Fermenting Adventures: Beer Edition

Posted on November 14, 2012

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I built a mash tun this last weekend. Until several hours before our scheduled start of the first ever beer homebrew I didn’t actually know that a mash tun was anything but a drink cooler. I wasn’t aware that it required building and extra hardware. My brain was so overfull with information about homebrewing and original gravity readings and IBU levels and grain types and whatnot that I couldn’t process much more information and in the building of said mash tun, I worked so terribly hard to get two pieces together and then had to work even harder to get them back apart when I realized they didn’t belong together in the first place.

The equipment to do all grain brewing was a little more expensive than we had originally anticipated, but that’s only because we had bought smaller carboys when we did our mead instead of one large carboy. Had we done that, we would have saved at least a little, but the stainless steel brew kettle and the mash tun were the priciest pieces of the puzzle. Lucky for us, those are things that, given proper care, will last a long time and won’t be an expense again for quite some time.

We visited our local brew store, Southern Brewing & Winemaking for some of the equipment (minus the mash tun) and used one of their all-grain recipes for a Fruit Wheat. Nate and I are both fans of wheat beers and I am a raspberry fiend, so we went with a raspberry puree. Nate wanted to get our own fruit and puree it, but I talked him down from that since I knew we would have plenty of work doing our first homebrew and didn’t need the additional work of borrowing a food processor to blend fruit (not to mention that would probably cost more in the price of raspberries) and making the puree.

Two friends joined us for the long-night fiasco that turned out to be less of a fiasco than I had anticipated. Before starting, I felt like I had read too much, retained too little, and basically had no idea what I was doing, but as we started, I realized that I was pretty confident about what to do, what parts went where, and all that jazz. It took a long time, and I totally understand why people use a wort chiller even though it wastes a ton of water. I think we may have wasted an equivalent amount of water in the bathtub with ice bottles and cold water in the tub trying to cool it, but I liked what one lady I saw online did – she ran her wort chiller water into her washing mashing so that they could use it to do a load of laundry after they were done. We don’t have an outdoor setup, turns out our electric stove worked pretty fine for what we needed, but if we invest in a gas burner at some point, that will be a good way to go.

One of the things I would like to cut cost on is the water. I know that spring water is typically better because you don’t want chlorine in your beer water, but we don’t have a chlorine filter. I suppose if we start doing this regularly it would be worthwhile to invest in a filter, though I would really like to get a nice carbon filter like my aunt and uncle have. It’s so good that, according to my uncle, we could pee in it and it would come out drinkable. Not something I’d like to try, but good to know.

This is sparging the wort. Everyone that had ever eaten grapenuts said that this was what it smelled like. I’ve never had that particular cereal, but it smelled to me like a strong black tea. Not sure how those two compare, but regardless, it was a really pleasant smell to have around the house.

Wheat pee. Delicious stuff, though a little lacking in balance, I’m sure.

I’m going to post the recipe and hopefully soon a translation of brewing lingo, because I had a real rough time with a few basic things and it would’ve been so nice to have someone explain things in 4 year old terms to me – just pretending that we’re talking about a big batch of fizzy koolaid or something.

Already we had the beginnings of an overflow since the one alteration we made to the recipe was the yeast. Nate opted to use Weihenstephan yeast instead of what the recipe called for. According to a lot of people on the interwebs, it is common for this yeast to act very quickly and for there to be full explosions of primary fermenters that don’t have blow off tubes…something I knew nothing of until we started to have a whole lot of bubbling stuff coming out of our airlock. Necessity is a great teacher.

The bubbling overflow smelled good. I think this is a good sign for the finished product.

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Posted in: brewing