Friday, November 7, 2014

Greg's Adventures in Homebrewing:
The All-Grain Leap, Part 2: Lessons Learned

All right! I’m back for part two of the all-grain leap series. In my earlier post, I went over the equipment that I had to upgrade to be able to start brewing with all-grain. The first recipe I made was a saison I found after some googling. I figured I would start with a good recipe and modify it from there after getting the process down. When starting all-grain, I’d suggest finding a recipe first. Creating your own is hard enough without having to add complexity of figuring out a recipe from scratch.

It was a little interesting getting the ingredients from the homebrew store. I basically went in not knowing what I needed to do and the lady at BIY Homebrew Supply helped me out quite a bit. I gave her the list and she got me the grain I needed and ground it for me. I also didn’t realize hops should be kept cold to preserve their flavor. (You always come out of BIY with beer supplies and extra knowledge.) The hops that come in extract kits are kept in the kit warm which may make them deteriorate more quickly than if they were chilled. Before I go any further we need to go over the beer making process or you may have no idea what I am talking about later on.

Step 1: Choose Your Ingredients

Here is the recipe design phase and the most important step. This step determines what type of beer you’re going to make and what your plan will be for making your brew.

Step 2: Grind and Mash the Grain

In this step, grain is soaked in hot water to release the sugars in the grain. This sugar is what the yeast munch on to create alcohol in the beer.

Step 3: Drain and Rinse the Grain

This process is referred to as lautering. Water is drained off the grain and collected. This sugary water is part of the liquid that will be produced into beer. That liquid is referred to as wort. 

Next, the grain is rinsed with hot water to get any more sugars that may have been left behind after the initial drain-off from before. That process is called sparging. The sparge water is drained into the same container the wort was collected in and the result is a lot of very sweet and sugary wort.

Step 4: Boil the Wort

Next, the wort is boiled with hops and possibly other additives that give beer its bitterness and aroma.

Step 5: Cool the Wort

That boiling wort needs to be brought down to a temperature that will allow yeast to flourish in the sugary goodness of the wort. At this point, everything must absolutely be sanitized or unwanted bacteria may infect the beer.

Step 6: Put the Wort in a Fermenter with Yeast

The boiled wort is now transferred to a fermenting vessel and yeast is added. After a few days your wort should be some legit beer.

Step 7: Bottle/Keg Your Tasty Homebrew

After fermentation, the beer is put into some type of storage vessel – usually bottles or a keg. Some beers may need additional aging. After bottling or kegging, you are ready to drink the fruits of your labor. You should taste your creation throughout the entire process to make sure no changes need to be made, but I’m sure that is a sacrifice you are willing to make.

So now that you know the process... I used my shiny new turkey fryer and brought a bunch of water up to temperature and mashed the grain in my new mash tun and went through the steps of brewing. In the end, the beer was pretty damn good. I was amazed how good it was compared to the extract kits. 

The next try, I purchased a program called BeerSmith. This program pretty much is a must-have if you are wanting to create your own recipes. I changed a couple ingredient quantities and the yeast since it wasn’t as “Belgiany” as I wanted. After that batch, that version of my saison was absolutely incredible and it has not changed since. I don’t know what I would do to make it better.

After the early (probably a little to early) success, I decided to make an Irish red completely from scratch. I spent a few hours getting all the parameters how I think I would have wanted them. I got the ingredients and everything was going well until not too soon after initially draining the wort from my mash tun, I shattered my hydrometer. Specific gravity is an important measure throughout the process and I now had no way to measure it. I moved forward since I was already into the process. When it came time to boil, the propane regulator on my burner died. It was roughly 8 at night and there was no way I was going to be able to get another one. I’m ever so grateful Jess likes me as much as she does because I was a very, very grumpy person after having to dump 7 gallons of wort, (which should have been around 5 gallons of beer) down the drain.

After the epic failure, I purchased 2 hydrometers and an extra thermometer because those are made of glass as well. I thought the burner I had was a little weak and got one that had a bit more power. It was a 30-pound propane regulator instead of the measly 10-pounder I had before. The result is pictured above. So, I now have a blast furnace. I can't say I’ve had a problem getting anything to boil since. The next try was the same recipe and it turned out pretty well. I’ll elaborate on that a bit more next time. The next post will be about a little competition I entered at NewBo City Market earlier this year. Bye for now!


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