17 April 2016

posted by benjy edwards

Having skipped brewing last weekend, it was definitely time to make another batch.  I should have seen this coming, and while to some extent I anticipated the possibility of problems when trying to brew after a process change, the scale of the mistakes/problems was surprising.  To what do I refer?  Read on…

During the week and finishing on Saturday, I managed to install a dedicated water line in the garage, complete with carbon filter, from where I could draw the brewing liquor, instead of having to hook up the potable water hose to the outside tap around the side of the house.  I got it plumbed in and only had one small leak, which I fixed easily.  However, when I went to hook up the line from the filter to the brewing stand to start brewing, there was a leak there.  Not a problem, easily fixed.  I got the mash tun filled up, heated the strike water and worked on the malt bill.  The mash went fine and the problems came back during collection for the boil.  First off, a surprise boil over when the kettle was only two-thirds full.  Backed off on the heat and collected again.  While I was trying to figure out how to hook up  the water line with a hose nozzle for cleanup, a friend and fellow brew club member stopped by.  Distracted by that, I overfilled the boil kettle, thankfully catching it before it overflowed, but had to remove some wort and therefore diluted the gravity.  Before that I managed to run the grain bed dry so had to add more sparge liquor.  The boil began and of course had a boilover.  Around this time I discovered that the hops I intended to use for this beer were not in our stocks.  I meant to buy a pound of 007: the Golden Hop pellets from Yakima Valley Hops at their booth at the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference, but they gave me Denali by mistake and I didn’t notice it.  I’d also bought some Experimental Grapefruit pellets at the same time and the other hops must have been switched during that exchange.  A quick Google search reveals Denali to be an interesting citrusy hop, so I decide to use it in place of the 007.  The first pellet addition went fine, but the second causes a big boilover.  I learn from my friend, who uses pellets frequently, that this is a real problem with pellets.  The fine material causes billions of nucleation points, so the hops have to be added very slowly.  Lesson learned, and the following additions take about 5 minutes to add each time.

The next problem came when it was time to chill the wort.  Since the new water line has the filter built in, I’m running the cooling water from the filter, which slows the flow, and the wort is going getting chilled to about 80F.  Not acceptable, so I disconnect the chiller and hook it up to the usual outside tap.  Temperature is down, which is fine for now, but calls for a change in how the water line is installed.  I will have to have two outputs, one with the filter and one without.

We finally got the brew wrapped up.  However, because of overfilling the kettle and other problems throughout the brew day, the original gravity ended up being 1.046 instead of 1.052, so this will be on the low end of the scale for a pale ale.  Still, learning about the new hop variety is the goal of this batch, and that should be unaffected.  We oxygenated the wort and finished up the cleaning as usual.

Going back to the mash, we also racked the previous batch of Harvey’s Best Bitter to a couple of corny kegs, without a dry hop.  The gravities were down to 1.010, so that is good attenuation.  Next week the recipe will be an IPA of some kind, and the goal is to get the water line finished in time for the brew.

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