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First try at all-grain brewing

Yesterday, I made my first attempt at all-grain brewing. Things went well enough, but I did make a few mistakes. Luckily, nothing that should prevent the final product from turning out good … just weaker than I had hoped. Here are the results and some thoughts. On a side note, I’ll be updating the Wee Heavy recipe to reflect actual usage. I will also be adding a glossary page, a suggestion from my wife after proof-reading this post.

The first thing I did was weigh out the ingredients. To weigh the maple syrup, I zeroed out the scale with an empty jar. Then, weighed the maple syrup. Turns out a pint is about one pound, so that’s what I used. The grains I weighed all at once adding 2 oz at a time of each of the specialty grains. While I was measuring everything out, I got the strike water on the burner. I used 9 qts of strike water at 170F. After mashing in, the temperature had dropped to 150F, so I added in the extra 2 qts that I already had on the burner just in case that happened. But regardless, it still ended up at 152 F … 3 degrees shy of where I was targeting.Either way, there was nothing more to be done … so I let it sit for 60 minutes.

The most interesting thing about the mash tun was that, without a valve, some of the wort was in the drain tube while it was steeping. So I could see it darkening with time. I tried to take a picture but the pictures really doesn’t do it justice.

After the 6o minutes were up, I drained the wort into a bucket. The SG was 1.066 @ 150 F which corrects to 1.086. But, after draining, I measured only 1 gallon of wort (with nearly 3 gallons going in). So, I tried to make up for that with additional sparge water. I heated 13 qts of sparge water to 180 F and dumped it in. I quickly realized it was more water than I had thought, but it was too late to go back now. I stirred it up really well and let it settle for 10 minutes before draining. The sparge water came out at a SG of 1.020 @ 152 F which corrects to 1.039. This was lower than I had hoped, but I think it was because I used too much sparge water.

With that out of the way, the rest was no different than previous batches of beer. I brought the wort up to a boil and added in the hops. During the boil, I also added the maple syrup. After terminating the boil, I took another gravity reading and it was 1.071. I was targeting 1.09, so it’s lower than I had hoped, but in the end that still works out to about 7% alcohol so it should still be good … just not the 11% Wee Heavy that I was targeting.

Final thoughts: The grain absorbed more water than I had anticipated, so next time go heavy on the strike water . It also lost a few degrees more than I had thought, so error higher … you can always let it cool down. And lastly, add only enough strike water to get up to the final volume targeted. On a bright note, the $5 mash tun worked perfectly! So, I’ll go ahead and work through the how-to video and get that posted within the next few days.

So, for anyone wanting to try all-grain … good luck! I hope my mistakes help someone make a better batch of beer. I plan to make another batch soon, so it should go much smoother then.

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