On Sunday I had the chance to brew beer together with my colleague J at his homebrewery. He has some really cool ‘homemade’ equipment, which allows him to brew up to approximately 140-liter batches of beer. He has been brewing mostly Sahti (which you will notice from the equipment as well), but on Sunday we decided to brew an easy-to-drink Pale Ale hopped with Cascade. We aimed for an ABV around 5% and an IBU of around 35, in order to appeal to as large of an audience as possible (J is planning to serve it at a friend’s party). The malt bill consisted of mainly pale ale malt, together with a small amount of munich malt (to give some strength to the malt backbone) and crystal 10 (to lend some body and a slight hint of caramel). The hop schedule should give the beer plenty of grapefruit and floral tones in the aroma and flavour. We are fermenting with J’s ‘house’ (or shall we say favourite) yeast strain, WLP007, to lend a dry and clear beer, with slight hints of fruity esters. The batch size was 100 liters, so approximately 2.5-5 times bigger than my usual batches. The brewday went really well and we hit most of targets. Hopefully the beer will taste good as well! Thanks J for the opportunity to come and brew with you! Below you will find some pictures I took during the day.
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We began the brewday by crushing the malt, which J had pre-weighed prior to my arrival. He uses a mill that looks quite similar to my Monster Mill MM-2. Crushing 20 kg of malt took about 10 minutes with a cordless drill.
While we were crushing, the mashing water was being pre-heated in the 200-liter brewing kettle. J has modified a 200-liter tiltable kettle (normally used in professional kitchens) with a PID controller, which allows him to precisely control the mash temperature. The kettle is powered by a steam jacket, which allows for rapid and even heating along the whole surface of the kettle (no problems with scorching here). He has mounted a motor-powered mash paddle in the middle of the lid (which was continuously mixing the mash), together with a long thermowell containing the temperature sensor. A really cool set-up! Hopefully will be able to have something similar at some point.
Below is the lautering vessel, which is of the kuurna-type, i.e. one that is traditional used for making sahti. When making Sahti, the vessel can be filled with juniper twigs to help with lautering and to lend some flavour. We instead used sheets of perforated stainless steel to act as a false bottom and uphold the malt bed.
After the 90-minute mash, we transferred the whole content of the kettle into the lautering vessel. We used smaller buckets for the transfer, which took a couple of minutes. The engineer in me would probably want a more automated and less laborious solution, but J was happy with this set-up. When the kettle was empty, it was quickly rinsed with water, after which the sparge water was heated. In the meanwhile we were circulating the wort in order to clear it up. No fear of hot-side oxidation here, with plenty of splashing. I would again probably take an easier way out, with a valve in the end and a pump to recirculate the wort.
Here is a picture of the control panel as we are heating the sparge water up to the target temperature of 75C. It took maybe 10 minutes to heat the 70 liters of sparge water the remaining 30 degrees up to 75C.
Here is a picture of the exhaust system. He uses the same exhaust fan for leading away welding fumes, so it serves several purposes. It was very effective in removing the steam produced during the boil (which you will see a couple of pictures down).
We collected the pre-boil wort in the kettle. We ended up with around 120 liters of wort, with a pre-boil gravity of around 1.042 (so slightly higher efficiency than expected).
After the boil had started, we opened up the hole in the lid, added in the bittering hops, and put on the exhaust fan. As you can see, the fumes are collected nicely into the ventilation tubes.
Here are 150 g of Cascade pellets which are to be added with 15 minutes left in the boil. The remaining 250 g of flame-out hops are still waiting in the black bag.
Below is 175 ml of WLP007 yeast slurry which is to be pitched into the wort after cooling. Slightly on the low side for this big of a batch, but luckily the beer is quite low-gravity.
Here we are cooling through a plate chiller. No pump is used to transfer the wort, only gravity (the kettle is tilted so the valve is lowered below the liquid). Emptying of the kettle took about 15-20 minutes. Before cooling we whirlpooled the hot wort for around 15 minutes, to collect any solid matter at the bottom. The whirlpool was initiated with the same motor-driven mash peddle which stirred the mash.
Here is a picture of the whirlpool cake. Quite a lot of hop debris and trub!
We ended up with around 100 liters of 1.048 wort. This will hopefully become a really refreshing and sessionable Pale Ale for warm spring days!
Thanks again J!