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First try at all-grain brewing

Posted in Beer on June 26th, 2011 by Chris

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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Simple Mash Tun

Posted in Beer on June 18th, 2011 by Chris

Today I put together a cheap, simple mash tun. I spent under $5 for the entire thing. I’ll do a how-to write up in the near future after I use it a few times to make sure I like the final product. Once I do that I’ll add a link on this post, so if there is no link … there is no how-to yet!

The parts consist of only an old cooler, some tubing, and a tee fitting.

I got the cooler from a friend for free. It looked pretty nasty inside with rust stains and spot. A few minutes scrubbing with an acid wash cleaner and it all but disappeared. You can see the before and after pictures below.

The tubing I used was polyethylene e so it is food grade and I’ve used it before for other things (like maple sap).

Next up, all grain brewing!

Enjoy some pictures.

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MacKay Clan Wee Heavy

Posted in Beer on June 7th, 2011 by Chris

UPDATE:  I edited the recipe to reflect what I actually did, even though it didn’t match my target. It’s in the primary right now so if it doesn’t turn out good, I’ll make a note here. Expect to see another try soon.


So, this is all about brewing experiments …  so, let’s go all out.

My next batch will be my first try at all grain brewing. And, it’ll be a 2 gallon batch of Wee Heavy. I know … livin’ on the edge, right?

Here is my planned recipe, I’ll update it as needed and welcome any comments.

MacKay Clan Wee Heavy (3.5 gal)


10 lb – American 2 row malt

1/8 lb – Peated malt

1/2 lb – Biscuit malt

1/8 lb – Roasted Barley

1/8 lb – Black Patent malt

1 lb – Pure Maple Syrup

1/4 oz Centennial hops (45 min)

1/4 oz Cascade hops (15 min)

1/4 oz Cascade hops (5 min)

Scottish Ale Yeast



Stike water @ 170F (11 qt)

Rest @ 152F for 60 minutes

Batch Sparge @ 180F (13 qt)



OG: 1.071

FG:  1.024  (est.)

Bitterness: 17 IBU

Color: 20 SRM

Any thoughts, comments, or suggestion are welcome!

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Brewing Updates

Posted in Beer, Wine on April 20th, 2011 by Chris

It’s been a while since I posted. Life has been busy but good. Here are a few updates into my brewing activities.

First, the most exciting for me, is that the grapes I propagated while I was pruning seem to be doing good. There are two that I am experimenting with different techniques. The first, I had laying on the ground for a year so that it could put roots down. I cut it loose from the main plant. Second, I pushed a small piece of cut vine into the ground and a few buds in the dirt and a few above ground. Fortunately, both seem to have worked because the buds are swelling and should burst open with some leaves. I snapped a quick pictures while I was checking up on them.

Next, the maple wine is past due for another racking but it’s looking good. The color is staying and it’s starting to clear. I’ll probably rack it Saturday and give it a quick taste. It should be nearly completely fermented at this point and aging for flavor. Last year the flavor was harsh this early and so it had to age nearly a year. This batch seemed to be doing better for some reason or another so I’m hoping it’s keeping along those lines when I go to rack it again. Best case, I’ll only have to age it a few months. Worst case, it’ll age a year same as the 2010 wine.

Lastly, Ii was camping with some friends last weekend. We shared home-brews, stories, and new ideas. I picked up a free cooler I plan to make into a mash tun for trying my hand at all grain brewing.I’ll be sure to document the process for you guys as I make that transition. Also came home with enough ideas to keep my brain busy for quite a while.

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