Today was another glorious brew day in Central New York! Normally I use my brew day posts to review the stats on our session, but this morning I was thinking that this might be a good opportunity to review some of my brew day practices in greater detail.
Living close to a homebrew shop can be a blessing and a curse all at the same time. I am the person who is always charged with getting the grain for the weekend brew day. This requires a little light planning for me because I have to make sure that everyone is in for the weekend session. It can be a little stressful at times trying to make sure that I get the grain, yeast and hops for the weekend, I wouldn’t trade being close to a brew shop for being far away. It’s nice to be able to make a quick run to visit Ed.
We’re morning brewers. We do this because it helps the relationships with our significant others and brewing doesn’t take us out of commission for a whole day. Because we start brewing at 7am on a Sunday, I am always looking for ways to keeping me in bed for as long as possible before I have to get up to fire up the water. I like to set up my coffee maker so that I just flip the switch in the morning. Brew-day coffee is the mother’s milk of our morning brewing.
While obviously I have to fire up the starter the night before we brew, I also like to draw the water into my brew buckets. This is especially helpful on our 20 and 30 gallon brew days. It may not seem like a big time saver, but at 7am, every little bit helps. Last night I turned my truck around because I use the tailgate for part of out “brew-tree”, again, every little bit helps. In the morning, all I have to do is flip on the coffee maker on my way out to open the garage door and pull my truck out to the driveway. From there, I set up my burners and keggle.
While I draw the water the night before I brew, I still keep it in the basement because it would get cold in the garage and cause me to have to burn more propane than necessary getting it up to temp. The same thing is true for the grain. I also store my crushed grain in my mashtun the days before we brew so no mice catch a whiff of it and decide to find there way into my basement. Another reason for drawing my water the night before I is that I can draw cold water and let my basement do the work of bringing it up a few degrees, this is good for energy and good for the hot water heater.
I am always trying to get the waterstarted as early as possible on brew day. Raising the temp of our waterand lowering it are two of the factors that can save time on a brew day, I can fire the burner up and let the water heat up while I eat a bowl of cereal and wait for Nick and Bryan to fight through the snow to get here in time for brewing.
Once the brewing starts, we’re really pretty on point. We’ve gotten pretty good about adjusting our brew day temps to reflect the temp outside and our schedule of what to do when is pretty automatic at this point. A few of my neighbors have been known to stop in and say hi (Dominic comes bearing homemade wine), but usually we just get waves and honks (especially in the cold).
We use a makeshift brewing tree that changes from week to week depending on what is laying around in my garage. I’ve made some drawings of some structures to take the place of this, but I doubt we’ll build anything before the spring. Our system works, although I STILL want to tighten up our sparging and mashouts.
We steep our hops in reusable grain bags. This helps keep our volume up where we want it, some people say that our alpha acids might suffer, but we ring the sacks out pretty well at the end of the day to ensure that as little of that hoppy goodness is lost as possible. This makes hopps additions a little tricky, but we have it down by now.
When it comes to cooling, I have a submersion chiller that works out pretty well. Snow on the sides of the keggle helps to cool, though I would not recommend using this for the primary cooling as it is not real effective. We use it to cool the outside of the keggle (and clean it a little) so that we can take it into the basement for cooling using the faucet on my basement sink.
When it’s all said and done, sanitize using the water that is coming out of the submersion chiller and fill our buckets using a mix of both keggles (if we’re making a 20 gallon batch). When it’s all said and done, we usually have 5hrs wrapped up into the brew day, but we normally each take home 10 gallons of beer, so it’s well worth our time.
That’s about it in a nutshell for a brew day here.