Chapter 18 - Your First All-Grain Batch
18.6 Conducting the Lauter
7. Okay, the hour has gone by and the mash should look a little bit different. It should be less viscous and smell great. If you grainbed is shallow (<6"), place a plastic coffee can lid on top of the grainbed. This is what you will pour your sparge water onto to keep from stirring up the grainbed too much.
8. Drain off the first runnings into a quart pitcher. The wort will be cloudy with bits of grain. Slowly pour the wort back into the grainbed, recirculating the wort. Repeat this procedure until the wort exiting the tun is pretty clear (like unfiltered apple cider). It will be amber colored, but not cloudy. It should only take a couple quarts.
9. Once the wort has cleared, drain the wort carefully into your boiling pot. Fill the pot slowly at first and allow the level to cover the outlet tube. Be sure to have a long enough tube so that the wort enters below the surface and does not splash. The splashing of hot wort before the boil can cause long term oxidation damage to the flavor of the beer.
10. Watch the outflow of wort, you do not want to lauter too fast, as this could compact the grainbed and you would get a stuck sparge. A rate of 1 quart/minute is the most common. Allow the wort level in the Tun to drop until it is about an inch above the level of the grain. Now start adding the sparge water, either from the hot water tun or by pouring in a couple quarts at a time, onto the coffee can lid, maintaining at least an inch of free water above the grainbed.
11. If the wort stops flowing, even with water above the grainbed, then you have a stuck sparge. There are 2 ways to fix it: (a) Blow back into the outlet hose to clear an obstruction of the manifold; or (b) Close the valve and add some more water, stirring to re-suspend the mash. You will need to re-circulate again. Stuck sparges are an annoyance, but usually not a major problem.
12. Continue adding sparge water and draining the wort into your pot. At no time should you attempt to lift the pot with only one hand, especially if you are attempting to grab a stool with the other. The wort will spill.
13. Depending on how fast you sparge, you may see a change in the color of the runoff wort as the sparge water moves through the grainbed. It will probably have been getting gradually lighter in color, but if you have lautered slow enough, the lighter sparge water will stay on top of the heavier wort and you may see an abrupt change in color. In most other cases, you will collect more than enough wort before the lauter runs clear. In any event, you should stop lautering when the gravity of the runoff falls below 1.008. If you have lautered too fast, you will not rinse the grains effectively and you will get poor extraction.
14. Calculate how efficient your extraction was. Measure the gravity in the boiling pot and multiply the points by the number of gallons you collected. Then divide by the number of pounds of grain you used. The result should be somewhere around 30. 27 is okay, 29 is good, and over 30 is great. If it is 25 or below, you are lautering too fast or you are not getting good conversion in the mash, which could be caused by having too coarse a grist, the wrong temperature, not enough time, it got cold, or a pH factor, et cetera.
Okay, throw the spent grain on the compost pile and you are done! Boil and add hops as usual.
Figure 104: The wort is brought to a boil and the hops are added. You have produced your first all-grain wort! . If you are limited on pot size, it is perfectly okay to split the wort between two pots and boil separately. Split your hops up accordingly.
Figure 105: Now the boil is over and its time to chill the wort. Joe Brewer uses a large immersion wort chiller to chill the 6 gallons of wort.
Figure 106: A view of the now cool wort. Hops are visible floating around the edges of the chiller coils.
Figure 107: Into every brew day a little water must spill...
Figure 108: The cool wort is drained into the fermenter.
Figure 109: This picture shows the aquarium air pump aeration of the wort. Aeration is very important for a healthy fermentation.
Figure 110: The yeast has been pitched to the wort and now, 8 hours later, a krausen has started to form on top. A blow-off tube is usually not needed for a 5 gallon batch fermenting in a 6.5 gallon carboy.