Batch #3 – All Grain Pliny the Elder

So, I am a self professed hop head. I love the smell, I love the taste, I love-love-love hops. Since I was pretty sucessful with my first batch, I thought I would give another IPA batch a try. My first batch was good, but it didn’t have nearly the hoppy bite that a hop head craves. I did a little research and it looked like the next logic step would be a BIG ASSED DOUBLE IPA. Enter Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. We don’t get Pliny here in South Texas, so why not brew my own?

Brew 365 is where I got the recipe for my first all grain brew, a clone of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. So, having some success with the first recipe, I thought I would give Brew 365 another spin. I found a clone for Pliny at Brew 365 that looked “do-able”.

Learning from my mistakes from batch #1, my first all grain brew, I set out to do better this time. So, I made BETTER, all NEW mistakes! :-)

Since this was a double IPA, the recipe suggested a starter yeast. Thanks to the help of a local brewing wizard, Dan “The Original” Gomez, who loaned me a stir plate, stir bar, and oxygenating equipment, I set about to make my starter. Since I have some chemistry glassware, I had the bright idea of making my starter wört in the glassware, as it can withstand the heat. My glassware is 2 liters+ and I only needed 1.8 liters of starter, so perfect! DOH! Ya, boil over all over my stove. *Face palm*

Mistake #1: Don’t under estimate how much headroom you will need for a boil. Leave yourself plenty of room for the boil.

Anyway, I ended up with about 1.25 liters instead. Cool. Now comes the next “oops moment. My first batch, I used a smack pack. It was pretty predictable. smack, swell, sanitize, cut open, and pitch. This time around, I am using the White Labs yeast WLP001. I let the yeast warm up to room temperature, shook the vial to get all of the yeast into suspension, and thought I would just open and pour the yeast. I know the most experienced of you out there are chuckling right now, because you know exactly what happened. It was like opening a can of soda that had been shaken up. Annnnnd guess who forgot to sanitize the outside of the vial. OK, so the good news is that I was holding the vial over the wört at the time, so just about all of it went into the cooled wört. I was just hoping that I didn’t introduce any bad little bacteria into the brew with that maneuver. Anyway, the wørt sat on the stir plate for about 32 hours and then I let it rest and into the fridge it went.

Mistake #2: The WLP vial-type yeast will fizz up upon opening. Sanitize the snot out of the vial before hand!

This time, I spent the time to go over some details and fill out a brew recipe worksheet and brew day check list that I got from the San Antonio Cerveceros Brewing Club. I also was going to do water chemistry this time. I used reverse osmosis water for my brew instead of tap water and the San Antonio Cerveveros group has a really nice water chemistry chart on their web site. I had gathered all of the chemicals some weeks before and was all set to get the water chemistry just right. Whoops, the scale I bought on Amazon only does full grams, not 10ths of a gram. The scale was too inaccurate to measure out the small amounts of additives that I needed for the water. So no water chemistry this go around! I am returning the scale and getting one that does tenths of a gram!

Mistake #3: Get a scale that is accurate to tenths of a gram; increments of .01

Anyway, a few days later it was brew day! A nice, cool December Sunday morning in San Antonio. I fired up the propane burner and got the strike water going. My mash calculator told me to heat the strike water to 167° to get my mash temperature of 152°. So,in my inexperience, I couldnot remember exactly how to mash in. So what did I do? I put all of the strike water into the mash tun and then added my grain. *Double Face Palm*. So, I took a temperature reading, and yup, my mash was 159 degrees. Waaaaay off. I have since been corrected in the errors of my ways by some fellow co-workers who are also very good brewers. I now know HOW I should have mashed in…. Lesson Learned. Oh well, no time to wuss out now!

Mistake #4: Mash in a little at a time. Water, grain, stir, water, grain, stir

Wört First Runnings

Wört First Runnings

As a result of my mistake, I had the mash tun waaay too hot and waaaay to much water in the tun. After an hour I started to pull the wört from the mash tun. I did the vorlauf thing this time around. Cool. So after sparging and pulling 8.5 gallons of wört, 8.5 gallons because 1: This is a 90 minute boil and 2: I’m going to lose a good gallon with all of the hops in this bad boy, I realize that I was supposed to do my first hops addition in the first wört. DOH! I added them anyway, even though I had already pulled the runnings. I let it rest for about 10-15 minutes to make up for this oversight.

Mistake #5: Consult your checklist and recipe sheet often!

Wört Boiling 12-16-12

Wört Boiling

Ok, on to the boil. Everything went pretty well. I made my hops additions on schedule. Cool. Time for flame out. Doh! I forgot to add my wört chiller 10 minutes before for sanitizing!   So my boil went on for another 10 to 12 minutes to sanitize my chiller.

Mistake #6: See mistake #5

Ok, I added the flame out hops additions and let it set for about 10-15 minutes for the flame out hops deal. It was time to chill. I started up the wört chiller. The ambient temperature outside was about 70 degrees. After I got the wört down to about 85 degrees, I was having a hard time getting this thing to cool down. I had the idea to run the water inlet through a cooler full of ice, hoping to chill the water even more before it entered the chiller. It had little to no effect. Anyway, it took a really long time to cool this thing down. I was at about 7 gallons or so in the pot. After discussing this with my co-workers, I was probably running the water through the chiller too slowly. After our discussion, my next project is to build a better wört chiller and then use my exising home-made chiller as a pre-chiller coil, to place in ice water to really get the water temperature down FAST. I am going to need this in the summer months, as the tap water comes out HOT in the summer time in South Texas!

