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My First Attempt at All-Grain Brewing

I have been toying with the idea of brewing an all grain beer for a while. For one reason or another I just couldn’t put all the hours together at one time to get it done. Well, I finally got a weekend with no Hokie football, no Redskin football, no traveling and no “honey do’s”. That’s not completely true…I still have a long list of honey do’s, I just back burnered them so I could brew some beer.

I’d like to preface this by stating this is NOT a “how to” post. It started with a Black IPA recipe a got from a fellow beer blogger at Barlow Brewing. I researched my game plan online and got all my equipment together. I used a turkey cooker to heat the strike water and as the brew pot along with a cooler style mash-tun that I fabricated myself (more on this later). I used another large pot to heat the sparge water.  I gathered all the ingredients, set everything up and then stared at it for a few minutes. This is the point where I walk through the entire process in my head to make sure I’m not missing anything. It would not be good to get through half the process and learn that you don’t have everything you need. With my luck I would run out of propane half way through the boil. Luckily, that did not happen.

Have ya’ll heard the old saying that starts out with “the best laid plans…..”?

Things started out well enough. I heated the strike water as planned to about 168 degrees. This is a bit warmer than necessary for mashing the grains. I did this so that once I added it to the mash-tun the heat transfer to the cooler walls would bring down temperature to where I needed it to be (154 degrees). This worked out well until I went to add the grains. At this point two things went wrong. I had too much water in the mash-tun and the grains brought the temp down too low. I removed some of the water, reheated it and added it back as necessary. The temperature leveled out at 161 degrees and given what I went through to get it there I just left it. I let it do its thing for 65 minutes. At this point, I ran the sweet wort into the brew pot. It only yielded about 2.5 gallons. I had already heated about 4.5 gallons of water to 175 degrees for the sparge. For simplicity, I used the batch (as opposed to the continuous) sparge technique.  I added enough sparge water to the mash-tun to bring the total yield to 6.5 gallons of wort. Here’s where the next problem reared its ugly head. My mash-tun filter got clogged which brought the whole process to a virtual standstill. The wort trickled out of the spigot much like a leaky sink faucet. At the end of this painfully long process it was time to get started with the boil. Hurray!

Aside from the initial boil over from using a pot that was too small, this part of the process went as planned. It was a nice rolling 60 minute boil with a hoppy aroma filling the air, drawing neighbors from both sides to investigate. It’s all starting to come together now. Once the boil finished, I cooled the wort using a wort chiller (which I added to the boil 15 minutes before the boil was complete to sterilize it).

Once the temperature reached about 75 degrees I transferred it to the fermentor and added the yeast starter, aerated it vigorously and set it aside to let the magic begin. Surprisingly, after all that went wrong I still managed to hit the target original gravity (OG) reading of 1.054. Whew!

I woke VERY EARLY this morning ( and several times during the night) to a sweet gurgling sound as the fermentor was bubbling away. I will update this post with the final results of this batch. I have high hopes.

Finally, once I get the kinks worked out I will get the whole process posted with details and recipes. Until then have another home brew. Oh…and my wife is using the spent grains to bake bread as I am writing this. Waste not, want not…right?

As always, please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or questions.


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One Response to My First Attempt at All-Grain Brewing

  1. […] smoother. Having the right equipment makes all the difference in the world. In my last post (see here) I talked about some snags I ran into while brewing my first all grain batch of beer. Mistake […]

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