First AG - making it look easy.....

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maltMonkey

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sorry in advance for the long post....

Knocked out my first all-grain on Friday….it turned out to be a very interesting experience with many problems and setbacks. Recipe was an English pale ale that I concocted in Beersmith.

I started around 2:00 in the afternoon. The very first thing I did was turn on the burner for the hot liquor tank, and I already had my first problem. The propane tank was not pressurized or something, because the propane didn’t come out very forcefully creating a not-so-hot fire. I had used the tank a couple times prior, and I’m not sure what the deal is. At any rate, I switched tanks and kept going. Then the spigot on the HLT started leaking….apparently the tightening nut had come loose. I was able to give it a quarter turn and it worked (albeit it was a bit cock-eyed now).

I started grinding the 11lb grain bill by hand in my corona mill. Gave up about 1 pound into it. Removed the handle, found a bolt that fit in place of the threaded handle, put a socket driver on my drill, and quickly cranked through the rest of the grain.

When my mash water got to 175 I filled my MLT, expecting a 2-3 deg drop in temperature from the MLT being room temp. Instead I got a 10 deg drop. I was doing this all in my garage, and it was about 40 deg outside, so next time I’ll have to take the ambient temperature into consideration. I barely caught this in time, and just brought the last gallon of liquor to boiling before putting in the MLT, and it brought the temp to exactly what I was wanting for my pre-strike heat. Mashed in and nailed my strike heat temp (was shooting for 158). I used 1.25 quarts/lb of grain as my mash ratio. While this was on the lower side of what is recommended, I still felt as though the mash was pretty watery….Just not what I had pictured in my head.

I checked the PH of the mash strictly out of curiosity. I didn’t have any water modifiers on hand, and was just planning on dealing with whatever it was as I didn’t want to overcomplicate things my first time. As near as I could tell on the pH paper, the mash was around 5.8…..too high, but what could I do?

After a 60 minute saccharification rest, I noticed that the mash temp had dropped too 148. Too low, and I should have been adjusting the temp with more hot water the whole time. I guess I didn’t think about it because I just thought with the MLT lid closed there would be enough insulation to maintain the temp over 1 hr. Another lesson learned.

I attempted a mash-out, and was very disappointed with the results. Beersmith and a couple other calculators had figured that I could add just over 5 quarts of 212 deg. water to get my 168deg. mash out temp. I ended up adding 10 quarts, and still only got to 166 deg. I basically just gave up on the mash out at this point.

I started vorlauf, and this is where the real problem began. I got some grain coming through the hose, which should have been my first indication of a problem. Flow was quite slow (more like a dribble), but it did consistently drain. I had heard to vorlauf until the wort “ran clear”, but it looked pretty clear to me from the beginning. At any rate, I collected app. 1 gallon wort into a pot and poured this through a strainer back into the MLT. The sparge arm worked great. I have it suspended by 4 strings, which turned out to work great. Someone had suggested that the arm would float on the mash. I tried this and it started sinking right away. So I ended up pretty happy with my sparge arm design.

I began my fly sparge, and the fun continued. I had a MAJOR stuck sparge. After several minutes of fiddling around with stuff and burning my hand in 150 deg. water I discovered the problem. My draining manifold is not soldered to the spigot pipe, which allows me to remove it and clean it easily. Unfortunately I had knocked it out of the fitting while stirring the mash, causing all the wort & grain to get sucked straight into the pipe connected to the spigot. After getting back in I tried everything to get the sparge going again: blowing/sucking on the hose, attaching my auto siphon, stirring the grain like a madman…..eventually I just shook on the hose for about 20 seconds and everything started coming out great. The sparge manifold worked great, and I was very relieved. Unfortunately I had lost 35 minutes and the mash temp had dipped down to 142 deg. I said “screw it”, and went ahead and collected my 6 gallons of wort.

The boil went pretty well, but I had 2 problems. One was that again, going by Beersmith, I had only accounted for 1 gallon boil-off over the 1 hour boil. WAY off. I lost over 2 gallons, and had to add water in the middle, which of course dipped the temp, losing the boil for a bit. My other problem was that with all the steam I couldn’t see the gallon marks I had made in my boil pot. This ended with me only having about 4 ¾ gallons of wort at the end of the boil.

I started up the wort chiller (which I had never used before), and even though I had tested it earlier and tightened up the leaking hose clamps, the temperature conditions must have made the hoses contract or something because it immediately starting leaking water in a spray right into the wort. I ran and grabbed a screwdriver, and got the clamps tightened quickly. Other than that, the chiller did a pretty nice job, getting the wort from boiling to 74 degrees in about 35 minutes.

