UKSkydiver's Brewdays

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UKSkydiver

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AG#1 - Mad Boris Russian Imperial Stout

I started my first AG BIAB on Boxing Day, and I thought I’d share my notes and learning points. Apologies for the overly long post and if you’re an expert / experienced brewer this might not be for you and you might want to stop here. It’s probably best suited to new brewers such as myself; I’ve only previously done two kit brews.


I thought I’d planned this pretty well, having read articles and researched. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was needed and what to do and when to do it. I was pretty much there but I missed a few things. I don’t think it will make too much difference, but I note it here for the benefit of others.

I was using the Russian Imperial Stout recipe from James Morton’s Brew book. I had used BIABacus to scale the recipe down to about 8 litres into FV.

I treated the strike water with sodium metabisulphite (campden) but then forgot to treat the sparge water in the same manner. Getting the water up to temp seemed ok but I then had thermometer probe issues. First, it would not switch on and then when I did get it working, I had not realised that it had locked and I had to keep taking the battery out to reset the thing. So I happily whizzed past 75c - which meant I then had to faff about taking hot strike water out and replace with cold to get it back down again.

Grain in, and I did this really slowly, probably too slowly, so the temp went down quite a lot to about 65c. I probably should have heated it back up a bit more at this stage. I elected to put it in the oven to mash. Mash temp should have been 68c but ended up being 65c-67c by the time 90 mins was up – I elected to mash for slightly longer as I was using standard crush on the grain.

I had underestimated the mash out. It’s not just the weight per se; only 3.2kg total grain plus absorbed water. The issues are these: it’s heavy-ish, it’s large and unwieldly, it’s hot, it’s wet, it’s sticky. And you’re holding it up and at arm’s length, trying not to splash this hot sticky liquid over SWMBO’s cherished induction hob.

I don’t think I sparged correctly. I put some hot-ish water in a FV, lowered the grain bag in and let it sit for 10 mins. In hindsight, I think I should have poured the water through the grain and then let it sit. It may only make a small difference.

The boil went mostly without issue. I had expected to bring to the boil and then turn the power down to something like 5 to simmer, bit no. It needed to be on 9 for the whole time. I did initially forget to put the hop pellets in the hop sock, but managed to put the majority in there. I would recommend doing this. I would advise against just throwing them in. When I took the hop sock out at the end, it was full of the brown hop sludge, which would have otherwise been in the wort.

I do not have a chiller, so I had prepared loads of massive ice cubes and freezer blocks to stick in the sink. Seemed to work ok and probably took about 40 mins to cool down to a reasonable temp.

I rehydrated a packet of MJ M42. I sanitised tap nozzle, the scissors, the yeast packet, the glass, and the cling film. I know it was a much smaller batch than usual, but on balance, given it’s better to pitch too much, given it’s a high ABV brew and given that it’s not that warm in the garage presently, I used the whole packet. I ‘mis-remembered’ what pitching temp was. I had recalled it needing to be under 25c, so may have been a tad high.

I transferred to the FV through a piece of voile sat in a sieve. I’m now trying to recall if I sanitised it or not. Too late now I guess. When it came to the FV itself, I had a few issues. Firstly, I had selected a FV that was too small – or at least not enough headspace to take into account a lively fermentation. So – cue a rushed clean and sanitise of large FV, tap, etc. Transferred the wort to a larger FV, only to notice that the tap was leaking, so another transfer back to the (cleaned and sanitised) pot, refit the tap (re-sanitised) and transfer back to the final FV.

By the time I had finished all this, it was something like 7 hours later! Two hours of that was cleaning up the kitchen and making sure I was handing it back to SWMBO in exactly the same condition that I had received it in.

After 24 hours, there was some evidence of activity, but I’m having temp issues. With the heat that is generated from the fermentation itself, it can get up to 24c in a reasonably ambient (19-20c) room, whereas it’s going as low as 14c when insulated in a garage. So I’m trying to do the best without any fancy temperature management.

All in all, feeling pretty happy with my first grown up brew, here’s what I learned.


