been great and I’ve been able to keep this side gig on a schedule that works well for me and my family. So far all of the menus have been Indian dishes whose recipes I’ve found online and adapted to be kosher (e.g. replacing yogurt with coconut milk). Chetna Makan’s YouTube channel, website, and books have continued consistently providing me lots of great recipes to cook for my menus and for my family. I’ve also purchased a book entitled 660 curries and bounced ideas off friends who also enjoy Indian cooking. In addition, to my cooking of Indian dishes, I’ve started getting back into cooking both Ethiopian and Mexican dishes. After making a fresh batch of berbere spice mix, I made both injera flatbread and a Ethiopian beef stew. The following weekend I decided to make Mexican birria by slow cooking beef in a chile and tomato mole-esque sauce. Over the summer I plan on cooking more Mexican and south and cental American dishes in order to both broaden my horizons and further improve my cooking skills.



As described above, I made my first batch of mead (or homebrew for that matter) in about four months on Sunday, June 21st. Ever since I started watching Mark Weins’ food travel videos on Youtube. I’ve wanted to make a batch of Ethiopian tej mead. I used a combination of clover and buckwheat honey along with the traditional gesho root to create the must. I then let the wild yeast on the gesho root twigs settle into the honey must for 2 days before adding 4g of Safale US-05, a clean fermenting yeast. Within 24 hours more visible signs of fermentation kicked off and this 3.25 gallon batch has been fermenting nicely ever since. I plan on taking my first gravity sample at the two week mark. By then I should know whether it’s time to wrack the mead off the yeast and gesho root.





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Palate Pleasing Projects – TBP Update

Fortunately or unfortunately I haven’t brewed any new beers or made any new meads since February. Allow me to explain….

Beyond the production of fermented beverages, I have always had a passion for getting the most out of the ingredients that I cook with and in turn the food that I eat. This passion has been taking up a lot of my time lately and the satisfaction that I’ve been getting from it has left me quite alright with waiting to delve back into the homebrewing aka the focus of this blog. Of course, just as with homebrewing I have enjoyed doing research about recipes and cooking techniques in order to take an educated approach towards each “palate pleasing project.” The following are the projects that I’ve been working on since my previous blog post.

1. Fermented veggies: Ever since 2018 I’ve loved experimenting with making lacto fermented vegetables. Using salt water brine as a base allows spices and herbs to shine and blossom over time. Also, the 4-7 day average turn around time helps keep a pipeline of favorites in stock. So far this year I’ve made a variety of pickled cucumbers (classic dill, szechuan, spicy, indian spiced) along with to cauliflower, carrots, and red bell peppers fermented together with a number of indian spices, lacto ketchup, and fermented jalapenos (half of which I made into a hot sauce).

2. Spice driven cooking: Since my senior year in college I’ve developed a preference for spice and herb driven recipes. Most recently I’ve gotten back into exploring my love for indian cuisine by cooking a number of recipes that I haven’t made before. At the helm of my sources of inspiration has been Chetna Makan, an indian homecook who since competing on the Great British Bake Off in 2014 has gone on to publish three cookbooks. What turned this into a true project was my decision to dub Wednesday nights “veggie curry night” for my wife and me. So far I’ve made 3 veggie curries, all of which turned out great. The first was an off the cuff hodge podge of what I had on hand i.e. a medley of fresh cauliflower, chick peas, tomatoes, onions, carrots, red bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and spices paired with seasoned jasmine rice and yellow split peas. The next two were made possible by my purchase of kashmiri chili powder, amchur (dried mango powder), and asafoeteda (hing); along with Chetna’s inspiring Youtube videos. On May 6th I made a delicious and nutty roasted butternut squash, chick pea, and spinach curry. Though Chetna deamed this recipe a soup; I chose to go for a thicker texture and to serve the finished dish over jasmine rice. Most recently, on May 13th I took chetna’s ‘Best Chickpea / Chole’ recipe up a notch by substituting some of the chickpeas with roasted cauliflower, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and carrots. Then I made chapati flatbread to go with it. Out of the 3 this was the most complex recipe and resulted in a yummy flavor profile that I enjoyed immensely.

