The Basics of Brewing

The Basics of Beer Brewing for All-Grain Batches

Step 1: Cleaning & Sanitizing

This is arguably the single most important aspect of home brewing. Absolutely everything that touches the beer at any stage of the process must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Read and follow the directions on the package.

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Step 2: The Mash

Just like steeping tea.  Immerse grains in hot (filtered) water, allowing the heat to gently break down the starches in the grains. This activates the enzymes in the grain that leads to the starches being converted to fermentable sugars.

Step 3: Sparging or Lautering

The process of separating the wort from the grain. The purpose is to remove sugars that may be trapped within the grain following the mash.

Sugar= more food for yeast= successful fermentation.

Heat water in a separate pot to a temperature higher than the mash and then pour the heated water over the grain to rinse of any remaining sugars.

Step 4: The Boil

Now that the wort is separate from the grain it’s time to boil. You will need a powerful kitchen stove or a propane burner, both with a good vent hood.

The boiling temperature is higher than the mash and occurs over a longer period. The purpose is to destroy any remaining enzymes, remove harmful oxygen and stabilize the wort by lowering the pH. This creates the ideal environment for hops.

Hops: adding hops balance the sweetness of the grain and add flavour and aroma. They also act as a natural preservative that protests the beer from bacteria and other potential infections.

Step 5: Cooling

Once the boil is complete it’s time to prepare the wort for fermentation. You must cool the wort down quickly as possible to prevent infection. The goal is to get the wort’s temperature down to room temperature (ideally between 15-21° C or 60-70° F) in less than 20mins. Use a thermometer for accuracy.

Ice Bath- Depending on your bathtub size you can fill your sink or tub with cold water and ice. Trick from a chef- place your pot on a rack which will allow flow under the pot which will cool your wort quicker. Make sure you slowly submerge your brew pot carefully avoiding any splash back of water into the wort. Stir constantly to dissipate the heat.

Wort Chillers– More advanced and effective.  They come in immersion, counterflow and plate varieties.

Step 6: Transfer/Gravity

Cooled wort must be transferred to a storage vessel for primary fermentation. Vessel must be large enough for wort and sterile water top-off water (if necessary).

Take your first specific gravity reading with a hydrometer in the sample. Make sure the hydrometer is fully suspended in the liquid. The line on the hydrometer that the liquid lines up with is the original gravity reading. Write this down in your notebook so you can reference it once fermentation is complete.

Step 7: Pitching Yeast

Once you have your specific gravity reading, it’s time to add your yeast. This process is known as pitching.

Dry Yeast: Doesn’t need activation.

Liquid Yeast: Must be activated by smacking the package. May even require a yeast starter to prime the yeast for fermentation. Read the directions.

Pitch yeast into your fermentation vessel and stir with vigor. This re-introduces oxygen to the wort which is necessary for yeast growth.

Now that the yeast has joined the party and the mixture is properly aerated, secure an airtight lid on the vessel and insert an airlock. The airlock will allow Co2 sasses to escape while also preventing outside air from entering.

Fermentation: The main purpose of primary fermentation is to allow the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The process will also allow unwanted particles to sink to the bottom of the vessel. These particles are called trub.

You may also do a secondary fermentation if you choose. If you do you must rack (ie transfer) the beer from your primary vessel into a secondary vessel without disturbing the carefully balanced trub.

Step 8: Completing Fermentation

Signs your fermentation is complete:

  • The bubbling in the chamber of your airlock is less frequent.
  • Your hydrometer has a gravity reading that has been consistent for 3 or more days.
  • All the trub has fallen to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Depending on your style of beer, signs of completion may vary.

Once the beer has had time to fermentation, it’s time to take your final specific gravity reading.

This formula will determine how much alcohol is in your beer (ABV):

OG- FG x 131 = ABV

Step 9: Bottling

  1. Add priming sugar to empty bottling bucket. Rack the beer from your fermenting vessel into the bottling bucket.
  2. Attach the tubing that you use for racking onto the spigot on the bottling bucket.
  3. Attach the bottle filler to the other end of the tubing and push down into the bottle.
  4. Bottle it all and cap the bottles with a capper.

Once your batch is bottles, store all the bottles in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. This allows the yeast to ferment and the priming sugar to produce the Co2 to carbonate the beer.

And enjoy!

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