My first AG brew..."fun."

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stavale8099

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Ok, well whoever would like to hear a good "disaster" story for my first AG brew. I take a lot out of it though as I learned a lot...I think...
Here was my recipe:
7.5lb maris otter
1lb instant oats (day before I baked @ 375 for an hour - nice and toasty)
0.5lb flaked barley
0.5lb chocolate
0.5lb crystal 60L
0.2lb carapils
0.2lb roasted barley
2oz East kent 60 min.
single temp infusion @ ~154
S-04 yeast

Decided to brew an oatmeal stout for my first AG in a new (used) MLT I purchased which was 8 gal w/ a false bottom which prob held ~ 1 gallon - This was my first mistake as I did not account for the extra space on the bottom when I calculated to mash in with 1.25 qt/gal. I heated up JUST enough strike water to to calculate for 1.25. I should start off by saying that I have a ~2.5 gal and a ~3.5 gal boil pot so I knew that things would be tight. Anyways after realizing my mistake for not taking into account the false bottom I had to quickly heat up more water. My target temp was 154 and after adding the first batch of strike water of course a gallon of it drained right through the mash and brought the mash temp only upt o about 140. So, I had a good 15-20 min @ 140. Final water/grain ratio was 1.68 and I mashed @ ~152 for an hour.
Knowing I needed to vorlauf and sparge, I heated up some more water. Only having a 3.5 gal pot (my biggest) I was only able to collect this much of the "first runnings" and vorlauf (sparge water heating up in my 2.5 gal). However, I also didn't think that I should vorlauf a little slower than I did so instead of capturing all the small particles on top of the grain bed, I recirculated too quickly and just mixed up the entire bed again and again got small particles in my first runnings.
First runnings ~14 quarts - Gravity 1.05
At this point I realized that if I was going to sparge with as much as I SHOULD, I was going to run out of boil pots very quickly. So, I batch sparged with another 6 quarts or so for 15 minutes. I believe that the gravity of my second runnings was ~1.03. It was much less sweet but I was out of room in my boiling pots at this time (I now had 5 gallons pre-boil) so I couldn't sparge down to gravity of 1.01. So, now I mixed my 1st and second runnings and my gravity was 1.042.
I had two VERY full pots of wort for the boil, which certainly made the hot break interesting but I did not get a boil-over.
I cooled the wort with a copper coil heat displacer which I also accidentally touched while adding some irish moss so that sucked. Hard. It also sucked that the 3.5 gal pot took 30 minutes longer to start to boil than the 2.5 gal pot so everythign was somewhat staggered.
So, I lost ~1 gal to the boil and my gravity post-boil was 1.064. F-that, I wanted a 5-gallon batch so I spiked it wtih 1 gal of cold water and the final pitchign temp was ~70 degrees.
Final OG 1.05 for fermentation.
To the boil I also added a few teaspoons for urea/diamm phos. and some yeast for nutriets. I couldn't find any Wyeast so I used dry S-04 so I was paranoid about lack of nutrients. I didn't have any zinc or anything to add so hopefully there is enough in my water.
I sprinkled my yeast on top of the wort (I've done this before with previous non-AG batches) and then waited 15 minutes to stir it in. BUT this time (this didn't happen last time) it just sunk and so was not present after 15 minutes. I hope it lives.

Anyways...so finally I have a 5 gallon batch that is full of small grain particles. Hopefully these just settle out and don't affect the flavor. I know this is an aggressive yeast so if its not full-on fermenting by tomorrow night then there is probably an issue.

I DO know that next time I need to have a bigger second boil pot (we do it all in teh kitchen and don't have a gas burner nor the room for a large pot at this point so need to do split boil for now.)

