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Old 01-10-2010, 10:49 PM   #1
duffman2
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Default All Grain basic questions

Alright everyone, I just brewed my first AG last week with mixed results. I guess I didn't really know what to expect so I just went with it.

I was looking for a Sierra Nevada recipe and found lots of suggestions so I kinda cut and paste some and did my own. I had lots of fun but hit a couple of stumbling blocks.

My main problems were with temperature control. My digital went out after 3 brews and I broke my floating one, so I only had my candy thermometer that I'm not even sure how accurate it is. Trying to hit my strike temp was my biggest problem. I mashed once and batch sparged twice and could not hit my desired temp. My MLT is a brand new converted igloo cooler that is leak free and very tight but seems to lose a few degrees while mashing.
Any ideas/suggestions for hitting strike temp and maintaining temp?

Also, I don't know what I'm doing with efficiency numbers. Any good equations? If using gravity how do I measure this while mashing/sparging? The wort is way too hot to get a good reading, right?

I know I'm still Noobish and probably need to start using some beer software and maybe other tools to help me out. So, please forgive me and thanks for the help in advance



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Old 01-10-2010, 11:07 PM   #2
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First get a new thermometer! There are many discussed through these forums all with their own pros/cons. Go with something in your budget.

Second preheat your mash tun. I always get my strike water to 175*F, throw it into my mash tun and wait until it hits the desired strike temp.

Thirdly don't freak out about temps. If you miss the temps. by a degree or two don't even worry about it (at first at least). You'll probably do more harm than good trying to fix it. If you meet someone who can tell the difference between a beer mashed at 153*F instead of 154*F they are lying to you. Now if you mash a stout at 147*F instead of something like 154*F, yeah, that's not good.

When I finally figured out the third point above and with a couple batches under my belt all grain is like a day in the park for me. Have fun!



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Old 01-10-2010, 11:07 PM   #3
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You must have an accurate thermometer to hit desired temps, get one. To maintain temps in the mash tun, preheat the cooler with hot water for 5-10 minutes before beginning your mash. I dont bother trying to do the math in my head. The use of software helps make the process painless. It calculates more than efficiency. It will also calculate temp drops due to grain temp and mash tun design, water volumes for strike and sparge based on a finished volume.

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Old 01-11-2010, 12:30 AM   #4
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Heating your MLT for 10-15 minutes before adding your grain is good advice. I know some heat all thier mash water quite a bit above thier strike temp and let it come down to temp while in the cooler. By the time it drops to the proper temp they have thier MLT pre-heated and the water is already in it. When I sparged this was the way I did it. You might have to mess with your equipment a little to figure out what the tempurature is for your mash water in your cooler. I generally add my grain to the water when its about 3-5F above my strike temp (thats with the MLT preheated).

Here is a good web site that will calculate your pre-boil gravity based on your recipe and what ever effciency you tell it. Click the spreadsheet link.
http://hbd.org/recipator/
You can play with the numbers a bit until you figure out what your efficiency is. There are about million spreadsheets out there for download also.

You definitely don't want to take a gravity reading on a hot sample. I cool down my gravity sample in the freezer, or put the glass I have the gravity sample in an ice water bath. It only takes a few minutes to get it cool enough to take a reading. Its a half pint at the most. If its higher than 60F you can adjust it by using the hydrometer link in the link above.

There are a few free brewing software programs out there. I use StrangeBrew. It does't have as many bells and whistles as some of the commercial products, but its a pretty good package IMO. It can be a pain to find and I don't think its being developed any more.

EDIT: Get your self a good thermometer. A digital can be had for $15 at lowes or wally world. Mine does double duty and my smoker thermometer, but I plan to get a K type soon.


Last edited by bigjoe; 01-11-2010 at 12:32 AM. Reason: Get thermometer
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjoe View Post

There are a few free brewing software programs out there. I use StrangeBrew. It does't have as many bells and whistles as some of the commercial products, but its a pretty good package IMO. It can be a pain to find and I don't think its being developed any more.

EDIT: Get your self a good thermometer. A digital can be had for $15 at lowes or wally world. Mine does double duty and my smoker thermometer, but I plan to get a K type soon.
Ok. My plan with this hobby is to go cheap as possible until I know and understand enough about each piece of equipment to buy the good stuff. I'll check for strangebrew and something else.

What is a k type thermometer?
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:48 AM   #6
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Important thing I learned about thermometers:

If you use digital, make sure it is at least 8" long. Grill thermometers have about a 3" probe. I was having FG issues, so I got another thermometer, a lab type ($5 at LHBS) and there was about a 10 degree difference in thermometers, due to the amount of penetration. They read the exact same if at the same depth btw. The digital just can go down far enough to get a good reading. Make sure whatever you get, get a long thermometer.

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Old 01-11-2010, 07:37 AM   #7
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What is a k type thermometer?
K is a general-issue thermocouple that will read somewhere in the range of −200 °C to +1350 °C. prices vary based on read range and wire diameter, you also need a reader to comprehend the voltage into a temp.
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:35 AM   #8
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There are a few free brewing software programs out there. I use StrangeBrew. It does't have as many bells and whistles as some of the commercial products, but its a pretty good package IMO. It can be a pain to find and I don't think its being developed any more.
.
Actually Drew has StrangeBrew number two out.
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:07 PM   #9
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Is your mash tun the igloo ice cube? I've done a couple AG batches with mine, and am still working on maintaining temp as well. The lid is hollow, so I put spray foam in it, but I'm still losing too much temp. Try putting towels, or blankets on top to add insulation. I did this on my last brew, and I was surprised how warm the outside of the lid was when I was done the mash. Just the lid was warm, not the sides. That tells me that's where the heat loss is occuring.

Or, cut a piece of foam insulation (the thick stuff from Home Depot or Lowes) to fit inside the mash tun. Cover with clear wrap and set it on top of the mash. That will eliminate the head space and help maintain temps. I think that is my next step.

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Old 01-11-2010, 07:12 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pksmitty View Post
Is your mash tun the igloo ice cube? I've done a couple AG batches with mine, and am still working on maintaining temp as well. The lid is hollow, so I put spray foam in it, but I'm still losing too much temp. Try putting towels, or blankets on top to add insulation. I did this on my last brew, and I was surprised how warm the outside of the lid was when I was done the mash. Just the lid was warm, not the sides. That tells me that's where the heat loss is occuring.

Or, cut a piece of foam insulation (the thick stuff from Home Depot or Lowes) to fit inside the mash tun. Cover with clear wrap and set it on top of the mash. That will eliminate the head space and help maintain temps. I think that is my next step.
Nah, I've got the igloo 48qt sportsman. Now that you mention it I think that insulating the top will be a great idea. I wrapped blankets on the sides and that didn't help too much so I do believe my heat loss is coming from the top.

Still not sure where to get a good thermometer. About to go to Wal Mart to see what they have and I might get another digital but the last one quit for no apparent reason.

And I'll check for Strange Brew2. Who is Drew?


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