Thoughts, ideas and memories of photography, cooking & the outdoors (not in that order!)

Homebrewing Adventures

I’ve been a big fan of both cooking & craft beer most of my adult life. Combining the two seemed like a natural fit for a hobby. While my few early attempts were successful, they were fairly basic with an extract & specialty grain approach; the beer was drinkable but nothing memorable. This was several years ago and ever since I’ve been wanting to try again, aiming for better results.

I have a few friends who are in the hobby as well, and after sampling some recent brews and finding new solutions to old problems, it reinvigorated my desire to get my hands in it again.  The next step up (sort of) was to do an all-grain brew.  Lots of limitations and decisions were part of this process:

  • How do I an all-grain indoors in an apartment?
    • Carefully…
  • Will my stove be able to maintain a boil with 8-9 gallons of wort?
    • As I expected, not without help!
  • If not, what else I can do?
    • Brew on the sidewalk with propane
    • 240V induction cooktop
    • Or a heatstick – I went with this approach and used a DIY 1500W heatsick, which worked rather well
  • What kind of mashing techniques do I want to try?
  • How do I cool the now-much-larger volume of wort without wasting a ton of water?
    • I went a bit overboard and got a large 50′ copper wort chiller with a re-circulation arm and pump
  • And perhaps most importantly, what styles do I want to try?  Previously I just focused on IPA’s which is mostly what I drank at the time.  Now I want to do sours, saisons and interesting stouts (chocolate, coffee, pepper).

I made my first all-grain batch last weekend, it was a simple stout recipe.  The process itself will take a bit getting used to I imagine, all-grain is definitely more complex then my extract and 4gal soup pot but I think the results will be worth it.

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The brew itself seemed successful more-or-less.  The gravity was quite a bit higher and then expected, and I only obtained 4gal in the fermenter after the boil… I topped off with another gallon of sanitized water to compensate.  Fermentation was vigorous at first, then died down after 2-3 days.

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I’m now deciding what to do next.  Leave it in primary for another week, then bottle?  Rack to secondary?  Rack to secondary with some coffee & cocoa nibs for a few days…?

These are two bottles I have sitting on my shelf from beers I love, oddly enough my local shop has kits for clones of both but these are relatively advanced brews, maybe one step at a time?

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