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Transition to AG brewing and Recipe Design (Part 2)

Posted by xnoom on 11/03/2016 at 09:29:06 PM


Part 1

Brew 5: Second All-Grain + BrewPi

I wanted better control over fermentation temperature, so I picked up a BrewPi Spark (a little more expensive, but requires much less of a time commitment to piece together than the original BrewPi).


The installation was anything but pretty, using powerswitch tails stuck to the side with mounting tape to control the fridge and fermwrap.  While not ideal, the door gasket sealed well enough to stay in the mid-30s with wires running past it into the fridge.

I picked another highly rated kit from Northern Brewer, Waldo Lake Amber.  I also grabbed my local water report and plugged the numbers into Bru'n Water.  I didn’t know exactly what I was doing with it yet, but I was pretty good at blindly adjusting numbers until things turned green.

This brew was a bit of a learning experience on my system.  I undershot mash temp, which I tried to adjust… which led to overshooting mash volumes and undershooting boil gravity.  But, I had miscalculated mash tun dead space (protip: when measuring dead space with a pick-up tube below a false bottom, make sure to measure with a hose attached!), so my fermenter volume was too low.  All of this left me with a pretty sweet efficiency of 58%, but I had gotten a better handle on the measurements for future brews.


The graph output from the BrewPi showed how well the fermentation temp stayed on target.  Particularly of interest to me was visual confirmation of increased temperatures during the most active part of fermentation, with how much colder the fridge needed to be to keep the temperature down.

Having enjoyed ditching the autosiphon, I followed this post about pressure pushing so I could stop hauling around a full fermenter.

I grabbed a coupler to connect the gas line to a piece of silicone tubing that was attached to another spigot on top.

Despite all the volume issues I had, this beer ended up quite good… amber ales generally aren’t my favorite, but the hops balanced this one out quite nicely.  However, I started to notice a rather prominent plasticky off taste on the first pour from the keg that would take a while to chase down… I had to dump the first 2-3 ounces every time beer had sat in the line for more than a couple hours, but subsequent pours tasted as expected.


Brew 6: Third All-Grain + Water Improvements


For my third all-grain, I continued my foray into water adjustment with Bru’n Water.  Since I had enjoyed the extract version, I decided to give the AG Caribou Slobber kit a try.

I had previously tried some PH strips, but they were pretty much completely useless.  Various reviews convinced me to get a  MW102 pH tester.

I was aiming for 5.30 here, but made a slight error when I adjusted the dilution percentage in Bru’n Water at the last minute.  The pH came out a bit lower than I’d wanted, though the spreadsheet was spot on for what I actually ended up doing!

I also picked up a water filter and drinking water hose, which worked much better than trying to get 9 gallons of water out of the slow dispenser on my refrigerator.


In the continuing quest to dial in my system, my strike temperature and volumes were both right where I wanted them for the first time.  My gravity came out a bit low due to a misunderstanding of beersmith efficiency calculations (which still seems backwards).

I also picked up a JaDeD Hydra in an attempt to be more drought-friendly, which greatly improved chilling time… the thermometer on the kettle dropped at an impressive rate.  I tried using my old wort chiller as pre-chiller, but it didn’t really seem to have much effect.  Or really any effect at all, as I’ve read...

This beer came out great, and way better than the extract version I’d done, which I’d attribute mostly to process improvements.  It was actually kind of difficult to differentiate from real Moose Drool.

Brew 7: Fourth All-Grain + Monster Mill

I next redid the Kona Fire Rock clone recipe from my first all-grain, since it came and went at one party.

Still trying to dial in my process, I decided to pick up a mill.  I hadn’t yet had any problems with crush that I was aware of, but I liked the idea of the control and consistency offered by having a mill at home.


Recommendations for the best mill all seemed to point at the Monster Mill MM3.

I picked one up and started with a gap of .040”, which seemed to produce a good crush (as far as I could tell, from basing it off of pictures of a “good crush” from the internets).

I also picked up a dip tube, which let me recover half a gallon of extra wort from the kettle.

Things were starting to come together more with my process: volumes were all close, mash temp was just a touch high, and pH was on target.  My brewhouse efficiency and hydrometer OG were very slightly low, but I was definitely getting closer.

This beer definitely came out way better than the first time… it had much better body, and felt much more balanced.  I was actually starting to feel like my beer was noticeably improving!

The off taste on the first pour was back in though… I suspect it only went unnoticed the first time it was brewed because it never sat in the lines for very long.


Brew 8: FIfth All-Grain


I was still researching recipe design, so I made the popular Left Hand Milk Stout clone.

I had meant to take a picture of crushed grains from the first time using my mill, but I forgot.

I was going to try and pass off this picture, but I figured someone might notice this didn’t look like the grain bill for a pale ale.

Part 3

Tags for this post: all grain, equipment, transition, brewing

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Nice write up. Can you elaborate more about the brew pi spark? How is the user interface to use, the wifi to PC software and can you log in remotely to change the temperature in real time??


posted by B Dub on 11/25/2016 at 10:41:02 AM