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Complete Newb Questions

Hey all,

Brewing my first batch and at the risk of sounding like a lunatic… it’s an all-grain batch. I have a big pot and a mash tun/cooler but I want to do this first batch on the kitchen stove. I have the 5gal Chinook IPA kit and I’ll be cutting it in half to do a 2.5 gal BIAB batch on the stove and into a 3gal better bottle. Clearly this recipe is for someone the skill level above mine but, with answers to a few questions I think I can overcome. Here are my questions:

  1. Water for mash - is 1qt/pound a good start? that would be 6.5 quarts (half of 11 pound grain bill) to start.

  2. Sacch rest for 60 mins and mashout for 10, THEN 60 mins of boil time. I’m assuming this means raise strike water temp to 152, add grains and hold at 152 for 60 mins. Raise to 170 and hold for 10 mins. Remove grain bag and boil for 60 mins (adding hops at 60, 10 and 1mins). Is this all correct? 130 mins total (not including times to get to temps)?

  3. What temp do I boil at? Literally 212 or whatever it takes to achieve a rolling boil?

  4. Pitching… I’ll be putting my smaller pot in an ice bath in the sink. Is 70 the desired temp to pitch?

  5. First use of grain mill. How does one correctly set the gap?

Thanks in advance. Your humble servant,
KZOOjon

Welcome to the hobby! Way to get started, dive right in! Here’s the answers to your questions based on my own experience:

  1. You should mash a little thinner. Try 1.5 qt/lb, so I guess that’s 11/2*1.5 = 2.25 gallons. You could go as high as 2.5 gallons and that wouldn’t be wrong either.

  2. You’ll actually need to heat your strike water hotter to about 170 F. Then when you blend your water and grains, the temperature will steady out close to 152 F.

Your mash time of 60 minutes is standard, although my experience dictates that 45 minutes is actually good enough for full attenuation. So if you want to save a few minutes on this batch and every batch, it’s perfectly safe to cut back to 45 minute mash time.

You can skip the mashout. There’s no need to rest at 170 F, especially in small batches where you can bring the whole sweet wort up to boiling temperature in a matter of ~10 minutes. The enzymes are all dead and gone either way.

Boil time of at least 60 minutes is important. I boil mine for 65-70 minutes, allowing a few minutes at a gentle boil first until the foam falls back in before adding my first charge of hops – it always foams a lot for like 5 minutes but then settles down. After the foam settles, you can crank up the heat as high as you want without fear of boilover – and yes, a really hard rolling boil is best for your beer.

  1. A boil is a boil. No need to measure temperature. It will be someplace between 205 and 215, depending on your altitude, but it makes no difference.

  2. Pitch a few degrees below your fermentation temperature if you can get it that cold. Your fermentation temperature for all ales except maybe some Belgian styles should really be low to mid 60s. If your entire house is warmer than the 60s and you can’t find any cool corners in the basement, you can set your fermenter in a tub about 2 inches deep with water, then drape a soaking wet t-shirt over the fermenter and have a fan blowing on it. This reduces your fermentation temperature by about 5 degrees! You can also research the “swamp cooler” method where you can get the temperature even lower if you need to.

  3. I set the crush according to the factory setting or until I get roughly 20% flour and 80% of the kernels broken into 6-8 pieces each while the husks remain mostly intact. If you’re getting a lot more flour than that, open the gap. If you’re not cracking each kernel down to at least 6 little pieces, close the gap. It requires a little playing around to get it just right, but once you get it right, you’ll probably never need to set it again.

Other pointers…

Rinse your grain bag with the rest of the water for the boil for improved efficiency. Temperature doesn’t matter too much, but not boiling. I often just dunk the bag into some room temp or warm 170 F water for a couple of minutes, then set your bag aside and start bringing all your liquid up to a boil.

Use a fine mesh colander to remove any lumps of grains before you boil. You might not have any, I usually don’t. But if you do, it can lead to harsh astringency in the final beer. So, be careful not to leave any chunks of grains in your wort.

You’ll need roughly 4 gallons before the boil to end up with 2.9 gallons after the boil, and after fermentation you’ll lose a lot of volume to the yeast sediment, ending up with the 2.5 gallons that you wanted. There’s lots of ways of doing this but this is the method I would use. Otherwise if you start with 3.5 gallons and end up with 2.5 gallons after the boil, then after fermentation you’ll only have like 2.1 gallons left, which might be disappointing to you, or it might not. I wouldn’t care too much, but some people would. So, measure your volumes appropriately for whatever you want to do.

