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First AG this weekend need calming!

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Homercidal

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Well, I'm planning my first AG brewing this weekend. My MLT should be complete tonight, and my crusher, although binding and not working now, ought to be finished by the weekend. God help me if it ain't!

Anyway, I used to feel pretty confident about brewing, and thought AG shold be no problem, but now that it's approaching, I'm starting to get nervous. I got a friend or two coming over to help and learn. One of them has brewed extract with me before, and the other has brewed several batches of extract himself. Neither of them I feel I could count on for real experience in the AG aspect of the process. That makes me the resident expert!

Good news is... Ok, I need help coming up with some good news!

I'm still debating in my head what kind of sparging etc. I should do. On top of that, I forgot to pick up a couple of pounds of DME in case my efficiency sucks. I think I'm screwed.
 
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Yes you are going to fail

Now that that's established, let's see how much less you can fail.
Stick to batch sparging.
Download the free trial of beersmith and let that calculate water temps for you.
Forget the DME, you'll still make beer.

When doing my first AG batch I expected failure and told myself, that the day was just about going through the motions of AG brewing to get the nerves worked out and see what kind of stuff came up during the day.
There is nothing to it.
When you're done you'll think...Sure I missed something. That was too easy. Making beer is the objective right now, not winning an award so grandma can get that operation!

Plan everything out, don't rush, have a couple beers to help you relax but not too many to where you're messing up the basics/forgetting stuff.

But remember, if you totally botch it, you still had a day hanging with your friends and you learned what not to do next time.
 

bsay

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Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew. All grain is easy, just be patient. Yes, you will screw up your first time (I sure did!). But the beer I made was still beer, and I ended up drinking it anyway. I've been brewing little 2.5 gal batches in my apartment using a 2 gallon cooler. Gosh, I love brewing all grain, and you will too!
 

smizak

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Dude, you're all good. Just don't go trying to brew some crazy Belgian with $50 of weird brewing sugars and specialty grains.

Brew something simple.

Make a pale ale.

If your efficiency sucks, then maybe it's 4.5% instead of 6%. I guarantee it will still taste better than your extract batches. My all-grain brews are the first I made that don't taste like homebrew.
 

MaynardX

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You will be fine! I have found the hardest parts of AG are getting your mash temps right. Make sure you warm your tun with boiling water first. Drain the water off, then add your mash water at around 185 deg and let it sit and cool till its 10-15 above your tgt mash temp. Then, stir in your grains and you should be good!

Also, I haven't fly sparged yet, but I find batch sparging to be pretty easy. Don't forget to vorlauf!

Edit: One more thing. Make sure your thermometer is as accurate as possible too!
 

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+1. Just relax and do a simple beer.

If you're really one of those plan everything out types of guys then write stuff down. It helps. Make yourself a schedule from start to finish with approximate times and post it in your brewing area, but be sure to leave a lot of wiggle room too.

If you really want to be prepared, maybe try and think about all the stuff that could go wrong, and come up with a solution to it beforehand. For instance:

what if you get a stuck mash? What will you do? I ran the outlet of my MLT through a hop bag when that happened. Worked like a champ.

What will you do if you have less wort then you thought you would? Deal with it, it's not that big of a deal.

What if you miss your temperature on your infusion? Add some boiling water...you can boil it out later if you want a higher OG.

If you know your reaction to these problems ahead of time, you can just follow the script and there won't be any panic.
 

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Remember, you're making beer, not planning the invasion of Normandy.

Man was making beer 4000 years ago, without thermometers, hydrometers, sanitizers, Gott Coolers, PVC, stainless steel, airlocks, or propane burners. It will be OK. You'll probably learn a few things by making a couple of mistakes, but you'll still make beer. RDWHAHB. Don't start drinking on brewday until the chiller goes in the kettle.
 

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Edit: One more thing. Make sure your thermometer is as accurate as possible too!
This is what I was going to say. My first 2 thermometers read way high, so I thought I missed my mash temps. I would add some extra water and get it to where I wanted but was really 6 degrees less. Ended up making a IPA that fermented down to 1.008 or so...too thin for an IPA. Still tasted pretty good!

