Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Step-by-step brewing process

Here is what I suggest as a step-by step process to brew 5gal of beer using malt extract:

1) Fill a container with water and dissolve the recommended sanitizing solution, perhaps star-san as recommended on previous posts. I usually make 2.5gals of solution which is plenty to sanitize all equipment. If using Star-san, for 2.5gals of water, use 1/2oz of the concentrated sanitizer. Soak the following equipment and leave it there. I'll flag in future steps the right time to remove then and let to dry.
  • All hoses that will be in contact to the wort, like those to transfer from the boil kettle to the fermenter.
  • The carboy that will be used for fermentation. Just pour a cup of sanitizing solution into it, shake it so it covers the whole inner surface, then let is drain upside down so the excess runs off.
  • Spigots, stoppers and air-lock parts
  • Funnel, the beer thief and strainers if used.

2) Setup the boil kettle and fill with 5 gals of water. Is it preferable to use spring water or water than has been filtered to remove as many Chloride as possible. You can get filtered water from you local grocery store using their refill machines and pay maybe $0.40/gal , buy bottled spring water which is more expensive, or have your own filter at home and use your tap water running thru the filter on demand. I use an acctivated carbon filter connected to my tap. That cost about $50 and the filter can last for a year.

Fire up you burner or stove and while waiting to bring it to a boil, mix in both the dry and liquid malt extract. Stir well so it gets completely dissolved, otherwise you may burn any deposits on the bottom of the kettle during the boil. Now keep your eyes on the kettle because it will foam up when the boil start and boil over can occur. To avoid that you can lower the heat as you see that the boil is starting and you can use a water spray bottle ( also filtered water ) to spray on the foam as it start to form. Few minutes after the boiled is rolling, the foaming will stop and you are mostly safe to keep it going but NEVER leave the kettle unattended.

The more vigorous the boil the better. A simple simmer is not good enough to promote the hot break of the proteins, explained in a previous post, so here's where a powerful burner comes handy.

3) Now that your boil is rolling, start a timer and count 1h of boil. This point will be called zero minutes. Now add the 1oz of the Cascade hop pellets to the kettle and let it boil.

4) At 40 minutes into the boil, add the 1 tea spoon of the Irish moss

5) At 50 minutes into the boil, add the 1oz of the Saaz hop pellets. Also, remove the items that were soaking in the sanitizing solution and let then drip or dry. You don't necessarily need then completely dry in order to use then.

6) At 55 minutes into the boil and just 5 minutes from you timer to complete 1h, place your wort chiller inside the boiling wort. This will sterilize the chiller to avoid any contamination of the work.

7) At 1h into the boil, shut the heat off, connect the water to you chiller and start circulating the cold water thru the chiller as you stir the wort so you improve the colling efficiency. It will take about 20 to 30min to bring your wort from 212F down to 75F, which is your target temperature. Use your thermometer to track the temperature until you reach that mark. Try not to splash much wort when stirring to avoid oxygenation, at least until you reach 80F. Once you reach 75F, shut down the water and remove your chiller from the kettle. At this point, you wort is susceptible to any contamination, so be careful to not let anything that was not sanitized to get into contact with the wort.

8) Now stir the wort in circular motion to create a swirl and let it sit still for 10min. That will decant some of the solids which is always good to keep out of the fermenter.

9) Take a sample of the wort with the beer thief and fill your hydrometer. Take a measurement. Write that down as your OG or original gravity.

10) Transfer the wort to the fermenter trying to avoid the solids on the bottom. You can let it splash into the fermenter a bit so it gets oxygenated. That is important because the yeast likes a well oxygenated environment to start working on the sugars.

11) Once all the wort is in the fermenter, get the yeast ready to pitch. The bag should be well inflated, what tells you the yeast is healthy and active. Shake the bag well, open it and pitch into the fermenter. Using a sanitized funnel makes the pitching easier.

12) Place the stopper and airlock. Fill the airlock until the mark with water or vodka, close it and you are done for the first and more "complicated" stage of the brewing process. You now need to try to keep your fermenter at temperatures from 60 to 70F which is the most recommended for the Wyeast 1056. Some people move the fermenter around from one room to another, to the garage or basement in order to keep that temperature range. Another method is to set the fermenter in the bath tub with water so it better stabilize the fermentation temperature, even adding some ice when you live on a very hot climate.

The fermentation should start in 12 to 24h, sometimes 36h. You will know it started because you will see the airlock bubbling, foam forming on the surface and movement in the wort as CO2 is generated. At this point, just leave it and check daily. If it start to spill foam over thru the airlock, remove the airlock keeping the stopper, attach 3ft of a sanitized hose to the whole and the other end in a bucket with sanitizing solution next to the fermenter. That should fix the mess. :-)

After 5 to 7 days, the activity on the airlock will slow down until you count 1 bubble per minute or less. That indicates the yeast have pretty much consumed most of the sugars and that the fermentation is almost completed. You should then remove the stopper and take a sample of the beer using the beer thief, previously sanitized, and measure the sugar levels with your hydrometer. Repeat this test daily until you measure 3 times the same value which will be your FG or final gravity. White that down and now your know that the fermentation is completed and you are ready to bottle.

Check the next post for the priming and bottling process.

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