20 Apr

wp-1460938595448.jpgI am still processing my latest brew day. In my previous post, I described some of what happened and how that affected me emotionally, especially fueling some growth. Unlike past failures, there isn’t a single variable I can easily isolate. Hence I continue to stew, trying to understand all the factors and come up with a plan for better success next time.

A very high protein content was definitely part of the problem, as mentioned in my last post. Some additional variables are using kettle finings, attempting a whirlpool, and my still relatively new to me plate chiller. I definitely think some of these contributed to the problems I had on the day.

As near as I can tell, it is not possible to use too much whirlfloc. I am not sure I believe that. I can easily see that the smaller volume of this wort, 4 gallons instead of 5, concentrated the finings enough to make the protein content much harder to deal with.

Everything in my further reading about using a whirlpool suggests to do it as its own step, with a good ten minutes to allow the wort to settle before cooling and drawing off into the fermenter. Those same posts and articles focus more on hop trub than protein content but I can see that my attempt to use the chiller at the same time as the whirlpool may have introduced both a ton of protein and trub through the already annoyingly tight channels. As I mentioned previously adding the chiller’s effect on the coagulating proteins and I can see that right from the start I was putting my chiller in the worst possible scenario.

Even though I have a 2nd pump to help flow through my plate chiller, I am learning I may be able to re-arrange things to make the set up even better in terms of flow and pressure. I took the heads of both pumps off in order to take them apart and clean them. I realized the heads are designed to be attached in any one of four orientations. Ideally, having them vertical to the ground, regardless of how the pump body is oriented, should improve flow through the impeller.

I haven’t tried that yet because I have been using my pumps in a big, shallow bin to keep them from leaking all over my kitchen. The bin sits on a step stool so I don’t have to stoop too low or get longer hoses. I realized there was no reason the bin need to be on top, I could put the stool inside of the bin which would given the pumps sitting on it enough clearance for me to orient the heads vertically.

The added advantage is the pumps won’t sit in water that may leak from the system. I have a ground fault interrupter to be safe but if the pumps are up and out of the liquid I reduce or eliminate the chance of tripping the GFI (which I have already done once.) I made my last brew day unnecessarily more difficult by trying to drain the bin in the midst of the chaos.

Out of this further thinking and reading I distilled this list to remind myself how to better approach the final stages of my next brew.

  • Use basic, pale malt for any home modification of malt.
  • Be sure to re-circulate the mash until clear not just for an arbitrary time.
  • Ensure full volume in the kettle to effectively whirlpool, otherwise current snarls on top of my in-kettle hop filter.
  • Adjust the kettle fining dose to actual boil volume if less than 5 gallons.
  • Finish the whirlpool including letting the kettle rest for ten minutes before using the chiller to reduce the amount of protein going into the chiller.
  • Get a good flow through the wort side of the chiller before starting the chilling side to help avoid any proteins gumming up.

I have maybe one more post on my thoughts. I’ve seen some other ideas about how to better utilize my pumps but I want to do some planning and testing before sharing that information.

11 Replies to “Chill

    • Very true. I’m actually really enjoying reading your posts trying to break the experience down and figure out where things went awry. I really admire the way you’re making it into a learning experience (for yourself and vicariously for others, too).

    • Thanks!

      I felt like I had stalled as a brewer for a while so when I re-invigorated my hobby at the start of last year, I think this willingness to accept potential failure and work through it was a key component. It wasn’t entirely clear to me at the time but has emerged more as a natural consequence of trying new things, whether that is ingredients, styles, techniques or gear.

      I could just keep doing recipes I know work with gear and processes that I also know work. Or I could try, fail and not learn from those failures. I feel like if I am going to really understand my craft and become a better brewer, I have to stretch and have the right mindset for whatever the outcome may be.

    • I think I may be in that same stalling point, or nearing it at least. Mostly that’s due to lack of time to brew on my part. But your experiences are helping me remember why I enjoy it so much.

    • I am happy to help in whatever way I can. I certainly get the time squeeze. If you want something more or different in terms of help, exploration, whatever on a given brew day you are able to attend, let me know. I love sharing my craft almost as much as the results when it is successful.

    • Thanks! I will let you know!

      That reminds, me though, I was going to ask if you’d potentially mind kegging one of my beers for me. The new batch of Abbot Ackbar is being very slow to carbonate, and I’m concerned it might not bottle condition. (It might be fine still; the first batch took a long time to carb, too, though the second batch never carbed up.)

    • Excellent. I should know within another week or so whether it will be necessary. I can’t invest in my own kegging system right now, and I’d be very sad if I had another failed batch of Abbot Ackbar!

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