Positives

BIAB seems pretty easy, even though I appeared to make a right meal of it.

The resulting wort tastes so much better than kit wort. I hope this is a sign of good things to come.


Negatives

Find a mate – I was lucky I had someone to help me for most of the time.

It will probably take a lot longer than you think it will – certainly for the first one.

Make detailed notes, not just what you have done, but what you need to do and in what order.

Get a decent thermometer – one with an alarm

Make sure the taps are in correctly
 

MyQul

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Well done! 7 hours is not unusual for a first AG (I think my first was about the same time). As you get more experienced you'll start to get your methods dialled in. So the time will go down and you wont be running around wondering what you should be doing next
 

jjsh

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Well done, hope you enjoyed it. Your total time doesn't seem excessive, as @MyQul has said. I often forget to treat my sparge water with campdem tabs, even when I'm adjusting it for other things, lol, and my tap water can smell very chloriney, and have never had a problem so far, so don't stress the little things to much!
 

matt76

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Great job! athumb..

I think you're absolutely bang on there with your lessons learned so far. It will improve with time - not necessarily quicker but you have more of an idea what you're doing so it's all less frantic.

Few tips I can give you:

- Notes - absolutely! I made a brew sheet in Excel to note down all the important details. If there's a blank space it means I forgot to write something down!

- Time saving: Couple of ways you can do this - maybe it doesn't save so much, but spreads the jobs out a bit so your brewday is less like a marathon!

One is to measure you're stuff out the night before. I usually do my water + treatments the nght before so I just have to switch the boiler on in the morning. I also weigh out my malt and hops the night before so everything is ready to go.

Leave your cooled wort to settle for a few hours - the crud will settle out and you get clearer wort into the FV. In the meantime you can do some tidying and maybe even take a break! ashock1 Again, it spreads the jobs out a bit so you have a break between brewing and pitching.

I used to sparge similar to what you describe, but now I don't bother. This probably saves me 20-30mins of faffing. Instead I just do a full volume mash. You just have to add a bit more grain as efficiency is a bit lower.

I also used to do 60-90min mash + 60min boil. Now I just do 30mins for each and notice no difference. You just have to add a few more hops to allow for the shorter boil. There's another hour saved!

Best of luck with your next brew athumb..
 

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Congrats on your first AG, there’s no turning back now! Great write up and a thoughtful post too
 

chrisb8

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Well done and a good thorough write up for others embarking on their first ag brew day athumb..
As others have said you will speed up the process as you learn and get experience and find your own methods. I now find that I fit various tasks into the waiting periods of mash, sparge and boil so it all runs smoothly. I particularly liked your use of the voile over a sieve to filter the wort, my method of choice and I find it gives a really clear wort athumb..
 

UKSkydiver

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Thank you for taking the time to read and your kind replies.

An update on fermentation... (T +5 days)

As I mentioned, I seemed to be having temp issues and thought after two days that it had stuck. Left it for a few days at 20-21c. No trap activity, which I appreciate having read lots here should not be used as a sign of ferm activity.

So I just took a reading and it’s already down to 1.016, which is bang on what it should be down to, although this assumes an OG of 1.086, and mine was 1.074. And it tastes way better then my last kit stout.

So it looks like the temp hasn’t made much/any difference on fermentation. I know many respected posters here advocate keeping it on the yeast for ~14 days, and I plan to do exactly this.

I’ve just realised I did not post the recipe. Should I post the original or my downscaled / actual quantities?

Cheers
 

UKSkydiver

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Great job! athumb..
Now I just do 30mins for each and notice no difference. You just have to add a few more hops to allow for the shorter boil.
I’m not a great fan of hop forward brews, but appreciate you need something in there.

For this one I reduced the hops from 85IBUs to 50IBUs, so it may be that if I attempt a shorter boil in the future, using the original hop bill may do the trick?
 

matt76

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I’m not a great fan of hop forward brews, but appreciate you need something in there.

