Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brew Day

All-grain brewing can be an intense experience, both for the amount of time dedicated to do it well and the equipment required to handle large amounts of wet sticky malt.  Having a proper setup for brewing has been a goal of mine for many years and over the holidays I got the workshop (which has been a storage area for the last four years) setup for brewing.  That included running a bunch of plumbing, installing a cheap sink in the workshop bench and cleaning up the equipment I've been pulling together for years.  This setup will also be really handy with seed starting for the garden.  Brewing is a really good male bonding experience and I had my friends Jim and Brian over to do the hard work.

When doing all-grain mash, I usually do a Parti-Gyle technique, where the initial runnings from the malt make a strong beer (in this case a Belgian style Dubbel) and the secondary runnings make a weaker table beer (a Black English style Ale).  Start time was around 10:00am, but we had a bit of organizing and prep work before dough-in at about 12:00.

Brian Grinding Grain
For the mash we used 55 lbs of Maris Otter malt, 7.5 lbs White Wheat, 5 lbs Special B, and 7 lbs CaraMunich - a total of about 75 lbs of grain!  Mashing is a pretty sensitive process, which involves mixing the grain with water and progressing the temperature through several stages in order to break down the sugar chains for yeast digestion (I won't bore you with the technical details).

Jim stirring the first Decoction
We did a Decoction Mash, which entails removing a portion of the mash, boiling it and returning it to the main mash kettle to heat it up.  Surprisingly we nailed the temperature steps for every stage.  After the steps are done, you rinse the grain and collect the syrup for Wort (the makings of beer).

The Sparge
While Jim was delicately cooking the mash, Brian was off to the kitchen to make 5 lbs of Belgian Candy sugar.  This is a very common ingredient in certain Belgian beer recipes and is very expensive to buy off the shelf, but pretty easy to make.  It's essentially inverted sugar, which is made by heating up table sugar and a little acid (like citric acid or lemon juice) along with a little water until a hard crack.  This process caramelizes the sugar and breaks down the Sucrose (table sugar) into Glucose and Fructose, which make a much better product in brewing.

Jim Stirring Wort
Check out the size of this Pot!  I got this 25 gallon stock pot at Bass Pro for a $129 (amazing price) and is the first time I've had something that can handle a volume recipe.  The biggest challenge of the day was the amount of time it took to heat up 25 gallons of liquid to a boil, even with the jet engine coming out of the turkey fryer.  Once the wort got going it was just over an hour boiling with the hops and then the wort chiller went in.  That worked surprisingly well given the volume it had to cool (I wish I had a picture of that process).  There are a number of things that happen during the boil. Most importantly, the oils from the hop leaves are released into the wort, providing the bitterness that balances out the sweet flavor of the malt.  The finish hops are added at the last minute so the more volatile aroma oils don't boil off.  The second major process is that the proteins that were extracted from the grains begin to solidify and clump up.  When you cool the mash down quickly and let it sit, these solids drop to the bottom of the pot, where they are left behind, ensuring a cleaner looking and tasting beer.

Trub - this stuff is yuck
After this it was off to the fermenter for the first batch at around 11:00.  The final reading on the hygrometer was 1.065 (after I watered it down a bit), which is a 9% potential alcohol.  At kegging another reading will be made to get the actual alcohol content, but I expect about 7% in the final product.

When the second batch finally approached a boil I happened to look at the clock and realized I'd be up til 4am.  That one sat until the next day and my daughter and I did all the cleanup work while that was going.  Next time around I think I'll split the process into two days - the first day for the mash and the second for the boil process.  I also need to consider another stockpot given the amount of waiting time on heating up the liquids.

The pigs feasted on the spent mash over the next couple days and my goodness what a reaction they had.  For days after, every time I would walk by the pens they would squeal like a three year old on Christmas morning.  What a great way to use waste.

1 comment:

  1. I have never seen a stock pot that size in my life! ...I think I'll get one just to threaten the kids: "clean your room or I'll cook you in The Pot of Doom"...

    Thanks for sharing your process! Cheers!