Brew #2 - A Citra SMaSH IPA
We brewed a Citra SMaSH IPA!
As fun as it was brewing beer using a kit, D and I decided we wanted to try all-grain brewing, i.e. making beer by starting with malted barley itself. I think there is something magical about going from grain to bottle. However, based on what I read online most homebrewers start by mastering malt extract brewing before moving to all-grain, so this could be a terribly, premature move.
Read about our first ever homebrewed beer here: https://www.alifeoffaff.com/post/we-decided-to-start-homebrewing-beer
The idea of moving to all-grain brewing so quickly, was made much less daunting, by this cool Kitchn blog series entirely about all-grain brewing that made it seem very achievable. The beer school blog series outlined the wonder of small batch all-grain brewing, how simple it is and how this style of brewing can be achieved even in a small apartment. So while we can't achieve the 23 litres of beer we brewed last time using the kit - we can definitely meet somewhere in the middle.
Kitchn Beer School blog series: https://www.thekitchn.com/collection/series-the-kitchn-s-beer-school
Another thing that confirmed our all-grain move occurred a couple of weeks ago, back when we were still allowed to go to pubs prior to corona hitting these streets. We spoke to a local brewer at the Brew Club in Hackney about our journey into brewing beer and he suggested we try the brew in a bag (BIAB) method which simplifies the whole process. BIAB required less equipment, mess and fuss. These two elements taken together made it clear that the rest of our homebrew journey would be from grain to bottle!
The basics of all-grain brewing:
Mashing: Mixing the malt barley with warm water to release the malt sugars and create the sugary water called the wort
Sparging: Rinsing the grains to release any residual sugars
Hop boil: Boiling the wort and adding hops to season the beer
Cooling the wort: Lowering the wort temperature
Pitching the yeast: Adding the yeast to the cooled wort
Fermentation: The yeast converts the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide creating beer
For our first foray into all-grain brewing we decided to brew a SMaSH IPA. SMaSH stands for single malt and single hop, meaning that instead of a complicated recipe involving tons of different types of malts and hops, you just stick to one of each. This is not only great for understanding the brewing process but also how different hops taste, and the flavours they contribute to beer.
We decided to go for Citra hops, because it is a common hop, regularly used in some of our favourite beers. After searching online we found a SMaSH Citra IPA recipe on the craft beer and brewing website. However, as we were still complete novices it required a great deal of research. There was so much missing from the recipe notes. Like why don't they tell you how much water to add? How much water to sparge with? How much yeast to add? etc. I guess all the homebrewers already know this stuff.
SMaSH Citra IPA recipe: https://beerandbrewing.com/smash-citra-ipa-recipe/
We altered the SMaSH Citra IPA recipe for a smaller 10 litre batch by halving the recipe.
Here is our adjusted recipe:
2.7 kg Maris Otter (Crisp)
14 g Citra whole leaf at 60 minutes (14.27% AA)
14 g Citra whole leaf at 30 minutes (14.27% AA)
14 g Citra whole leaf at 20 minutes (14.27% AA)
14 g Citra whole leaf at 10 minutes (14.27% AA)
14 g Citra whole leaf at dry hop (14.27% AA)
Pacific Ale (White Labs WLP041)
Mash for 60 minutes at 66°C. Boil for 90 minutes.
Preparation for brew day
Moving to all-grain brewing meant we needed to invest in more kit. Homebrewing is not cheap, at least at the start. Our new kit included:
A 15 litre pot
A large mesh bag
Lots of airlock
New fermentation vessel complete with an airlock
A new fermentor you say - I thought you already had one of those. Yeah but we had an accident! We had read online that an airlock was a useful item during fermentation because it allows carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to escape, while preventing oxygen getting in. So we bought an airlock and attempted to drill a hole into our fermentation vessel to fit it, which ended in disaster as we do not own a drill. The hole ended up being too large and the airlock was not airtight, defeating its whole purpose. Hence, we already needed a new fermentation vessel on brew 2, this was clearly going well. We bought a bundle from Brew2bottle which included a fermentation vessel, fitted with an airlock and LCD thermometer, all for £8 - wish we got this first but we move.
Here is the bundle if your interested: https://brew2bottle.co.uk/collections/25ltr-fermenter-bundles/products/brew2bottle-25ltr-bucket-lid-with-grommet-bubbler-airlock-lcd-thermometer
Brew day - 18/04/20
Finally we made it to our first all-grain brew day! Every brew day needs a brew day beer and today I chose a lovely Posh lager by Forest Road Brewery. They are a great brewery based in London Fields, Hackney. https://www.forestroad.co.uk/
We set up our mini brewery. A 15 litre pot filled with 7 litres of water, lined with a mesh bag, and a dangling meat thermometer to check the water temperature of the water. We heated the water until it hit 70°C, and would be ready to add the malt into the bag.
