If you're interested, here's the recipe I used (which differs slightly from the book):
- 88oz (5 1/2 lbs) dry amber extract
- 2 oz. Cascade hops
- 1 oz Willamette hops.
With the recipe decided on, I decided to go for a full boil (all 5+ gals at once), and took the opportunity to break in a turkey cooker which I'd purchased when they were on sale at Lowes for the express purpose of doing homebrew. It worked pretty well, especially once I mixed everything up and boiled the wort. It seemed to have no trouble maintaining the boil I wanted, and the clean up was much easier (no boilovers on the cooktop to worry about!). I think I probably need to get a bigger pot, since the one that came with the cooker is probably only 7 gallons or so, and I was constantly having to watch for boilovers. That, and I need a longer stirring implement.
After the boil, I cooled the wort by icing the pot in the sink. I have an immersion chiller that I made myself long ago (out of copper tubing and a garden hose), but we're under water restrictions in my town, and I figured dumping water onto the lawn (or running it thru the sprinkler) might not be wise. The sink worked fine for a first attempt, but I think if I'm going to be brewing more regularly, I need to come up with a better method (especially since humping a heavy, hot brewpot from the garage to the sink is not the safest thing I've ever done). I was thinking that maybe I could build a chiller out of the same "copper tubing + hose" contraption might work, but using a closed system, where I could have a pump pumping water from a cold water reservoir, thru the coils, and back into the reservoir might work. I dunno, I'll have to think it over.
After cooling, I strained the wort into my fermenter (the old plastic bucket), and pitched the yeast. I've always had trouble with my fermentation being too hot, leading to a funny "banana" taste (I think it's the esters(sp?) that develop from a high temp), so I tried to find the coolest spot in my house to do the fermentation. In my case, that's a guest bath with its own a/c vent.
It seems pretty cool now, and my temp on the fermenter says 74 deg, which is about where I'd like it. (maybe a little cooler). This is another issue I'll have to resolve, but if fermenting in the bathroom works for now, then fine by me.
So now, my beer is happily bubbling in my bathroom, and all is right in the world for a little while.