Drinking your homebrew

Basic Brewing #5 breaks down the three basic steps that have been listed below for drinking the beer.

1. Refrigerating the Beer
2. Pouring the Beer
3. Drinking the Beer

After the beer has been bottled and you have waited a total of two weeks it will be ready to drink. Depending on the beer style, beers such as stouts and porters, benefit from aging. Some beers such as hefeweizens get worse after about a month or two. Another thing to note here is that homemade beer has a pretty good shelf life; I have had batches last up to 8 months with no noticeable decline in taste/quality.

Refrigerating the Beer

As a general guideline beer is best served from about 40 to 55 degrees. The darker a beer is the warmer it is to be served. I tend to chill about 2-4 beers at anytime in my fridge, as I drink them I replace them. This method keeps them aging in the closet and cools them just before someone drinks one of them.

Pouring the Beer

This is a very important step to fully enjoying your new homebrew. Since home brewer’s do not have the expensive filtration systems breweries have, we are stuck with a yeast layer at the bottom of our bottles. Avoid pouring this yeast layer in with the rest of the beer, yeast can have a laxative effect. To do this tilt the bottle gently and pour the beer slowly, so you do not disturb the yeast layer at the bottom. Leave the last half inch in the bottom of the bottle.

do not pour the yeast layer

do not pour the yeast layer

I advise washing the bottle immediately and letting it drain, this will help when cleaning and sanitizing for the next batch.

washing out a bottle, right after pouring the beer out of it

washing out a bottle, right after pouring the beer out of it

Drinking the Beer

Finally, the day has come to taste your month long creation. Take time to notice all of the qualities of your new beer. Evaluate the flavor, aroma, color, bitterness or sweetness, carbonation level and its overall body. Think about these attributes every time you have one of your new brews, this helps when checking the effects of aging. Ok so your beer tastes pretty good, what are you suppose to do next? Invite friends over, everyone loves free beer, get them to try it out and ask how they like it.

amazing hefe that I brewed in Jan 2009

amazing hefe that I brewed in Jan 2009

That’s it for the Basic Brewing Articles, go check out the Advanced Brewing Articles for more information spanning all kinds of topics in homebrewing . Thanks for reading and go brew more beer!

BrewMoreBeer bottle day

Basic Brewing #4 breaks down the six basic steps that have been listed below for bottling the beer.

1. Prepare and sanitize the equipment
2. Prepare and sanitize the bottles and caps
3. Prepare the priming sugar
4. Mixing in the priming sugar
5. Bottling
6. Storing the bottles

Once the beer has fermented  for a total of two weeks you will be ready to bottle the beer. Keep in mind that after you bottle the beer it will take about two to four weeks before the beer is ready to drink. Bottling the beer will take about an hour and a half to complete with cleaning time added.

Prepare and Sanitize the Equipment (10 minutes)

Gather all of the equipment mentioned in the introduction to this article that is listed in the bottle day section. Fill the bottling bucket with water and sanitizing solution(Beer Brite) and throw in the bottle filler, tubing, brush and the siphon (if you are using one). Whether you are using a bottle drying rack or a standard dishwasher rack make sure you sanitize that as well. Let this sit for about 5 minutes then remove everything and set it to dry. Leave the water in the bucket.

Prepare and Sanitize the Bottles and Caps (20 minutes)

You will need about 50 regular 12 ounce bottles or about 40 Grolsch style bottles to hold all five gallons of beer. You want to clean the bottles first then sanitize them. To do this I plug up one of my sinks for the cleaning portion and use the bucket with the sanitizing solution in the other sink.

dual sink setup described in text above

dual sink setup described in text above

If the bottles have been sitting around for some time and have mold in them make sure you use the bottle brush to clean them thoroughly. For cleaning the bottles I use a mild soap mixed with water, I fill the bottle with the solution, shake it and emptying it out completely.

bottle wash bath with a small amount of mild soap

bottle wash bath with a small amount of mild soap

From there I take the bottle and submerse it completely in the sanitizing solution (Beer Brite), empty it out and place on the drying rack.

sanitizing bottles in beer brite and water solution

sanitizing bottles in beer brite and water solution

Once all the bottles have been cleaned and sanitized rinse the bottle caps (if you are using them) in the sanitizing solution and place them on a paper towel. Drain the bottling bucket of the sanitizing solution and make sure it doesn’t have any debris from cleaning the bottles in it. Now that you have prepared/sanitized the bottles and equipment you can move on to preparing the priming sugar.

