All-Grain Batch #1 – notes & thoughts on the chaos

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mr_lahey

I am the liquor
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Brewed my first all-grain batch on the weekend. Here is how it went down. (Recipe at bottom)
  • For software I used Brewfather for recipe and tracking, and Bru’n water for additions and acid. Estimated mash pH 5.39. I let Brewfather do a lot of the calculations for water amounts and scaled the recipe for the batch size.
  • Target mash temp: 153f, Actual mash temp 154f. After 60 minutes temperature dropped to 151f. I think this is alright.
  • Vorlauf with pyrex cup for 30 minutes, still some debris in the runnings, but much clearer in general. Drain to kettle before starting batch sparge.
  • Oops – bad Sparge temp. After pouring sparge water in and stirring, temperature is at 160. Inexperienced me says “oops, oh well” instead of trying to fix it.
  • Vorlauf for 30 minutes and then start draining to the kettle. Its running very slow. Let it drain into kettle at a trickle for about an hour until it stops completely. Still a gallon short of pre-boil target volume, gravity reading at 1.055, pre-boil target is 1.044
  • Added more water, no effect. Stirred, no effect. Blow-back method, no effect.
  • Started scooping water out with pyrex cup and pouring into kettle through a steel mesh kitchen strainer. Do this for a bit until I start compressing the grain too much to scoop out any more. Still about 0.4 gal short of pre-boil vol. Top up the rest with pre-boiled water into the kettle. What am I even doing at this point.
  • pre-boil gravity 1.051
  • Start boil and schedule - This all went smoothly. Meanwhile, Sat down, had a beer, and contemplated the chaos that just happened between sparge and now. Aprox 3.5 hours have passed since I mixed in the Sparge water. It is like my brain turned off when the sparge got stuck. Feeling like I screwed up this batch.
  • Boil done. First time using home made immersion chiller. Worked pretty good. 20 minutes from boil to 68f.
  • post-boil gravity 1.054
  • Lots of hops in this one (pellets). Debris clogging up the bazooka filter. Had to stand over the kettle and continually scrape the filter with my brew spoon for almost the whole drain into the fermenter. Took about 45 minutes. Wort temp heated back up a bit during this, since the garage was so warm.
  • Put fermenter in fermentation chamber to cool back down before pitching yeast. Eventually pitched at 70f.
  • After 24 hours: bubbling away. Krausen starting to rise. Smells decent. Lots of debris settled down to bottom. Starting to feel a bit better about it now.... Maybe it will be drinkable.
    50133589061_267ef52479_b.jpg

Recipe:
SNPA Clone
Batch Volume: 5.5 gal
Boil Time: 60 min

Mash Water: 4.04 gal
Sparge Water: 4.67 gal
Total Water: 8.71 gal
Boil Volume: 7.4 gal

Target Gravs
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.044
Original Gravity: 1.054

Mash
Strike Temp — 164.3 °F
Temperature — 153 °F — 60 min

Malts (11 lb 3.9 oz)
10 lb 6.8 oz (92.8%) — Briess Brewers Malt 2-Row — Grain — 1.8 SRM
13.1 oz (7.3%) — Great Western Crystal 2-Row — Grain — 60 SRM

Hops (5.75 oz)
0.55 oz (22 IBU) — Magnum 11.5% — Boil — 60 min
0.68 oz (9 IBU) — Perle 5.2% — Boil — 30 min
1.17 oz (8 IBU) — Cascade 5.3% — Boil — 10 min
1.81 oz — Cascade 5.3% — Boil — 0 min
1.54 oz — Cascade 5.3% — Dry Hop — day 4

Yeast
1 pkg — Fermentis US-05 Safale American

Equipment:
Very basic, no pumps.
10 gallon orange cooler mashtun with false bottom
5 gallon orange cooler HLT
10 gal SS kettle with bazooka tube filter
 
Congrats on the successful brew. Just a couple thoughts:
1. Are you letting the wort continuously trickle as you vorlauf, or are you starting and stopping the valve? You might consider getting a larger vessel in place of a single Pyrex measuring cup. I had a 1-gallon Rubbermaid pitcher and a smaller beer pitcher that I alternated to prevent stopping and starting the flow. This may have contributed to your stuck sparge, if you were starting and stopping. Consider adding a 1/2# of rice hulls next time to help prevent stuck sparge.
2. 160F is not too high of a sparge temp. Some argue you should go up to 168F for a “mash out.”
 
Thanks for the tips!

1. Are you letting the wort continuously trickle as you vorlauf, or are you starting and stopping the valve? You might consider getting a larger vessel in place of a single Pyrex measuring cup. I had a 1-gallon Rubbermaid pitcher and a smaller beer pitcher that I alternated to prevent stopping and starting the flow. This may have contributed to your stuck sparge, if you were starting and stopping. Consider adding a 1/2# of rice hulls next time to help prevent stuck sparge.
I was starting and stopping the valve, about a litre at a time.

2. 160F is not too high of a sparge temp. Some argue you should go up to 168F for a “mash out.”
Ah ok. I thought my problem is that the temperature was too low. I was aiming for 168f
 
Thanks for the tips!


I was starting and stopping the valve, about a litre at a time.


Ah ok. I thought my problem is that the temperature was too low. I was aiming for 168f
Shoot for 168F, but it’s not super critical. It can help improve efficiency, maybe because the liquid is less viscous, maybe simply because you spent more time sparging to get there.
 
