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I am finally ready to post the pictures and detailed information from my first brew for The Craft Beer Academy. Everything didn’t go 100% according to plan, but overall a bad day with a brew in it is better than a good day at work. Let’s take a look at home my brew went.
I started off by heating the 2.5 gallons of water in my large brew pot. I bought this one at a Marshall’s store in their home section for fairly cheap. I recommend checking there for a good deal on a big one. Only down side, as you can see, it doesn’t fit on my electric stove all that well. Next brew will be on a propane cooker.
When the water got to 160* F, I poured the grain into the steeping bag and dropped it in. The steeping bag sunk to the bottom of the pot and looks similar to a large, oblong tea bag.
The steeping bag and grains stayed in for 20 minutes.
When the 20 minutes was up, I removed the steeping bag, letting it drip back into the pot. Don’t squeeze the bag to get the liquid out quicker, just let it drip until most the liquid is back and it slows.
This shouldn’t take more than a minute or so. Once you’re done letting the liquid drip back, you can dispose of the grain.
If this seems wasteful to you, you can always find a spent grain recipe, like this one from Brooklyn Brew Shop.
The liquid in your pot is now wort. Congrats!
Ok, so next I started the boil. Once the water got to a gentle rolling boil, I added one of the cans of LME to the wort.
Here, you can see me dumping the first can into the pot. Running the can under hot water makes the LME come out way easier, but it kind of melts the label off the can and makes it slippery. Just be careful.
Also, be careful you don’t cut yourself on the can lid while opening it. Not saying I did or anything, but if I did, it probably hurt. A Lot.
Stir continually as you add this, it will come out like maple syrup. If you don’t continually stir, it’ll stick to the bottom and caramelize, which is a very bad thing.
Once the first can is added, I kept stirring until the wort resumed it’s gentle boil. When it started boiling again, it was time for the hops. First up, the bittering hops.
This brew called for 2 oz. of Cascade hops for taste. I prefer to use a small metal bowl to pour the packets into, makes pouring them in at a slow pace a little easier. Obviously I am using a metal bowl because I can sanitize it well.
The wort turned kind of green and foamy as the hop pellets broke apart in the liquid. I stirred them for about a minute to make sure they mixed in well.
After the bittering hops were added, I let the slow, gentle boil resume and let it go for 40 minutes. I check back every 5 minutes or so and give it a stir. This might not be necessary, but I like to make sure everything is good. It’s easy to boil over and I don’t want that to happen.
After the 40 minutes were up, I moved on to the next step in the process, which is adding the second can of LME.
I learned my lesson the first time and didn’t cut myself on this lid. (Not that I did it the first time, but if I had, I totally didn’t this time.)
Same as above, I stirred continually as the LME got added, and kept stirring until the boil resumed again. I tried to make sure I was scraping the sides and bottom to see if any stuck to them, and it did not.
Once the LME is fully mixed into the wort, I let the boil go on for another 15 minutes. It was at this point the first mistake of the day struck. I left the pot alone for about 5 minutes and it started to boil over!!!
I caught it quickly and lost very little liquid. I had to scrape the hops off the side of the pot, but the boil was largely unaffected. The stove top, however, took some scrubbing to get clean. Remember, we’re dealing with a lot of sugar, which really gums things up.
After this little fiasco, the 15 minutes were pretty much up. Once the timer went off, it was time to add the aroma hops.
This recipe uses 1.5 oz. of Wilamette hops for this task. Same as above, I used a metal dish to better pour them in.
Once I added the aroma hops, I stirred them in and let the boil continue for another 5 minutes.
During this 5 minutes, I prepared my ice bath to chill the wort. I fill my wash basin with water, a few bags of ice, and some salt. The salt lowers the freezing point of water and lets it get colder.
Note: I clean the wash basin out with bleach before I start this whole process just to make sure it’s clean.
Once the 5 minutes was up, I turned the stove off, and proceded to my ice bath. I carried the pot downstairs to the prepared ice bath, made sure it would not tip over in it, and placed the thermometer in to monitor the cooling.
The idea here is to get it to 70* F as quick as possible. One of my next purchases will be a wort chiller, which you submerge into the wort and pump cold water through. A wort chiller makes it cool a hell of a lot quicker.
Here is my wort just starting to cool. Note the hop residue on the sides of my pot. That’s what happens when you let it boil over. No big deal, but not optimal.
Here it sat for 38 minutes. Longer than I would like, but the best I could do with what I had.
Once I got it down to 70* F, it was time to siphon it into my carboy. Always siphon, don’t pour. This helps keep the trub, or sediment out of the fermentor.
While this was cooling, I prepared my carboy and the extra water I needed for the next step. The best way to have fun and not be rushed when you brew is to prepare ahead of time.
This is why I use an 8 ft. hose for siphoning, because I can set the carboy wherever and leave the liquid nice and high, away from it so I get a good siphon.
I had another…incident…here. The hose came off the auto siphon and sprayed a little wort on the floor. Once again, noting bad, just enough to make everything sticky. Make sure your hose is FIRMLY attached!
Once I got everything working again, I continued to siphon until the only thing left in the pot was the trub.
Next, I placed the funnel into the carboy and poured my remaining 2.5 gallons of water into it. This filled it right to the top before the glass starts tilting in.
At this point I measured my OG using the hydrometer. I poured some wort into the cylinder the hydrometer came in, and dropped it in. A little moving it around made the bubble go away, and let me get my reading.
As you can see, I got my OG a little off from the recommended 1.051-1.055, with a reading of 1.041. This means there is less fermentable material in the wort than there should be.
This is why I did not add any more water, as that would only make it worse. This is also why it’s good to keep some extra DME hanging around, so you can mix it up quickly on your stove, and add it to bring the OG to where it needs to be. I did not have any, so this is where it stays.
This means there will be less alcohol when everything’s all done. We’ll see how it turns out.
Once I was done measuring, I poured out this tester. Never pour it back in, as you will only help add bacteria and contaminants.
After this, I placed the stopper in the carboy, prepared the airlock, and placed in a nice dark corner of my basement.
It’s been about a day and a half so far, and I am definitely getting fermentation, so it’s at least working in some way! Here’s a picture of my carboy almost 2 days in.
Looks to be working well. I will continue watching it and see how it turns out. For my first batch in over a year, I’m happy with the process. The next batch will definitely be better, and I’m already planning it.
For now, I prepare my bottles, and get ready to get this beer bottled!