Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

It's time again for another excursion into the wonderful world of homebrewing. Since the last time I posted a beer tutorial, I have purchased some new equipment and turned my modest turkey fryer set-up into an arcane amalgamation of beer brewing insanity, adding a pump and double burner. Hyperbole aside, my process has changed dramatically with the new equipment, and I decided that I would put together a new blog documenting my updated process. This post is going to basically teach you how to brew your own beer. I've included several videos designed to give you an overview of the process so that you can see what goes into brewing a batch (and also because Pascual asked me to), from mash in to yeast pitching. I'll even include definitions for those terms!

Apologies for my heavy breathing in all of these videos. I am getting over a cold and have been forced to mouth breathe for days!

HOMEBREWING VOCABULARY

MASH: The combination of heated water and grain that converts starch in the grain into sugar to serve as yeast fuel. Also used as a verb, "to mash."

SPARGE: The process of rinsing residual sugar from the grain after the mash. Heated water soaks the grain and is then drained out into the boil kettle. Also used as a verb, 'to sparge."

HOT LIQUOR TANK: A vessel for heating water used in the brewing process.

MASH TUN: The vessel used to contain the grain during the mash. This vessel is equipped with a filter to separate wort from the grain.

WORT: Unfermented beer - the sugary water drained from the mash tun into the kettle.

BOIL KETTLE: A boil kettle.

YEAST PITCHING: The process of adding the yeast to the unfermented wort.

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF EQUIPMENT

Let's begin at the end, shall we?

My basement is mostly finished, and I have a few beer-related rooms in it. My beer ferments out in my shop area, where I also store my gear. When the beer is finished, rather than waste precious time bottling it, I use five gallon kegs, called Cornelius kegs. They used to be used for soda, before the big companies switched to syrups. Here in the video you can see the two beers I currently have on tap. One is an American amber ale, and the other is the second test batch for Good Luck, Hop Batman - this year's PAX East beer.

This blog post will give you an overview of the brewing process from beginning to end.

First, a look at the common equipment used in brewing beer:

BOIL KETTLE

The boil kettle is used to actually boil the beer. All of the hops additions used throughout a brew day are placed in the boil kettle.

HOT LIQUOR TANK

The hot liquor tank is basically a holding vessel for heated water. There are multiple additions of water of varying temperatures, and all of them begin at the HLT.

MASH TUN

The mash tun is pretty much a filter for the grain bed. This is the vessel in which the starch in the grain converts to sugar.

WORT PUMP

This is my favorite new addition to my brewery. This high temperature pump pumps liquid from various vessels into my kettle.

This following video gives an overview of my equipment and setup:

BEGINNING THE BREW DAY

One of the first major steps to a successful brew day is making sure that all of your equipment is sanitized. I use an acid-based sanitizer called Star San (http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?products_id=513). Any process during the brew day can contribute to a bad beer. One of the most common problems that new brewers have is a contaminated batch due to an infection. Infections in your beer are easy to avoid if you ensure that everything that your beer will touch has been sanitized. You have to remember that yeast are living organisms - and they can be infected just like any other living thing. Unless you want a beer that tastes like feet (been there) then sanitize!

The next step is to heat up the first batch of water. The volume you use depends on your recipe. For the pale ale I brewed today, I used 2.5 gallons of water for this first step. Temperature also matters. When you stir your grain into the water, you are trying to hit a target temperature. This is called your mash temperature. This temperature varies from beer to beer, but the general rule of thumb is that a higher temperature (154-156 *F) will leave more of a residual sweetness in your finished beer, whereas a lower to medium temperature (150-152 *F) will allow the beer to finish a bit drier. You usually save the higher temperatures for sweeter beers, like stouts, porters, and double IPAs (in the case of a double IPA, the sweetness is meant to balance out the tremendous hop flavor). For this beer, my mash temperature needed to be 152 *F. I heat my water to well over that, to account for the temperature change from grain absorption. I heated my water to 170 *F.

One the water is heated, I drain it into the mash tun. The mash tun is basically a filter. There is a stainless steel braid at the bottom of an insulated cooler. The water goes into the cooler, then the grain gets added to the water. I stir the whole thing up (like making a big bowl of oatmeal!) and then the concoction sits for an hour. Over the course of that hour, all of the starch exposed in the cracked grains converts to sugar. That sugar will later act as yeast fuel, giving the little buggers something to munch on, a process which produces the alcohol in beer. After that hour, I drain the mash tun using my pump, and heat up two more batches of water. This water is called the sparge water. Sparging is the process of rinsing the grain of residual sugar, ensuring that your wort (unfermented beer) has the proper amount of sugar in it. You have to heat your sparge water to a higher temperature in order to forcibly stop sugar conversion. Then you repeat the draining process until you have your full boil volume in your kettle.

