Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brewing in Confinement

Fit on the stove just fine!
I mentioned a few posts back that I was going to try brewing my next batch indoors. Where I live, brewing outdoors has its problems: no hose access, primitive neighbors who fear small fires, Poodle Nazis, and the ever present threat of a leaf-blower-armed  lawn-care worker blasting my wort with detritus. Let's just say that for a while, the pros were outweighed by the cons and I wasn't able to brew.

I can happily report, the aforementioned scenario is no longer the case. While my grill and patio furniture are still under the jurisdiction of the Poodle Nazi, my brew pot is firmly in my domain. I had to modify my process due to the limited space, unusual water sources, and destructibility of my surroundings but I proved to myself that brewing in confinement (titular line!) can be done. I'm not sure how the warden will feel about your choice of hobby, but most inmates in security levels above medium will need to wait twenty to life to try this out. However, for the rest of us in either minimum security prison or imprisoned by high association fees and a condo mortgage, here's the scoop.

Step 1: Gathering Materials

Aware that I wasn't going to have hose access, probably the most important part of this process was not picking a recipe that would overtax my stove. Ordinary kitchen stoves aren't really designed to boil extremely large quantities of liquid and depending on the materials might not be able to handle the weight. I chose a recipe that was only two and a half gallons of boiling liquid for a five gallon recipe hoping it would be alright. Gene made me a little nervous saying his stove couldn't do it, but I think he has gas (and a gas stove.)

I also bought six one gallon Poland Springs bottles of water. Having measured containers really helps when adding two and a half gallons to an unlabeled pot. I didn't need to worry about sanitizing extra measuring containers and I could see exactly what I'd used.

Being indoors, I wasn't going to use my hose-powered wort chiller, lest I soak my Playstation or couch. The recipe suggested filling a sink with ice water to cool down the boil. I'll explain more on that later, but I needed to buy a Ms. Fixit sink stopper to keep the sink filled.

Step 2: Cleaning and Sanitizing

This step is where not having a hose really bites. I had to clean and sanitize everything in my bathtub, which contrary to what you might think is not a very sanitary environment. The soap scum or mildew present in the pipes is exactly the kind of contaminant you want to avoid when brewing. Using the shower (with detachable shower head) was sort of like a low pressure hose, but I had to be super careful not to get anything wet that I had already sterilized.

I eventually worked out a system, but the hardest thing was turning on the water in the tub, switching it to the shower, and controlling the water spray before it could touch anything unwanted. I had about two seconds to snatch the handle before water came out of the shower. With a hose, there is a trigger which prevents this problem, although in the shower I didn't blast myself in the face nearly as much.

My brew pot also left scratch marks in the tub from the graphite handles, but these easily cleaned off. If you have a porcelain tub, clawfooted brass basin, or something fancy you may not want to use it as a giant dish washer. The bathtub is worse in almost every way from washing outdoors except for one thing: there aren't any bugs indoors. Insects can land on your sanitized surfaces outdoors, potentially introducing all kinds of nasty critters into your brew.

I've gone into more boring cleaning in previous posts, so I'll spare you here. Suffice to say, all the processes are the same.

Step 3: The Boil

Jury-rigged solution for the thermometer
Even on an electric stove, this beer came up to temperature very fast. Without the wind messing with my bayou burner or stealing the heat from my pot the temperature rose quickly and evenly. I didn't even get scorching when I added the malt extract. It was super easy to regulate the temperature; the only hitch was that the wort level was so low that my candy thermometer didn't reach it. I had to rig up a hook to hold it in place.

Step 4: Cooling and The Transfer

I filled the sink with ice and water prior to ending the boil. I was lucky that when I put the pot in the sink it didn't overflow, but it was close. Surprisingly, all the ice from my ice maker wasn't enough to cool this monster down. I ended up having to run out to buy 2 bags of ice. No harm done though, it came down to temperature and I was able to transfer it easily. Having the pot up in the sink made the siphon work quickly, which isn't normally the case.

I added the extra water, pitched the yeast, and kicked back. Indoor brewing success!

Next time, we'll get back to the winter nine-pack!

1 comment:

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