3. Sourdough Bread: After a 2 year hiatus due to being discouraged by my first attempt at baking with the sourdough starter that I was mismanaging (learned after the fact). I decided to join the hoards of homecooks taking the plunge into baking “living bread”  nowadays and make 2 separate starters (whole wheat and rye). On Sunday May 10, I began the process of producing my first 2 sourdough loaves using an educated approach. This approach was comprised of my previous knowledge of handling dough from years of baking challah bread almost weekly and meticulous research about starter management, dough composition, loaf shaping, and baking times…While I prepared myself for things to not go as planned; I did a happy dance upon taking the lid off my Lodge combo cooker and saw that not just the first, but also the second loaf had achieved great oven spring. Subsquently, the finished loaves looked and tasted way better than expected.

While I do plan on getting back into homebrewing soon…These projects have kept my creative juices flowing and I’m looking forward to enjoying and sharing the fruits of my labor each week. While I can’t make any promises, I hope to start sharing recipes etc. on here soon.

In order to keep up to date with my progress please follow me on Instagram .

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Brew Log: First Fruits Quadrupel 5.0

Last Update: 5/14/20

Recipe Inspiration: First Fruits Quadrupel is the beer that I brew annually in celebration of each year of my daughter’s life (she was born in April 2016). I should note that I brewed the first vintage of both of my children’s beers ahead of their births. Hence, this was my fifth time brewing this beer. While it’s recipe has been tweaked over the years, most of its ingredients and brewing/fermentation process have remained the same…For this vintage I decided to highlight the candi sugar and lessen the boldness of the malt character. See below for the specific changes.

Brew Day: 2/5/20

Fermentables: (estimated brewhouse efficiency set at 70%) – Batch Size: 5.25 gallons

11.5 lbs Belgian pilsner malt (replaced the 4oz of Aromatic that I took out from last year’s vintage and added 4oz extra ounces)

1 lb Munich malt 10L

12 oz Aromatic Malt (previously 1 lb)

12 oz Special B

4 oz Caramunich malt (swapped amounts with the Munich malt)

1.5 lbs D180 candi sugar syrup @ 10 minutes (boil) – last year: 1 lb plus 4.5oz demerara sugar

1 lb D90 candi sugar syrup @ day 3 of primary fermentation

8 oz D180 candi sugar syrup @ day 3 of primary fermentation – last year: 4.5oz demerara sugar

Mash: 150F for 75 minutes – single infusion, mash out rest, fly sparge


1 oz Perle (7.1% AA) @ 90 minutes (last year 0.5 oz of Magnum was added @ 5 minutes)

2 oz Hallertau Mittlefruh (3% AA) @ 25 minutes

1 oz Hallertau Mittlefruh (3% AA) @ 10 minutes (last year 3oz of HM was added @ 70 minutes)


Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity – 2.4 L starter (pkg date: 12/4/19)


Stop and Shop Arcadia spring water


  • Mash: The mash was uneventful until I took my preboil gravit reading. At first I had my estimated prevoil gravity set at 72%, but after realizing I missed my target preboil gravity by 5 points. I lowered it to 70% (more appropriate for a big beer anyways). To make up the updated 3 points I added 8.5 ounces of pilsen light DME.
  • Boil: After adding my bittering hops I decided to add the DME >> I added 10 minutes to the 90 minute boil after adding the candi sugar and then my immersion chiller. >> I collected 5.25 gallons of 1.077 wort (hit target).
  • Start of fermentation: After losing half a gallon of barleywine to blow off messes. I decided to ferment this beer in one of my 7.8 gallon mead buckets. I set the fermentation temperature to 68F-70F and will keep it there until the end of day 2 of fermentation when I’ll raise the from to 69-71F. On the night day 3 I’ll add the remaining 1.5 lbs of candi sugar syrup.
  • Fermentation Management: On Saturday night 2/8 I added the remaining 1.5 lbs of candi sugar and raised my temperature controller’s set to 69 so the new temp range that the beer could get to would be 69-71F. After going out with my wife I came to come to see that fermentation activity had picked up, but by the morning the temperature wasn’t going above 70F. Que my homebrewer’s anxiety: Somehow when I checked the beer it had stopped bubbling for long enough that I got anxious. I therefore suspected a blow off tube issue. However, my adjustments unfortunately led to me creating a small crack in the bucket’s lid. Luckily, I had a spare lid on hand and swapped it out…In order to make sure that the fermentation temp would not dip to for down I taped on a fermenter heating wrap and set my controller to 71F. I’m not too worried about raising it this high because… 1) even when the temperature range was 68-70F, the beer was fermentating consistently closer to 70F 2) There was at least 12 hours in between temperature adjustments 3) I can leave my controller with 71F as its set temperature for the remainder of fermentation. Update: I ended up setting my temperuatre controller to 72F in order to keep fermentation as close to 72F possible. Until the last couple days of fermentation I left my heating differential at 1 degreeF and then upped to to 2 degreesF.
  • Racking – On 2/26/20 I racked the beer to a 5 gallon carboy with 3.5oz of oak cubes that has been soaking in Bulleit rye whiskey and 1/2 cup of the whiskey. Prior to doing so I took a gravity sample and my FG was 1.008 or 10.7% abv
  • Bulk Aging: After 2 months of aging with the oak and whiskey I took a sample and found that the oak was a bit subtle for my taste. I need to taste it soon and decide on when I’ll “call it” and bottle up the batch.



