First brew day with my Bulldog brewer V3

Discussion in 'Beer Brewdays!' started by Dmet, Feb 26, 2018.

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  1. Feb 26, 2018 #1

    Dmet

    Dmet

    Dmet

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    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!
     
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  2. Feb 26, 2018 #2

    aamcle

    aamcle

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    It get easier :) it's a matter of patience to let the beer clear and condition (2 months min) then practice to get the ambrosia just the way you like it .

    Have a Good One :) aamcle
     
  3. Feb 26, 2018 #3

    Oneflewover

    Oneflewover

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    Sounds like you'll get a decent beer, despite the obstacles you overcame. Don't worry the trub will drop out of suspension.

    If it's any consolation I have done a dozen or so brews on the Bulldog Brewer and I haven't figured out whether to go pellet / whole hops and hop spider / hop bag / chuck em in - nearly always get a blocked bazooka. Not sure it's all hop material though, and next brew I'm going to try underletting and not disturbing the grain bed too much as I suspect some of it is flour / grain particles bunging it up.

    Oh, and the pumps really aren't good at all.....
     
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  4. Feb 26, 2018 #4

    Dmet

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    I noticed there was quite a bit of flower in the pale malt so thought it may have played a part but it was definitely green sludge on the bazooka and what I thought came from the hop flowers floating so a mesh bag will be a definite change. I will be at Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday so will pick a couple up along with more malt.
     
  5. Feb 26, 2018 #5

    Oneflewover

    Oneflewover

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    Yeah, I'm erring on the side of hop bags. I have a large grain bag that I use - fwiw I would advise against a small bag. Hop spiders seem to get too bunged up with pellet and aren't big enough for whole hops (plus they are a PITA to clean).
     
  6. Feb 27, 2018 #6

    IainM

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    Haha. Your glaring errors sound familiar. I'm also a BB user, and not far from you. You'll work through the problems. A thinner mash will help with the recirculation and something to contain the hops is essential. I aim to draw off half the wort from the first running and half from the sparge, but I'll take the efficiency hit and have a thinner mash if it's a high gravity beer. Some people discard the bazooka entirely, but I use a 5 gallon fine mesh nylon paint strainer kept in place with a large spoon on top, and this always keeps hops away from the filter but gives it plenty of space to move around. The underpowered pump on the BB is the weak point of the system, but once you figure out how to keep the wort flowing then its a fantastic piece of kit.
     
  7. Feb 27, 2018 #7

    Linalmeemow

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    You definitely don't need to bag the hops as long as you don't disturb the wort during chilling. They'll fall out of suspension when the wort gets cool and filter will do the rest. I used to get frustrated with the bazooka clogging up and transfer to the FV taking hours but finally worked out it was because I was stirring the cooling wort to get an even temperature throughout. Now I chill for half an hour and transfer in the knowledge that there will be hot and cold spots throughout the wort which will mix through to around 20c when it hits the FV.
     
  8. Feb 27, 2018 #8

    Saisonator

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    I went from a couple of beer kits to a Grainfather but I can't help thinking that the guys who go the kit -- extract -- extract and steeped grains -- BIAB --- all in one or 3 vessel etc get to learn the craft better.
    They do more smaller batches so less to chuck if it goes wrong and they get the feel of how the extraction and hopping works gradually.
    But if like me the temptation is to put all the funds into one item which may save money in the long run.
    Sounds like you did quite well for the first time though.
     
  9. Feb 27, 2018 #9

    Dmet

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    You only learn through experience so if they have done lots of brews through various different methods they have practice and experience on their side.

    Fingers crossed on the brew, still bubbling so something is working after 3 days.
     
  10. Feb 27, 2018 #10

    -Bezza-

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    You're absolutely right - 70/20/10

    We supposedly learn 70% of what we know from trying it ourselves, 20% by watching others and 10% from formal learning (teaching, reading etc).
     
  11. Feb 27, 2018 #11

    Norfolk79

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    We're going to Bury St Edmunds for the day on Friday. I'll have to take a look. Cheers for the heads up on the shop
     
  12. Feb 27, 2018 #12

    Dmet

    Dmet

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    Beautiful beers is great. I got my Bulldog from there. Fantastic range of bottle beers, a few draft to take away and pretty good on the homebrew supplies. The guy who runs it is also a home brewer and uses a BB.
     
  13. Feb 28, 2018 #13

    AdeDunn

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    If you are having trouble with efficiency, try treating it like a BIAB, as it basically is one. It's just an automated BIAB with a metal basket rather than a bag, and with recirculation aiding the mash and clarity of the wort.

