Stuffing a cheesecloth sock with malted grains. Everything going into the pot will be boiled for about an hour, so not worried about being excruciatingly sanitary just yet (can use hands, etc.)
Stuffed 'teabag' of crushed malted grains
First part - steep the grain bag at ~ 150F. Higher temperatures will reportedly react with the grain husks to produce off flavors.
Finished malt tea
Starting and finishing hops side by side. (I've been an EE too long; anytime I see something packaged in these little silver bags I expect to see a bright yellow ESD warning sticker on it somewhere.)
Dry malt extract and liquid malt extract (looks like molasses). They're added at the same time, although I'm not really clear on the purpose of the multiple malt extracts.
The initial (bittering) hops. The first batch - added at the start of the boil - contributes mainly the bitterness and flavor (most of the aromatic oils will be boiled off after an hour). The 2nd round of hops, added in the last 5 minutes, mainly contributes to the hop aroma.
Hop pellets. They look like rabbit food, but the smell is more reminiscent of another herbacious matter commonly sold in small baggies...
The wort beginning to boil again, after all the newly-added malt extracts have settled in
Finishing hops - mainly for aromatic oils that give the beer its hoppy aroma.
Cooling the boiling wort to about 80degF. Ideally, this should be done as quickly as possible to minimize the time the wort is exposed to the non-sterile environment of your kitchen, possibly picking up bacteria that will spoil the batch. From this point forward, we get anal about sanitization...
Still chilling out. With only a tap-cold water bath (the ice lasted all of about a few seconds; within minutes we had to drain the water and run new cold water, repeating this step several times) it took a jolly long time to cool. I didn't time it, but it felt like at least an hour.
Thoroughly cleaning the fermenter bucket and other equipment with no-rinse sanitizer
The wort boil coagulates out various proteins; the rapid cooling helps precipitate out these and other particulates (e.g. the hops), which sink to the bottom of the pot. Here we're siphoning the wort to the fermenter, trying to stir up as little sediment as possible and avoid oxygenating the mix.
It's the official Ale Pail! Hopefully never to be confused with your basement-floor-mopping bucket. The major differences between this and the aforementioned hardware-store bucket are the 6.5 gallon capacity (headroom for 5 gallons of foaming yeast) and a very tightly-locking, airtight lid with a sealing opening for an airlock.
The sludge left behind in the wort pot
Floating a hydrometer to measure the initial specific gravity. This will change as the beer ferments and the alcohol content rises. Knowing the initial and final gravities lets you determine when fermentation has finished (density stops dropping) and the final alcohol content.
Brewer's dry yeast - not the same strains as bread yeast!
Pitching and mixing the yeast
Some final scrubbing of the fermenter lid's inner surfaces in sanitizer, then we seal that sucker up. Especially for the first couple days, it's critical that the mix be kept free of bacteria or wild yeasts that might drift in. It's not possible to be 100% bug-free, even in a hospital, but it's important that the yeast have a good head start against any trace bugs. Once fermentation is underway, the rising alcohol content and blanket of CO2 over the mix will keep these critters a non-issue.
Transporting the fermenter to a cool dark place (for most homebrewers, that means our dirty old basements). Luckily, this thing is sealed...
Is it beer yet? Is it beer yet?
A little over a week later... bottling time. For many homebrewers (ourselves included), this involves recycling existing empty bottles by delabeling, thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing.
It's beer! (almost) - the first sight we see after opening the fermenter. This is the correct and expected result (yeast multiplied and some are floating on top), but it ain't pretty. Keeping the fermenter cool (60-72degF) in the summer(ish) with no A/C is a trick; the water tub and towel helped a bit with this. NOTE: Submersion in water for several days is bad for the health of liquid crystal thermometers...
Priming sugar (dextrose) dissolved in water and boiled for a few minutes.
Siphoning from the fermenter to a second bucket for bottling. The goal of all these siphons/transfers (wort to fermenter, fermenter to bottling bucket, bucket to bottles) is to clarify the beer by leaving behind as much sediment and yeast as possible. In each transfer the bottom 1/4" ~ 1" or so of liquid (or mostly sediment) is discarded.
Still siphoning beer... we just added the priming sugarwater to the bottling bucket; the siphon action will thoroughly mix the two. This small amount of extra sugar will feed the trace amounts of residual yeast after capping the bottles; this will force the beer to carbonate right inside the bottle.
Cleaned and delabeled bottles. This process is time-consuming and VERY ANNOYING, which is why we most likely will not put labels on our first batch (knowing we may have to somehow get them off again later).
A small amount of the brew was set aside for quality-control purposes pre-bottling. For warm, flat beer, it's not bad! (This step confirms at the very least that the beer tastes like *beer*, not cider or vinegar - sure signs of bacterial contamination.)
The final sediment-clearing siphon (bottling bucket to bottles). The tap on the bucket is about 1/2-1" above the bottom.
Bottling, with a nifty little apparatus - beer flows when the plastic wand is pressed against the floor of the bottle and stops when the wand is lifted slightly. A formidable-looking, 2-handed capper crimps the caps securely on the bottles.
The first finished bottle. About 4 weeks and it will be ready to drink!
We're going to need some help drinking all of these... :-)
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9/17/08 10:27 PM
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