lockdown hopes beer with cool label

Homebrewing session #3: IPA All-Grain Brewing – My Lockdown Beer

dorian touly

Lifelong beer habitue and homebrew artisan

After the semi-failure of my first IPA (extract), it was time to brew another one.

So I wanted to give it another shot for batch #3.

IPAs have been one of my favorite styles since my 1-year stay in New Zealand in 2014. Since my 1-year stay in Australia in 2009 – yeah my friends call me a globe-trotter – I promised myself that I would go spend time in NZ too. This wonderful country was so close but I didn’t have time to visit it and loved the Kiwi experience.

Funny thing about me and the IPAs. The first time I tried one, I didn’t like it at all. So bitter! Is this even beer??

But I came back to it after a few months and finally fell in love. By the end of the year, I was only and exclusively drinking IPAs.

I bought the all-grain recipe kit during the lockdown in Spring 2020 together with the Belgian beer kit I talked about in my previous article.

This was also a 1-gallon (4 liters) recipe for beginners.

Disclaimer: I was myself a beginner and by no means am I trying to give lessons to anyone here. I’m just sharing my experience as I was learning, and if it can help someone facing similar problems, then mission accomplished!

 

The ingredients kit

kit ingredients

Style: IPA Single hop

Quantity: 1 gallon (4 liters)

ABV: 6%

IBU: 75

Targeted OG: 1.054

Targeted FG: 1.009

Contains:

  • 1.2 kg (2.64 lbs) bag of milled grain (they don’t say which ones exactly)
  • 2 bags of hops (20g of Cascade AA 4-7.5% and 5g of Magnum AA 14%)
  • A generic bag of yeast (don’t know which one)

Needed aside from the list above:

  • A big pot (at least 6 liters or 1.6 gallons)
  • A strainer
  • Hydrometer, thermometer, auto-siphon, tubing, sanitizer
  • 2 bags of ice cubes
  • A fermenter
  • 12 bottles (33cl / 12 oz)

Note: At the time I didn’t really know why it was called “Single hop” because clearly there were 2 types of hops…

 

Brew Day

This was it! Back to the kitchen for a new beer.

I got all the gear ready and started to mash in my 6-liter pot (1.6 gallons) on my kitchen stove with spring water.

Strike water was 3.5 liters (0.92 gallons) at 71° C (160° F).

mash
90min mash

I did a 1h30 mash trying to keep the temperature between 63ºC-68ºC (145 – 154° F).

As far as I can remember, I still had trouble really controlling the mash temperature.

I wasn’t yet the king of my kitchen castle.

But honestly, I didn’t really care too much.

Or to put it another way, I didn’t think it was THAT important.

A few degrees more or a few degrees less, it can’t be that bad I thought.

I did a mash out at around 77° C (170° F) for a few minutes as the instructions from my shop called for.

Then I poured the mash through a strainer and recirculated it from one pot to another.

I repeated the recirc a few times. Maybe 5 or 6 times, following my shop instructions. Mimicking vorlauf I guessed.

filter with strainer
Recirculating wort through a kitchen strainer

Then, I sparged with spring water that I first heated in another pot around 75° C (167° F). I trickled through the strainer using a sauce pan.

Again, following the videos of my homebrew shop.

I did that fairly fast.

At the beginning of the boil (a 1h boil), I first added the 5g of Magnum hops directly into the wort.

Well, or what I thought was the beginning of the boil…

It wasn’t.

wort with hops

From what this photo shows me, it actually started to boil only 12 min later.

So, I might have made a short boil of 48min.

And the least that we can say is that it was NOT a rolling boil. I was trying to avoid a boil over!

But good news! It didn’t happen.

Anyway. Next, every 15min I had to do a ⅕ addition of the 20g of Cascade hops.

So 4g each addition.

But I didn’t have a scale. So I didn’t measure.

I measured with my eyes.

Roughly again.

At the end of the (short) boil, I put the kettle in an ice bath in my sink.

But then I had to go outside for a little while, so I just left it like that. Cooling on its own.

