Sunday, July 17, 2011

Homebrew: How-To!

So the brewing is coming along a lot better than the first couple of trial runs and I see high hopes for this towards the end of the year and with the colder weather, we can expect better results from the yeast being able to survive.  Our Lager and Dobbelbock should definitely show amazing results by then as well.

Currently we have a Honey Wheat and a Lager fermenting, but I'm worried about two things with these. The first being that we are experimenting with secondary fermentation conditioning.  By this I mean we are adding a flavoring agent (or fining agent) while it is going through it's second cycle of fermentation and I'll explain why this is necessary later on in this post.  but the point I'm trying to get at I guess is that we are coming closer to what I guess you could call a "Beta" version of our drink.  We're sorta at an indev or alpha stage right now...

How To Homebrew Your Own Beer!

The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of equipment you'll need and you have to base that on two things: How much space you have and whether you decide to pick All-grain brewing or Extract Brewing.

All-grain means you are going the hard route and doing it the professional way and the old fashioned way.  But that doesn't mean it's any better than extract, just a little bit more refined.  Extract is done using malt extracts that are already mashed and sparged to the perfect consistency for instant usage.
As far as mashing and sparging, I'll explain that later.  Just sit tight and I'll break everything down.

The next step you need, is finding a recipe.  before you even come up with the insane idea of making your own recipe, try someone else's for a change.  The way I made my gumbo taste so good was perfecting my great-grandmother's recipe first!  There are plenty of places around the incredible edible internet but I've found that some of the recipes out there are not 100% reliable and even though you can't trust every site, I've found these guys over at TastyBrew.com  to be pretty safe!

The recipe I'm going to walk you through, however, is actually from a well respected magazine that I frequent called Brew Your Own.  Their website, too, is full of useful info along with recipes, clones, and etc. 
This is a recipe for what they are calling Weed Puller Cream Ale and I find that to be perfect for a brew virgin and not to mention the unbearable weather we've been having in the South....

Weed Puller Cream Ale
(5 Gallons/ 19L, All-grain)
OG = 1.050 (12.4°Plato)
FG = 1.009 (2.2 °Plato)
IBU = 18 / SRM = 3 / ABV = 5.4%

4.41 lb. (2kg) Pilsner Malt (2°L)
4.41 lb (2kg) American Pale Ale 2-Row Malt (2°L)
1.76 lb. (800g) flaked rice (0° L) 
3.36 AAU Liberty pellet hops (0.84 oz./ 24g at 4% alpha acids) (60mins)
1.68 AAU Liberty pellet hops (0.42 oz./ 12g at 4% alpha acids) (1min)
White Labs WLP001 (California Ale), Wyeast 1056 (America Ale) or Fermentis Safale US-05 yeast


Weed Puller Cream Ale
(5 Gallons/ 19L, Extract)
OG = 1.050 (12.4°Plato)
FG = 1.009 (2.2 °Plato)
IBU = 18 / SRM = 3 / ABV = 5.4%

5.84 lb. (2.65 kg) Pilsner liquid malt extract (2°L)
1.14 lb. (520g) rice syrup (0°L)
3.36 AAU Liberty pellet hops (0.84 oz./ 24g at 4% alpha acids) (60mins)

1.68 AAU Liberty pellet hops (0.42 oz./ 12g at 4% alpha acids) (1min)
White Labs WLP001 (California Ale), Wyeast 1056 (America Ale) or Fermentis Safale US-05 yeast


So what does all this mean? Plato? SRM?
Let's go through all of it.  

Malt.  By malt, I'm referring to malted barley or other grains that have been malted through the process of forced germination in order to wake up those deliciously fermentable sugars. Malts come in many shapes and sizes and are widely available online and possibly at a homebrew supply near you!

Hops. They are a leafy, green, and pinecone-like cousin of marijuana and the primary bittering agent for beer. although most people like to think that these are required for beers, there are several types of beers that do not include them but they are one of the four ingredients required by the German Purity Law of 1516 known as the Reinheitsgebot along with Water, Malts, and Yeast.

OG and FG. They stand for Original Gravity and Final Gravity and refers to the density of a liquid, or in this case, density determined by alcohol and sugars.  The initial gravity is the density before the yeast begins the alcohol conversion process, and the final is what the density should read after all fermentable sugars are converted into alcohol.

