Realized this morning that no one wrote up a recap of last Friday’s brew session. Since we are maintaining this blog as a record of our triumphs and fails as we mosey our way towards becoming a commercial brewery, I thought that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least write something up.

da-dogs-17But before I do that, I have to point out the photo to the right that I came across while browsing the interwebs.

Is it just me, or is this one uber-cool pooch. I’d drink a beer with that guy anytime.

Moving on.

Last Friday night marked a couple of key milestones for Regular Guy Brewing. First, it was our first attempt at brewing a stout. And secondly, it was our first time utilizing our brewery control system in an actual brew session.

I’m not one to pat myself on the back too often, but I must say…the control panel worked flawlessly. It did exactly what it was supposed to, and at all the right times too.

That’s not to say that the brew did not have its issues. While the control panel itself worked great, a few problems did crop up that we had no way of really anticipating. On the plus side though, the issues we encountered were practically a “perfect storm” of problems. If we can solve those, we should be golden from here out.

Probably the biggest issue we had was the cold. I don’t know the exact temperature that night, but it was well below freezing. Maintaining a mash temperature of 154 F for 1 hour is made quite difficult when the ambient temperature is about 130 degrees lower than that.

We were constantly losing heat, and I don’t think we spent more than a 1/3 of the mash time at the proper temp range. Even when we circulated the wort through our heat exchanger, we still lost heat. It was an uphill battle, that we just could not win.

Possible solutions: A) Insulate the lines leading to and from the pump; B) Add additional insulation to the outside of the MLT; C) don’t brew beer when it is that far below freezing.

A second issue that became somewhat apparent, is that wort does not drain very fast from the mash when gravity is the only thing drawing it out. The grain bed (left to its own devices) can get pretty darn thick, making the flow of wort out the tun into the grant painfully slow. Further complicating this issue was the fact that the float switches I installed into our lauter grant are probably too far apart. As such, the pump did not run as much as I would have liked, resulting in less circulation than I was hoping for.

Possible solutions: A) add a mechanism to the MLT that will allow for constant stirring/agitation of the mash; The more the grist is in suspension, the less it can compact and choke off the flow of wort.  B) modify the grant to lower the high level float switch; C) add ball valves to the output of the solenoid valves that route the wort through the HERMS system. Restricting the output from the pump will slow the drainage of the grant, allowing for more constant circulation.

Despite these issues, I don’t think that the brew went too badly. Our efficiency was not what we were shooting for, and as such our gravity numbers were much lower than we had wanted, but the samples we drew from what went into the fermenter were extremely promising none-the-less.

I will be anxious to see how this one tastes in the end. I will be equally anxious to see how the changes described above will impact future brews.

But this truly is why we brew, and need to brew as often as we can. Lessons are learned with every batch and each and every bottle we make brings us a step closer to making our dreams a reality.

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