Friday, December 5, 2008

first brew, part 2

The Beer Machine holds 2.6 gallons. Pretty much following (but scaling down) the Simplest Homemade Beer recipe combined with the machine instructions, I decided that for that quantity I'd use all 2.5 pounds of The Cellar's bulk pale ale liquid malt extract, and no sugar. I brought about 3.5 liters of tap water (it's good here) to a boil. The tub of LME had been sitting in a sink of warm water and poured easily into the pot. I had to taste it, of course, and found it pleasant. I left it boiling away for 20 minutes, enjoying the aroma.

As the wort was boiling I used no-rinse sanitizer on the machine, following its cleaning and assembly instructions. I was alarmed to discover that the clamps which hold the two halves together with a silicone seal in between were distinctly loose. Loose enough that it seemed very unlikely to be watertight. Some testing confirmed this suspicion, so I followed the instructions for soaking the main seal in hot water then cold water to return it to its original dimensions. It did not seem to help. I suppose it's simply too old. I repeated the seal treatment to no avail, then resorted to the egregious hack of putting layers of tape over the seams of the two halves, creating much more pressure between them once the clamps were installed. It now seemed to hold water and I had wort ready to go, so I took a deep breath and poured the wort into my questionable carboy. I topped it up with tap water, which I did not boil.

Rather than simply sprinkling the yeast into the wort as instructed, I proofed it, although only for a few minutes rather than 10 or 15. I pitched the yeast, gave it a good stir, and closed up the machine. Carrying it downstairs to the laundry room I set it into the sink (just in case) then cleaned up the kitchen. A week or two and I'd have beer!

Now, I figured, it was time to do more research. I had seen several references to The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing. I looked it up on Amazon and read the comments. Very good, but there were a couple that led me to the third edition of How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time. There I learned that the first edition of this highly regarded book was actually posted online at the author's web site! I started to read.

Oh dear.

It took all of two minutes before I was certain that my first batch of beer had a 0.0 probability of success. And that was before I took a look in the sink and saw that there was a small malty trickle down the side of the keg. And before I realized that I had used no hops at all and the LME was not pre-hopped. Drat.

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