First Batch Results and a Trilogy of Errors

Well enough time has passed that I can finally give my critique of my first all grain brew. At least I can say I have one all grain brew under my belt.

Unfortunately this post is lacking in pictures, I didn’t end up taking a ton of pictures this time. There wasn’t that much different from my first post on all grain brewing, if you want more pictures, check out my previous post here.

Amber Ale Final Results

First, a couple of figures from the recipe versus what I ended up with:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.048 1.050
Original Gravity 1.055 1.040
Final Gravity 1.012 1.004
Alcohol Percentage 5.64% 4.73%

*The pre-boil gravity is the gravity of the wort just prior to the boiling of the wort. I’m a little suspect of the number I got, since I believe the number needs to be measured when the wort is closer to ~65 Farenheit. Also, this number shouldn’t be this high when the wort is at a higher temperature.

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Amber Ale in Secondary Fermentation

So the amber ale I brewed ended up with an original gravity that is 0.010 lower than what the recipe calls for. We can see that there was alcohol production considering the difference in the final gravity and the original gravity. At least alcohol was I got alcohol.

Looking at the final gravity of the amber ale, the consistency is close to that of water! (water has a specific gravity of 1.000). I can taste the hoppiness in the beer, and there is an amber look to the beer. Unfortunately, what I ended up with is what could be described as hoppy alcoholic water. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What I’m thinking happened is that I rushed the sparging process. I added water to the grain bed in the batch volumes indicated on beersmith, however I think the water didn’t sit in between batches for a long enough time, leaving lots of precious sugars behind.

Oh well, I’m drinking it anyways, because, well, it’s my first all grain beer. To me, it’s still drinkable. I think of it as a very light amber ale. Perhaps this will teach me a lesson, my penance for being impatient in the sparging process. Oh, woe is me!!

German Pilsner

For my second batch, I decided to try something a little different than what I’m used to. I picked a German Pilsner for this recipe, it’s supposed to be a little lighter and crisper. The end color ended up being a little darker than I was hoping for, but it’s all a learning process.

The brew day was nothing short of trying. Through all the issues I had during the day, I was pretty convinced this would be the first batch I spoil or infect. We’ll see what happens.

First Mishap – Expired Propane Tank

The first thing that got my day going was when I went to refill my propane tanks, I discovered one of the tanks was expired. So much for buying a half full propane tank at a garage sale. No biggie, the bar-be-Que I got with it works, that’s the important thing. Also I already had one brand new propane tank, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Second Mishap – The Water is Yellow!

Once I got my brew day going, I noticed that once I got my strike water close to mash temperature, the water was yellow! Not entirely sure what happened, the main pot I used last time only held water I heated for mashing and for sparging. I thought I’d cleaned it out. Turns out I hadn’t…

Minor setback, I cleaned out my pot very thoroughly with SOS pads and got it nice and clean. On my second try, the water was crystal clear. Lesson learned, clean out the pot even if it only had water in it…

Third Mishap – It’s Windy Outside…

Another issue I encountered was the fact that it was fairly breezy outside. The flame on my burners kept getting blown out. It was a minor irritation, I had to keep re-igniting them.

The mashing itself when pretty well, not much can go wrong when grains and water need to sit for an hour. I tested the mash with iodine after about an hour and ten minutes and it was ready for sparging.

Fourth Mishap – Problematic Sparge Arm Attachments

For this brew I attempted to fly sparge versus batch sparging. This involved using my nifty sparge arm I made myself and alluded to at the end of my last blog post. Basically, I didn’t have a solid attachment to the hose barb on the sparge water pot and while I was sparging, the hose kept slipping off, causing the copper pipe to land on top of the grain bed. So much for not disturbing the grain bed during sparging…

On the plus side, the sparge arm worked. I tried to take a picture, but there’s a wooden board I had covering it to kind keep some of the steam from escaping and to keep the sparge arm in place. You can sorta see how high the water stayed above the grain bed, the recommendation was about 1-2″.

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Sparge Arm Working Away

Fifth Mishap – Boilovers!

Once I finished the sparging, I got to boiling my wort. I stop paying attention for a little bit, and before I knew it I heard sizzling on one of my burners…yep, I had a nice boilover. Boy it sucks cleaning that sticky mess up.

The best part is, not only did it happen once, it happened TWICE. You’d think I’d learn from the first one, evidently not…

The End Result

After the boil, a lot more wort evaporated than I had anticipated so I only ended up with 4.5 gallons versus 5. I found that when I measured my original gravity following chilling, I was actually a lot closer to the original gravity than my first batch. This is good news! While the fly sparging took a lot more time, I think I captured a lot more sugars.

Basically I ended up with the following:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.052 1.042
Original Gravity 1.056 1.052

So looking at the numbers, I’m in a closer range to the recipe. I think if I’d let the wort cool a bit more I’d be pretty darn close.

Upcoming Posts

We’ll see how much more I plan to write about in the next little bit. I have been superbly delinquent in my plans to better understand and implement microcontrollers to my brewing process. At this point, I’m all talk and no action.

Eventually I’d like to talk a little more about some DIY projects I have in mind with woodworking, I’ve got some extra lumber kicking around that I’d like to use for some practical storage purposes.

Thanks for reading!

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