My first homebrew!

Brewing kit

I’ve been meaning to start making beer at home for several years, but always had a reason not to. I claimed it was too expensive and distracting and that I should wait. Besides, I’d never be able to go through 5 gallons of beer before I wanted to just get rid of it. I clearly gave in. What happened was I found sources to do one gallon batches, but why that mattered to me will be for a later post.

My first batch is Everyday IPA from Brooklyn Brew’s book The Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book: 52 Seasonal Recipes for Small Batches (link to Amazon.co.uk but not a referral one). They also sell a kit for it but I was convinced to be brave and not start with the kit. I was glad to have the recipe.

So how did it go? It was both easier and more challenging than I expected. And what does that mean? I need to have more of a narrative for it to make sense.

I almost didn’t do my brew last night. I wanted to use it as a reward for myself for getting work done but in my excitement to get my equipment to start brewing I managed to leave my book at the homebrew store. I was only able to start because I was stubborn and Googled to see if I could find the recipe. I took a picture of the page of ingredients but didn’t for the actual temperatures and method. Luckily, the PDF to make the kit of the same recipe was available on the website. This was my sign to brew last night.

Brewing kit

Seeing that this is pretty much all I needed to brew made me wonder why I waited so long.

Enjoy the conversion notes?

The recipe picture I took to show off. I mostly did it to show off on FB.

I needed to make some minor modifications mostly due to not being in the US. I had to use a slightly different base malt. The book wanted American 2-row malt and I used pale malt. It also wanted Victory malt and I needed to substitute Amber malt (a suggested substitute, not just a dice roll from me.)

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And so I moved into the kitchen and had final grain preparations.

Hops

I got half of my hops in pellet and half fresh. Yes, I watched Mad Men as I brewed.

Ingredients

The malt and hops. Ignore the slow cooker in the background.

And this is where it became a learning experience. I heated up my water to the temperature I needed to and I added the grain. The pdf for the kit comments you may not need to keep on the heat but I had no idea of how infrequently it would need to be on. So I ended up having it a bit too hot for the first half hour. Not boiling but it was closer to 70-75C instead of the wanted 63-68C for awhile. Lesson 1: Mash retains heat well and doesn’t need the stove on for most of the hour. (The book does say to turn off the heat and just see if you need it briefly when you check the temperature every 10 minutes. I, however, didn’t have this) Other than the temperature issues which I now know how to fix, this was easy. I stood there, watched it, watched my iPad, paced, cleaned, and found it generally relaxing.

I mashed for an hour and then let it get up to 77C before I sparged. Lesson 2: My strainer isn’t big enough and it may not be fine enough. I ended up needing to split the spent grain in half and poured water over each half separately. As in I poured my gallon over the grains, recirculated (both in the recipe) and then poured it over the other grains and recirculated. Each half got liquid over it twice is what I’m getting at. I then put the spent grain in a bowl (and need to find more spent grain recipes soon).

My boil had minor issues. I was worried it would foam (my instructions made it seem it would rise and foam and so I moved it into the the larger pot. As I had my rolling boil I added in the hops as my hop timer told me to. I also used this hour as the time to sanitise a few more things. I gave my wort an extra few minutes to boil with a lid because my poor stove couldn’t seem to keep a rolling boil with the pan with such a large surface area.

I had a nice ice bath for my pan and it got down to 21C pretty quickly. I strained it with my now sanitised strainer into my sanitised cup to pour into my sanitised fermentor with the sanitised lid and tube. And I had a lot more boil off than I expected and I needed to add more water than expected to fill it it to my gallon mark. Lesson 3: I don’t need the really big pot.

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I took OG before putting everything away. It was 1.090. I went to get my book from the shop today. It was there (clearly) and so I’ll have it for future reference. I was made concerned about making sure it’s within a good temperature zone for brewing. So far it’s been 18C (both when I put it away and when I’ve checked), which is low but acceptably so. I’ll be tracking it as I go along to make sure it stays there.

