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I was away for a while but now I’m back. It doesn’t really matter why but here’s a quick summary for those who care (i.e., nobody): There were some ruined batches and some equipment failure at the beginning of the summer and then I didn’t feel like brewing and then I didn’t have time. This morning I had the urge and the time so I did. The end.

This tiny batch brewing was getting on my nerves. The tiny batches themselves are fine but my inability to hit my targets and brew a successful beer as planned is a real pisser. So I put together a new plan for mashing that simplifies the whole process (I think) and ran a test batch to see how it works.

Here’s the basic approach: I mashed in the kettle with the crushed grains tied up in a mesh bag and sitting on a metal steamer basket at he bottom of the pot (that kept the grains from scorching). Doughed in with all the pre-boil water needed. The grains absorbed some water so I poured boiling water over the grains after mashing until the water was back to the volume I needed (a tea kettle, wire mesh strainer to hold the bag of grains and a pre-marked metal ruler to gauge the wort volume worked perfectly for this). I used a candy thermometer to keep an eye on the mash temperature and hit the kettle with some flame whenever the temp dropped too low.

Easy right? No mash tun to worry about, no stuck runoffs, no juggling multiple pots of water at different temperatures for mashout and sparges and all that crap. I got this idea off one of the homebrew forums and adapted it to my stovetop brew. I think it’s something the Aussies call “brew in a bag” or something. I don’t remember and I don’t feel like looking it up right now. Point is, it was easy and it seemed to work. I used 2 pounds of 2-row for this just to see what kind of efficiency I’d get then picked out some hops based on the pre-boil gravity. Here’s a basic rundown (yes, I took notes, shut up):

2 lbs Domestic 2-row
0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (2%AA) @ 60 minutes
0.25 oz ” @ 30 minutes
0.25 oz ” @ 5 minutes
WLP001
Mash @ 155F for 60 minutes
Pre-boil volume = 6.75 qts
Pre-boil SG = 1.027 @ 60F
Post-boil volume = 4.5 qts
Post-boil SG = 1.043 @ 60F

As you can see, the post-boil volume is way higher than the 1.050 or so I was expecting based on the pre-boil SG. I guess I misjudged the boil-off rate. No big deal, really, because it still looks like a decent beer to me. The brewhouse efficiency is about 65%, which I’m fine with. I don’t really care what the number is as long as I can get that number each time, or close to it.

So that’s the method I’m going to use for the next batch and just try to dial in the boil-off to nail my SG. The whole thing took 4 hours from getting stuff out to putting everything away and was WAY easier than the way I’ve been doing things. I even cooled the wort down in a sink of ice water rather than use the immersion chiller. This may be the easiest way to brew all-grain I’ve ever come across. 3 liters on the stove mostly with equipment you have around the kitchen anyway. Awesome.

Conclusion: I’m brewing again and it looks like this might be a successful first beer of the season. Huzzah!

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A symbol of man’s hubris

I’ve been gone for a little while, but I’m back now.  I had some business trips and then I was sick and then I had to travel again.  But now that I’m back I have some funny stories for you all (both of you reading this).  Well, not so much funny as depressing.  See I’ve had some beer related failures lately and since I’m an honest guy I’m gonna tell you all about them.

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Peruse the various homebrew forums and you’ll see the topic of secondaries come up with some regularity. Some people say you should use a secondary for just about every beer you make (hefeweizens are an exception), while others will tell you it’s not really necessary. And some of the people in the no-secondary camp are pretty highly respected in the brewing world. I’m personally on the fence at the moment.

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I know it’s already Thursday but some very cool stuff happened over the weekend that I need to talk about. And it isn’t the Giants game. Because I’ll be honest with you people out there in the blogosphere…I don’t care about football. What I care about is good food and good drink. And while the Giants were duking it out with the Packers for a shot at the Super Bowl I was finishing up a rye ale.
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There is a man in Jersey City who really loves beer. This is his story.