Prepare the Priming Sugar (5 minutes)

In order for the beer to be carbonated we add a bit of “priming sugar” to the beer before we bottle it. How does this work? It’s pretty easy, the small amount of yeast left inside each bottle combines with the new sugar to produce alcohol and CO2 just like in the fermenter, except this time there is no where for the carbonation to go.

primary sugar (corn sugar)

primary sugar (corn sugar)

A variety of sugars can be used, but I prefer corn sugar.  To prepare the priming sugar, boil one pint of water, as soon as it starts to boil add in ¾ cup of corn sugar or 2/3 cup table sugar.

mixing in the corn sugar to the boiling water

mixing in the corn sugar to the boiling water

Mixing in the Priming Sugar (5 minutes)

Now it is time, if you have a bottling bucket, to drain the beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket. Move the fermenter to a location higher than that of the bottling bucket, taking advantage of gravity. If you are using a fermenting bucket with a spigot then connect the plastic hose to the spigot and run the hose into the bottling bucket. If you are using a glass carboy as your fermenter then connect up the siphon and run it into the bottling bucket.

transferring beer from fermenter(carboy) to bottling bucket

transferring beer from fermenter(carboy) to bottling bucket

Next either turn the spigot or start the siphon and let the beer flow from the fermenter into the fermenting bucket.  Before adding the priming sugar take a sample of the young beer to be used to calculate the alcohol content, this would be the final gravity reading.  After gathering the sample continue toslowly pour without splashing the priming solution into the bottling bucket. If you do not have a bottling bucket, pour the solution very slowly, without splashing, directly into the fermenter.

transferring beer from fermenter(bucket) to bottling bucket

transferring beer from fermenter(bucket) to bottling bucket

Bottling the Beer (20 minutes)

Once the bottling bucket is full of the newly primed beer, it is ready to be bottled. Place the bottling bucket at a higher level then where you will be bottling and let gravity help out once again. Carefully fill each bottle with the bottle filler. Fill the bottle until the beer hits the rim of the bottle, then remove the bottle filler, this will provide adequate head space for the beer.

filling up a bottle using the bottle filler

filling up a bottle using the bottle filler

Next place a sanitized bottle cap on the bottle and crimp it using the bottle capper. If you are using grolsch style bottles, simply close the top without touching the seal. It is best to cap the bottles one at a time, the more you expose the beer to the elements, the more likely bacteria will get inside. Having a friend operate the capper while you fill the bottles can greatly help this process. It will also help if you have a wet rag around for a quick wipe of the bottles before storage. Once you have the all of the bottles filled; move onto the next step to learn more about storing the beer.

capping the bottles

capping the beer bottles

Storing the Bottles (2 minutes)

After all of the bottles have been filled and sealed they are ready to be put away for another 2 weeks to develop carbonation. The bottles should be stored in a cool dark location that keeps a constant temperature between 65-75 degrees. Usually this is the same location you kept the fermenter in. After two weeks have passed its time for the final step in the beer making process, drinking the beer.   Basic Brewing #5 – Drinking the Beer.

ferment_565_300

Basic Brewing #3 breaks down the four basic steps that are listed below for fermenting the beer.

1. Transferring the Wort

2. Adding Additional Water

3. Pitching the Yeast

4. Storing the Fermenter

Keep in mind that fermenting the beer will take about two weeks to complete. Once you have boiled and created the wort you will be ready for fermenting the beer.

Transferring the Wort (15 minutes)

Now that the wort has cooled to 80 degrees it is now ready to transfer from the pot to the fermenter (which should be clean and sanitized). Pour the wort into the fermenter using both the strainer and one of the hop bags. While pouring the wort you want the wort to splash inside the fermenter, this aerates it, which will help the yeast do their job easier later. Once all of the wort has been added to the fermenter you can move on the next step.

draining wort from brew pot to fermenter through hop bag and strainer

draining wort from brew pot to fermenter through hop bag and strainer

Adding Additional Water (1 minute)

Add additional water to the fermenter to bring the total up to 5 gallons. You should be adding about 1.5-2 gallons here to get the total in the fermenter to 5 gallons. The amount here will depend on how much you lost during your boil. I recommend using bottled water (use spring water, do not use distilled water) or at least carbon filtered water in case your city water is too hard or too soft.

Pitching the Yeast (1 minute)

Take the rehydrated yeast from earlier and swirl the bowl/cup to resuspend the yeast. Pour the yeast in a circular motion into the wort.

adding yeast to fermenter

adding yeast to fermenter

Storing the Fermenter (5 minutes)

Immediately after pitching the yeast cover the bucket with the lid or plug up the carboy and carry the fermenter to a cool dark location. Finally, put the airlock in place. This location is where the fermenter will sit for two weeks. Make sure the location has a stable temperature between 65-75 degrees; varying temps or extreme temps will cause off flavors in the beer or may even hinder the yeast from doing there job. I use a closet which has an average temperature of 70 degrees. Leave the fermenter alone, do not move it, shake it, or even play loud music. You will notice bubbles coming thorough the airlock about 12-24 hours after you pitched the yeast, they will continue for about 4-5 days. About 4-5 days after pitching the yeast the bubbles will slow down considerably.  Check out Racking Beer to a Secondary Fermenter to learn more about clarity and aging the beer during the fermentaiton process.

fermenter(carboy) with airlock on and stored

fermenter(carboy) with airlock on and stored

fermenter(bucket) with airlock on and stored

fermenter(bucket) with airlock on and stored

Once you have waited two weeks the wort, now “young beer,” will be ready for bottling the beer, Basic Brewing #4 – Bottling the Beer.

