Salt Lime Lager brew day recap (a beginner's journey in learning hard lessons)

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kkuczma

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I took off from work yesterday (Thank you, abundant PTO) to brew a beer I wanted to have ready after a day of working on my yard in the summer. I thought I'd share some notes from this brew, as told from the perspective of a person who is still truly getting the hang of brewing.

Salt lime lager beer, brewed with 7 lbs of German Pils & 1 lb of flaked corn, Saaz hops, saflager 34/70 yeast.

Math is hard- I assumed I had the appropriate sized kettles and stock pots to hold my sparge water (just shy of 6 gallons). Wrong! One 12-qt pot, one 8-qt pot, and then I used a 5 qt pot. I had enough space on my stove for 3 total pots, as the 8 gallon kettle took up too much space, so one of the pots had to go to the propane grill outside on the side burner.

My first time batch sparging and attempting a true vorlauf- and I couldn't get it to be particularly crystal clear. First time using a false bottom as well. I read a billion arguments for/against stirring while batch sparging, I ultimately went with stirring.

My mash-tun is also my primary kettle for boiling, so as you can imagine, that's going to make batch sparging difficult- especially when I already ran out of kettles just for my sparge water. Thankfully, I had a giant blue Lowes bucket that I thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Given the lack of clarity/volume of grains coming through at first, I passed everything through a sanitized strainer, which certainly helped.

The boil took over an hour to get to a point where it was rolling. At the recommendation of a friend, I went with a 90 minute boil instead of a 60 minute. During this time, I did some bad karaoke in my kitchen, ate leftover curry, played Wordle, and sampled a Dos Equis Salt Lime Lager (which was excellent!). I added 1oz of Saaz at 60 minutes and 1 oz of Saaz at 5 minutes (along with half a whirfloc tab).

I got the wort down to low 70s with my wort chiller before putting the kettle (with sanitized lid) in the chest freezer to help bring it down the rest of the way to 52 (with sanitized temp controller probe/wire immersed in the wort). At 52 degrees, I removed it, took my OG reading (1.040, which relieved me because my pre-boil gravity was 1.026 and I was sweating it).

I love the spigot on the kettle and transferring my wort to the fermenter via that, but I was fearful I wasn't going to get a full 5 gallons. My fermenter does not have measurement markings, so I really need to fill it with gallon measurements of water next time and make the markings on the outside with a sharpie. As a result of being blind on the measurement and wanting to get the most of my wort, I made the awful, terrible, no-good very bad idea mistake of tilting the kettle and took on a lot of sediment. Congratulations! I'm an idiot.

Final decision on the night: to rehydrate the saflager yeast or to sprinkle? I rehydrated the yeast on my prior beer (a Vienna Lager) and wanted to see what the results would be just sprinkling. Rest assured, I read numerous arguments for it/against it, I read studies on exBeeriment, and was aware of the risk I was taking. Also, it was hour 11 on my day and I was dragging.

I only have a single-hole rubber stopper for my fermenter, so the temp controller probe is insulated against the side of the fermenter, in the center, with a thick hand towel duct taped over it. Temp control is set to 56.

Yes, the salt and lime are absent- but will be added at a later point in the process.

So, what are my takeaways?

  • I need a separate mash-tun or another kettle to accommodate my batch sparge
  • I need a larger kettle to accommodate higher volumes of sparge water
  • For every argument for a technique (stirring during batch sparge, rehydrating yeast) there will be arguments against it (not stirring, sprinkling yeast dry on top of wort). Make an informed decision but it seems you'll have a drinkable beer in any event
  • I need to learn why I couldn't get a crystal clear recirculating during vorlauf
  • Don't. Tilt. The. Kettle.
  • Your brew day will not go as planned (ever, it seems) and you just need to roll with the punches.
  • There are multiple stages of excitement and despair. I ended last night saying to my buddy "I think I just blew the whole thing." This morning I looked at the fermenter and the sediment has settled; I have more wort than previously thought, my OG reading turned out fine last night- maybe this won't be so bad!

