This is a first at Surviving Modern Life. I’m featuring a guest author for an article. As promised in my last article, the Brewmaster has given us a lot more info than I could offer. A link to his blog is included at the bottom of the article. Swing by and say Hi!
Home Brew: Adventure or Plain Cheap?
So, what to do on a wonderful Saturday morning? Mow the yard? Weekly chores? No… Let’s do something a bit more productive with our time. I’m speaking, of course, of practicing the now growing art of home brewing.
If you have ever drank a commercial beer, and yes I’m talking about the BROs who feel Bud or Miller Lite is a beer, you my friends, are sadly mistaken. I got into this enjoyable art not because I was too cheap to wanna buy good beer, but because I wanted an outlet. Something I could stand back and take pride that this cool, foamy goodness was crafted by my hand. So the following is a brief overview of a Saturday morning brew with My cousin Justin.
I started off this brew morning by addressing one of the most important steps any brewer should never skip, cleaning and sanitizing. I like my equipment clean and sterilized. Any outside mold spores or wild yeast can dramatically change the beer on a best case scenario, and worst case…. Well that’s a batch that the drain will get to drink. I use a dye and scent free soap and boil my metals in water for a couple minutes to ensure nothing is left over. I use Starsan Rinseless to clean out everything that has a large surface area. Cleanliness is next to beer godliness.
Justin and I decided to brew this batch up so he could get a better understanding of the brewing process. We started off by filling my mash tun with 6 gallons of distilled water. The water choice is nothing more than preference, but i find it has the lowest count of minerals in it compared to spring water. The water is then heated up in the mash tun to around 160 degrees F. Once at temp, Our grains went in. Now the water has to be at around 152 degrees with the grain and SACCHE, or rest, for an hour. ( That’s nothing more than fancy speak for steeping..) After an hour, its time for mash out. The heat goes up to a constant 158 to 160 degrees for about 15 minutes. This help caramelize the sugars, break down the proteins and extract the “goodness”. The Wort, or unfermented beer is now ready for boil. About 4 gallons of the the hot wort is transferred to a five gallon pot for the boil. The last bit was used as sparge water to make sure all the sugars from the grain are extracted. Once this was done, the grain went into the composter and the last gallon or so of wort went in the fermenter.
The boil off is simply heating the wort up to boiling, helping with the breakdown of the last of the proteins and allows the yeast ample food for fermentation. Once the wort comes to a boil, the timer starts. There were three hop additions to this. The first stage of additions is usually added at the beginning of the addition boil and is known as the bittering stage. Hops are very bitter in taste and it helps offset the super sweet malt sugars. Ours went in at sixty minutes to start the boil. Now this is where the new experience came into play. This was a first using whole leaf hops and I fell in love. After letting this sit at a rolling boil for 45 minutes, the next addition was ready to go in. This beer used the same hops for bittering, aroma and flavoring. We added our aroma hops and let the timer count down. At 55 minutes, the last of the hops went in. Five minutes later, our wort was ready to chill. But before that, the OG, or original gravity, needed to be checked. Now, still being a newer brewer, I can’t explain how it works, as I have an app on my phone that automatically fills the info in. I filled my
hydrometer tube and checked the gravity. Right on spot.
Now, I don’t have a wort chiller yet, and rest assured, it will come when I can afford it. So I used what is known as an ice bath. Simply put, place the boil pot in the sink and Fill up as much as the sink will hold with cold water. Swirl the sink water one direction and stir the warm wort the opposite. It is a slow counter-flow type system. After the cooling process and the wort has cooled off to around 70 degrees, it was time to pitch the yeast. Another first for me, I used a liquid yeast. I normally use a dry yeast that I rehydrate. Its seems to work better for me and I am a little more comfortable with it. A swift stir of the wort before the yeast goes in, ensures enough oxygen for the yeast to thrive.
