Saturday, June 30, 2007

Brew day: F5 Altbier

Okay, so it's been a while since we brewed. The whole fiasco with the Lenticular Export sort of scared me. Well, it didn't really scare me per se, but it put me on notice that I had to work out some bugs, and I've generally been too busy to work out said bugs. Unfortunately, Dorrie's first birthday party is coming up and we have to brew for it. As such, I dusted off the ol' mash tun and brewed today.

Today we brewed up ten gallons of our Düsseldorf-style F5 Altbier. We used pretty much the same set-up as with the Export, with a couple exceptions. First, we didn't use any dip tube-like extender on the inside of the weldless fitting (the one we used last time got clogged, and what I'm hoping to do soon is make a "hop taco" so we don't have to worry about clogging the valve or the wort chiller). Second, we didn't use the plate chiller because, without having some sort of filter, I was worried about clogging the chiller like last time. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same set-up as our first ten-gallon all-grain brew. Leah is recovering from a minor surgical procedure so she wasn't able to help much, but my dad and Dawn came over to help out, and Kristin and Andy pitched in as well. Dorrie and Wes were also present, but neither was of much help (though, as you can see in the picture below, Dorrie didn't get in the way!).

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I started to heat the mash water around 10am. We mashed in at 168°F with a target mash temp of 152°F. I figured that might be a hair high, but I also figured that I would come in low. Our 60-minute mash became something closer to 100 minutes when our pump decided to do a horrible job of getting our sparge water up to the hot liquor tank. That also dropped our sparge temp closer to 160 than the 168° target temp. (We also had what I feared was a stuck sparge until I blew into the hose and dislodged whatever was keeping it from starting). The sparge went well until I dropped a compact disc into the brew kettle. That meant that I had to drain the brew kettle until I could grab the disc (it was too light to simply fish for with tongs). I think I managed to drain the kettle and re-siphon the wort back in without introducing too much O2, so hopefully it just makes for a good story.

The boil was fine. The only minor issue was that we ran out of Northern Brewer bittering hops (the alpha acid content was way lower than normal), so I had to add a little Kent Golding that I had on hand. I figure it shouldn't really be a big deal since it's just a bittering hop. After adding the aroma hops, I started our immersion chiller. Since it was built for my old 5-gallon brew kettle, it only comes about halfway up the keg brew kettle. Due to this, and the fact that it was about 85°F outside, the wort did not chill very fast. At one point the top of the kettle was reading 160°F, but I drained a little wort from the bottom of the kettle and found it to be around 80°F. As such, I began draining the wort into the carboys while continuing to run the chiller. The result was a slightly higher pitching temperature (somewhere between 80 and 85°F), but the 1/2 gallon starter I made was at 75°F so I don't think it should be much of a shock to the yeast. At any rate, I pitched around 5pm and the carboys are sitting in the chest freezer. Assuming there's fermentation in the morning, I'll turn the chest freezer on and set it to 60°F.

Overall, not a bad brew day. My final gravity came in a hair light (1050 instead of the expected 1054 assuming 75% efficiency), but I suspect that might have been due to 1.) the reduced sparge temperature resulting from the pump problem; 2.) my forgetting to add acid to the sparge water, or 3.) both of the above. At any rate, I'm not going to fret over 4 gravity points. The real question is going to be how the beer turns out. Plus I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with my all-grain brewing set-up. Once I get better with the system, I'll start taking better notes and worrying about things like mash pH. For now I just want good beer for Dorrie's party.

Next up will be our extract-with-grains Step Leader Hefeweizen. This summer is crazy busy, and Hefeweizen is one of the few styles where you can get away with extract brewing, so I'm not going to mess with a 50% wheat mash right now. Speaking of Hefeweizen, I hope to post our recipe, along with step-by-step instructions, soon, as many of our friends have used it for their first batch and find it easy and delicious (a wonderful pair). But for now, it's time for bed...