A little backstory on this brewday: In late November I moved from the D.C. area to San Francisco. A few months prior to my move my wife Alyssa headed out to the west coast without me. Her company paid for a moving truck to take everything from her apartment in Charlottesville. To take advantage of this I moved all of my kegging equipment (and most of my other possessions) and had them shipped to sunny California.
I kept my brewing equipment in the D.C. area (3+ months without brewing seemed unbearable) and rediscovered my dislike for bottling. Moving to San Francisco presented me with a chance to either ship my brewing system or start anew. After assessing the shipping costs I decided to gave away my fermenters, kettles, grain, and just about everything else that didn't easily fit in my checked bag which was already carrying the rest of my life. In the end I brought my yeast bank, hops stash, grain mill + drill, thermometer, refractometer, and campden tabs (to treat chlorinated water). Unfortunately my kegging setup got fairly ruined from being in the chest freezer and ended up with everything covered in rust and mold. A few PBW soaks and lots of elbow grease later I was able to save the chest freezer and temperature controller but had to replace the disconnects, tubing, regulator, manifold. Note to self: don't do that again!
Starting anew with your brewing setup has its downsides (like spending ~$1000 to replace everything) but also plenty of positives:
- A chance to review your setup and determine what you like and what you don't: pretty happy overall with my system but it had lots of lifting, would like to minimize that
- A chance to buy shiny new toys that you've always wanted: I bought a nice small weight scale and got a mash tun with a thermometer
- A chance to get past those little breaks, defects, and missing components that you've just been working around: my old false bottom was loose and missing a nut, some of my old bucket fermenters were infecting everything that touched them
In many ways starting anew made me realize how happy I was with my setup: 1 boil kettle with thermometer + a 5 gallon stock pot, plastic cooler with false bottom mash tun, and plastic carboys. Pretty basic but simple to operate and capable of doing anything I've ever needed.
Some changes to my setup:
- Switch from the propane burner I've enjoyed to an electric stovetop, fortunately I'm able to get 5 gallons of mash water to 160 in under 25 minutes and 7 gallons at 160 to boiling in under 35. This adds a little more time on brew day but not too much and can't really be avoided in an apartment.
- My new mash tun has a thermometer. I went back and forth on adding this and ultimately feel like it was unnecessary but for only $10 more (it was on sale) than one without one its no big loss. While measuring mash temperature is hugely important and this should be convenient, it is inserted so high in the tun that I have to do a very thin mash (or a very large grain bill) to get it fully submerged.
- Fermenting in kegs. This isn't something I plan to permanently/regularly do but the plastic carboys I ordered are arriving later than most of my other supplies so rather than delay brewing I thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the kegs. Rather than use a blow-off tube or drill into a keg lid to fit an airlock I wedged a wine cork into the ring for the pressure relief valve to keep it open during primary fermentation.
- Immersion chiller: Without a garden hose I wasn't sure how I would be able to hook one up but have been looking at some kitchen converters because not having one is a pain.
- No grains in bulk: While I plan to buy some bulk bags of grain they aren't cheap to ship. I also had accumulated a lot of various crystal malts and roasted malts that I could grab in a pinch. Now I have to know what's on hand.
- Lots of small items: There are a lot of things I accumulated over years of brewing that I didn't think about when re-ordering but now regret not having. Some examples include water treatment salts, flasks, DME, mason jars, growlers, small fermenters (e.g. 1 gallon jugs).
- Not being able to compost: Throwing spent grains and hops/trub in a compost pile and rinsing out with a garden hose has been such a convenient way to dispose of brew day waste. Now I have to move all waste into a bag and throw in the trash. I also don't have a garbage disposal so I have to be very careful about what goes down the drain.
Beer and brew day: In order to break in the new system and keep things somewhat simple I went with another iteration of my tried and true Maisonette. This should also ensure that I have a delicious beer on tap in no time. The brew day went pretty well with no real difficulties although I omitted the usual turbinado sugar since I didn't have any on hand, leading to a slightly lower gravity than usual. I split the wort between 2 kegs (3 gallons in each 5 gallon keg) and pitched my Maisonette blend from the last batch in one and a fresh pitch of Wyeast Belgian Saison in the other. I also collected about 1.5 gallons of second runnings which was pitched with dregs from the DCHB Blend #5 in order to build up the culture.
|4 ounces of hops in six gallons of a 1.035 beer|
After 12 hours: light bubbles, but no real krausen
After 24 hours: Large krausen
After 96 hours: Fermentation still noticeably active. Gravity down to ~1.018 based on refractometer reading of 1.025. Tasting good but a little too sweet and worty at this early stage.
After 120 hours: Pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
After 12 hours: No real activity
After 24 hours: Still no real activity, Wallonian Farmhouse II from TYB added in case other yeast was completely dead.
After 36 hours: Still no real activity
After 48 hours: Finally bubbling away with a small krausen
After 72 hours: Still active bubbling in krausen
After 96 hours: Fermentation seriously slowed. Gravity down to ~1.003 based on refractometer reading of 1.015. Tasting okay but there's a little of the bubblegum from the Wallonian II that I don't love. Pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
Second Runnings Beer (1.015 OG):
After 12 hours: No real activity
After 24 hours: Still no real activity, my Sour Blend #1 (Roeselare+dregs) added
After 36 hours: Small krausen
After 72 hours: Krausen activity very slow, pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
After 96 hours: Gravity down to 1.003 based on refractometer reading of 1.015. Taste is fine, fairly clean and bland at this point. Reminds me of an under-soured Berliner.