The Great Homebrewing Experiment: Brew Day

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I really did want to move along in our homebrewing story much more quickly than I have been able to but unfortunately I got taken down by the flu. Getting over it now and looking for ways to really feel better, so what’s the opposite of flu? Brew! Anywhoo.

Storm’s a-brewin’ outside, so it seems like the perfect time to get to the brewing installment of the “Great Homebrewing Experiment”.

According to our homebrew tour guide Rico – if you can boil water (and lift heavy things) you too can homebrew. Now, I can boil water like nobody’s business – teas, coffees, pastas, even – so his words made the venture seem über promising. But first!

Materials

You could start by orderingRico’s recommended starter kit from Amazon, which is what he did. But if you prefer to gather your materials in person, Westchester actually has a wealth of locations to score your beer gear – including the recently opened beer wonderland Half Time in Mamaroneck. But Rico himself has frequented The Brewshop at Cornell’s in Eastchester and Westchester Homebrew Emporium in New Rochelle.

If you choose to build your own kit, here’s what would go in it:

Brew kettle – upwards of 5 gallon pot for boiling the brew; decently gauged metal nothing too flimsy.

Large strainer

Large funnel

Auto siphon – cheap plastic tube (like one you’d use to clean a fish tank)

Hydrometer – measures the specific gravity of liquid to see how dense (denseness translates to how much of the liquid is fermentable; alcohol by volume.)

Kitchen Thermometer

Carboy – glass, 6 gallons

Carboy stopper

Airlock

Cleaning and Sanitation

Simply – sanitize anything that you are able to. You’re going to need a cleanser and Rico recommends any of the 5 Star Brand cleaners. If you want to go with something you might already have on hand, go with OxiClean. Dish soap and any household stuff like that are likely to stick to your materials and well – Palmolive IPA just doesn’t feel like the next sensational flavor infused brew.

Brewin’

The ingredients of your average brew are simple: water, hops, yeast & malted grain. To get started, it’s best to get a starter kit like American Wheat BSG Select Kit. I thought it would be best to let our tour guide do the…touring and spell out exactly how we got to brewing our pilot batch together. Check out his “recipe” below.

Also, on a separate note, if you want to give homebrewing a go but are really looking to keep it budget friendly (also if you only want to do about a Growler’s size batch in case you end up brewing a substance that can only be described as “Liquid Evil”,) Brooklyn Brew Shop sells kits containing everything you’d need for your first go ’round. The drawback is you won’t have as much room to be creative, but definitely a good idea to see how the ingredients are supposed to look at each step.

The Great Homebrewing Experiment: Pilot Batch

Ingredients

  • 6.6 lb dark dry malt extract ($5 per 3.3 lb bag)
  • 2 lb roasted barley grain ($3 a lb)
  • 1lb Caramel crystal Malt grain ($4 a lb)
  • 1lb chocolate Malt grain ($4 a lb)
  • 1 lb Dark brown sugar ($3 a lb )
  • 1oz Cascade Hop pellets at 60 mins of boil ($3 per Oz)
  • 2 oz US Goldings pellet hops at 30 mins of boil( $5 Per Oz)
  • 1oz Chinook hop pellets at 15 mins left of boil($5 per Oz)

Instructions

  1. 1. Gather ingredients and all necessary equipment. Measure everything out according to the recipe.
  2. 2. Measure out the water for steeping the malt grains (about 1 cup less than a gallon of water to each pound of grain) then begin to heat the water to 160 degrees F. (This takes a long time so I start the water first so I can take care of the next few steps.)
  3. 3. Sanitize all equipment with the sanitizing solution to allow for 3 mins contact with solution then time to air dry. Itâ??s important to keep everything sanitized and on clean surfaces. Anything that needs to drip dry must be upside down with their openings pointed down (bacteria falls, so they cant fall up into anything to contaminate)
  4. 4. Place all the malt grains for steeping into special muslin bags (like a giant tea bag) and loosely wrap the hops in cheesecloth .
  5. 5. At this point, the water is usually ready for steeping the grains (thermometer should read 160 F) Add the grain bags and steep for about 30 minutes, constantly checking and adjusting the temperature to keep it maintained. After the grains are finished steeping, pull the bags and allow them to drain back into the pot. Wring them out as gently as possible to coax any extra liquid from the grains back into the pot.
  6. 6. Add any extract or adjuncts such as sugar or anything that needs to caramelize along with the grain liquid. After everything is added, add water if the liquid measures under 5 ½ gallons. (Ordinarily will not have to add any extra water, but important to reach 5 ½ gallons so do so if you need to.)
  7. 7. Bring the wort (what your brew is called at this point,) to a boil, usually around 212 degrees F . Once it reaches that temperature or a wonderful rolling boil, start the boil timer for 60 mins. This is the time frame to where the wort doesnâ??t over caramelize or burn which causes off flavors. Itâ??s important to keep track of the time, because at certain points of the hour you will be adding hops.
  8. 8. Based on the recipe hop addition times vary. If you want more of the bitterness to show add the hops early into the boil. If you want more of the floral piney (or citrus and herbal, depending on the hops you are using) add later on in the boil. For this recipe there are 3 hop additions at 15, 30, and 50 mins of the boil. I wanted a nice even hop flavor so I spread the additions out and added larger quantities to the latter additions.
  9. 9. Once the boil is over, itâ??s important to cool the wort down to 68 degrees F immediately. You can use a device that is called a wort chiller, which circulates cold water through copper tubes placed in the wort to draw out heat, but for homes the best is to fill a sink or heat resistant vessel thatâ??s big enough for your brew pot with ice. After placing the brew pot in the ice and surrounding evenly, add cold water to help speed up the cooling. This is the most dangerous time for the beer as itâ??s more exposed and prone to foreign microbes and bacteria because to cool the wort down the beer passes a dangerous temperature zone where these contaminants thrive. So chill it down quickly. A worthy investment - they go for $60 and up online, but I built mine for $30 with pieces from a hardware store. DIY all the way!)
  10. 10. Pass the wort from the brew pot to your carboy. Glass is recommended - it wonâ??t scratch when scrubbing it clean, so itâ??s more sanitary than plastic carboys or fermenting buckets. When siphoning the wort, make sure it has as little contact with anything but the funnel and carboy. Itâ??s good to look for a funnel that has a mesh strainer built into it, which helps with filtering out any loose particles.
  11. 11. Take a measurement of the specific gravity of the wort. This will help me see how dense the wort is (the denser the higher possible amount of fermentable product is in the wort and the possible alcohol content.) This is done using the hydrometer.
  12. 12. The wort now needs to be aerated. Vigorously shake the carboy to mix the wort with oxygen which is needed by the yeast for fermentation.
  13. 13. Pitching the yeast - follow all instructions provided with the yeast you are using and add it very carefully to your wort in the carboy.
  14. 14. Once the yeast is pitched, time to close the carboy with a stopper and airlock and place in a cool dark area and check regularly for fermentation, which is indicated by the airlock bubbling and a head (foam ) forming on top of the wort.
  15. 15. Wash and sanitize everything right after so the next brew day is ready to go.
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