Skip to main content

My Brewing Process, Part 2 - Mashing

In the last post, I talked about how I select and modify recipes to match my equipment, process, and efficiency. I also talked about how, before I start to brew, I clean, measure, and arrange everything so that the actual brew goes as smoothly as possible. In this post, we're going to look at the mash process and how I typically do it.

My brew day sheet tells me how much mash and sparge water I've calculated that I will need based on the grain bill and equipment. I begin by filling The Grainfather with the mash water and dropping in a Campden tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. I fill my sparge water kettle with the sparge water amount, plus one gallon to account for dead space in the Mega Pot kettle.

When The Grainfather has reached the mash temperature (or the temperature of the first step in a multi-step mash), I begin scooping in the crushed grain.

Adding crushed grain to the mash water
Every few scoops, I stir the grain with the stainless steel spoon you see in the photo above. This ensures that all the grain gets wet and participates in the mash.

Once it's all in, I place the mesh top on the grain basket and try to get it as close as I can to the top of the grain bed without compressing the grain bed.

Pressing down the grain basket top
With the grain basket now loaded, I place the overflow cap on the pipe in the grain basket, drop in a tablespoon of pH 5.2 Stabilizer, put on the glass lid, attach the recirculation pipe, and start the recirculation pump.  I usually stick around for a few minutes after this, as occasionally the pump will have trouble priming itself or the wort may not flow smoothly through the grain bed. When this happens, wort will start dripping out through the fitting where the recirculation pipe connects to the valve on the side of The Grainfather.  This dripping can make quite a mess if left unattended.

Starting the recirculation pump
From here on, it's up to The Grainfather. It will circulate wort through the grain bed and maintain the mash temperature I've set. If this is a multi-step mash, I'll start my stopwatch or brew timer app to tell me when to come back for the next step. When it's time, I'll adjust the setting on the controller and The Grainfather will heat to the new mash step. (Note: I recently obtained the new Grainfather Connect controller that talks to an app on my phone, so I can change mash temps from upstairs for multi-step mashes.  When I work out the process of importing recipes into it, the controller should be able to handle multi-step mashes automatically for me.)

As I work, I check off items and steps on the Brew Day Sheet.

The Brew Day sheet and stopwatch
With about 30-40 minutes left in the mash process, I'll turn on the induction cooktop to begin heating the sparge water to the necessary temperature.

When it's time to mash out, I'll have The Grainfather raise the mash temp to 167F and give it about 10 minutes at that temperature. I lift out the grain basket and move the silicone hose from the sparge water kettle into the grain basket.

Transferring sparge water into the grain basket via the hose
While the sparge is underway, I set the controller to raise the kettle temperature to 200F. This gets it close to boil temperature while the sparge completes.

When sparging is finished, I lift off the grain basket and quickly put it inside a 5-gallon kettle I have which is wide enough to hold the basket easily. This kettle holds the remaining drips from the grain basket and prevents a mess on the floor while I get the kettle up to a boil.

Now I set the switch on the controller to "boil" mode.

I usually take the time to scoop the spent grain out of the basket while the kettle heats to boiling. Then I rinse off the grain basket with clean hot water from a nearby sink so that cleanup will be easy later. The spent grain is set out of the way until the boil is finished. It will be disposed of later.  The 5-gallon kettle gets rinsed also.

At this point, I clean my stainless steel spoon and stir the wort vigorously. I use a pipette to capture a few drops of the wort and drip those on my refractometer to take a pre-boil gravity reading. If I'm using a recipe that includes only grain and hops, this reading should match up to the figure on the brew day sheet if the volume is also correct. If it's off, this is when I'll decide if I'm going to need to increase the boil time (to concentrate the wort and increase its gravity), add water to reduce the gravity, or add sugar or malt extract to raise it.

Often, while sparging or during the boil, I'll mix up some Star San in my fermenter and begin sanitizing the fermenter for use. I'll also sanitize an airlock and fill it with sanitizer so it's ready, too. This saves time later on.

My wort is now ready for the next step in the process, the boil. We'll discuss that next week.

The wort is coming up to a boil...


Popular posts from this blog

Yellow Label Angel Yeast vs. Typical Brewing Yeast

I currently have my second batch of rice wine fermenting with the "magical" yellow-label Angel Yeast from China, and wanted to share some of the more unusual aspects of using it.  If you've never seen or used this yeast, I suspect you're not alone.  It ships in a 500 gram package that looks like this: What makes it "yellow label" is that yellow box you see in the upper left corner of the package.  This implies that it's yeast for distilling (though you do not need to have a still or distill the output to use it).  As I understand it, inside the package is a mix of yeast and other materials which will convert starch into sugar and directly ferment it, without the need for a traditional mash step.  This can radically shorten your brewing time.  For my most-recent batch of rice wine, I heated 3 gallons of water to 155F, poured it over 13+ pounds of uncooked rice straight out of the bag, let that soak for an hour, rehydrated some of this yeast in warm water,

Making Alton Brown's Immersion Cooker Fennel Cardamon Cordial

Alton Brown's "Good Eats" series is my favorite cooking show.  I love the way he explains the "why" and "how" of a recipe in detail, which helps you understand (if things don't go right) where you may have gone wrong.  In his episode on immersion cooking (also known as sous vide), he shows you how to make a cordial in an hour using an immersion cooker. It took me a while to locate all the ingredients here in Columbus.  I ended up getting the fennel and vodka at Giant Eagle. The cardamom seeds, pods, and anise stars came from Amazon.  The Fennel fronds and bulb came from Trader Joe's at Easton. Ingredients 32 ounces of 80-proof vodka 2 cups of fennel fronds 10 green cardamom pods 3 ounces granulated sugar 1 tablespoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds 1 whole star anise Begin by loading your sous vide vessel with hot water and set your immersion cooker to 140F. While the cooker is getting up to that temperature, meas

2021 Batch 1 - Rice Wine made with Yellow Label Angel Yeast

I've become a big fan of the Still It channel on YouTube.  About a month ago, Jesse posted a video about how he made rice wine using nothing more than water, rice, and a purported "magic" yeast from China called Yellow Label Angel Yeast. Perhaps even more amazing was the fact that he was able to make the rice wine without gelatinizing or mashing the rice.  He shows three batches in the video.  One was made by cooking the rice before adding the yeast mixture. Another was made by adding uncooked rice to boiling water.  The last was made by adding uncooked rice to room temperature water.  All three fermented out to roughly the same amount of alcohol in about two weeks. He was amazed by this, as was I. I resolved to buy some of this magical yeast from and try it out. In the Still It video, the rice is ground up in the grain mill into smaller chunks to make it easier for the enzymes in the yellow label yeast to convert and ferment.  I'm changing this up s