This past Sunday, I cooked up an big ol’ IPA.

This was my first all-grain batch of significant gravity. The planned OG was 1.072. This would require a mash efficiency of 72% – which, based only on my mini-mash efficiency, should be easy.

This was the second time I was using my new plastic cooler mash/lauter tun. A co-conspirator, my friend Jason, joined me to watch me screw up this premier batch. Luckily, I didn’t actually screw it up (at least not completely).

I had some trouble hitting the right strike temperature, just like last time. More calculations still didn’t get me there. But I did better. I did eventually hit it (unlike with Itsy Bitsy Brown, which simply had to suffer a lower temperature saccharification rest than planned).

I also had a problem at mash-out this time. Last time, when cooking up Itsy Bitsy Brown, I didn’t even use a thermometer in the lauter tun. I heated the sparge water to 180, tossed it into the mash tun, and then sparged. This time, my intent was to add hot enough water to bring the entire tun up to 170 or so. I heated the sparge water all the way up to boiling to accomplish this. This did not work. My calculations did not factor in the fact that the sparge water cools as it travels from the hot liquor tank to the tun, and apparently the mash tun itself and the air therein will soak up some of the heat. My mash-out and sparge temperature rose only to a dismal 160 degrees. Considering I heated the water up to boiling, I don’t know how I could have improved this. The only way I know is to use another means of heating up the mash tun like direct heat or a RIMS (which requires a pump that circulates the mash through a heater element or through the hot liquor tank). Or I suppose I could try keeping the hot liquor tank on the burner over active fire while it flows into the mash tun. And I suppose I could use add a little bit more hot water than I actually need into the tun and just stop the batch sparge when I’ve collected the right amount of wort.

The end result was a mash efficiency of only 68%. I partially blame the low temperature sparge water. The other part of blame may lie in my lauter tun manifold – or perhaps I simply drained the wort from the lauter tun too quickly. In any event, after the sparge was completed, I could see obvious channels in the grain bed. And channeling is an easy way to miss your efficiency since it means that the wort travels unevenly through the grain bed. It never has the opportunity to dissolve and rinse away the sugars on one side of the bed because it is only flowing through a channel on the other side.

To compensate for the low efficiency, I added other fermentables: molasses and honey. Both were used in my original Hellishly Hopped Ale, on which this IPA recipe was loosely based. The final OG was 1.074. This was higher than planned partially due to the additional fermentables just mentioned and partially to the fact that the final volume was lower than planned (more water boiled away than I had anticipated).

This beer featured a ton of hops (okay – not really a ton). And no light-weights either. Okay – some light-weights: I used some Fuggles at 10 minutes for aroma. But the rest of the hop schedule featured 12.9% Magnum (pellets), 13.1% Nugget (plugs), and 9.6% Centennial (also plugs). In total, I boiled 4.2 ounces of hops. And I’ll be dry-hopping with another two ounces consisting of more Centennial, more Fuggles, and some left-over Kent Goldings.

Fermentation began in under 24 hours – and it absolutely wreaks(!!!) of hops. What an awesome smell…

Due to the use of honey and a low mash temperature, the beer could (should) ferment pretty dry. That also means it will be strong in alcohol. It could have enough hops and alcohol to instead qualify as a Double IPA. And I have no problem with that. Ever since I sampled my own Brain Bludgeoner last weekend, I’ve had a renewed hankering for something wicked hoppy!