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Brew Log: Birrat Habayit – Hoppy Trappist Single (Belgian Table Beer)

Last updated: 2/27/20

Recipe Inspiration: Back in 2016 I decided to try to brew a clone of Allagash Brewing Company’s House Beer, a Belgian table beer (Trappist Single/Patersbier) that is only avaiable at their Portland, Maine brewery…Using the information available on their website, I put together a recipe that roughly met the parameters (ABV, IBUs, malt character) of the original beer. However, I decided not to build up a starter of Allagash’s house yeast from bottles of Allagash White (witbier) and instead used Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes…Fast forward to 2/4/20, when I brewed version 2.0. Changes to my original recipe included using more white wheat, opting for galaxy hops instead of centennial, and Fermentis S-33 instead of the Wyeast strain.

Grains: (estimated brewhouse efficiency set at 70%) – Batch Size: 5.25 gallons

8 lbs Belgian pilsner malt

1.5 lbs White wheat

8 oz Carapils

8 oz Victory Malt

Mash: 150F for 75 minutes – BIAB volume 7.75 gallons

Hops: 90 minute boil  

0.75 oz Perle (7.1%AA) @ 45 minutes

0.25 oz Perle (7.1% AA) @ 15 minutes

0.5 oz Galaxy (15% AA) @ 5 minutes

0.5 oz Nelson Sauvin (12.1% AA) @ 5 minutes

1 oz Tettnang (3.2% AA) @ 15 minutes hop stand

0.5 oz Galaxy (15% AA) @ 15 minutes hop stand

0.5 oz Nelson Sauvin (12.1% AA) @ 15 minutes hop stand

Dry Hops: 2/23 – 1oz each of Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin hops


Fermentis/Safbrew S-33 – rehydrated in 1 cup of water prior to pitching


Stop and Shop Arcadia spring water


  • Mash: Instead of using my usual brew kettle which fits on two stove burners I decided to use my Ss Brewtech 10 gallon kettle because is has a thermometer and it’s easier for BIAB mashing. However, I found myself babysitting the mash due to a 4-6 degree difference between the kettle’s thermometer and my instant read thermometer. In the end I kept the kettle’s thermometer in the upper 140s as much as possible and my instant read thermometer the lower 150s. Que my homebrewer’s anxiety…I’ll have to wait and hope that the beer does not end up finishing with a higher than expected FG.
  • Boil: In order to keep the brew day going I decided to forego taking a preboil gravity reading. >> I added 5 minutes to the 90 minute boil after adding my immersion chiller. >> I collected 5.25 gallons of 1.049 (target 1.051) i.e. not bad for my first BIAB in over a year.
  • 20200205_130716Start of fermentation: Because I’d be brewing my First Fruits quadrupel the following day I decided to ferment this beer using the swamp cooler method in my brew closet. Rehydrating the yeast helped fermentation start within 12 hours of pitching. Surprisingly though there hasn’t been much of a krausen on this beer. There’s evidence of a krausen on the carboy, but since bigger CO2 bubbles cleared there hasn’t been any krausen. Because I haven’t used this yeast before I’ll have to wait until I take my first gravity sample to find out why a persistant krausen didn’t form (being a low gravity beer could be the cause). Notably, when fermentation was at high-krausen (most active), a wierd white substance form on the edge of the blow off jar twice. Once fermentation calmed down it did not come back.
  • Fermentation “fix”: After reading some additional reviews of the S-33 yeast I decided to check add a carboy stick-on thermometer to my carboy and check the temp of the swamp cooler water. Both were cooler than I expected…So I took the carboy out of the tub (plastic tote) and roused the beer/yeast.
  • Fermentation Management: Soon after taking the carboy out of the plastic tote and rousing the yeast I added a fermentation heat wrap and temperature controller which has since been able to keep the fermentation temperature between 70 and 71F. After a few days of being out of the swamp cooler (plastic tote) fermentation activity seemed to pick up and frequent bubbling was consistent for a week.
  • First Gravity Sample: On 2/18 I took a gravity sample and it showed my FG as 1.011, which means the beer finished at 5.1% ABV i.e. my target. The sample smelled and tasted great with tropical hop character and sweet bready malt standing out most.
  • Kegged: 2/26/20- after a 3 day dry hop at room temperature I kegged the beer. It tasted just as tropical and yummy as version 1.0.


