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3 Basic Ways to Make Beer

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So, your tired of the mass produced swill that you have been drinking. Your ready to make a change and you want to make your "perfect" glass of suds. Well, grab a beer, sit back and for the next few Thursdays, learn how to brew your own beer.

Now, in the old days, making your own beer was a long process and still is for the all-grain brewer. But, thanks to modern technology, you don't have to spend hours making beer. There are 3 basic methods in making beer. You can be an extract brewer and this will also include those who use a kit, a partial masher, or an all grain brewer. If you are a beginner, then you might want to make quite a few extract batches before move up. I will cut down on your frustration factor big time.

The outline for this series is pretty simple. I'll go over the steps of the 3 basic brewing methods, talk about some equipment, and give some helpful hints in brewing. Today we will cover the steps in making an extract beer.

Extract Brewing Steps

1. Fill your brewpot about 2/3 full of clean water and set on the stove. I usually use bottled water since it doesn't have chlorine.

2. Turn burner to medium-high

3. Some people at this stage warm up their extract while waiting for the water in the brewpot to boil. I don't.

4. As the water begins to boil in the brewpot, open your extract and slowly stir it in with a long handled spoon. Don't dump it in and hurry up and stir it. It might clump if you do it that way and scorch on the bottom. I've done it and it is a real pain to clean up.

5. At this point, I take some of the warm wort out and put in the empty extract can. Swirl it around to get as much extract as you can and pour it in the wort. I usually do this several times to each can. Makes for easier cleaning later on.

6. Top off the brewpot to about 2 - 3 inches from the top. Bring the wort to a boil (you might need to turn up the burner) DO NOT, put a lid on the brewpot because it will boil over a create one heck of a mess.

7. Boil the wort for the time of the recipe. During this stage you will be adding hops and for the last 15 - 20 minutes adding Irish moss. The Irish moss helps to clarify the beer by pulling the solid material out.

8. After boiling, you must chill the wort. There are several different ways. I pour cold water into my primary fermenter and then pour the wort into it. Other people fill the sink with cold water or ice and chill down the brewpot.

9. After the wort has chilled below 100 degrees, take a hydrometer reading. Use the chart that comes with the hydrometer to figure out how much more you need to add to your reading. For a reading around 100 degrees, add .007 to your reading.

10. Add the yeast. I usually add my yeast around "blood temperature" (98 degrees), while others will only pitch around 70 degrees.

11. I open ferment for the first 12 hours. I tie a clean grain bag around the top of the fermenter and allow it to "breath". After 12 hours, I put the lid on along with the airlock and allow it to continue fermenting for about a week. If you are not into the open fermentation (most people will tell you that it will become contaminated and bad), then put the lid on and allow the beer to ferment.

12. Keep your fermenter in a cool place during the week and keep it out of direct sunlight.

13. After a week, take another hydrometer reading and either transfer to a secondary fermenter or begin bottling. Your hydrometer reading should be 65 - 75% below your original reading before fermentation. ie. Original reading 1.050 After a week it should be between 1.012 to 1.017.

Partial Mashing Steps

1. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water per pound of grain to your brew pot. So for example, you are using 5 pounds of grain then you will need 7.5 quarts of water or almost 2 gallons. Your water should have a ph reading between 5.0 to 5.5 to achieve optimal results.

2. Heat water to between 160 to 168 degrees F.

3. Add crushed malt to water and mix well. Ideally when you crush the malt it shouldn't look like cornmeal. The husk on the grain should be split but not completely off. Personally, I tend to crush my speciality grains to a cornmeal consistency. It seems to me that I get a thicker more flavorful wort that way. I have also done it for an all-grain batch, but it tends to be messier and more of a hassle when draining and sparging.

4. Stir the wort and check the temperature. You want get the temperature to 158 degrees F. Once that is done, cover the brew pot and maintain that temperature for 60 minutes.

5. In a separate pot, heat 2 quarts of water per pound of grain to between 160 to 170 degrees F.

6. After the starch conversion (original pot with grains) has simmered for 60 minutes, raise the temperature to between 160 to 170 degrees F and hold for 15 minutes.

7. Pour the mash into a strainer that is suspended over your brewing bucket. I bought a large stainless steel colander to use in cottage cheese and it fits perfect over the brewing bucket. Allow to drain for a few minutes.

8. Next take the strainer full of grain and put it over your brew pot and pour the cloudy wort from your brewing bucket over the grains in the strainer.

9. Pour the sparge water over the grains and allow to drain for 5 to 10 minutes.

10. Remove the strainer, add your extract and begin your beer.

The picture above is a good example of what a "true" all grain brewer would be getting into. A lot more equipment and time, but a better control over your beer. On the other hand, if you want to try brewing an all-grain beer without too much of an investment, visit J. Kelly's Homepage. Nice little set-up for very little cost. Personally, I use the partial mashing technique because it saves time and I also don't want to take up a lot of space with my hobby. Keeps the wife happy. Here are the steps in making an all-grain beer:

All Grain Brewing

1. Heat 1 1/3 quarts of water for every pound of grain. The temperature should be around 160 - 170 degrees F.

2. Mix in the crushed grains and stir well.

3. Temperature at this point should be 150 - 158 degrees F and water pH should be 5 - 5.5

4. Hold this temperature for about 60 - 90 minutes to get a full starch conversion.

5. In another kettle, heat up 2 quarts of water per pound of grain

6. After the starch conversion, raise the temperature to 160 - 170 degrees F. Keep at this
temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Ladle the mash into a lauter tun. A lauter tun is basically another kettle that has a false bottom that allows the wort through and keeps the grains behind. Think big strainer.

8. As the mash is draining in the lauter tun, take a sauce pan and draw off about 2 quarts of wort and add it back into the lauter tun. This is call recirculation and what recirculation does is filter out any large particles. This will take about 10 - 15 minutes and by that time you should have a clear liquid. Add this to your brewpot.

9. Next begin to slowly add the sparge water (step 5) and allow it drain down through the grains. This will take between 45 - 60 minutes. So you might as well grab a beer by this time. Add the liquid to your brewpot. At this point you should have 6 to 7 gallons of wort if doing a 5 gallon batch.

10. Boil the wort for about 60 to 90 minutes and add the hops and other ingredients according to your recipe.

11. Chill the wort. Most "All-Grainers" use a wort chiller. Siphon the wort to your primary fermenter and add yeast.

As you can see, there is a lot of time involved. If you are using a hand cranked crusher, doing 10 pounds of grain will take some time. Hopefully, you can get your partner involved in this and make a day of it. Because, in most cases, it will take almost a good 8 hours.


BeerSmith said...

I've been browsing brewing blogs after starting one of my own (above). I have to say yours has some of the best content I've seen so far!


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