Quick Guide to Homebrewing

17 Apr

Before I began homebrewing beer, I was always under the impression that it was some highly technical (unachievable) task that required meticulous skill. Well, the last part isn’t too far off (the meticulous part), but this homebrewing isn’t something that requires you to have gone to college, participated in the math club or attended Space Camp. Brewing is about 3 simple rules:

  1. Sanitize
  2. Sanitize
  3. Sanitize

Seriously. Without sanitized equipment (including bottles and caps, yeast packets, scissors, auto siphon, tubing, thermometer, stirrers, fermentors, lids and YOUR HANDS), you would spoil your batch of beer by getting it contaminated.

I want to share my limited knowledge about how to get your first batch done successfully. Most of all, I want you to share in the feeling that any homebrewer gets when he shares his first good batch of beer with friends and they say, “You made this? Can I get one more?”. It is a feeling that only the gods could feel.

Here is a list of equipment you’ll need for your first batch. The items with * next to them are not needed, but recommended as you move along in your brewing career.

  • 3-5 gallon brew kettle
  • tall stirring spoon (plastic is ideal)
  • primary fermentor pale or carboy (5 gallon)
  • auto siphon with bottle filler (attachment)
  • long plastic tubing
  • 48 brown pry off bottles
  • 60+ bottle caps
  • bottle capper
  • scale*
  • wort chiller*
  • thermometer
  • sanitizer and cleanser
  • airlock
  • bottling bucket
  • bottling bucket spigot
  • bottle brush
  • scissors
  • funnel
  • timer
  • A beer to drink while you rock this out
  • hydrometer*

Below is a basic beer kit for your use. Most, not all, will come with the following ingredients. I am going to pretend this kit is an extract kit (no grains to steep):

  • Liquid Malt Extract (LME) or Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  • Yeast packet
  • Hop packets
  • Priming sugar
  • Speciality grains or additions*

So here we go. *For my and your benefit, I’m going to stick with the process I know. No need for me to blog on something I haven’t done before. Share your methods or tips I missed in this post. Here are my steps:

1. WORT

Wort is the foundation of beer. Wort is basically unfermented (and uncarbonated) beer. To get wort, you will boil about 3 gallons of water in the brew kettle. Boiling temp for water is 212F. While the water is coming to a boil (and if you LME), turn on the kitchen sink and run hot water over the LME buckets. This will help you out when you pour the LME into the boiling water (otherwise, prepare to watch grass grow). THEN, crack open a cold brewskie and sip on it while you have a moment of solace.

Once your water is to a boil, you will remove the kettle from the heat source (temporarily) and quickly and efficiently pour/stir in the LME. NOTE: If you are using DME, you will want to avoid pouring this in quickly as the powder will easily clump and become difficult to mix in. Once all of the LME has been poured and stirred into the water, return the brew kettle back to the heat source and bring to a boil. Once back to a boil, read your instructions sheet, but most likely you will add in your first hops addition (always stirring). Be prepared for boil overs at this time. If your wort begins to boil over, remove from heat source and stir smoothly and quickly.

After the first hop addition (depending on style of beer), be prepared to monitor and continuously stir the boiling wort for ONE HOUR. You will most likely have one or two more hop additions for the next hour. As you get more into the brewing thing, you will learn that the times that you put hops into your boiling affect flavor and aroma. Also, you may have a type of beer that requires a specialty addition (I used coriander and bitter orange peels for my Belgian Witbier).

ONE HOUR IS UP! Your wort is done boiling, and you just recently added your last hop addition. Turn off your heat source and place your brew kettle in your sink (sanitized lid on).

2. COOLING WORT

After your wort has finished boiling and is in the kitchen sink with the lid on, pour the couple bags of ice (a backup bag of ice never hurts) around the brew kettle. After the ice is in the sink, turn on the water on and fill the sink with water (mixing the ice with water helps give the kettle a consistent temperature throughout. NOTE: Make sure your sink has the plug in. I like to add a lot of salt to my water/ice mix to lower the temperature just a little bit. I’m not a chemistry major, but do recall that salt lowers the freezing temperature (which in result would allow our water to be below 32F without turning into an ice cube).

The point of cooling off the wort is to get it to a temp that the yeast can react with it. If it stays at 150F when you add your yeast, you’ve just ruined that packet of yeast. You’ll also learn in your adventures that some yeast (lager yeast) needs colder temps to become effective. For our purposes, our Ale only needs to be cooled below 70F. Use your SANITIZED thermometer to keep track of your temps in the kettle.

3. PRIMARY FERMENTATION

Once your wort is down below 70F, it is almost time to relax! With your SANITIZED hands, retrieve your SANITIZED primary fermenting bucket (try using a bucket on your first attempt (if you already have a carboy you’ll need a funnel) and pour your wort into the bucket (with VIGOR!). At this point, add enough water to the primary fermenting bucket so the level raises to 5 gallons. Once the 5 gallons of wort is in the fermenting bucket, take your SANITIZED yeast packet and scissors, and open the yeast packet and pour into the bucket. After the yeast is in the wort, retrieve your SANITIZED stirring spoon and vigorously stir the wort/yeast for one minute. This is the one time in the brewing process that aerating (letting oxygen be introduced) your wort is highly recommend. I’ll explain the differences between “aerating” and “oxidizing” in a future post.

