I've seen a lot of posts up about people's first AG brew and I think that's great. So, I thought I'd post my results too.
First though I'd like to say that I got 90% of the inspiration to go AG from reading this board. Using the boards here I was able to put together a cheap MLT using a 5 gallon cooler with the braided hose inside. It worked really well! Efficiency wasn't great (around 60%) but I chalk that up to a thousand other things other than the MLT design. And I anticipated this so I had 3lb of DME with me and got the gravity from the mash where I wanted it anyway.
Because it was my first AG brew I went with a simple recipe with a light grain bill. I made up an Ordinary Bitter which would get my an OG of around 1.039. Nice and light. It was 6lb Marris Otter Pale Malt, .5lb of Crystal 120L, and .25lb of Special Roast. I don't have a mill so I have NB crush it for me. I think crushing my own will get the efficiency up.
The mash went pretty well. My temp was at 154 within a degree or two. Only thing I don't know is how it finished. I don't know how well the thing held temp because I forgot to check afterward. One thing though, it sounded like the cooler was breaking inside. Should I be worried when I hear that? Is that affecting the ability to hold heat in?
I batch sparged and had no issues. I probably could have vorlaufed a bit more than I did but I figured I'd only have a little bit of gunk in the kettle and it would stick around with the hops anyway.
Another issue I had was that I only got about 5 - 5.5 gallons out of the mash when I was shooting for 6. So I had to add some mater to the kettle. Again, not an issue as I accounted for that in my calcs (and beersmith has a step that says top up to 6 so I guess it accounted for that also).
Boil went awesome! Not a single boil over! I was so proud! Only thing that came up as a possible problem was that I kept the kettle partially covered do keep leaves out and I think I didn't evaporate nearly enough water. I started with 6 gallons in the kettle and was hoping to end up with 5 even but I had 5 in the carboy when I was done with about .25 or so gallons left in the kettle with the break materials. Next time I will make the recipe to end up with 5.5gallons and I will not cover it until the boil is done. So not boiling off means my expected OG of 1.039 was really 1.033. Not what I wanted, but not too bad.
The ferment kicked off within 12 hours thanks to a good starter. Making the starter I learned that a 1L flask is NOT the right size for a 1L starter if you're going to boil the starter wort in the flask. Holy boilovers.
So it's been 2 weeks so I packed the carboy in 9lbs of ice to try to get as much yeast out of the beer as possible. I don't think it worked completely, but by the time I moved it to the keg on Sunday it was down to around 60F. And the transfer went well except that the carboy wasn't quite high enough for the siphon so it stalled right at the end. If not for that I would have had a completely clear transfer to the keg. As it is, I got a very little bit of sediment into the keg. It should come out in the first pint, if at all.
Another issue I had was I decided to dry hop in the keg. I tied a hop bag with .25oz of hops and a shotglass to one of the handles on the carboy so that the bag didn't sit at the bottom potentially clogging the tube. Turns out superthin fishing line is too thick for the carboy to form a seal so i had to cut it and drop it in. Oh well. If it clogs I guess I'll need to fish it out?
Oh, and lest I forget, the beer tasted AWESOME. I can't wait another two weeks for this guy to be ready for me. I want to drink it now!
Sorry this was so long. But I really am pleased with how this turned out. I can't wait to do it again. I've been shopping around for more and better equipment and I have a game plan in place to get it all. I'm a very happy brewer today.