1st run Mash and Boil

I thought i would do a more detailed brew day report for this brew because I am running my first batch on the Brewers Edge Mash and Boil.

Its more or less a Grainfather without the pump and chiller, (both of which I have) but about $500 less. I had initially thought these all-in-one brew systems as a hybrid Biab, with a sparge. And sure they surely can be for smaller gravity or smaller volume batches,, but the way the instructions are written, its really a heated mash tun/boil vessel.

I want to run this first batch pretty much stock to get baselines. I wanna know what this thing can and cant do. I did however wrap with 2x layer of reflectix with 2 layers of 1/8th rubber foam between them. Since my basement is a balmy 49 degrees F, I knew those temps would really affect heating times.

Just gonna do a simple pale ale with 8lbs of grain.

I read the enclosed instructions on how to find how much water to use, but it just seemed like it would be inconsistent,, so I made a new profile on BeerSmith.

What I am coming up with for water volumes on paper is not jiving with Beersmith numbers tell me. That fact does not surprise me, and lots of online accounts seem to agree that the numbers given by BS are not right. So, I will go with mine and go from there

Since this mash tun is heated, I dont really need to worry much about strike temp. I can hit a bit low and work my way up, but the temps BS gave were in fact close.

Its really the volumes that I’m trying to figure. There isnt much to figure really. I know my kettle loss, I know my boil off (from several accounts), and I know what my fermenter volume.  The only thing that seems to be a sticking point is the grain absorption. And I really didnt think that would be an issue.

I am shooting for a .1 gallon/lb rate. A standard rate that fits most grains. I will be able to adjust later if necessary

At first I figured my mash ratio to 1.25,, but.. But there is a bit of dead space between the bottom of the basket and the bottom of the boiler/tun. This recipe called for 2.5 gallon strike and the water looked really shallow. So I moved 1/2 gallon of the sparge water to the strike volume to give a bit more room.

Hit strike temp 162 at about 45 min. Not sure how long exactly as I came back and it was there.

Was going to use my mash bag, but decided to see what this thing does first, then decide if I want a bag. (spoiler: OMG yes use a bag, don’t even screw around with out one)

Dough in was just as I expected,  way to thick. Its that deadspace under the tun basket. Will surely have to up the mash ratio next time. But did end up with a 154 mash temp.

I found it tough to get a decent temp reading for some reason. But I figured out why. The dead space. The water level is so low because of the dead space, the top layer of grain drains off and cools quickly.

Once I pushed my thermostat way down I got the same temp that was on the display. Will need to stir this a couple times during mash to get those top layers back into mash. (once a pump is in use this should be a non issue)

But since I am not using my pump, I am not going to run the heat. Will just mash as normal and stir. Maybe kick the heat on if drops too low, but because of a pre-trial with water, I do not expect it too.

Am also heating my 4.15 gallons sparge in separate kettle with a single heatstick.

Just got back from stirring at the 30 min. Was very surprised at first that the temp dropped 5 degrees in 30 min, but after a stir the temps were fine at 153.

I think this confirms that the top layer does not stay soaked with the warm wort. In a previous test I only lost 3 degrees over the hour mash. I am thinking a larger ratio would help here.

(going to be rapid fire reporting now as things are gonna start moving along faster)

-Ok dont like mashing in this thing at all. As with every flat false bottom I’ve ever seen, its clogs up and either slows waaay down or stops.

-The mechanics of this system really dont help it al all. Soon as you lift the basket of grain up out of the wort, everything inside is forced to the bottom grate, where it immediately turns to concrete and only letting any wort out in dribbles. And I have 4 gallons of sparge to send thru yet.

-Now I’m forced into a decision. Do I just keep pouring the sparge in there? It would take 3-4 hours at this rate.. Or do I stir a little knowing when I do I will be letting all the fine particles thru and into my wort?

-Made it thru, but I took the stirring route. The wort looks almost as chunky as the mash.

Now coming up to numbers.

Took a bit longer to get to boil that I liked,, but then again I was sitting there watching every move, so it probably wasn’t really as long as it felt. And of course I didnt time it,, but boil came at 2 ¾ hours after I started this morning,, seems long.

