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Old 03-15-2011, 09:37 PM   #1
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Default First AG less than impressive

So I just wrapped up my first AG batch (2.5 Gal). A few things went well and a few things went way wrong.

+ Prep was all very easy - in general, I felt more or less organized. I think the common theme of the day was that the things that were familiar from the extract batches went very smoothly. The new things were a mess.

+ I made a starter for the first time. I started it yesterday (way too late for a next-morning brew). I had about 80ml of wort and pitched half a vial of WPL023 (half batch here). I put it on the stir plate and it went all night long. Never got any bubbles on the top so I turned off the stir plate for about an hour this morning to see if it was doing anything. About an hour after that, there were still no bubbles on the surface (I was using a foam stopper) - switched the stir plate back on and this huge wash of billowy foam came out of the wort. I flipped the switch on and off a few times and eventually all the CO2 broke out of suspension and it was whirling away again. About halfway through the brewing, it occurred to me that I probably didn't want to pitch 800ml of starter. I wish I would have made the starter a few days before and then I could have chilled it, decanted and just pitched yeast. In the end, I pitched about 600ml (the small amount of time I chilled it, not much separation).

+ First AG in a new homemade MLT. A few issues here. I completely forgot to add the 5.2 and I didn't have any pH test strips so I have no idea what the pH was. I also got confused by the BeerSmith directions a little...


Single Infusion, Full Body Step Time Name Description Step Temp
45 min Mash In Add 5.94 qt of water at 170.5 F 158.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 3.80 qt of water at 185.9 F 168.0 F

Sparge with 1.06 gal of 168.0 F water.
I hit my temps just fine - so I felt good about that, but I couldn't tell when I was supposed to actually draw off the liquid. So I did a vourlaf before and after "Sparge".

In the end, I was a little bit short on wort so I had to top it off with .36 gallons (seems significant for a 2.5G batch). My pre-boil gravity was horribly low and worked out to about 50% efficiency. But I could have been confused by the instructions here as well...
Estimated pre-boil gravity is 1.052 with all grains/extracts added
I got 1.032 (temp corrected).

This recipe called for .5# light brown sugar - Was I supposed to add that before taking that reading? I added that to the pot, brought to boil, pulled out another sample and that one hit 1.042 (temp corrected). So I was way off target.

+ After the vourlaf, it's hard to pour liquid back into the tun without splashing. I used that back of my spoon to break the fall, but it still seemed pretty splashy.

+ Once the boil began, I started to clean out my MLT. I noticed that the braided hose was up in the middle of the grain bed. I must have churned it up while stirring.

+ The boil went fine. Same as extract but not threat of boil-over. This didn't foam up like DME (and to a lesser extend LME) additions. It boiled down to 2.5 gallons exactly (I cranked up the heat halfway through to evap. faster since it looked like I would be over volume).

+ Cooled my pot in a sink of ice water. I just finished making an IC but didn't feel comfortable throwing yet another new thing into the equation on one brew. Too worried one of my solder joints would leak or a hose would slip off or something.

So anyway, it cooled pretty quickly (20 min) and I siphoned into a 3G carboy. Even though I used hop bags, I got a TON of particles in the carboy. After it sat for 10 minutes, there was a good inch or two of crud on the bottom already. I've never primaried in glass before, so I don't know if that's normal and will eventually compact or something - that's what I'm hoping.

One big lesson from today - The directions kept switching from gallons to ML to quarts, etc. and many of the amounts were odd numbers (perhaps a result of scaling the recipe). I spent a fair bit of time calculating conversions and trying to measure out odd amounts of things.

I pre-heated the water for the brew but had to dump most of it because I was measuring into milk jugs (with calibration marks) and it was just too hot to work with. With the mash water (strike/sparge1/sprage2?) I ended up heating those in various pots and pans. I really see the value in a HLT, now, although without a good way to measure out of it, I would still have quite a bit of jockying pots and pans.

the biggest thing I need to figure out and correct is the mash efficiency. 50% (or 60% if I am, indeed, supposed to include the brown sugar in that calc.) is just awful. my final gravity before pitching was 1.048 instead of 1.059. I wish I could have added some DME to compensate, but now it's too late.

