The First Brew Day Recap

Posted on September 20, 2012 by Nathan

This sunday was officially the first brew day on the ‘big’ system.  It was a great day, I had a lot of great help, and in the end, I got around 100 gallons of wort into the fermenter and the first beer officially started.

There were ups and downs during the day, but in the end, I got a batch of beer rolling and I (hopefully) learned enough from the first day that brew day number 2 will go even smoother.

All in all, I actually think the day went well.  I was in and out of the brewery in under 9 hours, and considering some of the equipment got assembled during the brew session (and other pieces disassembled) 9 hours is pretty damn impressive for a first day.

In no particular order, here are some of the things that I learned during brew batch number 1.  I apologize to those who aren’t brewers (although I know a lot of you are!), as most of this is pretty technical brewing related stuff, but don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded with some pictures at the end.

  • My mill is a bit finniky.  If you don’t ‘prime’ it with a small amount of grain to get the 2 non-driven rollers going before you start dumping grain in, you will be shoveling and vacuuming grain out of the mill in order to get it restarted (we only did that twice on sunday).  There is still some further refinement on that piece of equipment, but in general it seems to function well.
  • No matter how dialed in you have the grain bed on your homebrew system (with the same mill!), you WILL get a stuck sparge at some point.  Maybe not day one (although it’s entirely possible as we demonstrated), but by day 2  or 3 of brewing, you’ll get it.  Buy a bale or two of rice hulls and be ready to backflush the grain bed.  We lost about 45 minutes to an hour of time because of it.  Not a huge delay (or surprise), but something to watch out for.
  • Building a steam condenser the morning of the brew day sounded like a horrible idea, but with some inginuity and a 7am trip to home depot, there was very little steam that escaped into the room (thanks to the guys at Granite Mountain for the idea on the design!).  It was one of the best functioning pieces of equipment that day, it was was literally hours old.
  • My brewhouse has a bug in the software.  If you turn on pump 3 before pump 2, it will restart the system.  Gotta get that fixed.
  • I calibrated the temperatures in each of the vessels before hand, and calibrated the sight glasses beforehand.  The one thing I didn’t calibrate was the flow meter.  It was the one thing that was off, unless 100-60=20 (it wasn’t last I checked, but it’s been a little while so things may have changed).
  • It pays to have multiple options for checking things like volumes and temperatures.  I couldn’t get the temp readout to work on the outflow of the heat exchanger, but luckily I had an analog thermometer that I got to fit in the assembly, and we were able to chill accurately (albeit slowly) without the digital one.
  • It was great to have a bunch of friends there for brew day.  Didn’t feel like work at all, and having a bunch of people to help problem solve (and move hoses, and turn on pumps, and stir the mash, and everything else) was a HUGE help, and made the day quite enjoyable.

So with that recap, I promised some pictures.  And here they are.  Lots of pictures of Day 1.  Enjoy!

 

This was what preceded one of the times that we had to vacuum out the mill.  Pour slowly….

And here Nate is, watching the mill actually work.

179 lbs of grain, ready to roll.

Adding to the mash tun.

We added some rice hulls, evidently not enough.

I need to get a real mash paddle, a broomstick is not the ideal tool.

Fortunately, it smells wonderful so you don’t mind to much standing there stirring for 10 minutes.

This may have been the only time I sat down that whole day (and it didn’t last long).

Clamping down the heat exchanger.

Beautiful boil.

Getting everything ready to chill (with my awesome orange brewery hoses).

It’s in the tank, and in goes the yeast!

Taking a sample to check gravity.

And soon, this will be beer!

Post Categories: Beer, brewing

4 responses to “The First Brew Day Recap”

  1. Congrats on the first day Nathan! You’ll get that 9 hours down. Love the look of that shiny stainless. See you Saturday.

  2. mark mcd says:

    good times! what did you brew?

    McD

  3. Nathan says:

    Mark – I ended up brewing the Belgian Pale Ale. It came out a little more bitter than the pilot batches, but generally went well. I’ve got the second batch in now as well (a saison made with my house strain of yeast).

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