Didn’t know what to set my expected efficiency at so I left it at 80%.

I didn’t measure out the marks on the kettle but they show a preboil volume of just shy of 6.5 gallons. My predictions was to be at 6.3 so we appear to be on track.

Preboil gravity kind shocked me at first. The original recipe says I should be 1.033, but I am at 1.040. But then I realised I am going to boil off an entire gallon less. So again, right on track.

Boil is ok. Actually more vigorous than I expected. Am starting to doubt the .6/hour boil off, but we will see.

Post boil volume before chilling (using the marks on kettle) was 5.75 after chilling the level dropped to a little less 5.5. Not sure of these marks,, they could be way off. Will know better once in fermenter which i did measure out.

Ok we are into the fermenter. And here come the vitals…

  • We are at just under 5 gallons, or a little more than ¼ gallon short.

  • Gravity into fermenter is slightly over for the 80% I plugged into BS

  • Of course, tons and tons and tons and tons of trub. We will most certainly loose more than the usual ¼ gallon

  • The 5.5 marks on kettle are “close” would assume the rest are “close” as well

I will analyse this brew day tonight, but from first looks, I think we should lower the efficiency % just so we can calculate things better. Use a bigger boil off because if those marks are close as they look, we did hit our preboil. So the lowering of eff + adding more boil off we should be close.

First brew thoughts.

I like most things about this. The size, the compactness, and it dont feel like a cheap knockoff,  but this thing really needs help mostly in mechanics and procedure.

If I was starting out sure I could see this thing being ok to start on,, especially if you were going for 3 gallon Biab with no Sparge. (which is kinda what I planned to do with it)  

But if you are a seasoned brewer and expect this thing to be right up to par with your current system,, nope. Not even close.

Oh it does have a great potential,, but mods are needed. Right out of the box it just limps to the finish.  

This first, stock run gave me data. Data I sort of expected, so I’m not dissapointed.

And I gots plans. I will soon master this thing.

After the fact Update:

I have done all my measurements on the kettle and those stock hash marks on the kettle are right on the nose. 

But I did all measuring cold.

So while my initial preboil looked right, it was short because of the expansion of the hot wort. And on this batch my preboil was supposed to be 6.35 gallons, which it did looked like… but add in the 4% expansion and it shoulda looked like 6.6.

So right from the preboil we were off the exact amount we are short in the fermenter. Meaning the boil off is right, but the grain absorption is off)

Trub. Holy shit is there trub. Not used of this Biab kinda thing so seeing the cloudy chunky wort boiling and going into fermenter is un nerving to say the least. Even with whirlpool its flipping thick in there.

It looks like the next brew will be a 3 gallon BiaB style. Mainly to see is a mash bag inside the basket will help with sparging. We will see


Spiced Sweet Stout

Finally made the move back down stairs. Really like off down here much better. Everything is where I need it.

Anyhoo,,went with a spiced sweet stout.  But not really sure of the grain bill.  I bought the specialty grains but never brewed them.  I’ll have to go back and cross reference my notes to see what it is.

Added 1 lb of lactose, 2 crushed cloves, and a 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger,  nutmeg, and cinnamon. With a 04 yeast should make a decent Xmas beer!

The Throwback Brown Ale

This week’s brew was more of a plan ahead kind of thing. I will be brewing a barley wine in the next two weeks, so I need yeast. So, how bout a 3 gallon batch to steal the yeast cake from….

Since I will be using Nottingham yeast, why not an good old Brit Brown? Haven’t had a good British Brown ale in a long time. All the ones you find now days are too Americanized.

So I went back into the vault and found o e of my long lost extract brown ales. (Needs a new name)

Basement Brown 3 gallon extract

  • 1 can light LME
  • 12oz crystal 80
  • 8oz carapils
  • 8oz biscuit
  • 3/4oz EKG
  • 1/4oz EKG
  • Nottingham yeast

Well for some reason, I could not get Beersmith to work they way I wanted. I don’t know if I was using wrong profile or what, but it wanted me to be using 8+ gallons of water for a 3 gallon batch.
But figuring out an extract batches needs is like nothing.