 

brew_day

Basic Brewing #2 will break down the six basic steps that are listed below for actually brewing the beer.

1. Clean and Sanitize Equipment
2. Steeping Specialty Grains
3. Adding the Malt Extract
4. Adding the hops
5. Getting yeast ready
6. Cooling the Wort

Keep in mind that brewing the beer will take at about 2.5 hours to complete. Once you have picked out the beer style and bought the ingredients  for the malt extract recipe you will be ready for brew day. Also note that all hops and yeast should be kept in the refrigerator until used.

Clean and Sanitize Equipment (15 minutes)

This is one of the most important steps in homebrewing, keeping your equipment clean and sanitized is an absolute necessity. To do so fill your fermenting bucket with water and the recommended amount of sanitizing solution, I use Beer-Brite. Then place anything that touches the cooled wort into the water. This should include but is not limited to the stirring spoon, funnel, strainers, hop bag, airlock(with rubber stopper), siphon, plastic hoses, and even the lid to the fermenter. Let all of these items sit in the water until about 15 minutes before use.

sanitizing equipment inside the fermenting bucket

sanitizing equipment inside the fermenting bucket

Steeping the Specialty Grains (30 minutes)

This step is not 100% necessary in extract brewing, but really helps in adding uniqueness and additional flavor to the overall beer. Essentially what you are doing in this step is soaking the grains in about 155 degree water for about 30 minutes to extract the necessary sugars from the grains.

Start off by buying the recommended grains in the recipe from your local brew shop or online. Have the grains milled; this can usually be done onsite at the brew shop or using a rolling pin at home. Pour two gallons of water into your brew pot and bring the temperature to exactly 155 degrees.  Once you get tired of using store bought spring water, check out our article on building a water filter for brewing, it gets the job done at just under $40.

adding the first two gallons of water

adding the first two gallons of water

Put the grains into the mesh bag and hang them into the water, just like if you were making tea. Make sure you keep the water constant between 158 and 152 degrees, let the grains soak for 30 minutes. While doing this, take your malt extract package and soak it in warm water (this helps when pouring it in the next step). After 30 minutes of steeping remove the grains. Now move on to adding the malt extract.

malted grains inside steep bags

malted grains inside steep bags

Adding the Malt Extract (5 minutes)

At this point your malt extract package has soaked in warm water for a bit and your grains have been steeped. Next, add two more gallons of water along with the malt extract and bring it all to a boil stirring so that the extract does not burn on the bottom of the pot. Stir until extract is essentially dissolved. Once you have a light rolling boiling, make sure your burner is not set too high, and move on to adding the hops. Keep in mind the liquid will foam up at the top of the pot. Occasionally this foam may boil over this is called a “hot break,” when it does cut the heat of completely and let it settle; repeat as necessary.

added addtional water along with malt extract

added addtional water along with malt extract

Adding the Hops (60 minutes)

Once you have added the malt extract and have the boil going; it is time to add the hops. I prefer using a hop bag, this can be purchased at you local home brew store or online. Hops are usually added two to three times during the boil. First, you will add the bittering hops, check the exact recipe for type and amount, and let them cook for 45 minutes. At the 45 minute mark you will add the second round of hops, called the aroma hops, and they will cook for 15 minutes. Note that other flavor additions may be added at his time including coriander, orange zest, cloves, and other spices depending on the recipe.  After waiting the final 60 minutes, cut off the burner and get ready to cool the liquid (now officially called “wort”).

added hops, just waiting as the boil continues

added hops, just waiting as the boil continues

Getting the yeast ready (5 minutes)

Quickly get the yeast rehydrated so that it will be ready when the wort is cooled down low enough. Add one cup of warm (95 to 105 degree) boiled water into a sanitized bowl/cup and add in the yeast, cover with plastic wrap and wait 15 minutes. In the meantime go to the next step and began cooling the wort. After 15 minutes have passed gently stir the yeast/water liquid and let it sit for another 15 minutes. After about 30 total minutes the yeast should be ready to put into the wort or in brewing terms “pitchable.”

