A New Beginning

10Jan15_BrewingIt has been quite a while since my last post. Much of the issue with posting is that I am doing the same thing most of the time. Gardening and working, but not much hiking or brewing.  Because of our extensive canning projects last fall, not much canning either.

Brewing beer became somewhat of a chore and “boring”, so I stopped brewing beer.  I think that part of the issue is that I became tired of the same equipment and recipes.  Also, I really do not like the layout of the garage for brewing with the equipment I have, so I stopped brewing.

I have been looking at re-starting the brewing process, but knew that I wanted to try some new equipment that would enable brew the same beers with repeatable temperatures and volumes.  So, after much research, I 10Jan15_Grainfather1decided to purchase a Grainfather, pictured above left with my mash tun and HLT. 

The Grainfather came in a box with several pieces/components to assemble, but the process was very simple.  All components seem well built, sturdy, and were in good shape.   Reviewing the online comments, I also decided to add a double layer of Reflectex to aid in the boil and mash.  Again, the process was simple and looks good. 

I did not install the Reflectex to the top of the boiler, but to just below the clips on top.  I used Reflectex tape on the seams, and none of the seams overlap between layers. 

Before I go into detail, I will just say that my first brew went extremely well with no struggle or challenges.  The Grainfather worked flawlessly, and I am quite pleased with my purchase.  With that –  the negatives.

    • While I knew that the Grainfather would be slow heating my 60 degree mash water to 151 degrees, it was still slow.  It took 57 minutes to go from 60 to 151 F in a 56 degree garage.  From start of sparge to boil took another 51 minutes, and is the only area that I found disappointing, especially considering this was a fairly small water volume.
    • While it was easy to connect and disconnect the sparge arm and chiller, quick connects would be nice.
    • Handles on the boiler for ease of movement of a hot metal object would be nice.

The above “negatives” are somewhat picky, and in no way interfere with the positives of the machine.

10Jan15_Grainfather2To remedy the slow mash water times, I will simply use my propane burner, which I need to use for the sparge water anyway.  As for the other two points, maybe someday I will install quick connects, or not.  Handles are beyond me so that will not happen.

The entire brewing process took 6 hours with a 75 minute mash and a 90 minute boil (used Pilsner).  I can shave about 45 minutes off of that use propane to heat the mash water.  I expect a sub 5 hour brew this weekend with the Grainfather.

I set the mash temperature at 151 F, and the unit was fairly stable, with the temperature fluctuating between 149 and 153 the entire time, which I am happy with.  As for the boil, while, as noted, it took a bit of time to come up to boil, the boil was quite ample.  Not propane vigorous, but satisfying.

The chiller worked wonderfully well, and I transferred straight from the boiler to the fermenter at a constant 68 degrees.  The entire chilling/transfer took 29 minutes, which is about 7 minutes longer than it took to cool my wort to 75 degrees with my immersion chiller, but there was no need to come back later to transfer after the trub had settled, and the temp in fermenter was 68 degrees instead of 75, so I was able to immediately pitch yeast.  The wort was fairly clear, considering there was almost two pounds of wheat in the brew.

In all, I am extremely pleased that I purchased the Grainfather, and am now planning doing a minimum of 8 (or more) brews over the next 8 weekends.