Sparging, wort and other unappetising words we didn’t know about beer

The grains in the mash at 68°C. The aromas were tasty
Please forgive this post, as my memory can be a little jaded and I was supposed to write this post two weeks ago when we actually had our brew day.

We have had to overcome many challenges on our way to brew day, including a completely failed attempt at brew day the weekend prior. All these stories will eventually be told, but in this post we will focus on our long awaited triumph.

The all-grain brew kit had been assembled in the week leading up to brew day and all that was required was the attachment of the gas bottles and regulators off the barbecue.

The all-grain brew kit, sitting in the garage opening. Can you tell we're a bit cautious around our gas fittings?

We fired up the burner around 10am and started heating 60 litres of water. Due to the size of our mash tun, our minimum batch size is around 40L of beer, based on a grain bed depth of 20-25cm. We had put together a recipe on which is a great resource for calculations regarding temperature, IBU etc and can give some idea of what the beer will turn out like based on your method. The recipe gave us the temperature that we needed to add the grain to achieve our desired mash temp.

We all waited with bated breath for the temperature to drop and see if our solenoid switch would open as planned and fire up the burners to maintain our temps automatically.

67.9°C. Click. Fwoosh. Woohoo! Seeing the brew kit working as we had planned was a big victory.

During the mashing process we discussed the merits of mashing out and had come to the decision that we would go ahead with it. Our attention to detail wavered a little here and we missed the temperature that the extra water should have been at to raise it (100°C). This resulted in us trying to raise our mash tun by 7°C using only the heat coil, which as you can imagine was considerably slower than we would have liked. A good addition to the “things we can do better next time” notepad (or DBNT pad).

Pump priming seemed to be an ongoing issue

The next step, lautering and sparging, introduced some further challenges when we realised we needed to keep the level of the wort about an inch above the grain bed. It sounded simple enough, but we had no idea how deep the grain bed currently was. We made what we thought was an educated estimate, assuming the grain had swollen in the water and that we sort of remembered where it came up to when it was dry. But we missed by a mile, or proportionately, a few inches in this case.

The whole sparge process took almost 2.5 hours, so with the big loss of temp over this time we had a long way to go to bring our wort to the boil. We were given plenty of hints earlier that day, but at this point it was very evident we needed to make the odd adjustment to our kit to make it more efficient. We had mounted our burners too close for how big they were, which meant we couldn’t open the gas enough to give us a clean blue flame without burning our arms off and melting all the rubber seals. Another entry for the DBNT pad. This also resulted in a boil which wasn’t quite as vigorous as we might have liked.

60 minutes later after the final hop addition we were left with only the chilling of the the wort before transferring it to the fermenters and pitching the yeast.

Two fermenters filled with our pale ale

Due to our large batch size we had to spread the brew across two fermenters which gave us the opportunity to dry hop one of the fermenters and compare the difference. For this we added 50g of Ahtanum after 7 days (not the show).

We had embarked on a huge learning curve this day and had come out the other side with what we hoped would be a good hoppy pale ale. Time will tell.

3 comments to “Sparging, wort and other unappetising words we didn’t know about beer”

You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.
  1. Mark - 20 Feb, 2012

    Hi Bill, me again.

    Given that you are using the controller and solenoid to control the gas flow to the HLT burner (is that right?), do you have some sort of pilot light on the HLT burner?

    Thanks, Mark

  2. BillofBeer - 21 Feb, 2012

    Yep, another tap comes off before the solenoid switch that maintains a constant flame. A bit hard to see in the pic but there is a red tap at the bottom. I’ll put some better pics of our kit with a diagram up at some point.

  3. Mark - 21 Feb, 2012

    Thanks. Pictures would be great, it looks a pretty sweet rig from what I can see.

    Thanks, Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Email address is required.