Sunday, October 28, 2007

Brew weekend

I brewed my Guinness Stout clone on Saturday night and bottled my Carbon Black Oatmeal stout. I have two batches to bottle during the next few days.

Here's my Guinness Stout recipe. It's from Clone Beers by Tess and Mark Szamatulski. Normally, when I clone a beer, I simply try to get close. If I get something I like, I do little to try to get it to be a perfect match. Cloning Guinness, however, is a different story. I want it to be as close as I can get it. Therefore, I try to follow the recipe as closely as possible. Here is the partial mash recipe I used:

1.5 lb 2-row British pale malt
12 oz. roasted barley
4 oz. 55°L crystal malt
4 oz. flaked barley
3 oz acid malt
4 lb Mountmellick LME
1 oz Target hops
0.5 oz Kent Golding hops
WYeast 1084 Irish ale

My Carbon Black Oatmeal
Partial Mash:
3 lb 2 Row British Pale Malt
1 lb flaked oats
8 oz. Munich malt
4 oz Belgian Special B malt
8 oz. roasted barley
3 lb Dark DME
0.5 lb Light DME
1 oz Bullion hops (6 AAU) (60 minutes)
0.5 oz Willamette (4 AAU) (15 minutes)
WYeast 1098

This is a lot of stout, but it will all be ready for the cold of winter when a nice full bodied stout is just what the weather ordered.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sounds like a challenge

We all have drinking stories, but try to top these.


it's been over a week since I last posted. I get really annoyed when I do that.

I'll fill that void with a beer update.

I bottled a Pale Ale that may have not have been the real thing. When I brewed it, I used some pale malt as part of a partial mash. The problem is, I didn't label the bag and in hindsight, I don't think it was pale malt at all. In fact, I have no idea what it was. The original gravity (this included 3 lbs DME) was about 1.036. That's kind of low. The final gravity was 1.010. It actually tasted OK when I bottled it. In a couple of weeks I'll know what I got. I do not mind low alcohol beers as long as they have some taste and flavor.

I also racked a oatmeal stout and another batch of my Metathesis pale ale to secondaries. Both are in my garage chilling at 55-50°F. I racked a Anchor Steam clone to a secondary and put that in my basement.

I started a yeast starter tonight to make a Guinness Clone. IMHO, Guinness is the greatest beer EVER. Nothing compares to Guinness. Even the "crap" that gets sold in the USA is better than anything. I've cloned it before. The goal is not to make a perfect match but to get something close that you enjoy. I've done well every time I've cloned it. I'm doing a partial mash Guinness clone tomorrow for the first time. I'm betting it will be good even if it isn't exactly like Guinness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A great day in the history of me finding things I lost

I was digging through a pile of old poster board piece I used at an ACS conference back in 2002±1 and look what I found:

My long-lost autographed photo of E.J. Corey.

So far this week, I have found many things I have been missing for a while including my 5/16 and 1/4 inch socket, and a hex wrench. Now, I've found this picture. Awesome.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

So much for the English language

I know this has nothing to do with chemistry or beer, but sometimes I need to vent. I love sports. I love football a lot, but I hate football commentators a lot. Face it, they are idiots.

The play-by-play guys are usually OK, but the color commentators are simply the worst people on the face of the earth. OK, maybe it's not that bad, but you must admit, they tend to say some really stupid things. I say stupid things all of the time. I know how it can happen, but the difference is I try not to say them over and over.

I'm referring to the cursed sports cliché. The phrase #1 is overused and #2 doesn't make any sense in the first place.

There are many. Some come and go. Others persist like a bad rash. The one that inspired this gripe is one of the stupidest. I heard it thrice today and I didn't even spend much time watching football today.
The phrase: "he caught the ball at its highest point." Idiots. No he didn't catch it at its highest point. When the ball was at its highest point, it was probably 20 feet high. No one can jump that high except maybe my childhood hero, Javier.

A better and as effect phrase would be "he caught the ball at the apex of his jump." See, you get to use the word "apex." That is a really cool word. The guys in the booth with you will look in amazement and decide that for a washed-up, former NFL star, you just might be "OK"

And another thing.... the word "literally" is not to be used as a word of emphasis. It means what you are saying happened in fact. So, don't say "he was literally flying down the sideline" unless the running back had sprouted wings and was actually flying like a bird down the sideline.

I know, I know. "Literally" can be used in an informal way to add emphasis. I'm just saying that that usage should be reserved for special occasions.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

OMG!!!! Beware the evil water

The video is about 10 minutes long and ends abruptly, but anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry (or anything, really) will be amused by this crap-filled video selling something to the ignorant.

