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Old 09-07-2010, 11:28 PM   #1
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Default My obligatory "Here's what I learned" thread

Yesterday I brewed my first all grain beer after 6 batches of extract and here's a few things I learned:

1. I need a new thermometer. Turns out my digital thermo breaks when subjected to higher temps of strike water. I can't shell out the money for a thermapen, but I was thinking about buying this one instead:

http://www.amazon.com/RT600C-Super-fast-Water-resistant-Digital-Thermometer/dp/B002GE2XF8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1283901754&sr=8-1

2. Sparge water volumes are tricky. I say this because after all the research and calculations I had done, I thought I had it down. I doughed in with 5 gallons (15.5 lbs of grain, roughly 1.5 q/lb), then sparged with three gallons. I ended up with 5 gallons in the kettle. I did another sparge with 1 gallon, and that got me closer to my pre-boil volume.

3. Dialing in my system is going to take a while! I think it could possibly be because I didn't have a reliable way to measure temps, but my mash efficiency was down. Luckily, I was originally shooting for a beer that was going to be pretty high abv, so I'll still end up with a good balance in the end (I hope).

That's about it. I just figured I'd share a few more things (as if it hasn't been said enough) about my particular experience. I'll keep brewing and eventually get everything dialed in, and in the mean time, I'll RDWHAHB!

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Old 09-07-2010, 11:55 PM   #2
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Sounds like your first all grain was pretty typical, ie., dialing in your system and fine tuning. I am sure you've heard this a thousand times already, but I recommend using some sort of brewing software, such as Beersmith (what I use).The program will pay for itself quickly because it takes so much guesswork out of the process and makes life much, much easier. I've been using it for two years and can't imagine brewing without it. If nothing else, the sparge calculator feature is worth the price alone. It's never lied to me yet and I have always hit my target volumes by following what it said. Good luck in your future all grain endeavors and congrats on a successful first batch!

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Old 09-08-2010, 12:24 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beehemel View Post
Yesterday I brewed my first all grain beer after 6 batches of extract and here's a few things I learned:

1. I need a new thermometer. Turns out my digital thermo breaks when subjected to higher temps of strike water. I can't shell out the money for a thermapen, but I was thinking about buying this one instead:

http://www.amazon.com/RT600C-Super-fast-Water-resistant-Digital-Thermometer/dp/B002GE2XF8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1283901754&sr=8-1

2. Sparge water volumes are tricky. I say this because after all the research and calculations I had done, I thought I had it down. I doughed in with 5 gallons (15.5 lbs of grain, roughly 1.5 q/lb), then sparged with three gallons. I ended up with 5 gallons in the kettle. I did another sparge with 1 gallon, and that got me closer to my pre-boil volume.

3. Dialing in my system is going to take a while! I think it could possibly be because I didn't have a reliable way to measure temps, but my mash efficiency was down. Luckily, I was originally shooting for a beer that was going to be pretty high abv, so I'll still end up with a good balance in the end (I hope).

That's about it. I just figured I'd share a few more things (as if it hasn't been said enough) about my particular experience. I'll keep brewing and eventually get everything dialed in, and in the mean time, I'll RDWHAHB!
First off congrats. I did my first this weekend as well too. How long did it add compared to extract for you? About 2.5 hours here I think.


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Originally Posted by GroosBrewz View Post
Sounds like your first all grain was pretty typical, ie., dialing in your system and fine tuning. I am sure you've heard this a thousand times already, but I recommend using some sort of brewing software, such as Beersmith (what I use).The program will pay for itself quickly because it takes so much guesswork out of the process and makes life much, much easier. I've been using it for two years and can't imagine brewing without it. If nothing else, the sparge calculator feature is worth the price alone. It's never lied to me yet and I have always hit my target volumes by following what it said. Good luck in your future all grain endeavors and congrats on a successful first batch!

