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Three batch brew day

October 18, 2010 By: grant Category: Beer learnin', Homebrew

Hot liquor tanks ready for gas

Hot liquor tanks ready for gas

Two weeks ago FuzzyBrew gathered in my garage for our most ambitious brew day yet: three all-grain batches at the same time. It was ambitious both because Jeff would have to leave in the middle of the process to bottle the 10-10-10 brew, and because Mike doesn’t actually have any gear yet.

Essentially, it takes two kettles to brew each batch: One as the hot liquor tank, to heat water to go into the mashtun and then to sparge with, and another as your wort-boiling kettle. Mike borrowed some gear from the brew club, but only got one kettle and it was too small to be much use. That meant we were brewing three batches, two kettles short. It got a bit tricky, but being the logistic genuises we are, and, aided by numerous craft brews, we pulled it off.

Jeff, being the ridiculous morning person he is, arrived before the sun came up and started heating his water to go into the mashtun. He brewed an oatmeal stout, for which he actually toasted the oats in his oven.

Toasting oats

Toasting oats

Knowing we had four kettles when we should have had six, we staggered our mashing — I let Jeff get a good hour and half ahead before I started, and Mike did the same. Luckily Mike’s brother Mark joined us for most of the day so we had an extra set of hands.

I brewed a Magic Hat #9 clone, using this recipe. We dry-hopped with 3 pounds of apricot puree, and a tasting just prior gives all indications that the beer is going to be excellent. I did forget to vorlauf though. Vorlaufing is the process of draining a bit of the mash out of the mashtun right before sparging to allow the grain to settle completely to the bottom (or false bottom). This is added right back into the mashtun.

Mike brewed the Nutcastle brown from Brewing Classic Styles. Here we screwed up in at least four different ways:

Mark stirs the wort

Mark stirs the wort


The inside plug on Mike’s borrowed mashtun wasn’t a secure fit. After pre-heating the mashtun with some nearly-boiling water I tossed the water out before adding the grain and water from the hot liquor tank. Because the plug to the false bottom was loose, I ended up tossing it and the filter out with the water, which landed directly in a big puddle of mud. We quickly washed my mashtun and swapped it in instead, but now it wasn’t preheated.

We forgot to preheat the hot liquor tank, so when we were ready for mashing we didn’t have any water hot enough to use. Luckily, by this time Jeff was bottling the 10-10-10 ale with Ben Pugh, the brew club president. We called him and Ben said not to worry about preheating the mashtun — we should heat the water to exactly 20 degrees hotter than our desired mash temperature, and if it remains too hot when we add it to the grain to add one glass of cold water.

Mike adds the apricot

Mike adds the apricot

This worked perfectly.

We didn’t actually start with enough water in the hot liquor tank, so when we went to sparge — running water from the hot liquor tank through the mashed grain into the kettle — we came up a bit short. We had a choice to add more water and reheat it or go with what we had. We went with what we had because we were afraid to let the grain mash any longer and change the flavor. The gravity came out OK though.

We overfilled Mike’s carboy. It’s only a five-gallon carboy, and I guess we got greedy; we overfilled and the fermentation blowoff was crazy nuts for a couple of days, filling up the bottom of the fridge with beer.

Despite these problems, we somehow Forrest Gumped our way though it and now we’ve got more homebrew than usual coming our way. The oatmeal stout is bottled, the brown ale should get bottled this week and the Magic Hat #9 clone is in secondary fermentation.

The hardest part is the waiting.

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