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Brew Log: Second Blessing Barleywine 3.0

Updated: 5/14/20

Recipe Inspiration: Second Blessing barleywine is the beer that I chose to brew in celebration of my son’s birth in April 2018 and then of each year of his life. Being that English barleywine is one of my favorite beer styles, it was an easy choice. At its core this beer’s recipe is a clone of Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Sucaba barleywine. The minor changes that I’ve made to the clone recipe (found in BYO magazine) since I brewed version 1.0 reflect both preferences that I developed from brewing previous English barleywines and what I want the beer to taste like when its still young.

Grains: (estimated brewhouse efficiency set at 65%) – Batch Size: 5.25 gallons

15 lbs Maris Otter pale malt (64.5%)

2 lbs Munich 10L (8.6%)

1 lb Caramel/Crystal 120 (4.3%)

4oz Briess Blackprinz (equal or similar to Carafa III) (1.1%)

3.25 lbs can of Maris Otter light LME (14%)

1.75 lbs Dextrose (7.5%)


1oz Magnum (12.1% AA) @ 90 minutes

0.5oz Chinook (13.4% AA) @30 minutes – used because did not have enough Magnum

1oz East Kent Goldings (6% AA) @ 25 Minutes

2oz Willamette (5.8%AA) @ 20 minutes


2 packs of Omega Yeast Labs 006 – British Ale I (dated 11/7/19 and 11/14/19)

2.5 liter starter (1.040 SG) made 2 days in advance (see notes)


Shoprite Bowl & Basket spring water treated in the mash with 1.5ml of lactic acid


