How To Brew
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Brewing beer can be as easy or as difficult as you would like it to be. As I am inherently lazy, I choose to go the somewhat easy route - extract brews. Each batch will make ~5 to 6 gallons, or 2-3 cases. The equipment I use can handle 6 gallons, so I tweak the recipes from the usual 5 to 6 gallons.
I have found that a brew night cannot be completed (from collecting your stuff to final cleanup) in less than 3 hours, more like 4 hours, so be forewarned. Anyway, let's begin with a list of toys...err...equipment. I have the 'Bare-Essentials' list for starters, and some supplemental stuff I've collected that make life easier and faster.
I've also included an ingredient list - BUT - it is generic and is not a real recipe. I am showing extract brewing with unhopped extracts and separate hops - you can use hopped extracts, forget about the separate hops and make life easier. I prefer playing around with the hops to individualize the brews.
You should surf over to my recipe page for the real deals. This is also where I attempt to explain how to brew a batch of beer. At the end I've included a bunch of notes and definitions and other stuff.
'Bare-Essentials' Equipment: (top)
1 Big brewpot (an old canning pot works great - the bigger, the better)
1 Big stir spoon (check out the dollar stores)
1 Primary fermenter (a 6+ gallon plastic bucket with a reasonably tight top)
1 Air lock
1 Hydrometer (if you care to figure out the alcohol content)
1 Clear plastic hose a couple of feet long (3/8" give or take)
1 Bottle filler (not really necessary until you try to bottle without)
3 Cases of washed, sterilized bottles (non-twist off, returnable cap type)
72 Bottle caps (OK, you really only need about 2-1/2 cases, or 60)
1 Bottle capper
Handy Toys to Supplement: (top)
1 Big wire mesh colander or strainer
1 Secondary fermenter (I use a 6-1/2 gallon glass water carboy)
1 Wort cooler
2 Kitchen scales - pound-type and ounce-type
Note: These are generic ingredients for a 5 gallon batch, look in the recipe section for a real brew.
5 gallons water
6 pounds unhopped dry or liquid malt extract
2 pounds honey (optional, but most of my best stuff had honey in it)
2 ounces hops for the boil
1 ounce hops for finishing
2 packs of yeast
1 cup of corn sugar or malt extract for priming
1 pack of lager yeast for priming (not necessarily typical...I'll explain later)
How to Brew a Batch of Beer: (top)
First off, this is not the absolute easiest brew, but just a hair above it. You can use prehopped malt extract and forget about the hops and honey. My best batches have honey, and it's kind-of a signature. Now on to the brewing...I'll outline the steps and then go over each in more detail.
Now for the Details:
Fill your brewpot about 1/3 full of water (from the 5 gallons...) and bring to a boil.
The more you can boil, the better the beer will be as it will provide a more consistent batch. If you fill it about 1/3 full of water, by the time you add all of the other stuff, it will be about 1/2 to 2/3 full, allowing some room for the foam.
Add in the malt extract. Turning off the heat while adding will prevent scorching on the bottom of the brewpot.
The malt extract provides the sugar - food for the yeast. You can use dry (typically 3# bags) or liquid (typically 3.3# cans - same amount, the 0.3# is the water).
Also add in your boiling hops and bring back to a boil.
The boiling hops will give the beer its bitterness. There are a lot of types of hops to choose from, each giving its own signature to the beer. I use hop pellets - easy, you just toss them in and stir. Leaf, and other forms are available.
After about 45 minutes in you can add your finishing hops. (The total boiling time will be about 60 minutes.)
The finishing hops gives the beer its flavor and scent. Using various hops, at various times will enhance your beer. The hops utilized for the full boil give up bitterness, but the flavoring and aroma are boiled off. Adding the finishing hops late in the boil will give the beer its flavor and aroma, but little or no additional bitterness.
When the boiling is complete, remove from the heat add the remaining water and cover.
Add the rest of the water to bring it back to about 5 gallons (minus evaporation). Of course, this assumes your brewpot can handle 5 or 6 gallons, if not, add the water to your primary fermenter and then add the hot wort (boiled beer).
Let it sit overnight to cool to room temperature - the basement works good for this.
The wort should be 75 deg. F or less, otherwise you'll boil the yeast to death.
Stir the yeast in and then cover and fit the airlock.
When at room temperature, transfer to your primary fermenter and add the yeast. The yeast should be prepared by adding the dry yeast to a cup full of lukewarm water and letting it sit for about 15 minutes to rehydrate. Then add a cup or so of the wort (the stuff you brewed the night before) to equalize the temperature and add to the wort. Stir the yeast in and then cover and fit the airlock.
If done in the morning, the beer should begin to ferment by nighttime or so. Let it ferment for about a week (the primary ferment) and then rack (siphon) it into your secondary fermenter (if you have one), leaving behind the crud on the bottom of the fermenter.
Now let the secondary ferment go for a couple of weeks - I usually screw around and let it go too long - thus consuming all the yeast and forcing me to 're-yeast' for the bottling.
When the secondary ferment is done, if you want, you can rack it back into your primary fermenter for the bottling - this will help with the clarity, but you lose a little more beer with each racking. Now bring about a quart of water to a boil, let cool and add the cup of corn sugar. Gently mix this into the beer and (if you want or need to) add the last packet of yeast (don't forget to hydrate).
Using the bottle filler, fill each bottle and cap. Let the bottles sit for a couple of weeks and Ta Da.
Notes, Definitions and Other Stuff: (top)