Saturday, July 11, 2009

090701 Geordie Ale

This was an interesting brew.

Up until now, every brew I have done has been in the afternoon (and into the evening). Today, because we were going to the lake house in the afternoon, I started the batch before 0800. It sort of puts a damper on that whole "relax, don't worry, have a homebrew" thing when you're out there eating breakfast during the boil.

As I mentioned earlier, my goal this time was to keep a close eye on water volumes, and I did. In fact, I learned a lot about the water in my process during this batch. First and foremost, my calibrated spoon was useless. I measured all the water today with an old fashioned dipstick - my tape measure - and geometry. This allowed me to hit the mash and sparge water volumes dead on. I also learned that my mash tun is right at the edge of being big enough for a 9.3# grain bill. I think I am going to switch to the bigger cooler for the next batch.

I was actually 2 F over the mash temperature target. Interestingly the batch kept that 156 F temperature the whole time, without loss. That may have been because I put the water in at about 171 and let it condition the tun to the right temperature, then added the grain. Or it may have been because the brewing gods are screwing with me from batch to batch.

For this batch, I included the Roasted Barley that was called for in Biermuncher's recipe. I had omitted it in previous batches because the amount needed is less than 1 oz. However, I have noticed that there's a little bit, say, lacking in the mouthfeel for this recipe, and I thought I would give the roasted barley a shot to see if it made a difference.

Based on the BeerSmith instructions I sparged 4.86 gallons (or as close as I could get to that) with the intention of hitting a pre-boil volume of 6.41 gallons. After the sparging though I measured a volume of 6.91 gallons, or about half a gallon more than planned. Admittedly, I wrung every last drop out of the mash tun, but a half gallon overage? Somebody miscalculated the amount of water the grain would retain, I think, and it wasn't me.

Since I started with an extra half gallon, I decided to boil it off before I added the hops at the "60 minute" mark. I chose to add them at the point where I measured 6.41 gallons on the ol' Stanley tape measure (and the OpenOffice spreadsheet that does the conversions), because that's the volume that BeerSmith said I was supposed to hit. I was getting in the neighborhood of 1/2 gallon of boil-off every 25 minutes and that guided the end game for the boil.

The biggest news from this batch is the new cooling technique I employed. In every previous batch I ran the immersion chiller exhaust directly into the pool so as not to waste the water. With this batch, I was inspired by this HBT post to try something different. I didn't go all the way to the pool with the wort, but I created a little 'mini-pool' using my large 15" diameter pot.

Once the exhaust water temperature dropped to a reasonable level (which only took about 3 minutes), I put the exhaust hose from the IC into the 15" pot and started collecting the runoff. I then placed the wort pot, a 14" diameter vessel, inside the 15" pot so that the cooling water did double duty. It collected some heat from the wort as it passed through the IC coil and then, as it flooded up and out of the 15" pot, it cooled the exterior of the wort pot.

This technique made a dramatic difference in cooling time. In previous batches I was seeing 26 minutes or so between flameout and the wort getting below 80 F. This batch flamed out at 11:57 and the wort was at 80 F at 12:10, a reduction of 13 minutes over the time I saw with 090501. What's all the more remarkable is that the inlet temperature of the water is about 10 F higher in July than it was in May, so this technique is getting a lot more thermal performance with a lower overall delta-T.

I stopped the cooler at 78 F. I was in a rush at the end of the batch (Amy was ready to go to the lake) and didn't have time to cool the wort any lower, so I put it into the primary carboy and stuck it in the fermentation box without pitching the yeast. I left it there overnight. When I get home this afternoon, it should be down in the high 60's and I'll pitch the yeast.

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