Thoughts? Ideas? what should/shouldn't I do nxt time?
Thanks!
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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According to the calculators I got 74% efficiency
 

GrogNerd

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Thoughts? Ideas? what should/shouldn't I do nxt time?
Thanks!
#1 - figure out how much dead space you have with that false bottom

#2 - don't worry so much about that 140° rest. from Palmer's How to Brew: "he typical Protein Rest at 120 - 130°F is used to break up proteins which might otherwise cause chill haze and can improve the head retention. This rest should only be used when using moderately-modified malts, or when using fully modified malts with a large proportion (>25%) of unmalted grain, e.g. flaked barley, wheat, rye, or oatmeal"

so, temp is a little off and your proportion of unmalted grain isn't >25%, but so what. with this and your carapils, you'll have some good head retention.

#3 - 74% efficiency & it seems you hit some good pre-boil gravities.

#4 - get a BIGGER KETTLE. 14qt is good for extract ½ boils, but AG full boils you need an 8 to 10 gallon kettle.

otherwise, sounds like a pretty good first AG brew day!
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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So after some looking into this further I entered the wrong number of points for my base malt so looks like 71%...oh well....


Question - do you think there are enough nutrients for fermentation?
Is the final water to grain ratio what the amount of water which is actually touching the grain above the false bottom or does it include that water?
The protein rest was completely accidental since I only realized I wasn't spiking with enough water at 168 to bring the temp of the grain up to where I wanted it ;)
Bigger kettle - duly noted ! Lets hope my electrics stovetop can handle it.
 

GrogNerd

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final water to grain ratio is what is touching the grain above the false bottom

I ran into the same problem my first all-grain in a Zapap and also had an unscheduled protein rest.

beer turned out friggin tasty. the last bottles are in the fridge now

have never had the need to add any nutrients for fermentation.

and your particles will settle out, given enough time in the fermenter
 

beatlebum

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best advice is probably just to brew again, and again and again. every one's process is a bit different and every time you try something new - such as your first AG batch - it'll be a bit hectic and terrifying. just keep doing it and it becomes automatic.

though i'd add that from my experience, (aside frmo skipping protein rest as mentioned above) grain/liquor ratio isn't terribly important for a mash. yeah, thicker mashes are better for non-fermentable sugars and thinner for fermentable, but from my limited experience, not much.

more important is to get to the right temp off the bat because it's such a hassle to deal with raising/lowering mash temp. i always use about the same amount of water and adjust strike temp between 10-15 degrees F + target mash temp depending on total grain bill. not particularly scientific, but usually werks good!
 

Walking_Target

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After lots of reading before doing this myself, I gotta say, anything over 70% total efficiency on you first brew is pretty darn good. I got a brewhouse (in carboy) efficiency of 72% on my first batch and was quite happy.
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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the lady decided to cook dinner right when the mash was finishing up which took up half the kitchen as well. Also when I burned my hand on the copper coil while adding the moss it sent the moss flying everywhere so I'm not quite sure how much actually made it in haha.

Do you guys monitor the mash pH pretty frequently? I did a mini mash a month ago (my first mash) and stood over it the entire time checking the pH and starch conversion every 10 minutes. This time I didn't even think of it until I was about to start the boil. Both seemed to be around 5.5 which from what I've seen is ideal. What ingredients would require a more frequent mash ph check?
 

MI_Troll

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Up until recently I was a two pot on the stove brewer. I used two 16qt pots, one I had from extract days, another I grabbed at Wally World for $12 to get up to 8 gallons of boil capacity. I always sparged into my bottling bucket and then dispensed into my pots. With lots of foam control I was able to take the liquid levels up to within 1/4 in of the top without making a mess. 90 minute boils were a bit trickier because I had to boil off some wort to make room for some more. I now have a 10 gallon pot that straddles two burners. It takes all the fun out of partially filling pots to be able to finish sparging and keeping multiple stopwatches running for 8 hops additions across multiple kettles. I miss the Vegas-like excitement of wagering wether the bottling bucket was going to give out while filled to the rim with 160 degree wort. Don't cave to the temptation of having the ability to boil everything in one pot, it makes brewing dull.
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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Up until recently I was a two pot on the stove brewer. I used two 16qt pots, one I had from extract days, another I grabbed at Wally World for $12 to get up to 8 gallons of boil capacity.
Ha!! That's great to hear...and encouraging. I definitely need another boil pot to match one that I have so I can at least have more boil capacity. The fact that you can have some fun insanity like that and then as a result of your sweat and tears (hopefully not into your fermentation bucket) you have a delicious beverage is amazing. I'll tell you, it seems like the more insane the brewing process the more you appreciate the end-product.

