Author Topic: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters  (Read 8109 times)

Offline KiwiBrewer

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I am preparing for my first brew, and I am jumping right in going all grain with 5 gallon batches.
I need clarification on a few things.

1)
The first is water volumes. I have designed a 5 gallon, 7.5ABV beer in beersmith. My mash tun holds approximately 24-25 liters (~6.5 gallons) including 3 litres ( 0.8 gallons) dead space below my sieve.

The beersmith mash profile states I should mash with 19.4 liters (which includes 3 extra for dead space) and sparge with two 7.3 liter additions after draining.

It seems with all this water added (~33 liters, although the grain should absorb ~6 litres) I will get too much water out into my boiler pot. To add to this I will also make a 2 liter starter. My primary fermenter only holds 22 litres ( I have attached a large 1 inch dia blow off tube to account for the small airspace)

Am I right in thinking that with all these water additions I will end up with a too large volume rather than the intended 5 gallons/19 liters final batch volume?

Would I be better to mash with the 19.4 liters and then continuous sparge until I reach the required volume out into my brewpot- being the Batch volume plus the losses to boiling/trub etc minus the starter volume (e.g. 18.93+5.78 (boil off, trub loss, cooling loss) - 2 (starter volume) = 22.71 liters in the pot before boiling which would have the 2l starter added)

Beersmith has set:
Boil off = 2.04l
Cooling loss = 0.91l
Trub loss = 2.84l

Can I consider these reasonable good estimates of losses? I will be cooling the wort with a copper immersion chiller if that changes anything.

2)
I was reading about how I can re-use yeast from the primary fermenter trub and store it for up to 2 months. If I don't plan to use the yeast for several months can I perpetuate it by making starters and harvesting yeast sediment every couple months? Liquid yeast is expensive here in NZ so I would like to be able to re-use any yeasts I buy several times but I would like to have several types of yeast at any one time and probably will only brew once a month or so.

3)
In Beersmith I have set my Tot efficiency to 72%, is this reasonable for a first time brewer?


Sorry for the long winded first post
Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Josh

Offline Humble Brewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2013, 09:15:56 AM »
Welcome to home brewing.

1) I would go with the recommended water amounts from beersmith.  If you really end up with two much water into the boil pot just increase your boil time on the front end before hop additions or adjuncts.  In the end you want to hit your gravity targets.  If you hit that with 5.5 gallons rather than 5 gallons then hey, more beer!  I wouldn't worry too much about it.

2)  Harvesting and storing yeast is a science all its own.  Yes technically you can go through all the effort you listed but I would wait until you have a few batches under your belt.  You don't even know if you like certain yeasts or recipes yet if it is your first batch.  Later when you settle on some stuff you really like that you intend to make frequently I would invest in the additional gear and effort for yeast harvesting.

3)  72% is fine for a starting number.  Run a few batches, check your numbers, adjust from there.  I think 72% is a reasonable first shot.  Again, just make sure you hit your gravity targets as best you can.  Add a little DME if necessary, boil off more if necessary, which ever.  Take good notes, tweak, within a few runs you will know.

Again, welcome to home brewing.
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Offline KiwiBrewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2013, 01:20:20 PM »
Thanks Humble Brewer.

Yes I tend to over plan things. I will take your advice and use the recommended water additions and try to aim for the gravity targets.

I guess all there is left is to try a brew and go from there. I am used to working in a molecular biology lab so the note taking, sterilization etc should come naturally (I hope).

Thanks
Josh

Offline tom_hampton

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2013, 08:36:21 PM »
Josh-

If I might be the voice of reason.... You are biting off a LOT.  I get. it, youare a high ffunctioning individual.  So are many others here and in brewing.  All grain brewing is reasonably complex. And an all grain brew day is a long and busy affair.

I've taught a number of folks to brew.  It always works out better.... More fun... to do a few extract brews to get your legs under you before adding in a mash-tun. Beer is not made in the mash tun, it is made in the fermenter.  Learn what it takes to be sanitary with homebrew equipment.  Learn what it takes to ferment a good beer. 

I get it. I'm an engineer.   I've been one for 20 years. I've got two degrees. I get the confidence to want to jump into the deep endof the pool.  Trust me, make 3-5 extract brews. spend your learning, and financial resources, and time learning how to ferment the perfect beer. Learn how to make starters of the proper size for different beers.

