Things never go according to plan on brew days. I think a skilled brewer already knows this fact, and utilize their experience to take quick corrective action to save the brew. Sh#t happens as they say. So, since I made every mistake under the sun brewing my Apricot Pale Ale, I figured I'd elaborate on my corrective actions to see if anyone had any ideas they'd like to share, or maybe help some brewer noobs out there hone in their own skills.
First problem: Forgetting things until the last minute. I almost forgot the 5.2 (a powder that gets the acidity of your water to the ideal levels for your mash). I did forget about the whirlfloc tablet, but was able to add it later on. I didn't have any yeast nutrients, not that, that mattered with how well the starter performed. The point is, add your additives to your brew day planner (I use beersmith), and set the additives out right next to your brewing setup so you have to walk past them 20 times.
Second problem: Know your system. I just installed the 5500 watt elements in my brew kettle and hot liquor(water) tank from the electric brewery. It's incredible how fast it can heat 8g+ of water. Which leads us to our problem. Know your boil off figures (how fast your system boils off wort/water). When it came time to cool the wort, I should have had 5g left, and instead, had only 3.5g! The garage had clouds of steam hovering around the ceiling. The simple corrective action - just add more water (which is when I remembered to add the whirlfloc tablet. I boiled just long enough to sterilize the wort, and give the hops a little more time. Which leads us to problem #3.
Third problem: Timing. Since I didn't know how fast my system boiled off water, I was guessing at the hop timing. I hit my volume levels after only a 20 minute boil with the hops - which is part of the reason I ended up with 3.5g. The element in the boil kettle comes on slow, but once it's hot, it tears through your water volume. I estimated I was losing about 1g every 30min - which is 2x as fast as the propane fired system I used to use. That was one of many problems with the hops, but by simply adding more water, I was able to extend the boil time, and get my volumes back in line. The good news is, at that boil rate, their should be a hint of any DMS!http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Fourth problem: Know your hydrometer. Your brew day planning sheet (in beersmith) gives you estimates of where your original gravity (the sugar content of your wort) should be before you boil off some of the water. I thought the efficiency of my system was off because I'd get 45% efficiency when everyone else would get 65-70% on average. The light bulb finally went off (hey...better late than never!). HYDROMETERS ARE CALIBRATED TO 60 DEGREES! Not the 140 degree plus wort I was pulling. There are calculators online that can give you an accurate adjustment based on the temp/og reading you get. As soon as I plugged my numbers in the calculator, it came out to an OG of 1.040. Beersmith estimated I'd get about 1.039!
Fifth Problem: Hop leaves don't act like hop pellets. The pellets practically dissolve during the boil. Hop leaves however, just sink to the bottom. They're extremely adept at clogging your plumbing in the most annoying locations. When I tried to start cooling the wort, the hop leaves almost immediately clogged the pump housing. Not a big problem, simply removed the pump housing and cleaned it, but it took probably 20-30 minutes. During that time, I added water straight to the wort, and brought it back up to a boil, while re-adding the hops to give them some more time to soak - this time using a HOP BAG, so they wouldn't clog my plumbing. The hops that were in the wort, I strained out into a bucket, and trust me, holding a 20g steel kettle while pouring out the wort is a man's job. That thing isn't lite!
Sixth problem: Avoid stupid mistakes. Once I finally got to cooling the wort, the process began to flow smoothly. The wort had already been strained, so I just pumped it straight into a 6.5g carboy that had been sterilized. It's busy fermenting at about 65 degrees. The last problem was that I forgot to put a bit of gin in the air lock, so it was open to air all night. Hopefully, that won't create any sour tones in the brew!
All in all, brew day was an adventure to say the least. I think it means I'm out of practice, so I'll have to brew a whole lot more! :)