For this one I reduced the hops from 85IBUs to 50IBUs, so it may be that if I attempt a shorter boil in the future, using the original hop bill may do the trick?
It's not really a question of liking or not liking hoppy beers...

As you say, you normally add some bittering hops at the start of the boil - and in some cases that's it, nothing more than that...

But let's say a recipe calls for a 20 IBU addition at the start of the boil - if you want to scale that down from 90 or 60 mins to a 30 min boil you'd just use an online calculator to see what mass of hops you'd need to add for 30 mins to get the same number of IBUs.
 

An Ankoù

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Just read the account of your brew day. It's amazing. Any one of us could be blindsided by any one or more of the issues you identify, that;s why every brew is an adventure- and when it stops being so, it becomes a job of work. Not only that, but your pros and cons list show you learnt loads from your first brew and have a natural feel for what's happening and what needs to happen during the processes.
Further to Matt76' time-saving pointers, you could also think about mashing in before bedtime and leaving the whole thing to mash overnight. I've read lots of literature on holding the mash temp for a precise time and then adding hot liquor to stop the mash dead BUT it seems to make little difference if you leave it for 12 or more hours. The temperature of your mash will be much lower when you come back to it so there's probably not a lot going on in there for many of the final hours. Not sure about reducing either the mash or the boil to less than 60 mins, though. I think I'd want to test that conversion was complete at the very least. Looking forward to hearing how your beer turns out.
By the way. I made a batch or Morton's Mad Boris towards the end of November. Only had whole chocolate malt and realised when I came to the sparge that I had entirely forgotten to mill it and put it in. I've now got Mad Boris Imperial Brown Ale (and it's looking good). My mash stuck solid in the cooler box so I had to dig it out and sparge it through my strainer bags. This resulted in more particulate matter from the grain ending up in the kettle, which promptly clogged my Bazooker filter and I had to bail out the last ten litres with a jug. Worst brew day I ever remember having. "A pox on Morton and his lousy recipes" I remember muttering, and worse. (None of Morton's fault of course). Hadn't fully conditioned last time I had a taste, but ended up with what promises to be the most amazing brown ale I've ever tasted.
 
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dillz2003

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With the heat that is generated from the fermentation itself, it can get up to 24c in a reasonably ambient (19-20c) room, whereas it’s going as low as 14c when insulated in a garage. So I’m trying to do the best without any fancy temperature management.
Well done on your first AG brew. I'm up to 12 AG brews in the last 12 months, I am faster now but still trash the kitchen. :roll:

Your observation on temperature struck a chord. I have created a fermentation chamber, basically an old fridge off gumtree with a cheap pipe heater mounted on a block of wood in the bottom controlled with an inkbird. I also use it for chilling corny kegs in the summer.

Anyway! Before Christmas I made a brew that I decided I wanted to ferment at 18c. The fridge is in my hallway under the stairs and the ambient temperature of my hall was only 12c, so I pitched the yeast when the wort was at 22c, put the bucket in the fridge and left the door open for it to cool down a bit more. Interestingly after 3 days sitting in a room at 12c, the wort temperature had only dropped to 18.5c. The fermentation process was generating it's own heat. After 3 days I turned on the heater as the fermentation subsided.

Makes me wonder how many brews I have inadvertently over heated in the past during the summer months by letting them do their own thing.
 

UKSkydiver

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AG#2 Scottish Export Ale
Recipe from James Morton - Brew

OG 1.045
FG 1.010
ABV 4.7%
25IBU
36EBC

Scaled down for 9 litres in to fermenter
MO 1.64 kg / 84.2%
Special B 103g / 5.3%
Pale Crystal 103g / 5.3%
Amber malt 51g / 2.6%
Choc malt 51g / 2.6%

12 litres strike to 74 deg
Mash for 60 mins @ 68c

Mash out - raise to 75c
Sparge with ~3 litres water

Boil for 60 mins
EKG @5%aa 13g FWH
EKG @5%aa 13g 15mins
Protofloc @ 10-15 mins

WLP028 or Wyeast 1728, but I’ve actually substituted with CML Beoir, because of the reviews of it on here, and I’m a bit overwhelmed with the idea of liquid yeast and starters for the time being. All in good time. athumb..
 