  • Changes to the clone recipe that inspired the above recipe for this vintage were: 1) Instead of roasted barley I used Briess Blackprinz malt because I didn’t like the roasty character that I detected in young bottles of version (vintage) 1.0. 2) Because I decided use a full can of LME (liquid malt extract) in order to improve my potential mash efficiency, I took out the crystal 60 in order to account for the likelihood of there being a percentage of crystal malt in the extract. 3) I used more Caramel/Crystal 120L to achieve a richer malt character and complement the dark fruit esters. 4) Because I don’t own a bourbon barrel and can’t calculate how much of an ABV boost the bourbon that I’ll be adding will contribute to the beer, I aimed for an OG that could get me to the 12% ABV present in the original beer (FW Sucaba).
  • Mash: 15 lbs Maris Otter (milled twice) and some rice hulls w/ 5.5 gallons of water (treated with 1.5 ml of lactic acid) @ 150F for 90 minutes (pH 5.35) »» Remaining 3.25 lbs of grains steeped BIAB style in 2.7 gallons of mashout water @ 153F for 45 minutes. Runnings were then brought to a boil while I collected the main mash’s first runnings. »» Mash out / batch sparge @ 168F for 30 minutes and then collected my second runnings. I batched sparged for 30 minutes because I didn’t bring the mash out runnings to a boil in time and therefore the main mash cooled down and I had to boil a gallon of runnings to get the mash out temperature from 161F to 168F.  »» Fly sparged w/ about 1.5 gallons of 170F water while collecting the last 1.75 gallons of runnings. »» Preboil gravity (before adding the LME) was 1.073 (target 1.075) @ 6.75 gallons.
  • Boil: Originally planned to last 90 minutes, but due to my adding the bittering hops and dextrose late it lasted 110 minutes. »» I added the can of Maris Otter LME right after the wort came to a boil i.e. I shut off the burners (stove top brew) and stirred in the extract which had been softening in a bucket of warm water. I carefully used some of the really hot wort to get any stubborn extract out of the can. »» As a result of my boil off rate and the volume additions of the LME and dextrose I’m pretty sure I ended up with a bit more than my target post boil volume of 5.5 gallons. »» After taking a refractometer reading to check my OG I was puzzled to see that it showed 1.113 because my preboil gravity was only 2 points below my target and I had boiled for 20 extra minutes. Therefore, I took a hydrometer reading and it read 1.122 i.e. my target OG. To relieve my homebrewer’s anxiety I called Bitter & Esters (my go to LHBS) and spoke to my friend Jack. He told me to trust the hydrometer more because refractometers aren’t always accurate when measuring high gravity worts. Of note, having recently purchased a taller graduated cylinder, I let my hydrometer sample sit out for a while for the particulates to settle and the gravity reading remained the same.
  • Yeast Starter / Start of fermentation: As per my usual high gravity brewing practices I made 2.5L  of starter wort and pitched my 2 packets of yeast (this time 2 days in advance so that I could pitch. on brew day). »» However, no matter what I tried my stir plate wouldn’t work so I ended up stirring it by hand as often as possible over 33 hours. »» At 9am on brew day I put the starter in my keezer to cold crash for a minumim of 12 hours. »» I ended up having friends over for NYE beers so I didn’t decant and pitch the yeast until 8:30am New Years Day. »» Fermention temperature range: 19-20C (66.2-68F). »» Signs of fermentation were visible after 6.5 hours and by the 9 hour mark fermentation activity was quite vigorous. »» 1/2/20- Despite cleaning up an initial fermentation mess the night before and adding Fermcap (foam retardent), I woke up to probably the biggest mess (volume loss) I’ve ever encountered. In response I added more Fermcap and lowered the fermentation temperature to 18-19C (64.4-66.2F). After dropping my kids off at school I came home and checked on the beer again only to discover that my earlier efforts didn’t seem to have worked. So I cleaned the neck of the carboy and added even more Fermcap i.e. my last resort.
  • Post-Primary Fermention: This beer’s FG was 1.022 i.e. 13% abv according to the Brewer’s Friend online calculator and 13.7% according to BeerSmith…Prior to racking to secondary I purchased 2 new 5 gallon Better Bottle carboys in order to limit headspace. Due to trub and blow off loss I racked between 4 and 4.25 gallons of barleywine into secondary along with about 2/3 cup bourbon and 3.35oz of bourbon soaked medium toast oak cubes on 1/23/20. I plan on letting the beer age for at least 6 weeks, but I’ll give it as long as it needs to develop the oak/bourbon character that I’m aiming for.
  • Bottling: After almost 3 months of aging on oak I bottled this batch on 4/19/19 along with a little extra bourbon. I’ll likely taste it in the next week or so.
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End of 2019 Brew Log

While I’ve developed a trend of posting an update every 4-6 months since I became a father in 2016. I’d like to try a different type of post that may help me post on The Brewed Palate more often. Hence the name of this post…One way to become a better homebrewer is to keep meticulous notes of each brew day in order to correct mistakes and or replicate a recipe that turned out great.  In turn, while this post is in essence another “update”, its format will reflect what future posts (specifically ‘Brew Logs’) will look like. Though I should note that many of my homebrewing experiences have involved recovering from a step or 2 of the brewing and or fermentation process that did not go to plan. So I will try to include thoughts on those experiences as well. Cheers!

Brew Log – November 2019

Zing of Nostalgia – Green Tea and orange blossom honey base w/ ginger and lemon zest added.

  • Batch size: 3 gallons
  • Honey: Orange blossom – 10.25 lbs OG 1.110
  • Yeast: Lalvin D47 (Nutrient schedule as per TOSNA calculator)
  • Green Tea – 17.5 tbsp whole leaf (Stash tea)
  • Ginger – .33 lb / gallon in primary -> Ended up almost doubling in secondary
  • Lemon Zest – 1 lemon / gallon steeped for 2.5 weeks in secondary
  • FG 1.000 -> backsweetened in secondary to 1.015