All grain doesn't make better beer. In fact, in many cases it makes a worse beer.
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Offline KiwiBrewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2013, 10:30:43 PM »
I hear ya Tom. In fact I was expecting at least one person to give that advice.
As much as what you say makes perfect sense, I just can't get myself to change my mind and not jump into all grain (as cocky as that sounds).
I have been reading and researching for months, planning my water additions, preparing equipment and a basic yeast starter  kit, etc. I know that even with all this preparation there is a high chance that things will go wrong on brew day and I will end up with a bad batch of beer. To be honest it is pretty typical of me to jump into the deep end when it comes to hobbies, some times with bad results. I know that all-grain doesn't equate to better beer, it's just that I am doing this for fun, the challenge, and a love of beer (and science!).

I am prepared to fail ( although I hope I don't) and I will keep this thread updated with how it turns out.

Offline alcaponejunior

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 12:06:37 PM »
I'm going to meet you halfway on the advice.  Obviously you're ready to go for all grain, so just do it.  It's not as hard as it seems.  My brother may never see an extract batch. 

However, you are delving a little deep into the parameters of beersmith for a first batch.  You won't be able to control all those parameters as closely as you might want. 

You have to dial things in for your system.  Estimating them all to within the tolerances you seem to be focusing on is probably impossible. 

However, it won't be that far off either.  It will be surprisingly close, and you can play with the numbers over your upcoming batches.

I suggest you focus on sanitization and timing first, primarily sanitization!

Use the beersmith timers!  I also make sure and schedule everything on a slightly different timing, for instance if I have hops going in at ten minutes, I schedule the Irish moss for 12 minutes so they don't overlap, and every timer means one addition. 

As an example of what I'm saying about not trying to be too precise on your first batch... I'm on AG batch 8, with lots of extract batches behind me.  I've decided that all of my beers in the 1.050-1.060 OG range will be done with eight gallons of water (I have to buy water in advance).  It's about 3.5 gallons or so for the mash, and about 4 gallons for sparging, leaving me 6.5 gallons for the boil (usually wind up with about 5-5.5 gallons of usable wort).  It's worked out nearly perfectly, both in practical terms, and via the beersmith numbers.  I usually have just enough left over for the priming sugar.  If I'm doing a yeast starter, I get one extra gallon for a safety margin.  No problems so far, and all of my beers have been within 0.005 of my intended OG. 

If you are off by a quart or two over a five gallon batch, no worries!  And hey, if it's a 5.5 gallon batch that's 0.005 points less than what you intended, no biggie, more beer!  Even if you make less beer than you intended, it will still be good beer! 

Don't try to be too perfect on your first batch.  Just get the process down first, dial in your numbers later.

« Last Edit: January 09, 2013, 12:09:58 PM by alcaponejunior »

Offline alcaponejunior

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 12:11:40 PM »
I hear ya Tom. In fact I was expecting at least one person to give that advice.
As much as what you say makes perfect sense, I just can't get myself to change my mind and not jump into all grain (as cocky as that sounds).
I have been reading and researching for months, planning my water additions, preparing equipment and a basic yeast starter  kit, etc. I know that even with all this preparation there is a high chance that things will go wrong on brew day and I will end up with a bad batch of beer. To be honest it is pretty typical of me to jump into the deep end when it comes to hobbies, some times with bad results. I know that all-grain doesn't equate to better beer, it's just that I am doing this for fun, the challenge, and a love of beer (and science!).

I am prepared to fail ( although I hope I don't) and I will keep this thread updated with how it turns out.
I highly doubt you will fail.  You may get something slightly different than expected tho.  No worries.

Offline philm63

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2013, 03:42:14 PM »
Josh,

You're getting some sound advice here so far - you're in good hands. I too am about to brew my first "full-size" AG brew this weekend. Got a new brew kettle and a 10-gallon cooler for my mash tun from Santa, and I'm ready to go!

I started not long ago with a couple of extract batches and like many folks here; I wanted to push further and gain more control and brew better beer. I moved from steeping my grains to mashing them in a smaller pot and adding that wort to my boil pot, topping up to hit volume, and adding some DME to hit gravity targets.

Partial Mash brewing taught me how the mash process worked - what can go wrong with temperatures and pH and water and all the other elements of AG brewing, while maintaining some control over volumes and gravity targets. I did a couple smaller AG batches just to see what it was like, but used a bag in the pot (Brew-in-a-bag or BIAB - lots of folks brew with this method). The beers came out OK, and I learned a lot about efficiency and water and temperatures and such.

All the while I was working on fermentation, starters, temperature control, bottling, kegging, carbonation, etc. knowing one day I'd make the leap, and this weekend is it!

I agree that you may not want to bite off so much the first time around - real world results are much harder to predict with a complex process such as AG without adequate experience. Once basic brewhouse skills are learned, any brewing technique can be perfected. Don't be overly worried about the results, relax, have fun, and be ready to learn!