My favorites: white copper sulfate and "only plants use inorganic minerals." There are many more.

There are a lot of blogs that address this type of thing (see Respectful Insolence for one high quality example). It is essentially, scam artists sucking money from the scientifically ignorant. I don't want to be that type of blog, but I couldn't pass this one up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GC, columns, and hydrocarbons

The Chemistry department at a major university in our area has a program through which they get rid of "stuff." When labs close or move, they have a ton of stuff they need to get rid of. Some of the stuff is junk, but there is always some very useful and valuable stuff. Fritted funnels, ground glass joints, TLC plates, cannulas etc...

My colleague recently made a trip and picked up 5 GC columns. The condition (and for some the type) of these columns was unknown. I've been installing them in our Varian GC and conditioning and testing them.

I was testing a column from J&W. DB624, 30m long, 0.32 mm bore, 1.8 micron film, apparently designed to analyze pesticides. I injected some hexanes (mixed isomers). The separation was awesome. See below:

I thought, wow, for $0 we really got an awesome column, and we did. The column is in perfect shape. Probably used 5 times. Who knows.
I continued to test it and decided since I got such good hydrocarbon separation, I would inject some ligroin. Ligroin is a poor mans replacement for hexanes. It is essentially defined as a hydrocarbon mix with a certain boiling range. For ligroin the range is 60-90°C. According to the Wikipedia article it consists of C7 to C11. It is less refined and thus less expensive.

I injected some into the GC and here is what I got:
Look familiar? From what I can tell based on this one analysis, the cheap ligroin one buys from Sigma-Aldrich is identical in composition to the more expensive hexanes.

Here's a side by side comparison (hexane is on top and ligroin on the bottom. It's not as dark because it was in red and got grayscaled by the printer):

I guess you learn something everyday.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frescos and chemistry

Tomorrow in lab, my Chemistry of Art class will be making frescoes. The following is from one of the handouts they will be given describing frescoes. It's a bit long, but perhaps interesting.

Of all of the painting techniques available, the technique of fresco painting involves the greatest number of chemical reactions. The study of the science behind frescos gives us the opportunity to discuss these reactions and chemical equations.

The technique of fresco is one of the oldest and most durable forms of painting. Frescos have been created for thousands of years, and thanks to their robust nature many have survived the millennia. Not only have frescoes been painted for thousands of years, they are also geographically widespread. This is due to the fact that the materials used to make a fresco (lime, sand and colored clays) are widely available and easy to process.

The term fresco means “fresh” in Italian. The essential feature of a fresco is that pigment is applied to a wet (fresh) surface of lime plaster. Some of the earliest frescoes found in Greece date back to 200 B.C.. During the Italian Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, the fresco painting technique was perfected. One of the best known examples of a fresco from this era is Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Fresco Anatomy: To understand the chemistry of a fresco, we first must understand what a fresco is. Frescos are most often painted on walls and ceilings. Typically a layer of plaster is applied directly to the wall to smooth the surface of the wall. This first layer is called the arricio layer. Once this layer has dried and hardened, a second layer of plaster is applied called the intonaco. It is in this layer that the pigments are applied. However, the pigments must be added before the intonacco layer dries. For this reason, the artist must work fast and without attempting to do too much. If this layer dries before the pigment is added, the artist is out of luck.

Fresco Chemistry: The chemistry of a fresco starts with the reaction used to make the materials needed for the fresco. The basic raw material for a fresco is limestone. Limestone is calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and is an abundant mineral found throughout the world. The first step is to convert the limestone into lime (or quicklime). Lime is calcium oxide (CaO) and is formed by heating calcium carbonate to over 800° C. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of the reaction. The chemical equation describing this reaction is shown in reaction 1.

The lime is a white solid that has a very high melting point. Long before the advent of electricity and on demand lighting, huge chunks of lime were heated until they glowed white. This light was used to illuminate theater stages, thus the origin of the term “limelight.” The carbon dioxide by-product is a gas and simple diffuses away.

The next step involves a process known as “slaking.” Water is added to the calcium oxide in order to “slake” it. The product of this reaction is calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) also known a “slaked lime.” See reaction #2 above

Lime is allowed to slake for years. This “aging” process allows as much of the calcium oxide to react. Calcium oxide is not very soluble in water. As a result, it takes a long time for the water to interact fully with the calcium oxide. Traditionally, the lime was slaked in large pits and is often referred to as “pit lime.” The slaking process produces heat as a by-product. A reaction that produces heat is called an “exothermic.”

