Reflections on brew day

Brew day has been and gone and in my porch proudly sits a fermenting bin full of lovely mahogany-brown wort bubbling away under a pancake-like layer of yeasty froth.

It remains to be seen how it turns out, but I’m relatively pleased with the process so far – although there are a few stages where I know mistakes were made and which I will improve upon next time.

The wort itself tastes better than I was expecting for my first effort. It  is very sweet and although there are malty notes there, the citrusy hops cut through and lift it away from being too sickly. Looking forward to seeing how it develops once the yeast has gone to work.

Colour-wise, it’s a lot darker than I was expecting. I was thinking it would take on some of the more warm, amber hues of the pallette, like a Theakstons or an IPA, but instead, it’s a deep chestnut colour, similar to a Bishop’s Finger. It may lighten during the fermentation phase, we’ll have to wait and see.

In terms of the day itself, there were a few highlights and a few takeaways which I’ll use to refine my technique for next time.

The aroma hit from the moment when the hops hit the boil was a sensory experience in its purest form. That the citrusy-sweet hoppy smell still lingers in the kitchen is an added bonus.

The main worries I have are as follows:

1) The Sparge – don’t think I was as diligent with this as maybe I could have been. The liquor was running almost clear by the end, but it only took about 15 minutes to achieve this, not the 30-45 stipulated in the recipe, so I’m thinking maybe I didn’t manage to extract every last drop of fermentable goodness from the spent grain.

2) The Temperature – my thermometer was inadequate for the job I needed it to do and with it being Easter Sunday, there was nowhere open where I could purchase one that was up to the job. As such, I relied on guesstimates rather than actuals to judge temperature at some of the stages. Not ideal and hoping I don’t pay the price later on.

3) The Chill – even after packing my fermenting bin in an ice bath, it took an age to cool the wort down to a temperature at which it could receive the yeast. It was covered at all times, but I’m more than a little concerned about the brew picking up an airborne infection and ending up tasting like roadkill. I’m going to diy an immersion chiller ready for next time.

4) The Pitch – The yeast went in OK and has developed a nice merangue-like layer on the top of my brew. Although there is some pressure in the lidded bin, it’s not as puffed up with CO2 as I’d have expected, although I have no prior experience to compare it with so, again, there may be a touch of paranoia on my part. Also, I didn’t add in any of the yeast nutrient I purchased though, and think it may be too late to do so now.

So, there you have it. An enjoyable day and I’m looking forward both to sampling my brew and to my next brew day.

To all you seasoned home brewers out there, are any of my perceived mistakes fatal and what should I be looking out for during the fermentation stage.

All advice gratefully received.

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4 thoughts on “Reflections on brew day

  1. Don’t worry about any the points made above Jon.
    The sparge- I presume you were fly sparging and as you say went too quickly. From what you say it sounds like you got most of the sugars out. Worst case you end up with a weaker beer.
    Temperature- unless you were miles out you should be okay. What were you using and how inaccurate do you reckon you were.
    The chill- should be fine. I chilled my first 50+ worts by standing in a bath of cold water overnight in a fermenter with the lid on and never had an infection. I would pitch yeast in the morning before I went to work. I do use a copper coil chiller now.
    The pitch- sounds like it’s fine. Leave it be now and don’t add nutrient. Once the head has formed it’s well under way and protects the wort under neath. I simply use a loose fitting lid to stop dust and stuff falling in.

    I am a very unscientific brewer but consistently produce different decent ales for my own consumption using cheap kit.
    Relax mate and in a week you will taste the best beer you have ever had. The challenge then will be to keep it long enough for it to reach its peak! !

    • Cheers. I was worried when first pitching yeast that it would be too hot, but it seems fine and has made good progress today. Used a combination of one of those sticky vinyl thermometers on side of bin and a household one which only goes up to 35c, so not good. Wort was lukewarn when I pitched.

      It was a very enjoyable day. Definitely looking forward to pushing it further next time!

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