Caramel vs. Crystal Malts:
My memory was not as blurry as I thought. Noonan does differentiate between Caramel malts and Crystal malts in the following way. He writes that Crystal malts are fully saccharified before kilning (thus the glassy endosperm), whereas Caramel malts are not fully saccharified. After discussing the ways in which the production processes differ, he writes the following:
"Caramel malts were traditionally used by continental lagre brewers, whereas crystal malts were favored by British ale brewers. The distinctive, complex flavors of caramel malts have their place in brewing, but unfortunately, modern maltsters are eschewing the production of crisper-flavored crystal malts in favor of the easier-to-process caramel malts. In fact, most modern maltings no longer make a distinction between caramel and crystal malts."
So...is there a difference? Yes. At least there was. Keep in mind that this text was also written eleven years ago. If trends remained the same, then there may be little to no pragmatic difference between caramel and crystal malts. If that's so, then I'm still not sure what the difference is between say, CaraAroma and a crystal malt of a comparable Lovibond rating. I'll have to do some more research before I finally weigh in on this issue.
Second order of business: I brewed an American Amber Ale on Saturday morning. Here's my recipe:
Maris Otter 62.5%
Munich Type II 31.25%
UK Crystal 60L 3.125%
1 oz. Palisade (9.7% AA) 60 min.
1 oz. Athanum (5.1% AA) 15 min.
.5 oz. Palisade 10 min.
.5 oz. Athanum 10 min.
.5 oz. Athanum 5 min.
.5 oz. Palisade @ flameout
I ended up knocking this batch out in about 5 hours. That even includes the milling of grains. Seems like the process is becoming more refined. There is still one area that is causing me problems - extract efficiency. I calculate my anticipated OG using 65% as the anticipated efficiency. I mashed 16 lbs. of grain at 154F at a rate of 1.1 quarts per pound for ~75 minutes and came up short by 9 GUs. That's an extract efficiency of about 57%. That's quite poor. I did an iodine test to check for proper starch conversion and the resulting color was a deep red, but certainly not black. (The deep red shouldn't be surprising given my mash temp and the inclusion of some darker crystal malts.)
My problem could have to do with many aspects: mash pH, mash thickness, and lautering. I'm still not entirely prepared to jump into the first two right now, but I will be changing my manifold this week to see if that improves yield at all. I hope to post a picture or two of the fully constructed mash/lauter tun later on this week. I plan on using mostly CPVC.
If you'd like to build a cooler-based mash/lauter tun yourself, I would suggest looking at John Palmer's article on the matter.
For a few weeks now, I've been looking for an answer as to what the theoretical limit of IBU dissolution is. I have not found an answer yet. Tech Talk yielded no useful results. I've emailed my question to the "Ask the Professor" section of Zymurgy, so hopefully something will come up. I'm interested to know because I hear people talking about beers with 100+ IBUs, and it strikes me that the calculations we use as homebrewers to deteremine IBUs can be, well, just wrong. Sure, they can give us a good idea of how much to add for a bittering addition, but it is unlikely that we actually have 35 IBUs in a beer just because a calculation says so. For one, I'd like to know just where the IBU mark ends.
Tomorrow for Technical Tuesday: Mash Thickness.
 Noonan, Gregory New Brewing Lager Beer (Brewers Publications, 1996)