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Beginner Brewing

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Comparing Homebrewing Software

The pioneering American homebrewers of the 1970s were on their own in many respects. “If you wanted to learn to brew you had to find someone who knew what they were doing or read a book,” wrote Stanley Kaminski in his article for homebrewsupply.com, The Complete History of Homebrew. The early homebrewers were intrepid do-it-yourself types with a common passion for beer. Homebrewing as we now know it in the United States began in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into law HR1337, which allowed brewing at home nationwide. The World Wide Web didn’t become publicly available until August 1991. Homebrewing and computer science have been booming side by side ever since. Today you can hop online and watch video on how to brew. You can also make use of software apps that help with everything from recipe formation to inventory control. The rapid simultaneous growth of both homebrewing and computer science makes it tough to keep up with all the developments, so what follows is, at...

Harvesting Wild Yeast

Generally it’s nice to brew with predictable ingredients in controlled conditions. You purchase your ingredients, follow your process, pitch your yeast, and leave your beer in a temperature stable environment. After some time the yeast consumes all the sugars and leaves behind its own flavor characters and some alcohol. I decided that I’d carry out a little experiment to mix the process up a little. I wanted to catch some wild yeast. Yeast grows on a number of plants and also drifts through the air. In the old days people fermented things without even knowing what was causing it. Later brewer’s yeast was isolated and then carefully selected and bred to the different strains we use today. There is however no reason we cannot make use of wild yeast in our beers and see what we end up with at the end. Wild yeast tends to have a particular character and doesn’t ferment as clean as some commercial yeasts. Some beers rely on this unique character to create their particular flavor...

Brewing Session Beers

It wasn’t that long ago that if you had offered homebrewers and craft beer drinkers a low-impact, low-alcohol beer with approachable flavor, they would have scoffed. Real beer was meant to be big, bold, adventurous, and preferably have a sizable ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Oh, how times have changed. These days, beer lovers recognize that there is a welcome place at the table for flavorful, low-impact beers that can be enjoyed over a long session without worries about going overboard. Brews like this actually have a long and rich history, with the very concept of “session ales” or “session beers” springing from the British pub scene. They were popularized in the U.S. craft scene thanks in no small part to Founder’s All-Day IPA, among others, and now they are ubiquitous. But before we get into that we’ve got to answer the big question: What the heck is a session beer, anyway? Defining the Session Beer There is some debate and wiggle room on the specifics, but the basic gist...

How to Brew beer in an hour (or less)

Let’s face it, most of us have jobs and other obligations that can sometimes make it hard to find the time to brew. So, brewing usually happens on the weekends. But what happens when life gets in the way, weekends fill up, but you still want to brew beer? Here’s a method to simplify the brewing process to allow the homebrewer to brew a batch of beer in one hour. This method was inspired by brewing Kombucha, which is a fermented tea. Props also need to go James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio, who helped popularize the idea of the 15-minute boil. In order to successfully brew a batch of beer in one hour, a few traditional homebrewing “rules” have to be broken. It should go without saying that the process uses extract with steeped grains. Secondly, the process uses 2-gallon batches - this lessens the time it takes to heat and cool the liquid. Third, it uses a 15-minute boil, and with such a short boil, you have to throw out the rules on hop additions. Once you accept these departures...

Three Areas of Consideration When Expanding Your Home Brewery.

Are you totally obsessed with brewing? Are you ready to expand your homebrew operation past the beginner stages? In that case, you’ll want to seriously consider three areas of your procedure: milling, fermenting and bottling. Expanding Your Home Brewery: Milling A grain mill is one piece of equipment that could last us the rest of our brewing careers, so it’s useful to purchase the best possible product to suit our needs. Let’s start by discussing the fact that we cannot mill grain perfectly without the proper piece of machinery. We can attempt to crush the kernels by blending, smacking them with a wine bottle, crushing with a rolling pin or pounding them in a mortar and pestle, but the result will be disappointing. If the kernels are too thoroughly smashed, there could be a large amount of powder in our grain bed, which can lead to a stuck sparge. If the kernels aren’t crushed enough, our efficiency will fall dramatically. There are two main decisions when selecting a grain mill...

