BASIC BREWING PROCEDURES
CLEANING AND SANITIZING
STEEPING THE GRAIN
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, on page5). 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 starter in the brewing tips section of this site.
Weigh out the grains that your recipe calls for, and mix them together.
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.
A small amount of grain will add color and flavor to your beer. Basically, a grain tea is made and then added to the pre- boiled, unfermented beer.
IF USING A GRAIN BAG:
1. Put the grains in a grain bag & close the bag tightly.
2. Put 5 gallons* of water in your brew pot and put the pot on your stove. Turn the heat on high.
3. Put the bag of grains in the water and let soak as the water heats. When the water has almost reached a boil, turn the heat off. DO NOT BOIL the water with the grain bag in it- it will detract from the quality of you beer (boiling will release excess tannins from the grains which will give the finished beer an astringent aftertaste). If you have a thermometer, it is best to heat the water to just 160 oF and then turn off the heat.
4. Remove the grain bag- Use a spoon (or two) or tongs to prevent burning your hands. Set the bag in a clean dish to cool down. When it has cooled enough to handle, gently squeeze the remaining liquid into the brew pot. Discard the grains (or they can be used as compost, animal feed, for making bread, or granola).
IF USING A SAUCEPAN AND COLANDER OR STRAINER:
1. Put 3 quarts of water in a large saucepan and add all of the grains to the water.
2. Place the pot on your stove and turn the heat on medium. Stir the grain mixture occasionally as it heats.
3. When the grain mixture has barely started to simmer, immediately turn the heat off. DO NOT BOIL the grain mixture- it will detract from the quality of your beer (boiling will release excess tannins from the grains which will give the finished beer an astringent aftertaste). If you have a thermometer, it is best to heat the grain mixture to just 160 oF and then turn off the heat.
4. Strain the grain mixture through a colander or large strainer into your brew kettle. Discard the grains (or they can be used as compost, animal feed, for making bread, or granola) Add enough water to make a total of 5 gallons* of liquid.
5. Place your brew kettle on your stove and heat until just below boiling, then turn the heat off.
BOILING THE WORT:
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. Most recipes call for a one hour boiling time.
Before bring the wort to a boil, add the malt extract (if your recipe calls for honey, add this too) to the liquid collected from the mash and stir well to make sure it is completely dissolved. It is best to turn the heat source off until the extract is completely dissolved- this will prevent the extract from carmelizing and burning on the bottom of your pot.
Also, add enough water to make 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 gallons of liquid, if you boiling kettle is large enough to hold this much liquid.
If your brew pot is 3 or 4 gallons, you will need to add more water (this water should be sanitized by boiling, or you can use sterile bottled water) after the boil. As the wort will be more concentrated, you may want to use an extra 1/8 oz. of bittering hops to compensate for a lower hop utilization.
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.
COOLING THE WORT:
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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