It seems I can’t brew without making at least one mistake. Is it my poor note-keeping, my short attention span, or the fact that I’m always brewing late at night? Whatever the reason, just about every time out, I do something big or small that adversely affects my brew. There was the time I forgot to put water in my airlock; the time I forgot to put my wort on ice and waited and waited and waited for it to cool on its own. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, “Idiot!”
This time out, there were several knucklehead moves that will likely lead to a finished product that’s slightly “off.” And a handful of little missteps that were just annoying. I learned a few things along the way, however.
I learned that little things are important. Like making sure to open your canisters of liquid malt extract before the moment you need them. This I highly recommend.
As I’ve mentioned, I want my hefeweizen amber-brownish. I’m using Carafa III for that purpose. I threw them in cold water and raised the temperature. My goal was between 150 °F and 160 °F but … I had to put my daughter to bed. Child asleep, I raced downstairs to a faint burnt smell of too-roasted barley. Not what I was going for. Also, I couldn’t remember how long to let them steep. My lame notes from the last time I brewed were useless. So I winged it and left the malt in for 20 minutes. Wort looks awfully dark. Twenty minutes is too long and I should’ve removed it from the heat. Idiot!
But I brewed on. I added the extract; or tried to. Malt extract is like the thickest maple syrup you've ever seen. And, as we all know, syrup is nothing if not sticky. The lids can get sticky as well, and when you’ve just added one jar of the stuff and are struggling mightily with the next one, you tend to get a little panicky (if you’re me), which in no way improves your ability to remove a stuck lid.
So, a little advice from a novice, open everything before you get started.
Once I got all the extract in the pot and my boil going I dropped in the hops and moved on to sanitizing my other equipment.
Sanitizing confuses me. I've been using Star San lately. I like it for its ease and simple ratio of 1 ounce/5 gallons water, but I hate it for all the bubbles. They never go away and their presence makes me feel like I'm constantly contaminating my beer. Am I?
Boil complete, I moved the covered pot into the ice bath, a.k.a. the bath tub – after moving nine rubber ducks out of the way first. (Just like the pros do).
Within an hour the temp’s down below 60 °F, about 58 °F. How did that happen!? That’s too cold.
So what do I do? Fill the bucket with two gallons of warm water in an attempt heat things up to a yeast-friendly 70 - 75 °F.
Problem is, I get everything too hot all over again, up to 80 °F and now I've got 5 gallons languishing in my uncovered bucket in my (bacteria-infested) kitchen as I wait for it to get to a pitchable temp. Idiot! Mind you, it's now 11:55 pm and I’m going to be awoken at 6 am by a toddling human alarm clock.
At 1 am and 78 °F I decide to pitch my yeast. I drag the primary into the guest room and drag myself up to bed. I fall asleep thinking of the one thing I did right tonight: my O.G. was on target at 1.050. Sweet dreams.
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