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The n00b corner: take two

This past weekend I took a second stab at homebrewing. My goal this time was two-fold: avoid the sloppiness and mistakes of my first attempt, and institute some best practices.

Mmmm... wort.

As I mentioned previously, the n00b's better half is not a fan of stout and asked if I would brew something lighter for her. I chose the Pete's Wacked Ale, an American amber from my local homebrew shop's website (coincidentally, my blushing bride's name is and has always been, Amber). But because I am first and foremost a stout drinker, my fuel of choice for the project was a lovely Magic Hat Heart of Darkness Stout.

Mmmm... stout.

I had a lot of screw ups from last time that I was determined not to repeat.  Among them were letting the wort boil over, using untreated tap water to dilute the wort to 5 gallons, using unsanitized utensils in the yeast and room-temperature wort, rushing the yeast rehydration, and not having a strainer to keep the hop trub out of the fermenter. In short it was a shit show, and I'll be lucky to have something drinkable next week.

But this round went much more smoothly, and a couple parts were particularly satisfying. The first was that it took HALF THE TIME: 5+ hours down to 2.5.

The second was getting the yeast right. I love yeast. The technology that has gone into breeding and packaging is fantastic. Sprinkle on a cup of water, wait 15 minutes and stir, wait another 15 minutes and POOF! An amazing, living, bubbling mass of microscopic beer makers.

That's not a real granite countertop, btw.

As I mentioned, I also wanted to institute some best practices. First, I boiled all the water I was going to need in advance. Second, I boiled as close to 5 gallons of wort as I could fit in my kettle. Third, I added the liquid malt extract later in the boil instead of at the beginning. These were tips straight from The Beer Engineer himself. I know that I wasn't being true to the recipe, but the plan is to graduate from the shop's recipes quickly and move on to better ones. Perhaps even... all grain?

But for the time being I had to cool 4+ gallons of wort and three bags of ice wasn't cutting it, so I emptied all our ice trays and even dumped in my special shin-shaped ice block (I started practicing muay Thai recently, but that's for another blog). Might be time to start thinking about an immersion chiller because after all, what's a hobby without toys?

Finally it was time to strain the wort into the bucket. Man did that strainer collect a lot of junk (I can only imagine how much pulp my stout contains). After straining a couple of gallons it was completely clogged, and I had to keep stirring it to get the last half of the wort to filter through.  But this time it only took a few cups of pre-boiled water to top off to 5 gallons, instead of 2 gallons of chlorinated tap water.

Then I measured the SG--right in the fermenter, like a real man. Again too low: ~1.048 when the recipe said ~1.058. I have to figure that out. Am I not grinding/steeping the grain properly? I will have to ask the guys at the shop.

In any event, in a few weeks I'm going to have 10 frikking gallons of beer. Luckily I have thirsty friends. If you live anywhere near Boston, mark your calendar!

Until then: drink safe, drink well.

-the n00b


Iain McLean said...

"my special shin-shaped ice block"

Love it!

BTW - the pulp is called 'trub' and if you post your recipe we can work out why your OG is low.

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