Thank you for joining me on my journey as I continue to read (and obsess) over everything about brewing from the perspective of a relative newbie.
 

rburrelli

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Fingers crossed for you. welcome to the learning curve of brewing. It will get easier.
I brewed with an 8 gallon kettle and a 10 gallon mash tun from a cooler for 5 years successfully on the stove. It can be done. You definitely need another vessel for mashing.
 

seatazzz

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Congratulations! Your first brewday looks much better than my first all-grain brewday 5 years ago. A few tips; don't sweat the gunk going into the fermenter from the boil kettle. It will all settle out (as you have observed) and really doesn't affect the final product. I never get crystal clear wort after vorlaufing, that's what whirfloc (and sometimes gelatin at packaging) are for. And +1 to the suggestion of a dedicated mash tun. I built mine from a Lowe's cooler and a few pieces of hardware, along with a false bottom, for about $80 total. You can buy them ready-made but they are pricey, and building one yourself is actually fun. I don't know your location, but your local big-box store (Costco, Sam's Club, etc) usually have big kettles for relatively cheap; I got a 12g aluminum one at our Costco for about $60 a few years ago and it did just fine until I upgraded last year to a 15g SS BrewBuilt.

And my final comment; you can read all the forums, blog posts, watch all the youtube videos, telling you that THIS is the correct way to brew beer; it takes trial and error, but find the best way that works for YOU and your equipment, and improve (or not) on that. If you are making good beer, that you like, you are winning.
 
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kkuczma

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So far, we are on the way! Temps in the freezer dropped as low as 49 and came back up to 56 where I want it to sit. Came downstairs to the basement this morning to check on it and we’ve got activity!
 

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Hopalong

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I took off from work yesterday (Thank you, abundant PTO) to brew a beer I wanted to have ready after a day of working on my yard in the summer. I thought I'd share some notes from this brew, as told from the perspective of a person who is still truly getting the hang of brewing.

Salt lime lager beer, brewed with 7 lbs of German Pils & 1 lb of flaked corn, Saaz hops, saflager 34/70 yeast.

Math is hard- I assumed I had the appropriate sized kettles and stock pots to hold my sparge water (just shy of 6 gallons). Wrong! One 12-qt pot, one 8-qt pot, and then I used a 5 qt pot. I had enough space on my stove for 3 total pots, as the 8 gallon kettle took up too much space, so one of the pots had to go to the propane grill outside on the side burner.

My first time batch sparging and attempting a true vorlauf- and I couldn't get it to be particularly crystal clear. First time using a false bottom as well. I read a billion arguments for/against stirring while batch sparging, I ultimately went with stirring.

My mash-tun is also my primary kettle for boiling, so as you can imagine, that's going to make batch sparging difficult- especially when I already ran out of kettles just for my sparge water. Thankfully, I had a giant blue Lowes bucket that I thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Given the lack of clarity/volume of grains coming through at first, I passed everything through a sanitized strainer, which certainly helped.

The boil took over an hour to get to a point where it was rolling. At the recommendation of a friend, I went with a 90 minute boil instead of a 60 minute. During this time, I did some bad karaoke in my kitchen, ate leftover curry, played Wordle, and sampled a Dos Equis Salt Lime Lager (which was excellent!). I added 1oz of Saaz at 60 minutes and 1 oz of Saaz at 5 minutes (along with half a whirfloc tab).

I got the wort down to low 70s with my wort chiller before putting the kettle (with sanitized lid) in the chest freezer to help bring it down the rest of the way to 52 (with sanitized temp controller probe/wire immersed in the wort). At 52 degrees, I removed it, took my OG reading (1.040, which relieved me because my pre-boil gravity was 1.026 and I was sweating it).

I love the spigot on the kettle and transferring my wort to the fermenter via that, but I was fearful I wasn't going to get a full 5 gallons. My fermenter does not have measurement markings, so I really need to fill it with gallon measurements of water next time and make the markings on the outside with a sharpie. As a result of being blind on the measurement and wanting to get the most of my wort, I made the awful, terrible, no-good very bad idea mistake of tilting the kettle and took on a lot of sediment. Congratulations! I'm an idiot.

Final decision on the night: to rehydrate the saflager yeast or to sprinkle? I rehydrated the yeast on my prior beer (a Vienna Lager) and wanted to see what the results would be just sprinkling. Rest assured, I read numerous arguments for it/against it, I read studies on exBeeriment, and was aware of the risk I was taking. Also, it was hour 11 on my day and I was dragging.

I only have a single-hole rubber stopper for my fermenter, so the temp controller probe is insulated against the side of the fermenter, in the center, with a thick hand towel duct taped over it. Temp control is set to 56.

Yes, the salt and lime are absent- but will be added at a later point in the process.

So, what are my takeaways?