Preheat your mash tun which was mentioned also and use an online calculator to determine what the temp of the water should be when you add the grains. It does matter what your grain temp is before you start.
 

Whisler85

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i'd say my top five are...

-accurate thermometer- can't mash well without it
-sanitize, sanitize- this applies to extract, as well
-maybe try a darkish beer for your first few all grains- that way you can see the color of the runoff change as you sparge, good way to know when you've got what you can out of the mash
-use a blowoff tube- more nutrients in your all grain could mean the difference between vigorous and EXTREMEMLY vigorous fermentation
-take better notes- you just added a lot more variables to keep track of, and the only way to improve is to know what you've already tried

other than that, im still trying to get my false-bottom fly-sparge system to give me as good efficiency as my original stainless braid/batch sparge setup, so dont worry about it too much- a little DME is ok to bring up gravity if you want, but id rather reduce hops a little and just make a lighter beer that is truly 100% grain, just for the process

good luck!
 

luvmy40

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My first AG went completely wrong! I missed my mash temp, didn't sparge correctly and had much less wort for the boil than needed. My OG was low and my burner was totally wrong for the job. My final gravity was not even close to the prediction! But you know what? It was the best effing beer that I have ever tasted!
There are some great stickies here and on other brewing forums dedicated to batch sparging and beginning AG brewing. Read, absorb and RDWHAHB!

Sanitation!
Calibration!
Preparation!

Oh BTW have fun!
 

blackwaterbrewer

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+1 on the thermometer. test it and even if it isn't right, you can adjust your mash temps accordingly. make sure your mash temp is high enough. use 1.5 quarts per pound of grain. make sure your grain is crushed right. double batch sparging makes everything a joke. use a proven, simple recipe. tell your wife and kids to leave the house for the entire process. this will lessen the stress factor considerably.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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Use a schedule. Written down with temps, times and everything.....Then just follow it.

If you are using brewing software, then you should be able to print one out. I use beersmith, and for the 2nd and 3rd brews the brewsheet was a godsend. I didn't know I had that option on the first brew, and I sucked!! ;)
 

Baldy_Beer_Brewery

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I agree with the BeerSmith (or other brewing software) suggestions. Although I don't think fly sparging is something to avoid on your first brew. Just be aware that an all grain day is a bit longer than an extract day.
 

cladinshadows

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I agree with laughing gnome. Once you've got a plan, you'll be fine. Crank up the tunes, and have a good time. Isn't that why we're doing this?
 

PintOfBitter

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I'm also diving into AG this weekend. It will be my first if you don't count all the times i brewed it at night in my dreams (no joke - I'm pretty geeked out on it). I've also been laid off several times and had some bizarre job interviews in my dreams lately. haven't even been sleeping on a hops pillow...

Anyway, this is good advice, and I'll take it to heart. Any links off hand to good threads?
 

jbeauchamp

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Did my first AG this past weekend. I was a little worried about it as well. I am guessing you will miss some temps or not get enough or to much wort. Not a big deal. I hit most of my items pretty close. But I am seeing very little activity in my fermentor. I believe I will still have beer. Just not sure what it will taste like or how much ABV it will have. Either way, It was fun and I plan on doing it again this weekend.
 
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just make sure your plan is in place and you'll do fine.

heat your sparge about 10 degrees hotter than you think and your efficiency won't suck.

have fun, drink lots, and take good notes! :mug:
 
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Thanks all. I think my biggest worry is that I'm still making my equipment. I'm drilling holes in my manifold for the MLT (doing it on the CNC Mill at work is fun!) and my crusher is still not quite done (just got to screw the hopper on and add some legs) and I am not sure how much time I'll have to do it.

I've used Beersmith and really like it, but the trial expired and now that I can really use it, I can't afford purchasing the upgrade at this time. I suppose I *could* load it on a second computer or remove the trial from my laptop and reload, but that would be cheating I think. I've looked at other software, but beersmith is above and beyond my favorite.

No worries, I think I can sit down and plan the mash on paper. It should not be too hard. I'm planning a simple recipe IPA. The hard part is adding hops and dry hopping and that won't change from extract brewing. I might go light and do an APA with cascade or centennial...

