First brew day

This weekend I finally took the plunge into home brewing. I've been interested in home brewing for a while, lurking on /r/homebrewing and other lists, putting together kit lists, revising kit lists, and learning a lot as I went.

brulosopher's post on /r/homebrewing finally convinced me to jump straight into all-grain brewing with BIAB rather than the normal beginner's method of extract brewing. To get started, I decided on this beginner BIAB kit from ontariobeerkegs.com. It was a bit more than I was hoping to spend initially, but I was having a really hard time putting together a reasonable kit for anything less.

Prep

The kit finally arrived last Thursday! I was really excited to open it up, and see all the shiny new equipment. It was all somewhat familiar from my months of research, but still excitingly new and real now that it was actually here.

equipment.png

In preparation for brew day, I cleaned out the kettle and fermenter buckets. I discovered a small leak in the ball valve on the kettle, and tightened up a little bit on the nuts holding it together. That slowed the leak down a bit, but I think I'll need to put some new teflon tape on it to stop it completely.

I used an old wooden dowel as a way to measure how much liquid was in the kettle. I filled up the kettle 2 quarts at a time, and used a knife to make a notch in the dowel for each additional gallon of liquid. This took a lot longer than I expected. 6 gallons is a lot of water!

On Friday night I filled up the kettle again with water from the tap, to let it sit overnight. I've read this helps to get rid of some of the chlorine in the water, but later wondered if it also allowed dissolved oxygen to escape.

I also tried putting the lid on the fermenter just to see how it worked. It was a real struggle to snap it on, and I could not for the life of me get it off again! I ended up tearing the strip off the base of the lid in order to remove the lid. Hopefully this doesn't increase risk of infection...

Brew Day

(May 24th, 2014) I was planning on getting started on Saturday afternoon, which should have given me plenty of time to get everything mashed, boiled, cooled and cleaned up. We were having such a great time at our family pilgrimage / picnic that we didn't get home until 6pm or so. No problem, I should only need 4 hours to brew, right? Onwards!

The kit came with a 5gal ingredient kit included, and I chose their American IPA. It comes with:

  • 10lb 2-row malt
  • 1lb Carafoam
  • 1lb Crystal 60L
  • 2oz Centennial Hops
  • 2oz Columbus Hops
  • 1pkg US-05 dry yeast

I kept notes as I went, and here's a summary of how the night went.

18:54   6.25gal water on high heat
19:49   water temp hit 150°F.
19:54   put in bag, grains
        heat off
        trying to keep temp at 150°F
        front dial thermometer shoots up to 170-180°F, while probe thermometers reads 145°F

at this point I wasn't really sure what to do...I didn't want to over-heat the mash, and I trusted my two probe thermometers more than the dial thermometer on the kettle. I wonder if the heat from the burner is affecting the dial thermometer?

mash.png
20:54   Turn heat on to begin mash out. Target 168°F
        Heat sparge water. ~0.5gal
21:06   Temperature @ 164°F according to probe; remove bag & grains to strainer in bowl on counter
        Dial thermometer was reading 180°F. Removed bag early because unsure of actual temp.

21:13   Drain, squeeze, pour sparge water over grain bag
        Pour collected runnings from bowl back into kettle

        I forgot to measure how much runnings I poured back in :\

21:15   I had about 5.8gal in the kettle. Took a sample:
        62°C 1.044 gravity = 1.052 gravity at 20°C according to online
        calculator
        Turn heat on high for boil
        Tasted sample after - tastes great!
21:52   Water boiling
hotbreak.png
21:54   Add 1oz columbus

22:45   50 minutes into boil. Checked gravity because it didn't look like
        volume had reduced enough. Looks like I still have ~5.75gal, but I
        had added more of the runnings from the grain bag since my initial
        pre-boil measurement. Again, something to fix in my process next
        time.
        Hydrometer reads 1.044 again at 70°C. I was a little disappointed
        since it seemed the gravity hadn't changed. Adjusted for
        temperature this works out to 1.062, which is the target gravity,
        so feeling better.
22:52   Add 1oz columbus
23:02   Turn heat off
        Add 2oz centennial
        Didn't take a volume reading at this point either. I assumed I
        could measure the amount in the fermenter, but ended up not
        transferring all the wort over...So this volume would have been
        good to have!
        Begin cooling wort
        kettle in sink with ice bath
        3x 1L frozen sanitized water bottles in wort
23:53   wort at 43°C
00:11   wort at 41°C
00:48   wort at 38°C
01:23   wort at 35°C
02:00   wort at 29°C
        too tired to wait longer!
        transferred to fermenter by pouring. Left hop sludge in
        kettle...not sure how much
        take gravity, volume, temp reading
        4.25gal 1.062 @ 29°C = 1.064 OG. Target was 1.062.
        pitch yeast dry
        put in airlock
02:05   move to basement
02:20   done cleanup; go to bed!

Did it work?

I must have checked the bucket 20 times the next day. I didn't see any airlock activity on Sunday at all. I peeked inside the bucket by removing the airlock, and it looked like there was a nice foam developing on top of the wort. I don't think the bucket has a great seal around the lid after removing the tab strip at the bottom, and I also noticed that the rubber stopper has a tendency to pop out of the hole in the lid, leaving a small gap. So CO2 could be escaping from a few places other than the airlock! I think I'd really prefer to ferment in something like a better bottle so I can see what's going on, and have an easier time keeping the airlock in place.

Much to my relief, this morning the airlock was bubbling a bit, and it looked like there was a nice krausen forming. It smells great!

What's next?

I'm hoping to bottle in a few weeks. The recipe says to leave in primary for 21 days.

There are definitely some parts of my process that need improvement. Because I didn't take accurate volume readings post-boil, including how much extra water I added and how much crud I left behind in the kettle, I don't have a good idea of the overall efficiency. I did hit the target gravity, which I was worried most about.

I still wonder if I should have poured the entire contents of the kettle into the fermenter. On the one hand I thought I didn't want all that crud clouding up my beer. On the other hand, I figured that an IPA should be sitting on hops for a long time...

I also meant to aerate the wort more in the fermenter by shaking it around for a few minutes. Again, I was pretty tired at 2am, and starting to worry about the wort being infected, so decided against anything fancy.

If I brew again, I'll definitely be buying or making a wort chiller. Waiting 3 hours to cool down to 29°C is insane, and is probably a bit on the warm side to be pitching yeast. My basement is a pretty consistent 19°C right now, which I hope is ok for fermenting. The bucket reads about 20-21°C. I've also considered building a fermentation chamber to control temperature.

Other things for next time would be getting some kind of wine thief or long turkey baster for drawing samples out of the wort for measuring. I used a Pyrex measuring cup to take a sample from the kettle right after the mash, and I just dipped the hydrometer sample jar into the fermenter bucket to take the final sample. Both of these ended up being messy, and I was worried about infecting the wort with my hands while removing the sample jar from the fermenting bucket.

All in all, I did have a lot of fun, even though I ended much later than I was planning. The beer smells great so far, and tasted great at each point along the way. I'm really hopeful the final result will be as tasty!

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