About brewing and why
So you have found out that you like to have a beer, Good on you and welcome the club… The only thing more satisfying than enjoying a hard earned “brown apple” (as a friend of my father used to call them) is to enjoy it knowing that you have created it. You mixed all the ingredients and let it brew and now you can reap the rewards of your efforts of creativity.
When you first start out Brewing beer, it can seem a little daunting, but there is a plethora of information online and we hope that this small guide will help you on your way as well.
It’s best to start simple, you can add flavours and mix hops at different stages to acquire different taste. You can use different sugars, malts, honey, molasses, syrups etc all to bring a slightly different taste, but this is advanced brewing and best left till later once you have mastered what to do and why to do it that way.
Let me bust a myth for you now….. Brewing beer is Simple. Brewing beer is easy! All recipes follow a basic principle (some may add more or other stuff to their brew to add flavours), if you follow the order and keep your sanitation up to scratch you will be successful with your brew.
So let’s dive in with a list of things you need and ingredients then the method.
Watch our brewing manual
Once you are set up and have all your equipment you can reuse it over and over again, the costs become relatively minimal. To start out you will need to get yourself:
The Beer Ingredients
This par depends on what you are going for… what are your tastes? For example you can brew IPA, APA, Lager, heavy ales, Stouts.. The list goes on. However the basics are
Making the Wort
You will need 2-5Lwater/KG of grains, It will vary a bit. To work this out you can multiply the weight of your grains by a number between 2.6 and 2.9 depending on how dense you want your mash.. Less water = denser mash!
Once the water has boiled (now called Strike water) then let it begin to cool so you can add your grains (This is called Mashing), you will want to pour your gains into the strike water while stirring them in with your Mash Paddle (big spoon). You don’t want it to clump as this will reduce the amount of sugars you are able to extract from your grains. The idea is once all the grain has been added the mash temperature should be at the recipes optimal temp.. (this will be in the instructions of your particular recipe) and this temperature should be kept uniform throughout the mashing process. You can do this by insulating your mash tun (mash pot) with old towels or jackets etc or if it’s heatable by applying heat to keep the mash at temp through the rest period. This is usually about an hour.
You will want to heat approx the same amount of sparge water +20% extra as what you started out with for your Strike water, it’s better to have too much than not enough.You want to have your sparge water heated so that it will bring your mash up to 77 degrees celsius. And allows more of the wort to be removed from the mash. You want to set your mash bag on a mesh tray then gently pour your sparge water over the mash. This will rinse out the sugars still in the mash and make sure you don’t squeeze the mash as this will release tannins and make your brew overly bitter. Once you have rinsed your mash let it sit to allow all the liquid to drain out itself. This browny cloudy homely confronting smelling liquid you are left with is called The WORT. you want to have enough wort that you will have your desired volume at the end of the wort boil which will be around 90 mins
Adding the hops
Return the wort to the heat and this is where you will add your hops and create the flavours you want in your beer.
If you have bought your all grain brew in a kit it will tell you when to add the hops.. Otherwise you can experiment once you know what flavours and attributes what hop strains produce.
Be careful not to add your hops too early as it can then produce a flavour that is too bitter. Generally the hops are added at the end of the boiling process. In the last 30mins.
Once the boil is finished, you want to cool down the brew AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, an ice bath could be a good option if you have the space, (we used a small creek with flowing water as we are in the arctic). You want to cool this to between 21-24 deg Celsius. And make sure NO contaminants touch the brew.
Once you reach the desired temp you need to remove your hops. Lift the kettle up high and place the fermenter underneath, you can start to drain the brew into the fermenter through your strainer. You might find it easier to strain a couple of times (fist a rough strain then a finer strain) if you are using hop pellets. Once this is done it’s time to take your Original Gravity (OG) reading and then add the yeast, fill the airlock with water and leave it at room temperature in the dark (i cover mine with a blanket) until the bubbling stops (for about two days) then bottle.
If you use a dry yeast it’s best to rehydrate the yeast by making a sugar solution at 24 deg C then adding the yeast… this will wake the yeast up and allow for a faster and more efficient fermentation process. Cover it and let it sit for about 20mins. You should see it start to bubble and ferment.
You need the hydrometer for the gravity reading and this tells you how much sugar is in the brew. From this you can work out your alcohol content.
Water has a gravity reading of 1.000. As your sugar content rises so does the reading eg it might read 1.068.. Write this number down and you want to save this to compare it the the final gravity reading at the end of the fermentation process (once the bubbling stops)… There will be less sugar in the beer then as the yeast will have eaten it (and then converted it into Alcohol) eg 1.009. There is a formula to follow now
0.059 x 131.25= 7.74375
Alcohol content of that brew would be approx 7.7% …. That’s a strong beer.
Next is to bottling the beer
Bottling requires carbonation… this is the FIZZ in the beer. The easiest way to do this is to just add carbonation drops to each bottle, these are usually made from corn sugar and are little round balls of hard sugar… like candy. Add two to a 500ml bottle. Fill your bottle leaving an air space at the top for expansion and then cap it… give the bottle a shake two or three times to mix the carbonation drops then let them sit in a dark space to carbonate. Minimum would be three weeks but this will produce a very “green” flavoured beer.. Best is to make one brew every month for a year… then drink the first one you made. But this will probably be after you have made a few brews and got your flavour set right.
Happy brewing and enjoy the creative journey.
In the video below, we brew a beer from glacial ice far up in the Arctic region of Norway.