Borrowing Papazian's temperatures, I did my first-ever step-mash, with a 25-minute protein rest at 125, a water addition to raise it to 150 for 20-25, and a final 20 or so at 158 for some extra body. This produced 8 fucking gallons of wort which I think I measured at 1050 before starting the boil. This suggested a bigger-than-planned beer so I raised my Northern Brewer addition by an extra 1/4 ounce or so. I also fucked up and shot wort all over hell by losing control of a hose at a critical moment--Lisa and Wayne helped reduce the damage. We then proceded with a vigorous three-kettle boil, about six gallons in the brewkettle plus a 9-quart stockpot and a dutch oven blazing away for a good ninety minutes. Had a couple mild boil-overs for flavor development and stove-top seasoning. Wayne was instrumental in helping me bottle an IPA during the boiling period--having created so much chaos already, I figured we might as well make things really hairy by doing too many things at once. Gave the porter an ounce of Willamettes (yum) with 20 minutes remaining and another 1/2 ounce at the termination of the boil. Am also planning perhaps a 1/2 ounce dry hop. Toyed with the notion of adding a little black-strap molasses or Cafe du Monde chicory coffee on the fly, but felt like I had shitloads of malt character going and decided to save that for another time.
I took a hydrometer sample but didn't look at it until the beer was already in the carboy at which point I was shocked that it read 1075. Having over shot my gravity that far I worried that a) I'd have too little beer and b) that I'd have too much richness for the IBU's I had planned. My last dark beer (oatmeal stout) also boiled down too far and my stocks are already running low. So I decided to avoid brewing an imperial porter by adding a scant two quarts (what I think my mostly-filled teapot holds) of boiled and cooled water. Unfortunately this means I don't know my actual original gravity. But I'd rather not know than fuck around and possibly contaminate it in this vulnerable early stage. I'm guessing it's probably something along the lines of 1068, maybe 1070, which is plenty big still. I plugged the new numbers into ProMash and discovered that if I indeed had five gallons of 1075 wort, which I think I did, that my mash efficiency was 88%, which is awesome--my first all-grain mash was quite inefficient (something like 65%) so I have obviously figured something out. All hail the Papazian step-mash. Six or seven hours after the commencement of brewing, I pitched the starter and we now have about 5.5 gallons of beautiful, coal-black elixir beginning to bubble away already. Woo-hoo.