Winter Brewing Wonderland

The first winter brew was a success. Even though the time from heating water to wort in the fermenter was over 24 hours, the process went quite well.

I started off the day by moving my brewery from the garage to the scenic back porch. The move saved me time hauling everything up from the basement and allowed me to watch the kettle from the comfort of the great indoors.

Heating went well but I overshot my strike temperature by a few degrees, which required me to add some cool water at the beginning of the mash to get my target temp of 150º. I kept the mash tun inside, but still lost five degrees in the mash over the initial 50 minute stretch. I will have to start preheating my mash tun in the future to solve this.

After that 50 minutes I added the rest of the water, but it was room temperature rather than heated to near boiling. After stirring, I let it mash for another ten before mashing out. The temp of the mash dropped to 125º after the water addition.

I took a sample of the kettle volume and got an unusually high reading of 1.059 after temperature correction. Based on this, I would have over 100% efficiency which of course is not possible. There must have been some extra bubbles or some human error involved in that reading because it was way too high based on past efficiency.

I continued to the boil by bringing the kettle back outside and began heating the wort. I put my mash bag in a separate pot to drain a bit more liquid out of the mash and grabbed a few cups of the grain to make some bread later this week. Heating took a bit longer because of the cold temperatures and because the mash was a bit cooler than usual. I left the lid partially on to keep a few falling snowflakes out of the wort and to help the heating process.

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Once the boil started rolling, I added a few drops of Fermcap to prevent a boil-over and started my hour timer. I made my first hop addition with 40 minutes remaining, adjusting for extra activity that comes with No Chill. With 15 minutes remaining I added a Whirlfloc tablet for fining, followed by my final hop addition five minutes later.

Once the boil finished, I shut off the burner and put my sanitized cover on the pot to protect the wort from any outside contaminants. After a quick whirlpool to gather all the sediment in the middle, I got ready to siphon.

To transfer the wort out of the kettle, I grabbed my jerry can, heat-rated tubing and a wine thief to begin the siphon. With this method, I had one end of the tube in the wort and the other attached to the wine thief. I had to suck air through the wine thief to create suction and begin the siphon. I expected the siphon would be difficult to without my auto-siphon, but one pull of air and the flow got going. I quickly detached the wine thief and dropped the tube into the jerry can with minimal spillage.

A little wort go into the wine thief, but nowhere near my mouth so there is a very low risk of contamination. I may have to look into drilling a hole in my kettle so I can attach a valve and let gravity to the heavy lifting for me.

The siphon stopped with a bit of wort still in the kettle, so I poured the rest into the jerry can to top it so there was very little air inside. I squeezed the as much of the remaining air as I could out of the can before sealing it. There was quite a bit of hop sediment in the can and the pot, so I will probably get myself a hop sock or something similar to catch a bunch of the gunk and make transfer easier.

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I left the jerry can outside to cool a bit in the cold while I cleaned up my equipment. After I finished, I moved it back inside to where I normally place my fermenter to let it cool for about 24 hours. The can became quite flexible with the hot wort inside, but the HDPE material handled it well and allowed me to handle the can without burning myself.

The next afternoon, the wort had cooled enough for me to transfer the wort into the fermenter. I got all of my tools sanitized and transferred the wort, this time using my auto-siphon to get started. Almost all of the approximately 5.2 gallons of wort in the jerry can, minus some trub particles.

I took a original gravity reading which came out a 1.050, eight points lower than my target 1.058. This is most likely due to my cold water addition at the end of the mash. My usual No Sparge style is to boil my remaining water and at it in for the final 10 minutes and I had pretty good efficiency that way. No Sparge is always going to drop efficency, and I usually end up around 70% when I’m done, but I’m at 63% this time around. I think I will stick with boiling my water for final addition in the future, and leave cold sparging for something light like a session beer. I might even do a true batch sparge for a “bigger” beer like this one next time.

I did taste a bit of the gravity sample and really liked it. The chocolate malt really brings a good flavor and I’m excited to try this beer in a month.

I had activated the yeast earlier in the day and pitched it once the fermenter was in place in my basement and aerated.

I checked on the beer this morning and there is a thin layer of krausen on top as fermentation has started. I will update with a new post this evening.

Cheers,

TJ

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