As I chronicalled in a post last week, my first attempt at all-grain brewing got debacled. Well, I tried again this week and it went much better. I’m not sure what was going through my head last week, but I must not have been in the right frame of mind to brew.
I’m not sure how the final product is going to turn out. Since I only have a five gallon brew kettle, I can’t sparge the grains as much as I need to, so I’m sure my efficiencies are going to be extremely low. My initial gravity was only 1.018, so I might have to call this Untamed Beer N/A. On a positive note, there are already signs of fermentation so there will at least be some alcohol in it.
The color also looks really good. This is a pale ale, and for the first time, I’ve actually been able to achieve a very light, straw color. In my extract brewing experience, even my pale ales would end up a bit amber.
I also tried a little bit of the wort before putting it in the fermenter. This beer is going to be hot-pocket-level-destroy-your-taste-buds-hoppy. I’ve thrown balance to the wind by using 6 ounces of hops, including dry-hopping which I’ll do in the secondary. I always like to push the limits of civility, so we’ll see how it turns out.
Here are some lessons learned:
- Do not heat your mash water with the grains in it. You will end up with oatmeal. Heat the water, then add the grains. Don’t I feel sheepish.
- Make sure your grain isn’t too finely milled.
- Write down all your steps before you start, even if you think you’ve got the process down. When the bullets start flying, it’s easy to forget stuff.
I’ve been getting really good efficiency by batch sparging via a reusable nylon bag. But it’s a pain in the butt. Roughly: Steep all 10-12 lbs of grain in bag at whatever temperature your recipe calls for with about 2.5 – 3 gallons of water. Lift grain bag up and allow wort to drain freely (usually a minute or two). Remove bag from brew pot. Put semi-drained grain bag into separate bucket. Let rest for several minutes. Slowly rinse the grains with 1 liter of hot water. Let soak for several minutes. Pick bag up. Drain wort. Pour that into the brew pot. Basically rinse and repeat that process until you’re at about 3 – 4 gallons. Then start the boil like normal.
As you might have guessed, it’s pain because holding a 30 pound bag of grain while it slowly drains off sugars gets difficult after a while.
That’s a great suggestion. I’ve used the mesh bags before and they’ve worked well. But you’re right, holding a soaking wet bag of grain for 5 to 10 minutes is not easy.
I did run the “first runnings” through the grain in my double-five-gallon-bucket strainer setup, hoping that a second rinse would work. This would all be solved if I invested in a 10-gallon brewpot. If I only had $250 laying around…