Saturday, February 02, 2008

Brew Day: Cherry Caray Stout / Cocoa Puffs Stout

Well, it's been nearly four months since we last did an all-grain brew (and we've only done one extract brew--our gluten-free Belgian wit--in between), but we finally dusted off the ol' mash tun to brew our double-feature Cherry Caray Stout and Cocoa Puffs Stout. For today, all we're doing is brewing a sweet stout. The real fun comes in a couple weeks when we split the batch for the secondary fermentation, adding Michigan cherries to one half and Cocoa Puffs (yes, Cocoa Puffs) to the other. We brewed an extract version of this with good, but not great, results a while back. This time we're implementing some changes. For today, the main change is we're going all-grain. I'm using the grain bill from our None More Buzzed coffee stout as a base, but I'm substituting chocolate malt for roast barley to get more chocolate flavor, and I'm ramping it up to get the original gravity around 1070.

With temps hovering around freezing, there were a few challenges today. As I've mentioned before, I've had issues hitting my mash temp, and I was even more concerned with the cold weather. What I ended up doing was sort of a backwards version of what my buddy Ted does. I heated my strike water to 170°F (my target was 154°F) and filled the mash tun. To my surprise, when the tun was about a quarter full the water was only reading in the 140s. As the water drained from my brew kettle, I turned the burner back on to get the remaining strike water hotter. When I had all but a gallon drained into the mash tun, I added the grain. At this point the remaining gallon was boiling. After I mashed in the grain, I took a measurement and found I was around 145°. I then added boiling water until I hit my target temp. I closed the mash tun and covered it with a couple blankets.

At a half-hour, I took a measurement and was pleased to see it was still at 153°F. I think I finally found a method that works! I stirred the mash and covered it again. My propane ran out while heating my sparge water, so I ended up with a 1.5 hour conversion rest instead of the planned 1 hour, but even after 1.5 hours I was only down to 151°F. I added 1/2 tsp. of acid blend to the strike water and prepared to sparge.

While sparging I ran into my first problem. I was trying to pay close attention to my sparge rate, and I was trying to start off slow, but it seemed REALLY slow. After about 2o minutes I had only drawn off one gallon. Then I noticed something. After draining the sparge water out of the kettle, I had left the valve open, which is why it seemed like the kettle was barely filling. Fortunately, I left the end of the drainage hose in a pot, and the wort was draining into the pot. (I probably would've noticed right away if it were just spilling onto the garage floor). So there were really only three possible issues with my oversight: 1.) my sparge rate was a little goofy, and in the end it only took 45 minutes; 2.) there was a little water in the pot into which the wort drained, so the wort may have been ever so slightly diluted; and 3.) I had to pour the wort back into my brew kettle, risking possible hot-side aeration (though I was careful to pour back slowly).

The boil was uneventful. Unfortunately, while cooling I ran into my second problem. I was using an immersion chiller, figuring it was really cold out and the wort would chill quickly. After giving my hose a hot shower (hey, I had to thaw it somehow), I started chilling the wort but after about a half hour it was still around 90°F. Of course, I knew it would be cooler in the bottom of the kettle, so I drew a little wort from the spigot and took the temperature. 40°F. Oh crap. I siphoned half of the wort into the carboys (I did a 7.5 gallon batch, so I used a 6.5 and a 5-gallon carboy) and then re-heated the remaining wort to around 80°F to get the temp close to 65°F. Fortunately I made a yeast starter so I'm hoping it will take off okay. I figure I may have disrupted the cold break by re-heating the wort, but since it's a stout it shouldn't be that big of a deal.

The good news is my final gravity was 1080... 10 points higher than target! Why is this good? Well, as documented before on this blog, I have had efficiency problems, so I drew up my recipe with an efficiency of 66%. Turns out I was right around 75% this time! So the end result is a big stout, which should work well with both styles we'll be doing.

Overall, I think today was a big step forward in honing my all-grain technique. Stay tuned for the next step... adding the goodies in the secondary!


Anonymous Rich said...

Nice blog, I will def. be back to check out some future entries. I wanted to invite you two into my social network for beer drinkers.
Bloggers have been joining and feeding their blog into to pick up traffic (free). We'd love to have you two as members too. It is - Hope to see you there- Cheers.

11:02 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Russ said...

Thanks for checking out the site, Rich. I think I'm all social-networked out, but perhaps my readers (all three of them) might be interested in joining. Cheers!

7:02 PM, February 04, 2008  

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