Cheers,

Phil
« Last Edit: January 09, 2013, 03:44:35 PM by philm63 »
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Offline KiwiBrewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2013, 06:31:56 PM »
Wow. Thanks everyone for all the advice.
My main issue with going over the intended volume is that my primary fermenter is only 22l (5.8 gallons) so I just need to make sure I am not too much over 5 gallons after boiling but it sounds like I should be able to  control this with extra boiling if needed.

Overall I just want my final volume into the fermenter to be roughly what I calculated within a few liters so It will fit into the fermenter. I have a very large 1 inch diameter blow off tube which will hopefully make up for the fermenter being a little small. I am easy on the gravity as long as its within 0.005 or so but I will get an idea of this after a few batches I guess.

Great advice on the timings alcaponejunior, I will do something similar and have all my hop additions etc laid out in order.

My other worry is temps. At the moment day temps are hitting 26C (79F) although the room I will use will probably only hit 24C (75F)... And mean daily temps during Summer are only 23C (73F). I have a 110l (30 Gallon) plastic container that I plan to place my fermenter into and fill it with cold tap water every morning and add ice packs midday where necessary. What are peoples experience with this? Will this be sufficient to keep temps below 21C (70F)?

I can't wait to start and see how it goes. Just waiting on my copper tube so I can build the wort chiller before I order ingredients. From all the advice it seems that the main thing to remember is sanitation and to have fun.

Offline Maine Homebrewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2013, 06:54:16 PM »
Quote
I just need to make sure I am not too much over 5 gallons after boiling

If you haven't already it might be a good idea to put your target volume of water into your boil pot, dip a dowel or something, and mark it. That way there's no guessing.

Quote
My other worry is temps
In my case my spring and fall basement temps are in the mid to high 60s, summer is too warm to brew, and it's at a nice lager happy 52 right now. I avoid anything above 70 if I can help it.
In your case I would suggest artificial refrigeration. A fridge or freezer with a Johnson Controls thermostat.  Not only will you get better ale, but but it opens the door to lager.

Quote
From all the advice it seems that the main thing to remember is sanitation and to have fun.

StarSan and PBW are a brewer's best friends.
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Offline KiwiBrewer

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2013, 07:07:56 PM »
Quote
I just need to make sure I am not too much over 5 gallons after boiling

If you haven't already it might be a good idea to put your target volume of water into your boil pot, dip a dowel or something, and mark it. That way there's no guessing.

Quote
My other worry is temps
In my case my spring and fall basement temps are in the mid to high 60s, summer is too warm to brew, and it's at a nice lager happy 52 right now. I avoid anything above 70 if I can help it.
In your case I would suggest artificial refrigeration. A fridge or freezer with a Johnson Controls thermostat.  Not only will you get better ale, but but it opens the door to lager.

Quote
From all the advice it seems that the main thing to remember is sanitation and to have fun.

StarSan and PBW are a brewer's best friends.

Yes I have made dip stick with liter graduations to measure volumes. I was hoping to be able to start this summer but maybe I will need to wait till Autumn if the temps are gonna be too high. I don't think refrigeration is an option at this point due to space constraints but I may get a fridge or freezer and temp controller in the future.

Offline alcaponejunior

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2013, 08:06:54 AM »
The freezer and controller I bought will wind up being the key items to brewing at all.  It's hot in TX, too hot to brew.

You may be able to get away with towels and ice bottles though.

Offline factory

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2013, 09:08:45 AM »
Before I had a spare fridge, I used to use the old tried and true method of putting the fermenter in a tub of water and swapping out bottles that I would then refreeze and reuse.  It's pretty easy to maintain temps in the high 60s (F) that way if your ambient room temp is in the high 70s.
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Offline durrettd

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2013, 12:23:18 PM »
If you're having trouble getting your fermentation temperatures at or below 20 C, consider using a saison yeast. They seem to like temps in the mid 70s F and higher (20 + C).

Offline tom_hampton

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Re: Some Q's before I dive in- Mash water, volumes, and yeast starters
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2013, 02:34:53 PM »
Where are you in nz? Honestly, no matter where you are it doesn't exactlyget hhot there. I travel to nz several times a year wither to Auckland or Blenheim. A cooler filled with water and ice bottles exchanged daily should be good enough for most ales.
R.I.P.:Belgian Blonde
On Tap: Apfelwein, Kolsch(v2), Pumpkin Ale, Belgian Specialty 
Aging/Storing: Coffee Porter, Chocolate Porter, Flanders Red, English Barlywine
Fermenting: Maggie's Altbier
Next Up: PtE(1.1), Belgian Dubbel?

Working thru all BCS recipes

 

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