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Old 08-14-2012, 06:40 PM   #1
silvery37
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Default Intermediate brewing technique. Mini-Mash

I thought I would share my brewing process with pictures. I have learned a lot of techniques on this forum that have made my beer come out much better than my first attempts that were just following the instructions that came with the kit. These are mostly little things that I wish someone had been able to show me.

To me the biggest things to making good beer are letting it age, pitching the correct amount of yeast, and controlling fermentation temperature.


My first step is to make a yeast starter. I use the Mr. Malty calculator to figure out how much I need. For an average beer with a 1.050 SG you could also just pitch two vials of liquid yeast. Mr. Malty will also calculate this for you if you dont want to bother with a starter.

For my starters I mix 1 gram of LME for each 10ml of water. (100 grams for 1 liter of water). I put the water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling I then add the LME with the heat off. Stir until dissolved and then bring back to a boil. Now is also when I add a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Whenever the now dissolved LME starts to boil it will immediately foam up and want to boil over. To prevent this I cut the heat when it starts to foam and let it settle back down. I bring it up to a boil 2-3 times and call it good. I have seen several people that will boil it for 10-15 minutes. I dont believe this is necessary. Anything in the mixture is dead as soon as boil is reached. You can also boil directly in a Erlenmeyer Flask but the boil over is ever harder to control. You can also add a few drops of de-foamer to prevent foaming at all but I dont like extra stuff in the beer and it is easy to control in a pot. After boiling the LME in the water I pour it into the flask. Next I put it in a ice bath in the sink to cool it down to 70 degrees. Once cooled I add the yeast and put a piece of sanitized foil on the top. Foil is used because I want oxygen to be able to enter to wort and enhance yeast growth. This is not done when brewing because the continuous oxygen contact will ruin the beer. I do it now because the goal is the best possible yeast growth. You will need to refer to Mr. Malty to see what size starter based on SG and whether you are using a simple starter, stir plate, etc.

I let the starter ferment for 24 hrs. If my starters are under 1 liter I will dump them whole when pitching. If they are over a liter I will decant first. If you need to decant let the starter ferment for 24 hrs and then put the starter in a fridge for 24 hrs. When you are ready to pitch dump off the top layer of liquid which should be fairly clear after sitting in the fridge.



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Brew Day! This is a picture of everything that came in a mini mash kit from austin homebrew. The yeast is missing because it is in the starter. This kit is a little different from others because it has a combination of liquid malt extract and dry malt extract. Doesnt make any difference but a lot of the kits just come with the liquid malt extract if that is what you order.



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This is most of the equipment I will be using. I also use a propane burner that is outside. I have done a full boil on the stove before but it takes forever. Everything needs to be clean. Only equipment that is going to touch the wort after the boil has to be sanitized. Things that touch the wort before the boil dont have to be sanitized because anything that gets into the wort will be killed while the wort is boiling.




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The bucket used for fermenting, immersion chiller, spoon, and strainer get sanitized.




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First up is mashing the grains. This converts the starch in the grains into sugars. A good ratio is 1.25 to 2 quarts of water per pound of grain. I used 2 quarts per pound so that there would be enough water in the pot to cover the grains. My goal is to keep the temperature of the mash between 150 and 155.



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I use spring water for the mash. I dont know all the chemical reasons but there needs to be some minerals in the water to buffer the mash. Since I have 3 pounds of grain I am going to use 6 quarts of water (1.5 Gallons). I heat this water up to 170 degrees. I heat to 170 because when the grain is added it will lower the temperature of the water. Dont go above 170 degrees because the water can start extracting tannins which will make the beer taste bitter.

Bottled water isnt necessary but my tap water is very hard. I dont mind the cost of the water considering how much I have paid for equipment and the time and wait invested in a beer.



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The water is heated and the grain is added. I put the grain in a bag so that at the end of the mash I can just pull it out and then let it drain for a few minutes. I will leave the grain in the pot for 45 minutes. I check the temperature every 10-15 minutes to make sure I am in the 150-155 range. If the temp drops I turn on the stove for 20-30 seconds. Remember if you turn the stove on the water temp will continue to rise several degrees after the heat is cut off. I will usually heat up to 150 or a little under and this brings the mash up to 155.

I love the thermapen. They are expensive but they are so much easier to use. It is accurate to .1 degrees and it takes the temp in under 4 seconds.





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While the grain is mashing I heat up a separate pot with sparge water. Sparge water is just clean water heated up to 170. Sparging is nothing more than rinsing the grain with clean water to dissolve any sugars that are still in the grains. Again 170 degrees is used because any hotter would risk extracting tannins. I use 1 quart of water per 2 pounds of grain to sparge.



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45 minutes have passed so the mash is done. I pull up the bag of grains and set it on a large colander that is on top of the pot. I let it drain for a couple of minutes then pour the heated sparge water over the grains and let this drain.



