Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Beer 3: Moley's Sussex Beast, part 2

So where were we?

It was about 8pm, I'd just sterilised everything and prepared the water, calculated the amount of grain I needed and decided that, to hell with it, this was going to be done NOW. Right.

Step 1: The mash

Doesn't it just look like... a bucket of sick?
Heat up 2.8 litres of water for every KG of grain. I was using around 4.6KG total, so about 12 or 13 litres then. (Just to recap, this recipe was for 4000g Golden Promise, 400g Dark Crystal and 225(ish)g of Flaked Maize)

This needs to be at the mashing temperature you've selected. Apparently it makes quite a difference as to the exact starch reactions that happen in the grains. Too high and you get a lot of unfermentable sugars that mean
you'll get a beer with a good body but no alcohol content. Too low and you'll get a strong, watery beer with no body to it. There's a table here that contains some details, most of which I have no idea what they're useful for!

Following sensible mole's advice I aimed for 67 degrees. The water was in my new 40L boiling vessel and seemed to take forever to heat up. The pan is so big I had all four rings on the hob switched on. While that was heating I weighed out the grain and mixed in a couple of campden tablets. At 68 degrees I turned the heat off. At 70 degrees I realised the pork thermometer had a built in delay and I was going to have to wait a while. Eventually it dropped down to 67 and I threw it all into the tun, mixed it up and sealed the thing for 90 minutes. By which time it was 64.5 degrees... Still, the tun did its job and the temp didn't drop a single degree.

Next, heat up 18 litres of spargewater to 62 degrees. And then get ready for mess when the mash is done.

Step 2: Draining the wort

It goes on, and on and on and on and on
The next job is to run the wort into one of the fermentation bins, and there was an empty one, having just been emptied for spargewater. This take AAAAAAGES. Somehow it was 11.30pm already, and this took a good 20 minutes. And then, says sensible mole, you get your milk-carton thing from earlier, with all the holes in, and run the wort back through again. Which takes two minutes to pour in and another 15 minutes to drain. I got this far, it was now quarter past midnight, and the prospect of doing this at least another two times didn't appeal. So I stopped and went on to sparging.

Step 3: Sparging

I'm amazed this all worked without hot, sticky spargewater going everywhere

Earlier I'd made a sparging vessel by taking one of the measuring jugs, making a hole in it and wedging in some 20mm tubing. On the other end it attaches to the top of the sparge manifold on the tun. This bit took a while too. 18 litres of 62(ish) degree water were jugged from the massive pan to the sparge vessel, which then fed them down the tube to the sparge manifold, where they were sprinkled onto the mashed stuff and drained through it to the fermentation bin or cube underneath. This is to wash all the sugars out, apparently. Spargewater coming out the other side tastes a bit like thin, milkless horlicks. Anyway, you end up with about 20 odd litres of brown liquid, the wort. At 1am. And you have to boil it for an hour at least. So it's ok. I'll be in bed by 2ish.

Step 4: The Boil

This does... something useful. Breaks down the proteins from the grain, or some such thing. It's also when you add the hops. Sussex beast used -

  • 44g Fuggles and 18g Challenger at 60 minutes
  • 44g East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes
  • 28g East Kent Goldings and 18g Fuggles at 0 minutes

Which, according to the beer calculator and the specific alpha acids, comes out at around 50 International Bitterness Units (IBUs). It took me a while to work out you count backwards, so the Fuggles and Challenger go in at the beginning, then half an hour later some goldings, then at the end more goldings and fuggles. And a campden tablet, apparently that's a good thing. I'm not convinced yet but sensible mole swears by them and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I have learned that hops are applied in at least two stages. The earlier they go into the boil the more they affect the bitterness, which is where the AA (alpha acid) percentage comes in. My rough understanding is that the acids convert to bitter compounds, but only after lots of boiling, but lots of boiling drives off the aromatic hoppy oils and flavour compounds. So if you want a really bitter beer with little to no hop character, put bucketloads of hops in early. If you want a delicate, not-too-bitter but very floral brew, chuck loads in at the end. We're going for balanced here though. And there are some hops that are better than others for the two different phases.