Cooling the Wort (30 minutes)

The wort must be cooled to yeast pitching temperature (65 to 80 degrees) after the boil as quickly as possible. You can do this in a few different ways, I have a copper wort chiller pictured below that I use now, check out the advance section of the site for more details on it.  Another more basic way to do this is by placing the pot into a sink or bathtub and immerse it in ice water with added salt if possible. I used the sink, it seemed to be a bit more efficient. While the wort is cooling down make sure to check back on your yeast rehydration to stir it when the time comes. Another tip that helps cool quicker in a sink would be to move the ice water around the pot and not let it just sit there.  Once the wort is cooled measure its OG with a hydrometer, this will be helpful in calculating the beers alcohol content  later.

cooling the beer using a wort chiller

cooling the beer using a wort chiller

Keep in mind that you do not want any contaminants or cooling water to get into the pot. Once the wort temperature has reached 80 degrees move on to fermenting the beer,  Basic Brewing #3 – Fermenting the Beer.

This is the first in a series of articles that will go into the very basics into brewing your own beer.  Basic Brewing #1 will go over the different types of beer, the different ways to brew beer, where to find a recipe and what equipment is necessary when brewing.

Types of Beer

Basically there are two types of beers, Ales and Lagers. The type of beer is based on the type of yeast used. Ales use what is called a top fermenting yeast. The top fermenting yeast is very active between 65-70 degrees. A lager beer uses a bottom fermenting yeast which is very active at 45-55 degrees. In an effort to keep things simple, I will go over how to brew a classic ale throughout the Basic Brewing articles. Given the complexity of brewing lager beers, I will share more information about them further down the road. If you want more information on the different styles of beer, check out our Recipes section.

freshly poured ale

freshly poured ale

Two ways to make beer

Extract Brewing
This method usually uses unhopped malt extract along with hops during the boil. Sometimes specialty grains may be steeped into the boil to increase body and flavor. This method is easiest and I recommend it for your first few beers. This method will be used for our brief example in this article.

All-grain brewing
This method requires you to mill grains and soak them in water for an extend period of time, drain off the water and use it during the boil. This method is a lot more complex and I do not recommend it for your first beer.  Check out building a cooler mash tun to find out more on building your own all grain brewing equipment.

bag of malted grains, used in all-grain brewing

bag of malted grains, used in all-grain brewing

Find a Recipe

There are plenty of places on the internet to look and find specific beer recipes, but most of them will not lay down all the details that I do here on the site. There are plenty of recipes, both extract and all-grain, here at BrewMoreBeer.com check out our Homebrew Recipe Section. Once you find a recipe that suits your fancy, purchase all of the necessary ingredients at your local homebrew store or order them online from the various homebrew websites.

Equipment

Here is a basic checklist (most of these items can be found in a basic homebrew kit) to help make sure you have all the necessary equipment for brewing your first beer.

Brew Day

  • Boiling pot – A boil pot that can hold at least 6 gallons. (this will help when upgrading to all-grain)
  • Outdoor Gas Burner – aka Turkey Fryer, these work great and come with a huge 6.5 gallon pot
  • Stirring Spoon – Large metal or food grade plastic spoon for stirring the beer
  • Thermometer – I recommend getting one or two standard long brewing thermometers (I personally broke three digital probe thermometers from BB&B)
  • Strainers –A colander and wire mesh strainer work great when placed inside each other
  • Steep bag – Mesh bag often used in extract brewing
  • Hop Bag – At least 1 if not 2, they are very helpful.
  • Fermenter – 6 gallon plastic bucket with lid or glass carboy
  • Airlock for fermenter – Either bubbler type or 3 piece type work fine
  • Siphon — Essentially clear plastic tubing with a racking cane.(auto-siphon’s work great)
  • Sanitizer – Watered down Bleach or Beer-Brite, I prefer the Beer-Brite
  • Hydrometer
  • Kitchen Timer

Bottle Day

  • Bottle filler – Homebrew bottle filler
  • Plastic tubing – About 4 to 6 feet of it will do, it should be able to attach to the spigots on the buckets
  • Siphon – Same one used during brew day
  • Bottle brush – Comes with most brew kits, (can use baby bottle brush found at Walmart)
  • Bottling bucket with spigot – A must have for simplicity, the extra 20 dollars is worth it
  • Drying rack for bottles – Completely optional, but helpful.

Note that bottle day equipment can vary depending on the bottles used.
Regular Beer Bottles

  • 50, 12 Ounce bottles are necessary to fill 5 gallons
  • Bottle caps – Must not be used!
  • Bottle capper – Homebrew bottle capper

Grolsch Style Flip Top Bottles

  • 40, 16 Ounce bottles are necessary to fill 5 gallons
brew closet -- pots, buckets, strainers...

brew closet — pots, buckets, strainers…

Once you have picked out a recipe and purchased all of the necessary brewing equipment you are ready to move on to actually brewing beer, Basic Brewing #2 – Brewing the Beer.