First all-grain batch
This weekend was a momentous occasion in my fledgling homebrewing career - my first all-grain batch (that is, brewed using just grain instead of malt extract). It's something I've been aiming towards for a while - I want to get the greater malt flavour, as well as the additional flexibility that not being reliant on malt extract gives.
The key piece of equipment needed for all-grain brewing is a mash tun - a way of extracting the sugars from the grain and then separating the liquid (wort) from the grain. A classic homebrew technique is to convert a chilly bin (esky, picnic cooler, whatever you want to call it). That's the route I went down. To extract the wort without bringing the grain with it I used the braided metal screen from a hose - lots of people have apparently done it this way. See the picture below:
What to brew for the first all-grain batch? I was keen to get an every day drinking beer in stock, so I went for a Best Bitter which I've called Palliser Bitter. The recipe was:
- 3.5kg UK Pale Ale malt
- 0.4kg Crystal malt
- 0.4kg Munich malt (for a bit of complexity)
- 100g Wheat malt extract (OK, I know it's an all-grain batch but I had some wheat extract which needed using up and I thought it might help the head retention)
- NZ-grown Fuggles hops at 60 mins, 30 mins and 10 mins to about 40 IBU
- Dry-hopping with NZ Styrian Goldings hops in the secondary fermenter
- Good old Safale S-04 dried yeast
I tipped the grain into my mash tun while I brought two large pans of water up to temperature. The temperature of this 'strike water' is very important as the enzymes within the malt are very temperature sensitive. You need to keep the mash temperature within a fairly tight range in order to get the sugars out with the right level of unfermentable dextrins (which provide body to the beer). I got the water to temperature and 'mashed in' (added the water slowly to the grain).
Then came the first panic of the day - the probe thermometer I was using was giving radically different temperatures at different points in the grain bed - several degrees either above or below my target mash temperature. Fortunately the mash thermometer I've bought but not yet fitted to my mash tun gave a more consistent reading, which was at the lower end of my range but I like my beers dry anyway.
After an hour the time came to drain the wort from my mash tun. It smelt bloody lovely! The first couple of litres came out OK, and I tipped these back into the grain bed to recirculate (and clear them up).
After that everything proceeded OK. I had to split the wort between two pans as I haven't yet finished my converted keg which will act as a full-size brew kettle.
As the wort cme up to the boil I noticed a definite difference from my extract-based batches - the amount of 'hot break' (proteins forming a skin on the surface just before boiling point) was much more dense, which is a good thing.
Hops were split between the two pans using a bit of guesswork on volumes! I used NZ-grown Fuggles hops as they are a traditional hop for good honest bitter. After an hour's boiling I fished the hop bags out and left the pans to cool with the lids firmly on. I'd decided to use the 'no-chill' method - instead of using an ice bath or a copper coil with cold water running through it to cool the wort I just let it cool down over night. Ideally I'd have transferred it to my sanitised fermenter to do this but I had no way of doing so without aerating it (which introduces the risk of oxidation) so I decided to take a risk (of exposure to airborned bacteria) and leave it in the boil pans overnight. Time will tell if this was OK.
The following morning I transferred the now-cool wort to the fermenter (with plenty of aeration) and pitched the rehydrated yeast. I then put the fermenter in the shed (ambient temperatures are pretty good at the moment). When I checked on it about 6 hours later it had burst into bubbling life so I was pretty pleased.
All in all it was a pretty stressful and disappointing day. I was really looking forward to my first all-grain batch and it could turn out tohave been a total disaster. There seems to be a design flaw with the braided hose, in that the holes are too small for the wort to get through, or they block up too easily. I will have to investigate an alternative approach before my next all-grain batch, which I want to do within the next couple of weeks. Any hints and tips from blog readers would be welcomed!