I've used this site extensively preparing for my first beer brewing experience. I decided to start AG, and it was a very long, rewarding day.
I decided to make 5 gallons of Pale Ale for my first batch. I wanted to make a Milk Stout, but I was convinced that I should start with something simpler my first time. Honestly, I donít see how adding an extra 1# of unfermentable lactose to the equation complicates things, but I elected to go with the Pale Ale. For my recipe, I used 9# malted barley (2-row), 1# pale malt, 0.5# crystal 60L, 0.5# wheat flakes. My target mash temp was 153F for 60 minutes. I boiled for 60 minutes, and added 1 oz. Cascade at 60, 1 oz. Zythos at 20, and 1 oz. both Cascade and Zythos at 5 min. I however forgot to add the Whirfloc because I was too busy preparing my cooling chamber. I decided to use Safale-05 as the yeast, and I made a yeast starter 24 hr prior to pitching at high krausen.
My OG target was 1.055, and my actual was 1.053. I feel that I was pretty successful. However, I did encounter a few problems that Iíd like for HBT to provide feedback on:
1) FWIW, I use a 5 gallon Home Depot cooler with a brass valve installed with a SS hose for my MLT. The total grain bill was 11#, and I used 4 gallon of water (1.45qt/#). My mash-in temp was 150F at the top at the start, and at 147F the top after an hour of mashing. This means I was 3F off my target temp, but I had no room to add hot water to raise the temp because I added 2 qt of 175F to get it up to 150F. Not sure how large a problem this is, but from my research, Iíd estimate that the slightly lower temperatures will produce more fermentable sugars and will probably result in a lower FG. Can you confirm this?
2) When I attempted to vorlauf, I measured the exit temp at 114F. This tells me that I have a very large temperature gradient (~33F) in the MLT from top to bottom. Have you guys measured your exit vorlauf temps and found them to be substantially lower than your target mash temp? If not, how can I get a uniform mash temp? I think the most likely culprit has to be an incorrect reading because after an hour of mashing, the temp should be uniform throughout the MLT. Iím just curious if this is an observed issue, or more than likely an incorrect reading?
3) I ran off 2 qt of wort during the vorlauf; It was free of grain, but it was not clear as apple cider as Palmer references in his literature. I decided to heat the turbid wort on the boiling kettle anyway, so I could get to sparging. I did two batch sparge cycles with 2 gallons each at 165F. The exit fluids from both sparges were beautifully clear and orange. I hope the initial 3 gallons of turbid wort wonít impact the taste too much. Should I have kept running off the initial wort before boiling, or I am going to be okay with just running out 2 qt despite it not being as clear as the sparge runoffs? Hereís a picture of my SG reading. Does it look right for pale ale?
4) I targeted a 5 gallon batch, but only received 4.6 gallon of fluid in my fermenter carboy. Iím not worried about the 2 qt difference. I had ~6.5-7 gallon (3 gallon worth and 4 gallon of sparge) of wort pre-boil, and I was able to transfer 4.6 to the carboy. This means I boiled off 2 gallons during the hour. I had a strong full boil going and have a large diameter pot, so the air-wort interface has more surface area for the wort to boil off. Iíll just have to increase starting boil water next time. My real worry is that since I have a 6.5 gallon carboy, the head space in the carboy is large. Iíve read on here that itís common to ferment 5 gallons in a 6.5 gallon carboy, but my issue is that the yeast didnít really peak too much. Iím approaching 48 hr and the fermentation is decreasing. My max krausen layer was ~0.5Ē, and now thereís essentially nothing. The ambient temps range from 68F - 72F. I know the yeast is working, but the airlock activity has significantly dropped. Do you think this is a function of the head space, yeast starter bad, or am I just over-reacting?
5) Finally, I want to add 1 oz of both Zythos and Cascade to the primary after the fermentation has declined (~1 week from start), but I have no desire to transfer to secondary. Whatís the best way to do this, or should I just neglect the hop addition entirely? Consider that I have a large head space (4.6 gallon beer in 6.5 gallon carboy). If I remove the airlock to add the hops, I fear I wonít have enough yeast activity to replace the O2 with CO2 and risk oxidation.
I appreciate any assistance you will provide, and I apologize for the wall of text. However, I feel that providing context to the situation will result in better comments and minimize the back-and-forth.
Thanks in advance!