Yesterday I had the great fun of trying a coffee brown ale. It does not use actual coffee, but a malt that is roasted so that it has very strong coffee like aroma and flavor. It smelled really good during the mashing. Yesterday was a bit of a wake up call that I should probably invest in a grain crusher if I wanna continue to brew all grain. My efficiency just plain sucks, even though I follow must instructions to a tee. From what I've gathered from home brew forums, when you get your grains crushed by the store you bought them, they are often under crushed. This seems to be for two reasons, they don't want customers complaining that they have a stuck sparge and secondly because it means you have to buy more grain to do the same thing. I may also eventually invest in a system that would allow me to do a gradual sparge instead of just a batch sparge. For those of you who don't brew, the difference between a gradual sparge and a batch sparge is that in a gradual sparge, you are constantly adding water while slowly draining the wart into a brew kettle, while in batch sparging you just add the appropriate water, and than drain. The disadvantage to batch sparging is that it can be less efficient. That being said, batch sparging is much easier and requires no special equipment like a sparge arm or another cooler to keep the sparge water warm.
Anyways, the brown all seemed to go smoothly other than the efficiency. I've found having two propane tanks definitely helps with peace of mind because if I know one tank is completely full, I don't have to worry about the other running out. I've been using the same propane tank for 4 different brews and it is just starting to run out. I can probably use it one more time while having to switch the tanks mid way through brewing. This saves me money on propane because I don't end up panicking and swapping out the tank before I need too. I will probably use a similar strategy with my CO2 tank, where I always have one in use, and one completely full.
I will probably stop brewing in either March or April this year since I will have to worry about getting a job and end up moving. I don't wanna go through the hassle of moving fermentors (though I can probably get away with moving kegs). I am graduating this year so there is a good chance I may have to move somewhere far away. I cannot wait till I get a real job and will have a bit more money to spend on my hobby. I wanna get it to a point where I can afford to brew every other week. I also wanna build a kegerator that has at least two taps, if not four taps. My only concern is if I do move to a city it may be difficult to find an apartment that will let me have a propane tank and brew outside. Even if I get an apartment that has a balcony, many places won't let you grill, and I'm assuming brewing would be equally frowned upon if I plan on using a propane burner. I may just end up going back to extract brewing but I would consider that a step backwards now that I've been doing all grain for a little under a year. I feel the worst case scenario, I could always scale back and try doing 3-4 gallon batches instead of 5-6 gallong batches. The average stove top probably would not have difficult brewing 3 gallons of all grain (you would probably start with 5 gallons and boil it down to 3-4). I was thinking of buying one of these. It's an electric tube you lower into your brew kettle which is good for indoor brewing. I've heard complaints that it can be a bit underpowered compared to propane, but than again, I am a patient man and can wait for the wart to boil. Another compliant I've heard is that it draws a lot of power. I may not have a circuit in whatever apartment I get that can handle it. If I do get one, assuming I have enough power in the house to run it without popping the fuse, is use it with the stove at the same time to get the full boiling potential of propane without the problem of carbon monixide.