First time brewing

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Edan Z, Apr 26, 2017.

  1. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    First timer here, hoping to get some feedback before embarking on this first brew. Not sure if any of you would consider it asinine for someone to try an all-grain (BIAB) recipe as a first brew. I'm a biochemist with years of lab experience, so I figure a small BIAB recipe may be Ok to start with. Mostly, I'm trying to skip through the "extract" phase, knowing that I'm almost certain to want to move to all-grain fairly quickly, so I might as well start learning by brewing.

    Looking at the ingredients that are readily available here in France, I think I might try a malty Belgian style for this first home brew. I've done a lot of reading for weeks to get to this point, and I finally think I have possibly put together a small batch recipe that may turn out reasonably well. Being a noob, though, and not having any direct experience with any of these available malts, I am hoping some of you could weigh in and potentially stave off a potential disaster at the hands of a complete beginner.

    I'm hoping to do a 10L batch (2.7 gal) with the following:
    2 Kg Pilsner Malt (Belgium) [72%]
    500g Belgian Munich [18%]
    150g Crystal Malt 150 [5.5%]
    100g Belgian Wheat [3.6%]

    Mashing in a bag with 9L of water (either at 149ºF for 60 mins, or in two steps: 120ºF for 20 mins, then 156ºF for 60 mins )
    Sparging with 4L of water at 170ºF (Boil size 14L)

    Boil for 60 mins
    4g columbus (french) at 60
    5g Hallertau Blanc at 20
    5g Saaz at 5
    (all are pellet form)
    Irish Moss for clarifying at 10

    Hopefully end up with 10L of wort into the fermentor at 1.064 OG
    Pitching rehydrated Safebrew Abbaye yeast at Probrew .75 rates ~ 11g

    Initial fermentation temps at 65ºF and letting it rise by itself to room temp of about 73-75ºF until bubbling stops.

    I'm hoping to simplify bottling by using carbonation drops at the recommended amount for .75L bottles.

    According to Brewer's Friend, this should give:
    Final Gravity: 1.011 ABV (standard): 6.87%
    IBU (tinseth): 24.75 SRM (morey): 8.42

    Any suggestions to avoid a newbie catastrophe, choice of malts, or on single mash temp vs two steps?
     
  2. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    just a small suggestion on target batch sizes, which you probably won't quite figure out until a few batches in. You'll lose some wort / beer when transferring to the fermentor, bottling bucket etc. Not much, but you might lose a bottle or two when all is said and done. So I'd shoot a little bit higher, maybe an even 3 gallons (or an even equivalent in liters).

    your malt bill looks tasty. i'm intrigued by the crystal 150, let me know how that goes

    it sounds like you have a separate mash tun? you're not doing BIAB?
     
  3. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    It all looks like a very reasonable way to start. At a glance, I'd reverse the percentages of the wheat and Crystal 150 and reverse the additions of Saaz and Hallertau Blanc.
    All looks pretty good. Be prepared to brew the same recipe more than once so you can dial in your system.
    Best of luck! :)
     
  4. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    Yes. I'll try and keep a good log so I can refer back to it and experiment a bit.

    As far as the BIAB, I am hoping to mash in a bag directly in the brew kettle, then sparge with enough water back into it, to get my target 14-15 liters of wort for the boil. Does that make sense?

    One thing is that I don't know for sure how much water will be lost during boiling. I'm hoping no more than 5 liters in 60 minutes, which is about 1.4 gallons. I figure that it's better to top up with water back into the kettle to get the OG down to 1.064, if I lost an extra liter or two during boiling, than it would be to have to boil longer until OG rises to that number. How do you all manage this?
     
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  5. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    your mashing / sparging makes sense. that's what i do

    my boiloff is set to 3 qts per hour, ive got a 5 gallon kettle. but it depends on how much of a boil you have going too

    and i top off too. can't quite do a full volume boil just yet, so i top off with store bought jugs of water. i guess i could boil and cool my own, but it's easier this way
     
  6. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    I lose about 3 qts/hr as well. Plenty of factors influence that, including temperature and humidity. There are times I'll boil beyond 60 minutes to get my volume down. If I know I have to do that soon enough, I'll adjust remaining hop schedules.
     
  7. KC

    KC Active Member

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    That's mostly recommended for people who are nervous or unsure about their first attempts. Looks like you've done your homework and are pretty well ahead of that. Good recipe design as-is or with JA's recommended swaps.

    My one comment would be your mash plan. First run infusions on equipment almost never hit target temperatures and you may be scrambling to recover 10° or more. Consider using your 120 step to see if the infusion calcs are accurate and dial in the formula. Missing target in that range won't affect anything significant. If it's way off you can gradually raise the temp to 149. That should be okay for this style, you have some crystal to keep it from going too dry. 156 might end up sweeter than you intend but will still make decent beer.
     
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  8. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    Sounds good. I hope this will be the first of many home brews to come!
     
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  9. emsroth

    emsroth Member

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    My only recommendation for the recipe is to keep boil additions simple and to a minimum. You'll have a bunch of timers going off for all of those additions, and it would be easy to lose track of time. So add the Irish moss at 20 with the Nelson or 5 with the Saaz. It won't be detrimental either way.

    I jumped into all grain, and it's truly just as easy as extract, just a bit more waiting which is a good time to clean and sanitize.

