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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Simple Steps to Brewing Great Beer

Here is the brief outline that I've started writing for my first class on brewing beer with extract. I haven't fully fleshed it out yet but I feel its good enough to get folks started. If you have ideas on what to change or what to add please let me know in the comments!

Simple Steps to Brewing Great Beer

1. Clean and Sanitize all brewing Equipment

2. Fill boil kettle and heat to 150 degrees F.

3. Stop heating and steep specialty grains for 20 min.

4. After 20 min, start heating again and remove grain bag once temp reaches 168 degrees

5. Bring liquid to just below boiling and add malt extract.

6. Bring liquid to boil. Watch for potential boil over.

7. Add hops according to schedule.

8. At 20 min until end of boil add clarifying agent, whirlflock or Irish Moss.

9. At 15 minutes to end of boil add any other adjuncts.

10. After 60 minutes of boiling, turn off the heat.

11. Chill liquid to recommend yeast temp.

12. Transfer liquid to fermentation vessal and top up to 5 gallons as needed.

13. Add yeast and oxygenate liquid.

14. Insert rubber stopper and water lock and move fermenter to cool dark location.

15. Once ferment is done, bottle, wait, enjoy!

Clean and Sanitize:

Everything that you use for brewing should be cleaned with a cleaner like T.S.P. Normal dish soap should be avoided if possible since it can leave trace amounts behind on equipment. Anything that touches the beer after the boil also needs to be sanitized (not the same as cleaned). You can sanitize using a weak iodine solution. Recommended is Iodaphore, a no rinse iodine sanitizer. One cap full per 5 gallons of water is all that you need. Don’t forget that the need to clean also includes your hands! Wash your hands! Recommended is also dipping your hands in the sanitizing solution prior to touching any sanitized equipment.

Fill boil kettle and heat to 150 degrees F:

It is recommended that you use a kettle large enough to hold 5 gallons of water and still leave plenty of room for adding malt extract and give you room to boil. You can use smaller kettles, but you will have to add extra water. Partial boils (boiling less than the full 5 gallons) can impact flavor negatively, but can be done on the stove top, is easier to handle, and if you already have a large pot at home lowers the initial cost of brewing. If you do a partial boil, prepare an additional amount of water by boiling enough to make up the difference between 5 gallons and what your pot can safely boil for 15 mins. Then let it chill and place it in a cleaned and sanitized container for later.

Stop heating and steep specialty grains for 20 mins:

Specialty grains add flavor and color to beer. Steeping the gains requires you to use a nylon mesh grain bag. Turn off the heat source once the water has reached 150 degrees F and submerge the milled and bagged grains. During the 20 min steep, it is not unusual for the grain bag to float then sink and then pop back up. You may want to place a lid over the brew kettle while steeping to help maintain the temperature. Some loss of heat will happen.

After 20 min, start heating again and remove grain bag once temp reaches 168 degrees:

After 20 minutes, turn the heat back on. Once the liquid reaches 168 degrees F, remove the grain bag and let drip (don’t squeeze the bag!) until you have drained most of the liquid from the grains. If you squeeze the bag you risk creating an unpleasant bitter flavor.

Bring liquid to just below boiling and add malt extract:

Water boils at 212 degrees F. Turn off the heat at around 200 degrees. Add malt extract. If you are using a liquid malt extract you may want to remove the lid of the container and place the container in a hot water bath to soften it up a bit. Liquid malt extract will sink to the bottom of the kettle, make sure to stir it in well or it can scorch and give your beer a burnt flavor. Dry malt extract can clump up, make sure to break up the clumps and stir in well.

Bring liquid to boil. Watch for potential boil over:

As you bring the liquid (called “wort”) to a boil, starch and proteins rise to the surface and can cause a boil over. If the wort is about to boil over the sides of the kettle reduce or kill heat. Once the level goes back down slowly bring heat back up until you have a consistent rolling boil.

Add hops according to hop schedule:

A hop schedule calculates time from end of boil. Most of the time, you will boil for 60 minutes. So, your first hop addition is normally 60 mins, or once you achieve a rolling boil. Hops at 20 min would mean 20 minutes from end of boil, or 40 minutes into a 60 hour boil. Hops added early in the boil add to the overall bittering. Hops added mid boil add flavor, and hops added late into the boil add aroma.

