Be careful what you wish for

Post #1 made 1 year ago
I've been swallowed up in a project for the past few months and finally finished a few days ago. My neighbor is moving and gave me a conical fermenter, a SS 60L brew pot with outlet valve and a thermometer, and a 14" propane burner, along with some other stuff. I was itching to make a run at brewing with this new equipment and as my wife is out of town for a week, determined today would be the day. I decided not to attempt to use the conical fermenter for a lot of reasons. I may some day but not on this batch. So with everything cleaned up and all the ingredients on hand I filled up the beautiful brew pot and lit off the burner. Oh how that thing puts out the BTUs. I was up to mash temp in about half the time my old system took. During the mash phase of this brew I was concerned that as I agitated the mash the thermometer that is mounted about 4" up from the bottom of the pot, and whose probe sticks into the pot a good 3”, would puncture my BIAB bag, so I was careful not to come too close to it with my spoon. I hit my VIB and GIB on the nose and no rips in the bag. Good enough. Because the new kettle is wider than it is tall, I expected a greater boil off than with my old set up, and watching the wort boil for 90 minutes I could see that there was going to be some math in my near future to fix the potential overshot gravity. Sure enough when the boil was done, I was quite a bit low on VAW and high on OG. No problem, because I've been studying up for this very situation and, due to the tutelage many of you have kindly given, I knew how to correct for high gravity. During the boil I had added my bittering hops (in pellet form) in a hop bag, and my flavor hops (again in pellet form) also in a hop bag. My previous brews haven't had much hop bitterness or flavor, so my plan was to leave the bittering hops in during cooling, and add the flavoring hops when the wort reached 76.6c, and then let the whole thing rest for 15 minutes before taking the wort down to pitching temp. Once the wort got to about 18c I went to transfer the wort into the fermenter, and this is where my really nice new equipment decided it was time to bite me in the nether regions.
First, I couldn't get any more than a trickle of liquid to come out through the drain valve – it was plugged up tight. I had anticipated this might be an issue as the valve reduced down to about 1/4" opening at exit. I brought out the trusty auto siphon and started moving liquid. Actually, a hell of a lot of trub. Once I got the wort transferred and safely hidden from any errant wild yeasties floating in the air, I looked in the brew kettle and saw why I had so much trub - the flavor hop bag had at some point snagged on that really cool thermometer mounted about 4" up from the bottom of the kettle and ripped open, spilling all 2oz of expanded pellet hops into my wort!
So now I’ve got a lot of trub in my fermenter, but I think I’ve got the right OG so the yeast can do it’s thing. I’ll probably give the new kettle one more try – without the thermometer, but really, after today I’m not sure a drain valve gives any advantage. Plus cleaning the valve is a pain. And then there’s the issue of a huge surface area allowing for boil off. My old system is actually looking pretty sweet.
This has been a good learning experience. I’ve determined that I don’t like a thermometer mounted through the wall of my brew kettle (for me it’s less than worthless), I don’t really need a drain valve mounted on my kettle, I’m pretty sure I understand how to correct for too high OG, and my old and simple equipment really is more efficient in many ways than all the new shiny toys I yearned for. In fact, I think I’m going to give most of the new stuff away (I’ll keep the burner – it really is impressive).
    • SVA Brewer With Over 5 Brews From United States of America

Re: Be careful what you wish for

Post #2 made 1 year ago
Thanks, Streamer, for the post with the real-world experience details. :clap: :salute:

Questions regarding the evaporation rate relative to VAW - if you entered the new kettle dimensions into the BIABacus, wouldn’t it have estimated a new (higher) evaporation rate? Or were the weather and new burner contributors to a more vigorous boil with increased evaporation? :scratch:

Let us know of you rack to a secondary fermenter or not and how the trub you did get into the primary affects the beer later.

Great post, Streamer.

Re: Be careful what you wish for

Post #3 made 1 year ago
Thanks for the reply SP.
Regarding the boiloff, the BIABacus missed by a bit but that was probably due to a very vigorous boil. Of course there's always user error. The weather was in the mid 70s so that wasn't really a factor.
I'm really not sure whether to rack to a secondary (and if so when?) or not. I've never done a secondary and after reading up on it the process sounds to be more for cosmetics of the beer than affecting the flavor profile. I'm leaning toward just gutting it out and letting the beer finish up in the primary and bottling it up. I was looking for more hops - this may be the hoppiest beer I've made!
What do you think? By leaving the beer to finish in the primary on that much hop material am I risking anything? Alternatively, would racking to a secondary reduce the chance of an overly hopped beer?
    • SVA Brewer With Over 5 Brews From United States of America

Re: Be careful what you wish for

Post #4 made 1 year ago
Go for it.
By “hoppy” beer you will have to decide what that means to you - bitter, fragrant, flavors associated with the particular hops used; grassy, piney, flowery, etc. You will get beer and experience together on this batch, that’s what brewing is for.
I do not think that racking to a secondary fermenter (after 3 days /krausen fall) would reduce what most would call “hoppy.” Do watch for what some call a vegetal taste - I can’t seem to taste that while others can.
Will there be dry hopping? The cosmetics can be altered by cold-crashing or gelatin later, if you wish.
There are those who do no-chill and store wort for months in a cube, those who ferment in the kettle and those who transfer everything, including trub, into their fermenters. Ya gotta do the experiment to learn. And remember, it might be different for a different combination of ingredients next time. More power to you.
Your fermenter has what it has and will make what it makes based on your good faith efforts. I hope it turns out great. :luck:

Re: Be careful what you wish for

Post #5 made 1 year ago
Well, I did go for it and bottled a few weeks ago. I didn't rack into a secondary. I let the beer sit on all the trub for about 3 weeks while fermentation finished, then bottled. The beer conditioned in the bottle for 3 weeks and then I cracked a bottle. The result was a nicely bittered beer, with no grass or hay taste, at least on my pallet. Overall I'm pretty pleased. The final results confirm - again - what so many brewers on this site have stated previously; it's beer, so once it's in the FV, it's beer (I'm paraphrasing).
I learned a lot from this brew. For me, simple equipment is better. I don't need or want thermometers screwed in to my kettle, and I don't need or want a drain valve. Also, I learned that, at least for this batch and this recipe, leaving hops in the FV didn't really add that much, if anything, to the flavor profile, nor did leaving hops in the FV detract from the flavor profile of the beer. This will be interesting to keep in mind and play with as I move further onto brewing IPAs.
Most importantly I learned that if I follow the basics - keep my equipment clean and sanitized and follow my recipe - even with an occasional mishap, the beer will turn out tasting good. I love this ongoing experiment! :thumbs:
    • SVA Brewer With Over 5 Brews From United States of America
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