I bought grains to do EdWort's Haus Pale Ale this Saturday. Unfortunately, my starter wasn't active enough by Saturday, my stirplate plans fell through and brew day was pushed back to Sunday.
Come Sunday I had a live and active starter after stepping it up. Last time I made a starter I wasn't sure what ratio to use, so I pitched a vial of WLP into a gallon of starter wort of unknown gravity. It grew fine. This time, I used a 1 ounce to one cup ratio. The darn starter didn't do anything. When I stepped it up I noticed I used signifigantly more dry extract the SECOND time, and re-measured... "I'm sure this is right..."
I guess I mis-measured my first starter, which explains the poor lag times... Anyway, that's not all-grain. :P
With my bright orange, DIY mash tun in hand I set out to the back yard where I'd begin my adventures in AG brewing. I brought several gallons of plain water to almost a boil to pre-heat my mash tun. Pouring the water in the first time I burnt my hand, not badly, but it was a lesson learned. The expected crack crackle still unnerved me, but the warping of the sides (in the same spots on both sides!) had me freaked. No holes, so I'm good.
Having poured the water in there I noticed that it went from about 200* to about 180*, about 10% of it's thermal energy - I kept this in mind and took notes.
After bringing 3.5 gallons of water to about 178 - 182 I poured the grains in and poured the water on top and gave it a little stir. I stuck my new probe thermometer into the center of the mash and... 180!
OMG... So I ran to the faucet and filled up a 2 quart jug of cold water, poured it in and stirred. That brought it down to about 168. Still too hot, so I grabbed another 2 quarts and brought it down to 151.2 degrees... Within a degree of where I wanted, so I lidded it and mashed for 60 minutes. At the end of the 60 minutes I was at 150.8 degrees.
During this time I brought 2.5 gallons of water to 175 exactly (Ed says 3.5 gallons, but I used an extra gallon and wasn't sure where to account for that.)
Time to begin vourlaf! I got my pot ready, took a deep breath and turned the ball valve... Nothing. Not a drop, not a trickle.
Not sure what to do now, I grabbed my spoon and gave it a swirl. As I pulled my spoon up something else came with it... My stainless steel braid. CRAP!
Now was close to panic time.
My wife then suggested the strainer, which I proceeded to use in place of a stainless steel braid, except that the husks kept clogging the tun from the inside. Since after many minutes of fussing with the thing, unsure of where my temps were or what they SHOULD be, I began actually SCOOPING the grains out of the tun one strainerful at a time. Scoop, strain, stir, open the ball valve.
After I got the vast majority of the grains out the lauter magically caught itself on it's own grainbed and I managed to get the wort out through the valve after giving myself a wort shower. I then dumped the grains from the tun, poured it through the strainer back INTO the tun and then lautered through a pair of my wife's (new) nylons to catch the rest of the husk material.
That worked pretty well and I came out with about 5 gallons of wort.
The boil went pretty well. My wife was there stirring the kettle while I ordered pizza, her thinking with the nylons was awesome and her company made a frustrating venture into the unknown a bit more fun.
Now, to the questions I wrote down during the process.
1.) Do Pre-heat temps matter or is the important thing to get your tun's temps near your mash temp?
2.) How long does the mash need to be above 172 before noticable tannins are extracted?
3.) How much variation in mash temps is acceptable?
4.) How do you calculate the temp of your strike water so that you can be as close to your mash temps as possible?
5.) What happens to the process if you mash with more than 1.5 quarts to the pound?
6.) How do you calculate sparge volume?
All in all today was tons of fun. There were times where I was sitting there saying "This can't be worth it" but as I'm sitting here right now ready to collapse into my bed I'm thinking today will only teach me some quick lessons to improve my next batch.