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Well I stepped up to the big leagues today and tried an all-grain brew.  What a disaster.  My main problem was mashing and sparging.  Here is my procedure and please poke holes in my process.

 

1.  Heat 3 gal. to 175 degrees and dump into converted igloo cooler/mash tun

2.  Added 10.5 lbs of grain and mixed well.  Temp dropped to 154.... perfect so far.

3.  After 60 minutes added 1 gallon of 180 degree H20, to raise temp to 170 for 15 minute mash out.  Failed to reach temp, only up to 158.

4.  Drained 1st runnings and recirculated about a gallon of wort.  Did that very slowly.  Stopped at about 2.5 gallons.

5.  Added 3 gallons of 175 degree water, recirculated again that stopped after about 1.5 gallons.

Whole process took about 45 minutes

6. So 7 gallons of water only gave me a yield of about 4 gallons of wort.

 

I understand that there is a absorbtion factor of about 1 gallon per 10 lbs of grain.  For some reason the mash did not drain fully.  It seemed to be stuck for the last 2 gallons of wort, and I could not remove it.  

 

What do I do at that point?  I know there is more wort to be strained but I was stuck.  I sure hope this 4 gallon is pallateable. 

 

Thanks for reading my rant.

Craig

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Despair not, this happens to just about everyone who does all-grain at some point.  And it doesn't sound like it was a disaster at all.

 

Not knowing your setup (false bottom, manifold, etc), I can't say for sure that you actually had a stuck sparge, but it's very possible.

 

The mash-out temperature is probably not altogether critical.  It helps stop the enzyme conversion process before you drain the sweet liquid, but a mash-out is not 100% necessary - in fact some "mashing procedures" call for "No mash-out"

 

The most important thing is really knowing how much sugar you collected in your 4 gallons of liquid.  A refractometer is excellent for measuring gravity in all kinds of solutions (and some solids) even if the temp is much higher than what a hydrometer can handle.

 

When you're sparging, the 1st runnings will often have a very high sugar concentration, the 2nd will be lower, the 3rd usually more or less puny and useless (no sugar/flavor).  If you had a good mash, and it sounds like you did, you probably had a gravity in your 4 gallons higher than the objective.  This is very common, and you can boil this and then add water before after the boil as part of chilling the wort and also bringing the gravity to the intended target.

 

The brewing software you use can tell you what you should expect in terms of wort collection.

 

What was the recipe, what was your target pre-boil and post-boil gravities?

 

If you're looking for a refractometer, you can find one on eBay fairly cheaply: http://cgi.ebay.com/0-32-Brix-Wort-SG-Refractometer-Sugar-Wine-Beer...  Get one with Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC) if you can.  Refractometers don't work very well with alcoholic solutions, but for that you'll use your hydrometer 

 

If you do get a stuck mash, it is a bit of a pain to deal with, but I've heard some suggestions to how you can remedy it

- Use a CO2 tank or compressed air to blow into the drain pipe/valve

- Stick a screwdriver into the drain pipe/valve

- Fill a plastic bag with cold water, stick your hand into it, and then into the mashtun to "fiddle around" and see if you can loosen whatever is stuck

 

With a grain water absorption ratio of 0.1 - 0.125 gallons per pound of grain you should have been able to drain 5.75-6 gallons of wort.  But, like I said above, the last X gallons are usually pretty much useless for sugar and flavor, and you could likely have used water to reach your targets.

Outstanding information Eivind.  Thank you.  You were right about my gravities.  I was going for 1.050, but my 4 gallons of wort registered at 1.062.  I did dilute the wort post boil to achieve 1.050, but does that mess with with the hoppiness/bitterness of the brew?  

Thank you also for the link for the refractometer, I have to get one.

 

The best thing about brewing all grain is that I found it to be much cheaper, so if I screw up a few i'm not wasting $40-50.  

 

Again thanks a million.

Craig

You're very welcome, Craig - any time!

 

With a gravity of 1.062 for 4 gallons, you were spot on for 1.050 for 5 gallons!

 

The hoppiness/bitterness should only be impacted in a good way since your brewing software calculated the IBU for a 5 gallon batch, not 4.

 

In the future, if you forget to add water during chilling/before pitching the yeast, you can still do it later, but remember to boil the water to remove oxygen from it: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/High_Gravity_Brewing

 

What was the beer you were making? 

 

You're right about the cost savings of all-grain.  Once you start buying in bulk and also harvesting your own yeast it becomes so cheap it's almost like getting paid to make and drink beer!  :)

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