Once you have stirred your wort/yeast, it is time to grab your SANITIZED airlock and lid and place them on your bucket! Make sure that your lid has a nice tight seal around the entire bucket. Once your lid and airlock are on, place a tbsp or two into the airlock. NOW… It’s time to wait. Finish that beer after you bring your fermenter to a room temp location that is dark and quiet. I wouldn’t recommend your kid’s playroom or your sisters bedroom. Also, try to avoid leaving it in a very cold location.

It’s been a day and your bubbler (airlock) is BUBBLING! My friend, your yeast is eating up ALL that sugary extract and hops and pooping out alcohol. Wait until your bubbler stops, and then give it a day or two more. I normally leave my primary fermenter alone for 1-2 weeks.

Some of you may choose that you want to put your beer into a secondary fermenter. This requires a little work, but nothing an avid brewer isn’t willing to take on. For secondary fermenting, you will need to grab a SANITIZED auto siphon, plastic tubing and secondary fermenter (preferably a plastic carboy with plug).

4. SECONDARY FERMENTATION

You’ve SANITIZED all your equipment, and are ready to rack, or transfer, your beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. The reason I suggest using a plastic carboy is for two reasons. Carboys have the advantage of being transparent which makes siphoning your beer WAY easier. You don’t have to worry about guessing as to the level of sediment (yeast, hops, malt) at the bottom, therefore avoiding getting that in your bottles on bottling day.

To rack, you will place the primary fermenter (with beer) above the level of your secondary fermenter (empty). Place your siphon, with tubing attached and in the secondary fermenter, into the primary fermenter and work your way down the fermenter as your level of beer goes down. IMPORTANT NOTE: Avoid letting air into your beer at this point. Aeration or Oxidation is NOT GOOD at this time. Once all of your beer has been racked, you are one step closer to drinking the damn thing! Place the plug into the carboy and the airlock with water back into the plug.

5. BOTTLING DAY!

Your secondary fermenter stopped bubbling and is ready for you to bottle! Before you bottle, you will need to add priming sugar into your beer. Add 2/3 cups priming sugar to 2 cups of water and heat on stove until it all dissolves.  Adding sugar to your fermented beer is going to give each bottle a self-contained carbonation.

With all of your equipment and bottles/caps SANITIZED, you are ready to go! You will rack your beer from the secondary fermenter to the bottling bucket (which is sanitized and has the bottling spigot in it). Add the dissolved priming sugar into the bottling bucket and use the SANITIZED auto siphon to stir the beer/priming sugar together. Place the plastic tubing onto the spigot and attach the bottle filler to the other end of the tube. Open up the bottling spigot and press the filler into the bottoms of each beer bottle until the just overfill (When you remove the filler, the level will go down about 1″. CAP’EM with your… yes you guessed it, your SANITIZED caps and bottle capper.

5 gallons of fermented beer will give you about 48 brews. Not a bad payload. Make sure you have extra caps with you (stuff happens).

6. CONDITIONING AND REFRIGERATING 

You will need to let your bottles condition (sit, AGAIN) for about 2-3 weeks at a room temp of around 65-73F. Some people wait one week and then drink, but a friend of mine, Scott Kilgo from Portland, told me this… “At week one, try one beer. At week two, try another. Finally, at week three, try another. You be the judge”. If you thought the beer was completely carbonated after 1 week, just go for that! Another tip I was given was to do a “slow roll” of your beer while it conditions.  To slow roll, just slowly flip over your beers and let the sediment and yeast get active again.

Three weeks has gone by and your beer is ready!!! ALMOST. Don’t forget to put it in the refrigerator and get cold! Then… Sit back, and reap the rewards… Granted your beer didn’t spoil because you FORGOT TO SANITIZE SOMETHING?! 🙂 Enjoy the brew!

Your beer is served...

Your beer is served…

Comments…? I would love to know what you thought about my description. I’m sure I mistakenly forgot to add something in. Also, you’ll learn that brewing isn’t just done ONE way. There are various techniques and ways that people brew beer. Let me know if you think mine works well.

Prost!

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P90X VS. Beer

12 Apr

Often times I hear that beer is bad for you. Boo. I don’t agree with that. With my current limited knowledge of homebrewing beer, I’ve realized that I put a bunch of water into what comes out as beer. My first two brewing experiences were very enjoyable. I have learned HOW beer is made and WHAT to do and not to do WHEN making it.

As I sit in my living room typing this, I am sipping on my pilsner, listening to DMB and trying to take in the cool”er” air of my apartment (which my workplace did not have today. Thanks). Over the past week I’ve treated myself to, for lack of a better word, shitty food for the body. See, I am beginning P90X on Monday, and that means DIET! Now my friends and coworkers will definitely say that I’ve talked too much about this P90X, but I the fact is that I’m nervous and can’t stop thinking about it!

