I've been a home brewer ever since I got a Coopers DIY Beer Kit for my 21st birthday, but only in the last few years have I moved to making the stuff from scratch. I'm talking crushed grain, hops, the whole shebang.
DISCLAIMER 1: This is the process that *I* use to make beer, by no means is it the only way to do it.
DISCLAIMER 2: I've only been doing this for about 18 month, and couple that with a young family, this is only my 7th batch, so I've still got a lot to learn.
In this post I'm going to run through how a typical brew-day for me works, and maybe hint at the processes down the track.
The technique I use is BIAB (Brew in a Bag), and is a simplified version of the traditional 3 Vessel system that only requires a single vessel and heat source. BIAB systems can be purchased ready to go (ie GrainFather, RoboBrew) or, as is typical for homebrewing, you can DIY up your own system, which is the way I went.
So, lets get started, shall we.
I'll break this into a number of posts to make it easier to read (and write too).
- Find a recipe, today I'm making a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale clone. There's lost of software that can assist in fine tuning a recipe you might find, and these can also print out brew day steps with all the info you need.
- Clean everything, and then clean everything again. A stray infection can ruin a brew, so make sure everything is as sanitary as possible.
- Mill your grain bill - or you can buy it pre milled, but I got myself a birthday present this year, and can now mill my own.
This picture shows the grain pre and post milling. as well as my mill setup.
STEP 1 : THE MASH
This step starts with heating up the required amount of water so "strike temperature". As different enzymes are active in different temperature ranges, you can vary this to either have more complex or simple sugars in your wort. Put simply, Complex sugars = more body, simple sugars ferment easier, so more alcohol.
We're aiming for 67 degrees, which should drop down to about 65 when the grain is added.
When the temperature is reached, we can add the grain bag, and the milled grain, giving it a stir with the mash paddle to break up any lumps.
At this point we turn the heat off, and wrap it all up in a nice emergency blanket, and leave it for about an hour or so.
Once that's done, we can hoist the bag out, removing the spent grain from the urn, and leaving the hot liquor behind, ready for boiling. Not forgetting to give the bag a squeeze to get all that sugary goodness out.
STEP 2 : THE BOIL
Now we want to bring the wort to a rolling boil. This does two things. Makes it a bit more concentrate (due to evaporation), and allows us to start adding some bitterness and flavour with hop additions. I'm sure it probably does some other things too regarding pH levels, or enzymes or some such, but hey.
The basic idea with hops is that additions earlier in the boil add to the bitterness, the middle adds flavour, and the end (and after) goes mainly towards aroma. So you want to tailor this, along with the characteristics of your hops, to the desired outcome.
For reference, this recipe uses strictly Galaxy hops, with an aroma described as a combination of citrus and passionfruit. The type of hop used for bittering is not as important, but some are more efficient than others.
In this case, we're after a hint of bitterness from the Galaxy hops, so a 7g addition at the start of the 60 minute boil is enough. The rest (about 70g) gets added later in fermentation as a dry hop, for maximum aroma.
About 10-15 minutes before the end of the boil time, i'll add a whirfloc tablet (clearing agent) to the urn, this helps to clear the liquid once the the boil is finished.
No pictures this time around, as there's not much to see other than boiling brownish liquid.
STEP 3 : POST-BOIL
Once the buzzer hits the 60 minute mark, the urn get flicked off, and I'll stir the urn into a whirlpool, put the lid back on, and leave it for about 15 minutes.
Together with the Whirfloc tablet, this helps to coagulate all the crap (trub) in the urn, and bring it all to the center, so that we can leave it behind in the urn when we drain the rest of the wort off.
This point is where, typically, you'd use some sort of immersion chiller to bring the wort down to about ~20 degrees and pop in into the fermenter with some yeast and let it do its thing, but I use a different process here, called no-chill.
In order to no-chill, we'll transfer the still hot wort to a 20L 'cube' or plastic jerry can, making sure to fill it as close to the brim as possible. Once full, any remaining air is squeezed out, and the cap put on. We can just leave this so cool down naturally. This process means that, because the wort is still near boiling, you have to adjust your hop times slightly accordingly.
There are mixed opinions the no-chill process, but I find it handy, as I can brew one day, and then call it a day, without having to worry about cooling and fermenting for a few days.
At this point, the wort is ready, and your brew day is pretty much complete, but I'll cover a few more steps.
STEP 4 : THE NEXT DAY (OR NIGHT)
Now that our wort is cooled down, its time to move it all to the fermenter.
Open the cap, spill a little bit all over the place, and dump it all into the fermentation vessel. Splashing is good here, as the yeast will like the oxygen mixed in.
Splashing after this point is bad, as it promotes oxidation, which can cause a stale bread, wet cardboard type flavour.
Once the foamy head has let off a bit, we pitch in the yeast, strap on some cling-wrap (I find this easier, and just as effective as a lid with an airlock, and less to sanitise) and pop it into the temperature controlled fridge.
Here, a temperature probe is fed into a thermowell on the tub, allowing the temperature controller to manage the temperature of the wort to keep it around the 18C mark (by alternatively turning on the fridge, or the head pad attached to the inside of the door).
Oh, and don't forget to take a gravity reading, so you can tell when fermentation has stopped (and get a rough alcohol % too).
Here I've hit the expected 1.043, meaning that its heavier than water (water being 1.000) due to the dissolved sugars. As these sugars ferment and turn into alcohol, this reading will get closer to 1, and probably level out at around 1.005 or a tad higher. And online calculators will tell us that should be an alcohol content of around 5%.
And that's basically it. The beer is now fermenting!
STEP 5 : DRY HOPPING
One thing that this recipe calls for is dry hop additions, so after almost a week into fermentation, I pop the remainder of the hop bill straight into the fermenter wrapped up in a sanitised paint strainer bag (this will be mainly for a burst of aroma), and change over the cling-wrap top for a clean one.
A quick gravity measurement at this stage shows that it's doing its job, as the reading shows 1.010 now. And back into the fridge it goes.
STEP 6 : THE FUTURE
Once the gravity readings are constant for a few days in a row, I'll cold crash the beer (drop the temperature down to around ~1C for about a week or so, this aides in dropping the majority of the yeast and particles out of suspension, and makes for a clearer end product) in preparation for bottling.
But I'll post up more on that side of things when its time comes.
So thats about it from me now. Thanks for taking the time to read through this wall of text. If you have anything questions or accusations, feel free to leave them here, and I'll try and answer them the best I can.
Any mistakes in this are 100% my own, and either due to the fact that I do it wrong, or just wrote it down whilst indulging a little too much my in own produce.
Wow, many thanks for such a comprehensive account of your home brewing process @Mick0s. I'm sure the community will appreciate how much time you've spent on this, and find it fascinating, informative and inspirational.
I'm also looking forward to seeing how many other members also D.I.Y.
WOW!!! @Mick0s, your set up is amazing, & full marks for your worts & all description/recipe.
I've dabbled in home brew, but I did them the cheats way with Coopers Beer Mix syrups. They were real hits, but then I thought I'd venture into Kegging to do away with the fiddly bottling process. As is typical with me, I got all the gear, & haven't done anything with it.
Hopefully, your enthusiasm will kick start me into brewing again.
By the way, indulging in the final product is vital, & professional breweries would agree. It speaks volumes of your dedication & integrity to sample before releasing it to your mates.
Super comprehensive series of posts @Mick0s. Well done. Would love to see more community members share how-to info like this. Thanks mate.