Tag Archives: mash

Maxed Out

With the brew stand nearing completion one of the things I wanted to do was run my large volume equipment through a brew day. This is not my complete setup, I used only one of the large vessels instead of both and I don’t have my pumps hooked up yet.

My process is pretty common with this setup:

  • heat large volume of water in HLT but what will become the BK
  • mash in with portion of hot water
  • add more water back to HLT and heat up for sparge
  • transfer all sparge water to coolers and empty the vessel
  • sparge from coolers into MLT and lauter into BK

This gives me two vessels to work with and the need for only one burner. I actually use two burners in case of the need to heat the MLT. The second time I brewed on this set up I didn’t need to heat the MLT but the first time I did.

Here are a few pics of the process…

Mashed into a 50L keggle which according to my calculations would be able to hold 40lbs of grain. It did but it was completely MAXED out. No more room for anything! That was, in fact, my intent with this particular brew: max out every vessel to find out what my volume limits were. I found out. 😉

MLT maxed out

MLT maxed out


Tried a new technique for me this time: fly sparging. It’s just setting the flow of sparge water to match the flow of lautering. Not difficult it’s just that I had never been set up for that before. Discovered it’s the best thing ever! It’s just too easy and there’s really no babysitting of the MLT or much scooping of water involved.

My fly sparge setup.

My fly sparge setup.


I did heat my MLT half way through the rest to bring the temp back up. With the MLT maxed out there was really no room for much stirring so I really didn’t have an accurate sense of the temperature. After emptying the MLT I did see that there was a bit of scorching evident but I’m sure I’ll still end up with beer.




Lautering and boiling were just fine and got to about 80L or so pre-boil. Another new addition to my set up is the plate chiller seen in this photo on the work bench. (The pump and burner are courtesy of Scott.) Sanitizing the plate chiller prior to chilling was dead easy. I just hooked everything up in the last ten minutes of the boil and ran the boiling wort through the system. This dropped the temp a bit and halted the boil for a minute or so but I just kept running the system and the boil came back. Super easy!

Sanitizing the chiller

Sanitizing the chiller


The chilling and cooling in itself was super easy. Once the boil was done I whirlpooled and rested (manually, just by stirring the BK). My chiller was already set up from the sanitizing stage so all I had to do was get my carboys in place and fire it up. With this set up and the water turned on about a half turn on the faucet I was able to cool and transfer the full volume of about 80L in just 10 minutes! You can also see it’s reasonably aerated, not something I’ve worried about a whole lot but it’s certainly not a gentle transfer.

Cooling in

Cooling in


There are a few things that will be changing with this setup and moving to the brew stand: My pumps will be wired in, burners will be in place, less moving of vessels, more space for me to move around. All of this… Soon.


I had been hearing from a few other brewers recently about the speed at which they run their mills. Hearing about optimum speeds and not full speed or not too fast. I’m sure I had heard this before but probably not paid attention at the time as I was getting my grain pre-milled.

Now I’m milling my own grain on the brew day and having heard these discussions about milling speed finally decided to see what the fuss was about. I did do a bit of reading over at homebrewtalk.com (this thread) and it seems that there is much discussion (surprise, surprise) about rpms vs face roller speed. I also found this quote on http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/grain-mill:

Milling should be done at low RPM (revolutions per minute) to avoid shredding the husks. Somewhere around 150-250 RPM (around 2-4 turns/second) is said to be a good compromise between the time taken and the amount of shredded husk material. At this speed it takes us approximately 2-3 minutes to mill the 15-20 pounds of grain required for a typical 10 gallon batch of beer.

I have to admit, I just wasn’t aware of that. Likely because I spent a fair bit of brewing time not having a mill. Once I did get a mill I just attached my drill and let ‘er rip… or crush, or whatever is supposed to happen.

So hearing about these points I decided to try my own rather non-scientific test to see if there was a difference. I attached my drill and did a run at it’s highest speed and a run at the lowest speed I could maintain. I then photographed the results:

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

I don’t really notice a difference.

Now, it may be that if I brewed a batch with a slow crush grist and a batch with a fast crush grist there might be difference in efficiency. It may also be something that is far more noticeable or applicable in larger scales like a commercial brewery would be dealing with. This may be like the many discussions that homebrewers have about hot side aeration.

I’ll leave it to you to assess the results and… Discuss.

Just in time

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, my most recent stout is on tap! It’s a Maris Otter-based oatmeal stout with some cocoa thrown into the mash for a bit of extra chocolate flavour.

I’ve done a couple of stouts before on my own and felt them to be a bit thin and astringent. This one I deliberately attempted to counter that and mash-in a bit higher than my normal. For this batch I hit a temp of between 156F and 157F for some extra body.

Nailed it!

2013-03-17 20.13.48

“Happy Pils” and “MO stout“. It’s what’s on tap…

Happy New Gear!

I love the barter system. I helped my friend Scott move house in August and in exchange for that he felt it was worth a keggle. A keggle is simply an old beer keg with the top cut out so that it can be used for a mash tun, boil kettle or hot liquor tank. I was happy to take it off his hands and help de-clutter his garage. 😉

This one is a nice size, 50L, which is slightly smaller than the other standard of 58L. As an added bonus he said that he wanted to demo some new tools and techniques for a homebrew club meeting back in September and was going to install a fitting on the keggle so that I could have a valve on it quite easily. Also for free.

The demo didn’t transpire but he’s a man of his word so he did the work for my anyway. I was over there today to “help out” as he worked on the keggle. He drilled the hole, dimpled it and installed the fitting for me over the course of  a morning. Some VERY nice work! I’m not terribly handy so it was great to work with him and see his attention to detail and care that he took with the installation especially given that it was free and the he didn’t HAVE to do it.

