Did my first big beer this weekend--a RIP. The 17lb grain bill was a lot to crush! Everything went smoothly except for a couple problems.
1) My boil evaporation rate was a lot higher than in the past. I normally boil 6.5 gallons planning for a 60min boil, and have to boil 70mins to get it down to 5. This time I boiled off a full 2 gallons and was left with only 4.5 gallons to the fermenter. I don't know if this was an anomaly or had something to do with the high gravity. Final runnings were 1.036, so I definitely could have kept sparging for a while....lesson learned there.
2) Despite the low volume, my efficiency was really bad and I was left with a 1.085 beer (expected and planned for 1.094). I normally get 70%-75% efficiency, and this was around 60%. The only thing I can think of that would have caused this is that the large grain bill held it's temp exceptionally well while mashing. I normally mash around 158° but since I don't have a system yet to allow me to heat the mash without adding more hot water the temp is down to 152° by the time the mash is done. This time the temp stayed at exactly 158° the entire time, so I probably ended up with a lot more unfermentables.
Because of the low gravity I ended up with, I was thinking about boiling some DME and molasses and doing a secondary fermentation to try to bring the gravity and volume back up to what I originally planned. Good idea, bad idea?
3) Finally, I was really disappointed with the color. I was shooting for black but it really just looks like an opaque brown.....Beersmith mislead me on color I think.
At any rate the 2L starter I made worked like a champ. I had active fermentation in 5 hours, and 15 hours later it was bubbling like I've never seen before with a 4 inch krausen. Overall it was a fun experience, but I'm a bit dissapointed with my outcome...of course the beer might be awesome, who knows.....