Murky depths, and taking over the whole hob
Of course one has to get the stuff to boil before any of that became relevant, which took bleeding forever again. It did eventually get to a rolling boil, after a good half an hour. At least I managed to get a lot of the other equipment cleaned up and put away in that time.

Step 5: Cooling

Unlike sensible mole, I have neither a great copper cooling coil to run cold water through, nor do I have a heat exchanger as these are pricey. Instead the guy at the homebrew shop told me of another way. The idea of rapid cooling is to stop organisms that might like to multiply in warm, sugary, malty bath (and who wouldn't?) from infecting the wort. The other way to achieve this is to cube the wort. For this you get a 20L plastic 'cube' and fill it to the brim so there's as little air contact as possible.

1 cube of hot pre-beer

I ran 31 litres of water through the grain in all. But given absorbtion by the grain and evaporation in the boil, I was somehow down to about 18. I siphoned the whole lot (including all the hop sludge) into the cube and topped up with more of my pre-prepared water, until there was no air gap. then I put the cube in the fridge, where it cracked the plastic shelf and heated the fridge up to the point that it still wasn't cold the next day. So there we are. It's 3.30am and I can finally sit down and have a beer. I got to bed at 4.

Oh, and at some point in the process I'd added a teaspoon of yeast nutrient. But I can't remember when that went in.

Step 6: Pitching the yeast

In the morning there wasn't much to do. The yeast (safale, american ale yeast, which the bloke in the shop picked for me) was mixed into half a mug of boiled-and-cooled water with just a little sugar to kick start it. I think I used brewers sugar here but I can't remember. I siphoned the wort out of the cube into the a fermentation bin. I did this through a nylon mesh bag that caught most of the hop mulch. At this point it seemed a good idea to check the gravity, which was about 1.054. A quick calculation -  water is 1.000, so the sugars here make up 0.054. (0.054 * 19.5l) / 25l = 1.042, almost spot on where I want to be for a 25 litre brew. If my gravity calculations are related to reality at all and this stuff is linear and... it turns out it is. I diluted with more of my prepared water, remeasured and got 1.042. It seemed impossible to me that with the makeshift and hacked together equipment I could come out so close to perfectly on target. But there it was. AWESOME. So off it goes to the back room cupboard to do its thing. I checked on it the next day and it was going hell for leather :)

And there we are, all that effort and you get a big tub full of brown liquid

Two weeks later and I've racked it into another bin. The gravity reading is down at 1.010, precisely where it should be for a finished fermentation. Now it's just conditioning and clearing, away from most of the yeasts. It doesn't actually taste 100% horrible at this point, either. I resisted the urge to dry hop in the secondary because I'm working to a recipe here. Maybe in a future brew I'll make an ultra hoppy pale-ale, dry hopped to hell and back.

But there are potential problems I can see with what I did here -
  • Too much calcium sulphate. Maybe. Not sure on this point. The Mosman Park water is supposed to be pretty soft, but I ended up putting at least twice as much CaSO4 in as the tub says is appropriate. I don't know what happens if you put too much in. Or not enough. Or the right amount...
  • Adding water in at various stages. I did this to top up to quantities I needed. Sensible mole uses extra spargewater at this point, but I didn't have any. Could anything infectious have been in there?
  • American Ale type safale yeast. This is an English Ale, dammit. I should have noticed the yeast type at the shop and changed it. it may end up with a slightly lighter, american pale-ale taste to it. Not that this is necessarily bad, it just wasn't the aim of the thing.
  • Potential oxidisation when I transferred to secondary. I did siphon it carefully, but the air-space at the top of the bin is still there. The airlock bubbles occasionally so I think the beer is still putting out CO2, but I do worry...
  • If I'd been really clever I would have saved some of the post-boil wort in the freezer, to use instead of priming sugar in the bottling process, apparently.
So that's it, the making of Moley's Sussex Beast. One more week and it'll be ready to bottle. I do have a friend turning up with some semi-pressure-safe polypin bags before then, so if I'm really lucky (and figure out how to fill the bags) I'll have some in a draught type format. And then I can drink it immediately instead of having to wait for the bottled version to mature :)