Monday, March 04, 2013

Beer Week: Homebrewing Essentials

*Disclaimer: This post is intended for people of legal drinking age, 21 and older. Drink responsibly.*

I hope you all are ready - this week I'm handing the reins over to my husband for BEER WEEK! He started homebrewing in September (6 months ago) and when I asked him if he wanted to share his expertise on my blog, he was very excited! :) So without further ado, here's Nick:

Hi all! Household 7 (AKA: Hubby) is commandeering the blog this week. We’re going to learn about brewing your own beer, so ladies, grab your man and get ready!

I started brewing because most of the domestic beers that I drank just did not live up to my standards. Until I discovered craft brews like Great Lakes Brewing Co., Dogfish Head, and others, I thought Bud, Coors, and beers like those we’re all to really choose from. The reality is that there are SO many types of beers and so many things you can do, that it’s mind boggling. 

Keep in mind that brewing beer can be time consuming. The actual brewing process can take a few hours and waiting for it to be ready can try your patience. Some beers can be ready in as little as four weeks, while more hefty beers can sometimes take up to a year and must age like wine. Every beginner brewer makes mistakes, but beer can be forgiving and usually time can heal any mistake you make….as long as you keep the first rule in mind: Sanitation. Sanitation is key. Your fermenting beer makes a great home for yeast….but also a great home for bacteria. You want the yeast to thrive and the bacteria to stay out. There are a number of products to sanitize with, but we’ll talk about that later.

Before we get started, be sure to check your local and state laws in regards to homebrewing and remember that it is ILLEGAL to sell your homebrew. Also, wait until the end of the week to get started as I will be covering different topics on different days. When you find a recipe you think you will like, remember to do your research on the specific style.

Let’s get started!

This week, we will be doing what is called extract brewing. It is an easy way for beginners to make their own beer. Rather than using whole malted grains, we will be using extracts. These are simpler to work with, but also limit the options you have. You can make a GREAT batch of beer with extracts.

Today we will be discussing equipment and ingredients:
Pictures and prices can be found on the Homebrewing Pinterest board.

What will you need?

  • A boiling pot (stainless) that can hold at least 2-4 gallons of water. This is what you will “cook” your beer in.
  • A spoon to stir with ( I like to use wood)
  • A thermometer
  • A hydrometer: This is a tool used to measure density, also called specific gravity. In order to determine how much alcohol is in your beer, take a measurement in the beginning, and one when the beer is ready to drink. The difference will tell you how alcoholic your beer is.
  • A fermenter: This will be your container that will hold your beer while it is fermenting. For most recipes, you will need two…or what is referred to as a primary and a secondary. When your beer ferments, the yeast eats the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2. Yeast is a living organism that reproduces. After a week or so of fermentation, the yeast will drop out of suspension and settle at the bottom. You do not want to keep your beer on this “yeast cake” for too long, or it will produce off flavors. There are many types of fermenters you can use, but the two basic ones are plastic food grade buckets with an airtight lid and grommeted hole for and airlock, or a glass carboy. It would be best to buy from a homebrew supplier. I suggest using the plastic bucket for beginners, because they are cheap and easy to clean.
  • An airlock: Water sits in the airlock allowing the CO2 produced to bubble out while keeping air contaminated with bacteria from getting into your fermenter. It vents the pressure from the CO2 that the yeast produces so that you don’t end up with a “beer bomb” in your kitchen.
  • An autosiphon (and length of hosing): This will allow you to transfer your beer from one vessel to another with a very low risk of contamination or excessive aeration.
  • Bottling bucket: This is a bucket with a spigot for bottling your beer.
  • Bottles/caps/capper
  • Bottle filler: This is a tube with a spring loaded tip on it that you lower into your bottle pressing the tip against the bottom of the bottle, depressing the spring and allowing beer to flow into the bottle. This is to reduce aeration and risk of contamination.
  • Sanitizer: Use this to sanitize ANYTHING that will touch the beer. There are many different kinds, but I prefer “one-step” no rinse sanitizer for its simplicity. This kills any bacteria on surfaces, while keeping those surfaces safe for food. It is NOT recommended to use bleach for sanitizing. 
NOTE: Sanitizing and cleaning are NOT the same thing. Be sure to clean all your equipment before and after each use and to sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Malt extracts: These will be your primary source of fermentables. They are what make beer a beer. Basically, this is just an extract of malted grains. There are many types to choose from and what type of beer you want to make will determine what type of malt extract you should use.
  • Hops: This is what gives beer a bitter flavor. Some people like more hops and some like less. Hops contribute to both flavor and aroma and again, what type of beer you want to make will determine what type of hops you should use, how much you should use, and when to introduce them into the beer.
  • Yeast: These little guys will eat the sugars and produce alcohol and CO2. Again the type of yeast you should use depends on what kind of beer you want to make. There are many different strains and each type will lend its own flavor profile to your beer. You will want to keep the yeast refrigerated until use.
  • Adjuncts: These can be anything from honey to chili peppers to berries and vegetables and can enable you to do amazing things with a batch of beer. They also can add more sugars to your wort (the term used by home brewers to describe unfermented beer) and kick up the alcohol content of a batch of beer. Be careful though, it is recommended never to use more than 20% adjuncts in regards to total fermentables.
  • Finally, something I love to use is a little silicon compound called Fermcap. As your beer ferments, a head (krausen) will form on the top of the beer and increase pressure. Sometimes the pressure can become so immense that the wort may begin to come out of your airlock or the lid might even blow off. A couple drops of fermcap will stop the krausen from climbing the walls of your fermenter and stop any blowoffs. When the beer is done fermenting, the krausen drops out. The fermcap will go with it and settle with the yeast at the bottom that you will leave behind. It will not alter the flavor or content of your beer in any way.

I like to get all my brewing supplies and ingredients from Northern Brewer online. I am not affiliated with them; they are just where I prefer to one stop shop. 

That does it for today! Tomorrow we will go over the actual brewing process using a recipe for a Honey Wheat Ale (the first batch I brewed) as an example. Please remember that there is MUCH more information out there and I encourage you to do your own reading before starting your first batch.


krystal said...

Love seeing beer blog posts! :) HooraY! Can't wait to see what you have in store for this week.

Julie said...

I always hated beer. Then I realized it was because I had only tried Bud, Miller, Coors and similar beers. My boyfriend turned me on to Yeungling and then craft beers a few years ago and now I love beer! Great idea to do a beer week post. I can't wait to read more!

Melissa {Persnickety Plates} said...

I don't drink beer, at all, but my brother & husband only like craft beers. They're pretty snobby :) I love that it's a hobby.

Carrie Robinson said...

OMGosh! This. is. awesome.
My husband got a home beer brewing kit for Christmas & we have kind been putting off trying it out because we are not sure what we are doing yet? ;) We adore craft beer & have always wanted to try and make our own!
This series is incredible! I am SO excited!!