In this part of the first Craft Beer Academy’s Home-Brew Club, we move on from the explanation of the kit and ingredients, and go right into the instructions. The kit I used came with instructions, but I altered them a little bit to make them easier to understand. I always feel something is left out of the instructions I have followed in the past, so I am doing my best to explain everything in the instructions as much as possible. This way, I hope you have a stress-free brew and don’t have the learning pains some of us have had in the past. Please read all of this before you start, and once you do, check out my simplified instructions here.
Well, enough introduction. Let’s see those instructions.
You will hear this over and over again, but cleanliness is a must for brewing. While brewing can be messy work, you must keep everything clean and sanitized that touches the beer. This means the utensils, pots, thermometers, and even the counter you are setting your supplies on! The crazier you are about cleaning, the better your beer will be. As we talked about in the post on Flavor, one of the biggest causes of off flavors is bacteria that comes from poor sanitization. A little extra work now will keep your beer tasting great. For this, there are two things we use. The first is a heavy duty cleanser. For this, I prefer Straight-A Premium Cleanser. This is great for cleaning everything from your carboy to your brew pot and utensils, as well as bottles when its time for bottling. Next, and probably most important, is the sanitizer. We mentioned it before, but Star San is the best there is for sanitizing everything you brew with. This awesome sanitizer goes a long way, so make sure to read the measurements on the back.
TIP: A tip I learned a while ago was to use a wallpaper tray for all my sanitizing. This is a 22″ long narrow tray that holds everything in sanitizer water while you brew. Bonus, it makes sanitizing bottles way easier than by hand. They are really cheap, and even good for storing your larger brew tools, like the auto siphon. I can’t say enough how much I recommend this.
Obviously water is one of the biggest parts to beer. You need to make sure the water you use is good, balanced water.The best way to do this is to use spring water. I bought 5 1-gallon bottles of spring water for $.75 at a beer distributor. This works fine, but you may want to get a 6th, in case you spill any, or you need more after some boils off. I would recommend against distilled water, as beer does need some calcium and other minerals to ferment correctly, and distilled water does not have these.
On the the Brew Instructions
Now that the water idea is out of the way, the first step is to Add 2.5 gallons of water to your brew pot. Make sure the brew pot is at least 16 quarts for this. an 8 qt. stock pot is only 2 gallons, and you will be adding 2 cans of extract to the 2.5 gallons of water, so you definitely need the larger pot. Here is a great 20 Quart pot. This should be fine for doing extract brews, but if you plan on moving to all-grain, a larger pot will definitely be necessary.
Once the water is in the brew pot, start heating on high until the water reaches 160* F. Once the water reaches 160* F, it’s time to start the mini-mash.
Add the 1lb of grain to the steeping bag. Tie a loose knot in the top of the bag, keeping it off the bottom of the pot. Once the water reaches 160* F, drop the bag in, leaving the knotted end hanging out. Make sure that when you are taking your temperature measurements, you are measuring from a few places in the pot, and never touching the sides/bottom with the thermometer. This will give odd readings. The bag stays in the water for 20 minutes. Keep the temperature at 160*, measuring it every 3-5 minutes. Temperature is very important at this point. Now, mind you, a ~5 difference will not hurt you, so don’t freak out. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. After 20 minutes have elapsed, pull the bag out by the knotted end, allowing it to drip into the pot. Don’t squeeze the liquid out, let it drip out until it mostly stops dripping. You can now discard of the steeping bag and grains. Your water has now become wort (pronounced wert)
The next step once you have the steeping bag out is to start to boil the wort. Turn the heat on high until it starts to have a slow, rolling boil. Reduce heat to keep this slow, rolling boil steady. Once the wort starts to boil, add ONE of the cans of LME (liquid malt extract) to the brew pot.
TIP: Run the can under hot water for a few minutes before opening it. LME is like maple syrup, the warmer it is, the easier it is to pour. Do not heat it any other way than hot water from your tap. Also, make sure to sanitize your can opener, as well as the can top itself after running under water. If you question whether you should sanitize something or not, do it.
As you pour the LME into the wort, stir continuously to make sure it does not caramelize on the bottom of the pot. This would ruin your beer. Continually stir until the can of LME is empty and the pot has returned to a slow, rolling boil. Once this happens, you will move on to the hops.
Once the wort has returned to a boil, add the 2 oz. of Cascade bittering hops, stirring them in. Sprinkle them in slowly to make sure they mix in completely. You will noticethe wort turning slightly green at this point.
