Disclaimer: not affiliated with any homebrew clubs, just picked up this nice pint glass that one of the local clubs was selling at the Brews and Blues Fest at the Coventry farmers' market last year...
Overall pretty happy with it. The spices are great, won't change anything there. Can definitely taste a difference in the juice I used. Last time I used fresh, in-season, cider from a local orchard. This time, I saw generic cider on sale at Price Rite and I happened to have everything else I needed on hand, so I threw together a quick batch for $15. It's good, but was better with real cider. I guess that's why cider is typically a seasonal thing... Oh well, lol
A little backstory on SMaSH beers... SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop. The intent is to use really simple ingredients so the brewer can learn what each ingredient actually brings to the beer. At the suggestion of the proprietor of my local Homebrew store, I decided to do a SMaSH with Pilsner Malt and Aurora Hops. I decided to do this beer loosely as an IPA to really get a feel for the hops. I have played with Pilsner Malt before, so I already have a good feel for that. I have never used Aurora hops so my goal here was to be aggressive with the hops to really see what Aurora tastes/smells like.
So today was Brewday! Typically I love brewdays. My routine is to get up early (7:00) Sunday morning and start before anyone else wakes up. This way I am usually done and cleaned up before noon with time to go to the dump and relax the rest of the day. Today I got a late start and was nearly as efficient due to a late night, Saturday night... So I got started around 10:00 and finally cleaned up at 5:30, ugh... I should explain that I brew All Grain, which is basically making beer from scratch. I would not recommend AG for a beginner, there are several simpler ways to brew great beer. I am considering doing an easy extract batch and write it up for the blog to show how easy it can be for the beginners.
A shot of my All Grain equipment. from L to R: turkey fryer with 20qt pot,
7.5 gallon brew kettle on table with wort chiller inside, and orange igloo mash tun.
First step is to mix up a batch of sanitizer. I use Iodophor, iodine based no rinse sanitizer. I keep the whole bucket around throughout brewday because you never know when you need to resanitize things.
Then I figure out all my brewing math. 13lbs of grain, how much water, how hot the water should be to hit your mash temp after you mix in grain. I like to write up a plan for my brewday ahead of time, so I am not looking things up or trying to find a calculator at a critical point.
Inside the Mash Tun. You can see the manifold in the bottom, this helps to
let the wort run out while separating and leaving behind the grain.
Once I have my plan I preheat my Mash Tun. I heat up some water (about a gallon) to about 170ish and pour into Mash Tun. I let that sit while I heat up my strike water. Strike water is the initial batch of water that you mix with the grain for the mash. In this case I needed 14.6 qts of water at 167 degrees.
13 lbs of Pilsner malt in the bag...
Grain mixed with strike water in mash tun. Mixed well to make sure all the grains are saturated.
Science Warning: Mashing is soaking the grains in hot water to use the enzymes present in the grain to convert the complex starches into simpler sugars. The simpler sugars are able to be digested by the yeast later on and turned into alcohol.
The mash temps are pretty critical. Typically, to get the proper conversion the temps need to be between the high 140s to 160... As I understand it, the lower you go, the more complex sugars will be broken down and conversely the higher the temp, the more complex sugars (undigestable by the yeast) will be left. This affects the final gravity. The higher the final gravity, the sweeter and fuller bodied the beer. The lower the FG (final gravity) the dryer the final beer.
For this IPA, I wanted a dryer beer to accentuate the hops. I aimed for the lower side, 150 degrees.
Aiming for 150 degrees and nailed it. Doesn't always happen, and I like to have a small pot of boiling water and some cold water on hand to adjust if I need to...
Hit my mash temp, now we hold it for an hour to let the conversion happen. The cooler does a great job holding the heat. I don't lose a single degree over an hour.
After the hour mash, I start to drain the first runnings.
The first little bit that comes out has a little bit of grain material in it. So you have to catch that first quart or so until the wort runs clear. This then gets put back into the mash, it will get filtered by the grain bed on its way back through. This is called Vorlaufing.
First runnings going into the brew kettle.
For this batch I get about 2 gallons of super concentrated wort. But there are still a lot of sugars sitting in the grain after it's all drained. So then, you have to sprage. Sparging is rinsing the mashed grains with hotter water (170-180) to dissolve the residual sugars and rinse the grains. There are several methods to sparge but I use the simplest... I batch sparge. I heat up 3 gallons to 170 and add to the mash tun. Stir, let sit for a few minutes and drain into the boil kettle. Repeat a second time and I end up with about 7.5 gallons of wort.
Brew kettle full of wort, ready to start the boil.
Hops lined up for timed additions to the boil.
Hops are added during the boil at certain times. The amount of time the hops are boiled changes what they add to the beer. Late additions (boiled 5 minutes or less) adds hop aroma. Middle additions (boiled 30-15 minutes) adds hop flavor. And early additions (typically boiled 60 minutes) add bitterness.
For this SMaSH I wanted to really see what this hop was like. So I added 4 additions at 60, 30, 15, and 5 minutes.
I didn't get a good pic of my wort chiller. But this is it in the wort. All it is, is a coiled up copper tube that you run cold water through after you are finished boiling.
Running the wort chiller to cool down to pitching temps.
Yeast are pretty tough, but dumping them into 200 degree wort is a sure way to kill them. You have to cool the wort down under 80, I prefer under 70. You also have to cool as fast as possible to avoid infection. Yeast love sugar, they go nuts for it. Unfortunately bacteria love the same thing... This is also why you have to sanitize anything that will touch the wort after the boil.
Taking my gravity reading after cooling.
I get unusually high efficiency... Not bragging, because I don't really know why. Using other people's recipes I would always end up with way stronger beer than expected. I have started adjusting my recipes to compensate. I plan on 83% efficiency. (70% is typical for this process?) Today I planned on 5.5 gallons of 1.073 beer. But I didn't boil off as much water as I planned so I ended up at 6.25 gallons of 1.064 beer. Still 83% efficiency... And not really complaining about more beer.
This is where I was getting pretty tired and gave up taking pics for a while... sry. But after sanitizing fermentor, I poured beer from the brew kettle into the fermentor from about 3 feet up to aerate (the yeast need oxygen to multiply) this is the only time you should aerate, any other time adding oxygen is damaging to the beer.
After cooling and aerating I added the yeast and sealed up the fermentor.
Fermentor sitting in the closet... I mean fermenting chamber, lulz
Ferment for about 2 weeks, add dry hops for a week and keg. I also tested and kegged the BIPA I talked about last entry... but I'm beat and I'll write that up tomorrow.