UKSkydiver

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AG#2 Scottish Export Ale - Update

Thought I'd share my experiences on this one.
Originally re-hydrated and pitched CML Beoir at 18c and put it in a cupboard.

After 3 days, no sign of any bubbling or krausen so I cracked the lid and had a sniff. Smelled like rotten eggs. Bit of googling suggested this can be expected during fermentation. Gravity measured 1.030 -ish so clearly yeast doing something.

Left well alone for a week at 17-19c and had another sniff (eggy smell gone) and gravity down to 1.012. Sample looking really clear and tasting pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

So planning to bottle this at the weekend assuming it's finished.
 

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AG#2 Scottish Export Ale - Update

Thought I'd share my experiences on this one.
Originally re-hydrated and pitched CML Beoir at 18c and put it in a cupboard.

After 3 days, no sign of any bubbling or krausen so I cracked the lid and had a sniff. Smelled like rotten eggs. Bit of googling suggested this can be expected during fermentation. Gravity measured 1.030 -ish so clearly yeast doing something.

Left well alone for a week at 17-19c and had another sniff (eggy smell gone) and gravity down to 1.012. Sample looking really clear and tasting pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

So planning to bottle this at the weekend assuming it's finished.
How did this turn out for you after bottling? I'll be brewing the 7th evolution of my Scottish 80 recipe (in search of the perfect one) and will be using the Beior yeast. Heard lots of good things about it.
 

UKSkydiver

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I only bottled 2 days ago, so that's 3 weeks and 2 days in the FV. All the eggy smells had gone and it has cleared really nicely.
My numbers were a bit down - probably down to BIAB and process and lack of experience.
OG 1044 - FG 1014, giving ~ 4%
I'm actually really looking forward to trying this because its not a stout, for a change - I used protofloc for the first time and I kept the FV at a much more constant temp, so hoping those small changes will yield some good results.
 

UKSkydiver

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AG#3 - Bath Ales Gem Clone

Started brewing my next brew. Me and Mrs UKS both like a Gem, so I thought I'd try a clone.

My last AG#2 Scottish 80/' is ok, but has a bit of a twang. @strange-steve has kindly given me a pointer in the right direction re. sodium metabisulphite additions. Teeny tiny apparently.

With this one, I added about 0.07g sodium metabisulphite. I've also reduced the alkalinity (to about 114ppm) by blending with Tesco Ashbeck, but because I have no additions, I've also reduced the Ca to about 80ppm. I need more stuff in my brew kit larder.

Oxfordshire Gem
Pitching for OG of 1. 047 which should yield 4.9%
28 IBU

Only a 7 litre batch. It's a bit mish mash of 3-4 recipes that weren't 100% full of detail so I've gone with the following:

MO 1334g / 91%
Crystal 58g / 4%
Wheat Malt 58g / 4%
Chocolate 15g / 1%

Mash
30 mins @ 50c then
60 mins @ 67c

Challenger 7% AA 10g @ FWH
EKG 5% AA 6g @ 15 mins

S-04 @ 18c
20200328_154433.jpg
 

UKSkydiver

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How did this turn out for you after bottling?
Hi @JonBrew
I'm a fair way through these now. I had forgotten you asked the question.

I'm not sure I've ever tried a Scottish Export / 80 shilling, so difficult to comment. It's certainly drinkable.

Lovely dark red colour.

Ended up being 4.2% ish. Not hoppy at all, quite balanced I think.

I may have over carbonated / primed it. It seems really gassy. It's better when I pour between two glasses to remove some of the gassy-ness.

I think I also used too much Campden, something I've only just fixed in my latest brew.

I'd like to try this again, with a better temperature regime, a better understanding of water alkalinity, less campden, less priming sugar..... I think the basic recipe stands up, it's just my processes that let it down...

Still beer though!
Cheers
20200412_171124.jpg
 
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