So it’s brew day again here. Lately we’ve been spending more time building up our equipment than actually brewing so this is a little bit of treat for us. Even so, we did still have some equipment tasks to do before we could start brewing. We recently added in some tri-clover disconnects to our plumbing around our pumps and needed to do a quick wet test before we started brewing. It’s a good thing too, because there were some leaks!
We all took the day off to brew, and the plan going in was to do 2 batches back to back. We spent a good hour or so fixing the leaks in the plumbing so we got started a little late. And while it’s a little bit of a debbie downer that this is the first time we’ve brewed in a month, it’s been worth it! This setup using the brewtrowller 2.0 controlling the heating elements, pumps, and valves is really amazing.
First up is a Honey Stout. Since we are doing 10 gallon batches we start with about 16-17 gallons of water in the HLT, and it takes a little over an hour to get it heated to our initial strike temperature of 170ºF. We’ve been having a little bit of trouble with our yeast starters, for some reason they just don’t seem to be catching. Leading theories are a sanitization problem, too much yeast nutrients, or not enough aeration before pitching the yeast. So, while we waited for water to heat up, Travis and Jeremy went out to buy a couple WYeast smack packs. After mash in and adding the grains our starting mash temp was only about 133ºF. This is partly because we had some cool water left in the lines from the wet test, but we’ve also decided that it will be a good idea to have primed the pumps before hand too. Next time we’ll make the initial strike temp a little hotter, 175ºF, to try to better correct for the heat loss. An hour later and we’re sparging. The past couple batches we’ve had a lot of trouble with our sparge/lauter rate, it’s been way to quick, finishing in about 20-30 minutes. This time we managed to get it right though, taking about 60-70 minutes to complete. Glen had a genius moment and made a mark on the valve so that we’d know what to do next time! Another hour and the boil is over, wort chilling and filling the conical time.
We wrapped batch 1 up at about 4:30, and the debate turns to whether we should try to do number 2. Nobodies sure when the next free day would be to brew it, so we decided to go for it.
So next up is a Pumpkin Ale. To save some time we decided to start with only 10 gallons in the HLT, exactly what we’d need for the mash. The plan is to add more water and heat it in parallel with the mash for sparge. Well, things are looking good, we had just started the mash, recirculating through the RIMS, when bam! the breaker blows. Well shit, we had forgot that we ran the HLT dry and the brewtroller turned the heating element back on. It’s bad to run those elements dry, what happens is that it overheats and the resistance basically goes to 0, and it shorts. So at this point our HLT heating element is completely blown. Luckily we have a spare element and Travis and Glen started swapping it out while Jeremy and myself tend the mash. However, it just wasn’t our day and things went from bad to worse. I noticed that our pump was having a hard time recirculating, and when I put the mash paddle in to stir the mash it felt really solid. Something about the pumpkin must have really clogged things up. This is the first time we’ve dealt with a stuck mash before, and so we didn’t really know what best to do. Stirring the mash worked a little, but after another 5 minutes it was stuck again, and no amount of stirring seemed to help. It’s about this point that we all started to notice the burning smell, it’s been stuck long enough now that the RIMS heating element has burnt the wort that is no longer recirculating. On any other brew day I’m sure we’d have had enough energy and motivation to try to attempt to save the batch, but this time it wasn’t happening. The late day plus the blown HLT heating element plus the stuck and burnt mash proved to be too much and we abandoned the batch. It really stinks to have lost the brew, but we did learn some things and we now know we have some homework to do regarding unsticking mashes.
At the end of the day we had some good and some bad, but at least we got to brew. The biggest lesson of the day I think is that we still have a lot of learning to do on the new setup.
Happy Brewing, Cheers!