Monday 15 November 2021

BrewZilla Brew Day - El Dorado Smash

Here's a run down of our recent El Dorado SMaSH brew day! Our first attempt at a 30 minute boil, and our best result in terms of hitting efficiency targets.

Here is the link where you can view the full recipe

Check our review and tasting results for the El Dorado Smash

Water Additions

We keep our water additions minimal by using four (4) simple ingredients for making adjustments to water chemistry. Campden tablets for removing chlorine, and magnesium sulphate, calcium chloride and calcium sulphate for making other adjustments to key minerals. Calculations are all done using BrewFather software - for this brew we went with the standard Pale Ale water profile in BrewFather.

The calculated numbers from BrewFather are below;

Ca2+ (Calcium): 126
Mg2+ (Magnesium): 18
Na+ (Sodium): 16
Cl- (Chloride): 55
SO42- (Sulfate): 299
HCO3- (Bicarbonate): 46

Digiboil Sparge Water Heater

Our recently purchased sparge water heater, the Kegland Digiboil also got it's debut run and worked incredibly well. Being able to set the desired sparge water temperature then leave it until it was time to sparge was incredibly convenient - no more messing around with hitting and maintaing the right water temperature with a pot on the stove top.

35L Digiboil Sparge water heater

Since we were doing a smaller batch (23L) - we needed less than 7L of sparge water. Was disappointed that the Digiboil volume markings only started at 10L, so we just estimated where the 7L mark was. We more than likely filled with closer to 8L but better off having too much than not enough sparge water. Turns out we were pretty close as there wasn't much extra sparge water left over at the end.

The Mash

Mashing in and the mash itself all went well and without incident. This was our first time using the pro screen for the BrewZilla which removes the overflow centre pipe. It was much easier to stir the mash without having to deal with the centre pipe in the middle.

BrewZilla 35L with pro screen (no overflow centre pipe)

After doughing in our 5.5kg of Maris Otter malted grain we left the grain bed to settle for 10 minutes before starting the pump for wort recirculation.

Grain bed - 5.5kg of Maris Otter shortly after doughing in

In order to try and hit and maintain a more accurate mash bed temperature, we utilised a long probe thermometer through the glass lid opening of our BrewZilla. The long probe allows us to measure the temperature a few inches into the grain bed. As is well known with the BrewZilla's - there is a noticeable temperature difference between what is displayed on the screen since the temperature probe is located at the base of the unit, and the temperature at the top of the mash. It certainly takes some time for the temperature to normalise and stabilise throughout the mash - but we were eventually able to hit and maintain a reasonably constant 66C as called for in the recipe.

66c on the long probe thermometer through the lid of the BrewZilla

Recirculation flow was good with the flow control almost set to fully open. We stopped the pump and gave the mash bed a good stir 3 or 4 times through the 60 minute mash. There was a noticeable foam on top of the mash bed throughout so we weren't really able to see or capture the improved clarity of the wort - but it definitely got there in the end.

Wort clarity at the end of the mash

Mash Out

This is the first time we actually remembered to perform a mash out - which is where the temperature of the mash bed is raised from 66c to 76c. It took a good 10-15 minutes for the temperature to raise throughout the entire mash bed, and once it did we left it for a further 10 minutes. This definitely seemed to help with the flow of water when sparging.

We also encountered some difficulty with removing the malt pipe. As you'd expect - it's pretty heavy when full of wetted grain - and the metal handle that fits in the two holes on either side of the malt pipe only just fits. The handle slipped out a couple of times when attempting to lift the malt pipe - thankfully before it was too high above the wort which would have lead to hot wort being splashed everywhere.

Pre Boil Gravity

After taking a pre-boil gravity sample/reading we were pleased to hit our expected number of 1.053 exactly. We've previously fallen short of expected  efficiency numbers - most likely because of forgetting to complete the mash out step. We don't normally get too concerned with hitting numbers exactly - as long as we make good beer - but it's always reassuring to know your processes are working well and improving.

Our pre-boil wort sample for gravity reading

One thing to note when taking pre-boil gravity readings is to make sure the wort is properly stirred before taking a sample. Due to the nature of sparging - the wort at the bottom of the vessel may contain more sugar than the sparge water sitting on top until it is thoroughly stirred through. We made sure to give it a good stir, and actually took several samples from the tap the bottom and poured them back into the top to try and get as accurate a reading as possible.

Pre-boil gravity reading - 1.053 - right on target

The Boil

We had a slightly lower pre-boil volume due to opting for a smaller batch size. Boil time was reached quickly - noticeably quicker than previous, larger batches. There was a large amount of hot break that formed too so we were constantly stirring and breaking the surface tension of the wort as it came to a boil to prevent the dreaded and messy boil over.

Recirculate the wort through the hop spider to filter any grains out of the wort

Tip - when waiting for the wort to come to a boil - put your recirculation arm into your hop spider and run the pump at full speed. This will help to filter out any grains that escaped the malt pipe and made it into the wort - and also aid with bringing the wort up to boil temperature more quickly

Plenty of hot break at the beginning of the boil

Chilling the wort

We use the included immersion chiller to bring the wort down to yeast pitching temperature at the end of the boil. The lower boil volume meant once again that this process went a bit quicker than it had for previous larger batches.

Chilling the wort

We use the recirculation arm during chilling to help move the wort around against the chiller to improve the cooling efficiency. We also jiggle the immersion chiller every few minutes to help agitate the wort which also assists with cooling.

The old shirts are over the connections on the chiller to help prevent any leaks from the hose connections from spraying into the wort.

The spent water from chilling is used to water the garden.

Transferring from BrewZilla to FermZilla

Once our wort was at pitching temperature, we use the BrewZilla pump to transfer the wort into our FermZilla fermenter. We hold the output hose high above the FermZilla opening to create splashing and aid in aerating the wort prior to pitching the yeast. Who knows how much benefit it actually gives, but it's got to be better than nothing, right?

Transferring wort from BrewZilla to FermZilla

Original Gravity Reading 

Our original gravity reading (OG) was a pleasing 1.055 - only 1 point below our expected target. A new efficiency record for us - which we also attribute to remembering the mash out step that has been previously forgotten in past brews.

Original Gravity (OG) reading - 1.055

Yeast Pitching and Active Fermentation

Our Verdant IPA yeast was pitched at 22.5c and fermentation was well underway by the next morning.

Once fermentation was underway the temperature was dropped to maintain a constant 19-20c

Nice fluffy white krausen showing fermentation is well underway

Gravity readings were taken on Day 6 and Day 7 showing a constant 1.015 - a couple of points higher than the expected 1.013, but indicating the final gravity (FG) had been reached

1.015 on consecutive days - FG reached

Test tasting at this stage was promising - very prominent nutty taste from the malt - good bitterness, slight alcohol taste but no trace of any green or off flavours.

At this point we started the 'soft crash' by dropping the temperature of the fermenter to 15c in preparation for dry hopping. We use a soft crash to avoid hop creep.

Our 80g dry hop was measured and put into the fermenter - left for 24 hours at 15c before cold crashing to 2-3c

80g El Dorado dry hop

Here is the full chart/log of the fermentation temperature

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