IPA Brewday

Earlier this past week I brewed an IPA for a special event that is scheduled to occur in June.  I’m not at liberty to discuss the details yet, but I will be putting four of my beers on tap at this event.  The first will be the Eisbock that I brewed about a month ago, which I just freeze distilled and will have a separate post on.  The IPA will be the second, and I have planned brewdays for a Dry Stout and an American Wheat.  Back to the IPA.

Starch conversion test

Starch conversion test

I decided to take something I learned from the recent brewing class I took at the local community college and put it to use.  The starch conversion test is an easy way to determine if your mash has converted and is ready for the next step.  Most people will mash for at least an hour, but I have learned that usually 45 minutes is enough to convert all the sugars.  The top half of the above picture shows what happens when you add a drop of Iodine into a sample of the wort drawn from the mash too early.  This was only about 20 minutes after starting the mash, and indicates an incomplete starch conversion. The bottom half was a sample taken after about 45 minutes of starting the mash, and you can see that the Iodine did not turn dark purple, indicating that starch conversion is complete, and you are ready to start lautering/sparging.

First Wort Hops

First Wort Hops

I decided to go with First Wort Hops for bittering this IPA.  I’ve used this method a few times, as it is said to give the beer a smoother bitterness than traditional additions at the beginning of the boil.  I used Columbus hops for bittering, and Galaxy hops for the late additions.  I also used the whirlpool method for my late addition hops.  I skipped using the hop spider and made a few changes to how I executed this method from the first time.  This was the second time I tried the whirlpool method, the first time I had issues because I left my plate chiller in line with the whirlpool setup, and it got pretty clogged up with hops.  So here’s how I did it this time around.

I did my mash and sparge water the same, with the pump and plate chiller set up, I ran the hot water through the plate chiller to sanitize it.  For the sparge water, I heat up the water to near boiling, then recirculate through the pump and plate chiller, back into the kettle for about 10 minutes before sending it up to the cooler.  After the sparge water was transferred, I took the plate chiller out of the loop and sealed it off and set it aside.  After the boil was complete, I cut off the flame, added my whirlpool hops, and started my pump, recirculating the wort through the pump and back into my whirlpool inlet.  Here’s what the whirlpool looks like.

This is a method commonly used by commercial breweries.  I wanted to see if I could get my system as close to a commercial breweries as possible in the homebrew setting.  I let the whirlpool go for about 10 minutes before cutting it off.  Next, you need to let everything settle.  I allowed a 20 minute rest, which gives the hops time to form a nice cone in the center of the kettle, so that when transferring the wort out of the kettle, the hops are left behind.

Hop cone formed by whirlpooling

Hop cone formed by whirlpooling

The elbow on the left is the recirculation/whirlpool port I use for my whirlpooling.  I was very happy with the clarity of the wort during transfer.  Not sure I will need to use a hop spider for any of my beers anymore, I may just whirlpool every batch, in exchange for adding 30 minutes to the end of the process.  But since I’ve decreased my mash time by 15 minutes, its not so bad.

Wort transfer

Wort transfer

As the weather starts to warm up, my transfer times start to increase.  It was in the 50s-60s for todays brew, and I was able to get the 5+ gallons cooled in 14 minutes with the Blichmann Therminator plate chiller.  I will start thinking about getting a prechiller set up for the upcoming brews to decrease that cooling time and the amount of water used.

I used a third generation American West Coast ale yeast that I harvested from the AleGBT beer back in March.  I did a 1L starter the day before and pitched the whole starter.  Fermentation was going within 6 hours of pitching.  This will ferment at 66F.  Here’s the recipe:


9 lbs 2-Row base malt

1 lb Caramel 20L

1 lb Munich 10L


1 oz Columbus 15.6%AA, First Wort hops (52 minutes of wort contact before boil started)

1 oz Columbus, 10 minutes

3 oz Galaxy 15.0%AA, 0 minutes

10 minute post boil whirlpool (194F after whirlpool), 20 minute rest (185F after rest)


Danstar American West Coast Ale, third generation, 1L starter

WATER additions (filtered Albemarle County water)

1.5 tsp Gypsum to 4.25 gal mash water, 1.5 tsp Gypsum to 4.5 gal sparge water

1 tsp CaCl to mash water, 1 tsp CaCl to sparge water