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Old 12-08-2009, 04:00 PM   #1
bce22
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Default First Bottling and Partial Mash Brew day(Observations and Questions)

Good Day Everyone:

Figured that I would give some observations and list some questions about my BIG day on Saturday. On Saturday my father, brother and I (Whole family affair--- This never happens!!!) bottled our first 2 batches of beer, brewed a Sweet Stout by partial mash, racked and degassed our first wine kit and even made a new wine kit. It was a heck of a day and a long one. All in all I think it was a highly successful day and I wanted to list some observations and a couple of questions. I'll take it in order.

BOTTLING (Scotch Ale brewed 11/7; Irish Red brewed 11/14)

1. Oxyclean is the most amazing stuff. After soaking and scrubbing labels of bottles for 2+ hours one day I stumbled on a thread about delabeling, picked up some oxyclean, soaked some bottles, watched the labels rise to the top within 1 hour, laughed like a madman when I realized I'll not have to scrub labels off of bottles ever again. Oh, and also realized it's not even half as effective at removing wine labels from wine bottles. I'll have to do more research on delabeling wine bottles.

2. Used the dishwasher to steam sanitize my bottles. This seems to work pretty well and using the dishwasher racks to hold the bottles while filling is pretty effective. I'm just addicted to StarSan and am wondering if I should invest in the bottling tree that you can attach the vinator to. I wonder if this would be more effective or maybe save a little time.

3. Took longer than expected for us to rack, add wine chemicals and degass the wine. Started on the bottling later than we wanted to. I forgot to start my priming solution on my stovetop while we were working on the wine. I used the priming calculator that I learned about on this site to help me determine the amount of corn sugar to use for my 2 beers so they fall in range of the style. Another awesome thing I learned through this site. However because we were a little too hasty I think I pitched the sugar/water solution at too high a temperature into my bottling bucket. I'll never do that again. Next time I'll cool the solution in the ice bath until it reaches room temp.

4. Thank goodness for Revvy's bottling thread. Picked up some really good tips (but definitely still need to make my bottling bucket dip tube) from it. I had some extra tubing lying around and clamping that to the bottle filler and the spigot made it much easier than fooling around with a long tube and filler. Much easier to move the bottle that the tube!

5. I got to get better at racking. Left alot on the bottom of my buckets. I ended up with 47 bottles for the scotch ale and 48 for the irish red. Probably could have gotten a couple more with each.

6. Bass Ale bottles don't cap so well. When capping it feels like there not on, but upon observation they look okay and feel tight.

7. The whole process of bottling (from delabling through capping) takes awhile. I might need to look into the whole kegging thing.

8. Think again how much more difficult this would have been without HBT.

PARTIAL MASH:

1. Did a ton of research prior to doing my first PM which really helped. Following Death Brewers PM Thread made my first PM pretty painless.

2. Didn't have any ph strips so used bottled water instead. In the future I want to use my own tap water (which is pretty good) and test it first.

3. Besides my brewpot I thought I had a second pot in the kitchen big enough to hold my sparge water. I didn't. Had to send out kid bro to buy a second 5 gallon brewpot while I started heating up my mash water. Should have known better in advance.

3. The process felt alot more like brewing than full extract without it being a whole lot more difficult.

4. I didn't test in advance how much temp drop I get in my brewpot over 1 hour. I read that most people get 1-3 degree drop with the lid on. I don't know why I didn't test it on MY equipment. I think that my temp dropped to about 145 or so over the hour. I have a probe style thermometer and I didn't check the temp of the mash during the hour because I didn't want to lose heat by removing the lid.

This is where my question comes up. What are my best choices for holding my mash temp? The way I see it there are a few options:
-Put the mash in the oven
-Put it on my stove top's warming plate on low
-Keep it on my stovetop uncovered with my probe thermometer in it and adjust stove accordingly.
-Purchase a weldless thermometer and install it on my brewpot so I can monitor the temp of my mash without removing the lid.
-Some combination of above.

At this point I'm not sure what my best options are. I want to keep a my mash temp steady.

5. Sparging was no big deal. Adding the wort to the sparge, no big deal. Cleaning grain bag takes too long. House smells fantastic!!!

6. I didn't check efficiency. Maybe I should by some iodine so i can do this.

7. The rest of the boil went according to plan.

8. Having a wort chiller makes cooling the wort so easy. I don't know how I'd survive without it. Chilling a wort to 70 in New England in December with a wort chiller takes all of 5 minutes.

9. Strained the cooled wort for the first time. Pulled alot of hotbreak out before hitting the fermenter. I hope this makes racking slightly easier.

10. Used the wine stirring device that attaches to a cordless drill that is used for degassing wine to aerate my wort. Pretty cool device, but didn't get as much foaming as I hoped. Hopefully after stirring the bad boy for 10 minutes its properly aerated.

11. Created a starter for my yeast this time, using a flask and stir plate. Once again thank goodness for this site. I never would have thought to do this or know how important a starter can be.

12. Checked OG with both my hydrometer and a new refractometer. Sanitized the hydrometer and dropped it into the aerated wort. Read 1.064 (5 points ABOVE) target. Broke out the refractometer, filled an eyedropper and took a reading. Refractometer read 15 brix (or 1.060 SG). Seems much closer.

This leads me to my second question. My target was 1.059, hydrometer read high, refractometer read about target. What's right?

I'm so confused about this.

Anyway, the sweet stout began noticable fermentation is about 12 hours and is at a perfect 65-66 degrees. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing and can't wait to start my next batch (maybe a moose drool clone).