From there, the yeast goes in and the lid goes on. The airlock gets installed, sanitized of course, and I fill mine with vodka, just as an extra precaution. The whole setup goes into my beer fridge and the worst part of the whole process begins. Waiting. Five weeks. But all we can do is wait it out and just look forward to this cold goodness it will be. Now, around week three, I will check the beer for its gravity and give myself a rough estimate of alcohol content. It will be checked again around week five for the final gravity to ensure its done fermenting and clearing.
The last step is bottling. I prefer to use the resealable bottles over those that have to be capped after every use. I use dextrose sugar and two cups of water. I bring the water to a boil and stir in the dextrose, and then let it boil another five minutes. After cooling, the dextrose solution goes into the bottling bucket and then the beer gets poured in. The dextrose is used in bottling to give the yeast something to feed on with its in the bottle. As the yeast eats, it releases CO2 with carbonates the beer in the bottle as it cant escape. This process can take from 10 to 14 days, but once it is complete, you have yourself a good carbonated cold beer.
Yes, this seems like a lot of effort just to end up with a couple cases of beer, but what drive me, is the simple fact that it’s mine, and there isn’t another beer out there quite like this. Follow me as I later on continue this Beerology and learn and experiment more down the road.
Give a man a beer, waste an hour. Teach a man to brew, and waste a lifetime
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to learn a new skill relating to self reliance. My cousin has taken up the new hobby of home brewing beer, and asked me to give him a hand with a batch. Brewing is something I’ve read extensively about, but never actually tried before. Knowing how something is done is not the same as knowing how to actually do it. I wanted to share a little bit about the process I learned, but this won’t be a step by step article. My cousin will be doing a guest post soon to go into more detail.
He is still a novice, but he is advancing very quickly in his abilities. There are a few ways to brew at home ranging from very simple to extremely complex. For this project, we took on a more advanced method. A lot of beginners use malt extract brewing. This means the grains have already been mashed and canned. For this, you add water to the contents of the can and go from there. There isn’t much that can go wrong, because the hard part has been done already. You don’t have to closely monitor temperatures and mash times.
A step up in complexity is mashing the grain. For this method, you take raw malted barley and hold it at a certain temperature for a specific amount of time. This step converts the starches in the grain into a sugar that the yeast can ferment. Yeasts are very picky about their food sources, and starches are pretty much useless to them. They must feed on sugar to produce alcohol. If mash temperatures are too cool, it takes too long to convert to sugar. If the temperature gets too high, you will destroy the enzymes that do the conversion.
Once the grain mash was done and the starches were converted, we moved to the hops. Hops are the flower of a vine that has been used for centuries in beer brewing. They add the bitterness that offsets the sweet flavor of the malt, and act a preservative and stabilizer. Once the mash was complete, we brought the liquid (called Wort) to a boil and started adding specific amounts of hops at specific intervals. This step took about an hour.
At this point we had a wort that needed some yeast. Aside from being picky about their food sources, yeast are temperature sensitive. If you pitch the yeast into wort that has just come off a boil, they will all die. So here we are with a 5 gallon bucket of steaming liquid and a yeast that likes room temperature. Let the waiting begin!
We helped the cooling process along by filling the sink with ice water and setting the bucket down in it. This method isn’t exactly efficient, but since we didn’t have the proper cooling equipment, we had to handle it this way. Once the waiting game was over we were able to pitch the yeast and start the real beer making process.
The beer we brewed is a classic German Lager recipe. This type of beer requires a fermentation temperature in the 40s. This really slows the fermentation down, but provides a very crisp flavor when it is done. Most beer styles ferment for a few days at room temperature, but the Lager has been going for 3 weeks and will require at least 2 more in the cold. If you ever brew Lagers you will need a separate refrigerator unless you are willing to sacrifice most of your fridge space for a couple of months.
This article is very simple and only covers the concepts of brewing. I’ll be posting a detailed step by step authored by the actual brewer very soon. In the meantime, check out his new blog! He covers his success and failure at learning to brew. You can leave comments there to ask questions, offer advice, or share experiences.