  • When I took my post-primary fermentation gravity sample I wasn’t sure whether I was tasting ginger or yeast character so I spoke to a fellow mead maker and he recommended that I add some honey to the sample to see if I could still pick out that flavor and I couldn’t.  I also couldn’t taste the green tea, but I reasoned that green tea has mild flavor characteristics anyways so this didn’t bother me as much. When I racked the mead to secondary I added almost the same amount of ginger that I did in primary which lead to the mead having a very powerful ginger character, which I hoped that the backsweeting and lemon zest would tame.
  • After 2 weeks on the extra ginger I racked the mead off the ginger, stabilized it, and after 2 days backsweetened it to 1.015 with more OB honey. I then put the zest of 3 lemons into a muslin bag with a sterilized metal straw a weight. I also used unwaxed/unflavored dental floss to suspend the lemon zest in the middle of the mead. After 2.5 weeks I tasted the mead and was happy with the lemon zest flavor in the mead and removed it. I then let the mead bulk age for about 2-3 months before bottling it on 11/2/19.
  • When I drank a glass of the mead after I finished bottling, the ginger was still very strong. However, when I opened my first bottle at a bottle share on 11/6/19, the mead tasted more balance. Most likely due to the fact that it was served chilled (in a refrigerator all day at work and taken to the bottle share in an insulated bag).


Bies Please! – Blueberry Melomel aged on vanilla beans (started 8/7/19)

  • Batch size: 5 gallons
  • Honey: Clover – 15.25 OG 1.110
  • Yeast: Red Star Premier Rouge (Pasteur Red) (Nutrient schedule as per TOSNA calculator)
  • Blueberries – 13 lbs Costco organic frozen blueberries in primary / 12 lbs in secondary
  • 5 vanilla beans added in secondary / 1 vanilla bean added in tertiery
  • FG 0.998 -> backsweetened in secondary to 1.015 with a combination of dark brown sugar and clover honey
  • Sparkalloid used help clear the mead


  • This mead was made for a homebrew club event that pitted high gravity against low gravity beers and meads and I only had 2 months to get it from raw ingredients and into bottles. Therefore, when I was assigned standard strength mead I chose to tweak a recipe from Mead Made Right database based on my previously successful mixed berry melomel.
  • Primary fermentation – 4 weeks / Secondary Fermentation – 2 weeks / Stabilization and “bulk aging” – about 2 weeks / Bottled just in time for the event on 10/6/19
  • While I was unable to attend the event I was able to get someone to pour for me and I recieved a lot of positive feedback after the event. Thankfully the blueberries and backsweetening added enough volume that only with the leftovers from the event, I have more than even of this mead to age and enter into competitions.
  • When I make this recipe again I may stabilize before adding the second portion of blueberries in order to achieve a more jam-like flavor profile. I’ll probably also add more pectic ensyme at that point too, as I felt that the secondary blueberries didn’t break down as much as I would have liked.


Gorbachev’s Gift 2019 (Imperial Stout) – Brewed 11/24/19


14 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt

1 lb Flaked Barley

1 lb Flaked Oats

1 lb Crystal/Caramel 120L

1 lb Roasted Barley

1 lb Chocolate Malt

12 oz Brown Malt

8 oz Carafa III

1 lb 2.3 oz DME

2 lb Dark Brown Sugar (primary)


1 oz Chinook @ 80 minutes

2 oz East Kent Goldings @ 20 minutes

1 oz Centennial @ 10 minutes

0.75 oz Chinook @ 10 minutes


1 smack pack each of Wyeast 1056 and 1098

Batch Size: 5.5 gallons Estimated Brewhouse Efficiency: 65% (lowered from 68% after brew day)


