Got a couple of updates in this entry...
Back on the 25th, I put a bottle in the fridge to test the carbonation and taste. Pulled it out and opened it up the next night after work. Sounded like it was well-carbonated, so into the pint glass it went. It's possible that it might be a tad over carbonated, since I had a difficult time pouring into the glass without getting overwhelmed with head. I did eventually get it all in the glass though.
My taste of my very first homebrew was awesome. It tasted like beer! I was so happy, I ignored the little bit of "hot" flavoring I got. I was expecting that, anyway, since I fermented on the warmer side. Still, I was pretty pleased with the results, knowing that I can only get better in the future. Since it had only been conditioning for a week, I left the rest at room temperature to continue conditioning.
On Friday morning, the 27th, I put 4 more into the fridge to prepare to take with me to Arkansas on our boys' road trip to the A&M-Arkansas game. That night, while cooking out and playing dominoes in the parking lot of the Super 8 in Springdale, we opened them and I shared my concoction with Jeff, Kyle, and John. Universal praise was given. It seemed like it was a little bit better than the first one, but that could have just been the previous beers we had before that point killing my taste buds. Either way, I'm still happy about it.
I'll probably let them sit another week or so, then move all but 6 into the beer fridge. Going to save a 6-pack and let them sit out for a few months, then come back to and see how sitting that long changes anything.
So, on to the next part of this update, brew day!! Since we weren't leaving until noon on Friday (the 27th) for Arkansas, and I was up anyway, I decided it would be a great day to brew! I went over to Walmart to grab some bottled spring water (it's cheap, and I won't have to worry about chlorine in the city water). After my first brewday, and the long time that it took to boil just 2.5 gallons on my electric stove top, we looked into getting a propane burner. Ended up getting this bad boy from Home Depot. It has the added advantage of getting me to brew outside, thus not having to have the Scentsy in the kitchen over powered by the wondrous smell of boiling wort. My 5 gallons was up to the 160 degrees for steeping in about 5 minutes. After 30 minutes steeping my grains, I removed the bag and discarded the grains and turned up the heat. It took all of 10 minutes to get those 5 gallons to boiling. The propane burner is well worth it, and I recommend any budding home brewers get one as one of your first purchases.
Turned the heat off and added in my malt extract and stirred it in until it dissolved. Relit the burner and turned the heat back up to full blast. Again, only took a few minutes to get back to boiling, and wow was it a roaring boil. I had to turn the heat WAY down to keep it at a rolling boil and prevent boilover. Got the brown sugar and bittering hops added at this point, and started prepping my ice bath for cooling the wort down. Since my boil pot won't fit in the sink, I used a large Rubbermaid storage tote filled with water and 2 10lb bags of ice. After the 60 minute boil and the addition of the flavoring and finishing hops, it was into the ice bath with pot went. Took 10 minutes or so to get down to 100 degrees.
Here's where my lack of proper planning comes in. It was nearing noon, and there was no way the wort was going to cool fast enough to get the yeast pitched before we needed to leave. Plus, I didn't have my temperature control solution ready to go yet (more on that in a bit). So, I decided to take a little bit of a risk, and went ahead-with the help of my brother-transferred the wort through a strainer into the sanitized carboy. Capped it off with the airlock, and put it into the beer fridge in the garage.
Skipping ahead to Sunday, after going to the Rangers game right after we got home from Arkansas, I got the carboy out of the fridge so it could start warming back up to pitching temperature (60-70 was the ideal range, according to the yeast package) while I setup my swamp-cooler. Over the weekend, while the wort was in the fridge, alot of trub dropped out. Not sure how that's going to effect the finished product. I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.
On the swamp cooler, I used the same Rubbermaid storage tote and filled it about halfway or so with warmish water and a small dash of Oxyclean. Got the carboy in there so it would help bring the wort up to temperature. Once it was up to 55, I started putting frozen water bottles in to bring the water temp down so it would stabilize around 65. It actually worked, and the water temp was about 62, and the wort temp about 65. After sanitizing the yeast pack and a pair of scissors-and after aerating the wort for 5 minutes-I pitched the yeast and replaced the re-sanitized cap and airlock. Got an old Army-issue moisture-wicking tan t-shirt out of the garage and soaked that in the water, then draped it over the carboy to add a little evaporative cooling.
Checked back in that night before bed, and the temp was up a little, so I replaced the now thawed water bottles with some fresh ones from the freezer and went to bed. Checked again the next morning. No activity, but I wasn't really concerned, since it will probably take 24-48 hours to see anything. Temperature wasn't bad. Swapped out the bottles for fresh ones, since during the day it would probably get up above 80 in the upstairs bathroom which has become my fermentation chamber. After work, I switched out bottles again, and then again before bed. I've got a good system going, and keeping everything between 62 and 68. By Tuesday morning, I had a good inch of krausen formed, and pretty much constant activity in the airlock. This morning, it was closer to 2 inches of krausen. I'm going to leave it alone-only switching out frozen water bottles-through the weekend, and see how it's doing. Once the krausen falls back in, and airlock activity slows way down, I'll put in the last 1/2oz of Centennial hops for dry hopping. I'll leave that for at least a week, then start taking gravity readings. Once I hit a consistent FG over several checks, I'll be ready to bottle! By that time, I should have plenty of empties from my first batch!