Once the full volume of liquid has made its way into the boil kettle, I fire up my burner and start it on its way to boiling. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the weather. While my wort is heating, I ready my hops additions. Different beer styles also have different hops schedules, but all beers follow the same basic rule of thumb. Your first addition, usually done right as the beer begins to boil, is a bittering addition. This is where the beer gets its bitterness. Hops additions with around 15 minutes remaining in the hour long boil are called flavor additions, and hops added closer to the end are aroma additions.

The recipe I made today uses three hops additions for a total of 2.5 oz. of hops. This is a pale ale, and is mildly hoppy.

THE BOIL

When the water reaches its final temperature, the wort begins to boil. Most beers will need to maintain a boil for a full hour. If you've ever tried Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA, it was boiled for an hour. Their 90 Minute IPA is boiled for an hour and a half. Generally speaking, the longer your bittering hops remain the boil, the more bitter your beer will be. That's why a beer boiled for a longer period of time is generally hoppier than one that has only boiled for an hour.

As the beer comes to a boil, the proteins from the grain coagulate at the top of the kettle, forming a foamy mess called break material. Break material is perfectly fine for the beer, but it needs to clear before you actually add your first hop addition. When the boiling wort breaks through the surface tension of the proteins, this is called the hot break. (There is also a cold break, which I neglect to mention in any of the videos. The cold break occurs when cooling the beer and all of those same proteins drop to the bottom of the kettle).

Once the hot break has occurred, you can add your first batch of hops and start your timer.

Continuing the boil is just a matter of adding your hops additions at the proper times. Once the hour is up, you are almost done!

CHILLING AND PITCHING

It is very important for the brewing process to chill your beer quickly. This leads to clearer beer down once it has fermented, as well as a better tasting brew. To cool quickly, I use an immersion chiller. This chiller is a length of copper coil that immerses itself in the wort. When the boil is over, cold water from a garden hose is pumped through the chiller, cooling the wort from the inside out. I also recirculate the wort. This means that the wort runs through my pump and back into the kettle. Because it is constantly moving, it cools much quicker.

The final step to making beer? Pitching the yeast. This just means adding the yeast to the wort. I ferment in a food grade 6.5 gallon bucket with a sealed lid. Once the yeast is pitched, the lid gets snapped on and I set up a blow-off tube, a length of tubing that runs into a container of sanitized liquid. This makes the fermentation vessel a closed system, meaning that nothing can get into the fermenting beer. Then, it's just a matter of patience!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you all enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment or ask questions!

#1 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

It's time again for another excursion into the wonderful world of homebrewing. Since the last time I posted a beer tutorial, I have purchased some new equipment and turned my modest turkey fryer set-up into an arcane amalgamation of beer brewing insanity, adding a pump and double burner. Hyperbole aside, my process has changed dramatically with the new equipment, and I decided that I would put together a new blog documenting my updated process. This post is going to basically teach you how to brew your own beer. I've included several videos designed to give you an overview of the process so that you can see what goes into brewing a batch (and also because Pascual asked me to), from mash in to yeast pitching. I'll even include definitions for those terms!

Apologies for my heavy breathing in all of these videos. I am getting over a cold and have been forced to mouth breathe for days!

HOMEBREWING VOCABULARY

MASH: The combination of heated water and grain that converts starch in the grain into sugar to serve as yeast fuel. Also used as a verb, "to mash."

SPARGE: The process of rinsing residual sugar from the grain after the mash. Heated water soaks the grain and is then drained out into the boil kettle. Also used as a verb, 'to sparge."

HOT LIQUOR TANK: A vessel for heating water used in the brewing process.

MASH TUN: The vessel used to contain the grain during the mash. This vessel is equipped with a filter to separate wort from the grain.

WORT: Unfermented beer - the sugary water drained from the mash tun into the kettle.

BOIL KETTLE: A boil kettle.

YEAST PITCHING: The process of adding the yeast to the unfermented wort.

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF EQUIPMENT

Let's begin at the end, shall we?

