HomeBrew Batch #6 – Revenge of FrankenBrew

Today I brewed my 6th batch of homebrew – a 5 gallon batch of Brookyn Brew Shop’s BBQ Beer, which I adapted from their all grain recipe into my own partial mash recipe due to limitations of my equipment.   I took the original recipe, then played around on Hopville, under the tutelage of my Homebrew Consiglieri, Yukon, and came up with a partial mash version.

I thought that my partial-mash-ification would solve my issues, but before I even started I realized that I had a problem.  I heated 2 1/4 gallons of water in my 5 gallon brew kettle to mash the grains.  I added the grains, and the temp kept pretty steady for the mash.  In another pot, I heated 3 gallons of sparge water, and in a third pot I heated 1 1/2 gallons of fresh maple sap (2 1/2% sugar) to sparge with (just for kicks – I expect it to have approximately no effect at all).   Now I was using my 3 largest pots already, and I had nothing big left.   I realized that I’d have to sparge into my fermenting bucket.

So I clipped a 5 gallon paint strainer bag to the lip of the fermenting bucket, and poured the mash into there, straining out the grains.  Then I poured the 3 gallons of sparge water over it, which, combined with the grain, mostly filled the fermenting bucket.  I removed the grain, and dipped them into my sparge-sap, swirling them around for a few minutes.   Then I poured all of my wort back into my 5 gallon brew kettle.  Only there was a problem – I put 4 1/2 gallons of wort in the brew kettle and still had 2 gallons left.  Ok – that’s understandable – I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting to happen here – how was I ever going to boil this batch in this 5G kettle?   So I split it into two kettles.   I brought them to a boil, and the rest of the boil was approximating 2/3rd &  1/3rd between my two pots on the malt extract and hop additions.   I wasn’t super worried, as I’d be combining everything at the end.

In the end, after cooling everything down in two different water baths in two different sinks,  I ended up with a big pot of 1.05 OG wort, and a small pot of 1.085 OG wort.  I combined them into my fermenter, straining them again to get the hop-sludge out, and to my surprise I only had 4 gallons of wort left.  So I added 1 gallon of water.   Then I took another gravity reading, and I was at 1.05, which sucked, cause I was aiming for 1.065. (if I had 2.75 gallons of 1.05 wort, 1 gallon of 1.00 H2O, and 1.25 gallons of 1.085 wort, that works out to just about 1.05 when you average them – so that’s probably the approximate volumes I had).

Then I took advantage of the 1lb of dry pilsner extract that I’d picked up precisely for this purpose, and quickly dissolved it in a small pot of water.  I added 1/2 cup of maple syrup too, because the extract alone wasn’t going to give me the gravity points I needed, and because I had the maple syrup in the fridge, and because that’s just how I roll.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of water that I needed to dissolve the dry malt extract, and I was working quickly, so I ended up with a few little “clumps” in there – I didn’t sweat it.  At this point I’d been at it for like 4 hours, and I just poured the sugar-load into the fermenting bucket and took another gravity reading:  1.06.

This is the first time I was using my brand new True Brew 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket with grommeted lid, and I triumphantly pitched the yeast, put the lid on my finished product (stage one finished, at least) and pushed the airlock in.   The fucking grommet popped right out and into my wort.  “Nooo. NOOOOOOOOOO”  I was howling to no one in particular.  Now what to do?  There was no way I was going to rack this wort into another container and then back.  It’s either leave the grommet in there, or fish it out with my arm.   I decided to leave it.   Then I looked on HomeBrewTalk.com, where it seems this problem is a bit of a right of passage – it’s the first thread for many a homebrew noob: “Help – I dropped a grommet in my wort – what do I do?”   Thankfully, the answer was unanimously “LEAVE IT,” and I relaxed, no longer worrying that my hard work would have a rubber grommet flavor tone to it.

I grabbed the grommet of off my old fermenting bucket’s lid, and set up my airlock, carrying the bucket down to rest in my basement.

So I called this one FrankenBrew because I totally bastardized it:  I used my own brand of Beer Calculus to make my own recipe adjustments, then I boiled in two pots at once, ending up with some very different gravities.  Finally, after all that, I added some extra dry malt extract and maple syrup, and threw in a rubber grommet for good measure.   I just hope the batch works out ok – I’m guessing that the few little clumps of dry malt extract sugary goodness won’t be a problem…

stay tuned.

-KD

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