I am finally ready to make the switch to all grain. I think i have everything I need. I am going to start with a kit. I ordered the Shining Star Pale Ale all grain kit from NB. I live in Chicago area and I heard we have ideal water for brewing. I have used it in several extract batches with success. Being a beginner all grain brewer what should I focus on and what should I worry latter about once I have a few batches under my belt. Should I worry about water, should i add anything to the water? How critical is the Ph? Any lessons learned here would be greatly appreciated.
This is just me but I wouldn’t mess with water until later on in the process if at all.
What would I focus on? A few things:
1st: Accurately measuring everything. Not sure what your set up is like but you obviously want to measure out your mash and sparge water accurately. After that your preboil gravity should be measured so you can determine how much liquid you lost during the mashing process. After that your post boil should be measured to determine your boil off rate. And finally into the carboy, see how much you have there. I use a wooden stick with half gallon increments carved into it to measure liquid in my boil kettle. Just stick it right in there. These notes will help you adjust volume of water used for your next batch.
2nd: Temperature of the mash. First off, check that your thermometer is accurate. Put it in crushed ice and water and it should read about 32* and then check boiling at 212*. Check the temp at the beginning of the mash and have a gallon of boiling water and some ice cubes on hand to adjust if your off by more than two or three degrees. Check it by the end as well to see how much heat you lost.
3rd: Having fun! Don’t freak out if everything isn’t perfect. You’ll get it right next time.
IMO worry about nothing except the process of brewing. Forget about water chemistry/ph…
Below is 1 persons “brewday timeline”.http://www.brew365.com/technique_timeline.php
JT’s MashWater3.3 is helpful in getting your water additions down.http://gnipsel.com/beer/software/beer-software.html
I like to start 20+ degrees warmer than the desired mash temp. Let this water “warm” your cooler. Then when the water get to 10* warmer, add the grain. You should be within a couple degrees of your temp then.
Also have an extra gallon or so of hot water on hand. Just in case you are off and need a little more.
Have fun and save the drinking until you are finished.
As far as water goes, just make sure you have taken out any chloramines. Doubt PH would be a big problem, but I am not familiar with Chicago water.
Make sure you have enough water.
Overall, just getting through your first brew day in one piece would be your goal. It can be a little chaotic at first, so just muddle through and get a good idea of how your process will work. The more you brew, the smoother things will get.
Also have fun. My first brew day was a blast, even though I really had no idea what I was doing. I can’t imagine you know any less than I did - in fact you probably know way more.
I’d say to just don’t overthink it. Get your process down before you start worrying too much about water, pH, sparge acidification, etc. I’d stick to simpler ales that have a lot of leeway for hiding flaws while you get your all-grain mojo established too.
Do what Nighthawk said.
When you add your grain, carefully stir the mash more than you ever thought you would have to. Preferably while checking the mash with a quick, accurate thermometer.
Make sure the temp has stabilized before you start adding ice/hot to get the temp down/ vice versa.
Otherwise you’ll wind up chasing the temperature around if you’re hitting cooler/warmer pockets in the mash.
Instability also leads/misleads some to believe they are losing 10-20* while mashing.
Once you’re within your temperature range, close her up and leave her alone for an hour.
Pray hard to the beer god that your lauter does not get stuck.
Should have specified this. Stir, stir and stir some
I’m in Chicago too, but haven’t tried using the water - I still use spring water rather than worry about filtering and messing with the chemistry, but that’s getting a bit pricey. Anyway, I strongly agree with the “don’t overthink it” sentiment. I found Palmer’s book really helpful in getting started the simple way:http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter18-4.html
I gotta say, though, I have no idea why he’s suggesting 2 quarts to the lb for mash water (I usually go no more than 1.5) and twice as much as that for sparge water is crazy. Use a calculator like this instead:http://www.tastybrew.com/calculators/infusion.html
Good luck. If you need a local hand or want to join me for a brew day, let me know
Looking at my post I may mislead you.
The additional hot water IS NOT to adjust the mash temp. It’s for adjusting the amount you run off into the kettle.
Using the process I mentioned, you should end up on the warm side in the mash. Leave the lid open and stir a little more. If you think you dropped a little to much, close the lid. More than likely you have a cold spot that will be just fine.