I know that there aren’t many people that actually read my posts… I see the statistics every time I log in. It may be mostly because I don’t post as often as I should, my posts could just not be interesting enough or maybe no one really cares. Either way, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t really expect to have 100,000 visits every time I post something. One day that expectation may change, but for now I’m ok with everything the way it is… well, almost. For years I’ve been wanting to do something a little more, and I’ve had ideas for doing a podcast or video tutorials or something along those lines, but then I start to research the topics and realize that there are already tons of podcasts and video tutorials out there on just about everything I’m interested in. Add to that the fact that I can tend to be incredibly lazy and you have a great recipe for never venturing forth to do anything. That is what I need to overcome. I can make excuses about any number of things, but when it comes down to the mark, the only thing holding me back is myself. Who cares if there are 100 tutorials on how to do a double crochet stitch, or if there are 200 podcasts on brewing beer. I can’t continue to let those hold me back, because there may not be a tutorial showing the best way to crochet a warming blanket for your fermenter, or a podcast discussing ALL of the things that I enjoy. So I now say “Laziness, be gone with thee!”
Now, on to the beer update. I got my equipment kit and my first ingredient kit (as well as a 24qt aluminum Turkey Fryer) last week. I was really hoping to get my first batch brewed up on Sunday, but we all know things don’t always work out as we originally plan them. I did finally get the chance last night, and after my first brewing experience I definitely learned a thing or two. First let’s get to what I did.
I was making a pot of chili (or Meat Soup as I called it last night) while brewing, so while I was working on the chili I started warming my pot of filtered water to boiling. Now I also pretty much followed the instructions in the kit, despite reading on a forum that kit instructions tend to be bad. This being my first experience, I just stuck with the kit. One thing I did do differently, though, is I used probably around 3 – 4 gallons of water for the boil instead of the 1.5 gallons that the instructions called for. I was also heating the malt extract in a small boiler with hot water while waiting for the boil to start.
When the big pot finally started boiling, I turned off the heat and added one can of extract and the first 1 oz of hops and stirred quite a bit to make sure it was mixed in well. I brought it back to a boil, which took longer than I thought it should have, and let it go for around 30 minutes. At that point I again turned off the heat and added the second can of extract and the other 1 oz of hops. I didn’t mention it earlier, but this is a Bavarian Hefeweizen kit and the hops are liberty. I’m also not a huge fan of really bitter beers, so I did almost wait and add all the hops at the end instead of adding the first ounce at the beginning, but like I said earlier, since it was my first time I decided to stick fairly close to the instructions. Anyway, after adding the other can of extract and hops, I brought it back to a boil and let it go for around 15 more minutes. In all, while the wort “boiled” for 45 minutes, it sat on the heat for over an hour. This was all done on the kitchen stove also, which is the first thing I think I will change next time. Just have to get a propane tank for the burner.
While the wort was boiling for the last 15 minutes, I sanitized the fermenter and airlock, and then added around a half a gallon of cold filtered water to the fermenter. When the boil finished, then it was time to cool it down. This is where I probably learned one of the most important things that I think I could have learned, and that is 3 – 4 gallons of 200+ degree wort can take a LOOOONNNNNNNGGGG time to cool to around 70 degrees. First I took it off the heat and let it sit, and it cooled to under 200. I thought I would attempt to speed it up, so I took all the ice in our freezer (which really turned out to not be that much), poured it in our sink and put the pot on top of it. A hot aluminum pot melts ice pretty fast by the way. After a few minutes I also added cold water to the sink, and then drained and refilled it a couple times as the water in the sink warmed. At this point it was probably around 150 and I decided I would go ahead and add it to the fermenter and then pour cold filtered water on top to try to cool it that way. Well, I only needed around a gallon to get it up to 5 gallons, so that didn’t help much. I then decided to put it on the counter and let it sit.
It probably sat on the counter for around 30 minutes before I decided to move it to the final fermenting location (the spare bathroom). I ended up putting it in the spare tub, and filled the tup with cold water. Then I just sat there stirring (with a sanitized spoon of course). I was using two thermometers and according to both the wort just was not cooling, even though I could physically feel it cooling. Eventually I just got tired of stirring and decided that even though the thermometer on my fermenter was still showing above 78, it felt cool enough to me, so I pitched the yeast, and sealed it up. I even tested the air lock to make sure there were no leaks. I usually go to bed around 9 – 10 pm, and it was mighty close to midnight at this point. I figured I would know in the next day or so if it was working, and went to bed.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I also took a gravity reading while cooling the wort, and as best as I could tell it sat at around 1.049, which is supposed to be the top mark for this kit. I also took the sample and gave it a taste, just for the heck of it, and my first thought was that it may end up being a little more bitter than I wanted, so next time the hop additions may be added a little differently. Other than the bitterness though, the taste wasn’t bad, just sweet as it should be, since the yeast had not begun it’s work yet. Now after pitching the yeast, I had three worries, and two of them will have to wait and see what happens. The first worry was that the wort may have still been too warm for the yeast. I checked on it this morning though, and the bubbles coming out of the air lock told me that I could scratch that one off the list. The yeast is indeed happy it appears. The second worry I have that is temperature related is that my beer may form fusel alcohols by being fermented at a higher temp. As of this morning the thermometer was reading around 70, which is in the middle of the “Ale” section, and I guess should be ok, but I won’t know for sure until it’s finished. Lastly, I’m a little worried that by leaving the wort uncovered for so long while attempting to cool it that bacteria may have been introduced. Not much I can do about that if it does happen other than try to not suck it out when I rack off in a few weeks.
So all in all, I thought it went pretty well, but I definitely learned from it and will be changing a few things for the next time!