Saturday, November 24, 2012


Brew Day

Getting things cleaned up to start a schwarzbier today, which I plan on tapping for New Year's eve. Sure, it could age a little longer, but, well, it won't.
Anyway, I'm not 100% sure what I'll be getting in the end. My original recipe, created with Brew Mate was the following:

  • 8# Pilsner Malt
  • .75 # Chocolate Malt
  • .5# Carapils
  • .25 # Black Malt
  • 2 oz. Mt. Hood Hops
  • Pilsner Lager Yeast WLP800
Basically this recipe was put together using the guidelines of a schwarzbier to match OG, IBU, and color, and the end result was quite pleasing. While getting my shopping list ready yesterday, I thought I might like to up the base malt a little bit to make something a little warmer for the winter, and darken it a little more to bring out a little more of a roasted flavor. Also, I noticed that my original recipe had an entry for German Hallertau, but in an amount of 0 oz, so I decided to add an ounce there to see if I could figure out why I'd put it there in the first place. The end result was this:
  • 10# Pilsner Malt
  • .75 # Chocolate Malt
  • .5# Carapils
  • .25 # Black Malt
  • .25# Roasted Barley
  • 2 oz. Mt. Hood Hops
  • 1 oz. German Hallertau
  • Pilsner Lager Yeast WLP800
If that wasn't enough, when the grain was all weighed out, I saw that my total weight was 14 pounds. If you do a little math, you'll notice my recipe was just under 12. I don't know exactly where things went weird, but I did have trouble with the scale reading my weight when I was adding the roasted barley, and I suspect that's where the extra weight comes in. 
So, the end result? I haven't got the slightest idea, but I suspect it will be a little darker and stronger than I had originally planned. 
In any case, here we go. 


Of course, sanitize all my stuff. 'nuff said.

Preparing the mash

My mash is a very consistent process across all the brews I do. Maybe one day I'll get a little more creative with it, but for now:

  1. heat water to 150° or 160° F for a mashing temp of about 150°. 
  2. slowly mix a large scoop of grain, maybe a pound, add mash water, mix, repeat until all grain is fully saturated in the mash.
  3. close the lid on my mash tun, and let sit for 90 minutes. Always 90 minutes. Why? So I can go do stuff like rake the leaves or watch Dr. Who for a little while. 
This part is kind of a pain because a 5 gallon pot of water takes forever to heat up on the stove top. I'm doing this for the first time on a gas stove today, so we'll see if this works a little better. One day I'd like to get myself a propane burner to do this out on the deck, but that's a little low on the priority list somewhere after a Nexus 4, a wort chiller, and a bunch of other stuff.


Like mashing, I have a fixed process for sparging. I bring my water to 180° F, and go for it. I siphon directly from my kettle that's on the stove through a sprinkler. Because of this, I have to keep my kettle filled nearly to the top. I do this by heating a second kettle of water, and moving water from this one to my sparge water as the level drops.
While sparging I try to keep the water level so that it's about an inch or so above the level of the grain bed to ensure that the water is flowing through evenly.
I keep rinsing the grains until the color of the wort begins to clear. I generally judge this as the point where the wort no longer looks rich and syrupy, and begins to look either dirty, or clear.
...Also, it doesn't hurt to have a little Judas Priest going in the background...

The Boil

Normally I try to target about an hour for the boil. I bring the wort to a full boil, and from that point I start to time my hop additions, and start counting down the hour. Today could be a little interesting as I seem to have produced right around 10 gallons, so I'm going to have to boil off about 4 of those. It'll make the house nice and humid, and smell like malt. Makes me happy :)
During this time try to keep an inch or so of room to the top of your kettle. Wort can get quite frothy and boil over. However, I haven't had a boilover problem since switching to whole grains.


So as to avoid having to buy hop bags I purchased a pack of 3 hemp bags from Whole Foods a while back, and these have served me quite well. I probably should have gotten something a little smaller than a 1 gallon size, but they still work. 
For this batch I'll be adding 2 oz of the Mt. Hood hops about a half hour before the end of the boil, and the 1oz of Hallertau about 15 minutes before the end. 


I have yet to purchase a wort chiller. It's next on my list of things to do, but chilling is one of the more annoying processes I have to deal with since I have to do it more or less naturally. I've put my kettle in the sink and covered it with ice, I've put it in the bathtub surrounded with cold water, and today I'm likely going to stick it out on the deck, covered for a while. This has yet to be a problem for me as far as beer quality goes, it's just a major annoyance. 

Gravity Readings and Pitching the Yeast

Finally, once I get it down to temperature (I won't say what temperature is because I get impatient due to the long cooling time), I'll pitch my yeast which basically is throwing the vial of yeast in there, and shaking the wort up, and take my original gravity readings. Once done, I'll fix my blow-off tube, drag my fermenter out to the garage, and have a beer. 
I guess that's about it for this one. I'm going to go publish now because I've still got quite a bit of work to do, and I'm sick of typing.