I know there are some massive glaring errors and a lot more besides so please be gentle with my first time all grain let alone with the Bulldog. I have treated it as a learning exercise and I did learn a lot from my mistakes. I haven’t yet gone for the calculators but I will try to backtrack best I can. I was fumbling in the dark a bit but so far so good. Time will tell and I plan to repeat the brew correcting my mistakes. Oh and forgive me if I use the wrong technical words. I am still learning. I set everything up a couple of days before, filled the bulldog and sparge boiler with water to clean them up and make sure they were in a good place in the conservatory for brewing and that I would have space and everything to hand. I used the hot water with some oxi to clean a load of bottles donated by my local pub and make sure everything was working and fitted together. I made a jacket for the brewer from 3 layers of silvered bubble wrap as I had some laying around and will probably do the same for the boiler in due course. Brew day I was advised of a basic pale ale recipe when I got the bulldog and bought the malt and hops to do it. However, I then looked in the Greg Hughes Home Brew Beer book and got extras to try to make the pale ale from there, just with slightly different hops as I didn’t have the right ones. Also had crystal malt not light crystal. So I started with: 4.3kg crushed pale malt 95g Crystal malt 35g Challenger whole leaf 23g East Kent Golding pellets 16g Saaz pellets Safale S-04 Yeast Hard water area but the only treatment was half a campden tablet in the brewer and the HLT. Glaring error #1. Followed the recipe and not the brewer instructions. I only filled the brewer to 11l and heated to 65°C for a 1 hour mash. Put in the malt and it was quite thick but fully wetted with no dough balls. Turned on the recirculating pump, regulated the flow with was fine for about 2 minutes and stopped. Plenty of liquid on the sparge plate but nothing coming out of the pump. Stuck mash. So, fished out the sparge plate, lifted the grain basket and stirred the grain to try to free up the mash. This happened 3 more times before I added another 2 litres of water and then I seemed to get a nice even flow. I extended the mash time by about 20 minutes to compensate. Glaring error #2. When messing about with the sparging, make sure your tap is off if you haven’t got a jubilee clip on both parts of your pump as when it falls off it lets a load of sweet wort run on the floor making the tiles sticky. So after the mash time was up, I fully lifted the grain basket up and rested it on the supports. I have the brewer on a 2 foot stall which was about the right height for me but you have to lift it squarely otherwise you only get 2 of the 3 legs on the supports. Glaring error #3. Fill the sparge boiler all the way to the top as it is better to have more water than you need. Glaring error #4. Have a container you can pour the wort from the pump into when you disconnect or you get even more wort on the floor making it even stickier. The other thing I noticed was you need to open the tap before putting the pump on as I got an airlock in the tube. It has to generate quite a push to get the water all the way from the tap to the top of the grain tube unless of course I missed a glaring error. I judged the amount of water in the brewer based on what I was pumping out of the boiler but when I took out the grain basket I seemed to be short so just topped it up to 27 litres. Glaring error #5. Get a proper hop bag or spider. I put the loose hops in a muslin cloth which on reflection was not fine enough. Also I should have tied it on as it seemed to eventually sink to the bottom and I had to fish it out when I put the chiller coil in. Result was lots of loose hop bits floating around. This was exactly the same when I put the pellets in the hop bag but probably made it worse. I put the temperature up to 104°C to get it up to a rolling boil at full power. I had a squirty full of water ready in case of boil overs but I didn’t really need to. When it started to boil I turned the power down to about 1200w but I probably could have gone lower. 15 minutes from the end of the boil I put in a teaspoon of Irish moss, and the chiller coil. Just before chilling I sterilised the fermenter, bung and airlock. Glaring error #6. Make sure the tubing you put on the chiller is the right size and has a jubilee clip on it or it sprays water into the wort. Following on from glaring error #5, this becomes a real problem when you try to circulate the wort during chilling as the bazooka gets clogged and you have to give up. The other side effect is the trub can cover the, what I assume is, temperature sensor, the little knobbly bit in the bottom of the brewer. Fortunately I had seen on a youtube video that the final temperature at cooling on the brewer seems to stay higher than the actual temperature recorded with a thermometer. By stirring the wort around the sensor it did drop pretty quickly on the brewer. I guess that it was about 25-30 minutes to cool to around 25°C so my flow may have been a little low. I was also thinking that circulating the wort during chilling can have a whirlpool effect but then this does put the trub over the bazooka. I opened the tap on the brewer to run it into the fermenter but the flow stopped pretty quickly. I pretty much had to constantly scrape the bazooka to get any flow through it as it was clogged solid. Hopefully most of it will drop out but I will have to wait and see. I tested the OG and it was 1050. Higher than the recipe called for and I will have to do some calculations to see if this is correct but I did also only have 21 litres. I tasted the test sample and it tasted like unfermented hoppy beer so I was pretty happy and the spent grains had pretty much no sweetness to them at all. Glaring error #7. Make up the yeast starter earlier. I started it just before I started cooling by having a glass of around 250ml of 25°c pre-boiled water. I have read so many conflicting views on how to start packet yeast so I followed Palmers method of putting the dry yeast straight in the water with no sugar, leaving for 15 minutes before stirring, leaving for 15 minutes before pitching. I will change this method for brew 2. After filling the fermenter, I put in the bung and airlock which was filled with sterilizer. I then moved it to the living room, hoping the head space of about 4 litres would not cause a sticky mess if the yeast went mad and make senior management unhappy. The room stays between 18 and 22°c and as my option of a spare fridge fell through, my only real option at the moment. When I picked it up though I heard glugging through the airlock as I assumed the sagging base caused a vacuum in the fermenter drawing in air and potentially sterilizing fluid into the wort. As the fermentation hadn’t started 3 hours after I had pitched the yeast I was beating myself up that I had killed it. However, I woke the next morning to a very bubbly airlock and about 2 inches of krausen visible up the side of the fermenter. Still bubbling away so, so far so good. As I had run some of the cooling water into the sparge boiler I used that as cleaning water. Everything seemed pretty easy to clean and I had a large plastic container I threw everything into as I finished using it. Overall it was about 7 hours from fill to fermenter with another hour or so cleaning which for the first attempt was not too bad I think. Lessons learned. Fix all the glaring errors. 2 biggest were not enough water at the start and sort out the hop bag. I was torn between following the recipe and the brewer instructions but the 3.5 litres the grain doesn’t see below the mesh bottom is a lot not to be in contact with the grain. I think trying to circulate too early and probably too fast did not help. I did know I was lacking a decent hop bag but I thought the muslin bag I had was finer. This probably is what caused the bazooka to clog. Fixing the tubing is something obvious with use and something I thought I could get away with. Easy fixes. Yeast is something I will get to know the more I use it so not overly worried. Now I have the first one done, I intend to do the same recipe again but fix the errors and compare the brews. So red pens out and point out the obvious please!