  • Out of the 3 big beers that I brew annually my imperial stout aka Gorbachev’s Gift has been the hardest to brew.
  • Because I wanted to see if managing the mash pH would ensure that I would achieve better mash efficiency than in years past I mashed all of my grains together (instead of adding the dark grains in later). I was able to raise the mash pH to 5.32, but as in years past my runnings at 7 gallons were 12 points lower than expected with my estimated brewhouse efficiency set at 68%. In addition, runnings that I collected afterwards had a gravity of 1.050 (post mashout/batch sparge) i.e. much higher than they should be…
  • I took about half a gallon of the extra runnings and boiled them down to 3 cups in order to boost color and gravity. I also decided to use the about of DME listed above rather the then 2 lbs in my original recipe because I realized that I didn’t need to shoot for an overall OG of 1.122.
  • OG prior to added the 2 lbs of dark brown sugar 3 days after pitching my starter was 1.092 at 5.7 gallons. My Beersmith calculated overall OG was 1.109.
  • When the krausen dropped after the first week I panicked (unnecessarily), roused the yeast and eventually raised the fermention set temp to 21.5C (70.7F).
  • My FG was 1.018 (almost 12% abv) due to my low (150F) mash temp and the brown sugar. Next year I’ll definitely mash at a higher temp to make my FG close to 1.025.
  • While the beer was fermenting (3 weeks) I soaked 4oz of medium toast oak cubes in Four Roses small batch bourbon. When it came to racking to secondary I added the cubes, 1/4 cup soaking bourbon, and just under 1/2 cup “fresh” bourbon. In addition, to dark the color of the beer I steeped 8oz of Carafa III malt in 3 cups of water, resulting in about 1.25 cups of cold brewed wort, which I poured into my secondary carboy prior to racking along with the aforementioned additions.
  • I plan on bulk aging this beer for at least a month proir to bottling it using dark brown or demerara sugar and CBC-1 yeast.

Bonus: Outrageous Accent braggot

I decided to boil and then combine half a gallon of extra runnings with 1.5 lbs of wildflower honey and ferment it with a packet of Safale US-O5

  • OG 1.092 FG 1.017 ABV 9.84%
  • Because I wasn’t a huge fan of the post-primary (3 weeks) taste I decided to rack the braggot to secondary with 2oz of cocoa nibs and 0.45oz french oak chips. I’ll age it for a week and then bottle it.


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Checking in: I’m still brewing…

Barry here with another much needed update…

Priorities, priorities, priorities…

As an orthodox Jew, husband, father of two, and clinical social worker  life has definitely not slowed down since my last blog post (11/28/18). Thankfully I have been able to keep brewing and taking advantage of local homebrewing related opportunities. All of which have continued to enrich my overall quality of life and keep me motivated to develop my brewing and fermentation management skills.

Beers that I’ve brewing since my last update include the following….mole bottles

My final beer of 2018 aka Churchill’s Mexican Vacation, an oak aged molé imperial porter. I deemed it a porter because its color is more brown than black. In order to add the molé flavors I made whisky tinctures with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, Mexican cinnamon sticks, and ancho chiles. While the oak didn’t come through, the molé flavors expressed themselves quite nicely. If I brew this recipe again I’ll  make sure the base beer is up to par before adding any adjuncts. That way the beer will be a bit more well rounded and will score better in homebrewing competitions.

quad 2019Next, came my two “baby” beers aka the beers that I brew in honor of each year of my kids lives. First was my daughter’s Belgian quad aka First Fruits quad. For this year’s vintage I went back to my original recipe and split the batch after primary fermentation. The first half was bottled as the “base beer” and the second was aged on oak cubes and bourbon for 28 days. Unfortunately the oak and bourbon did not come through in the finished beer, but both versions are tasting great. Next, time I’ll age the beer on the oak for as long as is necessary to achieve my desired flavor profile


SB pic

Great despite some bottles being flat.

The second of my two “baby” beers was my Second Blessing Barleywine aka my son’s annual brew. In terms of recipe changes for this beer’s second vintage…I decided to replace the small amount of roasted barley with 4oz of carafa III and slightly increase the amount of crystal malts. Though my mash didn’t go as planned, my use of maris otter extract for making up gravity points and a two-step mash for the base grains led to my FG being 1.024. Meaning, the beer came out at 11.7% ABV and was/is not too sweet. Unfortunately the oak and bourbon that I added into my secondary carboy did not contribute much flavor to the finished beer. This was most likely due to my not bulk aging it for long enough (29 days)  and or adding the bourbon and oak separately instead of making a tincture with the oak and then adding it and fresh bourbon to the carboy.

kveiky!My most recent two beers came from the same mash… Instead of brewing my usual summer beers aka dry hopped saisons I decided to use one mash to brew 2 kveik pale ales. The first which I named Kveiky! was hopped with galaxy and nelson sauvin hops and fermented with Omega Yeast Lab’s Hornindal strain. It came out tropical and smooth. So while the lemon-lime flavor that I loved in gravity samples quickly faded, I am happy with the beer overall. The second beer aka Dry Heat? pale ale (Jeff Dunham fans may catch the reference) was hopped with citra, azacca, and cashmere hops and fermented with OYL’s Voss strain. The beer turned out citrusy with great melon undertones and ended up being the beer that I prefer drinking on a regular basis.

