My brew day starts with a recipe in Beersmith. I have an equipment profile set up that is reasonably accurate, but I tend to change my process pretty frequently, so I usually add a little extra to the recommended volumes.
I fill my 15.5 gal keggle with the total water volume for the brew, and add whatever water treatments I’m using. I have moderately soft well water, so I don’t have to worry about chlorine or bicarbonate.
I weigh out my grain bill, and use a Victoria (Corona-style) grain mill driven by an electric drill. I usually have to play around with the mill setting for different types of grain, so I mill each grain type individually.
Next up is heating the strike water. My keggle has a sight glass with volume markings, so I can easily measure each water addition by the volume removed from the keggle. I heat the water in a separate 6 gal aluminum stockpot on the propane burner.
While the water is heating, I add a couple gallons of hot tap water to the cooler mash/lauter tun to help preheat it. When the strike water is ready, I dump this water via the valve, then add the strike water.
Next comes the grist. I add about half of the milled grain, stir thoroughly, then add the rest, stirring again. In goes the digital thermometer probe. I wait about 10 minutes, then confirm the rest temperature is correct or adjust if necessary. When the temperature is correct, I pull my first sample.
I drain about 8 oz via the valve into a pint mason jar, screw on the lid, then force cool the sample in the sink. When the sample is close to room temperature, I check the mash pH with the digital pen meter. If the pH needs adjusted, I add 88% lactic acid to the mash, about 1mL for each desired 0.1 pH drop. With a pale grist, I usually add 3-4 mL; initial pH is typically 5.6-5.7, and I shoot for 5.3, measured at room temperature.
For a single infusion mash, as long as the temperature and pH are satisfactory, there’s nothing to do until it’s time to heat the sparge water near the end of the mash time. Step infusion mashes require measured amounts of boiling water added to the mash tun in at specific times to reach new mash steps. Decoction mashing, my usual process, is a traditional German method in which portions of the mash are removed, boiled, and added back in order to progress through the temperature rests. This process will receive it’s own in-depth post.
Whatever water remains in the keggle is transferred to the stockpot and heated for the sparge. While the sparge water is heating, I vorlough the sweet wort in the mash tun, draining it from the valve into a pitcher until it runs clear. The pitcher then gets gently poured back into the mash tun, so as to not disturb the now-settled grain bed. Now I drain the first runnings of sweet wort into the keggle, pulling an 8oz sample and checking the conversion specific gravity and mash pH as before.
When the mash tun has drained and the sparge water is heated, the sparge water is added to the mash tun and the keggle is heated on the burner. I again vorlough the mash tun, recirculating and draining as with the first runnings. This time the sweet wort is drained into the 6 gal pot, a sample is pulled, and the wort is added to the first runnings in the keggle. A sample is pulled from the keggle and the pre-boil gravity, pH, and volume are recorded. The wort is then brought to a boil and the boil timer started.
My standard boil time is 70 minutes. At my standard boil-off rate of 15% per hour, I have had no issues with DMS, even when using 100% pilsen malt. I allow 10 minutes of boiling for hot break formation to occur before adding hops. Hops are typically in pellet form, and they go straight in the wort, no spider or hop bag. I use 1/2 a whirlfloc tablet with 15 minutes left in the boil, and stick my immersion chiller in at 10 minutes.
At flameout, I turn on the chilling water, unless I’m doing a “flameout aroma steep.” I stir the wort every few minutes to help speed cooling, trying not to splash the wort around too much. When I’m within 5°C of groundwater temperature, I pull the chiller out, stir to create a strong whirlpool to settle hops and trub, then gently lower the chiller back into the kettle. I then leave the wort to settle for 10 minutes or more.
Finally, I drain the wort into a fermentor via the valve. I leave behind ~3L of wort and trub in the kettle, so the wort in the fermentor is usually pretty clear. The fermentor goes into the fermentation chamber to finish cooling, and the leftover trub is filtered and saved.