Vorlauf is for setting the grain bed, not for getting every last particle out of the wort. Don't sweat it if you don't have clear wort. Vorlaufing for 2 minutes should be plenty.
You could sparge with cool water with about the same results if you get full conversion. That may take a longer mash period. Using hotter water stops conversion or stops the beta amylase while accelerating the alpha amylase. That can get you a higher OG if conversion is not complete but the sugars produced by the alpha amylase are generally not fermentable so you get a higher OG and FG.
 
What do you have for a mash tun? It's fairly simple (and really not very expensive) to add a pump to your setup, which makes transferring & vorlaufing a snap. Amazon carries a small brown pump (literally search little brown brewing pump, you'll find it) that does a great job; then you just need the hoses and connectors.
 
Vorlauf is for setting the grain bed, not for getting every last particle out of the wort. Don't sweat it if you don't have clear wort. Vorlaufing for 2 minutes should be plenty.
You could sparge with cool water with about the same results if you get full conversion...
This is good to know. Thanks.

What do you have for a mash tun? It's fairly simple (and really not very expensive) to add a pump to your setup, which makes transferring & vorlaufing a snap. Amazon carries a small brown pump (literally search little brown brewing pump, you'll find it) that does a great job; then you just need the hoses and connectors.
Its a 10 gal gatorade cooler with a false bottom. I'm just a little hesitant to have my liquid pass through one of those cheap plastic 12v pumps. Although if lots of people here seem to use them with no problem or off-tastes maybe I should reconsider. Thanks
 
This is good to know. Thanks.


Its a 10 gal gatorade cooler with a false bottom. I'm just a little hesitant to have my liquid pass through one of those cheap plastic 12v pumps. Although if lots of people here seem to use them with no problem or off-tastes maybe I should reconsider. Thanks

I've used one (I actually own two) for the past four years with no issues. I also mash in a bag which keeps grain bits out of my pumps, something else you might consider.
 
I don't vorlauf for a given time, it's more by volume, as long as it takes to keep the biggest chunks out of the boil kettle. I use a quart-size Pyrex measuring cup, it's usually 4 or 5 fills of that.
I don;t bother with a mash out anymore - I get fine efficiency as it is - plus or minus a few points doesn't bother me.
So what I do, is first, R|DWHAHB. THen vorlauf that gallon or gallon and a quarter, drain right into the boil kettle. I batch sparge, so I let it run as fast as it will.
Once drained, I'll add the sparge water, adding about a quart over the amount to get to my target volume, and get the kettle on to start warming to boil while the sparge is going. I'll vorlauf again, usually the same gallon or 1.25, drain and add to the kettle, which is usually almost at boil. That'll obviously bring things back down but it'll warm back up quick enough.
 
I usually vorlauf 2-3 quarts and then start draining. I don't really care if there are some particles in the boil kettle. I also learned to open the drain valve very slowly at first to prevent stuck sparges.

Did you mill your own grains? When I get a slow or stuck sparge, I usually make a small adjustment to my grain mill on the next batch with a little coarser crush. I would also reevaluate your false bottom and see if there is an issue there. I use a round commercial false bottom on my round Igloo cooler and learned the hard way that I need to carefully adjust the gap between the false bottom and the cooler to prevent grains from getting under it too much.
 
I also learned to open the drain valve very slowly at first to prevent stuck sparges.
I'll remember this, thanks

Did you mill your own grains? When I get a slow or stuck sparge, I usually make a small adjustment to my grain mill on the next batch with a little coarser crush. I would also reevaluate your false bottom and see if there is an issue there. I use a round commercial false bottom on my round Igloo cooler and learned the hard way that I need to carefully adjust the gap between the false bottom and the cooler to prevent grains from getting under it too much.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by adjusting the gap on the false bottom? This is the one I have (link).

I did mill my own grain. I used an old victoria mill that I got second hand. I cranked out the whole grain bill by hand. Here are some closeups of the crush. I appreciate any tips on this as well.

50133599251_1a74aa04bf_b.jpg

50133040753_90954c1678_b.jpg


Links to higher resolution: [base malt] [crystal 60]

Thanks
 
Can you elaborate on what you mean by adjusting the gap on the false bottom? This is the one I have (link).

My round false bottom is similar but I can adjust it up and down a little. I try to adjust it so there isn't much gap between it and the cooler. I got a stuck sparge once when it was sitting too high and a lot of grains got underneath it. The tighter it sits to the cooler base seems to be better.

I am no expert but that grain crush looks ok to me and fairly coarse.
 
I do, if you search MIAB on this site you will find lots of people who do the same. Easy cleanup and the added advantage of being able to mill grain finer.
Interesting! I will definitely be reading up on this. Thanks

My round false bottom is similar but I can adjust it up and down a little. I try to adjust it so there isn't much gap between it and the cooler.
Ok, I'll have to look into this. There is a bit of space left on the threads of the elbow joint that I could probably fit in a washer or two between the elbow and the screen to push it down a bit lower. Thanks
 
I used to have the same sparge temp issues and now fill the sparge tank (10g cooler) with water at about 173 deg. I’ll loose 5 degrees warming the tank and transferring through the sparge arm.

Hard to tell from picture, but it seems you get a good efficiency, but paid for it with the stuck sparge. Perhaps open up the mill gap a bit or add rice hulls as suggested by others.
 
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