We added 2.7 kg of Maris Otter into the bag and mixed throughly to avoid dough balls. The aim was to maintain the temperature at 66°C for an 1 hour, to allow the release of the sugars into the water to make wort. For us that meant popping the pot into the oven.
After an hour, we separated the grains from the wort, which was made incredibly simple using the BIAB method which meant just lifting the bag out of the pot.
Look at all that lovely wort!
The used grain bag was then dumped into our old fermentation vessel and sparged by rinsing the grains with 8 litres of water and left to sit for 10 mins.
The wort from the sparge was then added to the remaining wort in the pot and brought up to a boil ready for the Citra hops to be added.
The hop boil was 90 mins long and this brew required 4 separate hop additions. One when 60 mins was left in the boil time, and the others at 30 mins, 20 mins and 10 mins. Hops are important for providing bitterness and flavour to the beer, but this requires a compromise. If boiled for a long time you contribute bitterness, but destroy the oils released from the hops that give flavour and aroma. So you compromise with the early 60 min and 30 min adding bitterness, and the later additions contributing flavours and aromas, but little bitterness.
We added our hops using a bag to avoid adding too much mess to the hop boil and our brew overall.
We then cooled the wort by creating an ice bath in the sink. The idea is to cool the wort as quickly as possible to avoid the possibility of contaminating the beer. Looking online it seemed most homebrewers have systems that allow them to cool their wort in minutes, ours took a couple of hours to eventually get to 21°C. We need to work on this! From this point onwards everything that is added to the beer needs to be sanitised.
We managed to take a hydrometer reading using our new non-broken hydrometer. This allows you to estimate the ABV of your beer by measuring the sugar in your wort. The hydrometer floats when it is added to liquid and has a number range on the side. Water has a reading of 1, while sugary water floats higher, and measures greater than 1. The more sugar in the wort the higher it floats, the higher the hydrometer reading.
ABV is calculated using this formula: OG (Original gravity) - FG (Final gravity) *131
OG is measure before fermentation and FG after fermentation is complete.
Our recipe estimated an OG of 1.066. However, our wort came in at 1.064, so we slightly missed the OG target but not bad for our first ever all-grain brew.
Finally we poured cooled wort into our fermentation vessel, stirred the beer for ages, to aerate the wort, then added the yeast. Our yeast was past its best before date so we added the whole packet because we figured you probably can't have too much yeast. At this point we also noticed we only had 8 litres of wort in our fermentor compared to our expected 10 litres. Still not entirely sure why, but we might need to add additional water during the boil next time to increase the volume. Whatever happened it was time for the yeast to take control.
The beer was then left in the fermentation vessel for a total of 14 days, fermenting at between 21 and 23°C. After the first 11 days fermentation had clearly stopped and we had a gravity reading of 1.012. So we proceeded to dry hop the beer for the last 3 days by adding 29 g of Citra hops into the vessel in a bag.
Bottling day - 02/05/20
Slowly getting closer to trying this beer!
We took a final gravity reading and our FG was 1.012, which meant the gravity had remained consistent for 3 days and was ready to bottle.
OG (Original gravity) - FG (Final gravity) *131 = ABV
(1.064 - 1.012 ) *131 = 6.812% so stronger than the expected ABV of 6.3%.
It was then time to bottle and carbonate the beer. We washed and sanitised our bottles, added 1 carbonation drop to each bottle, added the beer via a siphon, then capped the each one with crown caps using our trusty bottle capper. We ended up with 21 330ml bottles.
I was pretty excited this day and decided to make labels for this beer. I doubt I will keep it up but our first all-grain beer deserved it. Look how fancy they look!
Also check out the colour on this bad boy!!! Exciting times!
Beer day - 16/05/20
We finally made it to beer day and I am so impressed by the final product!!! It was well carbonated and had a strong head. It tasted sweet with a warm alcohol feel and lovely bitter finish. The beer was darker than I would expect for an IPA and it had a slight homebrew whiff, which let you know it was not a commercial beer. However, overall our Citra SMaSH IPA was a tasty beer that I would pay money for. I am so proud of our first all-grain brew and can't wait to do it again!
Colour: Light brown
Clarity: Slightly hazy
Taste: I got a citrus flavour, while D got burnt caramel.
Smell: Homebrew whiff
Carbonation: Strong head
Alcohol level: 6.8%
Perceived alcohol level: You can definitely feel this one
Would I pay money for it?: Yes
Check out our first ever brew here: https://www.alifeoffaff.com/post/we-decided-to-start-homebrewing-beer
Bring on brew #3.