CO2 Levels in Beer: The Role it Plays

Beer is one of those beverages that has an important trademark: it is bubbly, effervescent and bright. CO2 is imparted by beer conditioning (by adding priming sugar) or by forcing CO2 into a keg, this element has a huge impact in our favorite brew, and can give very specific characteristics just by dialing it up or down. According to the brewing literature and guidelines out there, each beer must have a certain range of CO2 to be enjoyed at it’s full, just as any style has certain ingredients and levels of IBU’s, OG or Alcohol. The rule of thumb is : - More CO2: Thinner mouthfeel perception. More refreshing sensation. Additional bitterness and sour taste. - Less CO2: Fuller mouthfeel perception. Less refreshing sensation Less bitterness and sour taste. CO2 From the Brewing Point of View: There are certain rules for CO2 in beer. One can stay tuned with the guidelines (like the ones of the BJCP) or break the rules and experiment with them, but by doing so it’s crucial to...

Five Awesome Beginner Recipes for BIAB

If you've frequented any online homebrewing forums in the past few years, you've undoubtedly noticed the increasing popularity of Brew In A Bag, or BIAB. This method of one vessel, no sparge brewing leads to a much simpler brew day with less time spent on the mash and sparge as well as fewer things to clean. This can be especially good for brewers lacking the space for a traditional system, or brewers who want to shorten their day but still want the control of all grain brewing. [/hide]

Step Mashing Basics

When I first started brewing I used a kit to guide me through the brewing process. The instructions seemed very simple which was nice since I was still learning about the equipment and how the brewing process worked. I steeped a small sock of grains for 20 minutes, poured in the liquid malt extract, boiled the hops, pitched a dry packet of yeast, and fermented for exactly 2 weeks as instructed. I now thought I could make any kind of beer by following this same blanket process. However, as I researched my new hobby more I found that different ingredients and styles of beer suggested using alternative or additional steps. One of these conflicting suggestions was to rest the mash at a lower temperature than the 150ºF – 165ºF range I had seen everywhere and grown to trust. In my head this was the one and only optimal range to brew beer. Why would I waste time at another temperature if this is the only range that gives me the sugars I need to make beer? What Happens During a Beer Mash...

Setting Up A 50 Gallon Home Brewery In Portugal

After many years of working overseas in hot climates, my wife and I agreed that we could never settle back in the UK again with its predictably dismal climate. There followed a lengthy process of elimination regarding our eventual retirement location. After considering and rejecting far-flung possibilities, such as Australia, Thailand, etc., we agreed that our European roots would always be a lure to us. It would also provide reasonably easy/quick access to family in the UK, which is essential. So, we quickly dismissed all of northern Europe (after all, the weather is not much better than in England) and settled for a very southerly point of the mainland continent: Algarve, Portugal. Having made the decision and bought a property, we spent a lot of time getting to know the place and people, never regretting our decision. However, even with the lovely people, fantastic food, low cost of living, and wonderful climate, there was an important element missing: decent beer. Portugal...

Fermentation Flavors : How Fermentation Affects Flavor

One thing that most brewers know is that your fermentation plays a big role in how your final beer tastes. If you didn’t know that before, now you do, you just read it. In this article, we look for flavor contributions beyond the grain bill & hop additions, and see how we can bend fermentation driven flavors to our will. Control Your Esters One major contributor of fermentation driven flavors are esters. You may have heard that word thrown around a lot before, and it can get confusing as to the meaning. “This beer is an estery mess” or “This beer has a nice ester profile”. Well now there’s a fork in the road. We have good esters and bad esters it seems. So what makes a good ester good and a bad ester bad? Three things will answer this question: 1. The type of ester you have in your beer: Here some of the common ones you’ve likely experienced at one point or another in a homebrew or commercial beer. Isoamyl Acetate - Produces ripe banana flavors Ethyl Acetate - Nail polish remover...