mead bottleBeyond beer I’ve also immersed myself in the world of home mead making. Taking inspiration from Melovino meadery (which is a 20 minute drive from my home), the Modern Mead Makers Facebook group, and the mead subreddit. So far I’ve made 5 meads…1. Maiden Forage- made with mixed berry and clover honey this mead came out quite tasty and I’m looking forward to opening aged bottles. 2. Tempered Decadence– made with dried figs and dates along with avocado blossom and wildflower honey…This mead needed to be tempered with 3 quarts of wildflower traditional in order to not be cloyingly sweet. Deemed a “dessert mead”, it is still more sweet than some may prefer, but I’m happy with the flavor profile and will use the lessons that I learned while making this mead for future iterations of its recipe.  figgy pic3. Duvdivnei Rimon (Hebrew for Cherries of Pomegranate More contextual than literal in meaning) – I topped off the aforementioned wildflower traditional mead with both tart cherry and pomegranate juices. Then after re-fermentation was done I stabilized and back-sweetened the finished mead with orange blossom honey. 4. Zing of Nostalgia – this mead is still “in progress” – a base of strong green tea (the water) had orange blossom and fresh ginger added. An initial gravity sample did not have enough ginger character and therefore I racked the mead onto more ginger and it now needs to be racked onto more tea, back-sweetening honey, and lemon zest. 5. Bies Please! – this mead is still in progress- 15 lbs of clover honey have been fermenting with 13 lbs of organic blueberries since Wednesday 8/7/19.

Let’s sum things up…Delving into mead making has gotten my brewing curiousity wheels turning again and I hope to make time to share my experiences on this blog more consistently in the coming months. Cheers!


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Innkeeper Barleywine Collab @ Bitter & Esters

“Brewed On August 6, 2018, this English barleywine represents a five year friendship of passionate homebrewers. All of whom take pride in teaching others how to brew great beer at home and enjoy related experiences.”

DSC_0577     Ever since I  fully transitioned to all grain brewing in November 2013,  Bitter and Esters (Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) has been my homebrewing “home away from home.” As a full service home-brew shop one can either buy your ingredients and equipment for brewing at home or brew there on their impressive 20 gallon electric HERMs system. To me owners John LaPolla and Doug Amport and their staff have made it their mission to instill a sense of community and camaraderie with their fellow NYC homebrewers; and I continue to be blown away by how they’ve enhanced and grown along with the NYC craft beer and homebrewing communities.

While at the shop’s August beer swap  (8/1) John, Jack Misner ( B&E staff), and I finalized the details for brewing a 10 gallon batch of my most recent barleywine recipe with the goal of developing an approachable English barleywine recipe for the shop’s recipe binder. Though their brew-on-premise batches are usually 15 gallons, we felt it would easier to have the shop and I end up with 5 gallon gallons of barleywine each.

DSC_0509        On August 6th I headed to Bitter & Esters for brew day with Jack. Whilst weighing out and milling the grist I learned that due to its density, milling Maris Otter barley twice can improve mash extract yield. Moving along, brew day went quite smoothly until we took an original gravity reading and realized that we’d collected too much preboil wort. In order to compensate for the missed gravity points Jack and I decided that we’d add dextrose to the fermenting beer once primary fermentation had calmed down a bit. So while the realization of the missed gravity points was anxiety provoking, adding the dextrose thankfully proved to be a good decision.


When the beer was done fermenting and subsequently carbonating (keg) I once again teamed up with Jack to taste and bottle my half of the finished product. Once we got a rhythm going I found my first experience using a Blichman Beer Gun quite fun…Upon tasting the beer Jack, John, and I were all pleased to find it bursting with dark fruit esters and notes of caramel and toffee all while being quite drinkable for an almost 11% abv beer. In turn, we were all optimistic about how well the beer will potentially age.


It was then time to finalize the scaled down recipe (click picture below to purchase the ingredients kit) that would end up in the shop’s recipe binder, design the bottle label, and put away as much of the finished beer as possible for aging.

Thanks to John, Doug, and Jack for this amazing opportunity. I hope we can find time to collaborate on more brews soon. Cheers!



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