Hi everyone. Just thought I'd share my first ever experience with
making an all-grain brew. Before now, and because I could strain loose
grains out of my brewpot, I've been using the mini-mash style of
brewing. I would mash in about 3-5kg of base and specialty grains in
bags, mash out what I could without sparging, and then fortify the
brew with diastatic pale malt extract, and sometimes liquid glucose
syrup (70% fermentable) and with that method, I could achieve a brew I
was very satisfied with.
Then I met the London Homebrew Guild members and picked a few brains.
Using the advice of the guild, I Macguyvered a mash tun filtration
'machine' from a 50L cooler and some of my racking tubes/hardware, and
using that, I was able to now successfully strain a whole pot of mash.
The doors were opened!
I made an Oktoberfest Lager that the guild members came up with for a
group brew for my first go. I figured that a recipe that the group
came up with would go over better than a full-bore experiment, so I
picked up the grains, yeast, and hops, and got to work on Saturday at
9AM. After sanitizing, heating up the water, and making sure my turkey
fryer propane burner wouldn't blow my arse to the moon, it was 10AM
and I poured the grains into the 160F water, and just as I was doing
that, Robthebrewer popped by with his wife. Boy was I glad that he did
after the fact. As soon as he arrived, I reached for my tongs (which
were holding my brewing thermometer) and the thermometer smashed.
Thanks to Rob's quick thinking of suggesting a meat thermometer, (hey
anything is better than my pinky finger), I was able to at least have
a rough idea of what my temps were, at least two inches deep in
whatever I was measuring. That's better than a kick to the arse with a
Rob mentioned that it was important to mind the temperatures, and that
seems to be the hardest part about mashing. He was right. My mash in
at 155F went swimmingly. My outdoor setup allowed my to control the
temps nicely, and I maintained the mash around 152-158F where my
target was 155F. I expect that the attenuation was altered at the
different temps, so I'm expecting a fuller-flavoured malt as a result
of doing this. I read that different mash temps affect flavours, so I
opted to shoot for getting a range of temps established in the mash
while keeping the target of 155F in the middle. So far so good.
I then heated up the sparge water on my kitchen range, and after an
hour an fifteen minutes of mash, I dumped the mash into the cooler and
sparged with 180F water. Oops. The temp dropped instantly to 150F.
GAH!! I heated up some more water on the fly, got it to a boil, waited
for the boil to stop, and added the small amount of water to the mix.
It went to 160F where I was aiming for 168F. Swing and a miss! At
least the cooler sparge tank/filtration device was able to filter out
the grain as I expected, so that worked at least!
I slowly sparged the cooler's contents into my brewpot, dragged the
pot outside, and boiled in the hops. This was the part I was at least
very familiar with, so from that point, it was business as usual for
me. The original gravity ended up being a low 1.050 (1.0495??) instead
of the expected 1.054, so I was pleased that I hit in the right
neighbourhood! I pitched in 15g of S23 lager yeast after cooling the
wort, and the brew has been looking good in primary since. I'm racking
it this weekend, and I'm going to secondary ferment it for 5-6 days to
settle out the trub, then I'm charging, bottling, and then lagering in
the bottle until the day where the guild meets in October to test out
the group brews we all made.
All in all, and with the expert help I had, this was a great
experience, and something I'll be doing standard from now on. If I
feel like a quickbeer, I'll buy some extract, but for this homebrewer,
a batch of beer is now expected to take 6-8 hours to make. I'm also in
the market for a pimp-thermometer and I'm taking suggestions there.
More to follow with how the brew turns out, and thanks for reading!
Here's a link to my video on YouTube of the event: