Brewing an English bitter on a hot day
It’s hot. I brewed.
We’ve been way above normal all spring and summer so far, and here we are on what is expected to be the second 100 degree day in a row. And I made a yeast starter last night so despite the heat I spent the morning outside on another brew session.
Today’s beer is another kit from Northern Brewer called The Innkeeper. It is a straightforward beer with added corn sugar to up the gravity. This is my second all-grain brew, and though the first went very smoothly I’m still not confident yet. The only way to get there of course is to just keep brewing.
I started the brew proccess at around 10 in the morning by procuring a second propane tank. I’m tired of fuel anxiety and also don’t want to waste fuel by exchanging a tank early. Going forward I will keep a full backup in the garage for when I do run out. My burner appears to be fairly efficient and I didn’t run out of gas, but now I don’t have to worry as much.
The process went a lot smoother than my first all-grain batch. I modified the valve on my mash tun so that the ball valve arm no longer interfered with the cooler wall. I also preheated the tun and took the actual temperatures from my first batch into account when calculating my strike water temperature. This time I nailed my target mash temperature, though with the huge air space above my grain bed (the cooler I use would be better for 10 gallon batches) I lost some heat and added another quart of boiling water about halfway through the process.
Still, it went smoothly. And for once I had enough wort pre-boil that I ended the boil right on my target of 5 gallons. This is largely a result of learning over time how much volume I needed before starting the boil.
Sparging also went smoothly, except that because of the size of my mash tun and relatively small amount of grain I had trouble establishing a good filter bed. I’m thinking maybe I should get a smaller cooler, but for now I just hope the addition of Irish moss 15 minutes from the end of the boil helped clear things up, along with the siphoning of the wort into the fermenter rather than pouring.
Sparging also took longer than I would have hoped, at nearly an hour. I ran two batch sparges of 10-12 quarts each, which is probably more water than I should have ran. Measured extraction gravity was 1.030, which is close to target. Boil gravity was higher because of the additional corn sugar.
The boil went smoothly, and measured original gravity, before aeration and yeast, was 1.044, just a hair higher than the target of 1.043. The beer’s in the fermenter now, wrapped in a cool wet towel to try to keep the temperature in the target range.
Brewing is a lot of waiting, especially with an all-grain batch. There’s the 30 – 40 minutes to get the water to the right temperature, and then there’s the hour to mash, then another 30 – 60 minutes to complete the sparge process, then another 15 – 30 minutes to get the wort back to a boil, then an hour to boil, then 20 – 30 minutes to cool the wort, then another 30 minutes or so to get it transferred to the fermenter and aerated, and pitch the yeast. Then cleanup.
Maybe others are more efficient, but my basic assumption was that with an approximately 11 am start I would be done in the middle of the afternoon. In the end, the brew finished with pitching the yeast into the fermenter at about 3:15 pm, and I finished cleanup at 4.
I need to start brewing with friends so we can brew larger batches and tag team the process so that it is less solitary. Honestly as much as I enjoy brewing the step-by-step process is kind of boring and always frustrating.
The results are 5 gallons of The Innkeeper now fermenting in the corner of the dining room. For the next few days I’ll keep a careful eye on the fermenter temperature. It’s simple enough of a beer that in about 3 weeks I’ll bottle it, and a couple of weeks after that I’ll be drinking an English bitter that has a reputation for being excellent.
Posted on 24 June 2012