Make sure the wort has fully returned to a gentle, rolling boil, and let it boil for 40 minutes. Make sure to check every few minutes to make sure you aren’t boiling over and that you gently stir a few times during this part of the boil. A few minutes before your 40 minutes are up, start running the second can of LME under hot tap water. This will prepare it for addition. When the 40 minutes are up, add the second can, stirring as you add it to make sure it mixes in totally. The same as above.
Once this has been added, set your timer for 15 minutes and, as above, check every few minutes to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Once the 15 minutes are up, you will add the 1.5 oz. of Wilamette aroma hops. These get added somewhat slowly and stirred in, just as above.
You will continue the boil for 5 more minutes, then it’s time for the ice bath. While this 5 minute boil is finishing, it’s a great time to prepare your ice bath. Find a sink that will fit your brew pot in it, and fill it with ice and water. For a brew this size, I recommend 3-4 regular bags of ice, or 1-2 XL bags of ice.
TIP: I add salt to my ice bath and prepare it about 10-15 minutes before I need it, so the salt can do it’s magic. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, so the ice will melt, but will make the water colder than freezing, which means a quicker cool-down time.
Ice Bath Time
When the last 5 minute boil is up, it’s time to stop cooking your wort and cool it down as quickly as you can. DO NOT add ice to your wort, only cool it from the outside of the brew pot. Constantly check your temperature, and once it reaches 70* F, it’s time for the next step. Remember, the quicker you can cool the wort, the better your beer will be. This is why experienced home-brewers use things like Wort Chillers.
Transfer to Fermentor
Once the wort reaches 70* F, you need to siphon it into your clean, sanitized carboy. Use the auto-siphon to transfer the wort, but make sure to leave the trub, or sediment, from the bottom. If you get a little of it, that is totally fine. Just try to leave as much in the pot as possible. Once the wort is in the fermentor, it’s time to add the rest of the water. Add the remaining 2.5 gallons of water, and any more that is necessary, to reach the 5 gallon mark. Make sure to mix the carboy thoroughly by shaking it to make sure the water is mixed in with the wort fully.
Once the wort is fully mixed in the carboy, it’s time to take your OG, or Original Gravity, reading. using the small container the hydrometer came in, fill it with wort by pouring the wort into it. Next while over the sink, place the hydrometer into the cylinder. Make sure the bubbles are gone from the top, and that the hydrometer is in the middle of the tube, and take your reading. It should be in the range of 1.051-1.055. More water will make your reading lower. If it is too low, at this point, there isn;t too much you can do, so I recommend testing after adding the remaining 2.5 gallons, and use this reading to see if you need any additional water. Make sure to record this reading somewhere, as you will need it when fermentation is complete. When done, dump out the wort you used for the reading. DO NOT add it back.
Pitching The Yeast
Ok, we’re almost done. Now it’s time to pitch the yeast. Pitching is a brewing term for adding yeast. You will open the packet you got in the kit and carefully dump the contents into the wort. Once you add it, cover the top of the carboy and shake the hell out of it. Please be careful in this step, as it’s easy to drop the carboy or let your hand off and spill it everywhere. Shake it and mix it up as much as you can safely. This would be a terrible way to end your first brew if you spilled it.
Finishing It Up
Once you have mixed and aerated the wort with the yeast added, it’s time to seal it up and wait. Place the cork in the top of the carboy, and prepare the airlock. To prepare the airlock, you add some sanitizer water to the top of the airlock, place the bowl-like piece over the center so it is partially in the water, and place the top on it. Once this is ready, palce it in the opening in the cork. With this, the top should be totally sealed. Here is a picture of what the airlock looks like assembled:
Your airlock may look different, but if it does, there should be instructions with it on it’s use. If you need help wit this, leave a comment below and I can try my best to help you out.
UPDATE: After brewing, I am updating this step slightly. Check out my post on Fermenting to see what you can do at this step to make it better
Letting It Go
Once the airlock is in place, it’s time to leave the carboy in a dark, cool, temperature steady corner and let it go for a few days. You should see bubbles starting to come out in the airlock within 24 hours. This means the yeast is working. After about 7 days you should notice the bubbles have mostly stopped. Once the bubbles have stopped, it’s time to take a FG, or Final Gravity, reading do the math, and make sure you’re in the range you should be in. If everything works, it’s time to bottle.
We will cover bottling a little later. For now, That’s about it. Here is the instructions list for my specific kit. It has the specific instructions the maker of the kit recommends. Here is my shortened list, think of it more like a checklist than this whole post.
That’s it! Hopefully this wasn’t too long winded, but I know I always want more instructions than less, especially when I’m starting. So here they are. Check them out, and tomorrow I will post the step-by-step of the brew itself. I had an issue with the video, but I will have audio to go along with what I did, pictures of everything, and what issues I had. At the end of this series, I will post all of this as documents you can easily download and print. Until then,