3.125 gallons into fermenter
1.75 lbs grain x .12 water absorb
1.5 gallons boil off
.125 gallons kettle gunk loss
= 5 gallons water

I took 1/2 gallons of that water and mashed/steeped the grains in the mini masher while I was bringing the rest of the water to boil. Once I got boil I dumped it I to the kettle and got under way.

I did do a full boil with all of the extract. I wanted to get a little darker color since I used the golden light Lme.

Mmm the smell of a British Brown is awesome. Caramel, EKG.. Oh yea.

Sure looks like a good color going in. As the way with my first rounds of extract beers, I’ll just chuck it in the basement and let it go at what ever temp it is down there.  And right now it’s still 58.  Perfect for Notty.

Honey, and strange hops

Well it’s National Homebrew Day, so let’s brew!

Nephew wanted to see how the brew process works so he dropped in to check it out. 

 I needed to make a beer for Memorial Day and a something with honey. So a very quick 3.5% honey bitter. Plus I got these free hops from Tenatious Badger. (More on these later.

Honey Burst – 5 gallons

  • 4.5 lb 2 row
  • .5 victory
  • 1 lb honey
  • 1oz Michigan Copper @10
  • 3/4 magnum @10
  • Nottingham 
  • Mashed at 155

This was the first brew in quite a while that I made outside. In fact this beer should be completely brewed, fermented, kegged and drank entirely in the garage.

Now these Michigan Copper hops. They are described as “fragrant floral and tropical fruit”  

If fragrant and floral means vomit and parmesan cheese, then I concur. I really had to force my self to put them in my beer. If would have had another 10% hop laying around, these would have been dumped. 

But once they got into the boil they smelled exactly like fresh cut lemon peel.

Both before and after smells aren’t really something I’m excited about having in my beer.. but we will see.

Golden ale 

Today I brewed up a Golden Ale. A style I’ve never brewed before, but one that looks pretty basic feel to it.

The local homebrew shop is part of a December wine walk and  wants to have a few beers up for it. Only have about 4 weeks to get something up and kegged for it though, so this Golden ale fits the bill. 

Light easy drinking beer. I’d call it a British blonde ale maybe. Nothing complicated. Not over the top hoppy or malty. Balanced low gravity.

Now the only thing that may cause a hiccup is the clarity in this particular time frame  Maris Otter and the bit of wheat might leave a bit of a haze that won’t drop  in the two weeks or less it will have.

Will need a bit of bitterness to firm it up. But don’t want to get deep into the pale ale range. So keep a light hand on the late end hopping.

I chose the grain bill to give a more malty impression that would hold up with such a light mash temp. This style is known for it cleaner yeast, so went with Nottingham for its low, but still noticeable esters.

  • 5 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.5 lbs Munich 
  • 1.5 lbs wheat malt
  • .5oz Amarillo @6o
  • .5oz cascade @60
  • .25oz Amarillo @15
  • .25oz Amarillo during whirlpool 
  • Mashed at 148 with a ramp to 152 at 15 minutes.
  • Nottingham yeast  

I did an extended hop stand during whirlpool. Like 25 minutes. Temp only dropped to 197, and really let the cone firm up and add you can see in the pic, the wort was very clear going into fermenter.  

Mix and go graff

My cider cider keg is getting low so need to get it filled soon. The black graff went over well so I’ll make another one. 

This time I’ll go back to the lighter version I used to make. Like today’s Reds Apple ale. 

  • 1 prehopped extract beer kit
  • 4 gallons apple juice or cider
  • Yeast of your choice  

I wanted to used an ESB kit but they were out, so I grabbed this old ale kit. I’m guessing it will be a bit more raisiny but that should be just fine. I’ll just be using the enclosed yeast packet this time around. 

Easy stuff here. I just heated up a gallon of water and stirred in the extract. Just wanna get it liquid enough to pour into the carboy
(If your extract is still hot that’s fine, but pour in a gallon of your juice first to buffer the heat or you’ll probably break the carboy)

Pour in the rest of the juice and add your yeast. That’s it.

Take your graff home and let it ferment.

I have a cider keg and line now, but used to bottle this Same carbonation as beer so prime how ever you normally do. 

This came out with an OG of 1.06o