Sunday, February 7, 2016

All-Grain Brewing Saturday

This past Christmas, my lovely wife gifted me with the equipment I needed to brew beer with only crushed grains. This switch from prepared malt syrups to only raw grains, is called "all grain" brewing. Grain is the backbone of beer, and provides the beer with the majority of its color and flavor.  It involves the selection of a variety of barley and/or other grains that are crushed to open their husks. Hot water is added to "soak" the grains. This activates the enzymes that were produced during the malting process, and it converts the remaining carbohydrates into simple sugars.  The process of collecting that "flavored water" is called "mashing" and happens after approximately 60 minutes of soaking.

One of the first things that any home brewer must do is to choose a recipe.  Any good brewing store like Northern Brewer (in Milwaukee, and Minneapolis) has plenty of tasty recipes.  These are often forwarded by the store staff who invents them, and by other home brewers who have had favorable reactions to their own recipes.  Once the recipe is settled upon; the grains must be chosen in the amounts that are called for.  Then those grains need to be crushed.  A yeast strain that compliments the recipe is also selected.  Most yeast strains are in the refrigerated coolers.  Some need to be "started" from dry, and others like liquid Wyeast; smacked to pop open the inner pouch to begin the mixing process.  Yeasts need to be started about 12 hours ahead of the brewing process to propagate the yeast cells and make them double and triple in volume before being added to the wort.

My DIY magnetic stir plate and 1000mg flask
Here the flask has FastPitch and Wyeast added

The images that follow are from my all-grain brewing Saturday and the recipe I chose called Bacon! Smoked Red Ale:
Bacon! Smoked Red Ale

Here is my brewing set-up

The first thing that any brewer needs is a supply of fresh water.  I have a double filtering system connected to a hot water line to kick-start the heating process.

A double filtered hot water supply
I turn on the small stop to add water to the filters

Here are the grains and the hops for my recipe
Hot water (about 7 gallons) is added to the brew kettle
The water is heated up with a strong burner
I use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature
The lovely grain!

Waiting for the water to heat up to 170 degrees
The grain is added to the Mash tun
The grain in the tun

Pumping the hot water from the kettle to the Liquor tank

After the Liquor tank (lower one) has been filled with the 170 degree water from the brew kettle; that water is added to the mash tun with the aid of a small 12v. pump.

Liquor tank with hot water
The pump control panel switches

Mixing the grains and water by hand

Beer break for a Dad's Vanilla Porter
 After about 60 minutes of the grains steeping in the Mash tun, the wort will be ready to remove through the valved (side) bottom drain.  The grains have now "bridged" with a hollow area underneath just above the "false bottom" to allow the wort to be strained through, to the pick-up area.

The Mash tun with the brown liquid (now wort)

The specific gravity of the wort must be taken now so as to have a baseline of the beer from this measurement, and the final after fermentation to determine the alcohol content ABV of the beer.

This is a refractometer used to check the SG of the wort

Here is a view inside of the refractometer showing the reading 
I used a small carboy as a transfer tank to move the hot wort
 This is an interim container that both excepts the run-off wort from the Mash tun and transfers (pumps) the wort to the Brew kettle.

Here the wort from the Mash tun is moved back to the brew kettle

The "dome" of grain in the Mash tun after wort removal

Willamette hops that I grew last year will be used

Secondary sparging of the grains with 170 degree water
 Now, the hot Liquor tank with the 170 degree water is used to provide "sparge" water over the grains; to glean the last sugars from the grain.  This is sometimes called "mashout."  The way that I did it is called "batch" sparging.

Adding the leaf hops cones to a mesh bag for steeping

Steeping the leaf hops in the Brew kettle
Here, I am "floating" both the pelletized hops and the bag of conned hops in the Brew kettle.

Two more ounces of pelletized Willamette hops to be added


 I doubled the recipe because I had soooo much spent grains.  Wow what a lot of dough!  I made over 500 of these 1" long doggy treats.
Spent grains removed from the tun for dog biscuits
Here's the "bones" on the cookie sheet

LOTS of toasted doggy bones!
Now...back to the brewing process: the cleaning of the Mash (lauter) tun and the cooling of the wort...FAST!

Here's what's left of the grain in the tun

Sanitizing the wort chiller coil before use

BACON Extract

Both hops are steeped for the length of the (60 min.) boil

After the 60 min. boil - the BACON extract is added

The wort chiller is immersed in the HOT Brew kettle to cool it quickly!

The coil of copper tubing is placed INTO the Brew kettle and also the kettle is immersed in cold water.  The goal is to lower the (previously boiling) wort temperature as quickly as possible!

Bringing the temperature down and testing it 

The (now 90 degree) wort is strained and funneled into a carboy

Temperature testing inside the filled carboy (should be 80 degrees or less)

Adding the propagated yeast mixture to the carboy

Oxygenating the wort

The carboy is now capped off with a lock and insulated

This type of lock has an overflow hose that is submerged in water

Lock to allow off-gassing while fermentation takes place

The carboy is insulated as it is in the basement
Now, because my basement temperature hovers around 58 degrees in the winter; I place a "seed propagation mat" underneath the carboy to provide heat to the fermentation.

The black is a seed mat to provide heat to the fermentation
So...that's basically it.  Within 12 hours the fermentation begins...turning "wort" into the "beer" product that we all know and love.  The (first) fermentation phase will last approximately 1-2 weeks until the bubbling stops.  But for now...that bubbling is music to the ears, and (for me) positively riveting to watch!

The (second) fermentation is down the road a couple weeks.  At that point I will transfer (slowly) the beer from the first carboy (leaving the sediment on the bottom of the first carboy behind) and into a second clean carboy for another 3-4 weeks before bottling and kegging.  

Leann Rager (my California daughter) bought Barbara and I a small personal-sized kegging system from Mancrate for our anniversary before Christmas. However I am sad to say; that it is no longer available on the Mancrate site.

Mancrate's Personalized Mini-keg system...CHEERS!!