Growing up in Homebrew: Part 2
If you read my Part 1 to Growing up in Homebrew, you know I am now starting to brew all grain batches. Here is where I get to the growing up part. My birthday present from my wife was a basic 5-gallon partial mash kit from Midwest Brewing Supply. And then she went one step further with a 5-gallon mash tun and hot liquor tank. After that, I got a grain and hop scale, a large boil pot and propane burner and an immersion wort chiller to round out the setup. All of these new pieces of equipment give me more control of everything. I can choose a flavor profile, color, alcohol content, hops profile and yeast to make something original.
For my first batch, I decided to try something familiar and relatively easy. I created an American Pale Ale based on Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Most of my Mr. Beer recipes were ordered online so I never had a reason to really shop into a local homebrew store. I had visited a store close to home, Blockader Home Brew Supply, two times in the first year of brewing for bottle caps and a yeast that was not available from Mr. Beer, but this visit was different. I waited until the owner was available to assist me with my first grain bill and hop schedule. He made one suggestion on the malts to balance out the hops I had chosen. We weighed and then crushed the grains and I was on my way with some hops, yeast and excitement to get started.
It didn’t matter that it was a late Sunday evening. I set up my equipment and went for it.
Brewing this was was a lot of fun but also a lot more work. Everything seemed to take an hour and it took me a while to get used to the propane burner and figure out how to get it set to heat water faster. My process started out by heating up enough water to pre-heat the hot liquor tank and mash tun. This will prevent the mash from having too much heat loss to the equipment. Then I had to reheat enough water again to create the mash and add my grains. I let this sit for one hour. In that hour, it is time to get the next step ready — the sparge. I have chosen to do a fly sparge technique, mostly because it came with the mash tun kit but also because it seems to do a good job of rinsing the sugars through the grain bed and into the brew pot. Sparging can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes for my 3 gallon batches and this is not a time to rest either. I usually spend this time ensuring the flow out of the hot liquor tank is sufficient enough to cover the grain bed to maintain an efficient wort collection. Once I have collected all the wort (approximately 4.25 gallons in my case), it is time to boil.
This is another hour-long step and a homebrewer’s rule is that an unwatched boil pot WILL boil over so this is not a time to rest either. I take this time to start cleaning my equipment by removing the spent grains from the mash tun.
Once the boil is over, I take 20-30 minutes to chill the wort to get ready for pitching the yeast. This was a difficult process using the wort chiller the first time and getting the flow right. The good part was using the hot water from the exit of the chiller to clean my mash tun. The water comes out pretty hot so it makes it easy to rinse and clean the equipment and put it away for the next brew day. After the wort cools to the desired pitch temperature, I transfer it to the fermentation bucket, pitch the yeast, and wait.
I plan on brewing a few “easy” recipes over the next few months and I will share my experiences and learning as we go.