Wearing The Big Pants Now

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After years of brewing beer either in small "extract plus specialty grain" batches or all-grain batches on borrowed equipment or cobbled-together mini-mashes I made the Big Leap. I invested all my birthday money in this lovely all-grain brewing system available at Northern Brewer.

First, the birthday money. Mrs. Smitty, in her infinite wisdom and loving support of my bestest hobby, told everyone to chip-in a couple bucks for my birthday because I had a wild-assed notion that I wanted to "step-up" my brewing process. So the family, strangely, happily, obliged.

So what do we have here? From right to left: a new grain mill with pre-set rollers and a hopper with a 7-pound grain capacity (with the capability to run it with a drill versus the hand crank, giving me a six-pound-per-minute throughput); a 10-gallon brew pot with pre-drilled holes for a thermometer and ball valve (thermometer and valve pictured but hard to see; the thermometer is in the white box to the left); and two 5-gallon coolers - one for the hot liquor tank (hot water) and the other as the lautering tun (steeping grains, sparging) complete with a false bottom to create a grain bed without clogging tubing and ball valves to control water flow for each.

The boil kettle is big enough to handle really massive batches, but can only be fired-up on my turkey fryer. My stove isn't big or powerful enough to heat up this stainless steel monster.

For the first few batches as I get used to how my grains crack and a gajillion other little nuances, the quality of my beers may suffer a bit. But in the medium-run and the long-run, brewing consistent all-grain batches yields way better flavors, way less off flavors and a much more professional-quality beer, nearly indistinguishable from Pro batches. There is so much more one can do with all-grain systems for the color and flavor and style of beer it is a reward in itself.

That said, all-grain batches are more time consuming. It becomes a 4 hour process as opposed to about a 2 or so hour process. But the improved quality and sheer increase in range of styles is worth the extra couple hours.

At least, that's what the Smitty Clan hopes for!

5 comments:

Bob 8:12 AM  

OK. I did not understand a word of the technical stuff. Will they be tasty?

Smitty 8:13 AM  

Tastier, when I get the hang of it, than any of my extract batches.

Streak 5:09 PM  

The hot liquor tank is for sparging, right? If I had room and the temp outside wasn't so freaking hot, I would really think about getting one of those. Do you then buy your grain in bulk? Be interesting to see how the amortized cost of the batch will drop very quickly.

Setup looks amazing. Did you get those new bottle crates I sent? I bought two and (took me a bit to assemble--because I am impatient and clumsy) love them. So nice to stack the bottles in crates that won't fall apart.

Smitty 3:25 PM  

The hot liquor tank is for sparging, right?

Yes. I also will use it when steeping grains, before the sparge, to add say 180-190 degree water to stop the sugar conversion process at a certain point as well.

Do you then buy your grain in bulk

Sorta. I buy it by the recipe...BUT...if I am going to do say several British-style batches of beer in a row, it makes more sense to buy Marris Otter grains in massive bulk than 3 recipes at a time. Northern Brewer, though, doesn't seem to have a "bulk order" widget, so I might have to look at a larger grain supplier, like the one Michigan Brewing Company uses.

Did you get those new bottle crates I sent

Not yet. The equipment here cleaned my "personal" account out. Need to build some play money again and I'll get those.

Streak 3:46 PM  

Looks like a really cool setup. Someday, perhaps. But for now, I will enjoy my little beer crates. :)

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