Next stop .. All Grain ..

March 20th, 2013 § 0 comments

Ever since we started brewing, Nick has wanted to brew all grain.  I needed a bit more convincing and a bit more time to really nail our brew process before we made it even more difficult.  After 18 batches brewed over at least a dozen brew days, we’d gotten pretty organized.  I was pretty sure I understood the basic process to brew all grain:  Grains in big cooler, cover in hot water to steep for an hour or so, drain, rinse with hot water from little cooler, boil.  Seemed easy enough.

And then Nick pulled me into a homebrew thread on Reddit and suddenly I had a million questions and was completely confused.

The good news is, its not really much more complex than: Grains in big cooler, cover in hot water to steep for an hour or so, drain, rinse with hot water from little cooler, boil.   Just a few more details to pay attention to.

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We were trying to decide what AG to brew first when someone poured the last glass of  our  “Always Hopping IPA” which is a Dogfish Head 60 Minute clone we’ve made a couple of times.  The recipe we used to brew that beer with extract also had all grain directions.  I liked the idea because it would give us a sort of baseline to compare with.

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We tried to hold our mash at 153* for the duration of the steep by adding some hot water a couple of times.  And cold water once when we added too much hot water.  In reality, we probably didn’t need to be so OCD with the temperature and could have done without any adjustments.  Noted for next time – our LHBS owner, friend and brew mentor says 148-152* is a good range.

We used a glass pitcher for Vorlauf and ran several pitchers before draining into our brew pot.  But, we were never really sure “how clear is clear” .  Some later research suggests that we should probably run continuously (we were shutting the valvue and pouring back in between each pitcher) for maybe a gallon or so (trial and error and different for everyone).  We did have some chunky particles in the bottom of the brewpot so we’ll think about that for next time as well.

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We did a batch sparge.  When we decided we were done with the Vorlauf, we attached a hose and drained the first runnings into the brew pot.  When it ran out, we added the necessary volume of strike water to the mash tun, ran through Vorlauf again and then drained the second runnings into the pot for 7 gallons of wort.

While it seemed like a great idea to brew this “known” beer for our first AG session, the reality is, its a really high maintenance beer.  During the mash, we (by we, I mean Nick.  I had to run an errand) figured out the hop schedule for this “continuously hopped” beer and broke down the 3 types hops into 12 dixie cups marked in 5 minute intervals as per the recipe.

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So, after getting through the “first time allgrainaparingomg” stress, it was time to start the high maintenance boil.  Every 2 1/2 minutes, we’d drop half the contents of a cup into the pot.   The first time we brewed this beer was in our old and much smaller brew pot.  It was also before we were introduced to the magic bottle of Fermcap-S and so we were constantly spraying with the squirt bottle and boiling over.  It was kind of a nightmare.  So much less nightmare with the new pot and the Fermcap-S … that stuff really is magic.

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We finally reached the end.  We started setting up at 3:00, by 3:20 we were heating water to prewarm the mash ton and by 8:30 pm we were eating corned beef and cabbage that spent the day cooking in the crock pot.  Not bad really.  We’d gotten our extract brew process down to about 3 1/2 hours – so we added a couple, about what I’d expected.

I’m really looking forward to the next AG brew.  It was definitely better/easier/more interesting than I’d expected.

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