Ok, so yesterday I set out to do my first all-grain brew.. a Hoegaarden clone.
I started with a 5 gal. cooler (hot water tank), a MiniBrew MiniMash 15 gallon lauter tun, and a 10 gal. brewpot. (among other devices)
The first issue was how to get things to flow. I had to build a tower out of boxes to hold the cooler and had to stand on a ladder to pour hot water into it. (not fun). The lauter tun sat on another couple of boxes, and the pot had to sit on the ground.
My first step was to do the strike and mash. I did it in the brewpot. Immediately I was sad because the water was not enough to go over the brewmometer, which I shelled out $40 just to help with this process. Even once I got the grain in there it was just at the top and would register the coolest temp even while stirring. I struggled with the temps as I had 3 different thermometers giving me all different readings. (I finally set on the digital one and hoped it was accurate) I think I struggled with the temps being real scared to get to 168. I think if I had the brewmometer calibrated and able to actually read the temp it would have been better. I'm a bit upset about this and am unsure what to do next time around. I don't want to just add more water as I feel it migh thin out the mash?
Ok, so I dumped the mash into the lauter tun and dumped the hot water in the tank. I was ready to see my new sparge arm work. Unfortunately in order to get 5 gal. of hot water to flow through in 30 minutes or more requires a VERY small trickle of water... so low that the sparge arm was worthless. What the? This was not at all what I expected. The arm swung freely, but to get it to spin I would have gone through the hot water in like 5 minutes or less. What is going wrong here - this is not at all what I expected. It was very hard to keep the water flow and flow into the pot correct. The runoff was nice and sweet but even when I apprached 7 gal. in the pot it was still pretty sweet - not bitter like I thought it would get. I'm concerned the whole process failed somewhere.
Ok, so my first experience with an immersion chiller had some major problems. First the plastic hose busted off the chiller in two places, shooting water all over the place (and on me, and some in the brew). I was either trying to push too much water through or it wasn't built very well. I will replace with better fasteners next time. (one of the fittings didn't even have a fastener!)
Its all in my Minibrew conical fermenter now. Its been 12 hours and no activity... not usual for my brews. Since this is all grain I'll be patient but I'm hoping I haven't wrecked it.
From start to finish it took me over 6 hours... much longer than I thought.
I can't wait to do it again!
However.. I need to rig up a better three-tier tower. Anyone have plans on how to do this from basic home depot materials? The boxes thing can't happen next time around.