Friday, June 11, 2010

How To Brew Beer

I know there are plenty of folks who would like to learn how to brew beer so I'll do a very quick walkthru according to how I make my own homemade beer.

Truth be known, if you are making your very first beer, I would go about it the easy way. Go out to your local home brew store and pick up a homebrew beer kit. I'm not trying to sell you on anything but it will make your beer brewing experience that much better and if you continue making your own beer years down the line, you can use the same equipment that you buy today. I do, as I brewed beer today (an American Cream Ale from Brewers Best) with my original homebrew beer kit. If you don't have a local home brew store, you can find them online at Amazon.

Here are the items that I use when I brew beer:
5 gallons of drinking water
A beer kit (includes malt, dried malt extract, sugar ie corn sugar and priming sugar, hops, possibly beer caps, and directions).
5 gallon stainless steel pot (do not use aluminum... I bought my pot at Target)
Plastic bucket - Drilled and grommeted lid (6 gallons)
Airlock (goes on top of plastic bucket which has a small hole in it)
Carboy (or another bucket)
Rubber grommet with a hole in it for the airlock when placing in the carboy.
Auto siphon
Beer bottle capper
Candy Thermometer
Glass beer bottles (about 60 should be good). Make sure to get non-screw type and I like brown bottles
Caps for bottles
Stirring spoon (I use plastic. I recommend stainless steel)
Cleaning agent (C-Brite, B-Brite, or worse comes to worse... bleach)
Bottle brush

Read all of the following through before attempting to make your first homemade beer.

How To Brew Beer

Start by sanitizing all of the equipment (with either C-Brite, B-Brite, or bleach) that will be used in the brewing process. This includes the carboy or plastic bucket, airlock, 5 gallon brewing pot, hydrometer, candy thermometer, and stirring spoon.

Follow the directions on the brew kit. If you don't mind, follow me as I go through the brew that I did today. It is an American Cream Ale from Brewers Best.
  • I put 2.5 gallons of drinking water in my 5 gallon stainless steel pot and worked on getting it to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, I put the LME (liquid malt extract) in a bowl and added very warm water. When adding the malt extract in the next step, by having it slightly warm, it pours easily. Oh yeah, having the lid on the pot helps to get it to the boiling point quicker and you don't lose as much water in evaporation.
  • At that point I added the malt extract. The malt extract is stirred thoroughly (don't let it collect at the bottom of the pot) and reached to a rolling boil. You now have wort.
  • The bittering hops are added. Again, get the wort to a boil. Make sure you do not go over the top of the pot. I continually adjust the heat to make sure the wort is boiling but there is no chance of it ever going over the top of the pot. Everything in the pot is boiled for 40 minutes.
  • I now add the corn sugar and DME (dry malt extract). It is thoroughly stirred and boiled for 5 minutes.
  • Finally the aroma hops are added and everything is boiled for 10 minutes.
Ok. Now comes the fun part. We have to take our concoction off the heat and get it cooled as quickly as possible. If you've been reading my previous posts you may have read about a wort chiller. No need to buy one for your first home made brew unless you don't mind spending the money. So, you can use either a sink or bathtub and load it full of about 10 lbs. of ice and the rest water. Put your wort (in the pan) in the sink or bathtub to get it cooled to 70-75 degrees as quick as you can. Make sure to use your candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.

Once the temperature reaches about 75 degrees, I moved the wort from the stainless steel bucket to the plastic bucket (the one with the small hole in the top for the airlock). Now it is time to pitch the yeast. Yes, just sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort and then thoroughly stir it into the wort.

Last step. Fill the airlock half full of water and push the airlock into the hole in the plastic bucket. Move the
bucket to a dark cool that is between 64 to 72 degrees. Make sure your wort is no where near fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting causes beer (or wort) to go bad. I use the plastic bucket in this instance but some folks use the carboy. Its just a personal preference. For me, its much easier to pour the wort into a plastic bucket versus a carboy with an opening of about 2 inches diameter.

Within about 24 hours you should start to see bubbles within the airlock. These bubbles usually start at intervals about a couple of minutes apart and can get to the point where you will constantly see bubbles. It really depends on the beer. As an aside, if brewing a belgian tripel, I recommend a tube going to a bucket filled water rather than using the airlock. In that case I also start fermentation in the carboy rather than the bucket. Belgian tripel's are known to have about 9% alcohol and are violent in their bubbling.

After 4-6 days the bubbling should subside. You'll notice that where at one point bubbling was going on every second or two.. well now it is ever few seconds and then ever minute and then every couple of minutes. At this time you should make sure your bottles are sanitized. Once the bubbling has stopped for two straight days, we will begin the bottling process.

Get two cups of water boiling in a small saucepan. Add the priming sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Now siphon that priming sugar into the bottling bucket. Make sure to stir the priming sugar into the bucket very easily. Do not stir hard as this will aerate the beer and we don't want to do that. Yes, I called it beer. Once it ferments (even before adding the priming sugar) it has changed from wort to beer. Of course I wouldn't drink it at this point although from time to time I do take a sip before bottling the beer.

Now we are going to take out our auto siphon and grab our sanitized bottles. I put the wand from the auto siphon about 2 inches from the bottom of the bucket so I pick up as little sediment as possible when moving the beer from the plastic bucket into the bottles. You will have to prime the auto siphon and then you will notice the beer start to flow. Move from one bottle directly to the next and fill to about an inch and a half from the top of the bottle. Once I've filled 24 bottles I grab the bottle capper and caps and proceed to put the caps on the bottles. Then I quickly go auto siphon my next case of bottles. I've brewed 41-42 bottles at one time and 52 bottles the next time. Depends on how much water you lose when boiling, the amount of ingredients that came with the beer kit, and how much sediment you want to leave on the bottom of the plastic bucket when auto siphoning from the plastic bucket to the bottles. I try to move as little sediment into the bottles (no one wants to drink sludge and it clouds up the beer as well) and when I've tipped the bucket to the side and gotten as much good beer out as possible, I stop... and then go cap the rest of the beers.

As you progress with you homebrewing, you will start to do a double fermentation process where you will move your wort/beer from one bucket to another bucket, or the carboy to the bucket or vice versa so that you reduce the amount of sediment in the final transfer to your bottles.

Put your bottles in a place with no fluorescent light and at about 64-72 degrees for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks, your beer will have carbonated and its time to drink your beer!!!

If you've enjoyed my personal guide on how to brew beer and I highly recommend that you continue your brewing beer education with the following book. If you want to learn how to brew beer from an experts point of view but talking in layman's terms, I cannot give enough praise for this book.

and if books aren't your thing,  this video series well teach you how to brew beer

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