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Old 12-05-2009, 08:44 PM   #1
pretzelb
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Default Ramblings after first AG batch

Well I just finished my first all grain batch (a clone of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from AHS) and wanted to make some notes and ask a few questions. If I get everything answered it might cut down on threads and who knows maybe this will help others.

  • Started at 7:30am and didn't finish until 1:30pm. Ouch. I hope to improve on that.
  • New banjo burner seemed to work well at first. No problems even with wind.
  • I did screw one thing up and forgot to pre heat my cooler / mash tun before putting in grains.
  • Recipe called for 150 mash so I heated 3g to 170. After it all went in it settled on 150. Checked again in 30 minutes and still 150. So far so good.
  • Recipe calls for 5g for sparge. I screwed up here. I have an 8g and 5g kettle. How did I think I could boil my wort and the 5g sparge in the same 8g kettle? I don't know. I end up heating in the 8g then carefully filling the 5g. I then keep the 5g warm at 170.
  • At this point I realize why people like to have a hot liquid tank (HLT). I could dump my water into that and leave it be.
  • I now begin to have flame out issues. Badly. I eventually put two folding tables up to cover the wind. This barely works. I start to get upset.
  • I start the sparge after 60 minutes. It's going slow which I think is good. But it's too slow. I start to panic on the time a bit.
  • At some point I get so mad at the burner I switch to a full propane tank. This seems to fix things. Either I had it too low or the tank was too low. Something to consider next time.
  • Seems like I can't get the 6.25g I need. I heat up another 1g of water to try and reach 6.25. I just about make it.
  • Now start the boil. Cranked up the burner until finally got it all going.
  • I remember something about a gravity measurement so I grab a sample for the new refractometer and jot it down. Not sure why.
  • I now see where people say the paint comes off. Maybe the empty tank wasn't running that hot? The paint was fine up until now.
  • I panic and throw some fermcap to avoid boilover. Note to self - next time get an extra spray bottle.
  • Boil starts. Add hops to bag. Set timer.
  • I make a sudden realization. A bad one. My new immersion chiller has pvc hoses connected to it. My plan was to put it in the boil with 15 minutes to go. I think I read that in a book and watched others do this. But that pvc hose will just burn up won't it?
  • Quick call to AHS. They recommend I sanitize the chiller then put it in AFTER the boil. I see no other way.
  • Kettle seems a bit oddly colored near the bottom. Probably from the burning paint. Oh well.
  • Hop additions go well. I do get confused why the final hops are at 0 minutes but I put them in. Do they not expect me to use a hop sack?
  • The ride gets bumpy. I'm not happy with chilling this way. Now that I'm outside and it's windy I'm fearful of all kinds of debris. I have no clean kitchen counters to work with either. I try to save or re-use the water from the chiller as best I can but most ends up down the driveway. I keep worry about the top to the kettle and things falling in the kettle. Cooling seems to go fast but I don't use a thermometer the entire time for fear of infection.
  • After cooling I put the top on the kettle and get my carboy ready. A final shake with sanitizer and it's all foamed up. I put a funnel on it and get ready to pour. I use a big 1 liter measuring glass (sanitized) to scoop out of the 8g kettle. I'm a bit uncomfortable with this but it does cause areation. Foam quickly fills and spills on to garage floor.
  • Somehow I'm short of 5g by maybe .25g. I panic and do nothing. Later I add water to go up to 5g.
  • I add the starter, move the carboy, and wonder where I hurt my back.
  • Clean up. Boy it's a mess.

Some questions on this saga include:
  1. How can you avoid the burner blowing out? I had brick pavers right on the burner where I thought the wind was coming and it didn't help. The folding tables just a few feet away also didn't help. I couldn't believe it. Maybe it was just the end of the propane?
  2. Is the only reason you drain slowly from the MLT so you avoid a stuck sparge? This took a very long time and I'd like to cut down on it if possible.
  3. Recirculating didn't seem to avoid many husks. Is it normal to have visible grains when starting the boil?
  4. Do most recipes call for 5g of sparge? If so then my 5g pot really has no use anymore.
  5. If I end up short of the 5g goal in the carboy, shouldn't I add water just like using an extract recipe?

Well, sorry for the long winded post. It was a rough day. I hope this gives back to the community a little since I've learned so much from here.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:55 PM   #2
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I boil my wort in the garage to keep the wind away from the burner.

A 5 gallon sparge is about normal for me to get 6.5 gallon pre-boil volume.

As for the slow runnings, it could depend on your manifold or (if you're making something like cream of three crops) a real gummy mash. Add rice hulls and don't be shy about the amount.

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Old 12-05-2009, 09:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waldoar15 View Post
I boil my wort in the garage to keep the wind away from the burner.

A 5 gallon sparge is about normal for me to get 6.5 gallon pre-boil volume.

