So, three years after I started homebrewing I have finally reached my silver batch. I had been looking forward to this batch for a few weeks. My recipe was hopped up (no pun intended) a little since it was an ‘anniversary’ batch. I wanted this one to be a bigger beer and more hoppy than a ‘normal’ beer that I would brew. After a little tweaking, we had the recipe that appeared to balance well and the chosen hop profile should help me with the the grapefruit flavor that I was looking for. The brewday is here, let’s get down to business and brew up 10 gallons of Grapefruit IPA!!!
This brew session would also serve as an educational session for my friend John. The two of us played college lacrosse together and it has been 14 years since we saw each other. So, what better way to catch up than over a brew day. John is a new homebrewer and was very excited to come down and learn the processes for all-grain brewing. We put him to work right away by having him help us measure grains. While he was measuring out the grain, Palmer and I explained what effects the grain would have on the finished beer and why we used malted barley.
After the grains were measured out, it was time to crank up the Barley Crusher. In the past I have had the grains crushed at the local homebrew shop. However, since we had a brand new grain mill we “had” to use it. With John manning the drill, we crushed close to 30 pounds of grain. The Barley Crusher produced a nice crush with it’s pre-set gap. There wasn’t a lot of flower in the crush and most of the hulls were intact. When we took a closer look at it, I had a good feeling that our efficiency numbers were going to be pretty high.
Ok, so let’s take a quick step back for a second and talk about the Chugger Pump. While we were prepping the grain, I had setup the boil kettle and filled it up with a few gallons of a StarSan & water solution to start my sanitation process. I like to run this hot solution through my counterflow chiller for a few minutes, then I trap the sanitizer in the chiller until the beer is ready to be cooled. With the pump all hooked up, I started to circulate the sanitizer so the pump and my chiller would be sanitized and ready to go once the wort’s boil was over. This thing is just awesome! Hooking it up was super easy with the stainless quick disconnects. It is also pretty quiet and powerful. If I were to rate the pump’s performance in the circulating, I would give it a 10 out of 10.
We had heated up our strike water and emptied the HLT into the mash tun for preheating. Next, it was time to dough in the grains. We let John dump in the grain and stir it up to make sure there were no dough balls in our mash. This is one of my favorite steps of the entire process. I love to smell that sweet barley once it hits the hot water…now, if I could just bottle that smell. Our rest period for the mash today was 60 minutes.
After we doughed in, it was time to sit back and enjoy a few beers. The Christmas Ale from Anchor would be the first of many on the day. It would also be the only one where I took a picture. After the Anchor Christmas, we all sampled a few homebrews starting with the Pumpkinator 3,000 then moving to the Black Stone Stout and a barley wine from 2008. We did check our mash temp periodically to make sure our temperature was still holding at 152 degrees. We did loose a couple degrees over the hour, but all-in-all the mash period went as planned.
I have a 10 gallon Rubbermaid mash tun and it only holds 24.5 pounds of grain. So, in order to make this double batch we had to employee another mash tun. For this to work right, we have to get a little creative in a few of our steps. For example, we grind up two identical 5 gallon grain bills (one for each MLT). Next, we have the same volume of strike water in each tun. Finally, for sparging, we use fly sparging but have to move the drain hose (from the HLT) back and forth in the mash tuns so we maintain a 1.5″ – 2″ layer of water on top of the grains bed. In the picture at left, you can see our collaborative setup where we use my TopTier and my buddy’s mobile station. It works pretty well and we made a few adjustments from the first time we brewed on this setup.
Once we collected our boil volume and completed the 60 minute boil, it was time to chill this wort down to pitching temp. Since this was an IPA, I wanted to use my Blichmann HopRocket for the first time. I have had this thing a year and never used it; I was waiting till I had a pump in my system. The HopRocket will hold up to 5 ounces of hops, but I just put in 1 ounce of Cascades to pull some of the hop’s citrus flavor. You can only use leaf hops as the screens inside of the HopRocket are not fine enough to hold in hop pellets. Once my ounce was in, it was time to engineer this into my brew system.
Now, the HopRocket can be used in a couple different ways in your system. For this batch, I used it as a hop back (to add some hop characteristics back into the wort). I hooked it up as you can see at the left, just off of my boil kettle and before the pump. The wort would be pulled from the boil kettle and it will travel through the HopRocket, picking up the citrus notes from the hops before being chilled. In this configuration, it also acts as a filter by utilizing the whole-leaf hops (as a filter bed) to strain out the gunk produced by the boiling wort. This prevents my chiller from being clogged up and it provides a cleaner wort for fermentation. It will be interesting to see how well it works as a filter and if the fermenter’s trub cake will be smaller once fermentation is complete.
Now that this batch is complete; I would say that this day was a huge success. John learned a lot and had a helping hand in every step of the brew session. As always, we had a ton of fun and brewed up a batch of beer that hit all of our numbers. With all of our numbers hit, the final beer should be fantastic!
The pump and HopRocket worked out really well and they both performed flawlessly. I think that the pump addition was a huge upgrade as it will make my system more versatile and it will speed up a few steps. We were able to chill 10 gallons in less time than I used to chill 5 gallons using gravity.
However, there was one little detail that I left out… After all of this talk and planning around my grapefruit, that’s the one thing I left out! When we were about halfway through filling the fermenters, it hit me. The fruit was sitting right on my table along with the zester that I had planned on using. I guess I got to talking and forgot. No big deal, I’ll add the zest in the seconday in a couple weeks.
Look for an update on the beer in the next couple weeks. If you have any questions about the pump, HopRocket, setup, etc… please let me know.