My first all-grain brew: Part 2

So, I’d imagine you’ve been desperate to find out the trials and tribulations of my first ever all-grain brew and one that, in hindsight, probably shouldn’t have been a 6.7% IPA from BrewDog.

BrewDog eat your heart out. This is craft.

But, as a warm day dawned at the beginning of April, it was time to start the brew. As previously mentioned, I’d embezzled £60 a piece out of three mates to invest in a bit of kit and the ingredients for two batches: the Simcoe IPA and a Black IPA. I did what any good sales person would do and broke it down into the cost of a pint. In my rudimentary maths (OK I lied, I did a spreadsheet – all good projects start with a spreadsheet), I worked out with all the new kit and ingredients the first two brews would work out at £3.50 a pint, and from then on around £1 a pint. No brainer really, plus we’d all get to

My first all-grain brew: Part 2

So, I’d imagine you’ve been desperate to find out the trials and tribulations of my first ever all-grain brew and one that, in hindsight, probably shouldn’t have been a 6.7% IPA from BrewDog.

BrewDog eat your heart out. This is craft.

But, as a warm day dawned at the beginning of April, it was time to start the brew. As previously mentioned, I’d embezzled £60 a piece out of three mates to invest in a bit of kit and the ingredients for two batches: the Simcoe IPA and a Black IPA. I did what any good sales person would do and broke it down into the cost of a pint. In my rudimentary maths (OK I lied, I did a spreadsheet – all good projects start with a spreadsheet), I worked out with all the new kit and ingredients the first two brews would work out at £3.50 a pint, and from then on around £1 a pint. No brainer really, plus we’d all get to stand around for one day every few weeks, drink beer and catch up.

However, despite being widely publicised on our What’s App group (brewery name still a secret in case, you know, we become the next BrewDog), it seemed this journey would be one I did alone.

So, having managed to evict the kids, I set up some pallets in the back yard (how craft?) and lifted on my kettle and below it my ‘Monster Mash’, a converted cool box.

So, let’s be honest. This brewing lark takes AGES. Bloody AGES. I started at 11.30pm and finished at 4.30pm. That said, there’s an awful lot of waiting around which gives opportunities to, er, paint a shed and pretend to be doing useful stuff around the house.

Using a mixture of books and BrewDog’s DIY Dog pdf, I followed these steps:

  1. Made a coffee.
  2. Looked at equipment scratching my head for a while.
  3. Heated water in my electric kettle to 72C. It took about 40 mins to heat up.
  4. Measured out the grain and put it in the mash tun.Hugely satisfying. 
  5. Mashed in. Let the warm water into the mash tun below until it was a ‘porridge-like’ mixture. And here was one of the hardest bits to get right: holding the temperature for an hour or so. It meant adding more hot water and making the porridge looser than I’d like. It may also account for missing the original gravity (sugar content that can be fermented), and therefore the ABV, I was looking for. Need to become more efficient at this bit.
  6. Mashing out was easier that I thought, despite many warnings about a ‘stuck-sparge’. My Monster Mash does have spinning arms that drip water out, but I didn’t have the right side tubing, so I had to gently pour water over it. Again, this may account for the lower original gravity.
  7. Once I’d got the liquid into another container below the mash tun, I then gently poured it back into the kettle (I was using it as a hot liquor tank and brew kettle). At this point, a mate came around, drank some tea, nodded a bit, and went off again. Because that's what friends are for.
  8. Once it had boiled (which took a while – long enough to put up a couple of shelves), the ludicrously small amount of starting hops (2.5 grams!!) was put in – this was a serious West Coast style IPA… 250g of Simcoe was to be used for dry hopping. After another 25g in the middle and 37.5g at the end, it was time to chill the wort.
  9. Chill the wort. So this is the next investment, and one I realise is essential: a wort chiller. With it, you can get it down to the temperature you can pitch the yeast at within about 30 minutes. I put mine in a cold bath and it took hours to cool down. There are various reasons why you need to chill the liquid quickly (which will form another post), but safe to say, I’ve ordered one since.
  10. Measure the original gravity. Using my hydrometer (bought from a boot sale for a quid) I measured the OG – it was less than I wanted, meaning the mashing and sparging needs some attention.
  11. Pitch the yeast. Once the temperature had come down, then I pitched the yeast. I used a Wyeast ‘Smack-Pack’ that takes a while to get ready for pitching, so don’t forget that bit.
  12. Open a beer. I’d previously made an extract Tiny Rebel Cwtch, which while tasted great, seemed a bit thin and was the inspiration behind going all-grain.

Yummy!

Overall, I’d say I was very pleased with how it went, the temperature was maintained better than I thought and although I missed the original gravity I was aiming for, enjoyed the day. It’s pretty relaxing actually and leaves plenty of time to be getting on with other stuff at the same time. I even read the paper (shh), which with two small children is the real victory of the day.

In next week’s thrilling instalment: dry-hopping, racking and bottling (which is happening tonight). Oh, and the story about the sudden demise of my kitchen ceiling (I’m pretty sure my wife won’t read this).