Sunday, March 8, 2015

Rye Stout Brew Day -- How to use a 5 gallon bucket as a mash tun

Uh oh, it's time for more homebrewing shenanigans!

I decided I wanted to get 2 gallons of beer out of my kettle to save me some time in the long run (plus more beer). What I did not anticipate though is that the recipe I had crafted would require a kettle with more volume to do a successful BIAB mash (6lbs of grain + 2.5 gallons of water + 3 gallon kettle = potential disaster). Frantically, I went out to my favorite Arkansas-based big box store to see if I could get a slightly bigger kettle (read as 1 gallon larger), but they had run out of them (damn capitalists!).
Grains of the field
A multicolored satchel of the specialty malts
Since I could not wait around with this grain (I really wanted to get this batch started), I decided to improvise a technique I read about online. I'd like to call it the bucket and blanket mash tun. Don't be confused by the name, it's as descriptive as the title of "Snakes on a Plane!"
A unique way to make beer
Bucket? and blankets? What is this kid doing?
Since we'd been using plastic buckets to lauter our grain before in the apartment, one should work as a mash vessel on it's own. I setup the standard brew in the bag technique using the bucket and paint strainer bag (perfect fit!) and wrapped the blankets around the bucket.
Wet Blanket
In the kitchen, I had my kettle heating up the 2.5 gallons or so of water. I was aiming to get that water slightly hotter than my ideal mash temperature as the bucket and the grains would be absorbing some of the heat. To ensure that it wouldn't cool too much, I had a smaller pot heating up water in case I needed it.
Mashing in
Ignore the crumbs on the blanket
So in the next step, I moved about 2.5 gallons of water at 165°F to the bucket. Once inside, it dropped to slightly above 155°F, my ideal mash temperature. Adding in the grains ended up dropping it to about 148°F or so, so I added in about 1 quart of my emergency water to bring it back up. Once I was satisfied, I put the lid on the bucket, wrapped up the bucket, and let it sit for an hour.
Bucket and blanket mash technique
Yes, this was my mash tun today.
So after an hour of watching some NCAA wrestling, I came back to see how it had done. First thing I did was check the temperature. It had only dropped to 149°F, meaning that the blankets did their job at keeping that bucket warm enough. Success!
Checking post mash grains
At this point, it started to smell like a brewhouse again
The best part of this method was that I could remove my grain bag to finish mashing. No mess, no sparge needed. The wort left over went right into the kettle and straight on the stove.
After mashing
Mmmmmm.... not quite beer yet
Ready to boil!
Now we have the proper brew house going again
At this point, I was a little worried about my kettle boiling over from the high volume of liquid in the vessel. I used a little stirring to knock down any foam as it started to boil.
Vigorously boiling
A watched pot can boil
While the kettle was boiling, I had some more water boiling up in case I lacked the volume needed to fill up my fermenters. This ended up being the case; I had about 1.2 gallons of wort left after my boil. What was also surprising is how high my gravity was at this point. My hydrometer read 1.086! Never have I had a beer that high before.
Hydrometer on Rye Stout
It was way too concentrated at this gravity
I neede about 3 quarts of water to bring this beer to my targeted gravity/volume. In it's previous state, the flavor was way too concentrated. My dilution should help with the flavor and give me more bottles of beer (although I'm sacrificing some ABV here).
Diluting properly
Approximately 2 gallons after diluting
Filling the fermenters
I've learned my lesson regarding overfilling these fermenters
If all goes well, I should have 2 gallons of some very delicious brew ready to drink in about 4 weeks from now. If not, at least I have some experience using a new mash technique. I think the next order of business for me is bottling some of the cider I have hanging out in my brew area. Until next time, Cheers!

Oh and here's the recipe I used:

RYE STOUT (2 Gallons)

4.5lbs 2 Row
0.75lbs Rye Malt
0.3lbs Roasted Barley
0.5lbs Crystal 40

0.3oz Willamette
0.3oz Challenger

Safale US-05

Rye Stout (not meth)
Double the volume for the same amount of time!

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