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This was the most recent kit (All American Oatmeal Stout 6.1% ABV) we brewed so we had already learned a thing or two. It contains over 6 Kg grain and also flaked oats, and there is just one 60 minute hop addition with about 70 grams of hop pellets.
The first mistake we made was starting with only 20 litres of water; the malt pipe hoovered it up and the water level in the boiler fell below the inlet to the tap. This was potentially very bad because there wasn’t much water covering the heating element and it could have overheated. The first indication was lots of air in the recirculating wort . . . thought it was a tap leak so we closed the tap and this stopped the air bubbles while the pump was still on. So it wasn’t the tap and we quickly found the problem by looking into the boiler, we could also hear a gurgling sound coming from the tap inlet. We added another 3 litres of water and this issue was solved.
After mashing for an hour, we heated up the wort to 76 oC and recirculated for 10 minutes. Then sparged with 6 litres of water, also at 76 oC. After about 15 minutes we placed the malt pipe in a bucket and continued. We took a gravity reading and adjusted the final wort volume required to 27 litres. During the boil we also managed to collect just over a litre from the draining malt pipe in the bucket.
As with most of the other kits, we had to scrape the top of the bazooka with a paddle to get a flow into the fermenter and this took a few minutes (didn’t time it).
In the end, we got over 26 litres into the fermenter at 1062. A massive improvement over previous efforts with a similar grain bill.
To get a handle on best practices with the Bulldog brewer, or at least to find out what NOT to do, we brewed a wide range of recipes ranging from light malt bills of about 4 Kg all the way up to about 7 Kg, with and without adjuncts including flaked rice, corn, and oats. The recipes we brewed include all of these: All American All Grain Clones and Gold Medal Winners
Well, we learned a lot of lessons which is why we created this blog . . . so that you can avoid the mistakes we made. In the posts below, we detail what we did and how we sorted out the issues we came across for each homebrew recipe kit.
Here is a summary of our findings.
1/ Start with enough initial water
Obvious? Well, maybe . . . but not if its your first time using an All In One System like the brewer. A big issue that arises is that the malt pipe is relatively large so that a heavy grain bill can retain a lot of water and a problem can arise with the pump. Essentially, not enough water is left to cover the inlet to the pump (the tap inlet inside the brewer). We first noticed this when we say air recirculating with the wort which is a bit of a giveaway, but it still took us a while to figure it out . . . it could also have been a leak in the tap connector (it wasn’t). You might also hear a “gurgling” sound. So, for large grain bills start with at least 23 litres of water. Or even 25 litres, even if it means less sparge water.
2/ Mash out for 10 minutes or more
This can increase your final wort volume by several litres with large grain bills. Just reaching mash out temperature won’t cut it . . . you need to recirculate for about 10 minutes to ensure that the malt pipe is up to temperature. This is because, with large grain bills, it takes time for the recirculating wort to get through the malt pipe and heat the malt.
3/ Use a bucket to collect the last of the wort from the malt pipe
We were able to get another litre of so from the double IPA.
4/ New V2 bazooka is very fine and can get blocked
Not a problem during mashing. But hop pellets can be a problem even when contained in muslin bags; relatively small hop additions can block the new bazooka when you try to fill the fermenter. We are working with the manufacturer to find a solution, but for now, use a paddle to gently scrape the top of the bazooka over and back to clear the hop debris. We use this one: S30 Stainless Steel Beer Paddle 24 (61cm); its also superb for stirring in the malt.