I'm sure it'll be beer when it's all said and done, but I'm not feeling great about the first go at it. I'm glad it's just a small batch.
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:45 PM   #2
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Here's a picture showing the primary (little one on the left) with all the crud. This is 1-2 hour after pitching yeast. Already more trub that the IPA in the bottle next to it (although that's a secondary). Should I start straining/filtering instead of siphoning? I seem to get an awful lot of slime. Not sure if that's normal...
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:54 PM   #3
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Shew...that's a lot but I'll touch on a couple of the subjects.

I've been allgrain for a couple of years and I've never given a thought to ph. So, forgetting the 5.2 is no biggie in my eyes. I use ale pales, but any food grade bucket works great for measuring water. If you don't trust the marks on a bucket it's easy to make your own with a sharpie. Yes, you vorlouf after the mash and the sparge (if your doing batch sparge.) Yes, the brown sugar should be calculated in your OG.

Beersmith: I would skip the mash out and add to your sparge water.

For me, the easiest way to describe batch sparging is this:

Use a calculator such as this to get your strike temp/volume:

http://www.brewheads.com/batch.php

Add water and grains and stir like crazy. Mash for 60 minutes. Stir like crazy. Then vorlouf til clear. Drain your first runnings. Measure the first runnings and divide that amount from your total volume (pre-boil). Divide that number by 2. This is your volume for two sparges. Simply pour that amount of near boiling water into the MLT and stir like crazy. Vorlouf til clear, and drain. Repeat.

Hey, it was your first go....it will get easier. You can still boil some DME in minimal water and add if you wish. Oh, and the picture looks normal to me. I whilpool now, so I don't get as much crud, but what you have is normal. It will settle out after fermentation. No biggie.

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Old 03-15-2011, 10:03 PM   #4
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Looks ok to me!

The only things I would do different is to just leave it for a 60min mash before doing anything else like mash out, give the mash a stir every so often (say 20 mins) through that 60 mins to make sure there's no dry bits missing out being converted, and I'd sparge myself extra liquid rather than top up with water.

But to be honest it sounds alright to me. Like you say, the bits you've done before went perfectly. Next time the mash will be something you've done before and go well too.

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Old 03-15-2011, 10:11 PM   #5
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Hi from Johnstown just up the road a bit!

The trub at the bottom is totally normal. I always primary in a carboy and that is very normal. I have never had any off flavors.

If you included the sugar in the recipe BeerSmith will include that in your gravity...so yes..you missed your gravity but not by as much as you thought.

It takes a while to get BeerSmith "setup" the way your comfortable with. I've been using it for six plus months and it still aggravates me...but at the same time it is a valuable tool so I keep using it.


I hope that helps

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Old 03-15-2011, 10:46 PM   #6
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Ah - It should have been obvious to sparge the extra liquid instead of adding clear water. I never stirred during the mash once I mixed in the grains. Maybe that hurt my conversion as well. *sigh*

Hammy - I've calibrated my buckets also, but I had to measure odd amounts like 3.36 gallons or 5.94 quarts. I have a pyrex measuring cup that has pretty fine gradients so that's mostly what I used (although for 5.94 quarts, I have a half-gallon jug I calibrated, so I got 4 quarts from 2 of those and figured the remaining 1.94 quarts was 1.836L and measured that out in the measuring cup) . I ended up measuring the cold water and heating it in a lidded pan. At one point, I had three pots on the stove heating and holding different amounts at different temps. Am I being too neurotic about the measuring?

I won't worry about the trub, then - glad to hear it's normal. I just never got a good look at it from the side before since it was always in a bucket.

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Old 03-15-2011, 10:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgruis View Post
If you included the sugar in the recipe BeerSmith will include that in your gravity...so yes..you missed your gravity but not by as much as you thought.
I think we may have the highest concentration of homebrewers per square mile in this area. :-)

Good to know about the pre-boil gravity - I suspected that it was meant to be included.

So my low gravity is all attributed to the grain conversion efficiency... So next time, I'll stir a few times during the mash and will be sure that if I need to top off, I run that water through the grain. Hopefully that will get me closer.

In the meantime, I'll scour the forum for other tips to improve the the efficiency.
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Old 03-15-2011, 11:58 PM   #8
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Yeah, fractions of a gallon I just guestimate with the buckets. Don't sweat the small stuff...or the big stuff for that mater. You did good for a first go.

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