Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Christmas Ale of 09

Grain Bill
94% Marris Otter English 2 row Pale
2.5% Crystal 120
2.5% Victory
1% Black Patent
Horizon 9% Alpha added at 60 minutes
Secret Spices
Oh come on! It wouldn't be a secret if I told you. ;) I'll be nice and let you in on them after I have a few tastings.
London Ale (Wyeast Labs 1028) I made a 1.040 gravity starter 24 hours prior
I started this yesterday (7nov09) morning about 8am. I had a very late night fixing my latest gadgetry. It's a called a mash tun. What's a mash tun?

In laymen terms it's a vessel where I can steep the grains used for making beer. When the grains are steeped at a given temperature they release sugars. These sugars are food for yeast. The yeast eats the sugars and produce alcohol. Why the late night? I had to rig the mash tun so the grains wouldn't get stuck in the drain valve. Normally an easy job but I ordered the wrong size (or so I thought) false bottom pictured above to the right. Anyway I fixed/rigged it and everything went pretty smooth.
After the grain gets soaked in the above mash tun (approximately 1 hour@155-160 degrees) it gets drained and hotter temp water is showered over the grains to rinse the leftover sugars off the grains. I didn't rinse the grains immediately like I'm supposed to so I missed some of the sugars. After measuring the gravity/plato my efficiency was around 55% of what I'm supposed to have. This means I'll have a 9.8% alcohol by volume in the beer instead of the 11 or 12%. This may also help me in the end so I may have screwed up in a good way. We'll see in three weeks. After I drain the mash tun and after a recirculation of wort back into the grain bed I bring the wort to a cautious yet ferocious boil. About 5 minutes I start to add hops. In the last minute of the boil I add the "secret spices".

I let it boil for another minute, remove it from the heat and stir it clockwise (doesn't matter which direction) to create a whirlpool effect. This pushes all the extra "floaters" to the bottom. When I'm done stirring I use an immersion chiller (above right) to cool it down. I highly recommend getting one of these. Before I had one I had to put the hot wort into an ice bath and wait sometimes 2 to 3 hours for it to cool. You have to let it cool before adding the yeast otherwise you can kill the yeast. With the use of a chiller the 200+ degree wort can cool to 66 degrees in as fast as 7 minutes! The faster the cooling the less time you wait and the less time the beer is exposed to the air which could lead to nasty infections. After the cooling I take a gravity reading with a hydrometer. It measures the weight of the sugar in the water. When the fermentations finished I'll take a second reading and the difference will equal the alcohol percentage. In this particular instance my OG (original gravity/initial reading) is 1.080.
So for now it's sitting in my fermenter chiller at 66 degrees.

Stay tuned!

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