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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Long Brew Day Part 1

I decided to enter this brewing competition and didn't really think about the logistics of it until this weekend. Although I had a house recipe to try out, it had already been through two iterations and was far from perfect.

Really I needed to develop the recipe further and also trial the bottling process to get the levels of carbonation right. My initial plan was to speed up development alot by doing a single mash and then making several different trial recipes in one go.

However, it occurred to me that the closing date for the competition was June and although they give the beer a week of settling time after that date I needed to allow for brewing time and a decent amount of conditioning if I stand any chance of getting anywhere in the competition.

I had already come up with the 3rd iteration of the recipe so thought I might as well just bite the bullet and get brewing.

So, this last weekend I was not only brewing a brand new version of the recipe, but I was also adding the complications of water treatment to the process - no pressure then :)

So here in it's entirity is my brew day - which went surprisingly well as it goes!

I'd spent part of the weekend clearing out the garage and rearranging things to make it easier to brew and so I can store all my brewing equipment in there rather than in the house.

I treat all my brewing liquor in the top 33ltr Fermenting bin and once it's close enough to my selected profile I drain enough for the mash into the boiler below and heat it up to about 83oC.

If you read my last blog entry you'll already know about the water treatment I am doing to try and get the perfect mash, boil and fermentation that I can.

While the mash water is getting up to temperature there's plenty of other stuff to be getting on with - not least tuning into BSB radio to listen to the race day commentry from Thruxton :)

Meanwhile it's time to measure out the ingredients required for the brew!

The Grain!

A mix of Marris Otter Pale Malt, Torrefied wheat, Crystal malt and Chocolate malt. The white stuff in the middle is Gypsum but I don't think I need to continue to add this in my mash.

And the Hops! There's quite alot of them. I like hoppy beers and I read a good article on Mr Malty about how increasing the late hops will create a beer packed with flavour and a bitterness that is more flavoursome and less over powering.

So the water in the boiler has hit 83oC! I turn the boiler off and drain off the liquor into the mash tun. My mash tun (MT) is a converted 30ltr coolbox with a tap fitted and a copper manifold with slits cut in it to allow the wort to drain away from the grain bed.

Once the mash water has been drained off into the mashtun it should have lost a bit of temperature and be at the right level to dough in the grain. I just tip it all in, stirring with a spoon while I do it to ensure that there are no dry pockets or grain balls being left. The result is a consistency similar to a loose porridge.

When I'm sure it's all mixed in properly I take a temperature reading and if neccesssary adjust it using hot and cold water. This time I'm spot on for my target of 66oC.

Now the temperature is spot on I take a small sample of the liquor in the mash for testing the mash Ph, replace the MT lid and cover with some blankets to insulate further.

The mash Ph target is around the 5.2 mark. I think I'm in the region of 4.9 (not helped by the gypsum I added when I  probably don't need it). That's not too shabby though and certainly alot closer to the mark than without any treatment!

Now there's some waiting for the mash chemistry and general brewing magic to take place within the mash tun. The mash is for 90 mins so I can get on with other stuff once I've topped up the boiler with sparge water and switched it on again.

When 90 minutes is up I then top up the mastun with sparge water, I'm batch sparging in 2 batches. I give it all a good stir again, put the lid back on and leave it for 10 minutes or so to settle. I then vorlauf the mash tun which involves draining off the first runnings into a jug and gently recirculating into the top of the mash tun to filter through the grain bed.

Once the wort is running clear I drain off the wort into a spare bin with a tap.

After the first batch is run off I top up and repeat the sparging process over again to get the second batch of wort, resulting in the collection of 26ltrs of sweet wort ready to add to the boil.

So that's half the brew day done and everything is looking good. In my next installment I'll cover the process of boiling the wort with hops and preparing for fermentation.

Happy Days!

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