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Old 10-29-2007, 03:48 AM   #1
Kevin Dean
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Default My First All-Grain or "I couldn't have done it without her" Ale.

I bought grains to do EdWort's Haus Pale Ale this Saturday. Unfortunately, my starter wasn't active enough by Saturday, my stirplate plans fell through and brew day was pushed back to Sunday.

Come Sunday I had a live and active starter after stepping it up. Last time I made a starter I wasn't sure what ratio to use, so I pitched a vial of WLP into a gallon of starter wort of unknown gravity. It grew fine. This time, I used a 1 ounce to one cup ratio. The darn starter didn't do anything. When I stepped it up I noticed I used signifigantly more dry extract the SECOND time, and re-measured... "I'm sure this is right..."

I guess I mis-measured my first starter, which explains the poor lag times... Anyway, that's not all-grain. :P

With my bright orange, DIY mash tun in hand I set out to the back yard where I'd begin my adventures in AG brewing. I brought several gallons of plain water to almost a boil to pre-heat my mash tun. Pouring the water in the first time I burnt my hand, not badly, but it was a lesson learned. The expected crack crackle still unnerved me, but the warping of the sides (in the same spots on both sides!) had me freaked. No holes, so I'm good.

Having poured the water in there I noticed that it went from about 200* to about 180*, about 10% of it's thermal energy - I kept this in mind and took notes.

After bringing 3.5 gallons of water to about 178 - 182 I poured the grains in and poured the water on top and gave it a little stir. I stuck my new probe thermometer into the center of the mash and... 180!

OMG... So I ran to the faucet and filled up a 2 quart jug of cold water, poured it in and stirred. That brought it down to about 168. Still too hot, so I grabbed another 2 quarts and brought it down to 151.2 degrees... Within a degree of where I wanted, so I lidded it and mashed for 60 minutes. At the end of the 60 minutes I was at 150.8 degrees.

During this time I brought 2.5 gallons of water to 175 exactly (Ed says 3.5 gallons, but I used an extra gallon and wasn't sure where to account for that.)

Time to begin vourlaf! I got my pot ready, took a deep breath and turned the ball valve... Nothing. Not a drop, not a trickle.

Not sure what to do now, I grabbed my spoon and gave it a swirl. As I pulled my spoon up something else came with it... My stainless steel braid. CRAP!

Now was close to panic time.

My wife then suggested the strainer, which I proceeded to use in place of a stainless steel braid, except that the husks kept clogging the tun from the inside. Since after many minutes of fussing with the thing, unsure of where my temps were or what they SHOULD be, I began actually SCOOPING the grains out of the tun one strainerful at a time. Scoop, strain, stir, open the ball valve.

After I got the vast majority of the grains out the lauter magically caught itself on it's own grainbed and I managed to get the wort out through the valve after giving myself a wort shower. I then dumped the grains from the tun, poured it through the strainer back INTO the tun and then lautered through a pair of my wife's (new) nylons to catch the rest of the husk material.

That worked pretty well and I came out with about 5 gallons of wort.

The boil went pretty well. My wife was there stirring the kettle while I ordered pizza, her thinking with the nylons was awesome and her company made a frustrating venture into the unknown a bit more fun.

Now, to the questions I wrote down during the process.

1.) Do Pre-heat temps matter or is the important thing to get your tun's temps near your mash temp?

2.) How long does the mash need to be above 172 before noticable tannins are extracted?

3.) How much variation in mash temps is acceptable?

4.) How do you calculate the temp of your strike water so that you can be as close to your mash temps as possible?

5.) What happens to the process if you mash with more than 1.5 quarts to the pound?

6.) How do you calculate sparge volume?

All in all today was tons of fun. There were times where I was sitting there saying "This can't be worth it" but as I'm sitting here right now ready to collapse into my bed I'm thinking today will only teach me some quick lessons to improve my next batch.

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Old 10-29-2007, 04:42 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Dean
1.) Do Pre-heat temps matter or is the important thing to get your tun's temps near your mash temp?

2.) How long does the mash need to be above 172 before noticable tannins are extracted?

3.) How much variation in mash temps is acceptable?

4.) How do you calculate the temp of your strike water so that you can be as close to your mash temps as possible?

5.) What happens to the process if you mash with more than 1.5 quarts to the pound?

6.) How do you calculate sparge volume?
Congrats on the first AG! It will be worth it when you taste that first glass, trust me.