Ice Bath - Wört Chiller

Ice Bath – Wört Chiller

Mistake #7: Run the chiller water at a faster rate for faster cooling

The one part that I did well was racking this all over to the primary. I tried the whirlpool method of getting the wört and the hops to separate a bit, but I wasn’t very successful. Mostly, this was because I was in a hurry because a: it had taken a really long time to cool and b: I was running late to get to an event.

This is the first time I have taken the original gravity. I took the gravity using a refractometer. I let the wört cool to the refractomer’s temperature. My reading was about 15.9 Brix. I used the conversion calculator at Brewers Friend and came up with an OG of 1.065. I had missed my OG of 1.074 by about .01. Plugging these numbers into an ABV calculator at Brewers Friend, and assuming I hit my final gravity of 1.012, that will bring my alcohol content to about 7%. Had I hit my OG, the final ABV would have been about 8%, so I am losing a little bit there. Another “learning opportunity” here. I should have taken the OG at flame out, cooled the sample and measured there. I could have added some DME or sugar or something to get the OG on target. Next time I will know!

Mistake #8: Take the OG reading at or near flame out and take corrective measures if needed

Primary Fermentation

Primary Fermentation


I decided to leave things well enough alone and just roll with the 1.065 OG. I sat the 6.5 gallon carboy on my lap and shook the hell out of it for 10 minutes. I then pitched the “now ambient temperature”, decanted  starter into the primary and connected the blow off tube into the blow off water container. All that is left is the waiting game!

I woke up this morning to the sound of the blow off tube bubbling away and by the time I got home from work today, the krausen has reached the top of the carboy and the blow off hose.  So, it looks like I have happy little yeasts gorging themselves on sugar and o2. Now we just play the waiting game! It will ferment for another 6 days and then I will add the dry hops. I have yet to decide if I am going to rack this batch to a secondary or just let it ride and add the dry hops to the primary. I’ll update and let you know!

Recipe from Brew 365:

All Grain Recipe – Pliny the Elder ::: 1.074/1.012 (6 Gal)

Grain Bill

12 lbs. – 2 Row Pale Malt (American)
1 lb. – Corn Sugar
1/3 lb. – Crystal Malt (45L)
1 lb. – CaraPils Malt

Hop Schedule

1.5 oz – Chinook (First Wort or Mash Hop)
2.75 oz – Warrior (90 Min.)
.5 oz – Chinook (90 Min.)
1 oz – Simcoe (45 Min.)
1 oz – Columbus (30 Min.)
2.25 oz – Centennial (Flameout)
1 oz – Simcoe (Flameout)
3.25 oz – Columbus (Dry Hop)
1.75 oz – Centennial (Dry Hop)
1.75 oz – Simcoe (Dry Hop)


White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001) – 1800 ml starter


Mash at 150° to 152° for 60 min.
Sparge as usual
Boil for 90 minutes (remember to compensate your water if you normally do 60 min boils)
Cool and ferment at 66° to 68°

Posted in Brewing
4 comments on “Batch #3 – All Grain Pliny the Elder
  1. Larry Brewer says:

    This is Larry from Brewer’s Friend – thanks for mentioning our brewing tools! You can also use the Brew feature at our site to calculate conversion efficiency, pre-boil efficiency, kettle efficiency, and brew house efficiency. All it takes is plugging in the gravity and volume for the appropriate samples. Understanding the 4 types of efficiency, and measuring each, will help you hit your target OG in the future.

    By the way, bigger beers generally have lower efficiency because of higher grain absorption. Cheers!

  2. dW!GhT says:

    So I hate seeing people jump into all-grain right away. I believe you are doing yourself (and your beer!) a huge disservice by not learning the process completely before doing so.

    If the Cerveveros are encouraging you down this path of all-grain brewing I’m going to have to seriously rethink recommending them to people interested in starting to brew.

    Reading this post made me cringe.

    The mistakes you made are the ones you are suppose to make while doing a more simple (and more forgiving) extract brewing process. Every one of your mistakes are mistakes of lack of experience and/or equipment. A couple of the things you talked about (water chemistry being one) are techniques that you develop AFTER you can brew a beer that a BJCP judge (not your friends that love your FREE beer). Till your brewing becomes second nature and you have the proper equipment and KNOW how to correctly use them I would recommend stepping back to partial mash technique.

    Would you drive a full-on racecar after getting your Learners Permit?? We all make our first driving mistakes on a beater car, in my own experience thank god!

    Realize the limitations of your experience and equipment and step back to something simpler till it becomes second nature. I’ve had some fine beers made by Extract and Partial Mash techniques… not so much from beginning all-grain brewers (typically I get handed one and asked “what did I do wrong”–que rant.)



    • admin says:

      Thanks for the thoughts. Actually I’m quite content learning by making mistakes. I’m just “putting it all out there” and not keeping my mistakes from others eyes. I’ve enjoyed everything I have made so far. My personal learning style is to “learn by doing”. (Quite aware of my learning style with a BS in Mathematics and a MS in Computer Science). Anyway, thanks for the comments!


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  1. [...] my last 2 batches, the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA clone and the Pliny the Elder clone, were for the hop-heads out there. I love sharing my brews with folks who appreciate a good beer. [...]

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