These brewing proceedures are not complete!! The information available to home brewers can and does fill many books! However, these basic proceedures can provide a quick reference to most mash-extract recipes, and can give the new brewer some ideas for making premium organic beer at home. We highly recommend at least one good book about homebrewing- see the book section of our on-line store for a good selection. One of our favorite all-around home brewing guides is "The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian.
CLEANING AND SANITIZING
MASHING THE GRAIN
SPARGING THE GRAINS
BOILING THE WORT
COOLING THE WORT
FERMENTING THE BEER
BOTTLING YOUR BEER
Perhaps the single most important step in brewing great beer is proper cleaning and sanitization. Make sure all the equipment you brew with is thoroughly cleaned. Use a fragrance free detergent or a cleaner specifically designed for cleaning brew equipment. One of the most efficient cleaners on the market is 5-Star PBW, which also has a low impact on the environment. After cleaning, it is important to rinse your equipment well. Any soap or oil residue can interfere with the quality of your beer.
After cleaning, all equipment that comes into contact with your beer after it has been boiled must also be sanitized. This is usually done by soaking the equipment in a sanitizing solution for about 10 minutes. One of the best all around sanitizers available to home brewers is Iodophor, an iodine based sanitizer. This sanitizer does not need to be rinsed if equipment is allowed to drip dry after sanitizing.
USING DRY YEAST- Most dry yeast will start the fermentation quickly without any preparation. It is important to use fresh yeast. To improve the chances of a good fermentation with dry yeast, the yeast can be rehydrated in a small amount of sterile water before adding to the beer. The water should be the same temperature as the fermentation temeprature of the beer you are making. A yeast starter can be made with dry yeast (see below).
USING LIQUID YEAST- The most common form of liquid yeast available to home brewers is Wyeast, which comes in a foil packet. The packet contains instructions for popping the inner pouch to start the yeast growth. This is usually done the day before brewing, unless the Wyeast packet is more than a month old. For each month beyond one month, pop the package an additional day in advance of brewing, up to 4 days. Thus, if your packet is two months old, pop the yeast two days before brewing; if it is six months old, pop the yeast 4 days before brewing.
MAKING A YEAST STARTER: This is usually done the day before you brew. A yeast starter will start the fermentation of you beer more rapidly. You will need a quart size or larger jar (juice jars work well), or a large beer bottle with an air lock assembly. If you do not have a stopper that fits your chosen starter vessel, you may cover the container with a clean cloth that has been soaked in sanitizing solution and secure with a rubber band. The starter should be at least 2 cups in size. Before making the starter, if using liquid yeast, follow the instructions above for starting the yeast growth. To make a starter medium, use malt extract, dried malt extract, or some unfermented wort from a previous batch (see brewing tip, Kraeusening your beer). Add water to the extract or gyle-the best specific gravity range for making a yeast starter is between 1.030- 1.040. You can also add one or two teaspoons of yeast nutrient if you wish. Boil the starter solution for 15- 20 minutes, allow to cool to 70 oF and pour it into your sanitized yeast starter vessel. Add the yeast from the pouch, or the dry yeast. Shake well to add oxygen and cover or seal with an airlock. Add the starter to you unfermented beer as soon as it has cooled to 70 oF. If you wish, you can save a small portion of the starter (1/4 cup is adequate) to reactivate for a later batch. The saved starter can be stored in the refrigerator with an airlock on it for up to 3 months. For a more detailed overview of making a yeast starter see making a yeast starterin the brewing tips section of this site.
Weigh out the grains that your recipe calls for, and mix them together (except for flaked grains or grains that need to be roasted or cooked separately).
The malted barley grains need to be crushed before using. If you purchased your grain uncrushed, the best way to crush it is with a roller mill designed for crushing grain. A corona mill can also be used. If you do not have a mill, the grain can be crushed by putting it in a plastic or canvas bag and crushed with a rolling pin or by gently whacking it with a wooden or rubber mallet. A properly crushed malt is important: the grains should be shattered enough so the insides are released but the husks are still intact. The husks act as a filter when mashing the grain; if they are pulverized the grains will stick together and prevent a good straining.
If the recipe calls for roasting, roast the grain as described in the recipe, and then mix with the other grains before adding water. If the recipe calls for pre-cooking, pre-cook the grains and mix into your mash after the water has been added.
The infusion mash requires soaking the grain in water at a temperature range of 148- 154oF. All of our recipes use this method.
STEP 1: In a large pot or mash- tun (4 or 5 gallon at least), heat the water your recipe calls for to 165 OF. If using distilled water or you have soft water, you may want to adjust the mineral content of the water by adding 1 or 2 teaspoons of gypsum. You might want to make other mineral adjustments- a good brewing book will have guidelines for doing this.
STEP 2: Add the grains your recipe calls for to the water. Once you add the grains the temperature should be 150 OF. Stir well and allow the grains to soak (mash) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Try to maintain a constant temperature: you can add heat if needed either by putting your brew pot on a burner on low heat or by removing part of the mash and heating it to 180 OF, then adding it back to the mash. The mash is complete when all of the starches have been converted to fermentable sugars. An easy way to test for this is to place a teaspoon of the liquid (make sure no grains are present) on a white plate, and add a drop of iodine. If the color of the iodine stays red, then the mash is complete. If it changes color to dark blue or black, continue the mash 10 or 15 minutes longer, or until it is complete.
**IF USING A GRAIN BAG: The above method can also be followed if you are using a nylon or cotton grain bag. Pack the grains loosely in the bag and close the top before placing the bag in the hot water. The grain swells when soaked in water- it is important to allow enough space in the bag for this to happen and still allow room for water to flow through. You may need to add more water than the recipe calls for to completely cover the grains.
