I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the second I finished Axis of Evil IPA and set off the whirlpool, Japan was hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Japan Meteorological Agency says a magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Tokyo and surrounding areas on Sunday.

The quake swayed houses and rattled furniture in the city at 7:56 p.m. No damage was immediately reported by national television networks.

The epicenter of the quake was a pot of boiling wort in central Tokyo which was hopped to dangerous levels, the Meteorological Agency said. Whirlpooling 100+ kick ass IBUs was bound to cause some disruption but there was no danger to any Superdry consumers may have had in their fridges, the agency said.

In love hotels throughout Tokyo screams of “Sugoi” filled the air as many young ladies thought they really did feel the earth move for the first time.

At my place, the quake was so violent that the wort was almost spilling over the top of the pot. Scary stuff – the thought of losing valuable wort.

As a first time to use all the equipment, things didn’t go all that bad. I ended up with 21L of 1.067 wort, and I should end up with a nice tasty beer. But there were a couple of surprises along the way.

Crushed grain

Crushed grain

Firstly, crushing the grain – or more specifically, how fine to crush it. The mill came to me set by the previous owner at their ideal setting, but to me it seemed like it was coming out too powdery. I adjusted to so that the crush was still good but not too powdery, but whether that was a mistake or not – I don’t know. What is the ideal setting? This was something I never really considered before.

Keeping in the heat

Keeping in the heat

Secondly, temperature control. Difficult enough to estimate when you’re trying to work out how much heat would be lost to the grain and the tank – made impossible by another Ikea temperature gauge giving erratic readings and then going tits up.

During mashing, I had to add boiling water to the mash-tun to get the temperature up to 65 degrees – no big deal except that the extra water combined with less water being absorbed by the grain than I expected led to me extracting 16L of first wort rather than 9L.

But sparge water… Once I got it into the HLT the temperature probe reported it as 10 degrees less than the erratic Ikea thermometer. I tried adding boiling water but it made little difference (I could only heat 1L at a time in the kettle). Once I added it to the grain, I was 13 degrees less than I wanted to be. Again, I tried adding boiling water but after 3L, I was still 5 degrees away from where I wanted to be.

End result I collected almost 30L of wort in total – 5L more than I intended. And the sparging hadn’t been done at the ideal temperature. I estimated 30L would give me approx 25L, resulting in a lower than planned starting gravity. To counteract this, at the end of the boil I had to add 500g of dry malt extract or be faced with a pale ale which probably wouldn’t have the alcohol to balance the hops.

But this leads me to my third surprise – how much wort I actually collected.

Collecting the wort

Collecting the wort

Interesting lens distortion, right? That’s courtesy of my new 7-14mm wide angle lens (14-28mm equivalent in 35mm terms). I need to play with it more to learn how to minimise the distortion, but it should be handy for bar shoots.

I digress.

From the approx 30L, I only collected 21L of wort. I was expecting more – so where did it all go? I’m not actually sure but here’s my best guess.

Working back from the final gravity of 1.067, I should have collected 23L if my efficiency was 70%. That means I lost approx 7L to steam while boiling, and 2L before getting into the fermenter. That’s probably about right – half a litre discarded at the beginning to flush the sanitiser from the pipes, and 1.5L lost to the hops and trub. The 130g of whole leaf hops and trub was 2 inch thick after draining out the wort – there was a lot of water in there.

But if that’s right – and I can’t imaging there was more than 2L lost – that means I lost 7% to the boil, over 20% in 60 minutes. Yes, I had a rather vigorous boil as you can see: 

Rolling boil

Rolling boil

But even so, 20% seems like a lot. Usually you would expect 10-15% – and from 24L I usually lose about 3L. So either I did lose that much to the boil or I lost more in the hops but got less than 70% efficiency. Difficult to imagine more than 1.5L lost to the hops though.

It all turned out well in the end, even though I did have to add DME – but it leaves me with a number of things I need to fine tune before the next time I use this equipment.

Plate chiller

Plate chiller

Pump

Pump

The plate chiller and pump got the temperature down to the early 30’s – not a bad effort given my tap water is also in the early 30s. This little steel scrubby (105yen for a pack of 8) stopped any of the of the whole leaf hops getting into the plate chiller:

Hop protection

Hop protection

All in the brew took 8 hours from crushing the grain to finishing cleaning up – but hopefully I can get that down to around 5-6 hours in the future once I’m used to the equipment.

I’ve yet to pitch the yeast – rather than pitch in the early 30s, I’ve put the bucket in the fermentation chamber to cool to pitching temperature. I’ve been guilty of pitching too high before – hopefully this extra patience will pay off with absense of off flavours from the yeast.

Final recipe details:

Axis of Evil IPA – as made

Boil volume: 30L
Wort collected: 21L (+2L lost to hops and cooling equipment)

Actual OG: 1.067
Predicted IBU: 134IBU + FWH

Fermentables:
5kg Maris Otter 2-Row
0.5kg Vienna
0.5kg Carahell
0.3kg C60
500g Extra-light DME (added just before flameout)

Hops:
60m + FWH: 70g Chinook (13%AA)
20m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
15m: Irish moss
10m: 20g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 15g Simcoe (12.9%AA)
Dry hop: 30g Amarillo (9.3%AA), 22.5g Simcoe (12.9%AA)

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