Welcome back! If you read our introduction to home brewing, then you’ve got all the equipment you need, your ingredients, and some pure water hand-bottled by Aleuts. Now you’re ready to brew! Keep reading for step by step instructions for a successful brew day.
BREW DAY INSTRUCTIONS
So, you’re fully prepared. What now? Most beers are brewed along a similar timeline. Most timeline modifications will alter when hops are added to the boil (which is by far my favorite part, because the aroma of hops is seriously addicting). Take your time breathing in those intoxicating pine, citrus and floral aromas.
You’ll notice I frequently mention sanitized equipment. As I said in Home Brewing 101, haphazard sanitation, or a complete lack thereof, will produce some disgusting beer. Personally, I use Star San. Dilute it per the instructions, thoroughly coat your equipment/hoses/carboy and have some in a spray bottle just in case. Keep in mind, the wort is most susceptible to contamination when you take the boil kettle off of the heat and begin the cooling process.
But, I digress. Here is a standard timeline for a brew day of champions.
- Add 3 to 3.5 gallons of water to the brew kettle and set the stove on high to get the water up to around 155°F, then reduce the heat to maintain that 155°F.
- Once 155°F is stable, add your specialty grains (which mostly add color and maybe a touch of flavor) in a muslin bag to steep for approximately 30 minutes.
- Remove the grains and let the liquid drip from the bag for a minute or two. You can even rinse your specialty grains with several cups of hot water to get the most out of them.
- Crank that stove back up to high to get the water to a rolling boil.
- Just before boiling, I like to add my extract (dry or liquid, or both) slowly so it doesn’t burn when it hits the bottom of the pot. Use a large spoon to keep a constant swirl going while mixing in the extract. You can also wait until the boil begins, cut off the heat and then add your extract.
- There should be a thick foam that develops after you have added your extract. Stir continuously at this point. Blowing into the foam helps keep it from boiling over. If it does look like it might boil over, cut off your heat and continue stirring. If you want to be a namby pamby sissy boy, you can get some Fermcap-S Foam Inhibitor. Add a couple drops and completely dissolve all of the foam in your kettle. Or, instead, you can grow some hair on your chest and show that foam who’s boss the old-fashioned way. Foam responds well to ridicule and sarcastic mockery.
- As your foam dissolves or collapses back on itself and dissolves (known as the “Hot Break”), it is time to start the clock on your boil time (typically 60 minutes for an extract).
- Next come your hops. This varies greatly and is dependant on the beer that you are brewing. Some light ales may use only an ounce total for the brew, whereas some IPA’s may use 6 – 8 ounces. The best suggestion I can make is to purchase a beer recipe kit for your first brew. It comes with instructions and the timing of when to add each ingredient. My first brew was a kit and is actually still one of my favorites (shout out to my wife for that one)!
- So by the time your 60 minutes are up, you should have added most, if not all, of your hops and now it’s time to cool down.
- I usually place my boil kettle in the sink filled with ice water (the more ice, the better). Make sure your sanitized lid is on so that no contaminants gets into the wort while it is cooling (it is always called “wort” until the yeast is added).
- Get your wort down to about 80°F before transferring it to your carboy.
- Once the wort is around 80°F, sanitize your carboy and funnel and get them set up to add the wort to the carboy.
- The boil kettle will obviously be heavy. Try to add the wort slowly so it doesn’t create a whole lot of foam (which will eventually spew out the top of the carboy).
- Add additional water to bring the level in the carboy to 5 gallons.
- Pitch the yeast, and place the sanitized bung stopper in the top and give the carboy a few good swirls to mix the yeast in and aerate it a little bit.
- Place your tubing into the bung and the other end into a jar that has some sanitizer solution in it (make sure the tubing is below the waterline so contaminants do not enter the carboy). See the photo below (right).
- Most beer types will need a dark place to sit, where the temperature remains between 68°F – 72°F. A basement works best. If you have a fermometer (sticker thermometer on the carboy), you can easily read the temperature. If you see that the fermentation process is starting to raise the temperature, place a moist towel around the carboy to cool it down.
FERMENTATION & BOTTLING
Now we wait… Most beers will take 10-14 days for primary fermentation – which is a pretty cool process where your beer looks like it’s swirling wildly in the carboy. After the primary fermentation period, you can do a secondary fermentation (transferring the beer to another carboy after the initial 10-14 days). Secondary fermentation is done to help clarify the beer or to add any additional ingredients. You could add more hops (called “dry hopping”), herbs, fruit or other ingredients.
When you are ready to bottle your beer (all of your bottles must be clean and sanitized), you’ll need to add priming sugar (corn sugar) to allow your beer to carbonate after bottling. Different styles of beer will require different amounts of priming sugar. The easiest route to figure out exactly how much you’ll need, is to visit Northern Brewer’s calculator. Add the suggested amount of sugar to 2 cups of water and boil for 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to about 80°F and then add to your sanitized bottling bucket. Transfer your beer via siphon from the carboy to the bottling bucket (after sanitizing it, of course). It is easiest to have the bottling bucket lower than your carboy, as gravity helps quite a bit here. When filling your bottles, fill each bottle right to the top (when you remove the bottle filler tube from the bottle, you’ll leave the perfect amount of headspace for carbonation). There will be a small amount of yeast in each bottle that will convert the priming sugar into alcohol and CO2, thus carbonating the beer (also called “bottle conditioned”). Some breweries still use this practice for carbonation, while others use direct CO2 injection.
As before, our bottled beer will need to sit in a dark place, where the temperature remains between 68°F – 72°F for 7-14 days (depending on the style of beer). Some beers may take much longer. The first batch is certainly going to give you a little anxiety. I rarely get past 2 days before I have to crack one bottle open to see how it’s coming along. But, I’m impatient. Who has two thumbs and doesn’t want 5 gallons of bad beer? This guy! Maybe your first batch won’t be your best. But, that’s okay! Keep detailed notes throughout the brewing process and you can tweak it next time.
www.howtobrew.com (John Palmer, rockstar of home brewing.)
www.homebrewtalk.com (Home brewing forum. Recipes, equipment for sale, general knowledge, hacks… basically everything. Home brewers love to help other home brewers!)
Thanks for reading Home Brewing 101 and 102! We would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. And of course, come back to Dad Kingdom for more home brewing articles, interviews, and maybe even some videos. Cheers!