    I went from kits to all grain BIAB. After a couple of brews I'd finally gotten enough research, and advice, under my belt to start getting rather good efficiency and great tasting beer (the first 2 tasted good too, but had stinking efficiency, like my famous Mosaic Mash where I turned 14 litres of wort into 4.5 litres of 8% beer....). I see no need for people to go via extract brewing, just needs the time spent learning about the process (like stirring properly and a bit of basic water treatment (ie. reducing alkalinity to get a decent mash pH)).

    Regarding your bazooka clogging, sounds like you used hop pellets. You don't get a filter bed forming over it with pellets, so the nasty trub slime and pellet particles go to town clogging it up. Try using at least 60% whole hops. I've been using 100% whole hops lately (BIAB, not Bulldog, but same difference) with 0 clogging.

    I took a different route to learning though. Read loads first (books and internet) - planned things out - gave it a go - assessed the results - back to reading and getting advice - plan - try again etc etc. I used to be a nurse though, so that's how I was trained to do things. Tends to mean I hit hobbies running so to speak, annoying everybody in the process. :wink: I also have a genetic pre-disposition to been obsessive and intense with hobbies, my dad is the same way.:smile6:

    Anyway, ultimately my point is that NOBODY gets things spot on the first couple of brew days. All that varies is how long it takes to finally get your process nailed down to suit you your self.
     
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  14. Feb 28, 2018 #14

    Gerryjo

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    Congrats on your first AG using the BB.

    The fact that you made your mistakes but also gave a detailed report on what they were helps not only yourself but others who may decide to go this root.

    I'm quite sure your beer will be fine as we've all moved fermenters with the airlock filled but you eventually place on lid empty and fill in situ.

    It takes time to get to know your own system and no matter how many years we do it there is always something to be learned..

    Excellent report and please post as how your beer turns out

    Sent from my KFAUWI using Tapatalk
     
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  15. Mar 5, 2018 #15

    Dmet

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    I did my second brew yesterday and in doing so I wanted to move my first brew to condition in a second fermenter. Disaster. I realised that the heat belt I put on which I didn't need has been running for a week so it has had a belt on plus ambient of 19-21°C. I initially put it on as the fermentation was slow and I assumed I had switched it off. It was still giving the odd blow through the airlock after 7 days but I wanted to change to the new fermenter so I could use the first one for the new brew. The gravity was where I thought it should be at 1.010 but there was a smell and taste which I assume was because of the high fermentation temperature. I will leave it to condition and see what happens. May be a write off.

    Second brew day was far more relaxed and I brewed exactly the same as the first. Took around 7 hours with slow time cleaning a the end. Fixed a lot of brew 1 issues. I started with 13 litres and it made doughing in a lot easier. I think I still should have let it rest for a couple of minutes before recirculation to let it soak up a bit more. I can see the advantage of a stainless paddle. I had the wort running pretty quickly, losing no more than 10 minutes on the mash. Still didn't learn to close the tap when messing about and lost a little to the bucket I had put under the tap this time. I am not sure if I made an error or if the boiler was playing up as my mash temperature went up to 70°C when I was sure I set 66.

    As I had 2 new hop bags, it was obvious a lot of the issues I had first time around were hop related. The wort was a lot cleaner. I had filled up my sparge boiler to the top and I did seem to use more water than expected but I was ready this time.

    I realised I had not boiled long enough from the recipe but this shouldn't be an issue.

    I was able to recirculate more when cooling but as has been suggested, I may leave this as the bazooka got blocked with a lot of trub again. Settling during cooling may help.

    I also started my yeast earlier. I had a kilner jar which worked well. I added a small amount of sugar which kicked it off. It started fermenting within an hour which I was pleased with and it is a vigorous fermentation now. My brew length was greater on this brew so had an OG of around 1.040 which is closer to the recipe.

    Learned a lot and we will see how this turn out.
     
  16. Mar 5, 2018 #16

    Linalmeemow

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    Did you drop the power down to 700w during the mash? If you keep the power high the temperature tends to creep up.
     
  17. Mar 5, 2018 #17

    Dmet

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    I have found I don't maintain a rolling boil at 700
     
  18. Mar 5, 2018 #18

    Linalmeemow

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    You're not trying to boil during the mash though!
     
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  19. Mar 5, 2018 #19

    Oneflewover

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    I tend to reduce the power to 1500w ish for the mash. Does 700w maintain temp ok?

    Dmet, sounds like you had a good brewday! Are you using the bulldog sparger?
     
  20. Mar 5, 2018 #20

    Linalmeemow

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    I leave it at 1500w for the first 5 minutes or so of the mash until the temperature settles then back down to 700w and it holds nicely.
     
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