This is a bit of a brain dump post so I apologize for its rambling nature!
Its been a interesting week for me that has taken me on a journey that ended with my first all grain batch fermenting away and a massive loaf of malty bread in the cupboard, happy days.
It was not my plan to start all grain brewing at this moment although I knew I would eventually get there. The journey started as I planned to make a nice curry but could not face the idea of again powdering a crapload of seeds in my mortar and pestle. So mission 1: find a spice grinder. As luck would have it, my local supermarket had a small hand grinder made for crushing poppy seeds on sale, so I bought it, got it home, tested it out on a spoonful of coriander and fenugreek = great success! I then thought about using it to mill my own flour for a loaf of bread as getting anything other than plain white flour here is a pain. This also worked very well and led me to where I am now, I thought to myself I can crush barley ergo I can crush malted barley ergo I can finally make beer with real grain and not extract!
I planned to make a 20L (~5gal) partial mash batch which would have produced a approx ~6% ABV ale. The recipe had about 2.5 KG (~5lbs) of pilsner malt, a tiny bit of Carafa for color, about 750g (~1.5lbs) of liquid extract and a bit of sugar. After convincing my GF that brewing our (well my as she is yeast intolerant) first batch of beer with real grain was an important milestone, far more important than walking her parents dog and going to a French film festival (dodged a bullet there) we agreed that this past Saturday was the day.
So I got everything ready, mash tun insulated, grain bag ready for its first use, hops measured, "grain mill" set up and then weighed out the first 1KG (2lbs) of pilsner malt. I started the crush resulting in a almost flour like substance coming out of the grinder, hurah!
15 mins later I was still crushing, arm getting tired.
30 mins later still crushing
42:12 mins later music stops, need to change the album. Still crushing.
At this point I had just about finished crushing that first couple of lbs of grain and decided it was a fools errand to continue. So I jumped back onto Beersmith, halfed the batch size down to 2.5 Gal, ditched the extract and figured out that if I crushed just another 300g (~1lb) I could make a nice light ~4% ABV all grain ale. So that was it, I was about to become a all grain brewer!
Everything else seemed to go OK, the mash seemed fine, sparge seemed fine, my stove had a bit of trouble getting the wort up to boiling but got there in the end. At the end of the 60 min boil I turned out the flame and stuck the lid on my kettle. I always let my wort naturally chill overnight in the kettle so for me the brew day ended at this point. Next morning all that was left to do was to clean and sanitise the fermentation equipment and dump the wort in the fermenter. The gravity reading was a little higher than I expected so I topped the batch up a little. Assuming I measured it correctly my efficiency was about 75-80% which seems OK.
As a lot of this is new to me I hope I can be indulged the privilege of asking a few questions:
1. The mash seemed to be almost porridge like in its constancy, I was expecting more water for the grain to swim about in, is that normal?
2. Measuring efficiency, I did my thing and got the beer in the fermenter. Took a reading with the trusty refractometer and then messed with the total efficiency box in Beersmith until the ext original gravity value matched my reading. Seems like a clumsy way to do it, is there an easier way?
3. When brewing extract I never really used Beersmith and rather flew by the seat of my pants making up recipes pretty much as I brewed. I apologize if this seems like a rookie question but what exactly does the batch size number refer too? Logically this would suggest to me the amount that I end up having to drink but this does not seem to be the case.
4. What exactly is "trub loss"? I always thought it was the gunk left in the bottom of the kettle after boiling but there was hardly for either the extract batches or this all-grain batch. Then I thought it was the gunk in the bottom of the fermenter but again I never get a lot of that even when re-using yeast over and over. BeerSmith says that somewhere in my process I should have almost 1 gallon of "trub loss" in my ~2.5 gallon batch but that seems very high. Maybe I have been bottling and drinking trub without knowing it :-)
As a added bonus, I decided to do something productive with the spent grain and decided to make "bread". Here is a little recipe that turned out pretty good:
1350g of spent grain (mine was more like spent flour)
750g plain white flour
1.5 tsp salt
30g baking powder
Mix up all the ingredients, dump on a baking tray and try to form it into something that resembles a loaf of bread. Leave to prime for an hour or so then bake in a pre heated 180C oven for about 45 mins. As the grain had retained a lot of moisture I did not add any water and the dough was a iffy consistency but hey this was a 1st attempt!
After trying a piece both myself and the GF were impressed with the really nice malty taste but not so impressed that it was a bit soggy in the middle. Next time I do it I will squeeze the crap out of the spent grain to get rid of as much moisture as possible, maybe forgo adding salt and instead chop up dried fruit such as dates, prunes, raisins and add them to the dough to make a malt loaf instead of bread, now that I think would work VERY well.
Overall a great fun brewing experience where I tried a lot of new things but I'm now going to wait and see how this beer turns out. If its much better than the extract brews I have been making then I may need to invest in a proper grain mill and a outdoor propane burner.