Guest Post – Homebrewing Beer

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by mgorbsky

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Adam and Val were kind enough to ask me to make a few posts on ‘Till It’s Done about brewing beer. My goal in these posts is to provide the average home cook with enough information to take the first steps into home brewing.

I started home-brewing my own beer about a year ago and have about eight brews under my belt so far. I brew using a method known as “extract brewing,” meaning that the work of extracting the sugars from malt has already been done for me. The other method of brewing is known as “all grain,” meaning you buy whole malted grains, crush them, and extract the sugars yourself. I will eventually start brewing all grain when space allows, but for the moment, I have been very happy with the beer I’ve brewed and so have my friends.

The Equipment

To brew your own, you’ll only need the following equipment. Most of which is either already in your kitchen or easily obtained.

  • Basic Beer Brewing Starter Kit – such as this one – contains things like the fermenter, a hydrometer, and other simple brewing tools.
  • A large pot – the bigger the better. You’ll want at least a 20 quart pot. 30 is better. 40 is best.
  • A large heat-proof plastic spoon
  • Thermometer (I use a long brewing thermometer as well as a digital kitchen thermometer)
  • Colander for straining the hops out

The Process

I buy ingredient kits from local and internet-based homebrew supply stores. These kits come with all of the ingredients needed for a single 5 gallon batch of beer (if that’s sounds like a lot of beer, it works out to about 2 cases).

When brewing, the most important thing to keep in mind is that EVERYTHING that comes into contact with the wort (that’s the beer before it’s fermented) must be sanitized. Not just clean. Sanitized. I like StarSan. Beer uses yeast to convert  the sugars into CO2 and alcohol. There’s lots of things in the air and on surfaces that can cause off flavors or even complete spoilage of good beer. Save your beer – use proper sanitization techniques.

Now that we have everything clean and sanitized, the general process of brewing is this:

  1. Heat about 2.5 gal of water to 150F (this is where the temperature alarm on the digital thermometer comes in handy)

    Heating the water to 150F

  2. Add specialty grains and hold between 150F and 160F (Note: Not in all kits – if yours doesn’t have them, skip right to the boiling)
  3. Let the grains steep like a tea bag for about 20-30 minutes
  4. Remove the grains and drain over the pot (don’t squeeze the grains!)
  5. Bring the wort (it’s now wort!) to a rolling boil
  6. Add bittering hops, extracts, and any additions. Save the flavor and aroma hops for later

    Ingredients from kit. (not shown - 6.6lbs of Liquid Malt Extract and hops)

    Warming the LME so it pours easily.

  7. Boil for 45 minutes and then add the flavor hops
  8. Boil 10 more minutes and add the aroma hops
  9. Boil 5 more minutes and kill the heat
  10. Cover the pot and quickly cool the wort. The faster the better. I use a sink full of ice water and I add ice as it melts.
  11. When the wort’s down to about 95F, pour the wort through a strainer into the fermeneter. Top it off with cold water to the 5 gallon mark.
  12. Stir it well (get some air in there!) and pitch the yeast by sprinkling the yeast over the top (liquid yeast just gets poured in)
  13. Seal it up. Add an airlock. Let it ferment for about 2 weeks. If you taste the wort now, it won’t taste like beer. It’ll be sweet and bitter. I think it’s good to take at least a small amount and give it a sip and remember the flavors you get. Compare that to a few weeks later when it’s actually beer.

    Primary Fermentation

That’s really all there is to brewing an extract beer. After about 2 weeks, I like to move (or rack, as it’s called) the beer into a secondary fermentation chamber. This lets the beer flavors blend and lets the heat of the freshly produced alcohol mellow out a bit. Bigger beers (those with lots of sugars in the wort) take a bit longer to age before they’re optimal for drinking. From there, you can bottle or keg the beer and share it with your friends.

My guess is many of the ‘Till It’s Done readers are interested in cooking and/or beer. Hopefully both. My hope is that I have at least opened your eyes to the idea that brewing beer is not intimidating and has a lot in common with cooking. Quality ingredients, respect for the process, and experimentation can lead to great times in the kitchen and then great times sharing a homebrew.




1 Comment

  • [...] Justin Way American Pale Ale is has a light brown color and a slight foam head.  It goes down easy, paring well with somewhat hearty food.  And the hops – oooh, the hops.  I’m not crazy for really hoped up beers, but Justin Way has a really nice balance.  Just enough of a hop taste that mellows out after a few seconds.  Unfornuatly for you, almost all the Justin Way APA is gone, but maybe you can snag a bottle next year.  Just Way or whatever street we’re on…  And be sure to check out Matt’s guest posts about home brewing beer. [...]

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