After brewing imperial stouts in November of 2018 and 2019, my intention was to brew another vintage in November of 2020. For whatever reason I never got around to it. Then, at the end of January I brewed a batch of Rundown Irish Red as part of another project I'll be talking more about shortly. Low in alcohol and hops, the Irish Red was a perfect starter beer to build up plenty of yeast for an imperial stout.
That was the thought anyway. Fermentation on the Irish Red stalled, so I pitched a packet of US-05 dry yeast to help the beer finish fermenting out. The yeast I harvested from the Irish Red was some combination of Hugh Hill, my house Irish culture and US-05. For a one-off or vintage beer, I am not concerned about slight variations from batch-to-batch.
The night before brew day, I used a carbonation cap and a soda bottle to help dissolve the water additions. Chalk in particular isn't the most soluble, and carbonic acid helps it dissolve in water. This is something I have wanted to try for awhile, but I never seemed to have a soda bottle lying around. We typically don't have soda in the house. This was pretty easy to do and worked well.
|This worked really well to get water salts to dissolve|
What I did take away from this brew day was the desire to cut down on variations in process from batch-to-batch. Over the past couple of years I have experimented with batch sparging, fly sparging, no sparging, mashing in the Mash & Boil grain pipe, mashing in a cooler, boiling inside on the Mash & Boil, boiling outside on propane, checking pH on every batch, assuming pH calculations are good enough because I'm too lazy to calibrate a pH meter, acidifying sparge water, forgetting to acidify sparge water. On top of that I keep having issues with my mill jamming, adjusting the gap, and getting poor crushes through the mill.
The result has been that my yields have been all over the place. I brewed a barleywine that the yield was so poor I added two pounds of dry malt extract to compensate. Last summer my batch of Summer Somewhere came out close to 6% because my yield was really high. With this batch I think I have settled on a process that I can repeat.
I purchased two wire shelves for my Mash & Boil and cooler mash tun. The shelving also gives me storage space for my other kettles where they can drip dry after cleaning. From there I have a pump I can use when fly sparging. With this batch I focused on the flow of sparge water into the mash tun. I made sure there wasn't too much water on top of the grain bed, and that level was steady. The key was for the wort to drain at the same rate the sparge water was being sprinkled.
|As full as my 8gal cooler can get|
While milling, my mill was jamming and my crush was initially poor, I tightened the gap, and milled the grain again. The second pass made a huge difference. The endosperm of the grains were fully crushed, while the grain husks were still intact. If anything the crush may have been too fine, but the vourlauf and runoff on this batch was as easy as any batch I can remember.
|Easiest vaurlauf ever|
|Literally off the charts|
|See you in three months buddy.|