My basement is mostly finished, and I have a few beer-related rooms in it. My beer ferments out in my shop area, where I also store my gear. When the beer is finished, rather than waste precious time bottling it, I use five gallon kegs, called Cornelius kegs. They used to be used for soda, before the big companies switched to syrups. Here in the video you can see the two beers I currently have on tap. One is an American amber ale, and the other is the second test batch for Good Luck, Hop Batman - this year's PAX East beer.

This blog post will give you an overview of the brewing process from beginning to end.

First, a look at the common equipment used in brewing beer:

BOIL KETTLE

The boil kettle is used to actually boil the beer. All of the hops additions used throughout a brew day are placed in the boil kettle.

HOT LIQUOR TANK

The hot liquor tank is basically a holding vessel for heated water. There are multiple additions of water of varying temperatures, and all of them begin at the HLT.

MASH TUN

The mash tun is pretty much a filter for the grain bed. This is the vessel in which the starch in the grain converts to sugar.

WORT PUMP

This is my favorite new addition to my brewery. This high temperature pump pumps liquid from various vessels into my kettle.

This following video gives an overview of my equipment and setup:

BEGINNING THE BREW DAY

One of the first major steps to a successful brew day is making sure that all of your equipment is sanitized. I use an acid-based sanitizer called Star San (http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?products_id=513). Any process during the brew day can contribute to a bad beer. One of the most common problems that new brewers have is a contaminated batch due to an infection. Infections in your beer are easy to avoid if you ensure that everything that your beer will touch has been sanitized. You have to remember that yeast are living organisms - and they can be infected just like any other living thing. Unless you want a beer that tastes like feet (been there) then sanitize!

The next step is to heat up the first batch of water. The volume you use depends on your recipe. For the pale ale I brewed today, I used 2.5 gallons of water for this first step. Temperature also matters. When you stir your grain into the water, you are trying to hit a target temperature. This is called your mash temperature. This temperature varies from beer to beer, but the general rule of thumb is that a higher temperature (154-156 *F) will leave more of a residual sweetness in your finished beer, whereas a lower to medium temperature (150-152 *F) will allow the beer to finish a bit drier. You usually save the higher temperatures for sweeter beers, like stouts, porters, and double IPAs (in the case of a double IPA, the sweetness is meant to balance out the tremendous hop flavor). For this beer, my mash temperature needed to be 152 *F. I heat my water to well over that, to account for the temperature change from grain absorption. I heated my water to 170 *F.

One the water is heated, I drain it into the mash tun. The mash tun is basically a filter. There is a stainless steel braid at the bottom of an insulated cooler. The water goes into the cooler, then the grain gets added to the water. I stir the whole thing up (like making a big bowl of oatmeal!) and then the concoction sits for an hour. Over the course of that hour, all of the starch exposed in the cracked grains converts to sugar. That sugar will later act as yeast fuel, giving the little buggers something to munch on, a process which produces the alcohol in beer. After that hour, I drain the mash tun using my pump, and heat up two more batches of water. This water is called the sparge water. Sparging is the process of rinsing the grain of residual sugar, ensuring that your wort (unfermented beer) has the proper amount of sugar in it. You have to heat your sparge water to a higher temperature in order to forcibly stop sugar conversion. Then you repeat the draining process until you have your full boil volume in your kettle.

Once the full volume of liquid has made its way into the boil kettle, I fire up my burner and start it on its way to boiling. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the weather. While my wort is heating, I ready my hops additions. Different beer styles also have different hops schedules, but all beers follow the same basic rule of thumb. Your first addition, usually done right as the beer begins to boil, is a bittering addition. This is where the beer gets its bitterness. Hops additions with around 15 minutes remaining in the hour long boil are called flavor additions, and hops added closer to the end are aroma additions.

The recipe I made today uses three hops additions for a total of 2.5 oz. of hops. This is a pale ale, and is mildly hoppy.

THE BOIL

When the water reaches its final temperature, the wort begins to boil. Most beers will need to maintain a boil for a full hour. If you've ever tried Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA, it was boiled for an hour. Their 90 Minute IPA is boiled for an hour and a half. Generally speaking, the longer your bittering hops remain the boil, the more bitter your beer will be. That's why a beer boiled for a longer period of time is generally hoppier than one that has only boiled for an hour.

As the beer comes to a boil, the proteins from the grain coagulate at the top of the kettle, forming a foamy mess called break material. Break material is perfectly fine for the beer, but it needs to clear before you actually add your first hop addition. When the boiling wort breaks through the surface tension of the proteins, this is called the hot break. (There is also a cold break, which I neglect to mention in any of the videos. The cold break occurs when cooling the beer and all of those same proteins drop to the bottom of the kettle).

