A Twofold Lesson in Brewing Humility
Rich's Resolve New Year's IPA is in the fermenter, but not without inordinate drama. I decided that this recipe would break new ground on a few fronts: first, it'd be a recipe of my own devising, using the tools so thoughtfully given to me over the Christmas Holiday; and second, it'd get me closer to the Real Brewing Deal of going "all-grain," or extracting all the sugars myself from the raw malted barley, rather than relying as heavily on processed malt extract syrups and powders.
Many parts of this went very well yesterday --- I got my two-gallon, five-pounds-of-grain mash (where previously I'd done a single pound of grain in half a gallon of water) going just dandily, with it's main extraction of 150° F for an hour, and 10-minute "mash-out" at 168° F going swimmingly.
However, when it came time to lauter and sparge (i.e., separate the yummy sweet sugar solution or "wort" from the now-spent grain, and then rinse out every last bit of the sugar) I ran into a problem. Previously, I'd done this with my pound of grain in a muslin grain bag - lautering was a simple matter of yanking the bag, and sparging was done by drizzling 170° F water through it over a period of 15 minutes. I tried to reproduce this process for my five pounds of grain (now waterlogged to more like ten pounds) using a big, beefy colander, and it sort of worked, but I realized afterward that I screwed up pretty mightily because A) in straining the grain from the wort I aerated it heavily at relatively high temperature, which is likely to have oxidized things at a very bad point, and B) water drizzles through that much grain very badly when dry, finding all sorts of narrow channels through instead of extracting the whole mass well. Matt tried to warn me, he really did.
The solution for the future is to build myself a proper lauter tun (a big vessel modified to help in the lautering and sparging processes) from a big pot or a clean water cooler, which provides for doing this properly with either a porous "false bottom" or an extraction manifold built out of slotted piping. Yay - more to fiddle with! %-)
Anyway, after making a sow's ear of my potential silk purse in terms of lautering, I proceeded to the boil, which brought me back to the familiar world of competence. I had a total of five hop additions (IPAs are high in hop bitterness and flavor as a style):
- once with East Kent Goldings hops during the mash (to avoid the necessity of dry hopping in the fermenter),
- then, during the boil, once at zero minutes with Target hops for bittering,
- once at 30 minutes with more East Kent Goldings for flavor,
- once at 45 minutes with more Goldings for flavor and the beginnings of aroma, and
- a final addition of Goldings at 55 minutes for aroma only.
Can you say boil-over? I knew you could. I lost a portion of the last aroma-hop addition, and made a spectacular, smelly mess, but otherwise survived. Sigh.
Anyway, the boil completed, I moved to chill the wort with the new, shiny, spiffy wort chiller that Matt gave me. Got it sanitized and clean, and ready to plug into the kitchen faucet... Wait, the fitting won't... Uh oh...
Faucet and hose fittings come in two sizes.
Well, okay, the wort will take hours to cool by itself, so I can cover it and make a quick run to a hardware store to score an adapter.
At 6:30 in the evening. On January First. New Year's Day.
Smack in the middle of the season least likely for garden-hose sized fittings to be in stock.
SIGH. Emit swearwords. Repeat.
Head over to the Kroger and snag some big bags of ice after an hour of bullheaded searching.
One of the things that's very important about cooling wort is that the quicker you do it, the more thorough the precipitation of certain undesirable solids called the cold break happens, and I had to cool the better part of four gallons of wort, after leaving it for an hour. I had one seriously crappy separation of cold break.
My target specific gravity was 1.071, and between bad lautering and compensating for the boilover with dilution I wound up achieving one around 1.057. This is going to be a rather wimpy India Pale Ale in terms of alcohol content. I'm going to be racking or siphoning the beer to a secondary fermenter for clarifying after the major part of the fermentation is complete, so the poor cold-break separation shouldn't affect the beer's color too badly, but there may very well be some off-flavors from the bad cold break and from the hot aeration I did.
Matt called me up during the boil hour, and when I told him all the extra aggravation I was having he said, "You know, this is beginning to sound an awful lot like work."
Well, yeah, can't argue there, but you know what, for all the sweating and swearing I did yesterday I still love the smell of hops and wort that's lingering in the air of my apartment. And most of the extra effort came from not knowing what I was doing and committing some spectacular foul-ups, so I'll just keep learning, and the next time it should go a lot better.