Damn, I forgot to get hops!! Was supposed to pick them up in TC last weekend and forgot. I was so focused on getting the grain that I forgot to go back to the LHBS adn get some (was planning on buying some at the brewery if they woudl sell me any, but they couldn't spare them).
 

hardrain

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I did my first AG Monday night, here are my 'notes':
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/if-bart-simpson-helped-my-first-ag-batch-106631/

I didn't have any software and, although I could get much better efficiency, I added a couple spoonfuls of DME and everything turned out quite al-right. The one thing I didn't point out in the post above is that you want to make sure to sparge enough water, I underestimated how much would boil out and ended up with 4g instead of 5g. I probably could have added some in the fermenter but it was late and I wasn't in any kind of shape to be improvising.

I'm a big fan of the notebook, I wrote the temps, times and general steps down and it worked out fine. Between the two books I have and this forum the information is out there, it's just a matter of having it with you during crunch time.

And yes, it will take you a lot of time (twice as long on the first run), although it must be nice to have extra hands around.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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Oh yes....If you are missing your temps when heating water.....If you need to add cold water or hot to make up the diff, do it in SMALL amounts. It doesn't take much cold water to cool down hot water and vice-versa. I learned that one the hard way. :)
 

jgln

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+1. Just relax and do a simple beer.

If you're really one of those plan everything out types of guys then write stuff down. It helps. Make yourself a schedule from start to finish with approximate times and post it in your brewing area, but be sure to leave a lot of wiggle room too.

If you really want to be prepared, maybe try and think about all the stuff that could go wrong, and come up with a solution to it beforehand. For instance:

what if you get a stuck mash? What will you do? I ran the outlet of my MLT through a hop bag when that happened. Worked like a champ.

What will you do if you have less wort then you thought you would? Deal with it, it's not that big of a deal.

What if you miss your temperature on your infusion? Add some boiling water...you can boil it out later if you want a higher OG.

If you know your reaction to these problems ahead of time, you can just follow the script and there won't be any panic.
Ok, I'm bored and thought I understood about stuck mashes so I'll ask. How does a hop bag at the outlet help with a stuck mash? My only guess here is somehow you disconnected whatever you used (braid?) and let it run free out of the outlet and then used the hopbag? If so then wasn't that difficult to do? Not picking on you, I am assuming you know more than I do but if I had a stuck mash I am not sure what I would do with that advise without a better explanation.
 

PhlyanPan

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Ok, I'm bored and thought I understood about stuck mashes so I'll ask. How does a hop bag at the outlet help with a stuck mash? My only guess here is somehow you disconnected whatever you used (braid?) and let it run free out of the outlet and then used the hopbag? If so then wasn't that difficult to do? Not picking on you, I am assuming you know more than I do but if I had a stuck mash I am not sure what I would do with that advise without a better explanation.
I was wondering if anyone would call me out on that. Yes, I should have been more descriptive. I was attempting to use a grain bag inside of my MLT instead of a false bottom. Problem was the bag kept getting sucked up against the outlet and clogging everything up. So I yanked it out and jammed a stainless steel colander over the outlet, but some grain and most of the break material got through the colander. Thus, I ran the outlet through the hop bag to grab it. I ended up with about 2 lbs of material in the hop bag I think.

Sorry, that was probably a bad example and I wasn't descriptive enough. But I was trying not to get too detailed.
 

jgln

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I was wondering if anyone would call me out on that. Yes, I should have been more descriptive. I was attempting to use a grain bag inside of my MLT instead of a false bottom. Problem was the bag kept getting sucked up against the outlet and clogging everything up. So I yanked it out and jammed a stainless steel colander over the outlet, but some grain and most of the break material got through the colander. Thus, I ran the outlet through the hop bag to grab it. I ended up with about 2 lbs of material in the hop bag I think.

Sorry, that was probably a bad example and I wasn't descriptive enough. But I was trying not to get too detailed.
No problem ;)
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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haha, yes!! In the instance of your manifold coming apart, do NOT try to re-attach it. (It really burns!) Just abandon ship and drain off through an old sock or something. It's surprising how well an old sock can filter a load of hot liquid. (Yes, I just noticed what I said there)
 
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haha, yes!! In the instance of your manifold coming apart, do NOT try to re-attach it. (It really burns!) Just abandon ship and drain off through an old sock or something. It's surprising how well an old sock can filter a load of hot liquid. (Yes, I just noticed what I said there)
Yes, the old sock method. I have not adapted this to brewing yet.

