Monday, May 27, 2013

All Grain Brewing Process

Our local home-brew club decided to do a club wide learning type activity.  It's basically a how am I brewing with everyone starting out with similar recipe specs (malt, hops, and yeast) and brewing like you would normally brew. Everyone should be taking detailed notes so the other members can provide advice on improvements to your process or learn what you did to get that perfect pint.  I decided to augment my notes with photos/video to capture the process in more detail than simple stats can convey and if everything turns out tasty I can easily help someone else understand what I do.  This is mostly a procedural post without a lot of the why that went into the decisions on what the targets were.  Keep in mind there's a hundred ways to skin a cat and this is just my (current) process, and with that we're off.

A Little Recipe Prep

Let's start with the recipe parameters the club decided to use.  Chosen for simplicity was a pretty basic five gallon batch of English Bitter with the following raw stats.

OG: 1.050
IBU: ~36
6 gallons post-boil
9 # Maris Otter pale ale malt
1.0 # crystal 35
Admiral @ 13.1%, 60 min 0.55 oz
Goldings @ 4.1%, 10 min 1.00 oz
Goldings @ 4.1%, 2 min 0.50 oz
Wyeast 1028 (London Ale)

I took all that and plugged it into my handy dandy BeerSmith 2.0 (I'm not affiliated with them at all but love the software) which has my equipment profiles saved and does a pretty good job of calculating water and sparge volumes and temperatures.  Note I didn't have Crystal 35 loaded into my grain library so I just approximated it with a half pound each of 30 and 40.  A little fiddling with the efficiency since I don't usually get as good a yield with the 5 gallon batches (normally I do 10) and I'm pretty well planned out.

BeerSmith Recipe Screen
Brew-Day- Pre-Mash Activities

With a recipe in hand it's time to get started.  Since life got in the way I didn't have a chance to make a yeast starter like I normally would and opted to simply use the Wyeast smack pack as it came.  Simply break the pouch inside without opening the package per the instructions on the back and set it on the counter as the first activity of the day.

Just Smacked, we'll get back to it in a few hours
Next up is water, it'll need some time to get it up to temperature so I like to get it started before measuring and milling the grain bill to help save some time.  This is filtered to remove chlorine since that flavor would show up in the finished beer.  I had a broken sight glass on the the kettle and the new one got there just in time for brew day.  As a result I didn't get a chance to calibrate it ahead of time and this being a 5 gallon batch I just went with some 2 quart measuring cups.

I really forgot how much I hated measuring out water  in  quarts.

With the water in the kettle coming up to temperature it's time to move on to the grain bill and milling.  Two malts measure out on the scale and it's ready to mill.

Maris Otter in the Bucket, Crystal 35 in the Cup, they were milled together.

 Milling was done with one pass through a roller type mill, fill the hopper and the dive it with a cordless drill.

Getting Ready to Go
The Crush Post Milling

Better view of the crush, could have been a little finer  but it'll probably be alright
Water is still heating up so it's time to assemble the mash tun.  This is a cooler with a bulkhead and valve connected to a manifold made of copper piping.  There are slots cut in the bottom that I didn't get a picture of but there are plenty of how to's on building your own out there.

Mash Tun with Manifold Installed
The Mash

With the water up to around 170° F now I preheat the mash tun before doughing in the grain.  I always try to start hotter than I need because the tun will absorb some of the heat and if it's still too hot just let it cool down a little bit.

Measure for Strike Temp 
The temperatures from BeerSmith tell me that my 13.5 Quarts of water need to be at 165.4°F so that when I stir in 10 lbs of grain at 70°F I'll hit my target mash temperature of 152°F.  Just measure the water in the tun and make sure it's around 165°F before you dough in the grain bill.

Dough in to the strike water, don't just dump all at once though you'll want to sprinkle it in a little to avoid it clumping together (see video below)

After everything has together check the temperature, I ended up just a bit high at 154°F
With that done it's time to hurry up and wait.  I've got 60 minutes to let the mash do it's thing so take a little time to gather up and check hops, the boil kettle, and anything elseI might need for the boil.  Measure out sparge water and start to bring it up to temperature during this time.  I checked the mash temperature at the end of 60 minutes and it had lost 2 degrees (down to 152°F).

Running Off the Wort and Sparging

At the end of the mash I start a Vorlauf to clear the running's and set the grain bed before running off into the kettle.  I normally recirculate 1-2 gallons for a batch this size.  To Vorlauf run off into a small and then pour it back into the mash (be careful not to disturb the grain bed too much.

The Vorlauf
When the running's are sufficiently clear (no grain floating around) I drain everything into the boil kettle.  Be sure the valve on the kettle is closed, then check it again.

Letting Gravity do the Work

Inside the Kettle with the HopStopper
I batch sparge which just means that after the mash tun is empty I'll dump in the sparge water, give it a stir, and then wait 10 minutes.  After that 10 minutes it's another round of vorlaufing and then run into the kettle.  The sparge water need to be heated to help separate the sugars from the mash more easily.  Just don't go above 170° F or you'll extract tannin's that will affect the flavor.

Sparge water 4.5 Gallons at 165°F
Second Vorlauf, note the lighter color
Grain after the mash process, the sugars have been liberated!

