Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First time all-grain brewing (aka: Hefeweiss: Part 1)

In case you didn't know, I love homebrewing and have been making my own beer in St. John's for about a year and half now. When I was in Halifax, I helped those other donkeys make a few batches of wine and beer and once we moved into our (rented) house here, I couldn't wait to get my own equipment and start brewing.

Up until the other day, I had been brewing exclusively with malt extract but adding my own hops. For example, here are some pics of a Pilsner brew from a few weeks ago. That recipe used Cooper's Lager (hopped malt extract), honey, Saaz and Hallertauer hops, and Wyeast Budvar Lager yeast.

Filtering the boiled hops out of a recent Pilsner brew.

I am pretty happy with the way the latest beers have turned out, but wanted to move on to the next level. That meant finding a recipe and taking the malted grains and extracting the fermentable sugars myself.

Over the Christmas break, we discovered a delicious wheat beer called Konig Ludwig Weissbier, which was part of a donkey beer tasting night in Halifax.

Beer tasting contestants. Early Jan 2011.

Like Hoegaarden or Rickard's White, it's a wheat beer but doesn't have any added spices like those Belgian styles. It tastes like bananas, cloves and vanilla and most of the flavour comes from the yeast used. It also leaves a bit of sediment in the glass, which might not be for everybody. So I think technically, it's a Hefeweiss (aka Hefeweizen), which is an unfiltered Weissbier, which is a German-style wheat beer.

Anyway, we loved it so I really wanted to make a wheat beer and hopefully chose a recipe that I could use as a basis for future brews.

My recipe was: 

Malted wheat.

Malted barley.

I purchased my ingredients and got some really helpful advice from my local homebrew store, Brewery Lane.

I used a regular infusion mash, where you mix the grain and water together and hold it at a fixed temperature for about an hour, then sparge (rinse the sugar out). I used my cooler as a mash tun and converted it to lauter tun by adding a filter and valve, following the plans on the homebrewtalk.com wiki here.

Filter using stainless-steel braid.

Replaced drain-plug with a valve and hose.

There are other types of mashing such as two-stage infusion, or double/triple decoction but those are more complicated, and when getting started and using what are called "highly-modified" grains, single infusion is fine.

The mash went alright but I did have some issues with hitting my target temperature of 152F. When you add room temp grain to water at a ratio of 1 LB to 1 Quart, there should be an 18F drop. I had heated up my water to 170F using 2 pots but I think that made it cool down faster so when everything was mixed together, my temp was 147F. I had a homebrew, didn't panic too much and read that was fine, but that the conversion would just take longer and the beer might not have as much body (I can live with that).

Next time I would heat to 175-180F. Would be good to add a faucet on to the pot, like I did to the cooler, to keep the water flowing while I add the grain.

Adding the grain to hot water for the mash.

After an hour, when I opened the cooler, it certainly smelled like a real brewery inside. I extracted the sugary wort by slowly pouring more hot water over the top (which unfortunately cooled a lot again) and draining at the "same" rate from the other end. The spent grain wasn't sweet at all so I think the conversion worked!

Spent grain after mash.

I was targeting a final volume of 6 gallons so I collected 7 to account for boil off but after the boil I was actually only left with 5 gallons. I didn't add more water because my specific gravity was 1.050 already and I didn't want to dilute it more.

Boiling 7 gallons on the stove isn't ideal.

Chilling the hot wort in a bucket of snow.

Ready to ferment in bucket with airlock.

I learned a lot from this and can't wait for the next brew day. Really there's only so much reading you can do before you have to actually just brew it and get a better understanding of the process.

My buddy Jeff was a big help. He left a bit before the boil was done because he had to go home for supper. I failed to tell him it would take all of the afternoon and part of the evening to brew.

There are some more pictures up here. I would have taken more of the later stages but I was too tired to think and had a big clean-up ahead of me. Just like my homebrew hero Charles Papazian, I had used almost every pot, strainer and utensil in our kitchen!

The next evening, I made a short video describing the fermentation progress so far (will turn my phone sideways next time!):

I plan on leaving the brew in the bucket for 3 weeks, in order to complete the fermentation and settle a little. Then I'll prime and bottle and it should be carbonated and ready to drink 2 weeks later. Mit hefe!


  1. Nice work! Having your first all grain actually ferment seems like quite an accomplishment. Seems like it should turn out pretty good overall.


  2. @Tim Gallant

    You make a good point... an active fermentation after a day means I must have done something right!

  3. OMG. Just tried some. Already fermenting well and a delicious fruity flavour and aroma. Cannot wait until it's finished!!