I use beersmith (just started) and it seriously feels pretty clunky in both UI as well as understanding how to use. Is there a video demo of how to use some features (like getting it to tell me my efficiency based on the readings I got)
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Old 09-08-2010, 12:43 AM   #4
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Any use brew pal on their iphone? I like it, though I only used it once.

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Old 09-08-2010, 05:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beehemel View Post
Sparge water volumes are tricky.
Not if you batch sparge. Preboil volume minus first runnings volume equals sparge volume.
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by 944play View Post
Not if you batch sparge. Preboil volume minus first runnings volume equals sparge volume.
This is more or less what I do as well. I tend to use more than what is needed then boil off the water to get slightly better efficiency. One thing I've learned from my recent journey into AG is to have extra sparge water. For fun, here are some things I've learned that might help you too:

1. Always check the valves are in the off position. I've poured strike water into the lautering tun with the valve open, I've poured wort into the kettle with the valve open, I've poured cleaning solution into vessels with the valve open while on the counter in my kitchen (always have them pointed towards a sink regardless ).

2. Use more grain than you think you'll need, or have extract on standby. It's possible while starting out that your target gravity will be lower than expected (either because of decreased efficiency or discharging it through a valve...).

3. Get some good equipment. I don't know your setup but I was doing AG in my kitchen and all the extra vapors from heating the necessary water resulted in a warmer house and possibly an overworked AC unit I now use propane.
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Old 09-08-2010, 01:17 PM   #7
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Some people around here have had good luck with the water resistant taylor digital thermometers. They are usually 10-20$, and work pretty well. I use one and some other cheapo thermometer meant for meat, so the probe is cabled and separate from the electronics. Seems to work okay. Thermapen would be awesome though. Perhaps a xmas gift.

If you batch sparge with a cooler, you can easily hit your mash temps by heating the water 5-10 degrees over your strike water (use software to figure out the strike temp), and dumping into your cooler mashtun. Then close the lid and let it absorb heat. Once it is about 2 or so degrees above strike temp, I dough in and after stirring and taking time to check temp, it usually hits the right temp. This is assuming the thermometer is accurate. I suggest this because it has made my brewdays so much easier.

I would also do some simple drainage tests with water on your equipment. See what kind of actual deadspace there is in the mashtun and kettle. Will help with your volumes and getting consistent results.

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Old 09-08-2010, 03:24 PM   #8
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I've struggled with quite a number of thermometers so far, went through several of the corded detachable probe ones at different price point, even tried a $20 meat fork digital thermometer but that wasn't water resistant enough either.

I did find one that I like so far, waterproof:
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/brewing-equipment/testing-measuring/thermometers/proaccurate-digital-thermometer.html
I used it for the first brew session this weekend and even dropped it into 180 degree wort and it survived after a quick rinse under cool water so the display wasn't blacked out from the heat. I appreciate that I can set it down on a flat surface with the display facing down so I don't have to worry about the probe touching anything, it reads the temp within a few seconds, and it shows 1/10th degrees. It reads quick enough that an arm through the steam did not bother me. The only area where I would like a different kind of thermometer is when I want to leave a probe immersed with a temp alarm such as heating strike water while doing other things.

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Old 09-08-2010, 03:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dgonza9 View Post
Any use brew pal on their iphone? I like it, though I only used it once.
I mess around with it designing recipes. It does a good job for the price. I transfer the recipe to Beersmith for fine tuning.
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Old 09-08-2010, 04:04 PM   #10
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I read every thread I could find when I went all grain and had to have an accurate, reliable thermometer. I have one of those Polder digital thermometers with a cable and a probe, but it was obvious that wasn't going to work for brewing.
Anyway, I read a lot of stories, endorsements, and condemnations, and I ended up biting the bullet and buying a Thermapen. Over a year, and absolutely no regrets. I not only use it for brewing, where it shines for portability since I have to do measurements in two locations, but also in baking, which I do a lot.

My favorite thing about the Thermapen: it registers a stable temperature in only a few seconds, which the other digitals I've used do not.

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