I don't have any fermentation yet so if it isn't going by this evening I might go get a smack-pack of 1084 and pitch it before I crash tonight.
 
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stavale8099

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Any recommendations for a slower vorlauf? I guess as mentioned above I could lauter into my bottling bucket then just control the flow back into the grain bed...pouring 3-4 gallons back on top of the grain bed was very pointless given the amount of debris I got in my runnings haha!
 

davekippen

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Great job adjusting on the fly!

I have never had to vourlof more than 2-3 pints, then I pour it over my mash "paddle" to break up the stream and not disturb my grain bed too much. Ive thought about pouring it through a colander but eh im not that worried about it!!
 

Crashola

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I did my first all-grain batch last week and lessons were learned. But overall it was a great experience. Here's what I learned:

1. Use an accurate thermometer for your strike water. I grabbed the nearest cheapo thermometer and I think my water was way too hot.

2. Have some patience after adding strike water. My temperature spiked (see No. 1 above) and I started to freak out. I probably should have let it sit for a bit to reach equilibrium. Instead, I started to dump in cold water which led to more problems.

3. Remain calm and do not, as they say in the flying world, "chase the needle" I went from too hot, to too cold, and back to way too hot. It finally settled in at 154 and stayed there nicely for 50+ minutes.
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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Great job adjusting on the fly!

I have never had to vourlof more than 2-3 pints, then I pour it over my mash "paddle" to break up the stream and not disturb my grain bed too much. Ive thought about pouring it through a colander but eh im not that worried about it!!
That's a great idea...I can definitely handle that. I did notice that the 1st runnings were running pretty clear after the first couple pints had been lautered so that does make sense.
 

feinbera

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Any recommendations for a slower vorlauf? I guess as mentioned above I could lauter into my bottling bucket then just control the flow back into the grain bed...pouring 3-4 gallons back on top of the grain bed was very pointless given the amount of debris I got in my runnings haha!
As davekippen said, use something to break up the flow as you pour back over the grain bed. I use an aluminum pie tin with thumbtack-holes punched every half-inch or so, suspended by fishing line.... it's a bit of a pain keeping it balanced, but it distributes the wort really nicely, I honestly can't say for sure if it's any better than just pouring it over a slotted spatula or something, but I made it, dammit, and I'm gonna use it!

Some other tips from a n00b which will make life much easier:

- Use two collection vessels when you're vorlaufing, so you can have one sitting under your spigot while you're pouring the other one in at top. This way, you're not constantly opening and closing your ball valve, which messes up your grain bed and is also a pain. I use a couple of cheapo plastic half-gallon lemonade pitchers.

- Collect your vorlauf runnings with the ball valve only just open enough to create a steady stream. Theoretically, the slower pull will result in a less-compacted, more freely-flowing grain bed when you open the valve up a little more and start collecting wort for the boil; practically, this will give you time to slowly pour off one of your collection vessels before the other one has a chance to fill all the way up.
 
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stavale8099

stavale8099

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As davekippen said, use something to break up the flow as you pour back over the grain bed. I use an aluminum pie tin with thumbtack-holes punched every half-inch or so, suspended by fishing line.... it's a bit of a pain keeping it balanced, but it distributes the wort really nicely, I honestly can't say for sure if it's any better than just pouring it over a slotted spatula or something, but I made it, dammit, and I'm gonna use it!
Great idea - I will certainly use the two containers next time while vorlaufing. I did notice some grain bed compaction last night and I was sure it was because I had the ball valve opened the entire way haha

I think I'll try to get something going where I can fly sparge instead of batch sparge as well...well, if I find that I have the patience to babysit it at least.
 
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