Well, it's been a long time since I've posted last, been lurking here & there and distracted with other real life stuff. I finally got around to taking a crack at doing my first all grain - Hooray! I decided to try brewing the original version of the Free Beer project named "Vores Øl
I had read about it a number of years ago via an article on Wired and being a software developer who appreciates open source software it immediately piqued my interest in brewing, so it's only proper that I try.
So that was the noble intention...then I made a terrible error in going against my original judgement. Having spec'd everything out I don't have enough equipment to do a full 23L (5 gallon) batch, so I had initially decided I would attempt a half...somewhere along the lines between planning and acquiring the grains I dispensed with that notion - the exact reason why escapes me. I suspect my chomping at the bit for weeks but being unable to start for one reason or another got the better of me, but I'll never know for sure.
In any case I got the full 3.6 kg (~8 lbs) of grain and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead...knowing that I'd hit a torpedo or two along the way.
Allow me to illustrate how unprepared I was to brew a full batch - my main pot can only hold about 12-13L of water (if I push it) - the next best that I have on hand can only hold about half that. I have my primary fermenter which I used as a holding tank between steeping and sparging. Oh, did I mention that I'm using an electric stove with a ceramic top? Bloody hell.
I'm certain a half batch would've been quite doable and certainly more advisable and this notion crossed my mind, but I was past the point of no return. With my water holding at around 55 degrees C, I added my grains to the 8L of water in my 12L pot. The recipe calls to hold it at this temp for 90 minutes, which proved a challenge for me as I've never done this before. There was a few fluctuations of a couple degrees both ways but it was more or less held at 55 for the duration.
I drained my grains to the extent that my arms would let me, put them aside in my other pot for holding purposes, while I poured the wort into my fermenter to hold while I spared the grains with about 6 additional litres of water. Yes, I realize it should have been more than twice that but at this point I'm making do with what I have.
At this point I accept that I'm in the middle of a...mitigated(?), self-inflicted, disaster - so screw it - go for broke.
I add the wort back to the pot and realize I still have some room, I add my sugar to see how much actual room I have. I estimate I still have approximately 1.5L of room left...So I take my grains that are sitting in my other pot (you know the 6L one) and I start running that water through them and recirculate it a couple times. I know I need every bit I can get out of this because, hey I'm shooting for a high gravity wort! HA HA HA HA HA!!!
I believe this is where I descended into the mouth of madness (I was merely circling up to this point). I happened to notice that my primary had some residue left in it from when I had the wort sitting in it...waste not want not I suppose, I tossed some water in, swirled it around to make sure I can get the most out of it and add it to the pot to be boiled.
So topping up my pot I try to bring my water up to boil so i can add my hops. It's a long wait as my poor stove struggles to heat the water - it seems like the better part of an hour before I actually hit the 95 degree range. I get to 98 degrees and pop in the hops. The recipe calls for simmering everything for 60 minutes.
By the way (slightly off topic), I get the hops thing now. I've heard people almost instantly go to their happy place talking about hops and how it smells...their eyes glaze over, the head tilts back and they blissfully drift away for a moment. I've never smelled actual hops before so the reaction was a bit lost on me - but I get it now - oh my. What lovely stuff it is.
Anyway, back to the liquid train-wreck that I'm piloting!
60 minutes pass and this part has been relatively uneventful, not too much difficulty in holding temp - the aroma fills the house, I'm happy - my fiancé not so much - but I've come to far to stop now!! ONWARDS!!
Time to chill this bad boy...I've got my sink filled with snow and water and ever so gingerly add the pot and watch the temperature drop...until, I realize, the water in the sink is now fairly warm...so I start bailing it out (not even thinking
about the siphon I have) - I use a 1 cup, measuring cup because that's about all I can get to fit in ye olde sink. So I bail as I'm adding new water, and with the help of some ice the temperature finally drops to something a civilized, around 35 degrees C.
I transfer the 12L of highly concentrated wort to the freshly washed and sterilized primary fermenter. Time to dilute this puppy down so I can pitch my yeast. I check the gravity - 1.094 - okay, that should give me some breathing room - my aim is to get to 23L, so I start by adding 4L at a time and rechecking the gravity at each interval. Slowly but surely I get to 1.052, which is comparable to the O.G. of the other versions of the Free Beer recipe (the original doesn't list one). I pitch the yeast, seal her up and begin the clean up. 6+ hours in, I'm exhausted but I'm finally done.
I realize that time & yeast can heal many wounds in brewing and I'm hoping that will be the case here, but I'm steeling myself for a different and far more unpleasant reality. My bet is that this will become something I'll chaulk up to experience and have little else to show for it except being a little wiser and adding one more item to the list of things I've learned the hard way.
After all of that you'd think I'd be fed up and frustrated, but I'm not. I made, some horrendously bad decisions for this brew and I expect the results will not be positive, I can live with that - I learned a hell of a lot in the process, and education has it's own rewards. I now appreciate the value of the equipment that I was missing that I thought I could do with out and what I had at my disposal. The process and what goes into it, all feel more concrete and now I have a baseline upon which I can improve.
I'll update this post with results as things progress. I plan to see this thing through to the end...hopefully there will be beer at the end of the proverbial rainbow
Any thoughts, pointers, ridicule, words of encouragement, predictions - I welcome it all at this point.
UPDATE 1 (28-Nov-2011):
The yeast are churning away and the air lock is popping along. Still smells and looks good at this point. Does anyone else get kinda transfixed by the swirls and currents of the yeast doing their work or is it just me?