Hey!  It was 8PM, the only time slot allowed for us to get outside to get some fresh air. I live in the city without a balcony of any sort here. Not so easy to “survive” the lockdown in these conditions.

The result: I left the beer cool for 1h40.

And I’m not even sure how cool it was when I pitched the yeast. Probably over 20° C (68° F) or even over 25°C (77° F)…

I poured the wort into the fermenter through a strainer I recently bought.

This time, no hop leaves or any kind of trub in the fermenter.

Slowly learning.

pouring in fermenter
Wort poured into the fermenter through a strainer

I then shook it for 10 seconds and put the airlock on.

End of brew day.

Original Gravity was 1.058, a little above the target 1.054.

And this time, I had a decent quantity in the fermenter. Finally more than just 3 ridiculous liters (0.8 gallons)!

Good work. Time to wait now.

og
Original Gravity was 1.058

 

Fermentation

resting fermenter in the dark
Inside a cupboard for the fermentation (2 weeks)

The temperatures in the month of May were quite warm in my flat. As it usually can be during the month of May in Barcelona.

The airlock started bubbling the next morning and I observed a krausen forming.

Very cool! Everything seemed to be going well.

But the temps were peaking at 25°C (77° F) inside my home or so during the daytime those late Spring days.

Probably not the best…

But at that time, I didn’t know that fermenting temperature mattered that much.

I left the fermenter alone for 2 weeks for the yeast to “make the beer.”

 

Bottling

sanitizing bottles and gear
Sanitizing bottles and gear

I cleaned and sanitized my bottles and started to bottle the beer with the auto-siphon. From the fermenter directly to bottles.

I then added a teaspoon of table sugar (supposedly around 6g) to each bottle.

Not the best method, I know now, but that’s what my shop was recommending for rookies like me. And I guess it’s OK when you’re starting.

And quantity-wise, this time I was short just 1 bottle. I had a total of 11 bottles instead of 12.

Sweet!

Now we’re getting there.

siphoning beer

Final gravity was 1.014.

5 points higher than the targeted FG.

Oh? Weird… No biggy I thought.

It’s still a 5.7% ABV IPA.

Hopefully, it should be drinkable.

Let’s find out in 2 weeks.

 

The result

12 beer bottles with cool label
I logically named it Lockdown Hopes

The resulting beer was amber and slightly cloudy.

The taste? It was good enough. A little hoppy – more like the resinous kind – and a bit thin. It was missing body.

But for a first all-grain IPA and third batch altogether, it was nice!

It is true, you CAN make decent beer almost from the outset  when you start homebrewing. Mastering it and making delicious beer, that’s another story.

12 beer bottles with cool label

 

My thoughts

This time for batch #3, it was less daunting already. I started to remember the process. Not having my nose in the instructions every 5 minutes. “So what’s next?”, “Do I have to prepare something in the meantime?”

I also managed to get very close to the expected volume which is a good thing as I was struggling with that before.

11 bottles instead of 12.

You bet I took it!

The boil was probably too short and not well managed. It was not strong enough. I didn’t know you needed a good rolling boil.

The vorlauf and sparging were surely inefficient with the strainer.

I was soon to have to improve all that.

 

Notes to improve next brews

  • Start the stopwatch when the boil is really starting, not when you start to heat your fresh wort.
  • Do a proper boil of at least one hour. A medium heavy rolling boil as they call it.
  • Closely watch  the cooling phase and wait for the temperature to be low enough to pitch
  • Ferment in a cooler environment. 25° C (77° F) is slightly over what it should be for most yeast.
  • Buy a kitchen scale to measure the exact hop additions.
  • Try to aerate the wort longer.

 

jonas rembert

Jonas’s Notes:

Dorian took some big steps here.  He regulated the boil, maybe a bit too much.He hit his gravity.  The beer was nice and bitter. Still unclear about his mash temps. He got alcohol but a thin mouthfeel. He likely went down into the 140’s F (60° C).  Good alcohol but light body.77° F (25° C) is high for fermentation.  If he escaped any off flavors there, he dodged a bullet.  He knows enough about beer taste to decide.

If he could drink it and enjoy it. That is the golden road. ETA, still unknown.

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