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Slainthe Blarg - Ramblings of a Self-confessed Brewer

Too many things going wrong on this brew...

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...almost made me lose faith in my abilities. Almost.

I decided to brew an IPA (my first), but I was going to add a twist to it. I know I should have brewed a normal IPA first to get the hang of it, but as this was to be a smaller batch than the other (as an experiment), I started with this one to get it into the fermenter. This smaller batch is a cherry-infused version, for which I used fresh cherries as they are in season (read: available in the shops).

On Saturday, I ordered two batches of grain from Beerguevara in Woodstock and, on my way into town to pick them up, stopped off at my favourite waterfall on Ou Kaapse Weg to get some fresh water. I also bought 300g of fresh cherries from Pick n Pay.

Sunday dawned and I was due to go fishing with the lads from my fishing forum, Vas Pappa, but literally fifteen minutes after the last of the guys got to the beach, we all got blown off again, even having large raindrops stinging our t-shirted backs. As a result, it turned into a perfect brewing afternoon. Not too hot, with the intermittent drizzle cooling things down on the peninsula which has experienced some sizzling temperatures over the holidays.

In the "man cave" I did a quick calculation of the amount of water I should need for the 2.5kg of grain (rounded off to the nearest litre) which, instead of 2.6L/kg, came out at 3L/kg (just to add a little top-up up front). After securing my grain bag to the mash pot, I added the grains to the bag with 4L of water, and added the rest of the water to the sparge pot and fired up the gas stove to get the mash process going.

All was going well (I had a cold Dubbel in front of me) until I noticed that the grains had swollen so much that I had to add some of the sparge water to make sure they were kept submerged. As a result, I had to add another litre of water to the sparge pot to make sure I left enough to get a decent amount of grain wash.

One of the things I am battling with at the moment, is getting a decent sparge going and have had to squeeze the grain bag by hand to get a large portion of the wort out of the bag. This is probably my third stuck sparge, and each time I have had to singe my hands to make sure I get a decent amount of wort into the boil pot.

This time was a bit of a nightmare, as I managed to spill a handfull of grains back into the wort, so had to sieve those out before getting the boil going.

When the boil was heading for the 80degC mark, I noticed that my gas flames appeared to be getting lower. Then realisation struck. My gas cylinder was running dry. By the time I got to the garage to retrieve the camping gas bottle and back to the man cave again, the flames had died and my wort was losing temperature. Luckily it does not take too long to change a gas cylinder and the heat was back on after less than ten minutes.

With about 3L of the wort heading for the half hour boil mark in a seperate pot, I pitted and broke open the 300g of fresh cherries, which I slowly added to the wort making sure I didn't lose too much heat in the process. I was surprised to see just how quickly the fruit broke down during the boil, with only the skins and very little pulp being sieved out at the end of half an hour.

I poured the cherry infusion back to the main wort pot and let it finish boiling for another 15mins while we had supper. Then it was time to chill the wort and get it into the fermenters.

With an ice bath around the boil pot and my home-made immersion chiller in full flow, the wort cooled down to just over 22degC in 20mins, and I racked it off to the fermenters. I managed to get 4L into one glass carboy, with about 1.5L into another (of which 500ml must be trub so that I could get the most out of the pot). The smaller carboy will be my "tester" in a couple of weeks time.

Once the yeast was added and shaken up, I put the carboys to bed in the man cave and covered them with a dark towel to keep out the light. Literally within 2hrs of adding the yeast, there were bubbles being made, and by the following morning it was a constant flow.

Now I'm looking forward to two weeks time, when I can get the brew bottled. is a question for whomever might read this drivel:

- What method do you use for your sparge, and what is its effectiveness? Got any photos?

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  1. SimonB's Avatar
    Cool blog post!

    Why don't you get a bag, and make your brew a mini-BIAB style?
  2. StevenD (Slainthe)'s Avatar
    Hi Simon...


    I do use a bag for the mashing, but holding up a steaming +2.5kg bag to pour sparge water through it is a mission. I have a conical sieve to hold the bag as well, but it's not wide enough and should probably have a flat bottom instead so that I can spread the bag (and grains) out a bit and make sparging easier.

    Essentially, I need to get myself a bracket of sorts that will hold the weight of the sparging sieve, or the bag, over the boil pot.

    Either that, or I need to get an urn to use as a mash pot...

  3. SimonB's Avatar
    BIAB is a no-sparge technique... see here
  4. StevenD (Slainthe)'s Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SimonB
    BIAB is a no-sparge technique... see here
    Hmmmm....I don't believe that the "don't sparge a bag" way was explained by the Beerguevara guys when I first started out, but even if they had, I would have tried to sparge the bag at some point anyway, just to see the difference. It's amazing how much sticky wort comes out when I sparge the bag and then still squeeze it after that. I like the pulley system and the turkey frying basket idea to hold the bag.

    Live and learn....