first bad all grain experience/clogged tun

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Someone please tell me to relax and have a home brew...

I brewed a batch of Scottish Ale today. I'm pretty sure I had enough water
in my original mash - I followed the ProMash recommendation. When I began to
sparge, the flow to the kettle slowed to a trickle and finally stopped. I
had to resort to sucking on the tube to get some flow going and repeat this
every few minutes. The sparging process took two and a half hours and the
sparge water at the top of the tun cooled to about 140 degrees. I ended up
with a lot of grain in my wort that I didn't really notice until mid boil.

After the boil, I filtered the wort through a strainer covered in a grain
bag three times but there's still a fair amount of tiny particles in my
wort.

When I washed out the tun afterwards, the only problem I saw was the tube
that connects inside the tun turned a whitish color. I was thinking it could
be temperature damage, but I was careful not to sparge over 170 degrees.
Perhaps it was the sheer length of the sparging process.

I have a few questions for any kind soul out there:

1. What might have happened inside my tun to cause this?
2. Is my batch spoiled by boiling this grain?
3. Will the residual grain particles settle and be left behind when I siphon
it to the secondary?

Thanks in advance for any advice,

Ken



Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
Ken wrote:

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Well, first relax and have a homebrew.

From your description it is kind of hard to tell exactly what happened other
than you have the classic stuck sparge.  It would help to know what your mash
tun set up is.  False bottom?  Bazooka screen?  Copper or cpvc manifold?  Also,
knowing your grain bill would help.  My guess without knowing any of this is
that your grain was crushed a little too fine for your sparging system.  If you
grind your own, a little coarser setting will help.  If you are buying it
precrushed, perhaps the addition of rice hulls will keep it from compacting
around your screen/manifold.

With the 2 1/2 hours it took to sparge, you should not have a problem with full
conversion and with the low temp for a bunch of this, you may end up with a
somewhat more highly fermentable wort.  You may end up with a slightly higher
alcohol level in a little drier finished beer.  Whether or not to do anything
about that is up your taste.  I have had luck with adding malto dextrine boiled
in a little water during secondary when I have had an over attenuated beer.

Will your beer be spoiled?  Probably not.  The only part that would concern me
would be your straining of the boiled wort.  This could be a possible source of
contamination depending on your sanitation of everything you used for straining.

Will the grain particles settle?  Certainly.

Now relax and have another beer.

Wayne
Bugeater Brewing Company






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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun

My tun is a converted round cooler with a false bottom that wingnuts to the
bottom of the cooler - all plastic parts.

The grains were pre-crushed by a home brew shop. My grain bill is as
follows:

15lbs 2 row
1lb Crystal
8ozs Aromatic Malt
4ozs Special B Malt
2 ozs Roasted Barley

The experience got a little worse later that evening. A friend brought over
a bottle of single malt scotch and by the time my wort cooled (I don't have
a wort chiller yet), I wasn't in the best condition to be pitching yeast.
I'm uncertain if I shook the (White Labs) yeast bottle before adding it. The
next afternoon, there was no activity in the airlock, so I splashed to wort
for a minute or two to attempt to offset this possible mistake - a bit
reactionary, I know.

About 18 hours after pitching, fermentation began. Currently I'm getting
bubbles in my airlock every 2 seconds or so, but the bubbles aren't as
vigorous as I think they should be. Currently it's been 36 hours since I
pitched the yeast. The wort is holding at 66 degrees.

I guess the best thing to do at this point is to leave well enough alone and
simply hope for the best.

Ken





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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
Ken wrote:

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Again, relax and have another homebrew.

With the volume of grain you had in a round cooler, you may have just had a
problem with your grain bed depth being too deep, compacting the mash as you
drained it.  This would have caused your excessive sparge time.

I just ran your recipe through the HBD Recipator, and see you are looking at on
OG of about 1.086.  This is a big beer to be attempting for a first all grain.
I see two areas of concern here.

First is the length of time to cool. You are probably aware that the longer you
take to cool it, the greater the posibilty of infection, though you are probably
fine here.

The second is your yeast.  The tubes of yeast have barely the minimum amount of
yeast cells to start a normal gravity beer (1.035 to 1.045 or thereabouts).
Even then, most people recommend a starter to boost the cell count.  When you
get into high gravity beers like yours, you need to pitch even bigger.  Pitching
the amount you did will take a long time to start (as you have noted) and will
be weak (also noted).  You may end up with a stuck fermentation.  This beer
should have a final gravity of around 1.020 (about 75% attenuation), but may
find your yeast giving out at around 1.035 or so.  If this happens you can try
rousing the yeast by swirling the beer around a little to get it back into
suspension with mixing any air into it.  If this doesn't reactivate the yeast
you may need to add more yeast.

The big thing here is to have patience and have another beer.  Your beer will
probably be fine.   Check your SG when you rack to secondary after a week (this
will get it off the grain particles, break material, and any dead yeast).  The
SG at that time should be below 1.040.  After about 2 weeks in secondary check
your SG again.  If everything is going well, you should be close to your
expected FG.  If not, then rouse and/or add more yeast.

Let us know how it turns out.

Wayne
Bugeater Brewing Company



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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
Thanks for the advice. This is my sixth batch of all grain, but the grains
involved in the Scottish Ale had the largest volume of any I've attempted.
That very could be my problem. Does that mean my tun isn't large enough, or
that my mash was too thick? I followed the ProMash recommendation for mash
water.

This morning my airlock began whistling and there was foam in the airlock. I
attached a blowoff tube and the bubbles are escaping at a rate of every 10
seconds, but stronger than before. No foam in the tube. Perhaps it'll turn
out without further yeast addition. Per your advice I'll give it a week
before checking it with a hydrometer and then decide whether to pitch more
yeast, stir, or just transfer to the secondary.

I brewed an Irish Stout earlier in the week. It was the first beer that I've
actually needed to use a blowoff tube for, but it's also the first time I've
used White Labs yeast (I used WL for both batches). I wonder if there's a
correlation.

Thanks again,

Ken


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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
Ken wrote:

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Sounds like your beer is doing just fine.  If you are going to do all grain
recipies of this gravity on a regular basis, you may want to consider going to a
rectangular cooler of the same capacity.  This will give you more surface area
which translates into shallower grainbed depth.  This would take care of any
compaction problem.  Also be sure to check to make sure your mash tun plumbing
is completely clean before each use.  It doesn't take much to clog it up, or at
least slow down the flow.  One dried chunk can really play havoc with a valve.
I thought I had a stuck sparge a couple of batches ago, turned out to be a dried
clump of grain from the previous batch stuck just inside the valve.  Good luck
and let us know how it turns out.

Wayne
Bugeater Brewing Company






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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
One time this happened to me.  Turns out my valve was clogged because I
hadn't rinsed good enough after my last session.  There was a little grain
stuck in the valve, dried out, blocking the flow.  I had to dump my mash
into another container, disassemble the valve and clean it.  Then I dumped
the mash back into my mashtun and sparged normally.


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Re: first bad all grain experience/clogged tun
Ken wrote:
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Check out my setup at www.hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew for a fast, easy,
and cheap way to do all grain.  Using this equipment, I've never had a
stuck runoff, no matter what my grist bill was.

    ------------>Denny
--
Life begins at 60 - 1.060, that is.

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