All grain brewing – Eli’s first brew with her fancy new kit

Well I’m at it again, more beer being made. I’m trying a strong belgian ale – it should be similar to Pauwel Kwak. If I do it properly.

This time it’s a bit special, this time I am brewing what’s called “All Grain”. If you remember the last beer post I wrote I talked about the different ways you can make beer… well this is the one I called the big brother of the home brewing world – all grain.

Thanks to two brilliant presents I now have the equipment and ingredients to do this. (Thanks Leigh for the sack of grain).

Essentially what it means is that I started with grain and water, added hops and yeast and at the end you have beer. Previously when I posted it was about brewing where you buy some of the ingredients ready-made for you.

All grain brewing needs a wee bit more kit than I originally had, so I treated myself to a new electric boiler and a new mash tun so that I could make beer this way. I’m quite excited about the whole thing and so far I think it was a good idea. (Last year I spent my bonus on the greenhouse, this year on beer kit)

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I also got a fantastic present from my little sister Leigh, a sack of grain!

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So what have I done then? Here goes….

I started about 10 am getting things set up and the kitchen cleaned and sanitised (while Kate baked a lemon drizzle cake for us to eat later when the beer is done) – I know, I know, I know exactly how lucky I am.

First thing I had to do was get 14 litres of water boiled to what’s called strike temperature. This is the temperature you add the grain at and mix it with the water. The grain then causes the temperature of the water to fall and hopefully if your maths is right it falls to the temperature you want to “mash” at. This is the temperature that makes all that lovely grain turn its starch into sugar, to make your lovely beer.

It all seemed to go well although I may have to ask for help to calculate just how efficiently everything went.

As usual the main obstacle I have to overcome is my height… so out came the steps so I could reach to add the water to the boiler – no laughing peoples!

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Now once you have the water ready, you add it to the “mash tun” (big picnic cooler you can see which has a tap) and stir in the grain. In this recipe it was 7kg of grain (Munich and Pilsner).

The idea is to get the grain and water all mixed together so that all the grain gets a chance to get wet, no “dough balls” or little pockets where the grain is dry.

Once this is done, and the temperature is right, you close the lid on the big cooler and leave it for an hour to give it time for all the starch to turn to sugar.

So far I have to say I am amazed at how simple it’s all been. I had expected it to be way more complicated considering what a pain it was trying to do partial mash before – I guess having a proper mash tun (big cooler) makes a difference.

So what was next?

Well when the mash was done – 60 mins up, I wanted to check that I got all the sugar I could and didn’t leave any starch unconverted, so a wee drop of iodine on Kate’s white Denby plates (oh I panicked when the iodine stained – but I scrubbed and scrubbed and I think I got away with it) and added a wee drop of the sugary liquid that came out of the grains and it didn’t turn blue. That’s a good thing!

So that meant time to drain it off and rinse the grains to get as much sugar as possible – this is called sparging. I had planned to be a bit fancy and do something called fly sparging with a fancy spinning shower arm thing, but it was a bit of a pain, so I went for batch sparging which really is as simple as dumping hot water(again a certain temperature) in, stirring it, leaving it for 10 minutes and then draining. I did this twice.

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By this point it was after 1pm and I was starving, but Kate to the rescue again with a lovely lunch of homemade bread and pate. So I put the lid on to protect the wort (sticky, sweet liquid) from curious kittens and we had some lunch to fortify me for the last two hours – the boil.

This one needed to boil for two hours, with hops being added at various points. The new boiler came into its own here, with the old stock pot on the stove way I used to do this, I had to stand over it the whole time to stop it boiling over. Not today, I left it and went and made bread and wrote this blog post :0) I think it’s safe to say I am happy with the boiler.
The only down side to today has been the yeast – I bought a Belgian ale yeast for this beer, but the activator pack was a dud so I’m having to use a pack of dried yeast I had as a spare for emergencies (I guess this counts), so a bit disappointed in that, but all in all, it seems to have gone ok.

If anyone out there is thinking of switching to all grain brewing but you are a bit nervous….. it’s just as easy as extract brewing, just needs a mash tun and a bigger pot :0)

Phew… Six thirty and that’s me finished, cleaned up and got a cup of tea.

If you want the recipe, get in touch.

 

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