My first batch of homebrew is in the fermentor. It’s a Porter. I went with an extract recipe with steeped grains. I figured there was too much for me to learn to attempt an all-grain brew on the first go-around, and I was right.
The thing that gave me the biggest trouble yesterday was the ball valve that attaches to my brew kettle. It kept leaking. I had done extensive research on sanitation, brewing temperatures, and other details relating to the actual brewing, but no one told me about potential problems with a leaking ball valve.
I’m no plumber. In fact I have this fear of messing with plumbing, because I’m afraid I’ll make the leak worse rather than better. I couldn’t really justify calling a plumber, though, to fix my leaking brew kettle. After repeating the following sequence three or four times: 1) try to fix the ball valve connection, 2) fill the brew kettle with 3 gallons of water to test it, 3) find out that it still leaked, 4) empty the 3 gallons of water, 5) start over at step 1 … I finally came to terms with my frustration and decided it was time to overcome my fear of plumbing and learn more about it.
I took a break and went online to find some help. The answer, it turns out, is Teflon tape and not tightening the o-rings too much. After taping the threads more thoroughly and being careful with the o-rings, I finally got a brew kettle full of water that barely leaked at all. This was progress and was good enough to proceed with the brewing.
From then on everything went quite smoothly for a first-time effort. I loved the aroma of the boiling malt and hops, although my family may have a different opinion about that. I’m very happy with two bits of advice I had gotten in advance. The 8 gallon brew kettle was essential. Definitely give a bit of extra cash to getting a quality brew kettle of at least 8 gallons. (My brew kettle and I came to a good understanding in spite of the ball valve incident.)
And I strongly recommend getting a wort chiller right up front. The wort chiller was awesome and cooled down the wort quite promptly. I was able to get to fermenting temperature in about 30 minutes, rather than the several hours it would have taken with cool water and ice baths – not to mention trying to find something bigger than my 8 gallon kettle to put the ice water in!
Now the beer is in the hands of my yeast. I tried to keep things sanitized and at the proper temperatures throughout the brewing process, so I’m hoping all goes well. A couple weeks of waiting and then it will be time to bottle.