Reading the Recipe
In order to brew beer it is important to be able to read a recipe and know some basic terminology. Typically when you read a recipe there will be an ingredient list which may include a grain bill. A grain bill is simply a list of just the grains used in a recipe, and will only be included in partial mash or All Grain recipes. Partial mash recipes are those recipes that use a combination of grains and extracts to produce the fermentable sugars needed to make beer; while all grain recipes solely relies on grains to produce the fermentable sugars. If a beer does not use any grains it is an extract recipe, meaning it uses syrup and solid sources of fermentable sugars.
- ABV: Alcohol By Volume.
- Boil: Total amount of time which the wort boils.
- Final Gravity (FG): The ending gravity after fermentation, used to calculate the alcohol content of the finished beer.
- IBU: International Bitterness Units are the measure of bitterness in the beer.
- Original Gravity (OG): The starting gravity prior to fermentation attributes to the potential alcohol content of the finished beer.
- Primary Ferment: Refers to the time the finished wort ferments following the brewing process.
- Secondary Ferment: Refers to the time the finished wort ferments after primary fermentation.
- SRM : Standard Reference Method for determining the color of the beer; also used to describe the color of an ingredient such as malts and grains.
- Yield: The final volume of beer collected after conclusion of the brewing and fermentation processes.
The typical recipe will list the ingredients in the order in which they will be used in the brewing process. And because timing is critical to the brewing process, the some ingredients like hops and irish moss will be accompanied by the time in the process that the ingredient is used. However, when brewing beer, the time starts at the maximum boil time and counts backwards. Therefore an ingredient that is used first, or at the start of the boil, may be denoted with "60 minutes"; while subsequent ingredients will be denoted with a time less than the first ingredient.
Now that you have your equipment and can read the recipe, you are ready to brew an extract beer. The next step is to buy a kit or ingredients. You will have more brewing options when buying the ingredients yourself outside of a kit. While kits are convenient and easy to use, you will be limited as to the types of beers you can make with a kit simply due to the sheer number of recipes available and the limited numbers of kits. When you buy supplies for a beer recipe, use the recipe as a shopping list. You will most likely need to buy more supplies than the recipe calls for, and have to measure the amounts out when you get home. A digital scale is the most precise way of doing this. And don’t worry about the extra ingredients as you can always use them in future beers.
Before you start brewing it is important to first clean you work area and sanitize all the equipment. Sanitation is the most critical step in brewing as it prevents unwanted contaminants, mainly bacteria and wild yeasts, from getting into your beer and destroying it. Contaminated beer can be dangerous to consume and should always be disposed of. Sanitize equipment using a sanitizer designed specifically for brewing, and avoid using bleach. Bleach is alright in an emergency but should not be considered for use as a regular sanitizer. A good idea is to buy a spray bottle and fill it with sanitizer as well. Sometimes you may forget a piece of equipment and need to sanitize it quickly.
You want to brew as much wort as possible. Some instructions will only call for boiling about three gallons of water in the brew kettle. Then after brewing has completed you would have to top off the primary fermentation container with water to achieve the final desired volume. The problem with this strategy is that gluten free beer is inherently thinner, or waterier, than non gluten free beer. And watering down the wort only exacerbates the problem. Therefore, you want to add as much water to the brew kettle as possible to achieve the target volume taking into account water displacement of the ingredients, expansion of the water when it is heated, and evaporation of the wort when boiling. You also want to leave a little room to ensure the wort does not boil over. The wort tends to boil over when it achieves a hot break (caused by proteins in the wort that coagulate due to the rolling action of the boil) or after the first additions of hops.
- Although your household stove top is sufficient to bring the wort to a boil, many home brewers prefer to use a propane burner. This obviously should only be used outdoors. The advantage to a propane burner is the surface is larger than that of your stove top burner, and is flat. They are designed to be used with a large vessel such as a brew kettle. Another advantage, for those of use that have electric stoves, is propane heat is more instantaneous and offers better control over the temperature of the wort. Finally, in the event that the wort boils over, cleanup will be much simpler. Remember, in the simplest terms, you are boiling sugar water. And sugar burns, and will burn to your stove top leaving you with a very messy cleanup job.
- Fill brew kettle with the appropriate amount of water and place on heat source.
- While water is coming to boil, prepare the remaining ingredients in premeasured amounts so they may be added at the appropriate times.
- Once the water temperature is near a boil, add the extract as instructed per the recipe. The temperature of the extract will reduce the water temperature and you will again need to allow it to return to a boil.
- Allow the water and extract, which is now your wort, to come to a rolling boil. This is the stage that you are waiting for a hot break, and may occur for 5-20 minutes. This is also the first stage that your wort may boil over. A boil over is when the hot break billows over the side of the brew kettle. Reduce the temperature of the wort to control.
- After the hot break has been achieved and you have allowed the wort to boil for at least five minutes, you are ready for the first addition of your hops or other ingredient. When you add your first addition of hops, start by only adding a small amount. The alpha acids in the hops may cause a boil over. You may notice the head of the wort temporarily build up again. Once the head has subsided it is safe to add the rest of the hops addition. Add all ingredients as instructed per the recipe.
- Before the boil time has expired, you will want to prepare you ice bath or wort chiller. An ice bath is a way to cool the wort without any additional equipment. It is exactly what it sounds like, a sink of ice cold water that you place the brew kettle. You never want to allow any water or other contaminates in your wort. With an ice bath, you bring down the temperature of the wort by using cold water to draw the heat out of the wort. This uses a lot of water and a lot of ice, and does take some time to complete. Another option is to use a wort chiller to pump ice cold water through the wort and draw out the heat. A wort chill conducts temperature more efficiently, and with a constant supply of cold water it reduces the temperature of the wort very quickly.
- Once the boil time has expired, immediately cover the wort and begin to bring down the temperature of the wort. This is the stage that the wort is most vulnerable to contaminants such as bacteria and wild yeast. Make sure anything the wort comes into contact with is sanitized.
- Before the temperature of the wort has reached the range which you will pitch your yeast, you first must prepare the yeast. Some yeast may be dry pitched, meaning the contents may be poured directly into the wort. While other yeasts need to be prepared or started. Follow the instructions on the yeast package.
- Once the wort has reached the temperature range which the yeast me be pitched, it can be transferred to the primary fermentation vessel. You can rack the wort using a siphon, or pour the wort using a metal fine mesh strainer. Either way, you want to leave as much sediment behind while collecting as much wort as possible.
- Now that the wort has been transferred to the primary fermentation vessel, it needs to be prepared for the yeast. Using a medal spoon or whisk, stir the wort vigorously for 4-5 minutes. This aerates the wort and should produce a frothy head.
- Pitch the yeast.
- Cover the primary fermentation vessel and insert the airlock.
- Allow the wort to sit undisturbed in a dark area at 68-70 degrees for at least one week. This will also be the most active period of fermenting.
- After one week you may rack the wort to a secondary fermenting container. After another week the wort can be racked to a bottling bucket and bottled with priming sugar where it will continue to age.
Congratulations, you have just brewed your first extract brew!
All Grain Brewing Tutorial