Hi everyone, my name's Zach. I've been a lurker for a while, and finally got around to actually registering an account. I want to begin by saying thank you for all the excellent information I've found on your site, but I had trouble finding specific answers to a few things.
First, a bit of background on myself. I've made the occasional batch off and on over the past few years, but always partnering with a friend who already has superior equipment (full brew trees or multiple kegs with good filters and spouts). But, I've wanted to try and step up my game to try to make this a little more frequent event.
To do this, I obviously needed my own all grain system. Based on what I've read, I began by putting together my own mini kit.
The kit itself consisted of a 30qt aluminum turkey fryer:
Which I then drilled a hole and mounted the following filter and spout into:
Obviously this is nothing high end, just about $100. I added in a combination hydrometer/thermometer and a copper immersion chiller, and called it good.
For my first brew I used the Phat Tyre kit (about 10 pounds of grain) found on NorthernBrewer's website.
When I brewed though, I ran into a couple issues, which prompted a couple questions I was hoping you guys could help out with.
First, after I was done mashing and began sparging, I had a really hard time getting the wort to drain out properly. It seemed I had to constantly shake and stir the pot to get it out. I know your first thought will be that I didn't use enough water, but I used 3 gallons for mash and a bit under 4 gallons for the sparge (wanted a five gallon batch at the end). I'm going to assume during the stirring process I may have lifted the tail end of the strainer up into the grain bed, but it still was a very slow trickle. Is the hop strainer I've posted above not a good call for filtering grains?
Second, I wound up with wayyyy too much just... junk... in my final beer. After doing a little reading on here (again, thanks guys), it appears that I should have taken my first runnings and poured them back over the top of the grain bed. That prompted my next question - should I be stirring the grains while mashing and/or sparging? Or do I want it to kind of settle into a bed which will filter out the stuff that wound up in my beer?
Finally, I was a bit curious about the best time to take a hydrometer reading. I wound up taking mine after I had chilled it using the immersion cooler, but before I added it to the carboy and pitched my yeast. I wound up with a gravity of about 1.043 at 70some degrees, which works out fairly close to the 1.050 the kit said I should reach. Unfortunately I boiled down a bit too far, wound up with around 4 - 4.5 gallons, which I guess means my efficiency was a bit low. (I'm basing that statement on an assumption that the more you boil down a beer, the higher the gravity will go, as there is more sugar in less water. Is that a faulty assumption?)
Thanks for your help.