And now I just need to wait awhile to see if it turns out. I’m pretty happy for it as a first attempt and the things I did wrong are things I now know to look for better for round two.

And that brings me to this. Lesson 4: Remember to put my blowoff tube into sanitising solution and not to just let it hang. Read all instructions carefully.

I got my book

The note on my book when I got it back.

Doing its beer thing

In my closet and fermenting

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2 Responses to “My first homebrew!”

  1. Tony says:

    Congratulations on your first brew! Quite kickass going straight into all-grain; seems like you did really well.

    Due to the mash temp (and the darker UK malt and wide pot), the beer should be a lot maltier in balance than initially planned. I love that about mashing and boiling, in that you can take the same ingredients and make a very different beer, and then If it ends up too sweet for your own taste you can always make a boiled hop tea to add into it.

    On hitting the correct mash temperature, I’ve found the same in that general guidelines are near useless because the temperature loss depends entirely on the geometry of your equipment. It’s the kind of thing that you’ll know for your set up by taking notes from session to session, but If i went to brew using your equipment i’d be a bit lost until I practiced a brew or two. On an industrial scale, with unique equipment, i’d hire a physicist to do some experiments and crunch some numbers ;)

    For worrying about a boil over, if you keep a spray bottle with cold water nearby, you can use a squoosh to stop one from happening. They might be more likely in the smaller pot but after the first 20 minutes the largest protiens have been unfurled and so they become very unlikely.

    For the strainer, they have stainless steel large strainers in aldi for £6 (this kind of thing: http://www.amazon.com/Polder-6631-75-Stainless-Steel-Extending-Rubber-Grip/dp/B00006NWBG/ref=sr_1_33?ie=UTF8&qid=1422811999&sr=8-33&keywords=stainless+steel+strainer).

    For a finer filter, a lot of people use polyester voile to make a pillow-case like bag (You can use cotton but it’s harder to clean – even a sheet of boiled white cotton over the sieve is an inexpensive fix). You can also get large fine homebrew straining bags made of nylon.

    What yeast did you use? If you got the Safale US-05 in the recipe, 15-22C is perfect for it, lower being better for an IPA. If it’s something like Gervin English Ale Yeast (good inexpensive one at the homebrew shop), then you can put a jumper around the fermenter and the exothermic fermentation will keep it warm to 20 quite easily.

    • kyrina says:

      Thank you. :) I have to admit one of the key reasons I did the smaller batch was an article highlighting how it would let me easily jump right to all-grain. I remember years ago when I met my first home brewer (ok, someone I was dating at the time) started with extract and the all-grain was presented as picky, challenging and messy… and I just didn’t think it was. It was like making fussy tea that took a long time.

      It’s good to know exactly what my changes will cause to the beer. I’ll note that my sweeter product wasn’t an intended part of the recipe and it’ll give me a reason to try it again before I’d normally double up. I do wonder if I can get Victory malt online. I’ll try to source locally whenever I can but my gut is telling me I could be best off shopping around for some things.

      I now know the quirks of my equipment. It’s just by sheer chance that my pot and stove work best with the instructions that came with the book and not the PDF for the kit. I just kept checking it and wondering why it was so hot because it was as low as it would go. I’ve learned now though. I did what I could to keep it down in that I added water as it looked thick and also to cool it a bit.

      Noted about the water. It didn’t seem to boil up as much as I was thinking and using the big pot just felt silly. I couldn’t recall exactly how big it was but I think it’s the 10 litre one from Ikea.

      The book says to use an 8-10″ strainer but mine is 8″ and clearly not big enough. I clearly need a bigger one and will look into one like that when I’m next at Aldi. I’ll consider the nylon bag too, as it’ll make my life so much easier.

      I did use US-05 (the main reason I didn’t reply sooner is I forgot which one I used and needed to wait until I was home to check). It makes me a lot happier about it being at 18, although it was being active enough where I assumed it was ok anyway.

      And now I just get to wait awhile to start the next step.

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