  • I need a separate mash-tun or another kettle to accommodate my batch sparge
  • I need a larger kettle to accommodate higher volumes of sparge water
  • For every argument for a technique (stirring during batch sparge, rehydrating yeast) there will be arguments against it (not stirring, sprinkling yeast dry on top of wort). Make an informed decision but it seems you'll have a drinkable beer in any event
  • I need to learn why I couldn't get a crystal clear recirculating during vorlauf
  • Don't. Tilt. The. Kettle.
  • Your brew day will not go as planned (ever, it seems) and you just need to roll with the punches.
  • There are multiple stages of excitement and despair. I ended last night saying to my buddy "I think I just blew the whole thing." This morning I looked at the fermenter and the sediment has settled; I have more wort than previously thought, my OG reading turned out fine last night- maybe this won't be so bad!

Thank you for joining me on my journey as I continue to read (and obsess) over everything about brewing from the perspective of a relative newbie.
I use a mashtun and a slotted bottom lautertun. The manufacturers that produce tuns, etc. usually have a chart with the volume of grain and water the vessels can hold. I'm not a fan of recirculating hot extract through a grain bed for maintaining or increasing mash temperature because a condition called over sparge occurs, which extracts tannin. Tannin extraction is a time, temperature, pH thing and that is why vorlauf is kept within 10 minutes using a small volume of extract. My mashtun is direct fired.
Reading about your experience was like opening a time capsule. You did GREAT compared to the way that I made my first batch of all grain beer, which was lager. I was in the same boat, the kettles were too small, I used all of the burners on the stove plus I used a barbeque grill, which used charcoal, and it snowed like crazy and there was no roof over the deck. The only differences, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I didn't use corn. When I began brewing beer flaked stuff wasn't available, so I used all malt, which was 6 row because I was told that 6 row was lager malt and 2 row was ale malt and 6 row malt was soaked at 60 to make lager and 2 row malt was soaked at 65 to make ale. I ran with it until I found out that it didn't work that way. Actually, resting 2 row or 6 row malt at 60 produces beer closer to ale and lager because conversion occurs at 60. Beta is responsible for conversion, which happens when Beta turns simple sugar, glucose, into fermentable, complex sugars, maltose and maltotriose. Secondary fermentation takes place when conversion occurs, due to maltose. Maltotriose is responsible for natural carbonation. Beta rapidly denatures at 65.
That is great that you are trying to produce crystal clear beer but batch sparging makes it difficult because the sludge the grain bed filters out is stirred up and moved down stream. Regardless of what is written about batch sparging, the method was used a long time ago for producing paupers' beer, which was made with spent mash. The mash was loaded with sludge and had to be batch sparged to keep it from sticking.
Mash should be stirred a couple of times and allowed to rest until the liquid above the grain bed clears before beginning to sparge. A layer of tan colored silt should be noticeable on top of the grain bed. An issue with the single temperature infusion method is that it doesn't do too much to limit starch carry over, Beta Glucan and protein sludge from entering the extract, which form haze.
Skimming off hot break as it forms produces cleaner extract and less hops are needed but the issue with removing hot break from home brew extract is that the protein sludge in hot break forms body and mouthfeel and when hot break is removed the final product will be thin. The same thing occurs when finings are used. A type of complex starch that makes up the tips of malt, called amylopectin contains limit dextrin and pectin. Limit dextrin, pectin and a certain type of protein forms body and mouthfeel in ale and lager. The rich, starch is thrown out with the spent mash when the infusion method is used. Amylopectin is hard, heat resistant, starch and the temperatures in home brewing aren't high enough to rupture the starch where it enters into the mash liquid, before Alpha denatures and that is why the starch is wasted. Mash is boiled to take advantage of the starch and when Alpha liquefies amylopectin, dextrinization and gelatinization occur and that is what forms body and mouthfeel in ale and lager.
To produce pseudo, ale and lager the step mash method is used. Recently, Weihenstephan began using the step mash method for producing Helles. Previously, the beer was brewed with the Hochkurz double decoction brewing method. The step mash method uses the three temperatures that malt is tested at, 63, 66 and 70. When malt is high in Beta Glucan a rest at 55 is thrown in. Under modified, low protein, malt should be used with the brewing method. The malt is richer in enzyme content and in starch/sugar content than high modified, high protein, malt. Because the malt is higher in quality than high modified, malt it is more expensive. Malthouses provide a malt spec sheet with every bag of malt, they are online. Malt spec sheets are used in brewing for determining the quality of malt before malt is purchased. The name of the malthouse that produced the base malt has to be listed on a recipe to obtain a malt spec sheet. Weyermann, Gladfield and Mecca produce under modified, malt.
 
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