In battle a warrior has his might, but also his sword… our mighty heroes must avail themselves of materials to aid in the quest to attain a beer of their own of which they can cry gloriously ‘this is salvation’. As all know, however, even the mightiest are constricted in their wargear by the gold which lineth their pockets… a hero must still be a hero with whatever he may muster. The battle of the grain begins…
Supp one and all
Have to say I’m super duper enjoying creating wanky fantasy style proverbs and such like for the top of these posts. Maybe it’s due to all that musing on Warhammer and Sigmar and such like… not read about that yet? You should. If you like the fantasy shit at the top of the page that is. If you don’t … well. Stick here I guess.
So let’s get on with the show. Bif and I had everything sorted for our all grain brew; we’d ordered a big pot, a bunch of ingredients and Bif had woken early on brew day to pop down to Wilkinsons and Homebase. In these two establishments he purchased two new fermenting bins and a garden tap…
With all this stuff sorted we popped into Late Knights and were shown a little more about how we can go about formulating beer recipes for homebrewing… This involved looking at how beers are classified, learning about how bitterness is measured in beer, figuring out what efficiency actually means and a bunch more stuff. Good stuff. Invaluable stuff… but stuff that this post doesn’t need yet. We will return to complexities later. First let’s deal with the physical aspects of our first all grain brew…
First we had to make our ‘Mash Tun’. A mash Tun is basically where the grain sits soaking in water for all the sugar to get out. For this we drilled a shit load of holes in the bottom of a bucket, attached a tap to the bottom of another bucket and slotted the holey bucket into the one with the tap…. that was it. Anyone can do this. Honestly. Anyone.
(Bif – Clearly we took this process very seriously…)
We then sterilised all of our crap and…. brewing began.
8 litres of water was heated to 78c and we poured this into our bucket in a bucket thing. We then added 3 and a half kilos of Maris Otter Pale ale malt (if you read the last post we were gonna use 3.2 kilos but when it came to brew day our brewer friend made us realise that would produce a beer lower in alcohol than we wanted, so we just used all we had) and 250g of Crystal 56.8 (that’s the medium crystal I found online) slowly to the water. One of us was stirring constantly to make sure that all the grain got wet here… but then…
Bif: Dude, it’s too dry
Dwalin: Shit, it’s too fucking dry
Bif: ARRRGGGHH the space in the bottom, all the waters in there. The grain wont soak!
Dwalin: No, no, no, no! This is bad very bad.
That was what happened directly after. Bif ran to the hob and heated some more water while I quickly threw the lid on the tun and covered it in duvets and towels to keep the heat in.
We added another 4 litres of water at about 75c and we found that the grain was too cool here at 62c… now all this temperature stuff is one of the reasons posts online about all grain brewing are really, really, fucking off-putting. People agonise over the science of why the grain/water mix needs to be a certain temperature; there’s a lot of discussion about certain enzymes, proteins and output sugars. In truth Bif and I still don’t fully get this, but we get the gist of how temperature affects your final beer (thanks to head brewer mystic man). Here it is…. Low temperature grain soak means you get a thinner but more alcoholic/alcoholic tasting beer and higher temperature gets the opposite. That’s it. There’s not much else you really need to know… the only other thing is if the temperature is too low none of the sugar comes out of the grain, and if it’s too high none of the sugar comes out of the grain. Simple huh.
So what is too low or too high? The range is something like 63c to 68c… for most beers you know what’s you can do? Hit the middle ground. This should give you enough thickness and sweetness in your beer to keep you happy, and enough alcohol to… well… keep you happy.
So what is the middle ground? 65c.
All we needed to know for this beer was we wanted our grainy water mix to be 65c. So what did we do when we measured it and it was too cool??? We added another litre of water at 75c. This brought the temperature up to a 65c/66c reading on our crappy old school thermometer. Happy days. (Bif – You leave my vintage brewing equipment alone…)
So what do you do once you’ve hit that temperature? Well folks you pile loads of duvets and towels on your bucket in a bucket and wait. You want to wait for an hour to make sure that all the sugary goodness is sucked out of the grain.
It’s good to monitor your temperature though as you want it to stick around 65c for that whole time… so at 20 mins we checked and it was a bit low so we added another litre of 70c water… and that was it. We waited for the next bit…
Ordinarily I’d leave you cliff hanging here but FUCK IT. Let’s finish this brew…
At around 40 mins into the wait we heated 20 litres of water to 75c. This took forever so our timing may be a bit screwed, but, fuck it. Ghetto.
At about the hour mark we released the bucket in a bucket from its cocoon and began what is called lautering/sparging. Again, names make it sound complex. The basic gist is your getting the liquid out of the bucket in a bucket and leaving the grain behind. Thats why there’s the holey bucket to hold the grain out of the way of the tap. Nifty huh.
So how’d we do this then? Well we gaffer taped a siphon tube into the end of the tap and opened the tap slowly… a slow pour is needed to stop splashing, but also to stop oxygen doing anything nasty to the beer juice (it’s called Wort, but again, I’m steering clear of special names right now). We took the beer juice into a glass and slowly poured it back on top of the grain in the bucket… the idea is to make sure any cloudy crap doesn’t get sucked through here.
After a few glasses of this our beer juice coming out of the tap looked like cloudy apple juice, with no big lumps of filth in it. At this point the end of the siphon went into another bucket and we waited… when the beer juice in the bucket looked like it was only slightly above the grain we started adding the 20l of 75c water. We did this slowly (a jug at a time); the aim was to try to keep the level of the water in the bucket at about the same height throughout this process. This is called Sparging… cool huh?
Once all of the water was used up we just let the beer juice finish running out into the fermenting bucket…. highlight of this process? When the gaffa taped tube shot off of the tap and beer juice started pissing all over Bifs floor. Neither of us moved for about 5 secs and just stared….
Anyway…. once all the beer juice was out we siphoned it into the big pan and put that on to boil. Once it was boiling we added 33g of our Amarillo hops. At about 45 mins in we added 33 grams of cascade hops.
When an hour of boiling was up we put the pan in a big bath full of cold water and stirred the beer juice in the pot slowly (again hot beer juice and oxygen make a manky tasting beer) and waited until it hit a nice 25c. We then poured this into a fermenting bucket (the one we’d used to collect it earlier, which had been sterilised again) shook the bucket of beer juice about and then added yeast which we had put into 25c water not long before that to let it begin to reproduce…. the lid was firmly placed on top and…
VOILA. Brew day done and dusted….. in two weeks time the beer would be ready to bottle and only a short hop skip and a jump after that we could taste.
It’s here I will now leave you; baited breaths please as next time there will be some drama as we realise… well. Wait and see