    The hard part with all grain is extract efficiency. I had batches that were 90% and batches that were 45%. It takes a while to learn your system and to learn why that is: crush, malt types, malt age, mash pH, mash time and temp, etc. Have some malt extract or sugar on hand to bump the gravity if things turn out too low. A bit of sugar tastes really good in an IPA.
     
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  10. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    Yeah, I have no clue what my efficiency will be.

    From what I've read, Belgian styles often add sugar also, they want to boost the alcohol and round out the body a bit, since they mash at higher temps. So a little cane sugar won't hurt if I find I'm way off.
     
  11. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Boost alcohol - yes...round out body - no. Fully fermentable sugars tend to thin the body and dry the beer. Not a problem necessarily, but just be aware that the right amount of plain sugar can help with a crisp finish, but too much can leave a beer watery.
    And adding LME/ DME is usually a better option when attempting to make up for low efficiency.
     
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  12. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    Got it. That makes sense.

    Now, my brew kettle came in today. Got a nice and big 9.5 gal, in case I graduate to bigger batch volumes.

    I did a boil off test with 10L of tap water. After boiling for 1h, I had 6.9 liters left in the kettle. I lost 3.1 liters. Now the question is: If I start with 13.1 liters of wort after sparging, will I end up with about 10L left after an hour boil? Will the boil off rate change significantly?
     
  13. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Your boil off can change due to ambient temperature and humidity. But you've got a starting point.
     
  14. emsroth

    emsroth Member

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    Your boil off rate will change with 13.1L vs 10L, but not by much. Start with the 3.1L/hr rate and see how it goes. You can always adjust the flame as req'd.

    I have a high-powered burner that boils significantly more than 10% per hour, so I set it by feel. I know the sound the burner makes when it reached my boil rate, and I check every few minutes until I'm comfortable.

    During a typical boil, I will check the level every 15 minutes or so. My SS Brewtech pot comes with gradations, so I can gauge the boil rate.

    If you have volume markings, remember that boiling water is more voluminous than cold water (by about 5%). Also, remember that when you add an immersion chiller for the last 15 minutes that the volume will increase due to displacement.
     
  15. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Keep records for a few brews and take the average. There will be a change in the boil rate - you're putting the same amount of energy into a bigger mass of water. That's one reason experienced brewers always have a reserve of brewing liquor to add if the gravity gets too high and some DME on hand if it gets too low, the boil-off rate can be variable over a rather wide range.
     
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  16. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that...and keep in mind that you'll have a brew now and then that just doesn't behave the way you expect. I always tend to push the boil to fairly energetic levels knowing that I can make up volume with plain water and get back to my desired OG easier than under-boiling and needing to boost OG.
     
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  17. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Best way to learn is to get in there and brew we've got your back. You can't learn if you don't make mistakes better yet learn from others mistakes. As for your brewing system you'll have to get to know it personally take plenty of notes adjust your losses where needed and just try to replicate and get consistent outcomes:).
     
  18. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    #18 Edan Z, May 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
    Big thanks to everyone for chiming in.

    Yesterday was finally brew day! Took me almost 5 hours in total.

    I did adjust the recipe based on your input, and replaced crystal 150, with CaraRed, only because I didn't want the beer to be darker than a amber/blond.

    Ended up mashing at 148f for 45m, then bumped up to 153 for 45m. Not exactly what I had planned, but it was hard to control temperature in the kettle (I'll have to try a mash tun next).

    Original gravity was 1.064 and pitched rehydrated yeast at 62f. It's bubbling away now in my cellar which stays between 62-63f.

    I put some of the leftover trub through a coffee filter and chilled it so I could taste it. The color came out golden amber, and perfectly clear. Not sure how sweet it should taste unfermented, though. There is some sweetness for sure, but it's not as sweet as I imagined wort would would be. I've never tasted unfermented beer before though, so I don't have anything to base it on.

    The fermemter is bubbling ferociously at the moment. I'm pretty stoked!
     
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  19. KenK

    KenK Member

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    Edan, let us know how it turns out when you crack that first bottle or two.
     
  20. Edan Z

    Edan Z Member

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    Well, I made some changes to the my original recipe based on feedback as well as availability of malt. I ended up going with:

    Castle Pilsner 2R 70%
    Castle Munich 12%
    Castle CaraRuby 8.8%
    Castle Wheat 8.8%

    2.85 kg total grain for 10L

    I was shooting for a medium bodied beer with a lot of head. I also reversed the hop additions, IBU 20
    The OG came in at 1.064, and the yeast took it down to 1.008 FG in two weeks, so about 7.3% ABV
    I fermented at the low end (62ºF cellar) for 10 days, then brought it out to 70ºf for another 8 days.
    I used 75cl bottles with 2 coopers carb drops.

    I tried my first bottle after only a week at 70ºF. Beer is only moderately carbonated at this point, almost no head retention. The taste is classic Belgian for sure, yeasty with some clean esters, very good flavor, BUT it's like a Leffe blonde on steroids! My main concern at this point is that it's way too intense.

    If additional time conditioning, and increased carbonation does not mellow it out, I'll have to adjust the grain bill to lighten up the malt, maybe use some sugar to lighten up the body and use more hops to bring IBU to around 28.

    One question I have is, will additional time in the bottle help with head retention? Is there a chance the beer will mellow out in a couple of weeks?
     

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