Wulf's Webden

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Concentrating on Homebrew

After an extended hiatus, I have got another brew going, speculatively christened “Summer Mild”. As with the brown ale I made in January, this one has been created directly from crushed malt rather than resorting to a tin of pre-prepared wort. The brown ale was tasty (if, frankly, more like a stout in the final style) but I only ended up with 8 bottles of the stuff. The challenge is that I don’t have a large enough pot to boil large quantities of hot, sugary liquid so I needed to figure out how to increase the volume of my wort within the constraints of what was available (where is the fun in just going out and buying a bigger pot!).

I started with 1 kg of grains: 850g pale malt and 150g crystal malt, placed in my brew bag inside my cooking pot. I poured on 2l of @ 63°C and left to soak for 30 minutes, with a couple of blasts of heat to keep the temperature in the low 50’s (but above 52°C). Next, I added 1l boiling water and did my best to keep between 66-68°C for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using the oven hob and a digital temperature isn’t an ideal solution but it works reasonably well. This should be enough to get most of the starch converted to sugar and I then raised the temperature to 70°C for 20 minutes to finish that process.

Next comes sparging. I lifted the grain bag into a plastic colander over a bowl and used 2l of very hot (not long off the boil) water to apply several rinses, pressing the bag and draining off the collected liquid into my brewpot between each one. Rubber gloves helped here, allowing me to give the bag a good squeeze despite the temperature.

The spent grain was emptied into the bowl, covered and set aside to go in the fridge later. Their work was done for brewing but I’ll use some of it in various recipes over the next day or two and put the rest on the compost heap. Branflakes and grain was lovely for breakfast! Into the now empty brewbag went 10g of rather old fuggles hops and I brought the wort up to the boil for 30 minutes. I exercised a certain measure of caution at this stage – last time, the mixture did boil over and it is not the easiest mix to clean from behind the oven! I then withdrew about 200ml to check the gravity. It took longer than I anticipated to cool it but I eventually got a result of 1.058 @ 30°C. Next time, I think I will just add ten minutes to the brew time and forget the gravity check.

Now comes the cunning bit. I decanted about 2l of the mixture to a sanitised plastic jerry can and sealed it in. With more headroom in the pot, I then added 500g of medium spraymalt (a sugar made from malted grain) and boiled for a further ten minutes. This was a fiercer boil but now I had the head room to do this safely. A further 6g fuggles hops were added (the aroma addition) and boiled for a final ten minutes. I then added the very high gravity contents of the pot to the pure-grain wort already in the jerry can, sealed it up, cleared the kitchen and left it to cool over night. In a typical all-grain set-up, you would have tried to cool the wort as quickly as possible but that requires another investment in equipment (costing money and storage space). Instead, the sanitised and sealed container is a relatively clean environment, with only boiling hot liquid introduced.

This morning the can was down to about 26°C on the outside. I sanitised some more equipment and then siphoned from the jerry can into my plastic brewing vat. By leaving the last bit, the trub (sediment from unbrewable solids) will be reduced when it comes to bottling. At this point, I had about 3l wort with an extremely high gravity reading of 1.114@26°C (less than the volume of water used – boiling sends off steam and there was wastage at other steps). This is a long way off the syrup you buy in cans but need diluting to reduce the gravity and — aha! — increase the volume. I told you it was cunning!

I began adding cold water and took a sample to read gravity and temperature after each addition (intially 2l at a time and then down to 1l as I neared my target). I decided to return the sample to the wort each time since I had been careful about sanitising everything; it is always a balance between the sterile standards and practicality.  Eventually, with about 9l total volume, I reached 1.038@22°C. Following the yeast instructions, I sprinkled it on top, left for 15 minutes and then gave a good stir before lightly sealing the top (the lid is rested on the rim rather than pressed down; a folded sheet helps keep it in place but will allow the lid to lift if too much CO2 builds up).

So, another brew on the way and bottling, I expect, in just over a week.

  • Phil Cheesman

    I treated myself to a ‘toy’ homebrew kit from Mr Beer – hopped malt extract stylee in a small keg. I think they mostly use bottom-fermenting lager yeasts, which work at colder temperatures but take longer; had an american style pale ale and waiting for a Märzen to finish conditioning. Our local cask-offy proprietor in Fordingbridge said all-grain is the way to go, but I’m just playing really! :o)

    • basswulf

      Serious “All Grain” brewing traditionally demands a lot of expensive (and bulky) gear; my mission is to work out how to cook up similar brews but without stretching much beyond the contents of a standard domestic kitchen.

      How large is the fermenting vessel in your “Mr Beer”?