Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I think I may already own my dream brewing rig...

This is Marshal's (Brulosophy) old set up, but mine is identical.
I didn't have a picture handy, so I used his.  
If you don't read Brulosophy, well
start reading it today.
So as I have been responding to questions and comments about my recent post about using your head when brewing, it occured to me... I may already own my dream 5 to 10 gallon brewing rig.  I already know my stove top gear is ideal for 2.5 to 3 gallon batches.   This might be the perfect rig, or at least the rig that makes the most sense for me (and probably for most of you).   I have an old 48 quart cooler mash tun with a 3/8th" valve.  I have a bad ass burner (231K BTU 12" banjo) that I have had since the Clinton administration.   I have a Keggle,  and I have an electric turkey fryer. (it's getting harder and harder to find a 30 quart electric turkey fryer but you could also use a large coffee urn)   So all I really need again is a stand and some PVC tubing and some silicone for my sparge arm.  If I use my pump it will be more for vourlauf and temperature stabilization than for anything else.

PVC Sparge arm for my cooler mash tun. Pretty easy build
consistent rinsing of the grains. 
I used to own a huge gravity system we called the beast.  We made 30 gallon batches on it with out a single pump.  If our mash temp fell we didn't worry about it.  We knew another step was coming up, and that we would be adding near boiling water.  We made fantastic beer.  Balanced and malty, clear enough to read through.  And our beer had head retention and real mouth feel,  even if it was crisp and fully attenuated. I know the concept of mouth feel and crisp together is hard to explain to single mash step brewers, but think of a Pilsner Urquell.  It has mouth feel even though it is crisp and light.  You see a Pilsner Urquel doesn't ask sugars to do the job of proteins.  It is lovingly and carefully step mashed through a decoction process.  Long chain proteins are modified in this process into medium length proteins, melanoidal flavors are developed.   And that my friends you can not do with single rest mashing.   To get close you have to add more grains that are designed to mimic the taste of the authentic process.  So why not just do it right from the beginning.  In the old days if we wanted a dry ultra crisp beer like American lager or dry Irish stout we just changed our step mash in order to create a dry beer.   I still believe multiple step mashing is the control panel of wort creation.

My trusty ol Keggle and Burner
It might be time to take what I have learned over the past couple of years and apply it to my current gear.  So here is what I am thinking.  I prefer mashing in a cooler mash tun with a brew bag as a filter. I crush fine, and always get 75 to 80% efficiency.  I can get over 90% when I  slowly fly sparge.  But I want to do a kinda modified fly sparge. (basically, I am going to do a step mash but I will try to make sure I have 30% of the brewing liquor left for sparging.)  I always step mash.  (you all know my feelings on single temperature mashing). So with that in mind.  I am stealing bits and pieces of what I have learned from BIAB and 3 vessel to brew in the way that makes the most sense to me.

If you read this blog you have seen the
Cajun Injector countless times. 
So my electric turkey fryer will be my hot liquor tank.  My keggle and bad ass burner will be my... well my keggle and burner.   My old extract pot will be for decoction (the keggle is just too deep).  My trusty old blue cooler mash tun will be my mash tun.    I will be step mashing with up to 70% of the water.  To ensure that the wort temperatures even out I will be using... a spoon!  (Although the technology is unproven, I am confident that spoons for use in brewing will catch on. )  The remaining 30% of the water,  I will use for a modified fly sparge, like a sparge rinse but slower and more controlled.   I am going to try to keep my system short, even though I am 6'1" and two of the other team members are 6'4" or taller, shorter systems are easier to manage. So,  I am going to collect the wort in a graduated bucket (bottling bucket) and transfer it manually to keggle.  That way I can stop my sparge when I get to the volume i want to be at, or the exact gravity I want to be at for my boil.

We'll make the ol girl look
like this with some elbow grease!
Now, I may add some features to my brewing set up, like a thermometer for my keggle.  Just because it is cool to know where the temperatures are as you are cooling, and when you are almost to a boil. And a sight glass, to make volume determination easier. And a With this system and process I should come in around 75% to 80% every time, but this also allow me to fine tune my mash exactly how I want it.   And more importantly it gives me more connection to the brewing process.  The more hands on the better. The more focus needed the better.  That is what makes a great brewer.  Great brewers are focused and connected to the brew... every time. 

So yes, my decision is made,  unless I win the lottery,  I have what I need already.  And I'm guessing most of you have what you need as well. If you don't already have what you need, I'm guessing you can get what you need for less than $350.00 USD total.  You probably have most of what you need.  And anything and everything else you need you can get online, or at your local hardware store.  There is just no reason to spend a fortune on home brewing.  It is learning, cleaning, and actually brewing that will make you a great brewer, not equipment.   Lots of guys (and gals) have won big time awards on basic equipment.  The difference between them, and you... they really, really know what they are doing.   So, yes, I have my brewing rig already. I'm guessing you do to.   I know you probably surf the web and look at the awesome stuff that is now available.  My best advice is change how you surf.  Begin researching the awesome brewers who post their stuff to the web.  Begin learning about advanced brewing techniques, there is a reason last years brewer of the year did a ferulic acid rest... just saying.  There is a reason last years Ninkasi award winner does decoctions.    Not all of these guys would agree on everything, but by researching them you can learn what works for you.   That's all for now brew nerds...

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