The goal of this article and video is to demonstrate a complete brew day with the Grainfather, as well as show one of the huge benefits of the Grainfather, brewing a kettle sour.
One of the overlooked benefits of the Grainfather and other all in one electric brewing systems is the ability to do a kettle sour. With the built-in temperature controller, it makes it simple to maintain a good souring temperature for as long as you need to get to the pH you want.
Kettle souring has numerous benefits when compared with souring in secondary.
- The first is time. It took us 36 hours to reach our desired pH. In secondary it takes 6 months to a year.
- Flexibility. With a kettle sour you can stop the souring process by simply bringing the wort to a boil. Souring in secondary you get what you get.
- The boiling of the wort after kettle souring kills off the souring bugs so no chance of contamination in your brewery.
Any discussion of the Grainfather has to justify its price point. A question I get often is to compare the Grainfather vs Robobrew. There is a $520 difference between the two units so the Grainfather better have a lot going for it to fork out that kind of dough.
Let's start off with the Robobrew is a really good value at its price, but the Grainfather has a lot of advantages that I believe make it worthy of your consideration.
- The build quality is vastly superior to the Robobrew. It's heavy duty in every way.
- The pump and controller are mounted on the outside of the Grainfather making them much easier to service. The Robobrew pump and controller are underneath.
- The pump in the Grainfather is very quiet.
- The malt pipe assembly is superior to the Robobrew.
- The counterflow chiller provided with the Grainfather is way better than the immersion chiller provided with the Robobrew.
Those are all great advantages but it's the Bluetooth PID Temperature Controller on the Grainfather that really makes it worth the extra money.
- First, the temperature controller is mounted on the outside of the Grainfather facing up so you can easily read it while standing up. Trust me this is a huge benefit. The Robobrew controls are on the bottom of the unit and you have to stoop down to use or see them.
- Ease of use. The controller on the Grainfather is as simple as it gets. The Robobrew is confusing and the instructions are not much help.
- Accuracy. Being able to maintain a consistent mash temperature is crucial for repeatability and getting the fermentability of your wort exactly the way you want. The PID controller in the Grainfather will apply power to the heating element from 0 to 100% maintaining your mash temperature without scorching. Tests with calibrated thermometers also show the temperature of the mash is spot on.
- Bluetooth connection and the Grainfather app. You can download the free Grainfather app on your smartphone and view and control everything just as you can from the controller. You can even download your recipes into the Grainfather website and you can run your entire brew day from your phone.
Kettle Sour Process
I did a mash at 150 degrees for 60 minutes and sparged with 170-degree water until the full volume of wort was achieved.
I brought the wort to a boil and boiled for 20 minutes to drive off as much oxygen as possible.
I immediately chilled the wort to 90 degrees, flooded the surface of the wort with co2, pitched my culture of Wyeast 5335 and put the lid on the Grainfather and sealed it with a bung.
I used Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus Buchneri. It has a recommended temperature range of 60 to 95 degrees. We kept our temperature at 90 degrees for 36 hours and reached a pH of 3.6. Raising the temperature will shorten the time and I have heard of brewers going as high as 110 degrees with this culture.
As soon as I reached the desired pH I immediately brought the wort to a boil and conducted a 60 minute boil adding about 8 ibu's of Saaz. You want to keep bittering levels low with a kettle sour. The boil allows you to stop the souring process at whatever point you choose.
After the boil I chilled, oxygenated, and pitched Wyeast 1056. You may want to use a blow off tube. I fermented at 65 and had a ton of blowoff which I don't normally get fermenting with 1056. The beer finished nice and dry at 1.008.
I kegged the beer, added the fruit puree, carbonated and I couldn't be happier with the results. If you would like to see the Kettle Sour Recipe or buy the kit, click here.