The calcium hydroxide that forms is only slightly soluble in water. This results in a white, milky suspension with water. This suspension is a very caustic substance as calcium hydroxide is a strong base. Care must be taken when dealing with this substance since prolonged exposure can result in serious damage to the skin.

It is at this point that the artist uses the material. Slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) is mixed with sand to form the actual plaster that is applied to the wall. Typically, course sand is used for the arricio layer of plaster and fine sand is used for the intonaco layer of sand.

Once the intonaco plaster has been applied the pigments are added. The pigments are usually a suspension in water. What that means is that the pigments do not dissolve in water. When the pigments are applied to the plaster, they get absorbed into the plaster and eventually become part of the intonaco rather than a coating on the surface. After the intonaco plaster has been applied, the artist must finish the painting before it dries. Usually an artist will only attempt to paint a section 3-5 square meters in area. In addition, since the calcium hydroxide is very basic (alkaline), the pigments must be stable in an alkaline environment.

The drying of the plaster is a physical change. In this process, the slaked lime does not change chemically. The water simply evaporates leaving the dry slaked lime on the wall. What makes a fresco so robust is the chemical reaction that occurs slowly after the water is gone. Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere reacts with the calcium hydroxide to form calcium carbonate as shown in reaction 3 shown above.

The formation of the calcium carbonate (identical in chemical composition to the original limestone) results in a very hard and stable surface that traps the pigments. This reaction is very slow and occurs over the course of decades and even centuries.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fire!!!!! of a different type.

Dear blog reader,

You are going to have to read "between the lines" for this post. I don't want to get googled for the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean (or at least you soon will).

Anyways, in the first organic lab of the semester, I go through a fairly extensive safety lecture. Included in that I remind them to wash their hands after every lab. I usually add, quite seriously, that they should be sure to wash their hands BEFORE they use the bathroom. What you may not feel on your hands, WILL be felt by your more sensitive areas. It is usually met with snickers, but the advice is serious albeit a bit humorous.

I need to learn to take my own advice.

I wasn't working in lab- I was making jalapeño poppers at home. My recipe is below, but it involves slitting the peppers and scraping the seeds out. I did this to 10 peppers. Then, in the vernacular of my house, I went potty. I failed to wash my hands before going.

A few minutes later... well, let me just say I wasn't happy with myself. I'm wasn't rolling on the floor in pain, but I was very uncomfortable for several minutes. It reminded me of the old "Ben-Gay in the jockstrap" practical joke. But I wasn't laughing.

After about 30 minutes the pain subsided. I had finished preparing my jalapeño poppers and had started to consume them. Man, were they good. Here's the recipe:

4oz cream cheese
a small handful of shredded Montery Jack cheese
6 strips of chopped up and well cooked bacon
several dashes of hot sauce

The peppers are split and the seeds are removed. The peppers are filled with the filling, and then dipped in the following mixture:
1 egg
1 cup flour
enough milk to make the mixture like thin Elmer's glue

The excess is drained off and the peppers are rolled in bread crumbs (I prefer panko crumbs). They are deep fried for 2 minutes. Let cool and enjoy. Follow by a milk of magnesia chaser and loperamide HCl in the morning.

I hope you can learn from my experience. It's a bit embarrassing to tell, but it makes a good story.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Remember the good ol' days of Beavis and Butthead? They were, for good or bad (mostly bad), a cultural icon, albeit a short-lived one. The creators and MTV got into a lot of trouble for B&B's affinity for "fire" [I'm not sure how to type "fire" the way Bevis said it]. I remember people were up in arms because B&B were seemingly inspiring arson and the like.

Nonetheless, I couldn't help but think of them lately and their love for "fire."

Our Math and Science division is having a fall picnic this week, complete with bonfire.

I.... I, your humble crappy blog writer, have been asked to start the bonfire [OK, that's not really true, I simply usurped the privilege from my science colleagues].

I am going to ignite the fire using nothing other than chemistry!!! Now sure, lighting a match IS chemistry, but it is too traditional. I want to light the fire in a way that is dazzling.

At this moment, I am going to use my old standby reaction, thermite. I can do that with no problem. The beauty of it is that the fire would be started totally by the movement of electrons from one element to another. No covalent bonds would be broken [at least in the starting of the fire]. What a wonderful way of transferring energy to the wood and thus igniting it.

However, I'm open to suggestions.