Thanks for reading and any info you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Brad



Reason: submitted by accident before finished.
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:32 PM   #2
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Brad,

Good post and it looks like you got yourself some good experiences...and also saw there are a few things you still need to work on. Don't worry, it never stops with this hobby.

To answer your questions, here are my opinions, and remember, YMMV:

1. Maintaining Temps of Partial Mashes:

I always used my stove and had pretty good luck. It was one of those infinitely variable infrared types where changing the temp a wee bit was pretty easy to do. Then one day I stole an idea from the All-Grain guys and picked up a little two-gallon water cooler. I fashioned a screen for a false bottom (using a kitchen sieve) and from then on, I used it. To start, I would rinse the inside of the device with hot water to heat its innards, then I would put my grains and water in there. It held temps beautifully, and served as a perfect way to learn mashing in general.

Not sure if that will work for you, or even if you are up to rigging up anything similar, but it does go to show that there are lots of good ways to get stuff done and with some thought, most all of them will work well.

2. My target was 1.059, hydrometer read high, refractometer read about target. What's right?

Have you calibrated these devices? Both can be done pretty easily with distilled water and a thermometer you can trust. I would search here for discussion of the way to cal a Hydrometer, and do the same for a refractometer -- but also read the instructions that came with the unit.

I will say that personally, my most trusted readings come from my refractometer. I do AG's exclusively now, using BeerSmith for recipe calculations. MY refractometer is giving me what the program predicts, and I have come to trust it exclusively. Again, YMMV.

All in all, sounds to me like you are on the right path. Given you are doing starters, etc., I would bet that you are not long from jumping into the fun and creativity of AG.


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Old 12-08-2009, 07:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ForRealBeer View Post
Then one day I stole an idea from the All-Grain guys and picked up a little two-gallon water cooler. I fashioned a screen for a false bottom (using a kitchen sieve) and from then on, I used it.
This sounds like a decent idea. Probably rig something up on the cheap. So instead of a grain bag I would through in a false bottom. After the mash drain the wort through the spigot, secure the spigot and then poor in my 170F sparge water, let it sit for 10 minutes or so and drain again?

Is this close to the procedure?

Quote:
Have you calibrated these devices? Both can be done pretty easily with distilled water and a thermometer you can trust. I would search here for discussion of the way to cal a Hydrometer, and do the same for a refractometer -- but also read the instructions that came with the unit.
I'm almost positive I calibrated the hydrometer when I first got it and I'm positive that I calibrated my refractometer when i got it about 2 weeks ago. I used both this time only because it's the first time with the refractometer and I wanted to see how close they both came out to the same Gravity reading.

Now it was a partial boil, so its conceivable that even after stirring with the drill stirring device the wort and the top off water weren't evenly mixed. I through the sanitized hydro into the fermenter bucket instead of pulling a sample with my turkey baster thinking this would give me a better reading up front. For the refractometer i just took a few drops off the top using my little cheapy eye dropper that came with the kit.

Anyway, i don't know what's more accurate, maybe if my final ends higher than the TG of 1.015 I'll have be more likely to know. But my real question is if my mash was under 150F for part of the time would this lead to a higher OG?

I know by reading that lower mash temps = more fermentable and higher mash temps = more dextrinous, but I'm not certain i understand the real life application of this info.
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:21 PM   #4
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You asked about buying a bottle tree. After reading your post I would suggest that you not invest more money into bottling devices. You are clearly on the path to brewing permanency; I see kegging in your (not too distant) future. At that point your bottling tree and zillion bottles will mostly just take up space.

I would also suggest that you grab a 10 gallon or larger cooler and make yourself a mash/lauter tun. You're going to be doing AG batches in the (not too distant) future so you might as well get set up for that now.

I should be clear that there is nothing wrong with partial mashing or brewing with extracts. My last batch was an extract/steep. I'm just suggesting that you get set up for AG brewing; you can do the PM's with that equipment as well.
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppus_Poppatopolis View Post
You asked about buying a bottle tree. After reading your post I would suggest that you not invest more money into bottling devices. You are clearly on the path to brewing permanency; I see kegging in your (not too distant) future. At that point your bottling tree and zillion bottles will mostly just take up space.
I respectfully disagree with this. I keg and, with the holidays being here, I still bottle as much as I keg on a volume basis. The tree with the vinator is worth the minimal investment IMO. It is hard to take kegs to parties (for msot people) and I surely don't want to give a whole keg of precious brew to anyone but I do give a lot of bottles out as gifts.

Kegging only precludes you from introducing people to the hobby and wowing them with your legendary brewmaster skills.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:16 PM   #6
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There is no doubt that I will be getting into AG brewing sooner rather than later. I'm thinking that I will get into AG when the whether turns for the better in Spring and stick with brewing in the kitchen until then.

I hate to buy equipment just to upgrade it almost immediately, however. So maybe i can buy/make my lautertun and use that in the house. I'll search HBT for more info.

On a side note, how do you use iodine to calculate efficiency?
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:24 PM   #7
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Weasel: I disagree with myself as well. After I typed that I thought I painted with a rather broad brush. The PA Dutch in me was trying to save some money but the points you make are good ones. I retract that advice.

Iodine is used to determine if all of the starch in your grain bed has been converted. You don't use it to calculate efficiency; it just tells you *when* you can calculate your efficiency.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppus_Poppatopolis View Post
Iodine is used to determine if all of the starch in your grain bed has been converted. You don't use it to calculate efficiency; it just tells you *when* you can calculate your efficiency.
Okay Hoppus, I gotcha. Thanks!


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