Once the hot break has occurred, you can add your first batch of hops and start your timer.

Continuing the boil is just a matter of adding your hops additions at the proper times. Once the hour is up, you are almost done!

CHILLING AND PITCHING

It is very important for the brewing process to chill your beer quickly. This leads to clearer beer down once it has fermented, as well as a better tasting brew. To cool quickly, I use an immersion chiller. This chiller is a length of copper coil that immerses itself in the wort. When the boil is over, cold water from a garden hose is pumped through the chiller, cooling the wort from the inside out. I also recirculate the wort. This means that the wort runs through my pump and back into the kettle. Because it is constantly moving, it cools much quicker.

The final step to making beer? Pitching the yeast. This just means adding the yeast to the wort. I ferment in a food grade 6.5 gallon bucket with a sealed lid. Once the yeast is pitched, the lid gets snapped on and I set up a blow-off tube, a length of tubing that runs into a container of sanitized liquid. This makes the fermentation vessel a closed system, meaning that nothing can get into the fermenting beer. Then, it's just a matter of patience!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you all enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment or ask questions!

#2 Posted by Matt (957 posts) -

Oh man I'm going to watch/read ALL OF THIS!

#3 Posted by Sparklykiss (1949 posts) -

I am so pumped that you're doing this! :D

Moderator
#4 Posted by mfpantst (2574 posts) -

Hot damn sexy homebrew boner, engage.

#5 Posted by Nux (2305 posts) -

You're posts just keep getting better and better. Great post man.

#6 Posted by Sparklykiss (1949 posts) -

And now that I've officially had the chance to take this apart piece by piece (super awesome, by the way) I have a few silly questions:

How many different flavors have you done that you can remember? Any favorites? Any that you'll be avoiding in the future?

What mistakes did you make the most when you started out? Feet flavored beer sounds terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible.

Moderator
#7 Posted by JoeyF (110 posts) -

This is so god damn great!

#8 Posted by louiedog (2335 posts) -

Great post. Thanks!

I really, really want to brew beer but, for reasons I won't go into, can't really do it where I live right now, at least not properly. In a couple of years when I'll be more settled it's high on my to do list.

#9 Posted by imjustbettr@yahoo.com (23 posts) -

This is awesome man, very entertaining indeed. Maybe I'll try it myself one day.

#10 Posted by TooWalrus (13137 posts) -

I'd loooooooove to get into this- someday, I'll have the time in money (but not today).

#11 Posted by jakob187 (21644 posts) -

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YES!

#12 Posted by damnitsted (52 posts) -

wonderful blog post. thank you for posting.

what type of camcorder are you using, it has great audio quality for it's size?

#13 Edited by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

@Sparklykiss: I've made DOZENS of different beers, but I tend to make a lot of IPAs and pale ales. I've tried to experiment with as many styles as I can just to give myself a broader palate, though.

I haven't made any massive mistakes, but the one that resulted in the foot beer was due to a fermenter lid that blew off in the middle of the night because of the pressure. I ended up with beer all over my walls and an infection in the batch. As long as you don't overfill your fermenter (which I did) that's not a huge issue!

@damnitsted: Surprisingly enough, that's an iPhone 3GS

#14 Posted by YoThatLimp (1880 posts) -

Man that was really cool and informative. I am definitely going to start looking into attempting to brew my own beer, thanks!

#15 Posted by DedBeet (273 posts) -

Great stuff! If you have a chance, do you thing you give some insight on how you constructed your setup? Curious what all you did to install the valves in the pots.

#16 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

@DedBeet: No problem! My setup has evolved over the years. I started with just the pot I now use as my hot liquor tank, and I used it to brew extract batches (there is no mash in an extract batch, you just use malt extract instead of grain). Down the line I upgraded to a turkey fryer, which is where the larger pot came in. This allowed me to do full boils of the volume I would need to end with around 5.5 gallons into my fermenter. Around this time I knew that I wanted to switch to a two-vessel setup, but I knew that it wouldn't make sense without two burners. I didn't add the valves until I knew I was going to get a pump.

I ordered my valves from Bargain Fittings, which tends to be one of the cheapest options for homebrew fittings. You can actually drill a hole with a 3/8 step bit that fits the valves perfectly, but since my larger pot is made of aluminum I screwed up the hole and had a welder friend fix it for me. The dip tubes on the inside are also from Bargain Fittings, and I use them because otherwise the space underneath the valve port won't drain. It's also important to use a hose with those types of valves, otherwise you won't get a proper siphon and not all of the liquid will drain.