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Next I carry the pot outside and put it on the burner. I add the remainder of the water so that there is 6 gallons in the pot. I have found that for me 6 gallons will boil down to 5 gallons and then I add the starter which is about a .25 gallon. I finish with 5.25 gallons which is my target.



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I turn the burner on and wait for the water to boil. Once it is boiling I turn the heat down so that I maintain a rolling boil. I then add my bittering hops per the recipe. In this case it is 1oz perle. The water can boil over when the hops are first added so I watch it and cut the heat down if it starts to boil over. This stops after a minute or two.



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I do a full 5 gallon boil on all of my brews now. I will also be adding the LME and DME at 5 minutes. To do this I cut the heat and pour them in. Stir until dissolved and then turn the heat back on. If you leave the heat on you run the risk of the extracts sinking to the bottom of the pot and being scorched. I add late in the boil because this causes the extract to darken much less resulting in a beer that looks much closer to one that is made with full grains. I feel that there are enough sugars in the malt from the 3 lbs of grain to achieve good hop utilization.


At 15 minutes I add the flavor hops. This is also when I add yeast nutrient and whirfloc.


At 5 minutes I cut the heat and stir in the extract. After it is dissolved I bring the wort back to a boil and the aroma hops. I let them boil for 5 minutes.


Next I bring the pot inside and set it in a rubbermaid tub full of ice and water. I also put the immersion chiller in the pot and run water through it. It only helps a little at first because the tap water is about 85 degrees out of the faucet. The ice bath brings the temp under 80 in less than 30 minutes. I will go through about 25 pounds of ice to cool the wort.



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After the wort is cooled I carefully pour it from the pot through a strainer that sits on the bucket. I leave behind the thick sludge at the bottom of the pot. In the past I would pour the wort back and forth between the bucket and the pot 10 times to oxygenate the wort. Now I inject pure oxygen for 60 seconds. The bucket transfer worked fine when I did it but it is a lot of work pouring 5 gallons of liquid back and forth. Regardless of you method you do need to get oxygen back into the wort. Boiling the wort drives off oxygen and the yeast need it in order to reproduce at the beginning of fermentation.



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Now that the wort is in the bucket I put the lid on and add the airlock. I did several batches where I just let the wort ferment at room temperature. This will work but you will end up with better beer if you can control the temp of the fermentation. Too low a temp for ale and the yest will stall out. If the temp is too hot the fermentation will be vigorous but off flavors will be produced. My goal is to ferment this batch at 65 degrees. This is 65 degrees in the wort not 65 ambient. During fermentation the temp of the wort can be raised a few degrees.


I am going to use a chest freezer with temp controller to maintain temps. The simplest would be to just fill up a rubbermaid tub with water and put the bucket in it. Frozen bottles of water can be added to keep the temp of the water steady.


I will leave the wort to ferment for a month in the bucket. After a month I will transfer the beer to a keg or bottles. I will then let it age here for another 2 weeks minimum and I have noticed that all of my beers taste substantially better after a month in the primary and a month in the bottle/keg. Lastly the beer goes in the fridge for minimum 2 weeks. I do not use a dedicated secondary. You could consider the keg a secondary but I wont move it to another vessel after the keg.

I have also noticed that to get very clear beers I just have to leave it in the fridge for 4-5 weeks. I add whirfloc during the boil but the beers actually become clear after being cooled for at least a month.

I like doing the mini-mash/partial grain for several reasons. For me it is simpler and more forgiving. I get good flavor from 3 pounds of grain that you wont get from straight extract. But my efficiency for the mash doesnt really matter. Even if I did terrible and got 40-50 percent efficiency the bulk of the sugars are coming from the extracts. Although full grain BIAB is almost the same I dont have that big of a pot yet and it is a little less hassle only dealing with 3 pounds of grain. I believe that aging, yeast pitching rates, and temp controlled fermentation makes a much bigger difference in taste than using full grain.



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Old 08-14-2012, 06:51 PM   #2
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To congratulate myself for a good brew day an aged whiskey stout



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Old 08-14-2012, 08:17 PM   #3
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Wow. What a great write up. This should be very helpful for new brewers.
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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I appreciate that. This was the stuff I wish someone had told me.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:51 PM   #5
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Great writeup!

Since you're in Austin, you can use the tap water. For 5 gallons, just add a 1/4 of a Campden tablet to drive off the chloramines, and 1.5tsp of gypsum to lower pH and raise calcium. I prep 3 5-gallon carboys the night before brewing. It'll save you some money.

Also, you may want to cut your whirlfloc tabs in half and use it at 10 min left in the boil. A whole tab is overkill.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silvery37 View Post
I believe that aging, yeast pitching rates, and temp controlled fermentation makes a much bigger difference in taste than using full grain.
I totally agree - this is why I proudly partial mash most of my higher gravity beers.

Great write up and some tasty looking beer!


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