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
+ 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.