Sparging is the process of rinsing the sugars from the grains with water. Transfer the mash from the pot to a lauter-tun (a vessel for straining the grains- this can be a 6 gallon plastic bucket with holes drilled in it, and nested inside a second bucket fitted with a spigot, or a large pot with a spigot and a false bottom). Heat the sparge water called for in your recipe to 170 oF, and slowly and evenly pour it over the grains. With all grain recipes, proper sparging is crucial. Investing in a gravity fed sparge arm, or using a solar shower nozzel attatched to a 6 gallon bucket with a spigot, will make the sparging process easier and much more effiecient. A good sparge can last up to 1 hour for a 5 gallon batch. Allow the sparged grains to drain for a few minutes, then discard the grains (the spent grains make great compost material or animal feed, or they can be used to make bread, energy bars, or granola).
**If using a grain bag: First strain off the mash liquor (wort) by lifting the bag out of the liquid. Open the top of the bag and pour the sparge water slowly and evenly over the top of the grains. If you do not want to hold the bag while sparging, you can make a "shelf" in a clean bucket or pot with a small inverted bowl or colander to rest the bag on. Also, if you place the bag in a bucket with a spigot, you can control the water level as you sparge so the water constantly floats just above the grain bed.
The wort (unfermented beer) must be boiled before fermenting to kill unwanted organisms, settle protiens that can cause bitterness, and release the flavors and bittering compounds of the hops or brewing spices. All of our recipes call for a one hour boiling time. Bring the the liquid collected from the mash (wort) to a boil (if your recipe calls for honey or extract, add this before boiling) If needed, add enough water to make 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 gallons of liquid. As the wort comes to a boil, it is prone to boil over- skimming the foam off the top will help prevent this, as will careful heat adjustments. A good, rolling boil will produce the best results. Boil the wort for the amount of time called for in the recipe, and add hops according to the recipe you are following. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons Irish Moss flakes (per 5 gallons of beer) for the last 20 minutes of the boil; this will help to settle proteins for a clear finished beer.
To reduce the risk of contamination, it is best to cool down the wort quickly after the boil. There are three methods of doing this:
#1: Immerse the pot in a cold water bath. This can be done in your sink, or your bath tub, or a large bucket. Ice cubes in the water bath will speed the process up immensely. Use a sanitized spoon to stir the hot wort- this will speed the cooling process considerably. Keep the water bath cold by adding or replacing cold water as needed, or adding more ice cubes. Circulate the water bath around the pot to speed the cooling process.
#2: Add sterile cold water or ice. If you boiled less than 5 gallons this is an easy method to cool down the wort. It is very important that the water or ice cubes usedare completely sterile! Use distilled or sterile bottled water, or sterilize water by boiling for 15 minutes. Ice cubes should also be made with sterile water, in sanitized trays.
#3: Use a wort chiller. A wort chiller is a coil of copper tubing (these can be purchased or you can make one yourself) that is placed in the pot of hot wort. Cold water is run though the tubing to chill the wort. The chiller is sanitized by putting in the brew pot for the last 15 minutes of the boil. After the boil, hose or plastic tubing can be attatched to the wort chiller to run the water through.
You can also buy or make a counterflow wort chiller. This is the fastest method but usually the most expensive. With a counterflow chiller, the hot wort is run through the chiller through the inner tubing (usually copper), and cold water is run through the outer tubing in the opposite direction. The wort is transferred from the pot with a stainless steel or copper racking tube, or a ball valve at the base of the pot.
Transfer the chilled wort into your sanitized primary fermenting vessel. Use a sanitized strainer to filter out the whole hops. If you wish, take a hydrometer reading to measure the original gravity. Shake or stir the unfermented beer vigorously to oxygenate it. The yeast needs oxygen in the first stage of fermentation. Add the yeast (see instructions for yeast preparation on pages 6 & 7) and ferment in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days in the primary fermenter. For the best results, ferment at the temperature range recommended for the recipe you are brewing.
Although this step is not necessary, transferring the beer to a secondary fermenter can greatly improve the quality of your beer. When fermentation activity has subsided (the foam on the top should be gone), transfer the beer to the secondary fermenter. Use sanitized transfer equipment and try not to introduce any air into the beer during transfer. Ferment for the amount of time your recipe calls for, or until fermentation is complete. The beer should be relatively clear and bubbling very slowly (less than one bubble per minute through your airlock). You can also take a hydrometer reading to see if the beer is ready for bottling. The reading should be near the target Final Gravity (F.G) of your recipe.
Clean and sanitize enough bottles for your batch. If bottling 5 gallons of beer, you will need about 54 12 oz. bottles, 40 16 oz. bottles, or 30 22 oz. bottles. Sanitize your bottle caps by soaking in sanitizing solution, or by boiling a few cups of water, then soaking the caps in the just boiled water for 15- 20 minutes. Most bottle caps should not be boiled because the soft plastic liner could be damaged.
Boil 3/4 cup corn sugar or 1 cup malt extract in 2 cups of water, or boil the unfermented wort your recipe calls for (see brewing tip on page 5), for 15 minutes. Cool the sugar solution to 70 OF and pour into a sanitized carboy or bottling bucket. Transfer your beer into the same container and mix slowly so you do not introduce any oxygen.
Use a bottle filler to bottle the beer, cap the bottles, and store at room temperature (about 70 oF) for the first few days, then in a cool dark place (50- 60 OF) for 1-3 weeks. Your beer is ready to drink when it is clear and nicely carbonated. Enjoy!
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