Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Brewery Build #18: Wort!

While it's not quite complete, the new setup is finished enough to give it a test-run.

I've had a 4.8kg bag of Wey Pils that G&G crushed for me 3+ years ago, it's been sitting around since then and even sustained a family of mice for a while. So I figured it would be a good test-run for the new system, with the intention of no-chilling and if they don't get infected, use the wort for lager-starters that (in theory) I might be making soon.

Filling the HLT, food-grade water-hose directly from the shower-outlet:

In the future the HLT will be filled the night before brew-day so that any chlorine will have time to dissipate. I don't think the water here in Melbourne does not need filtering, but it will usually need brewing-salts added (something which I forgot this time), which will usually be added to the HLT.

Mash-tun is filled (from the bottom) via the pump, HERMS and hoses, this means that that the pump is primed while the mash-tun is filled:
HLT was set to 60C but by the time it was all mixed the mash-thermometer read 45C, so I'll need to test/calibrate what temperatures are required to achieve a specific mash-in temperature.  The HERMS is not quite finished yet, it works fine, it needs to have the lid fitted and the fittings attached to that, but I wanted to check that it worked as expected while I could see what was going on.

No dough-balls undeletting at what turned out to be about 45C:
Recirculating the wort in the mash:
The DIY perforated stainless mash-filter worked well, the pump was turned on as soon as the mash-tun was filled:

While it was very pleasing to have all the mechanical components work (no leaks, major failures or big issues to deal with) the main problem was uncalibrated thermometers and difficulty understanding the PID instructions (or the bloody thing not working quite as expected). Not sure if the auto-tune stuff worked or not, and for a while it seemed to think that 67C was a good temperature to run when I had it set to 65C.
The mash-tun dial-thermometer consistently read 2C less than the PID, which means either one or both need calibrating and/or there were losses via the hose/mash tun.  The HLT probe also appeared to be 2-3C out, so I will need to buy a decent scientific glass thermometer and calibrate them all.

As expected, after an hour of recirculation the wort was clear:
One of the things still on the 'to do' list is a better wort-return-mechanism, but I wanted to run a test first to check volumes/sizes/headspace and the like.

Filling the kettle while fly-sparging:
I was going to use a 2-tier system and gravity-feed the HLT into the mash, but it will likely be much easier to use a 2nd pump and put all the 3 kegs on the same level.  However, before I can do this, I need to source a decent brewing-pump with threaded fittings, the little-brown-pump did an adequate job, but it's flow rate and head is not very high, and it also tends to cut-out when recirculating boiling water for cleaning.

The mash drained well, but I presume there was a fair bit of channeling due to the dodgy-wort-return, detailed efficiency calculations indicated that even after an hour there was about 15% of sugar unconverted.  Likely this was due to a combination of the poor wort-return and the grain being crushed about 3 years ago.
The second hose (from the HLT) was because I have not yet finished all the plumbing-aspects of the new system and this was the quickest and easiest way to do it for now.

The 2 2200W elements worked well with with break starting to form even before the kettle was filled:

Once a a boil was achieved, a single element - running at full power - was sufficient to keep a rolling boil going.  Volume-markers to the kettle are also on the 'to do' list and will help with efficiency calculations and to check the evaporation rate.

In most batches of beer I brew I use a combination of pellet hops (usually for bittering) and whole hops (most often for aroma/flavour, and most often because many of them are home-grown).  It was also very important that I check the kettle-filter, since I plan to use a plate-chiller, so for this test I used some Cascade that didn't vacuum-seal in the freezer and home-grown Perl which I have an abundance of:
20g pellets and 10g whole hops in the kettle and another 20g whole hops in the hop-back which will also allow for an initial test to see how that works.

At the end of a 75min boil:

Kettle drained via the hop-back:
Given the unusual kettle-filter, a surprising amount of break and trub was left in the kettle:
The kettle was drained as soon as the boil finished - no whirlpool or waiting - from the bottom, under what is essentially a false-bottom, with the hop back adding a second filter before the plate-chiller (which I will generally use).

So after months of time and effort, work and cost, here is what it is all about, wort!:
I thought it was surprisingly clear into the fermentor, especially considering I was not sure how the kettle-filter and hop back would function.

Efficiency calculations indicated that the over-all efficiency was about 80% but I also need to brew with the system a few more times so I can hit the required volume-targets for each back.  Interestingly efficiency calculations suggested that most was lost due to incomplete sugar-conversion in the mash, which is probably related to how old the crushed-malt was.

I no-chilled 24L into 2 small-plastic jerry-cans and tipped the last 4L.  While this was the first (and likely the last time for the new future) that I no-chill freshly produced wort, since I don't want to ferment it right-away and expect to use the wort from this test-run for yeast-starters, no-chill was the best solution.

There are still a few things to do, including determining a decent cleaning regime and how to connect/disconnect all the hoses without spilling hot water/wort all over myself or the floor, but in-general things went very well for the first brew-day on the new system.

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