Nick’s Grainfather G40 Review – Part 3

Part 3 – First Brew

So….finally…the opportunity to brew on the G40 arrived last Saturday

One of my fellow brew club members who has had the G40 for a little longer than myself, and has “upgraded” from a G30, has described it (having brewed on it 3 times) as “simply a joy to brew on”. Do I, coming from a Braumeister BM20, feel the same way?

I’ll start by throwing in a summary of the rough notes I made whilst brewing today highlighting various observations…for info I brewed in fully manual mode, just using the app to monitor progress whilst I was away from the garage…so have no comments to make about the app itself in respect of recipe control. Nor did I use the provided counter-flow chiller…still need to figure out some decent means of connecting it to my water supply as the already attached piping is a bit unwieldly and doesn’t readily lend itself to connection to the mains water supply

In my garage, where ambient temps were around 2-6 degrees throughout the brew, the G40 raised 31L of mash liquor from 12.6 to 63.5 degrees in 33 minutes, before the PID algorithm started easing back the power as it approached my desired mash temp of 66. That is a rate of 1.54 degrees per minute…or 6 mins 39 for every ten degrees increase. This was faster than previously observed in my initial “sea trials” (and a bit quicker than theory!!) and may have been aided by the double thickness “bubble foil” insulation jacket that I’d made for the G40. So that was encouraging in that faster ramp times may lead to shorter brewdays.

It was also nice to be able to tip my grains into the malt pipe straight from the bucket, in two or three goes (stirring in between), without worrying that I was going to spill some outside the malt pipe….that’s both due to the width of the malt pipe and the narrow gap between the malt pipe and kettle wall.

Once the mash reached its desired temperature the G40 held it to within minus half a degree, operating at 10% of full power according to the display. I only ever saw it fleetingly drop to 65.5 degrees and then back up to 66, never saw it go up to 66.5.

I got a lower than expected pre-boil volume (a litre short)but subsequently realised that my BeerSmith grain absorption setting had been changed (reduced to 0.65L/kg) to reflect what I had experienced in practical use with my BM20. Next brew I will put it back to the 0.8L/kg setting and that should see me achieve the correct PBV.

My overall mash efficiency was lowish at 76%….I will see in future brews if this was a one off or if the G40 is “less efficient” in the mash….thinking about it, I’m not sure that “recirculation” in the G40 can ever be as effective as the BM20, as in the BM the liquor is physically pumped through the malt pipe….it has nowhere else to go except up and through the malt pipe and grain and over the top back into the kettle. With the G40, liquor that is pumped from beneath and recirculated on top of the grain bed doesn’t necessarily flow back down through the grain bed…it can find an easier route out of the malt pipe via the four sets of vertical holes that run the full height of the malt pipe….so perhaps the G40 recirculation doesn’t have the same “continuous rinsing” effect that the BM20 does. Of course there could be other things at play…possibly the malt extract potential wasn’t as high as I assumed…we will see how this goes in future brews, but for now I will adjust the assumed mash efficiency downwards for the next brew.

After sparging and removing the malt pipe (not an overly strenuous task with just 5.45kg malt) I was pleased to see that not a great deal of grain matter had found its way into the kettle…the samples that I took when measuring mash pH and pre-boil gravity certainly had no more bits of grain in them than in the past when using the BM.

I was prepared to be a little bit disappointed with the boil given my prior experiences when testing with water, where the boil appeared decidedly weak, and the extreme cold I was brewing in. But no need to worry, even without a lid on, the boil was plenty vigorous and I certainly could not achieve the same level of “roll” with a BM with the lid off under similar conditions…always needed to use the dome lid on the BM, even in the summer, to generate any sort of vigour to the boil. In the 75 minute boil I managed to boil off a not insignificant 6.4Litres….another setting in BeerSmith that I will need to tweak before brewing again!!!

There was no sign at all of any element scorching on the bottom of the kettle when it was emptied (I did not stir the wort during the boil)…I understand that some G30 users have found this to be an issue.

The rolled filters proved both highly effective at preventing grain from escaping the mash and preventing the pellet hops from getting into the pump…after boiling there was a thick solid cake of pellet matter stuck to the hop filter plate…so solid and compact was the cake that I believe that it actually hindered the pumping of the wort from the kettle to FV after cooling….its was certainly a slow process!!

The filter plate cleaning was simple and easy….no messing about like in a BM trying to clean debris from the fine mesh sieve screens….the bottom plate on the malt pipe got dunked straight in a hot tub of water, wiped down with a sponge and then rinsed with a hose which blasted out any grains stuck under the rolled lip. Likewise the hop filter was similarly easy to clean – once I’d nicked a fish slice from the kitchen to scrape the compacted cake off!!

The G40 cleaning was simplicity itself…especially with a lower tap fitted….simply left it in situ, hosed out the residual matter left in it, whilst draining via the lower tap. Filled with maybe 20L of water, added some Sodium Percarbonate, heated to 60 degrees, recirculated for 20 minutes, a wipe down with a sponge, drained and a good rinse….job done. A nice change from having to clean around the elements on the BM.

First Thoughts
So…after all that…bearing in mind it was just one brew day….what were the negatives of using the G40? Other than the slow pumping of the cooled wort into the FV, the only thing I could mention is the possibly less efficient method of recirculation.

In terms of positives however…the controller is simple and intuitive to use, mashing was a breeze both in terms of doughing in and maintaining temperature control which is both efficient and accurate, the element seems powerful enough to get the temperatures ramped up quickly enough, the boil is excellent, my sight glass appears to be pretty accurate, the pump is powerful enough and whilst it doesn’t whirr softly like the BM pump (I really am being finicky here!!) it is quiet enough…in fact its good to hear as it reassures that it is in fact working!!! The filters all do what they are supposed to do and it is a breeze to clean.

So…was it a joy to use?

Well….the word “joy” implies that some enhanced pleasure was gained from using the system. I perhaps wouldn’t express things in quite those terms, but certainly the G40 delivers a hassle free, efficient brewing experience, without unnecessary complications, allowing you to engage with the process and enjoy (bugger…I used the word) the brew day.

What’s not to like?

Back to Part 2 – Sea Trials

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