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.
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
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...
(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 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
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?
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
Turn heat on high for boil
Tasted sample after - tastes great!
21:52 Water boiling
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
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
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!
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
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!