It has been far too long since the last time I made any beer. That was partly because I wanted to wait until I had a way to control the otherwise uncontrollable cold/heat of Sacramento. I trolled craigslist looking for a good chest freezer for several months but never found exactly what I was looking for. And often the freezers were either too small, too big, or too expensive. I ended up going with the Haier 7.1 freezer that is sold at Costco. I’ll go into more detail about that and the rest of the specs for the fermentation chamber in a later post. For now it’s on to the beer!
The Original Homebrew Outlet in Sacramento sells really nice beer kits that I have used in the majority of my recipes. I hadn’t made the IPA yet so I purchased it on a recent trip and got everything setup. I pre-boiled several gallons of water the night before so it would be plenty cool when I needed to top off my wort. I also pulled out and cleaned all the equipment and prepared my sanitizing solution. The only problem I have with the OHO kits is they are not specific in their ingredients (though I haven’t had kits from anywhere else so I don’t know if this is a common theme). I’ve been using Beer Alchemy for a while now and without knowing the kinds of malts and hops used in the kit it makes plugging in the recipe more difficult. I worked around this by using another basic IPA recipe.
All the kits at OHO are extract with Specialty Grains. They provided what looks like a good mix of three grains in their grain bag and seven pound of pale malt extract. The kit also came with hops to be boiled at 60 minutes, 15 minutes, and a smaller portion to dry hop. Also included were some oak chips and boiling salts as well as the usual bag of malto dextrin and irish moss. Everything was pretty standard so when I was ready I got my brew started.
Steeping the Grains
Steeping grains helps to give your beer some extra flavor and is essential to making many styles in extract brewing. I don’t know what grains OHO provided in their kit but the majority was light and medium grains with a smaller amount of dark grains mixed in. I put the kit grains in my nylon steeping bag and got started.
My temperature got to 155° quickly and did go up to 160° but I was able to get it under control and leveled it off.
At the close of the 30 minutes of steeping the wort became a nice dark color. I rinsed off the grains getting every bit out of them that I could and added another gallon of water before rising the heat to boil the wort.
I use my lid on halfway to get the boil started. As the wort neared the boil I removed some and moved it to my mini ice bath to take my preboil gravity. This vase is a perfect size to fit the test tube and surround it with ice to reduce the temperature. I took my pre-boil gravity and hit it perfect at 1.008. It’s hard to be way off on this measurement but it’s also nice to start off right on my mark. The ice bath worked very quickly and I was able to get my cool gravity reading before the kettle had begun to boil. I took a small taste from this pre boil but I’ve yet to learn enough to distinguish anything from just the steeped grains. But there were no off flavors so everythings working so far.
After my boil was rolling for about five minutes I cut open the bag of extract and add it to the wort. To make sure I get every last bit I cut the bag in half and drop it in the boiling wort and fish it out with my ladle. This way I’m getting every bit of the extract that I can. It’s also so early in the boil that there’s no danger of contamination from anything on the bag, though I do make sure to wash it off just in case. After the malt is in I stirred the wort until the extract was fully dissolved. Then I added the malto dextrin, boiling salts, and the oak chips and brought the temperature back up to resume the boil. The wort foamed up a lot as the boil begun but got under control and I never had any boil overs.
The kit came with dried yeast that needed to be re-hydrated before pitching. After my boil was underway I used 1/2 cup of my pre-boiled water in a sanitized jar and spread the yeast over the surface. As I let that sit covered in plastic wrap I also grabbed 1/2 cup of my boiling wort and put that in an ice bath. After it cooled I will add it slowly to the yeast to get it fully proofed.
End of the Boil
As I reach the 15 minute mark left in the boil I add my wort chiller to the pot. I then added my finishing hops and Irish moss. Here is the kitchen setup.
The Cool Down
As the boil timer ran out I switched off the heat and started the water running through the chiller. It took about 20 minutes to reach 75° which is a little on the high side for pitching but was also the ambient temperature so I’m not sure it would have gotten much lower. I debated on placed the wort in the chest freezer for a little bit first but decided to pitch anyway. Since I didn’t boil a full 5 gallons I dumped my entire wort into the brew bucket. I was happy I ended up with 3 gallons which was my target goal. It’s hard to see the wort at the 3 gallon mark in the picture below but it was there and I added in water to bring the level up to 5 gallons.
After I added the water and the temperature was a solid 75° I pulled some off to measure my original gravity. My gravity reading was 1.052 which was .006 off from the expected outcome of the random IPA recipe I plugged into Beer Alchemy. I’m very happy with this outcome and have high hopes for this beer to turn out well. After I had my reading I gave the beer a little more shaking to fully aerate the wort and then pitched the yeast at 4:30pm. I moved the bucket into my chest freezer and installed a blow off tube. It might have been fine to use an airlock since it was going into the freezer but most of my other beers have clogged the airlock so I prefer this method for the first day or so while the yeast is really active. I set my chest freezer to 65° and started the cleanup.
I noticed a small amount of bubbling before I went to bed so things are going well so far, we’ll hope that continues.