This past Saturday was my first attempt at AG, and albeit, I knew up front my set-up was a bit... ...underfunded. Nevertheless, my lust for the thrill of making this beer the proper way led me down a path of about 4 hours of some tedious and intensively educational work. The only LHBS is like an hour and a half away from me, so I bought ingredients to brew with after helping my sister move into the new place with her fiance. In my wonder-lust and excitement of being in my first brew shop, I totally forgot the most important ingredient, yeast. It was 4 days before brew day that I realized this fact and then I realized that with no LHBS (an oasis in a desert of concrete), it literally was easier to score smack than any kind or strain of yeast.... Refusing to be discouraged or to pay $7 in shipping for yeast for a beer that would probably cost less than $7 to make, I drank an old Mr. Beer Maple Stout and hoped to harvest that old, probably poor quality yeast at the bottom. I boiled some sugar water, added it to the "empty" bottle, and VIOLA! fermentation occured (This would be my only small, McGyver-esque victory).
With my schedule all filled out on beercalculus.hopville, I set out on my journey to discover the finer points of adding heat to water and grain.
Things didn't even start out according to plan, under an old post from Orfy, I used 2.61L/kg of water for what I can only approximate was 4lbs of grain. I know, metric and imperial measurements = mars climate orbiter crashing, but in the heat of the moment, I realized I only had liter bottles to measure water with so I just did some *GASP* mathematics for conversions
. And my grains were at least 4 lbs (prolly more) because my scale kept jumping around and I kinda just eyeballed the bag for fractions as the numbers got close
. Despite my faulty measurements, and with resilience my only alli, I would not be denied my brew day, so I brought up the mash temp to about 164-168F (my thermometer was kind of jumpy too... again, nothing went according to plan) and doughed in. An hour later, sweet jesus my over-priced apartment smelt like the most delicious mix of maltose and happiness.
Now the fun began. I was heating my sparge water (ended up being about 175F) when I began filtering out my grain. I don't have the $ nor the time to build a false bottom mash tun, so I used two 20 quart stock-pots and a large, square, fine-mesh colander. Well, I severely underestimated the volume of wet grain, and had a bit of it spilling over (eventually to be tossed since it couldn't fit in the "strainer"). This made recirculating the wort 2 times take almost an hour (my grain-bed became as water resistant as shale or clay. Rather frustrating to hold a pot with 8+Liters of liquid at head height for 25 minutes.) I then sparged with only about 2 cups of water, which took 15 minutes due to the impenetrable qualities of my hard-packed grain-bed, and decided that I would just add the rest of the water to my wort for the boil and cut my losses (a dire sin, I know, but now it's almost 12:30 am and I still have the boil and cooling period and cleaning to deal with...)
Using the 20% rule, I made sure I added enough water that after 20% boiled off, I'd still have 8.5 Liters (I intended to make a 2 gallon batch...). Given my faulty scale, My hop schedule of:
.2oz Northern Brewer - 60min
.1oz Cascade - 30 min
.1oz Norther Brewer - 15 min
.1oz Cascade - 15 min
That should have totaled about 28.2 IBU according to hopville, was more of a educated guestimate (erring on the side of too high) of what those actual weights were. (Turned out that the top plate of my scale had a screw that needed tightening, so any breeze shifted the load and ruined any kind of accuracy... Super cool beans
) As the boil reached about 30 min, my volume looked pretty low to me, so I ended up adding another liter of water. Probably, hind-sight being 20-20, would not have done it that way if I wasn't already 3 hours into this project. Once the boil times were over, I threw the covered pot with the thermo in it into an ice bath in the sink and started watching Alien with my roommate to mentally debrief myself. Eventually, I added the wort to my fermenter and realized I only got about 6 Liters of yield out of my boil, and boy was it cloudy (and probably wayyyy over-hopped for what I was aiming for... Time will tell). In the most fitting fashion, I decanted my "dumpster diving" collection of yeast and pitched the lil guys in. I checked my fermenter yesterday and it had some seriously thick Krausen in it. SUCCESS!!!
Literally, from the very start, nothing went how I thought it would and I'll probably only get at most 12 of the cloudiest, too-bitter beers I've ever had from all that work, but God *$&* it I had a blast. And I can also proudly say that I did it without any of the best equipment, prior experience, or guidance (aside from some forums I've read here). I now know I just need to bite the bullet and invest either in a bag system for my grains, or make the mash tun if I want this to work in my lil apartment. I've seen a bunch of videos on those, just never how to clean the false bottom... But I digress. If any of you have any other advice or explanation of what happened (aside from utter lack of knowledge and preparedness), I'd be most appreciative. Meanwhile, this is my first post, first AG, and I'm just gonna sit back and RDWHAHB (and do ungodly large amounts of Analysis II homework...)