Ok, so I had planned for my brew day to fall on Sunday but that just didn’t happen. To be quite honest, I had a great time watching Netflix and chilling with my wife that day instead. That said, I knew I still wanted to get my brew day underway as soon as possible. I got it in on Monday, March 6th instead. Unfortunately the lesson I learned from this brew day was simple but painful: Don’t ever schedule a brew day on a weekday when you were just at work all day and have to go to work the next day!
My other brew times have totaled only about three hours per brew day, but they’ve also only been one-gallon batches. This weekend I spent some time picking up my latest toy: a nice, hefty five-gallon carboy to get to work on larger batches. (As an aside: if brewing is going to be a full-on hobby of yours, I’d recommend you get the largest carboy you could imaginably see yourself making brews in sooner rather than later. It’s a lot less costly to just get the large carboy from the jump rather than constantly upgrading to larger and larger equipment. The same should hold true for other home brew equipment too.) I had no idea just how much longer it would take to make a three-gallon batch over a one-gallon one. All in all it took me two additional hours to finish the larger batch for five hours total!
The steps are still the same for larger batches; it’s the waiting and lag time that’s different. I found that both the sparge and the boil take a whole lot longer with larger batches than they do with smaller ones. In order to get a really good sparge with a larger batch, you pretty much have to divide your grains up into multiple allotments in your mesh strainer again and again and again. Not a deal-breaker but it definitely eats at your time a bit especially since you want to recirculate your wort through your grains at least once during the sparge.
Meanwhile the boil was on a whole different level! I used a nice, new, extra-large stainless steel brew pot that I picked up from a nearby discount store for about 30 bucks. While I liked the fact that it fit so much volume inside it making it efficient for mashing, I underestimated how inefficient it would be for the boil. It took almost 45 minutes for me to reach a boil and even then I only reached the boiling point because I temporarily covered the pot with its lid in order to contain the heat!
Once it got boiling, everything else was pretty smooth sailing. Even the ice bath seemed to work out pretty well, and I subsequently found that using a large ladle works really well for getting a good amount of your wort into your primary fermentation container fairly efficiently until you’re ready to just grab the pot and tip the wort into the container directly.
I followed the recipe pretty much as described previously. As for my hops, I used 1/2 Hallertau at the start of my boil, 1/4 Glacier after 45 minutes into boiling, and then I topped it off with the last 1/4 of my Hallertau after turning off the heat following another 15 minutes of boiling.
Primary fermentation seems to be moving along pretty nicely so far; I took a couple of peeks at my batch while it ferments underneath my kitchen cabinet in the darkness, and I saw lots of carbon dioxide bubbles popping along the surface of the sanitizing solution where my blow-off tube is gently relaxing. The inside of the container looks like my yeast is having a grand old party!
All in all, the brew day was a success. To summarize, my main lessons were as following:
- Don’t brew after a long day of work. ESPECIALLY if that long day of work is being followed by another day of work the next day. Your body won’t forgive you for it.
- Larger batches mean longer brew times.
- To help increase your efficiency it might help to divide up your wort into a couple of smaller brew pots during the boil. Boiling wort requires a lot more time and energy to bring one large volume to a boil but that’s not the case when you divide your volume into smaller containers.
- The ladle is your friend. Use it when you’re beginning to transfer your cooled-down wort from your brew pot through your strainer through your funnel and into your fermentation container.
I owe you a post outlining my basic all-grain brewing steps. I’m also excited to inform you that the Amber Ale I started making a couple of weeks back looks like it might only be a day away from bottling. Stay tuned for updates on that.
Please feel free to post comments with any questions or thoughts you might have. Have a great day!