Homebrewing 101 - Part 2

Using Malt in Homebrewing

As a beginning brewer, you will begin boiling malt extract (syrup or powder) with water. As you begin the boil you will likely notice some changes happening in the kettle. You will see a layer of foam rising to the top and covering the surface of the kettle. Don’t be alarmed. This is supposed to happen. This foam is the product of the proteins boiling in your malt. As the boiling process continues, these proteins will clump together and fall to the bottom of the mixture (this typically happens somewhere in the range of 5 to 20 minutes into the boiling process). This process is referred to as the “hot break”. The hot break helps prevent hazy or cloudy beer.

The mixture of boiling malt sugars and water is called ‘Wort’. This is the basis of any brewing recipe. Wort is the sweet substance which will be transformed throughout the brewing process into the delicious beer style of your choice. This transformation occurs as you begin adding hops and yeast to the mix and begin the fermentation process.

Using Hops in Homebrewing

The first thing you will need to know about adding hops to your homebrewing mixture is the hop schedule. A “hop schedule” is simply the order in which hops are added to the mixture, and the timing for how long to boil them. Most brewing recipes will have the brewing boiling the wort for approximately one hour. The first hop addition during the boil is added to bitter the beer. Any hops added later in the boiling process are typically used for providing a variety of different aromas and flavors.

Hops can provide a great variety of aromas and flavors and as such are capable of greatly altering the final flavors of your beer. If you are a beginner brewer, it is highly recommended that you follow the hop schedule and use hop varieties provided by the recipe you are following. Experienced brewers are encouraged to use their own judgement when it comes to choosing hop varieties. There are more hop varieties today than ever before, allowing for a great amount of experimentation and creativity.

Chilling Your Homebrewing Mixture

Chilling the wort is one of the most important processes in homebrewing. Yeast is only capable of surviving in very specific temperature ranges. Having beer wort that is too hot could kill your yeast. No yeast means no beer! Take precautions to make sure you are chilling your beer wort properly.

The easiest and most common way to chill your wort after the boil is to use a cold water bath. This simply means placing your brew kettle into a sink or tub of cold water to bring the temperature down. You may have to change the water outside of your brew kettle a few times to keep it cool enough to bring down the temperature. If you can chill the wort down to approximately 120 degrees. F., you can then top off the wort with cold brewing water in the fermenter to bring the temperature down to exactly where it needs to be. Once your wort has reached about 70 degrees Fahrenheit you can safely add the yeast. Grape and Granary also carries a number of wort chillers that will help speed-up the process of chilling the just boiled beer wort.

Transferring the Wort

Now that you have cooled your wort, it is time to transfer it to your fermentation vessel. Reminder - make sure your fermentation vessel and all other equipment touching the beer wort has been sanitized prior to use.

First, pour your wort from the brew kettle into the primary fermenting vessel. Leave any heavy sediment from the brew kettle behind and discard it. Add enough water to bring the volume of wort up to the desired level (most homebrewers brew in either 1 or 5 gallon batch sizes).

NOTE:All water using during the brewing process (boiling and topping-up) must be free of chlorine. City water departments add chlorine to city tap water to keep things from growing in the water. Running tap water through a charcoal filter or added a campden tablet to water is an easy way to remove chlorine from your brewing water. If you don’t want to mess with it, you may purchase bottled water. It will not contain chlorine.

Seal your fermentation vessel and rock the fermenter back and forth for a couple of minutes. This rocking will help to aerate the wort for fermentation. After you have done the above steps, measure the specific gravity of the wort using a hydrometer. This hydrometer reading will be your benchmark moving forward. This will help you to track the fermentation process and estimate the alcohol content of the finished beer.

Pitching Yeast in Homebrewing

Pitching yeast is simply the term brewers use for adding yeast to the cooled wort. Open your yeast packet and prepare to add it to the fermentation vessel. If you have liquid yeast you can pour it directly into the wort. If you are using a dried yeast, you may sprinkle it on the surface of the beer wort. Once you have added your yeast to the fermentation vessel you will want to seal it. Fill the airlock with some water and seal the lid. Then move your fermentation vessel into a dark spot. Basements and closets typically make ideal storing locations as there will be little light exposure and consistent temperatures for your brew. Sunlight can cause skunky flavors so keep your beer out of direct sunlight.

That’s all there is for step 2! Move on to Step 3 here!