1. I only pre-heat my cooler with hot tap water. All you're doing is minimizing the amount of heat lost when you add your strike water. This also means you don't need to use boiling water as it will warp your cooler as you discovered.

2. Tannin extraction is most affected by pH when you fly sparge. If you're batch sparging it's not as much of an issue. Aside from that I don't have an answer for you, I'm sure someone will chime in. Not exceeding 180F is the best way to avoid it when batch sparging.

3. At worst you want your temp swing to stay within the optimum conversion range (148F-158F give or take). My cooler usually loses a degree or so over an hour. Yours sounds even better than that. The less heat loss the truer your beer will be to the intent of the recipe.

4. Promash (or any other software package).

5. This will explain better than I possibly can.

6. Promash (or any other software package). The formulas are on howtobrew.com though if you want to know them. They will explain far better than I.

I'm half asleep and have a few in me so hopefully that makes sense!
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:08 AM   #3
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With my bright orange, DIY mash tun in hand I set out to the back yard where I'd begin my adventures in AG brewing. I brought several gallons of plain water to almost a boil to pre-heat my mash tun. Pouring the water in the first time I burnt my hand, not badly, but it was a lesson learned. The expected crack crackle still unnerved me, but the warping of the sides (in the same spots on both sides!) had me freaked. No holes, so I'm good.

Having poured the water in there I noticed that it went from about 200* to about 180*, about 10% of it's thermal energy - I kept this in mind and took notes.

Are you using a program to find your mash strike temp? Generally it should be around 10 to 11 degrees above the mash temp and 1.25 qts water per pound of grain.

Read this thread, it will help you: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=42995

I do not think you have read and understand how to mash grains. If you had done this reading you would not have asked so many questions.
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Old 10-29-2007, 01:27 PM   #4
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I use Beersmith and love it..

Good job on the AG even if you had the problem with the tun. I have been there, it sucks..

One thing though, with that beer you were making, you did not need a starter. Just the dry yeast.

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Old 10-29-2007, 01:48 PM   #5
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I use Beersmith and love it..
Same here. I didn't preheat my mash tun for my first few AG batches and it still worked out fine, though my dough-in temps weren't QUITE as accurate. The last couple batches I've simply been heating my strike water to about 5 or so degrees higher than beersmith tells me to, dumping it in the mash tun, and letting it sit with the lid on for 5-10 minutes while I'm busy with other stuff. At that point it's pretty close to the desired temp, and I'll drop it a degree or two with some ice cubes if I need to, before stirring in the grains. I've accurately nailed my mash temp both times I have done this so far, so I plan to make it part of my routine.

I would suggest you pay more careful attention to temperature, and use some brewing software to give you exact strike water temps and such. Even measuring the temperature of the mash is somewhat inaccurate, especially in the first few minutes before you've sufficiently stirred the mash and given it time to equalize, so adjustments to the mash temp with cold water or whatever take some time to really settle in, so you waste quite a bit of time and effort. Careful planning (which is really easy and requires hardly a couple of minutes of work if you're using software) makes it SO much easier.

Of course, software also takes all the guess-work out of figuring out mash/sparge water volumes.
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Old 10-29-2007, 02:43 PM   #6
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Heh... I did exactly the same thing on my first AG about a month ago. My braid was attached to a straight run of copper, which was wedged into a CPVC elbow and then onto another short straight run of copper. I thought the friction would be enough to hold it in place. Not so much, especially when I whacked it with my paddle when doughing in. I got lucky, though, and the husks clogged my tubing and made a filter bed sufficient to drain and sparge -- although I did have to vorlauff the better part of a gallon before it ran clear. D'oh! Needless to say, I soldered it together with a copper elbow before my next batch.

Congrats on your first AG! It's way more fun, isn't it? With an N of 1, I'd say the beer is way better, too.

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Old 10-29-2007, 08:08 PM   #7
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I use the free/evaluation of promash right now for finding strike temps, and the volumes to reach my desired final boil/post boil volumes (at least a lot closer than guessing them).

I also pre-heat my DIY MLT (both a 5gal and 10gal Victory cooler, depending on the beer being made) with hot tap water, about 122F, to minimize heat loss.

I use really small cable/zip ties to hold my braid onto the ball valve. they seem to stand up the heat just fine, and won't corrode like most SS hose clamps that seem to have non-SS screws on them.

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