I've come to realize that brewing is a series of ups and downs. One minute you're on the top of your game, then one issue comes along to knock you down. The past week was a perfect example of this. The first hurdle I faced was with my mash and getting stuck sparges. So far two of the three partial mash recipes I've brewed got stuck mid mash.
Anyone who's experienced this can attest how annoying stuck sparges can be. In my case the grains compacted against the stainless steel braid. I was finally able to troubleshoot my error. When mixing my mash I was pouring the water into the grains. This was the suggested method I've read, but noticed a lot of people doing the opposite (pouring the water first, then mixing in the grains). By incorporating this method, my stuck sparge issue was thing of the past. I also found it useful to add the water first because you can preheat the mash tun and get a more accurate strike temperature.
So life was good! The mash went wonderfully and my yield was noticeably clearer because I didn't have to stir the grains as much. The color did seem a little pale, but I wasn't worried. Another improvement I made to my boil was incorporating bags for my hops. This kept a lot of the hop residue out of the finished wort. So again... life was good!
When it came time to cool the wort I learned an important lesson the hard way: Check the immersion chiller's connections before every use. The tube connecting the hose and immersion chiller came loose causing water to spray everywhere. Instinctively, I kept the hose from spraying into the cooling wort, but the chiller still got dirty when turning off the water. I had to resort to the ice bath method of cooling. It was a pretty shitty situation all together.
After cooling to 70F I pitched my starter of washed Wyeast 1056. You can read about my process HERE. The yeast showed some promising signs while the starter was prepared. I anticipated some crazy fermentation the first couple of days, but got a whole lot of nothing. My concern sank in after two days so I took a peak to see if it was necessary to repitch... and we had fermentation!! It must have been unnoticeable with the blow tube. I immediately moved it to a warmer spot in the house and replaced the blow off with an airlock.
The batch of IPA looked like it would survive after all the bumps. While cleaning up I found this in the shopping bag from BYOB:
Yep, I forgot to add 3/4 lb of caramel malt to my mash. This explained the paleness of the mash. I was pretty disappointed considering the course this beer took. But since the beer was fermenting I guess things could have been worse. Tasting the hydro sample put my worries to rest. After all the hurdles, the beer still tasted pretty damn good. This batch was a reminder that through all the gutters and strikes it's important to RDWHAHB!