OK I'm pretty new to homebrewing (8 extract batches) and I tried my first all-grain recipe last weekend. I just wanted to share what I did so those of you who do this all the time can tell me what mistakes I made, or ways I could improve, or just be able to chuckle and think “Yeah I remember when I did THAT…” I probably got some of the lingo wrong, but here goes. (warning: I work with engineers, and it's kind of worn off on me, so what follows might be a little dry...)
My recipe was Robust Porter:
First of all, I built an MLT out of a 10-gallon Cube cooler. I calculated that, with the dimensions of the cooler and allowing 42oz per lb of grain fully saturated, that my grain bed would be around 6" high. I drilled a hole for the drain, and built a 4-row manifold out of 1/2" copper tubing (no soldering) using directions I mostly found here. I also used these:
I put the tubing in a soft vise and hacksawed every long piece almost 1/2 way through, about every half-inch. I assembled it with the slots up (differing opinions here, but made better sense to me) and fitted the manifold to a female 1/2" NPT brass nipple, with a 1/2" ball valve on the other side.
Here are some pictures:
I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to precisely measure the water. I ended up using a digital scale. I weighed the pot empty, and then filled it with water until the scale showed the weight of the pot plus the water I wanted. At 1.25 quarts per lb, I came up with 4.32 gallons, or 36 lb (assuming water is 8.34 lb/gal), which with my pot came to 40.9 lb.
With my grains in my (new) 10-gallon aluminum boil pot, all pre-crushed by Defalco's (Houston brew supply store) and mixed thoroughly, I heated up the water to 172 degrees or so (2" dial thermometer; only one I have) and mixed the grain & water together in the MLT. (I probably should have pre-heated my MLT, but I forgot.) Oh, I also added 1.4 tsp of Five Star ph5.2 (question: does that go in when the water is cold, hot, or does it matter?) Temp of water & grain bed was 156 degrees. Over the next 60 minutes, it fell to about 152. I lautered a couple of quarts of that then bled the wort out real slow - took about 30 minutes - until no more would come out. I measured the gravity of the wort (1.080) and using the weight of the pot, lid, wort, and multiplying by 1.080 times the weight of water, I came up with first runnings of 2.65 gallons. Cool.
Following a post I found on the recipe topic above, I decided to do 2 more mashes, with equal amounts of water, to hit my target of 7.25 gallons for pre-boil. Dividing the remaining water by 2, I needed to mash twice with 2.3 gallons each to get a total of 7.25 (assuming the grains were totally saturated, I should get out the same amount of water I put in). I heated the water up to 172 again, added some more Five Star 5.2ph, added my 2.3 gallons to the MLT, stirred, let it sit for 15 minutes, then slowly drained it again (forgot to lauter). I did this twice. And I forgot to lauter twice.
At this point I got the gravity (1.042) and weighed the pot & lid. My math told me I ended up with 7.22 gallons. Pretty darn close to the 7.25 gallons I wanted. The only really hard part was carrying this pot to the garage. 71 pounds is heavier than you may think! Especially when you’re trying not to spill the wort you spent 4 hours collecting…
The recipe said to add the hops at 60 minutes and add the malto-dextrin at 20 minutes. I assume that means, minutes before the end of the boil? That's what I went with anyway. I nearly boiled over when it first started boiling on the propane burner, but it settled down after about 15 minutes or so. Then when I added the hops (30 minutes into my 90 minute boil), with my hand on the knob expecting the foam to rise again, it didn't. Anyone know why?? Previously, with my extract kits, I’ve had to turn the heat almost completely off before I put in the hops, because it makes a ton of foam and I've boiled over before, doing 6-gallon batches in my old 7.5-gallon kettle. For some reason, it didn't make any foam at all. Maybe because I already boiled it w/o hops for 30 minutes? I was using the plugs (1/2 oz cascades & 1 oz northern brewer).
OK (if you're still reading this you deserve a medal - sorry, I type alot) after chilling down to 80 degF with my wort chiller, taking a gravity reading (1.077), converting that all to gallons (5.2), I splashed it into my primary and dry-pitched the 11g yeast packet right onto the wort. OK, I know that was wrong. First of all, I think 11g isn't enough dry yeast for 5.2 gallons of 1.077 wort. If I assume that for an ale I need 0.75 million cells per degree Plato (points / 4) per ml (3785ml in a gallon), that all works out to something like 280 billion cells. Dry yeast has approx 20 billon cells per gram (or so I've heard), so I should have pitched around 14 grams. Not only that, but 60% of the cells can die since I didn't hydrate them first, so I actuality I pitched 112 billion cells, or less than half of what I should have. The result? Well, no airlock activity for about 18-20 hours in my home office (approx. 65-70 degrees). After that, it started slowly. I didn't even think of using a blowoff tube, because I never needed one before. Wrong! It didn't explode, but when I got home the next day there was no water in either airlock (I put two in case one got plugged) and beer was spilled over on the lid. Not too bad, but I should have just put a blowoff tube on it. And it keeps bubbling away. On my extract kits, they start hard, end fast, and make little foam. Maybe they put something in there to cut down on the foaming, I don't know.
I bought enough grains for 2 batches, so I'm going to do this again this weekend. Things I'll change this time: Pre-heat the MLT, lauter every time, do everything in the garage so I don't have to carry a 70lb kettle full of wort, pitch 14g of hydrated yeast, ferment in a 5-gallon carboy filled up to where the neck starts, use a Borton (sp?) union so all that foam gets pushed into a bucket of water (may help the flavor?), then take that off when it settles down & put in an airlock. Heck, I may not even go to a secondary if the beer clears up nice enough. Anything else I should change??
Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm more excited about my new hobby now than when I did my first extract batch (commedy of errors, by the way). I really feel like I'm "making" my own beer now; it's cool!