Thursday, August 13, 2009

Can you boil water?

I bought my ingredients for my next batch of home brew today. I'm always surprised that more people don't make their own beer. I like to show off by breaking out several bottles of home brew from different batches. My friends often say, "That's good, is it hard to make?"

No. Can you boil water? Pictured below is the equipment that you really need.

Fermenter (a.k.a. bucket), stock pot, and bottle capper.

There is an up front investment, but it is well worth it. I used to use glass carboys. (big jugs) My local shop started carrying a plastic bucket with a built in spigot. This saves a step called racking. Racking is siphoning off your beer to leave the sediment behind. In this fermenter, the sediment settles below the spigot. Brilliant! It's also a large bucket, so I don't have to worry about overflow issues during fermentation.

The making of beer demystified.

  1. Boil grain extracts and hops.
  2. Remove the hops. Let cool, add water until you hit the 5 gallon mark on your fermenter.
  3. Add yeast and wait 7-10 days.
  4. Add some sugar and bottle.
  5. Wait another 2 weeks to drink.

Not pictured above are a couple of other helpful gadgets. One is a vapor lock. You stick it in the top of your fementer to allow gasses to escape, but it protects the beer from the outside air. Also, I highly recommend getting a bottle washer. Mine is installed in our laundry room utility sink. It's a brass contraption that pressurizes water and shoots it up into your empty bottle.

Is it cost effective? Look at the reviews below to see what a really good craft beer can set you back. I can make 5 gallons of that type of beer for $50-$70. So, the equipment pays for itself.

Explain grain extracts: You can buy canned or dry extracts. The old fashioned way of using raw grains is a lot of work, and I admire anyone with the patience to do it that way. It's not for me. You can make a tea from raw grains prior to cooking your extract to add extra flavor.

What's your recipe for this batch?

  • 1 pound of rye. (grains for tea)
  • 6.6 pounds (2 cans) of Muntons Light Malt Extract
  • 1.5 pounds dried wheat extract
  • 1 oz of Cascade hops. (Boil with the extracts for 1 hour)
  • 1 oz of Saaz hops. (Boil for last 2-5 minutes)
  • American ale yeast from Fermintis
  • .5 oz Amarillo hops for dry hopping. (Add for two days at the end of fermentation. It adds more bitterness and flavor)

Any other hints? Making beer can be a sticky business if you are not careful. Slowly bring your mash to a boil to avoid it overflowing. Lay down old towels when you are bottling and transferring from the boil pot to your fermenter. Save empty pop-top bottles and caps so that you don't have to buy bottles. Caps can be reused as long as they are not too bent.

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