If you use pellet hops, then you don’t need a hop bag during the boil. If you use whole hops, then you do.

No need to leave the hop sediment or other cold break material behind in the kettle. You’ll make great beer just dumping 100% of your wort into the fermenter.

Fermentation in clean new plastic is fine, but long term, if you don’t have glass… eventually it’s more fun and more sanitary to use glass. My humble opinion. Others will argue with me, but they’re wrong. :twisted:

That’s about all for now. I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure your first batch will be delicious!

:cheers:

Wow, such killer info. Thank you!

What’s the bad rap on plastic? I’m a sponge for all info here.

Thanks again!!

Plastic is scratchable. Wild beasts can survive in microscopic scratches no matter how much sanitizer you use. I have had several stretches of contaminated batches due to microscopic contamination, and it became excruciatingly frustrating. Other people get lucky and never had a problem.

I don’t like relying on luck. Not anymore.

Glass is not typically scratchable. Breakable, yes. But not a harbor for wild beasts.

Choose your own hazard, I guess.

I really like this online tool to figure out my strike temperature

http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml

Plastic is not likely to render you a trip to the emergency room if you drop it. 5 gallons of liquid in a glass carboy will explode like a glass grenade. Food for thought. Clean your plastic with a soft cloth - no scrubbers - and you’re fine.

I have well over 1.1 million batches done in plastic and never have I had an infected batch.

Why am I’m growing a new arm on my forehead and my skin feels more pliable than Subway bread… I dunno, going to see the doc on Monday about that s**t.

Yea, I better put this “/sarcasm” tag here for those who have relieved themselves in a while.

Wow. Thanks for sharing though.

so those of you guys who use better bottles don’t use brushes? just soft cloth?

I would imagine that as long as most trub stays in the boil pot, there’s not much reason to do much more than high pressure rinse and sanitize, right?

[quote=“KZOOjon”]so those of you guys who use better bottles don’t use brushes? just soft cloth?

I would imagine that as long as most trub stays in the boil pot, there’s not much reason to do much more than high pressure rinse and sanitize, right?[/quote]
No, you always want to clean thoroughly first, then sanitize. Better Bottles actually has instructions on their website for how to clean their products.

Thanks again for all the feedback. This AG newb is a newb no more. After an eventful brewing session last night I already feel infinitely more wise. I made a TON of mistakes and got lucky on some stuff.

Brew bag… I now know why the brew shop called them grain socks. Common sense says I should have stretched them out to see if they were going to open up and work more like a kettle liner… they didn’t and I ended up needing two of them to hold the 5.5lbs of grain. I worked like a mad man with the paddle to make sure they weren’t clumping up in the middle of the bags. I have read that some people use paint strainer bags. Is that right? Any worries about using them with consumables?

Heat… again, common sense says get the 12 quart pan to 170 and then get it away from heat. I turned the head town and dropped the grain only to find out that I had sailed past 170 and was mashing at 174. Yikes. Took at least 20 minutes to come down to 154. Will this cause any problems?

Thermometer… bought a probe thermo from walmart and man was that stupid. It has alarms on the way up but not on the way down. That and it apparently stuck at 134 as I was cursing the in-sink effectiveness of my ice bath (that I figured would be so much easier)… the cool down was ultimately a trainwreck by not the grand scale trainwreck it looked to be. I finally transferred to my 3gal better bottle figuring I could more effectively shower it with cold water due to it’s taller/narrower size. When I dumped into the carboy, it turned out I was only a couple degrees away and getting down to 74ish was no problem. Damned probe thermo.

Both of these can be avoided when I step up to my 7gal pot with ported thermo and plate chiller that I have out on loan. Might want to do a couple more 2.5 gal batches before going bigger though.

I was all over the place with water… started with 2.25 gals but then used another .5 when the 174 mess happened. Started boiling 3 and then realized I should boil the fourth (adding it to the boil 10 minutes in) instead of using it a carboy addition to bring temp down. Something about watery beer hit my mind… was this the smart way to do it? Ultimately, it meant that my 60 boil had a 10 minute or so dead spot around 10 minutes in. Remembering the initial reply to this thread, I thought about just boiling 10 minutes later but then I panicked about the hop addition schedule. I figured moving 60/10/1 to 70/20/11 would totally change the beer. Correct assumption or utter madness?

