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Old 03-20-2012, 06:50 AM   #1
Aug 2011
Carroll, IA
Posts: 452
Liked 5 Times on 5 Posts

Ok, I have been on this forum for a while now, reading everyday, looking at stickies, etc. I started extract, did a few PM brews and then went all grain. My first Ag brew was a "brown ale" and the next a nice IPA. The brown turned out to be a black ale with a really nice chocolate flavor, really solid brew, just not what I wanted. I did a brown for the first time thinking the malty character might hide some flaws if I had a rough brew day. I think I just used too much midnight wheat malt. This brew had a low overall efficiency, about 63%. I was ok with that, just wanted to take the system for a test drive, so to speak. For the next brew, I did an IPA, simple grain bill; 10 lbs 2 row, .5 lb carapils, .5 lb special roast, a LOT of hops. During the process my daughter got sick, and I collected to much wort, almost 9 gallons! I decided I did not want to boil that all the way down, so I thought I would double the hops and turn it into a double batch. Wow, ended up with less than 5 gallons in the carboy and used 11 oz. of hops, so much for that session IPA, lol.

Here is the basis of this post; I have a 10 gallon Igloo mash tun with a false bottom and valve, a 10 gallon stainless kettle with valve and stainless mesh "strainer" attached to the valve. Kettle also has a double bottom, so scorching for me, also has a Blichman Brewometer installed. I have a Shirron plate chiller and a Blichman in-line temp reader for the chilling process. I have a refractometer, and almost always use a yeast starter and always use RO water. I also use a swamp cooler to control temps during fermentation. I also use Beersmith. Also, I batch sparged both times according to Beersmith w no mash out.

Having said all that, I need some help dialing in my brews. I measure my water volumes exactly and boiling is not an issue with the propane burner I am using now. What exactly should I all be measuring; preboil gravity, after sparge gravity, actual sparge gravity, ph, etc. Also, I have a fly sparge setup, but have not used that yet.

I guess I am just looking for help in dialing in the system, general things I can do/look at to help make better brews. For example, should I be treating my RO water, am I not measuring something I need to be, should I be doing a mash out, etc. I know this is a LONG and general post, but I hope it is the beginning to helping me make great beers. I can provide way more detail if needed, but I am hoping someone has a few ideas I am not seeing...

Thanks for all the potential help...

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Old 03-20-2012, 10:06 AM   #2
JLem's Avatar
Jan 2009
Attleboro, MA
Posts: 3,637
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If you are using RO water, you really need to add in salts/minerals for AG brewing. Yeast need things like Calcium and Magnesium and Zinc. Also you need Chloride and Sulfates for flavor. Additionally, you need to maintain a proper mash pH and RO water will not have any buffering capability, so your pH is probably all over the place for different beers.

A good primer on water/mash chemistry can be found in John Palmer's "How to Brew" - here's a link to the relevant AG section of the first edition (which is free online): http://howtobrew.com/section3/index.html
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