I finally got around to brewing the Pumpkin Spice Ale for this season. I’m quite a bit late due to the remodel in the master bedroom. Last year I brewed this beer the first week of September. I’m hoping it will be ready by Christmas, but that’s going to be close.
I made a few changes to this year’s version. Because I’m so late I am using canned pumpkin mash instead of making my own from pumpkins. I also used pumpkin pie spice along with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. I eliminated the ground cinnamon as well and chose to use real sticks of cinnamon instead. The final difference is in how I used the pumpkin mash. I used 9 pounds of mash and split it into two groups. I put 5 pounds in the boil and 4 pounds in the primary. Now, 9 pounds sounds like a lot, but it really wasn’t. More on that later.
I had a guest brewer over to help me out this time. My brother-in-law, Travis, stopped by just as I was starting the steep and stuck around till the beer was in the primary. His extra pair of hands and eyes were a great help.
Once I got the steep water up to 170 degrees I put the grains into the water. I wrapped the pot with a thick blanket and just hung out and waited for 45 minutes. I used some British Pale, British Munich and American Crystal Malt, 40L in the steep. The blanket was a great tip I got from Hawk earlier this year. That helped me maintain my water temperature throughout the steep. Once the water was up to 170 degrees, the blanket kept it right there for the entire 45 minutes. I was also lucky that there wasn’t any wind and the outside temperature was about 60 degrees.
When you are just hanging out for the steep to finish, there isn’t much to do but wait. So, might was well wait in comfort with some home brew (the Big Black Russian) and a cigar. I nice robusto can easily be smoked in 45 minutes. Here you can see two of our patio chairs acting as a windbreak and the boil pot wrapped in the blanket.
Once the steep was finished, I did a poor man’s sparge of the grains. I just took the grain bag out, placed it into a funnel that Travis held onto and poured a gallon of 170 degree water over the grains and let it drain back into the wort. I’m not sure this does all that much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt things. This additional gallon of water brought the total wort volume up to 5 gallons. That’s important to remember for later.
Once the sparge was finished we added the light, dry malts and first 5 pounds of pumpkin mash.
Once the malts and pumpkin were added, it was time to sit back and relax for an hour. So, I pulled out one of my dad’s old pipes and smoked that while I kept an eye on the boil. We had the football game on the TV as well while we enjoyed another home brew. At the 45 minute mark it was time to put the immersion chiller into the wort to get it ready to chill the wort down from its current 203 degrees to 70 – 75 degrees. In the photo of me trying to keep the pipe lit, you can see the immersion chiller in the wort. The hose in the background is the out-put water. I run the hose out to the trees to keep it a bit dryer around the patio.
With 10 minutes left in the boil I tossed in all the spices. Here they are in the bowl ready to go and then getting ready to go into the boil.
After 60 minutes of boiling, the heat is shut off and the cold water is run through the immersion chiller (the dark green hose) and out the out-put hose (the light green hose on top). In order to speed this up a bit we stirred the wort. This helps get the temperature down in about 15 minutes. I did a really good job with my temperature control this time. I think it had to do with little to no wind out on Sunday. I was able to maintain right about 203 degrees pretty well. The only time I lost a bit of my boil was when I submerged the cold immersion chiller. But I was able to get the boil back pretty quickly. That’s something to think about for next time.
Here’s a short video of Travis working on chilling the wort. The clanging noises is the metal spoon hitting the copper piping of the immersion chiller.
Once the wort is chilled down I moved it to the laundry room to transfer it into the primary fermentor. Once the transfer was complete I tossed in the last 4 pounds of pumpkin mash. This will sit in the primary until fermentation is complete. I’m hoping that by adding this right at the end, I’ll get some more pumpkin aroma and flavor into the beer. You can see the chunks floating around on top. They were eventually broken up and mixed into the wort.
So, after the transfer I needed to bring the total wort up to 7 gallons. The primary bucket has a scale on the side which indicated to me that I currently had just over 6 gallons of liquid in the primary. But hold on……I started out with 4 gallons in the steep, added one gallon during the poor man’s sparge and ended up with just over 6. There was a lot of water caught up in that pumpkin mash (plus just the pure volume of mass that the pumpkin represents as well). So, I don’t really know how much pumpkin is in the beer. I can say 9 pounds, but that 9 pounds includes quite a bit of water.
I took some measurements and then had Travis double check my observations. Here are the final numbers taken from my hydrometer and then calculated out on a program that takes into account the temperature differences. All measurements were taken at 66 degrees.
Potential alcohol by volume: 8.25% (taken on the Hydrometer)
Potential alcohol by volume: 8.22% (taken from the calculator)
Specific Gravity T60 degrees (Original Gravity): 1.062 (measured at 66 degrees)
Actual Original Gravity after computing for temperature: 1.0626
Balling: 22 (taken from Hydrometer)
Balling: 15.34 (taken from calculator)
I hit my original gravity pretty well. I’m hoping for a final gravity of under 1.020. If I do that, I should be pretty good. 8% is kind of high, but as long as I don’t go under 1.010 I should be okay. The beer should stay in the primary for about a week to ten days, then I will move it over to the secondary. I’ll take more measurements at that time for a good comparison of where the beer is at. As of this post the beer is fermenting away downstairs in a spare bathtub. So far, so good.