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First AG brew, critiques and suggestions?

Hey folks. While I started brewing back in 2003, I’ve been more than happy with extract brews. But after taking a few years off, and selling all my gear, when I decided to start up again I bought a package deal from someone else who was quitting and it included what’s need for AG ~ so I decided “Why not?”

If you’ve got 9 seconds to spare, I was testing out a Raspberry Pi Timelapse build while brewing today (lol, need to adjust the settings when 5 hours = 9 seconds of video):

http://youtu.be/pCBgu0z3fyc

This was my brew today: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/bava … n-kit.html ~ my wife and I love this brew in extract kit form.

I decided that I’d just make it as difficult as possible for my first time out and did the multi-step process. Ran the numbers through one of the online calculators for volume and temp to hit the rests. This is where I ran into issues… it had me use 12.3 quart at 130* to hit the 122* rest. That was fine, I hit the temp fine but that filled my 7-gallon rubbermaid drink cooler half way. After 20 minutes, the temp was down to 120. I added boiling water till the temp was 149 and rest for 30, temp then had dropped to 144… brought it up to 158 and at that point my cooler was chock full, did the 30 min rest and temp dropped to 155~4. At this point I drained off about a gallon of the wort and brought it to a boil then added it back to the mash… and then repeated once more till I got to 170 and let it rest for 10 minutes.

As I was draining into my boil kettle, I heated the last of the water (the calc said I’d need about 7.2 gallons, what didn’t fit was supposed to bring the temp up for mash-out) to 190-ish and poured it in as the level dropped. I don’t have a sight glass or volume marks on my brew keggle, plus I brew on non-level ground, but I’d have to guess that there was just a bit under 6 gallons of wort.

From there it was brew as normal, except the hot break was HUGE. I ended up with 4.5 gallons and a final gravity of 1.048~1.050 @ 80*, used cold water to top off to 5 gallons. It’s currently in my cooler, waiting for it to hit 65 to pitch the yeast.

So, my questions are how strict are the rest temps? Is it possible to do a 5 gallon mash in a 7 gallon cooler? Any other observations? I’m not sure I’ll do AG much, the beer would have to blow my mind for the difference in work, but I’d like to better the process the next time. Don’t worry, I’m relaxed… the wort hit the gravity it should have, tastes good and should be a great brew. :smiley:

Thanks!

Brian

I think your cooler is to small for the multi step mash. If it were me I would do option 2 you will get great efficiency fom batch sparging and it is a lot simpler.

Yea 1 step mash, batch sparge and wrap your cooler in a sleeping bag or heavy blanket to keep the temp up.

Did you retake your gravity after you topped off ? Adding water would lower it a bit. Also with AG you might want to shoot for a little more in your fermenter if you want to bottle 5 gals. I never made an extract wheat beer but that seems to me to be a style you might notice a big difference doing it all grain. Repost you results if you can.

No, but I thought of that while typing out my reply and googled for the difference of gravity. There are calculators out there for lowering a gravity (where you give what you have and what you want) and it tells you the volume of water. Going from a corrected final gravity of 1.051 (which is where I was after correcting for temp) with 2 quarts of water will only drop the final gravity to 1.048. Still well within the norm.

Ok, so small cooler = single step mash. I’ll do that next time. That’ll probably solve the temp wandering a bit too since my Initial temp variance was the smallest of the bunch and I may have been a little low at the start from adding hot water to ambient cooler and adding ambient grains ~ I can see having lost a degree in there that wasn’t calculated.

Thanks!

Brian

Did you preheat the cooler? I’ve had temperature problems while mashing and the beer was fine.as far as volumes Just remember what you do and adjust for your system. The calculators can get you close but you may have to fine tune your process. A few degrees + or - isn’t going to make much difference I would try to get your volume right. Another thing,if you need to top off , just put it in through sparging not directly to the wort. There is still some sugar in there.

Nope, no pre-heating. Though that makes sense, I do it when making coffee so I can maintain my desired temp better. Just not thinking there…

I did sparge ~2 gallons of water before the boil to bring my total volume up, apparently just not far enough. I only topped off the fermented when I saw the volume fell short of 5 gallons. I’ve done this any number of times without issue, though I don’t think I’ve ever needed to add much more than 2 quarts either, maybe 3 a time or two.

Next time I’ll pre-heat the cooler, do a single stage mash and sparge to get my final volume. I think I need to aim for 7 gallons before the boil to end up with 5 in the carboy. Simple changes, but months off (I have this, an IPA already in the keg and a Belgian that’s about half kicked from a December brew ~ I’m set for several months).

Not sure most peoples methods for “preheating” but I just heat my water up to 10-15 degrees hotter than my strike temp (depending on the ambient temp), add the water to the cooler and close the lid for about 10 minutes. This will usually drop the temp about 7-10 degrees. Then I dough in and this will usually drop it to right around my strike temp. It takes a few tries to get it exact but once you do, it so much easier.

I’ve heard of people heating up water and putting in the cooler for 10 minutes then dumping it out as part of their preheating procedure and it seems so unnecessary and wasteful.

[quote=“mattnaik”]Not sure most peoples methods for “preheating” but I just heat my water up to 10-15 degrees hotter than my strike temp (depending on the ambient temp), add the water to the cooler and close the lid for about 10 minutes. This will usually drop the temp about 7-10 degrees. Then I dough in and this will usually drop it to right around my strike temp. It takes a few tries to get it exact but once you do, it so much easier.

I’ve heard of people heating up water and putting in the cooler for 10 minutes then dumping it out as part of their preheating procedure and it seems so unnecessary and wasteful.[/quote]
+1 to this. If there is a negative to the process Matt described, I have yet to see it.

Hi all,

I preheat the cooler simply by adding a couple gallons from my strike water, only for a couple mins though. I don’t discard that water however. I continue and add the remaining strike h2o and dough in.

I use a spreadsheet I got from Muellerbrau’s website. I usually hit my target temp every time following the spreadsheet.

I do the same, but I add all my strike water at about 8 to 10 degrees F high. I use the 10 gallon round igloo cooler mash tuns and 7 gallons of strike water normally come down about 8 or 9 degrees just in the transfer and cooler heat-up. Before I determined this I would just add the water at 15 degrees higher and stir it with my mash paddle until it was at the right strike temp. This is how I determined the temp loss and temperature change momentum (is this even the right word?) of my system. Some day I’ll upgrade to a real system.

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