I took a gravity reading on the wort, and was 3 points lower than expected (1.048, shooting for 1.051)….coupled with the fact that I didn’t even collect my full 5 gallons this points to bad efficiency. I don’t know if it was my crush, my equipment, or all the stuck sparge problems I had.

I was pretty tired, so I pitched the yeast, cleaned up the equipment (LOTS more to clean than in extract brewing), ate, and went to bed.

All in all, it was quite a 6 hour adventure….stressful at times, but I can’t wait to fix what I need to, adjust for what I’ve learned, and do this again!


The setup:

Beer making fuel:

Grain bill:

Crushing by hand:
 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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Tired of crushing by hand:

Much better!

The crush:

Heating liquor:
 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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Mashing in:


Saccharification rest:

60 minute rest? Time to drink:
 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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Getting sparge water ready:

Stirring the mash:

Vorlauf:

 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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Fly sparging, after a 35 minute stuck sparge:

Near the end of sparge:

The boil:

Reusing washed yeast:
 

korndog

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Sounds like a normal brew day to me. :) The Hennepin went down easy I bet. I use Promash, and my Mash-out infusion is not close either, using their mash scheduler.

KD
 

Blender

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Everyone learns a lot on their first attempt at grain brewing. You now know your evaporation rate and learned some about temperature adjustments and of course found out that cleaning up is a bit more intensive. On each succeeding brews you make adjustments that refine your process and lots of things come naturally (except the cleaning). Congratulations! What did you make?
 

Lil' Sparky

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You'll work out the problems you had and I doubt you'll repeat them. I wouldn't worry about the mash dropping to below 150 after 60 mins. In fact, you were probably fully converted after 30 mins. Since you were apparently shooting for a maltier beer (mash target 158º), it might have been better to sparge earlier. The longer your mash rests, especially at the lower range of conversion, the more fermentable wort you'll get. Just something to think about. I'm sure the beer will taste great.

Your propane problem was probably a common one. When you hook up the tank and turn it on, the regulator has to be completely shut off, otherwise the safety pressure valve on the tank won't allow it to flow 100%. If it happens again, disconnect everything, close all valves, connect the tank, open the tank, and then open the reg. That should solve the problem.
 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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korndog said:
The Hennepin went down easy I bet.
REAL easy :drunk:

Blender said:
Everyone learns a lot on their first attempt at grain brewing. You now know your evaporation rate and learned some about temperature adjustments and of course found out that cleaning up is a bit more intensive. On each succeeding brews you make adjustments that refine your process and lots of things come naturally (except the cleaning). Congratulations! What did you make?
I made an English pale ale....my own recipe...don't know if it'll be good or not:
9lbs Marris Otter
1lb Carastan - Hugh Baird 30L
8oz Victory
2oz Special B
1.25oz Kent Goldings (60min boil)
1 oz Kent Golding (2min boil)
Wyeast #1187 Ringwood Ale Yeast

Lil' Sparky said:
You'll work out the problems you had and I doubt you'll repeat them. I wouldn't worry about the mash dropping to below 150 after 60 mins. In fact, you were probably fully converted after 30 mins. Since you were apparently shooting for a maltier beer (mash target 158º), it might have been better to sparge earlier. The longer your mash rests, especially at the lower range of conversion, the more fermentable wort you'll get. Just something to think about. I'm sure the beer will taste great.

Your propane problem was probably a common one. When you hook up the tank and turn it on, the regulator has to be completely shut off, otherwise the safety pressure valve on the tank won't allow it to flow 100%. If it happens again, disconnect everything, close all valves, connect the tank, open the tank, and then open the reg. That should solve the problem.
Lots of great tips there......thanks :) I know very little about propane tanks because I've always been a charcoal man for my grills and smoker.
 

korndog

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maltMonkey said:
I know very little about propane tanks because I've always been a charcoal man for my grills and smoker.
Ah, a real Barbecuer! Not many of us left I'm afraid. You can make some good mopping (basting) sauce with your beer!
 
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maltMonkey

maltMonkey

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korndog said:
Ah, a real Barbecuer! Not many of us left I'm afraid. You can make some good mopping (basting) sauce with your beer!
I like to use beer for mops and bastes, in chilis and bbq sauces, and also in the water pan of my smoker.....my problem is that I hate using good beer for these tasks. Luckily I have about 2 cases of not-so-good beer from one of my first extract kits that tastes great when used for these purposes.
 

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