Back on topic... In case of stuck sparge, would it be reasonable to raise the bucket above the level of the MLT to "backwash" the fluid and hopefully free up the problem?

I'm trying to anticipate the solution to any problems, and since I'm building my own MLT, I anticipate having some problems.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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I havn't had a stuck sparge yet. Being as careful as you seem to be I don't anticipate one for you either. I really don't think they are that common.

Just trying to have a calming influence there.....No real advice on it other than not to worry too much about a stuck sparge, sorry! :eek:
 

PhlyanPan

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If you're really worried about a stuck sparge, add some rehydrated rice hulls to your mash.
 

jbeauchamp

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If you have some compressed air, you can blot that back up through the tube. It might be a little messy but should clear the crap that is making your sparge stick.
 

Saccharomyces

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Oh yes....If you are missing your temps when heating water.....If you need to add cold water or hot to make up the diff, do it in SMALL amounts. It doesn't take much cold water to cool down hot water and vice-versa. I learned that one the hard way. :)
I'm still learning that the hard way after about 20 AG batches. :drunk: :D

I almost ALWAYS overheat my strike and sparge water since I am always off doing something else while it's heating over a 50K BTU burner...

If you use a manifold you will almost certainly never have a stuck sparge. I have done 50% raw wheat grists and 30% corn/rice cream ale several times with a manifold, a 0.035 crush, and NO rice hulls without even a slow sparge. Braids are prone to sticking, as are false bottoms in a keggle. If you get a stuck sparge with a manifold your slots or holes are too small.

RDWHAHB... as others have said you will still make beer. None of my AG batches sucked. Not even the first, which NOTHING went right... I missed my efficiency, missed my volumes, and had a leaky wort chiller, yet it still turned out fine!
 

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I'll do a +1 to thermometer accuracy. I have three I use, and two of them read low, like 4 or 5 degrees low. Once I realized that, my third AG was at 72% efficiency, and I hit my strike and sparge water temps on the nose. That's one of the big ones for efficiency.

Also, yes you'll make beer, my first two AG were about 58% and 62% eff and they still tasted like beer, just not like the beer I was going for... still yummy.
 
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Well, I'm liking my manifold. I used a CNC Mill to drill the holes instead of a hacksaw. We'll see how it turns out. My current problem is preventing leaks around the spigot. I used a plastic washer and rubber seal, but now I'm going to drill out a SS washer to fit the fitting and hopefully that will prevent any deformation. The plastic washer was too thin, and I doubted it would work anyway.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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I'll do a +1 to thermometer accuracy. I have three I use, and two of them read low, like 4 or 5 degrees low. Once I realized that, my third AG was at 72% efficiency, and I hit my strike and sparge water temps on the nose. That's one of the big ones for efficiency.
Another point about thermometer accuracy. I use a lab thermo (Long glass one) I have found that when sticking it into the mash, it actually cools the mash around it, giving a false reading (It's been bloody cold here lately) I have found it necessary to swirl the thermo around in the mash until the glass itself is up to temp before reading it. This sounds finnicky, but it's a hard fact IMO
 

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I'm still learning that the hard way after about 20 AG batches. :drunk: :D

...and had a leaky wort chiller, yet it still turned out fine!
No one warned me about this either, I found out I need to be careful how much I open the cold water valve, I drove it too hard and it leaked into the wart...oh well, I guess some people brew with tap water, but it's just that the stuff is poison here in DC.


I'm also planning on adding an additional clamp to each end of the coil just to further prevent the problem, probably worthwhile considering it's a 75 cent investment and will take about two minutes to complete.
 
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Update!

Well, I got a late start, because my crusher would not work. I had to help the idle roller a bit to get it to crush and decided to go back to the shop and add some grooves to grab the grain better and deepen the knurling. Well, the grooves didn't help much and I was able to improve the knurling but not enough to make it work. Our knurling tool is apparently not good for this.