Already this morning the yeast is going to work at a cozy 71 degrees in our lower level of the house. I just hope I nailed the sanitation aspect. I was rocking the carboy with my (dipped in sanitizer) hand over the top both prior to the yeast addition and after (saw this on Basic Brewing and it looked as dumb then as it felt last night).

Also, as I halved the 5 gal batch, I only used half the yeast. I put the other half (in packet) in a ziploc bad and it’s stored at a dark mid-70. Will this yeast survive or do I need to track down another packet for the 2nd batch?

Again… I have (what could very well become) BEER! Let me summarize the emotions that got me there… :blah:

just hoping for :cheers:

oh, and so I pulled both grain socks and rested them above the pot in a strainer and poured .25 gal over them (this is what got me to 3). As I could tell they were just sitting there ripe with sugary malt that would whip my yeast friends into a frenzy… I squeezed them as if I was emptying a sponge. This seemed totally logical and yet bizarre as hell. In my countless hours of research (DVD, youtube, forums, websites) I never remember hearing whether this was encouraged or forbidden.

double oh, I was hoping to make dog treats with the spent grain. Anyone have a favorite (easy) recicpe? Thanks again for letting a complete doofus newb like me come in here and just pummel you guys with how-do-I-tie-my-shoes type questions. On my first post I half expected “have you used the search function?” or “are we going through this again?” or “who let the window-licker out of his cage” and yet you guys are cool like the other side of the pillow.

[quote=“KZOOjon”]Heat… again, common sense says get the 12 quart pan to 170 and then get it away from heat. I turned the head town and dropped the grain only to find out that I had sailed past 170 and was mashing at 174. Yikes. Took at least 20 minutes to come down to 154. Will this cause any problems?
[/quote]

Yes, this might cause problems. A few minutes above 170 F is okay, but 20 minutes, I don’t think so. You probably killed most of your enzymes. Attenuation/fermentability will likely suck. If you had hit the mash right away with a quart of cold water or ice, it probably would have been alright.

This probably didn’t matter much at all.

so what you’re saying is… get back on your horse and brew the other half pronto!

if this batch is junk, each day I wait to do the other half is a day of disappointment in 2-3 weeks.

[quote=“dmtaylo2”]Plastic is scratchable. Wild beasts can survive in microscopic scratches no matter how much sanitizer you use. I have had several stretches of contaminated batches due to microscopic contamination, and it became excruciatingly frustrating. Other people get lucky and never had a problem.

I don’t like relying on luck. Not anymore.

Glass is not typically scratchable. Breakable, yes. But not a harbor for wild beasts.

Choose your own hazard, I guess.[/quote]

Unlike Dave, I switched from glass to plastic. I’ve done several hundred batches in bucket fermenters without any problems whatsoever. I far [refer them to glass carboys and won’t go back to glass.

[quote=“powerball”]I have well over 1.1 million batches done in plastic and never have I had an infected batch.

Why am I’m growing a new arm on my forehead and my skin feels more pliable than Subway bread… I dunno, going to see the doc on Monday about that s**t.

Yea, I better put this “/sarcasm” tag here for those who have relieved themselves in a while.[/quote]

The difference between you and me is that I’ve really done what I say.

[quote=“KZOOjon”]so what you’re saying is… get back on your horse and brew the other half pronto!

if this batch is junk, each day I wait to do the other half is a day of disappointment in 2-3 weeks.[/quote]

Mash the second half at about 147-148 F for 90 minutes, and I bet this beer will turn out just fine for you.

I don’t know if this matters, but did you mix the grain up good before you split it ?

yup, sure thought about that… because it shipped in one bag and with such low percentage of the secondary grain, I mixed the bag like a madman before milling.

I probably wouldn’t have mixed quit so vigorously had I known all the issues I was about to incur. :smiley:

I will probably do the 2nd batch tomorrow and the tentative plan is to mash in my 7.5 gal (with therm) and move to 12qt pan to boil. Is there anything wrong with clearing the 7.5 of trub and transferring a 2nd time (back to original vessel) to boil? That way I’d just be relying on one reliable thermometer.

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