I’m by no means a LARGE man, but I’ve put on a little beer gut over the past couple years (post-college gut), and summer is quickly approaching (it was 91F in D.C. the other day?!). I’ve decided to do P90X to feel better, get stronger and… who am I kidding. P90X means NO BEER!!! Or does it?

Facts about beer (not NattyLight):

1. Beer is about 95% water and 5% alcohol

2. Beer has a good amount of varying vitamins (granted it isn’t much)

3. All this talk about “fewer carbs in a beer” is BULL. An average beer only has about 150 calories. The average person needs about 2000 calories per day (assuming their not doing P90X) and a banana has 120 calories and a VERY high sugar content.

Knowing this about beer, I’m more inclined to have a brew with a clear conscious while doing P90X. Maybe not “WHILE” but after the workouts. 🙂 While beer is on the “can intake” list, many of my favorite foods have been bumped:

1. Juicy Lucy burgers

2. LOADED omelets

3. Cinnabons

4. Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches

5. so on…

Any tips on how to not go insane by removing beer completely but maintaining my strict diet schedule for P90X? I’d love to hear.

In the meantime, it’s important that YOU have a beer for me. I’d love to hear about it. I’m sure I’ll sneak a couple away every week.

This is me…

11 Apr
Minnesota through and through.

Minnesota through and through.

Hi. My name is Scott, and I am new to this whole “blogging” thing, but I thought I’d give it a go.

My buddy and I recently started homebrewing around the same time   he has taken advantage of this whole blogging craze (while I’ve been sitting by the wayside), and he’s been reaping the benefits ever since. I just hope I can stay committed to this.

A little about me (because this is really going to be the only post you ever read about me)…

I was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I went to college in Grand Forks, ND and studied Airport Management (what?!) and Spanish. I also learned how to drink beer (cheap, crappy, watered-down, so-called “beer”). Well, actually… that isn’t entirely true. I learned how to drink real beer when I graduated and actually started making money at (you won’t believe it) an association that represents airports around the world.

I have been out in Alexandria, VA for the past three years, and have done a lot in that time. That being:

1. Joined a running club, hockey team, roller hockey team, soccer team and rock climbing gym

2. Started back up with swing dancing in D.C.

3. Welcomed my best friends to D.C. (where they also just moved)

4. Rekindled a friendship with a buddy from a college study abroad trip

5. Found my roots (of being a Minnesotan) by becoming a fisherman and huntsman (thanks to my buddy/roommate)

I only hunt to perfect my zombie killing skills.

I only hunt to perfect my zombie killing skills.

6. The point of this blog… STARTED HOMEBREWING!!!

My cousin Zach, probably the coolest kid on the block, got me this homebrew kit from Northern Brewer (yeah, I’ll definitely give them a shoutout), and I haven’t really slowed down since.

Big ole' catfish!

Big ole’ catfish!

I was one of those guys that wanted to jump right in to all-grain brewing, but I had a few things in the way. The extract kit that my cuz gave me, lack of knowledge as to how all-grain brewing really worked (effectively), and $$$. It was time to acquire the skills, tools and knowledge to obtaining my ultimate dream. Starting my own microbrewery.

YEAH. I know what you’re thinking… Another microbrewery dream, and another guy that doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Au contraire. I know a few things…

1. This whole “you need to get a real job out of college” mentality is a little broken (another post for another day)

2. I LOVE beer.

3. I LOVE making beer.

4. I LOVE having my friends try my beer and say, “This is actually pretty good. Can I have another?”.

5. I know business… I studied it. I’ve lived it.

Belgian Wit! Turned out pretty good...

Belgian Wit! Turned out pretty good…

I grew up hearing about how homebrewed beers were something to “watch out for”. Maybe back in the day, first batches were always something to watch out for, but brewing (from my first two experiences) is actually quite simple. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. It’s compleletely possible for ANYBODY, whether it be your first homebrew or your first 15,000 gallon batch, to spoil a beer. I’m hopeful that my blog will be a place that you can go to hear funny stories, learn about craft beer and brewing, and learn how to brew your own beer. Maybe while I’m at it, my writing skills will be improved (who knows…  I’m more confident that I can start my own brewery).

Bottling was NOT as easy as I thought it would be...

Bottling was NOT as easy as I thought it would be…

For now, I hope you will follow my blog and comment on my posts!

Oh… in case you were wondering, Boeser Brau came from my last name and my heritage (I suppose). My great grandparents came over from Germany and Ireland in the late 1800’s to farm and live a freed man’s (woman’s) life. When they came through Ellis Island and gave their name Böser, pronounced Boozer (yeah yeah, laugh it up), it was documented as “Boeser”. My family pronounces it Besser. Anyway, enough history… Böser in German means: wicked man, evil, corrupt and bad… I’m not against that. Bräu simply means Brew. Boeser Brew is my site, and it’s my future brewery name! (hmmm… should I copyright that?)

Well… That’s it for my first ever blog. Happy drinking and reading!

Prost!

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