Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Brief Outline for Beginning Brewers

Beer Ingredients First, if using a dry brewer's yeast (there are many brand names and types available including Coopers, Danstar Nottingham, Danstar Windsor, and Brewferm) you either pitch this yeast dry by sprinkling on top of your wort or you can prepare a starter yeast culture prior to putting together your batch of beer. If using a liquid yeast such as a White Labs yeast the yeast is ready to go and you can begin the brewing process.

Good water needs to be available for making your beer. If your tap water tastes good it can be used, otherwise, buy some drinking water at your local supermarket. Your "brewpot" should be a stainless steel or ceramic coated (no chips in the ceramic coating!) pot from 20 to 30 quarts in size (the larger size is needed if making beers using a large amount of malted grains). Fill your brewpot approximately half full of water and begin heating.

Some recipes use malted grains and you should crush these grains (coarsely) with a rolling pin and place them in a muslin grain bag (all equipment, supplies and ingredients are available on BlueStem Winery's website at and tie a knot in the top of the bag. Steep these grains in your heated water (at the recipe's prescribed time and temperature). This steeping will add color, flavor, body and fermentable sugars to your beer. Remove the bag of grains from the brewpot per your recipe. Bring the water in your brewpot to a boil.

After the water has begun boiling remove the brewpot from your stove and gradually stir in any malt extract syrups and/or dry malt extracts (sometimes called spray-dried malt extract) that the recipe calls for. Liquid malt extract will pour more easily from the can if you have warmed the can by leaving it set in warm water for awhile prior to needing it.

Put your brewpot back on the stove and bring the liquid back to a boil. Most recipes will call for boiling your wort (this is what your beer is called at this stage) for 60 minutes and for adding hops (called hop infusions) once, twice or more during the boil. Your recipe will tell you at what time, in what quantity and what type of hop pellets to use.

While your wort is coming to a boil and during the boil you should sanitize all of the equipment that you will be using after the boil is finished. Sanitize your brewing bucket, the lid, hydrometer, airlock, spoon, thermometer and any other equipment which will come in contact with your wort using a "no rinse" cleanser such as Easy Clean (available at

After your boil is complete you will need to cool your wort to approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible. There are several methods you can use to do this with the most efficient being the use of a wort chiller (cold water is passed through a coil of copper tubing which is suspended in your wort). You can also use an ice bath. To do this place your brewpot into a sink and pack ice around it.

Pour the chilled wort into your sanitized fermenter and add water to bring the total volume to five gallons. Your wort temperature should be in the 70 to 75 degree range.

Pitch (this means "to add") your yeast into your wort. Seal your fermenter tightly and attach a sanitized airlock filled to the fill line with water.

Within 24 (sometimes 48) hours most beers will show signs of fermentation (bubbling). Most beer recipes will require fermentation for from 3 to 6 days or maybe a little longer. Temperature is probably the biggest factor in determining length of fermentation with warmer temperature surroundings speeding fermentation.

When fermentation is complete the brewer can either siphon the beer off for immediate bottling or the beer can be conditioned by transfer to a 5-gallon glass carboy for what is called secondary fermentation.

When ready to bottle your beer it should be siphoned to a bottling bucket which is equipped with a spigot. Approximately one cup (5 ounces) of corn sugar is required to prime the beer. Adding corn sugar to your beer provides additional food for the yeast which remains present and when sealed in a bottle the carbon dioxide which results from this new fermentation has no where to escape to and becomes the carbonation for your beer. Combine the 5 ounces of corn sugar with a small amount of water and heat on the stove until the sugar is totally dissolved. Add this syrup to the beer in the bottling bucket and stir until the sugar is evenly disbursed within the liquid. This insures that each bottle of beer will have the same amount of sugar for carbonation. Your bottled beer should be left for 14 to 21 days to insure full carbonation.

After carbonation you should chill your homebrew and enjoy! Gently pour your beer so as to leave behind the yeast settlings which will be present in the bottom of the bottle (these settlings are packed with B vitamins but they will cloud your beer if your pour too quickly). Cheers!

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