At 20 min until end of boil add clarifying agent, whirlflock or Irish Moss:

Whirlflock and Irish moss are both clarifying agents. They are added to the boil with 20 minutes to go. This allows them to pull particles out of the beer that would otherwise give the beer a cloudy look. This doesn’t affect the flavor of the beer, just the appearance. If you don’t add a clarifying agent, you can use time. The longer you let the beer sit in the fermenter or bottle, the more stuff will precipitate out of suspension.

At 15 minutes to end of boil add any other adjuncts:

This is your last chance to add anything to the beer. Aside from hops, don’t add anything to the beer with less than 15 minutes to the end of the boil. It takes about 15 minutes of boiling to sanitize. If you have a wort chiller (copper coil used to chill the liquid) submerse it now.

After 60 minutes of boiling, turn off the heat:

Turn off the heat after 60 minutes of boiling. If you recipe calls for hops at “flameout” add them now and let them steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

Chill liquid to recommend yeast temperatures:

If you are doing a partial boil you can use an ice bath to chill the wort. Fill the sink with water, set kettle in water. As the water warms up, drain it and add more cold water. Once the initial heat is removed, add ice to sink water to chill quicker. If you are doing a full volume boil, you need something better to chill with. A copper coil can be attached to a garden hose or faucet and submerged 15 minutes prior to the end of boil. Then once you end the boil, turn on the water and allow the copper coil to chill the beer down. The temperature you want to achieve depends on the yeast you want to use. A safe bet is 70 to 75 degrees, but colder is better if you are able.

Transfer liquid to fermentation vessal and top up to 5 gallons as needed:

Once the wort is chilled to the correct temperature, transfer it to the fermentation vessal. This can be a 6 to 6.5 gallon plastic bucket or glass carboy. You can siphon it or using a funnel, pick up the kettle and carefully dump it in. You want to use a mesh strainer to strain out any hop matter. If you did a partial boil, you will need to add preboiled water to the fermenter as needed to make it up to 5 gallons.

Add yeast and oxygenate liquid:

Once your wort is in the fermenter, add your yeast. Then, oxygenate the wort. This is often done by placing your (clean and sanitized) hand over the opening of the carboy and vigorously shaking it back and forth. You will get tired long before you reach the “too much” point of oxygenating your beer. Easier methods to do this include using an aeration stone and either an aquarium pump or bottle of oxygen. With a pump, let run for 15 to 20 minutes. With a bottle of pure O2 a few seconds is all you need. This is very important. Well oxygenated wort is a happy place for yeast. Under-oxygenating your wort can lead to poor performance from the yeast.

Insert rubber stopper and water lock and move fermenter to cool dark location

The fermenter needs to keep the air out, so a rubber stopper and water lock (also called fermenter lock) needs to be inserted, then move the fermenter to somewhere in the house that maintains a cool and dark environment, like a closet. Keep the temps low. Each yeast has a specific range that they perform best at, for example 65 to 68 degrees F. Temp control is important. If it’s too cool the yeast won’t get enough work done. If it’s too hot the beer will taste like rubbing alcohol. In general keep the temp lower then 80 and above 60, those each type of yeast will have more specific numbers.

Once ferment is done, bottle, wait, enjoy:

Fermentation can take 7 to 21 days. Generally if you wait 10 to 14 days, the yeast will be finished. The first 8 to 24 hours you will notice very little activity, but as you move to the end of 24 hours and into day 2 and 3 you will notice “foam” on top of the beer (this is called krausen) and a lot of co2 bubbling out of the water lock. After about 3 days the krausen should fall back into the beer and bubbling from the water lock should slow down. Just because the action is slowing doesn’t mean the beer is ready. Wait until 10 to 14 days have passed, then transfer the beer to a bottling bucket.


Transfer the beer to a bottling bucket, being careful not to splash the beer too much. Air is the enemy of good beer! Add ¾ cup of corn sugar to a couple cups of boiling water, boil for 15 min, then chill to room temp. Add this sugar water to the beer in the bottling bucket. Use a bottling wand attached to the bucket’s spigot to fill the (cleaned and sanitized) bottles leaving about ¾ inch of room from the top of the bottle. Cap (with cleaned and sanitized bottle caps) each bottle, then place back in a cool and dark area. Wait for 5 to 7 days, then chill a bottle and drink. If there isn’t enough carbonation, wait a few more days and try another bottle.

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