When I started doing this blog I knew from the start that I wanted to do homebrew posts, my only concern was that if I only did posts from my brewday’s it would get pretty boring, the recipe’s would change but the equipment and the process would be the same. So to combat redundant posts, I’ve started contacting local homebrewers and lining up brewdays with people of different skill levels and different equipment set ups from all over, I’ll get to share different processes and we’ll always give out the recipe so others can give it a try.
The first Local homebrewer I contacted was Joel Mahaffey from Orono. Joel is an all grain homebrewer and has a blog of his own called Maine Brews, he blogs about brewing and craft beer. I asked Joel to pick something he was interested in brewing and create a recipe. Joel decided on a Coffee Dark Mild. This is an English style brown ale with a low ABV, its “Mild” because of the small amount of hops added. Joel has brewed and blogged about this style before but this time around we are adding coffee to the mix. I was pretty excited to hear what Joel had picked for our brew; it’s not like anything I’ve ever brewed before.
I showed up at Joel’s house at about 10am and we got right to it, moving all the brewing equipment out onto his back deck. Joel hooked up the propane to his turkey fryer and added 2.5 gallons of water to a stainless steel stock pot, the fryer was lit and the strike water began to heat. While we were waiting for the water to come up to 170 degrees we weighed out the grains for the mash.
When the strike water was up to 170 degrees Joel killed the flame, grabbed some pot holders and transferred the water from the stock pot to his 10 gallon mash tun. The mash tun is a converted picnic cooler with a valve and a stainless steel mesh filter to prevent the grains from flowing into the brew kettle. With the water in the mash tun I slowly poured the grain in while Joel stirred the mash to make sure everything mixed with no dry spots. The temperature of the mash was checked, we were looking for 150 degrees. Satisfied with our mash temperatures, Joel put the cover on the mash tun and we left the mash to rest for an hour.
While the mash rested we headed inside to prep a few things, Joel set out his yeast slurry, measured the single hops addition, got his refractometer and the iodine test. With some time to spare Joel let me sample some of his homebrews he had on tap, there was a Fuggles IPA, a Willamette Porter and a Flanders Red. I was very impressed with Joel’s homebrews, a great example of how a homebrewer can produce a high quality product in small batches.
Beer in hand we headed back outside to check on our mash. Joel pulled a small amount of wort from the mash tun and put it on a plate; he then added a drop of iodine to the plate. The iodine was bright red; this is what we wanted to see. The iodine test is used to make sure the starches from the crushed grain are converted into fermentable sugars. We then added about ¾ of a gallon of boiling water to the mash tun, this hot water addition is called the “Mash out” it raises the mash temperature and stops the conversions process and makes the mash less viscous, allowing it to flow easier from the tun to the kettle. Joel then started slowly running off the wort, catching the first of the run off in a container and pouring it back into the mash tun, this is called the “Vorlauf”, this process is performed until the wort is running clear of any grain particles from the mash. As the first running’s filled into the brew kettle I threw in our one and only hop addition, .85 ounces of Golding’s hops pellets. The addition of hops into the kettle pre-boil is called “first wort hopping” and after readings some of Joel’s blog posts I found he prefers this method over adding once the boil has started. Once the first running’s were in the kettle Joel shut off the valve on the mash tun and performed a batch sparge by adding the remainder of our sparge water to the mash tun and giving it a stir, he performed a second Vorlauf and after getting the wort to run clear again let the remainder of the wort run off into the brew kettle. As the kettle filled up the propane burner was fired back up to bring the wort to a rolling boil.
At this point the cool crisp air is filled with the smellof hops and grains, the propane burner roaring away and the wort is approaching a full rolling boil. As the boil peaks a thick foam layer develops on the surface, Joel then adds drops of Fermcap, this is a product I’m unfamiliar with but I was extremely impressed with. Within a few seconds the foam layer broke and settled back into the boiling wort and never rose again. Joel then pulled a sample from the boiling wort, he placed the sample on his refractometer to get a gravity reading, this early reading allows Joel to determine how efficient his mashing process was. The wort was allowed to boil for an hour so we had time to take care of some important steps. The auto siphon and carboy were sanitized and prepped. The spent grains were hauled down to the compost pile and anything that could be cleaned up in the downtime was taken care of. It was also during this downtime that Joel gave his dogs a treat, he pulled some homemade spent grain dog treats from the freezer, I was impressed, what a great way to use spent grains that would otherwise just be thrown out.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the boil Joel put his wort chiller into the brew kettle, the boiling wort will sterilize the chiller. As 60 minutes elapses Joel cuts the flame and hooks the garden hose up to the chiller, the cold well water makes quick work of cooling down our boiling wort, in less than 20 minutes everything was cooled down and ready to be transferred to the carboy. Joel then used the clean and sanitized auto siphon to begin moving the cooled wort from the brew kettle to the carboy, while it was filling he poured in the yeast slurry. With all 5 gallons of wort in the carboy and the yeast pitched a cap was put on the mouth of the carboy with an airlock to prevent anything from getting into the fermenting beer and to allow the excess carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to escape.
With the wort and yeast all sealed up in the carboy the only thing left to do is clean up the equipment and this brewday is in the books. Now at this point I know some of you are asking the obvious question, “wasn’t this a coffee beer?” and yes you are right, and no we did not forget it. After the beer has completed fermenting Joel will grind and cold steep the half pound of 44 North Ethiopia-Yirgacheffe beans. The cold steeped coffee will be added to taste at kegging.
I had a great time hanging out with Joel; he’s a very knowledgeable homebrewer who really takes his hobby seriously. As a homebrewer myself I enjoy seeing other peoples processes, it allows me to sharpen up my brewday and sometimes I even learn a new trick. If you ever run into Joel make sure you pick his brain, it can only make your brewday better. Stay tuned in a few weeks; I’ll be meeting back up with Joel so we can do a review of the beer we brewed.