The Grainfather has featured quite prominently in Peter’s Chairman’s Chatter column so it is time to even things up with an article by a user of the equipment. I understand that at the forthcoming National there will be a Friday night tasting of beers some made using the Grainfather and some not. It is all a bit of light hearted rivalry, good brewers will make good beer regardless of the equipment used. – Editor.
Some time ago I decided that the time had come to review my beer making. Over the years I had accumulated an awful lot of “stuff” Mash tuns, boilers, fermenting vessels etc. all of which were taking up a lot of space. The time had come to downsize.
Looking on the internet there seemed to be two main contenders, a Speidel Braumeister which comes from Germany and a Grainfather from New Zealand. Both were self contained and had a small footprint, exactly what I was looking for. Further research via U tube revealed a side by side comparison of the two, both systems performed well with the Braumeister just edging ahead. The Braumeister has a far more sophiscated control unit allowing various pre-programmed mash and boil steps to be carried out automatically. Built with typical German engineering it is a superb piece of kit. However all of this comes at a cost and at around £1,200 it is nearly twice the cost of the Grainfather. However I was still undecided.
A few weeks later at the national I was talking to Kevin Martin who said that he had a grainfather and that he was very pleased with it. The final push I needed was when Alan Eldret said that he also had a Grainfather and could bring it to our next Essex judges meeting. This he duly did and I along with Geoff Fryer were certainly impressed with it. One week later I was the proud owner of a Grainfather.
Delivery was rapid and assembly was straightforward. On to the first brew. I decided to brew a straightforward bitter, so after following the instructions on the initial cleaning I was ready to go.
There is a simple formula to follow to calculate the initial amount of mash water, so in this went, add the inner grain basket [ this has solid sides with a perforated top and bottom plate ] set the temperature control to 67 degrees and wait for it to achieve this, which it did fairly rapidly. Now dough in the grain, making sure it’s well mixed, and put on the top perforated plate. Damn, when I initially cleaned the unit I had left the top plate in the grain basket. So
finally add the top plate. Now for the clever bit. Add the glass top, connect the recirculating arm and switch on the pump. This constantly pumps and recirculates the liquor through the malt and the heater keeps the tempera- ture constant. There is no need to pre-heat to a strike temperature.
Once mashing is finished the inner basket is lifted up and sits on 3 internal brackets allowing the wort to be sparged and drain down. Switch the heater to boil, remove the grain basket, add hops and boil.
Now for another nice touch. The unit comes with a counter flow chiller so once boiling is finished the chiller is attached and the chilled wort can be pumped directly into your fermenter. Cleaning is a doddle, everything is made from stainless steel and can quickly be washed down. It all packs away neatly and takes up very little storage space.
The next brew that I made was a lager and I used a step infusion mash, not because I needed to, but because it was easy to do. Set the temperature for the first step and the unit will hold it there until you set the next temperature step. On the Braumeister these can be programmed to step up automatically but I don’t find it too onerous to check my watch and do it manually. After all, a few minutes here or there is not really going to matter too much.
I believe that a revised control unit is under development to give more au- tomation to the temperature steps. But at around £100 to upgrade I don’t think I’ll be bothering.
The one thing the unit could do with are external handles to lift it by. One final thing, you can purchase an Alembic Pot Still unit to make you own spirits (Customs and Excise allowing of course).
(The featured image is courtesy of David Blaikie, CC license.)