The first step is to steep your specialty grains. from my reading I have learned NOT to boil the grains as this will release unwanted tannins in to the wort and cause unpleasant flavours. There is also much discussion on forums about the amount of water to use. I went with 8litres of tap water from my house which I had to get from the outside tap that does not run through my water softener. The hardest part was getting the temperature right in the brewpot for steeping. It took me almost an hour to get the temperature at 170F. I have read to keep it between 160 and 170 ... i found it very difficult to get it much lower than 170 and keep it steady, so I went with 170F.
I loaded the Chocolate Malt, Carastan, and Roasted Barley into a steeping sock and dropped in the pot. I let this steep for a good 30 minutes.
Specialty Grains - 170g of each
The Grains loaded in the Steeping Sock
Grains steeping at 170F in the Brewpot
There are many varied opinions on the next step, however I decided to sparge anyway, I placed the sock in a colander and poured over 2L of cold water. From my research, this pulls the most possible color and flavor out of the grains as well as additional sugars for increased alcohol content. I hope this didn't pull out any unwanted tannins that could give my finished beer an overly bitter or unpleasant taste. The whole point of this project is a learning process anyway, so if the beer tastes like shit, then hopefully the alcohol content is high enough to get me drunk.
Sparging the grain sock
The malt extracts were added as the brewpot was brought to a nice rolling boil. I almost had it boil over many times until the first dose of hops were added. This is the point when the kids became interested in what i was doing and offered to help. Piper found it strange that I wanted to cook hot beer and wouldn't rather have a cold one from the fridge. She might be onto something here since I wont be able to taste my brew for a month.
All the hops and the Irish Moss
Piper stirring the Wort
Nolan stirring the Wort
The boiling process lasted an hour and my beautiful wife was very patient as the smells of malt and hops filled the house.
When the Wort had a chance to cool a bit, I began pouring it through the colander into the primary fermenter. I was very surprised about the amount of leftover shit collected in the corander. I was beginning to think that maybe something went wrong.
transferring the wort to the primary fermenter
Look at all the shit that was filtered out.
The fermenter was filled almost to the top as I added another 14L of water. I removed about one cup of wort to mix with the yeast, I was told to do this to activate the yeast before adding it to the wort. After 10 minutes I did not see much happen, which worries me a little. While the yeast was activating I took a sample of wort for a hydrometer reading. The hydrometer showed that I had an original gravity of 1.048 which falls in the range for the original recipe. This shows a potential alcohol content of 6.2% - I really don't understand how this works and I will revisit it later at bottling time. I also tasted the wort at this stage and I was pleasantly surprised although it tasted a little on the bitter side.... again, I don't know if this tells me anything or what the wort should taste like at this stage.
Hydrometer in the test jar
I stirred the wort vigorously and then pitched the yeast, it was stirred some more before I closed the lid and put the bung and airlock in place. I will monitor the action over the next seven days as i lead up to the transfer to the secondary fermenter.
All in all it was a good experience and it makes me wonder if all this work and waiting will be worth it when i'm sipping my very own home brewed beer next month.