My First Full Mash Brew

17 Feb

The planning had been done; the equipment purchased; the recipe decided on and the ingredients gathered.It was time. Time to make my first full mash beer.

I was up early (for me – not a morning person), and spent some time thoroughly sterilizing boiler, bins and other equipment. I carefully measured out each ingredient, and poured the required 8.8 litres of water into the boiler.

Malt measured out and awaiting mashing

I’m not quite sure at what point the water becomes ‘liquor’, but it’s certainly that by the time it reaches 66°Celsius. Just at the critical moment, my friend and brewing mentor, Dr Tristan Robinson arrived. Under his supervision, I gently poured the grain into a mashing bag that I had placed in the boiler. It took some time to get all the malt in, constantly stirring as it went in to ensure there were no clumpy dry patches. Eventually it was all in the bag, and we settled down to wait out the 90 minute mashing period. Every 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and gave the mash a good stir.

The malt in the mash bag in the boiler during mashing

My boiler is not very large, so once the mashing had finished, we drained the boiler off into a fermentation bucket before sparging the mash. We sparged the mash with 16 litres of liquor at about 75°C. As we drained off, the sweetness could be tasted. Sparging continued basically until the liquid being drawn off started tasting watery.


By this time, we had about 22 litres of wort, which was put back into the boiler (minus the mashing bag, of course) and the first hops added (25g each of Goldings and Styrian Goldings). The hops come in a vacuum-sealed packet, and look somewhat unappetising, but when loosened between the fingers give off the most glorious smell.

Unappetising looking vacuum-packed hops

Once opened up, they look a lot better – and smell fantastic!

The boil lasted in total about 90 minutes, with some time being lost as we learned the eccentricities of the boiler’s thermostat. I’ll be able to do better next time. For the last ten minutes of the boil, a further 16g of Styrian hops was added, plus a few grams of Irish Moss to help the beer clear. We found that with the lid in place, the wort boiled over somewhat messily, so most of the boil was done in the open boiler. Naturally, after 90 minutes of boiling, the volume had reduced a fair bit, and we ended up with about 13 litres to go into the fermentation bucket.

Into the fermenting bin

Next came the long, tedious wait for the wort to cool to a temperature when the yeast could be pitched. I had a great little pot of live moose-like yeast kindly given to me by Jay Krause of the Quantum Brewery in Stockport. I first drew off enough wort to take an original gravity reading, and once the wort reached 30°C, I added the yeast. I had to wait a little longer before taking the OG, as my hydrometer is calibrated for 20°C. It didn’t reach this temperature until about midnight, when the OG was measured at 1.064. I made a note and went to bed.

The following morning I boiled up 7 litres of water, and when it had cooled to the same temperature as the now busily fermenting wort, I added 6 litres to the fermenting bin. Adding the extra water had two vital effects. The target volume for the brew was 19 litres, at which volume the OG was lowered to the target of 1.042. It also ensured that I’d get the correct quantity of beer from the brew. If I’d left the volume low and gone with the 1.064 gravity, the resulting brew would have been considerably stronger, but the taste would probably have been adversely affected.

First thing the following morning, the fermentation had really taken off.

The recipe I followed was for a beer of similar characteristics to Timothy Taylor Landlord. This is a great beer, and a fairly simple recipe, so is ideal for a first brew. As I write this, it is nearly five days since fermentation began. I’m expecting it to be completed in another couple of days, and then I plan to put the beer into a cask for finishing. I’ll let you know how it tastes in a few weeks.

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Posted by on 17 February, 2012 in Cask Ale, Home Brewing


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8 responses to “My First Full Mash Brew

  1. Dominic. Thornbridge

    17 February, 2012 at 19:03

    How are you cooling the wort after boiling? 30C is a bit too warm for pitching yeast. Find out what temperature Jay pitches at. And if he says 30C, call him a ‘mad bastard’ from me. 20C is more normal!

    Sounds like a good brew anyway. All the best.

    • Alebagger

      17 February, 2012 at 19:20

      Hi Dominic,

      I just left the bin outside on the patio (cover clipped on, of course). I have no mechanical means to cool the wort. I pitched at 30C because 1) Most books suggest pitching when the wort is ‘lukewarm’ and 2) It was late and I wanted to go to bed. I’ll pitch at a lower temp in future as per your advice, but it didn’t seem to do any harm this time.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Ale Evangelist

    17 February, 2012 at 20:51

    Alebagger, I have something called a wort chiller, which a mate and I fashioned out of some 3/8 inch copper tubing with brass fittings on either end to connect a garden hose. Over here, copper is getting very expensive, but I imagine you could procure and shape the copper into the coil shape you need, and then get the fittings so you could put a house garden hose on one end. Cool water in one end and hot water out the other. Put the chiller into the wort during the boil to sanitize it, and then start the chilling when you turn off the heat. Can cool down a 5gallon batch in about a half hour.

    Sounds like you had a blast! I’ll post a report of my brew day tomorrow.

  3. Dominic. Thornbridge

    17 February, 2012 at 22:20

    Ok, read this:

    Then buy this:

    And for ‘lukewarm’ read 18-22C.

    Your beer will thank you!

    • Alebagger

      19 February, 2012 at 05:18

      Hi Dominic,

      Thanks for the advice – always welcome from an expert. I’ve taken note of the information on the HowtoBrew website and when the financial checks and balances are in order, I’ll be looking at adding to my equipment.


  4. Ale Evangelist

    19 February, 2012 at 05:44

    How To Brew is also available as a fantastic book by the same guy who did that website, John Palmer. I have the dead tree version, and it really helped with getting the process down pat. Thanks for sharing your experiences, man. I enjoyed reading them!


    5 October, 2014 at 12:11

    Run your wort through a copper tube into the FV so the end is submerged, that way you will reduce hot side oxidation that can cause home brew taste. Cheers

    • Alebagger

      5 October, 2014 at 14:32

      Thanks for that. A useful tip. I must get some copper tube and try that out. Cheers.


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