Brewing and reviewing since 2012.
Today seems like a good day, to stick a sparge or two. A post that starts with 311 can’t possibly be a bad one, right? Right.
So, after this weekend I’ve now officially got two batches under my belt with my new, expanded all grain set up. I had been doing this 2 gallon all grain BIAB method, but with the new house I’ve got a lot more space to work with and therefore more room to make beer! I was able to get two 10 gallon Gatorade coolers from a good friend, and along with the BOGO PET carboy special Midwest Supplies offered over the summer I was able to make the jump immediately. I used this great tutorial from the Homebrew Talk forums to put my mash tun together. After testing it out it looked like I was all set to go, but that first brew day was far from smooth.
The first lesson I learned is that brewing in New Jersey in December is cold. Finger numbing cold. In fact, it was the day before we got 10 inches of snow, which no one saw coming. However, even if the weather had been perfect this brew day would still have been a wreck. I decided to go with this IPA recipe I created and whose name was shamelessly…influenced…by Carton. This picture was actually the highlight of the brew day.
To start they day, I was very underprepared when it came to water. I decided to filter the water I’d need like I had for my smaller batches, but using a Brita for 10 gallons of water took close to two hours, already putting me behind schedule. Once the water was finally filtered, I was unknowningly using the burner on a low setting so the water took quite some time to get up to temperature. Once I finally got that up to temperature, I hadn’t warmed the mash tun so I missed my temperature by about six degrees. No problem there, I just mashed longer, but it still added time to my already off schedule brew day. But the real fun hadn’t even begun.
When it came time to clear the first runnings, I turned the valve with high expectations. Those expectations were short lived. Within 10 seconds the runnings had come to a screeching halt, running drier than a river on the surface of Mars. Sure, there was evidence that liquid may have been there, but I sure couldn’t see anything any more. I tried mixing the mash with my paddle, blowing air through the valve, nothing worked. I actually ended up taking my BIAB equipment and dumping everything from my mash tun into that. This allowed me to at least collect the first runnings and keep the grain contained to attempt batch sparging. Once I had the first runnings collected I put the bag of grains back into the mash tun and dumped the sparge water in as well. Keeping the grain in the bag allowed me to collect the second runnings, and I was finally able to get the boil going. From then on out it was smooth sailing, other than the sanitizing bucket going frigid from sitting outside.
After the mash tun had been emptied out I was able to diagnose the problem I had with the mash. Turns out the square head plug came out of the braided wire tube acting as a filter, allowing grain to come in through the end. I had made a suggested adjustment to the original instructions by switching out hose clamps for a food grade tube inside the SS wire, which had been recommended at one point. Had I read further in the thread I would have seen that it was no longer advised, but alas, I learned the hard way. For batch two I picked up some clamps to use and it worked perfectly.
I brewed my second batch, this amber ale, the following weekend. I learned a lot from that first batch and applied what I could for this one. Along with using stainless steel clamps, I filtered the water the day before, cranked up the power on my burner, and preheated my mash tun beforehand. My mash still dropped to 148°F, but I just extended the mash time again and that seemed to have worked. I was very nervous when I opened the valve once the mash time was up, but to my relief there was a steady flow of wort and the whole process was more relaxing. I was even able to enjoy a hot toddy with some of the first runnings and brandy! I did severely underestimate the boil off rate in the cold weather, so I ended up with a low final volume, but that’s the cost of learning your equipment. I again didn’t finish before dark, but that was my own fault for getting a late start on the day.
Both batches are bubbling away in their fermenters with the yeast doing the hard work they were born to do. I’ll be bottling them the next couple weekends, and can’t wait to drink up. I’ll be posting full, biased reviews with statistics once they’re all carbed, along with pictures (which this post lacked. The brew days were hectic and I forgot, my apologies.) After these two sessions I may have to put the brewing on hiatus until the temperature starts with a 5, but it did feel great getting back into the action.