I made the mistake of telling a friend/co-worker/homebrewer that I was getting back into the hobby after a two year hiatus. Now I can’t not brew anything because then I’ll look like a jerk. Normally I don’t mind looking like a jerk, but somehow this feels different.

Digging through some old notes, I found a recipe that looked like it would be hard to screw up. I had all the grain on hand and my homebrewer friend was kind enough to pick up some yeast and hops for me. So at 9:30 on Saturday night, I fired up my kettle.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll recall that I was last brewing using the Brew-in-a-Bag technique (or BIAB as the internet likes to call it). I kept with it but with a few modifications to my last attempt. For starters, I decided to make a slightly larger batch. Three liters is fun and all, but I wanted a little more beer this time and chose to go for one a half gallons. Big shot, I know.

Last time I did this, I “crushed” my grain in a blender. I have no problem with doing it that way, theoretically. But from a practical standpoint, we no longer have a blender. The base cracked and we have yet to replace it, so I had to find some other way to get at the barley. I had once used my coffee grinder for a tiny starter mash, so I thought I might try that again. Well, I did it but I don’t think I’d recommend it. See, this recipe called for me to crush three pounds of grain and it took for-freaking-ever in the coffee grinder. I eventually did it, with flour going everywhere and a bunch of kernels still uncrushed. Good enough.

Another change to my plan of attack was that I didn’t worry too much about low efficiencies or anything. If I hit my numbers, fine. If not, oh well. It made for a much more relaxing evening.

The recipe:

Oatmeal Stout
2 lbs 10.2 oz (70%) Marris Otter
8.4 oz (15%)Rolled Oats (I used Quaker Old Fashioned oats)
2.8 oz (5%) Roasted Barley
2.8 oz(5%) Chocolate Malt
2.8 oz (5%) British Crystal 50-60
0.5 oz UK Goldings @ 60 minutes (4.5% AA, hop to about 30 IBUs)

Pretty simple. Except that I didn’t take into account the increased batch size and my small brew kettle.

That was a little tight. But it didn’t actually overflow, so no worries.

I got nine quarts of water up to 165F and mixed in all that grain. The temperature only dropped to 160, so I stirred it until it hit 155 and put a lid on it. I had to hit it with some heat once in a while, but was able to keep it at around 152 +/- 2 for an hour. Then I pulled out the grain bag, squeezed it a little bit (which is tough because it’s hot and I haven’t destroyed all the nerves in my fingers yet), and turned the heat up.

The hops went in, the boil was uneventful, and my immersion chiller worked like a charm. The real kicker is that at the end I checked the hydrometer and it read 1.048. Now let me explain something here. I have had terrible luck hitting my gravities for a while, which is one of the reasons I quit brewing two years ago. It’s frustrating. This time I just assumed I’d have a 60% brewhouse efficiency, but like I said above I wasn’t going to obsess over it. With the above recipe and a 60% brewhouse efficiency, a 1.5 gallon batch would have an original gravity of 1.051. My gravity of 1.048 means my efficiency was actually 57%. While that may suck, it was damn close to what I had been expecting.

I was a little excited, I’ll admit. But then I thought, “There’s got to be a catch here.” My final volume must be way off. I dumped the wort into my fermenter (which I had conveniently measured and marked) and saw that I was nearly SPOT ON. Just a hair under the six quart mark. HOLY CRAP!

On top of that, my Wyeast Yorkshire Ale yeast that I smacked at 7:00 was ballooning like crazy at 12:30 when it was time to pitch it. Why have the stars aligned for me tonight?

Actually, I don’t care why.  All I know is that this makes me want to brew some more. Which is good, because my friend bought me three packs of interesting yeast and told me I have to use them or risk disappointing him. And now if I don’t, I’ll feel like an even bigger jerk.