Sunday, November 15, 2009

A November (Batch) to Remember

Okay, that's a lame title. I can't help it. They can't all be gems.

RIP: 091001 Geordie Boy

I was ambivalent about this batch. It had sort of a thick, sweet aftertaste to it which I have decided wasn't psychosomatic after all. I drank it, sure, but it wasn't my best effort.

Kegged and Tapped: 091002 Por Favor

Another Por Favor batch that really hits the spot. I am quite fond of this recipe. It has just enough hoppiness so you know it's there but it doesn't hold you up at the gas station with a pellet gun and then escape in a Prius. (No, I don't consider that to be a cheap shot.) I should really make this the next 10 gallon batch, after...

Brewed: 091101 Geordie Boy now in 10 gallon batch size!

I've read that the effort for brewing a ten gallon batch isn't significantly different from that of a five gallon batch. I found that to be generally true, except for "a few small details."

The grain bill for this batch was massive, almost 19 pounds:

My little scale can't weigh more than 8 pounds at a time, so I had to split the 12.5 pounds of two-row malt into smaller weighments. I did get a little break though because I bought the Cara-Pils Dextrine and the three caramel malt additions at Alabrew and they combined them into one sack. That saved a lot of unpacking, weighing, and repacking from inventory.

Liquid handling in a 10 gallon batch has logistical issues that you just don't think about until you try to do the first one. For example, your sparge volume is about 11 gallons, and after sparging you have 14 gallons of wort. At 8 pounds per gallon, that's 88 pounds you have to elevate over the mash tun to sparge, and 112 pounds you have to move to the burner to boil. Good thing Scotty was home this weekend and available to help, or I would never have been able to get the boil pot positioned. I'm starting to understand why there are so many examples of three-tier brewing systems on various forums.

The sparge water issue was one I didn't anticipate, and when it came time to sparge I had to make a quick adjustment in the process. I had heated the entire volume in the big pot, being the only vessel I have that would hold that volume, but I soon recognized that (a) it was too big to hoist, (b) it was too much water to add to the tun all at once, and (c) I needed that big pot to catch wort in so having it partially full of sparge water was going to be an issue. I ended up splitting the mostly-heated volume into two more manageable parts in smaller pots, then heated them individually to strike temperature before adding them.

It's also a good thing I went ahead and built two heatsticks, because there's no way my propane burner would have been able to move enough BTU to heat all the mash and sparge water and boil the wort.

I followed the general plan outlined here. I built two 1500W heatsticks and used them in separate GCFI-protected 15A circuits in the garage. Between the heatsticks and the burner I got acceptable heating performance in the mash water, sparge water and wort. I heated the mash water totally with the heatsticks, and used the combination approach with the sparge water and the wort.

I have another heatstick partially built, with a 2000W element, but it needs a 20A circuit and I don't have one handy in the garage yet. My friend Richard has advised me to just pull a 60A subpanel into the garage for this, and I think I will, but when I do I will bring 240V and switch to an all-electric brewing process. (I'll expound on that, and the heatstick construction, in another post.)

Here are a couple of pictures of the heatsticks in action. In this picture I'm using both sticks and the burner to get the wort to boiling:

Once the boil was achieved, I dropped one heatstick out and was able to maintain a good rolling boil:

Fall weather means more rapid wort cooling. I was able to get this 10 gallon batch down below 70 F in about 35 minutes with the immersion chiller. That's not quite as fast as I was managing before, but it's still acceptable. I could get slightly better performance if I could find a way to immerse the pot but I think I'll just live with this for now.

I used Nottingham yeast for this batch. It's what I wanted to use last time but Alabrew hadn't gotten their replacement shipment after the recall. I'm hoping that the attenuation for this yeast won't leave me hanging like the last batch did. I used the pitching rate calculator at Jamil Zainasheff's website and determined that 2 11g packets of dry yeast were sufficient. (Incidentally that means that I wasted one packet when I brewed the last Por Favor batch because the US-05 is in 11g packets as well. I misread the calculator's results and added two packets, but neglected to notice it called for two 5g packets. Oh well.)

I expect the next 10 gallon batch to be easier now that I have made my mistakes with this one. On the whole it really wasn't that much different from doing five gallons. Having the heatsticks in the process cut down on the overall duration of the brew session by reducing the time to heat the mash and sparge water and get the boil going, and the cleanup was about the same as always after I was done.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I'm thinking about making the switch to 10 gallons, so it's nice see some of these gotchas.