Questions After First All Grain

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xeerohour

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Hi everyone, my name's Zach. I've been a lurker for a while, and finally got around to actually registering an account. I want to begin by saying thank you for all the excellent information I've found on your site, but I had trouble finding specific answers to a few things.

First, a bit of background on myself. I've made the occasional batch off and on over the past few years, but always partnering with a friend who already has superior equipment (full brew trees or multiple kegs with good filters and spouts). But, I've wanted to try and step up my game to try to make this a little more frequent event.

To do this, I obviously needed my own all grain system. Based on what I've read, I began by putting together my own mini kit.

The kit itself consisted of a 30qt aluminum turkey fryer:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000BXHL0/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
Which I then drilled a hole and mounted the following filter and spout into:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300366069703&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT

Obviously this is nothing high end, just about $100. I added in a combination hydrometer/thermometer and a copper immersion chiller, and called it good.

For my first brew I used the Phat Tyre kit (about 10 pounds of grain) found on NorthernBrewer's website.

When I brewed though, I ran into a couple issues, which prompted a couple questions I was hoping you guys could help out with.

First, after I was done mashing and began sparging, I had a really hard time getting the wort to drain out properly. It seemed I had to constantly shake and stir the pot to get it out. I know your first thought will be that I didn't use enough water, but I used 3 gallons for mash and a bit under 4 gallons for the sparge (wanted a five gallon batch at the end). I'm going to assume during the stirring process I may have lifted the tail end of the strainer up into the grain bed, but it still was a very slow trickle. Is the hop strainer I've posted above not a good call for filtering grains?

Second, I wound up with wayyyy too much just... junk... in my final beer. After doing a little reading on here (again, thanks guys), it appears that I should have taken my first runnings and poured them back over the top of the grain bed. That prompted my next question - should I be stirring the grains while mashing and/or sparging? Or do I want it to kind of settle into a bed which will filter out the stuff that wound up in my beer?

Finally, I was a bit curious about the best time to take a hydrometer reading. I wound up taking mine after I had chilled it using the immersion cooler, but before I added it to the carboy and pitched my yeast. I wound up with a gravity of about 1.043 at 70some degrees, which works out fairly close to the 1.050 the kit said I should reach. Unfortunately I boiled down a bit too far, wound up with around 4 - 4.5 gallons, which I guess means my efficiency was a bit low. (I'm basing that statement on an assumption that the more you boil down a beer, the higher the gravity will go, as there is more sugar in less water. Is that a faulty assumption?)

Thanks for your help.
 
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manticle

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I don't know anything about those strainers so I won't attempt to answer that beyond the idea that it looks like they are designed to strain hop trub from wort in the kettle.

Are you batch sparging or fly sparging? If you batch sparge you can give a gentle stir when you add the water but then let the grainbed settle again before draining. When you say junk, do you mean you ended up with grain bits in the kettle? Hunt up recirculation of wort - this will reduce any grain bits you get in the wort.

You can take hydrometer readings at different points. A reading of first runnings will tell you how effective your starch conversion has been.

A reading of the whole wort before boiling will tell you how good your efficiency is. At this point the gravity ratio is set.. If you're too low, you can boil longer to compensate - you will end up with less wort obviously as there's no change in efficiency after this point.

A reading before pitching the yeast will give you a comparison point with your final gravity and allow you to work out abv and when the beer has finished fermenting (in conjunction with later readings).

All readings should be temperature corrected to 20 degrees celsius (not sure of faranheit conversion, sorry).
 
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xeerohour

xeerohour

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I was batch sparging - we added the sparge water in two additions. I don't think we gave it enough time to settle back down, though.

Yes, I mean grain bits - stuff the filter didn't catch.

Thanks for detail on hydrometer readings, hadn't even considered taking it at an earlier point. For me, it's been more about trying to answer "so, exactly HOW strong is this beer?"
 

manticle

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I mash out and batch sparge and each water addition gets 10 minutes rest before draining. I recirculate but get very little husk in the wort. If you didn't allow the bed to settle before draining, that may explain your difficulty with the slow flow. There are other possible factors too but next time just try letting things settle and see how it goes. The grain bed itself acts as a filter.
 

malkore

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I'd say your hop strainer wasn't enough for filtering and plugged too easily.

a stainless steel braid pushed off a faucet or toilet supply line works great and cost $5 or less.
 
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xeerohour

xeerohour

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Malkore - where would you find something like that?
Manticore - thanks. I'll make sure I let it settle more next time and see if that gives me what I need. If not, I'll take Malkore's suggestion.
 

manticle

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Malkore - where would you find something like that?
Manticore - thanks. I'll make sure I let it settle more next time and see if that gives me what I need. If not, I'll take Malkore's suggestion.
I'd do both. I had a feeling that a hop strainer wouldn't be adequate in the tun. Even with proper braid or a manifold, I think you should still let the grain bed settle after adding the sparge water. Others may differ.
 
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