My friend came over and helped me by spinning the idle roller constantly, but after one 2 lb. hopper load I decided to go to the hardware and get an O-ring to put on the idle roller to make it move with the driven roller. I got the thinnest one, and it worked for a minute, then started slipping. Should have got the next size up too, but didn't and by then the store was closed.

Also, my drill was not really up to the task, but the ratchet worked ok. Plan now is to gear the two rollers and add a reducing gear and a second drive shaft so that a smaller drill can work the thing. It's too fast anyway.

Second problem with MLT was fixed. I had issue with leaking, but backed the nut off a bit and it stopped. Really need to get a longer bulkhead fitting, but I might live with what I got, as it seems to be working ok as long as I don't mess with it.

Anyway, I got another trial of beersmith installed on laptop and used it to calculate mash temps. I got the MLT preheated to 140 using water from the tap and heated up a bit of water on the stove and when I mashed in, I hit 155.5F! Wow, this thing actually works! I ended up at 154F after an hour with a couple of stirs during that time.

I took first runnings and then moved to garage to make room for my wife to start with the party cooking. I'm still a bit fuzzy on the sparge, but just added more water and it seemed to go good.

My OG ended up being 1.071 for an IPA and although I'd have liked a bit more fluid, it really was as much as my turkey fryer could handle. I had to keep a constant eye on the flame when adding hops and stuff, or it would boil over.

Well, I just want to say thanks to all on this forum for giving so much information. It really wasn't too hard even for the first time, and now i just need to calculate my efficiency and see what I can do next to improve. I'm thinking about going to fly sparge, because I just can't not screw around with the toys!

Also, I decided my next brewing expense will be a spigot for the kettle. I'm so tired of siphoning hot wort!
 
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What did you use to chil? How'd that go? I know I always dreaded that part of brew day until I got my CFC.
I built a CFC a long time ago. I have another length of tubing in the garage but it's a bigger diameter. I'm planning on making another chiller out of that for a friend, but not sure how efficient it will be compared to mine. Kind of curious to find out. The diameter of the inner would be larger, so more wort will not be contacting the sides of the coil, but there will be more coil surface too. Plus the gap between the garden hose and the coil will be smaller, so less water volume maybe making it harder to cool?

I have a friend who is wanting to do some AG brewing and it might be nice for him. Also a guy at work who is starting out and needs equipment. I shold go to the local metal scrapyard and see what they have...
 

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What kind of barley crusher? The ones sold under the brand name Barley Crusher come with an o-ring on the passive roller but it's not designed to last (per the mfr.). The grain going through should turn the passive roller (on the unit I'm talking about). My o-ring lasted for two batches...then I found the split o-ring in the mash of the third batch. But without the o-ring the crush has been the same.
 
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What kind of barley crusher? The ones sold under the brand name Barley Crusher come with an o-ring on the passive roller but it's not designed to last (per the mfr.). The grain going through should turn the passive roller (on the unit I'm talking about). My o-ring lasted for two batches...then I found the split o-ring in the mash of the third batch. But without the o-ring the crush has been the same.
It's my homemade crusher and the rollers are probably a bit on the small size. Plus, the knurling is a bit light. Both contribute to the problem of it not grabbing grain very well. Once the knurling is filled with dust (matter of seconds) the starts to slip.

I have confidence that putting the roller on the outside will make it work. It only needs a small bit of help to get the idle roller going, then it turns with the grain. With the roller on the outside, you'd have direct access to wipe dust off if necessary.

I wanted to put gears on it, but the prices I saw were a bit high for me. So far the total cost of the crusher is my time. Some small parts were "donated" by my work, and the body and rollers were saved from the scrap pile.

I'm building two more because I know two others guys who could use them. I may make a small change or two, but in general I like it.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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You might try conditioning the malt (just try a pound or so at first) and see if that helps the passive roller 'grab' the grains. I really have no idea if it will help but it's easy to try. Look on the Brau Kaiser page for the technique...it's basically just using a spray bottle to spray water on the malt as you stir it up well. The malt will absorb quite a bit and will still feel dry but will feel different.

It may make the problem worse...so only try a small amount at first.
 
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