As for the slow runnings, it could depend on your manifold or (if you're making something like cream of three crops) a real gummy mash. Add rice hulls and don't be shy about the amount.
I was in the garage, that's what frustrated the heck out of me. I couldn't figure it out. I know it's windy in TX but this was crazy.

If 5g sparge is normal then my 5g pot really has no use anymore and I need another 8g+ kettle or a HLT ... and I don't want to get more equipment.
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Recipe calls for 5g for sparge. I screwed up here. I have an 8g and 5g kettle. How did I think I could boil my wort and the 5g sparge in the same 8g kettle? I don't know. I end up heating in the 8g then carefully filling the 5g. I then keep the 5g warm at 170.
You could just split it into two sparges.
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
If 5g sparge is normal then my 5g pot really has no use anymore and I need another 8g+ kettle or a HLT ... and I don't want to get more equipment.
You can use the 5g pot as a HLT. Mash a little thinner (there are benefits to this) and sparge with 4g.
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post

If 5g sparge is normal then my 5g pot really has no use anymore and I need another 8g+ kettle or a HLT ... and I don't want to get more equipment.
The amount of sparge water you need really depends on the absorption of the grains you are using and any dead space in your mash tun that won't drain.

I heat my mash water on the stove in a stock pot since it's usually around 3 gallons. I heat my sparge water in my boil kettle. The first runnings go into a plastic bucket until I dump the sparge water out of the boil kettle. You really don't need a bunch of extra gear.
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:23 PM   #7
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1) garage when it's windy
2) I think so, my mash drains are typically 15 minutes or so unless it is sticking.
3) I don't find husks in my boil, what kind of strainer are you using? false bottom or ss supply line?
4) Yes, depending on how thick or thin you are mashing. At 1.3 qt / lb. I am usually at about 5 gallons for the mash. I've been playing with a thinner mash lately 1.8 qt / lb and am typically over 5 gallons. I use my 5 gallon pot and I have another pot that I use if I need more than 5. I heat mash and sparge water on my kitchen stove, not sure if that's an option for you. I do that as it's cheaper than propane. I boil my wort outside w/ propane.
5) you can if you want, you will thin out your wort and will likely miss your target SG. What you really need to work on is knowing how much your system evaporates over the course of 1 hour. I burn a bit more than 1 gallon in one hour. so I shoot to have about 6.75 gallons pre-boil.
So, if I'm starting w/ 5 gallons mash water, I'll get something like 3 gallons out of the mash. Then I'll do 2 batch sparges of a little less than 2 gallons each, something like that. Then, after an hour boil - I'll know that I'll end up w/ about 5.5 gallons into primary.

Its just a matter of practice and taking good notes, then reviewing those notes prior to your next brew. I created a little spreadsheet that I use on each brew session and I mark down all kinds of things (gravity of mash, gravity of both sparges, preboil gravity, gravity into fermenter, final gravity, abv and any notes - such as, "don't boil outside on a windy day ).

There are all kinds of people on this site who are really helpful. Check out some of the info from BrewKaiser. Here is a good thread from some experienced AG brewers http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/has-...sparge-143646/

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Old 12-05-2009, 09:30 PM   #8
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About the slow sparge question. It sounds as though you're doing a batch sparge, since you don;t have a HLT. If so, there is no reason to do a slow runoff, because you're simply draining fermentables that have already dissolved in the sparge water. Slow runoffs are only necessary for fly sparging, where you're doing a continuous drip and runoff.

This may be a lame analogy, but fly sparging is a bit like using a drip coffee maker; a slow runoff allows for longer contact with the converted grains/coffee grounds. With a batch sparge, you're soaking the grains in a quantity of water for long enough that you can simply drain it.

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Old 12-06-2009, 12:18 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by artguy View Post
About the slow sparge question. It sounds as though you're doing a batch sparge, since you don;t have a HLT. If so, there is no reason to do a slow runoff, because you're simply draining fermentables that have already dissolved in the sparge water. Slow runoffs are only necessary for fly sparging, where you're doing a continuous drip and runoff.
You are on to something. I meant to follow the batch instructions in Palmer's book but instead followed the AHS instructions which seem to imply a sort of fly method.

On second thought, it was probably a bad idea to cram all this into one thread. I will probably have to create a series of posts to collect feedback on the various issues I've encountered.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilGnome6 View Post
You can use the 5g pot as a HLT. Mash a little thinner (there are benefits to this) and sparge with 4g.
So that would mean adding to the quarts per pound of grain for the mash and then subtracting from the amount for sparge? That might help me stay below the 5g sparge limit.

I'm getting the hint that I may need to buy some software. I keep running into calculations to adjust a recipe based on my personal preferences and equipment. This pushes the need to have a way to adjust prior to brew day.
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