The two valve ports are fitted with 1/2 inch ball valves and stainless steel Camlock quick disconnects, also from Bargain Fittings. These allow me to quickly swap hoses. This is a godsend with the new pump!

#17 Posted by emem (1961 posts) -

I'm not really a beer fan, but I always wanted to see how it all works and you did a great job explaining it.  
 
Oh and it wasn't boring at all, I was almost sad when it was over! ;P

#18 Posted by 2xtreme (37 posts) -

This was awesome!

#19 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

Thanks for all of the kind words, duders. I wish I had waited a few days to film those videos. I picked up a new phone yesterday and the video quality is infinitely better than my old 3GS - I suppose it will have to wait until kegging time.

#20 Posted by drewbert (2194 posts) -

Man, this is a great post! I find home brewing really interesting, but most of the literature out there makes my eyes glaze over whenever I try to read it. This, however, is easy to read and super informative. Love the videos, too. Looking forward to PAX East!

Staff
#21 Posted by Deusx (1903 posts) -

This is great, I wish I could do that. I suggest you show this to the Tested guys, I bet they would be more than happy to put your stuff on their site.

#22 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

I remember an episode a ways back of This Is Only a Test where Will was talking about his previous adventures in homebrewing. I may post this same thread over there, since they tend to enjoy a lot of the DIY action.

#23 Posted by heatDrive88 (2268 posts) -

Holy shit this is amazing. This makes me really want to get out and buy some equipment, which would be a terrible idea. A good idea, but a terrible idea.

#24 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

@heatDrive88: It's not prohibitively expensive to start brewing! You just need a four to five gallon pot and a stove! Here is a basic kit you can get for less than a hundred bucks, and here is a link to a basic wheat beer recipe kit!

#25 Posted by heatDrive88 (2268 posts) -

@Brewmaster_Andy said:

@heatDrive88: It's not prohibitively expensive to start brewing! You just need a four to five gallon pot and a stove! Here is a basic kit you can get for less than a hundred bucks, and here is a link to a basic wheat beer recipe kit!

Haha, no no, don't get me wrong.

The cost is not the issue, it's much more an issue regarding my already existing alcohol consumption, and the fostering of said alcohol consumption, haha.

#26 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

@heatDrive88: Oh but it is SO worth it! Just think, for the cost of a 30 rack of something shitty, you can make 52 12 oz. bottles of something decidedly delicious.

#27 Posted by Dunchad (472 posts) -

That was really interesting. As someone who has never done anything beyond adding yeast to some sugar water as a teen for some cheap booze, this seems quite elaborate and fun.

Too bad I live in a small apartment - might be interested to try it otherwise.

#28 Posted by dudeglove (7688 posts) -

I leave orange juice to ferment behind the radiator for a week. Works a charm.

#29 Posted by TomA (2531 posts) -

How much do you save on beer over the course of a year? That's the only reason I would ever do this.

#30 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

I have no clue how much I save in a given year, but the cost per beer is somewhere around 70 cents. That's for an IPA, though - a lighter beer with fewer hops is more in the neighborhood of 58 cents per beer. To put that in perspective, around here a 30 rack of Pabst Blue Ribbon is 21 bucks - 70 cents per beer.

If you're only interested in doing it to get drunk cheap or save money, don't bother - this is not the way to do it. With equipment costs and time investment, just hit the liquor store. But if you enjoy beer, like hands-on projects and DIY stuff, and can appreciate the craft that goes into the brewing process, then it is totally worth it.

There's something to be said for a hand crafted beer that you customized to your own specifications.

@Dunchad: Check out this thread!

#31 Posted by nazer858 (131 posts) -

This is really awesome, thanks for sharing! Been reading a lot about homebrewing lately - this post just may have been the thing to get me started.

#32 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (520 posts) -

For your viewing pleasure, the second test batch for Good Luck, Hop Batman:

#33 Posted by blacklab (1525 posts) -

Dude, nice work. For some reason I assumed I was the only homebrewer here! You captured the main points without going too far into some of the more arcane concepts. All grain brewing is way easier than most people think.

Dig your setup, too.

#34 Posted by D_Mac (117 posts) -

Andy, that was great, answered a lot of questions, I wish I had the time to do this myself. Looking forward to meeting you at PAX EAST 2012.