The dimpling, especially, was a new technique for me. He drills the hole in the side of the keggle and then using a special tapered tool and a couple of socket wrenches he pushes the tool through the hole very slowly from inside to outside so that there is a bit of a flange created on the outside of the keg. He then pushes the fitting through from the inside to the outside so that he can solder on the inside of the keg where the fitting meets the keg wall. This allows the solder to seal around the fitting and provide more  surface area to secure the fitting.

Amazing work! The join on the inside of the keggle is perfect and the whole thing is ready to take a valve assembly to allow easy transfer of wort or water from the keggle.

These are Scott’s pictures from some work that he did on Friday on another brewer’s keggle but mine looks exactly the same with the exception of the valve. Beautiful!

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Partigyle Epicosity

My often brewing partner, Scott, had a get together a while back where he invited five other brewers to his place for a brew day. He had made a plan for a partigyle brew day for six brewers where we each end up with five gallons of beer for take home.

Following the link above will take you to an article about partigyle brewing but, in short, it’s basically one big grain bill from which you get several different beers rather than one big beer. The first runnings will create a small volume of very strong beer and then the second runnings create a larger volume of smaller (lower gravity) beer. Scott had plans to take that one step further to create another volume of beer that would be a mild.

His plan was for five gallons of Barley Wine, ten gallons of IPA, and 15 gallons of mild. We almost made it. I think we fell short by five gallons of mild. Not bad, though.

This was probably one of the most complicated brew days I have participated in. I have done big brews on my own and quasi-partigyle brews as well but this is one that has been on the back burner for a while. Scott and I have discussed doing an “epic partigyle” for many months. He took that plan and ran with it on his own for the visiting brewers and organized the entire day. Aside from falling slightly short on the volume of mild it was a huge success!

Here are some pics from the day.

Pete’s Pumpkin Pale Ale

In light of my post about having a second tap I figured I would brew something different (for me) this past week. I ended up taking a stab at a pumpkin ale.

There are many very good pumpkin ales out there: Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale, Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale and my favourite from Southern Tier, Pumking. I wasn’t trying to clone anything (although that does give me an idea for a separate blog post 😉 ) I was just trying to create a spiced beer for my “seasonal” tap.

In truth, part of the inspiration came from my daughter who wanted to make some pumpkin cupcakes last week. She needed a few extra ingredients like pureed pumpkin and some pumpkin spices. When we went to the grocery store I had suggested that we pick up a jar of pumpkin pie spice or mixed spice just to keep things simple but she insisted that we already had all the necessary spices at home. I picked up a jar of the mixed spice anyway knowing that I would use it for brewing. She also needed some of the pureed pumpkin but I knew she wasn’t using all of it. Guess what ended up in the mash?

I created the recipe the night before and came up with a pretty straight-up almost pale ale using a few grains I had around. My hops were based on wanting to keep the beer balanced but on the malty side and keep the hops sort of out of the way. The Super Galena (or Super G as I call it) fits that bill perfectly and the experience that I have had with Willamette seems to hold true for that hop as well.

Adding the pumpkin to the mash is debatable with regards to what it adds to the beer but I didn’t feel right calling it a pumpkin beer without the pumpkin. If it doesn’t add anything to the final product, that’s fine. If it does, okay. Either way I’m just using up some leftover pumpkin puree that would have otherwise gone bad in the fridge. Just trying to be practical.

I have posted the recipe here but I wasn’t able to add correctly in BeerSmith the types of spices I used. There was about half a can of pumpkin puree in the mash. I put about a teaspoon of the mixed spice in the last ten minutes of the boil along with 50g of freshly grated ginger and about a half cap of vanilla extract.


Pete’s Pumpkin Pale Ale


Well… Not sure what to say about this brew day.

I took a stab at doing a no-sparge brew. Mixing all the grain (15lbs) with all the water I would need (7 gallons + absorption + deadspace) and draining everything after an hour rest and going with what I got.

No problems with the concept and everything proceeded smoothly. I took a pre-boil reading, which I never do, just out of curiousity and ended up with 1.072. My brewing software, BeerSmith, was estimating a preboil gravity of 1.065 on a regular batch sparge formula. I seemed to be WAY ahead of the game on this one!

In the little bit of reading that I had done, including this page, it seemed that I would end up with a lower efficiency and lower gravities on a similar quantity of grain for a no-sparge batch. My initial reading certainly didn’t show that.

I continued on with a pre-boil volume of 6.5gal which was a little below what I had estimated. Boiled for 60 minutes, cooled and drew a sample for OG reading and came up with 1.068. What?! I should have been somewhat higher than my pre-boil reading of 1.072, not lower. Something was not right…

Oh well. As I say most every brew day, “It’ll be beer.”

I like the idea of a no-sparge batch but in my set up doing stove top it was no time saver as had been reported by others. My stove takes too long to bring the full volume to a boil and usually that time is filled with lautering/sparging, so no savings there.

My MLT is plenty big enough to accommodate the quantities of grain and water involved by I do find the end result is somewhat less than manageable for me. A full mash tun is pretty heavy and having to lift it up to lauter height is just plain awkward. It’s not impossible but I usually do that kind of lifting with a brew partner, not on my own. So, again, no savings there.

We’ll have to see how the end result is to really determine whether the process is worth it. It didn’t save me time and the efficiency seems to be about the same whether I sparge or no-sparge.

Stay tuned for tasting results.