We were fortunate enough here in MN to have not only a 3 day weekend, but some beautiful spring weather as well. I actually got a minor sunburn while hunting for Easter eggs with my niece. I am in the midst of a bathroom remodel, but I did manage to squeeze in a brew session on the morning of Good Friday. I brewed with a mug of coffee in hand instead of a beer, due to the hour, but it was still enjoyable. The downside is that if this batch doesn't turn out, and I have some concerns that I'll mention later, I can't blame it on having a couple of beers influencing my actions.
In retrospect, my main flaw in my approach to the brew day was trying to change too many variables at once. I bought a basic pale ale kit from Northern Brewer to brew for my second all grain batch. I plan to spend the summer refining recipes and creating a pale ale that I can call my own. I figured that the NB kit was a perfect jumping off point. I also have a few variations on clones of Summit Extra Pale Ale, which is probably my very favorite beer.
My thinking went off track before brew day even began. I decided to skip the yeast I bought with the kit and re-pitch some yeast that I harvested from my previous batch. I have never harvested yeast before, and never repitched, so not only do I have the uncertainty of being new to all grain brewing, but I also have an unproven yeast process. I'm learning more and more that having a repeatable process is key, especially in all grain.
The brew day itself was pretty much according to plan. But I missed a couple of numbers. I wanted to mash in at 152, but was a little low. A couple quarts of boiling water brought me up to where I needed to be. I also lost more heat during the mash this time, so I again added more water at the 30 minute mark. I'm not sure if this had any impact on my extraction rate or not. But my extraction rate was lower than I wanted it. If I calculated correctly, it was about 65%. Not horrible, but I'd like to get into the 70s. My pre-boil gravity was also lower than I expected, and right now I don't really have any explanation for that.
Toward the end of the boil, the neighbor across the street came over to check out the operation and we gabbed for 15 minutes or so. Normally, I would have been getting my fermenter ready to go during this time, so I was rushed. I went in to grab it, and realized I am missing the rubber gasket for my spout (plastic bucket fermenter). I have some cider in my big carboy, and I didn't want to ferment in my small carboy for fear of overflow. I only have airlocks, and probably would need a blowoff tube for the smaller one. So I kept the wort boiling much longer as I cleaned and sanitized a different bucket. The other bucket has a different spigot system, so I couldn't just use the gasket from that one, naturally.
While I'm sure that the longer boil had something to do with it, I can't believe the extra 10-15 minutes would account for the next issue. Once I ended the boil and ran my wort through the chiller, I only ended up with 4 gallons. So I lost 2.5 gallons during the boil instead of the approximately 1 gallon loss I expected. However, in this case things worked out well. Since my gravity was low to begin with, the additional evaporation brought my Original Gravity right in line with what my expected OG was.
So I was finally into the fermenter, and I pitched my yeast slurry. Fermentation started almost immediately, and was very vigorous. And it was done 3 days later, at least visibly. I haven't taken a reading yet. A fast fermentation is often a sign of infection, but I've heard that repitched yeast starts faster. I'm not confident of which is the explanation at this point.
So if this thing turns out, it will be nothing short of a miracle. Since I was reviving previously used yeast and brewing on Good Friday I am referring to this batch as Resurrection Pale Ale. Jesus turned water into wine, so I'm sure he won't mind me turning water and barley into beer.