Brew Day – Part 1 Prep and Mash Water
Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to take pictures during the actual brew day. With the new system I’m working with there are still a lot of kinks that I’m getting used to and it just slipped my mind.
This post will take you through the preparation, choices of water and heat source and to the mash.
Water selection is the first step in the brew process. This water will eventually become your beer. There’s many train of thoughts about water in the homebrewing world from it being one of the most important parts to it really being insignificant. One thing that most people will agree on is that your regular tap water is not a good source of water. So what should you use? Below are some options that I’ve used or am currently using:
For my first several batches I used the 1 gallon jugs of spring water (Left) bought from any retailer. That proved to be very wasteful. I then moved on to use the water filter on my fridge but that was very time consuming. Finally I’ve moved onto using a filter (Right) to filter the water straight from the tap. Another very effective method is using the refillable 5 gallon jugs (center). There are other options out there and pluses and minuses to all of them but I will go into that some other time.
One thing to remember about the water is that even though you may only be making 5 or 10 gallon batches, you will need much more water than that to finish the entire brewing process. Water is lost through various times in the brewing process, especially in the mashing process as the grains will absorb a lot of water. You will need 1.5x to 2x more water than your final batch amount.
So how much water do you need? Well it depends on a few factors but there are also brewing calculators out there that will do the work for you. I personally use the Beer Smith 2 app for my phone to do my calculating. It’s a great tool to have because it helps you keep track of our brewing and can also be used to on brew day as a timer. For Siska’s Coconut Porter, I used 8.22 gallons water in the mash and 10.37 gallons in the sparge.
Now that we have the water figured out, we can move onto the heating of the water:
Heating Mash Water
Anyone who cooks knows that it takes time to boil water. Well in brewing we need to heat more water than you do in basic cooking, so you’re gonna need bigger fire power or you’ll be sitting around all day waiting for the temps to rise. If you’re doing small batches, using your stove burners might be an option but when you start doing 5 or 10 gallon batches, you are going to need something that uses more BTUs to get the water heated quicker. Here are a few options that I’ve used:
This is the first burner that I used. It’s a simple turkey fryer bought from Walmart. A big plus with this burner was that it also came with a large pot that became my first brew kettle.
It was a cheap, yet effective way of getting the job done, a great starter kit for those just starting to do bigger batches.
This is my first upgraded burner, the Dark Star 2. It was much more efficient and heated the water to boil significantly quicker. This made brew days shorter.
One downside of this burner is that the base is a little bit bigger than the kettles I was using, so it always felt like it could tip over. Probably not likely but if it did, it would be dangerous.
The next step up for me was the Bayou Banjo BG14 Burner. I have three of these in my brewstand. Unfortunately due to issues with the automation hookups I’m only using the burner on the brew kettle.
These burners are fantastic and almost necessary if you start doing 10 gallon batches.
Once you’ve got your burner, it’s time to heat your water to be used in the mash. This is typically done in a different vessel than your mash tun (MT), typically called a hot liquor tank (HLT). The HLT is used exclusively just to heat water that will be transferred to the MT.
Add the water that the brewing software calculated the you will need for the mash into the HLT and heat it up to the temperature recommended by the software. Typically the temperature will be around 10 degrees higher that the desired mash temperature. Why do you want it higher? Because you will be transferring the liquid into the MT and mix it with the grain to make your mash. Simply mixing the water with the grain will cause that 10 degree drop in temperature.
For Siska Coconut Porter it called for 8.22 gallons of water heated to 165.9 degrees to give a mash temperature of 154 degrees. In the next post I will tell you about the mashing and sparge process.