Total collected wort was 6.5 gallons (26 quarts).  I had used 13.5 quarts + 18 quarts which is 31.5 quarts between the mash and sparge steps.  The grain absorbed most of that (about 5 quarts) and the rest of it was left in the dead space of the mash tun.  All that's left now before the boil is to grab a refractometer reading to see how well the mash did and record the collected volume of wort.  Estimated preboil gravity was 1.038, I read just a little over 9 brixx (9.2 is what I read) which converts to 1.037 so that's pretty close to the efficiency I estimated.


The Boil

With all the wort collected and the kettle on the heat I just wait for it to come to a boil so I can start the hop schedule.  It'll be getting close when the hot break begins to form.

Hot Break Forming

During the mash I made sure all the hop additions were ready to go and marked for then they should be added to the boil.  The minutes marked on the packages are for how long they need to be in the boil so 60 minutes would go in right at the start.

Hop Additions Marked for Time in the Boil
After you get a good rolling boil going it's pretty much dump the hops in on schedule and give it a bit of a stir.  I like to be sure they aren't stuck to the kettle sides by splashing a little wort around the edges.  The first video below is the foaming that occurs just after the first hop addition.  The second is the boil after all that has subsided.

I normally start preparing the carboy and  any other post boil equipment during the last half of the boil (keep your eye on the clock though you don't want to miss an addition).  This includes the chiller, airlock, funnel and all necessary transfer tubing.  The sanitizer shown here is StarSan, I like it but any will do just follow the instructions on the package.  I don't always use 5 gallons of StarSan but I needed to mix up a new batch, I'll reserve what's left in an old carboy for use during the next brew day and bottling.

Carboy and Transfer Tubing

Airlock Assembly

Counter-flow Chiller Set Up and Filled with StarSan

Post Boil and Pitching 

All the hops are in and the flame is out, the boil is over.  From this point on everything that touches the beer must be cleaned and sanitized.  I put a lid on the kettle and move it to a slightly elevated position to let gravity transfer everything through the chiller (someday soon I'll buy a pump but this works for now).

Chiller Setup 
I turn on the water to the chiller, open the valve on the kettle and get ready to transfer everything to the carboy.  The HopStopper installed in the kettle does a stellar job of grabbing most of the hops from the boil. The video below is the first few seconds of the transfer and that's pretty much all that comes out.

I check the temperature coming out of the chiller going into the carboy to be sure it's close to fermentation temperature.  In this case it's right around 70°F, I would prefer a little cooler but that's all the ground water temperature could do for me today.

Checking Temperature
Somewhere during the transfer I'll pull a sample for a refractometer reading.  This time I also pulled a hydrometer tube full so I could get a picture of the post-boil gravity.  Post boil it ended up right at 1.044, the estimate going in was 1.045.  Not perfect but close enough.

It's a little hard to see but this is the hydrometer reading 1.044
After everything gets transferred I check to see how much wort was collected after losses to trub in the kettle and boil off using the graduations I've marked on the side of the carboy.  This batch was just a little under 22 quarts.  Taking into account losses to the yeast cake later I'll be just a touch under 5 gallons into the bottles/keg.  Volumes were overall pretty close the whole way through and although I can do better I'm pretty happy with those results.

22 Quarts Collected 

Trub and hop debris left in the kettle

With the temperature being a little warmer than my selected fermentation temp I decided to go ahead and pitch the yeast knowing my fermentation chamber would cool it down a few more degrees pretty quickly.
I spray down the top of the package and the scissors I'm going to use to cut it open with sanitizer, slice the top off, pour in the yeast, and get the airlock on as quickly as possible.

Sanitized yeast package, note the pack is now swollen since breaking the nutrient pack this morning

Dump it in and give it a good swirl

Airlock in place and ready for the fermentation chamber

All that's left now if a quick walk to the fermentation chamber (a converted chest freezer), rubber band a thermocouple to the side of the carboy, and set the controller.  I'm setting the temperature controller to 63°F since my thermocouple will be located on the outside of the carboy.  The actual fermentation temperature will be 1°-3°F higher than ambient due to heat given off by the yeast which should keep me right around the steady 65°F temp I have chosen.

Thermocouple in place

Setting the controller to 63°F

Now it's a waiting game for the yeast to do it's work, I'll plan to monitor fermentation by checking in on it at a pretty regular interval and will note how many hours it takes to get a krausen and to be sure I haven't had a blow off event.

Relevant Stats Summary

Quick wrap up of the actual measurements and the targets with a brief reasoning of what I likely did wrong:

Mash Temperature: 154°F (Target 152°F) - Dough in a little hot due to head space thermal loss fears
Mash Time: 60 minutes
Sparge Water Temp: 165°F
Sparge Water Time: Batch Sparge, total time including rest and vorlauf approx. 20 minutes
Pre-Boil Volume: 6.5 gallons (target 6.47 gallon)
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.037 (target 1.038)
Boil Time: 60 minutes
Post-Boil Volume: 22 quarts (target 23 quarts) boil was a little more vigorous than my 10 gallon batches
Post-Boil Gravity: 1.044 (target 1.045)
Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale 3/21/13 manufacture date (brew date 5/27/13)
Yeast Prep: Smacked the pack at the beginning of the brew day
Fermenter Type: Better Bottle Plastic Carboy w/ Three Piece Airlock and Bung
Fermentation Temperature: Converted freezer set at 63°F thermocouple positioned on the side of carboy

Future info to collect:
-Time to fermentation kicked off
-Final Gravity
-Bottling Details.


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