Friday, January 26, 2007

A brew day

In order to give you a rough overview of what my brew day looks like I've created the schedule below that shows the order and the timing of the various steps that I go through when brewing a batch of beer.

00:00 weigh grist, heat mash water
00:15 crush grist (using barley crusher)
00:30 mash-in (add 80C water)
01:30 mash-out (add 100C water)
01:40 first batch sparge
01:55 add sparge water
02:05 second batch sparge
02:10 90 min: big kettle reaches boil, weigh hops
02:20 80 min: small kettle reaches boil (a little later as this contains the second sparge)
02:40 60 min: add bittering hops
03:25 15 min: add flavour hops, insert immersion chiller
03:30 10 min: add irish moss or whirlfloc, add yeast nutrient
03:40 0 min: add aroma hops, flame-out
03:45 start chilling (submerge small kettle in cold water. run tap water through chiller)
04:25 siphon wort into fermenter (splashing)
04:45 add yeast, oxygenate wort
05:30 done cleaning

A brewing session usually takes somewhere between 5 and 6 hours depending on how good I am at multi-tasking. I also get a couple of longer breaks, the first one throughout the 1 hour mash and the second between the addition of bittering hops and flavouring hops. I usually spend that time reviewing the recipe and the process itself.

As you can see above I mash for 60 minutes. The mash itself lasts 60 minutes, then boiling water is added to raise the mash to about 76C. I'm not always successful hitting that temperature, but that really depends a little on how much water there is in the mashtun already. Then I wait 10 minutes so that the mash can settle, making it less turbid. I then open the ball value and vorlauf about 1 liter, which I then pour on top of the mash through some aluminum foil.

I boil for a total of 90 minutes, but add the bittering hops 30 minutes into the boil. I do this to get a better hot break. The proteins coagulate more easily when there are no hops in there. This should in theory give clearer beer. The difference in bitterness extraction is minimal, so this a pretty good trade-off.

My chilling procedure is perhaps not the best one. I use a home-made immersion chiller which is decent. Since I have to boil in two pots I can only insert the chiller into the biggest one (20 liters). This means that I have to chill the small pot (12 liters) in the sink with cold water. This is not the most efficient way to chill wort, but it works. Chilling the wort as quickly possible is a good thing. The longer the aroma hops are steeped in the wort the more likely it is to extract vegetal flavours. Once I get my new kettle going I'll be able to chill all the wort in one go. I think the immersion chiller should work. If not I'll look into getting a plate chiller or a counter-flow chiller.

When transferring the chilled wort into the fermentation vessel I try to splash the wort as much as possible to get some in oxygen into it. The yeast needs lots of oxygen during the reproduction phase. Once everything is transferred I close the lid and shake it vigorously for a minute or two. Combined with lots of yeast this seems to work just fine.


Travis said...

Good stuff.

One question about the bigger pot/smaller pot:

You said that you keep the second sparge separate from the brew in the big pot, in the end both batches are going into the same fermentor, correct? I guess my question is; is there a significant difference between what you get out of the first sparge compared from the second?

grove said...

Correct. The wort from both pots end up in the same fermenter.

The gravity from the two batch sparges varies a bit from batch to batch, but the last time I measured the SG for the first sparge was 1.056 and 1.022 for the second. So the second sparge contains much less fermentables than the first. Expect the second one to be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the first.

Anonymous said...

are you still using the brew-4-less kettle? How has it held up?

grove said...


Other than a trial run[1] I have not yet used it to brew beer. I'm waiting for the snow to melt so that I can get hold of a propane burner -- and not freeze my fingers off.