Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home Brewing Beer: During [Part 2]

So, now that you've done your preparations you're ready for your big Brew Day! As a disclaimer, please correct me if I've used any terminology wrong and I'll amend the post. This is my first batch after all, I'm a home brew noob. Thanks!

For my first brew day I was lucky enough to have two experienced brewers come over and help (and bring some equipment I don't yet have). Another friend brought over a ton of Rogue beer to help us ensure that the day was enjoyable. I can understand wanting to try your first batch on your own and in privacy (I mean, what happens if I did it wrong and this sucks!) but I strongly suggest involving others in the process. It will be that much more enjoyable and we all make mistakes.

So, as we popped our first top things got underway. Remember that every recipe can be a little different but this should give you a good feel for the process. As mentioned in Part 1 I was brewing an Irish Red Ale from Midwest.

1) First we had to sanitize the equipment. This is very important as any unwanted substances that get into your beer can ruin your batch. Anything that touches the beer should be sanitized, preferable right before you use it.

2) Next we added a couple of gallons of water to our pot. We added as much as we could but tried to leave enough room at the top for a rolling boil and everything else we had to add later. The water was then headed up to 155 (we actually went too high and had to cool it back down) and then the crushed barley grains (in a bag) were steeped similiar to steeping a cup of tea. This adds color and flavor to the brew. After 30 minutes we pulled it off the burner for another 10 minutes of steeping.

3) After steeping the grains we added the liquid malt extract. This was slowly poured into the water while stirring to keep it from getting scorched on the bottom of the pot. Liquid malt extract is commonly used by home brewers and can save a lot of time from the brew process. If malt extract (dry or liquid) is not used then the brewer has to Mash the grains in order to get to the same result. This is commonly referred to as brewing "all-grain". Regardless of using all-grain or malt extract the end result is sugars which are later broken down by the yeast to create alcohol. Since I didn't mash I won't go into any details on this topic.

4) Now that we have our mash (with the addition of the malt extract) we brought the pot back to a boil. As soon as it began boiling we added our Cascade Hops (in a bag) to steep similar to the barley grains. There's a lot of history to the usage of Hops in beer but most brewers today use it for bittering and/or aroma. We let this boil for 60 minutes, adding some irish moss (to help clear the beer, not neccessary) at 45 minutes and Fuggle Hops at 58 minutes for aroma.

5) Now that we had our wort (pronounced wert) it needed to be cooled quickly. This is where the borrowed equipment came in as my friend had brought his Wort Chiller. We flushed cold water through the copper tubing and quickly brought the wort down to about 80 degrees.

6) The cooled wort was then poured into the initial fermenting bucket. I poured it quickly and moved it around when pouring to aerate the wort. This is necessary for the yeast. I also left a little bit at the bottom of the pot where you could see sediment. Then the bucket was filled up (leaving room at the top) with some additional luke-warm water so that we had about 5 gallons. This was also done to aerate the wort.

7) Before closing the bucket you should take a reading with your hydrometer to determine the specific gravity. This tells you how much sugar is in the water which can then be used to calculate the alcohol content (since the yeast eating the sugar is what produces this) once you have a final gravity reading. Make sure to sanitize anything that will touch the brew!

8) Now I took the packet of yeast and sprinkled it over the top of the wort. Then we placed we placed the sanitized lid on the bucket and after filling the plastic airlock half full of gin (vodka is often used, we didn't have any - helps to disinfect) we popped it into the hole in the bucket. The yeast will eat the sugars, causing fermentation. In feasting on the sugar the yeast has two byproducts. The first is alcohol, yay! The second is carbon dioxide which will flow out through the airlock.

9) The last thing to do was to tuck the bucket away in a spot where it'd keep around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and was dimly lit. Oh, and to keep drinking the other beer.

The next day I could see the airlock bubbling away! A brief video is posted on my YouTube channel! This is a great sign that the yeast is hard at work devouring sugar and leaving behind alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Now, a fairly common question I've gotten is "So, how was the beer?!". Well, we won't know that until about 4 weeks down the line. Different beers take different amounts of time to get to a drinkable state and 4 weeks is pretty minimum. For mine we still have to wait a week and move it to the secondary fermentation in my glass carboy. Then in another week we'll be able to bottle it. Then another two weeks go past before I'm able to enjoy. I'd be happy to have you over for a beer at that time.

You'll be able to hear more about these last steps (particularly enjoying the beer) in about a month when I blog - Home Brewing Beer: After [Part 3].

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