IBU.  This term stands for International Bitter Units and this is determined by the amount of hops that are used in the recipe and for how long each addition of hops is present.  As you can see from the recipe, it calls for two separate amounts of hops and the usage is for two different amounts of time.  The introduction of hops to the boil counts for about 90% of the IBUs and most of the flavor whereas the second addition, only being about a minute, is primarily for aroma and only accounts for a small amount of the IBUs.

SRM. Standard Reference Method.  This is the most complicated and the simplest term when it comes to brewing.  It is a system of reference for the color of the beer and is determined by the attenuation of light at 430 nanometers through one centimeter of beer contained in a 1x1cm cuvette and the measured reading is then multiplied by 12.7 to produce the SRM.  I DID NOT COPY THIS FROM WIKIPEDIA.  I love Chemistry...  But basically it's saying "How dark is your beer on a scale of 1 to 80."  Just for reference here, Bud Light is like a 6 or 8 whereas Guinness is about a 60.

Lovibond Units (°L). Lovibond is another color reference for beer and although some people (like myself) use it to describe the color of the beer itself, it is primarily used for the color of the grains.  This scale is more or less like a scale of 1 to 300.  The darkest being a newer type of malt called Carafa-III which is about 280°L.

ABV%.  Alcohol by volume.  If you honestly didn't know what this meant, please don't even both ever drinking again.

So now that the Chemistry and Algebra lesson is out of the way, let's talk about Culinary Arts.
In order to make beer, you go into simple steps:
Collecting Fermentable Sugars - Mashing then sparging grain or buying Extracts.
Boiling Sugars - Waking up those sugars.
Adding Hops - After the pot comes to a boil, hops are added then boiled for up to an hour
Chilling Wort - Very important so no microorganisms survive and yeast does not die
Primary Fermentation - Addition of yeast cells
Secondary Fermentation - Straining and clarification of beer
Priming (Optional) - Adding a corn syrup dilute to sanitize for bottling
Bottling (Optional) - Making portable and profitable

So with all-grain brewing, the first thing you would do is mill the grains.  If they are not milled (cracked and crushed through a milling device) then you will not be able to get all that sugary goodness out of them. 
Mashing is the process of steeping them in hot water (about 150°F) to release these sugars and about one liter of water is required for each pound of malt or grain.
After mashing is sparging, which my homosexual friend Zane refers to as a "nnnnnnasssty word."  Sparging is the process of running the remaining required amount of warm water (this time about 175°F) over the grains after they have been strained, in order to catch all the sugars left behind. In mass production (and small time too), this is done in a Lauter Tun.

With extracts, you simply open the can and boil that baby on in.

Now with both methods, you will bring your pot to a boil and you must make sure that you have a total of six gallons of initial water in order to produce five gallons of wort.  The wort chilling process like I stated before is vital.  Many homebrewers use systems and devices such as counter-flow heat exchange or cooling coils made of copper in order to reduce the temperature drastically.  You can be creative with this, but reducing the temperature down to about 75°F in less than 30minutes is essential.

After cooling, the addition of yeast is require to turn that boring liquid into our favorite chemical: Ethanol.
About two packets of Safale S-05 would be required for this or 9grams of yeast total.  Pitching the yeast is an important factor, where you dilute the yeast in water (preferably warm, about 95°F) and adding it to the chilled wort.

Storing it in an airtight container with a lid and airlock is also a must, along with keeping this fermentation device in a nice and cool environment (about 75°F).  Your best choice is to buy the Ale Pail and the Airlock from MidwestSupplies.com.  The instructions are simple and the success rate is about 95%.

After about a week of resting in the fermenter, strain the beer of any impurities into a temporary location, clean the pail, and strain back into the fresh pail with no or little sediment along with it.  

After another week of resting, the beer is ready to chill and drink.  You can bottle if you like by diluting 3/4 cup of corn syrup in 1/2 cup of boiling water and adding to the ready beer.  This process is called priming and is another necessary step in sanitation when it comes to bottling.

So my advice to you: make sure everything is clean, practice makes perfect, and have as much fun as possible.
Pictured from Left to Right:
Lawrence, wielding a pot cover and whisk
Me, wielding a pot cover and wooden spoon

Be sure to share this info with your friends and if anyone needs advice or a recipe or anything, please send me an email at ChuckMac2005@gmail.com!
Bon Boire!


  1. wait.... is that a bag of dope?

  2. Looks like work, but is it worth it?

  3. nice, i've been thinking about starting up a brew w/ my dad in the backyard.

  4. You sir, are most patient. And versatile with a spoon.

  5. He is pretty impressive with a spoon. Their non-alcoholic cooking is world-class.


    Since Simpleton Tips won't let me post >:(