This was not an easy brew day. I started by mashing in my 3 lbs of grain with 5 quarts of water at about 152 degrees F, and did my usual routine of covering the pot with the lid and wrapping it in a towel. I let it sit for 75 minutes to make sure I got plenty of fermentables out of the grains, but I got distracted (by writing for this blog, incidentally) and at the 75 minutes mark I realized I had no water to sparge with. I heated up 7 quarts to 170 degrees F for sparging, and realized that over the course of the 75 minutes, my mash had lost a whopping 10 degrees F (usually I only lose about 4 degrees). This didn’t have me too worried because of a 90 minute mash, I should have excellent conversion even with some setbacks, but little did I know this was only the start of my troubles.
It was the boil that made this brew day take a whopping five and a half hours. Lately I’ve had a lot of trouble with pots boiling over while I’m adding DME. It happened while I was making the starter for this brew. It happened while I was bottling Nick’s IPA. And it happened during this brew day two or three times before I decided enough was enough. I had decided to add 6 of the 7 pounds of DME in the last 15 minutes of the boil. It turned out to be impossible to get 6 pounds of DME to dissolve in 15 minutes within the limits of the size of my brew kettle. At spending an extra 20 minutes trying to dissolve the DME and still having about 2 pounds or more left, I simply extinguished the flame, and start to chill the wort. Simultaneously I started boiling water a gallon of water for the remaining DME. Even with this strategy I still had yet another boil over.
Eventually I got all the DME dissolved and chilled the wort, though putting two kettles sequentially through water baths took quite awhile. I measured my OG to be 1.089, which means that once I add the sucrose my OG would be 1.099, giving me an efficiency of 100%. This is clearly wrong, so the high alcohol wallop this beer ends up delivering will be a bit of a mystery.
I pitched the yeast at 68 degrees F and placed the fermenter in my botched fermentation chiller along with three quart sized jars of ice, and draped a damp towel over the jars and fermenter. Over the 4 to 5 hours it took for visible fermentation to begin, the temperature had dropped to about 65 degrees. A few hours later I removed the ice (which had mostly melted), but left the towel. By morning the fermenter had reached 68. I removed the towel and am now letting it drift to higher temperatures where it should develop more esters and phenolics. Currently it smells a bit like overripe pears.
One of the bonuses of a brew day is the chance to bake with the spent grains. In addition to the bread I’ve made a habit of baking, I’ve finally succeeded in using the blender to make the grains into flour, which means I can start baking biscotti!. The Brooklyn Brew Shop has a recipe in a series of spent grain recipes, and it makes a terrific treat. It’s a bit more crunchy, and has a slight nuttiness to it that I’ve not found in other biscotti (Smitten Kitchen has more about this). For this iteration I used significantly less butter and an additional egg, which has resulted in a drier biscotti that feels less like dessert and more like an anytime coffee companion.
I also baked the spent grain bread again, this time attempting to use yeast harvested from Nick’s IPA. Unfortunately I realized that the yeast would never ferment the dough so quickly as baker’s yeast. Even worse, after adding baker’s yeast and baking the bread, it turns out that the break matter mixed with the yeast has rendered the bread rather bitter and unpleasant. In the end, an experiment I’ve been wanting to try, but a failed trial for sure.
Last thing in an already too-long post, I’ve added a recipes page. Cheers!