Friday, April 19, 2013

My Brew Day

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I'm going to walk all of you through my first all-grain brew day. I started out by cleaning and sanitizing everything. This is key! If you plan on making a traditional beer, you MUST sanitize your equipment or you'll get an infected beer. Infected beers have many bad flavors, and they're generally disgusting.

Some of the small stuff sanitizing in the sink.

The next step was to heat up water in which to steep the grains (this is called mashing). There's a complex formula to figure out what temperature the water needs to be heated to based on the temperature of the grains and the mash tun (where I mash the grain). In this case, I missed my target temperature by 2 degrees, which is actually very impressive considering I've NEVER brewed with this method before, and I knew almost NOTHING about my system. The remedy: add boiling water and stir.

Inside my mash tun. Lots of grain!
After the mash, it's time to sparge. That's where you drain the water out through the bottom of the mash/lauter tun, rinse, repeat. Literally. I did a batch sparge which meant I drained all of the water from my tun, filled up with a second batch of water, let it steep for fifteen minutes to extract more sugars, and then drained it again.

Wort draining into my kettle.
Followed by the boil! At my altitude, boiling temperature is 203 degrees F. That lower temperature will affect the flavor of the beer, but probably not enough for me to notice. One of the important pieces of information I needed to figure out in advance was how much liquid I boiled off every hour. This determined how much grain I needed, how much water, and what my pre-boil gravity (the saturation of sugars present in the liquid) would be in order to hit my Original Gravity at the end of my one hour boil. I boil off approximately 4/5 of a gallon per hour, and since I wanted 3 gallons to go into my fermentor, I needed just over 4 (to make up for loss in volume when the liquid cools and various materials that need to be strained out of the wort...more on that later).

My brew pot, on the stove as it warms up towards a boil. Minutes before the power died :P

So, once my power died and I cleaned out my mash tun (in the dark), I figured I should do some chores. But then the power came back on. To avoid long-term stability to the end-product and funky off-flavors, I started the boil. I let it boil for 50 minutes, and then, on the advice of a HIGHLY successful brewer in California, I waited until the last ten minutes to add my hops and Irish moss (used to clarify the wort).

I have .75oz of Fuggles, .75oz of East Kent Goldings, and beneath that, .75tsp. of Irish Moss

The hops went into the boil, along with the moss, and I let them run for ten more minutes.


I had such a strong boil that this happened to the INSIDE of my condo.

Then it was time to cool everything down. At the beginning of the boil, something called the Hot Break occurs, during which various proteins broken down in the mash all coagulate together. I scooped some of that stuff off when it showed up. Then at the end, I needed to cool everything down very quickly for the Cold Break where all of those proteins join together and fall to the bottom of the kettle. The Irish Moss helps with that, making sure that the wort is clearer, preventing protein haze in the finished beer. Those hop pellets also left a lot of matter behind in the wort, so while I cooled the wort, I also stirred it to create a whirlpool that gathered all of the matter in the center of my kettle. I then syphoned the chilled wort (cooled to 72 degrees F) into my 5 gallon glass carboy, making sure the syphon remained at the outer edge of the kettle to avoid all of the trub (all of the hot break, cold break, and hop matter).

After that, I shook up the wort to get oxygen into solution (not the most effective method, but the only one I can afford at the moment) and tossed in a vial of liquid beer yeast. It now sits in the bathtub in our guest bathroom with a stopper in the mouth and an airlock in the stopper to prevent airborne contaminates from getting in and spoiling it.

Almost 3 gallons of wort fermenting away. The bubbles on top contain yeast, CO2, and various other byproducts of the fermentation process.
After two weeks, when it's reached Terminal Gravity (the lowest amount of sugar left in solution that the yeast will convert), I'll syphon out of the carboy into a bucket with a spigot, add some sugar, and then toss it into bottles to condition/carbonate for two or more weeks.

And that's it. My brew day. Any questions?

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