Reasons Your Fermentation Didn't Start

I think it is way more frustrating to not know what ruined your batch of beer, than actually losing the beer itself. It always makes your next batch feels like a gamble. Am I going to waste $40 and 8 hours of work again? How do I avoid making the same mistake when I don’t know what went wrong in the first place? A common problem (especially among newer homebrewers) is having a bucket of wort that never even starts fermenting. Here are some common reasons and solutions for this popular ailment. Pun intended. You’re welcome. Check That it Really Isn't Fermenting Bubbles in your airlock aren't a good way to judge if fermentation is happening. The best way to check if your beer has started fermenting is by taking a gravity reading. If your measured gravity is the same as your original gravity after a couple days, then your beer never began fermenting. That being said, if you do use bubbles in the airlock to get a rough estimation of if fermentation has started, and it isn't bubbling...

Correctly Rehydrating Dry Yeast

Advantages of Using Dry Yeast Here is how to rehydrate one packet or 11.5g of dry yeast. You can scale the numbers accordingly to your quantities. Things you need: Microwaveable container (best with lid): This could be a drinking glass, mason jar, or Pyrex measuring glass. Microwave safe plastic should also work well. For one packet of yeast you need around 2 cup (~475 ml) of volume. Microwave: Any microwave is ok, it just needs to be big enough for your container. Thermometer: You can take your default brewing thermometer. A quick measurement and long probe are beneficial. Yeast rehydration nutrient: Go Ferm Protect is the standard - you will need 1.25 grams per gram of dry yeast (13.75g for the 11.5g yeast packet). Water: Bottled spring water is best; however, whatever water you normally use for brewing should probably suffice (the small amount of chlorine found in tap water has not been shown to have a negative impact here. You will need 20X the weight of Go Ferm as your water...

Simplifying Your Bottling Day

Bottling day brings you even closer to your brewing goal of having your very own handcrafted beer to enjoy and share. Bottling can either be a pain or painless. Learning through the pain process I have a few ideas to share so your brewing day experience will be something to enjoy. What you will need: Bottles Bottle brush Bottle caps and a capper Sanitizer Towels Sponge 5 gallon bottling bucket with spigot 1 gallon bucket for miscellaneous purposes Hoses Siphon Racking cane with sediment standoff Bottle filler Preparation, Cleaning, & Sanitizing You need a nice uncluttered work surface where you can stage your bottles, have room for capping, and have a place to set your fermenter containing the soon to be drinkable beer. Assemble your equipment and start sanitizing. Think of bottling like an assembly line, because it is. Put the fermentation bucket on the counter above your bottling bucket. You want it elevated because when bottling at home gravity is your friend. Be...

The Homebrew Recipe Bible: Book Review

“If you’ve ever wanted to learn to brew beer from an expert, look no further. Award-winning homebrewer Chris Colby of Beer & Wine Journal offers recipes for every major style of beer to teach novice, intermediate and advanced brewers more about the craft and science of brewing. From classic styles like pale ales, IPAs, stouts and porters, to experimental beers such as oyster stout, bacon-smoked porter and jolly rancher watermelon wheat, brewers will learn more about brewing techniques and beer ingredients. Chris also shows how recipes can be modified to suit an individual brewer’s taste or to transform one beer style into a related style, creating a lot of different and fantastic beer options”. Chris Colby is the former editor of Brew Your Own Magazine, and the current editor of Beer & Wine Journal. He has a PhD in biology and is a long time homebrewer. His book is written in a conversational style, with great information disseminated for the non-scientist to understand while...

The Meadmaker's Corner: Categorizing Your Mead

When I started looking into making mead it seemed so very simple. Dump some honey in some water, add some yeast, ignore it for a while, and tada! Nectar of the Gods in your bottle. And sure, you can get mead that way, but as I started researching, I found a whole lot more information on the subject. Things started to get complicated. Even categorizing my mead became pretty cumbersome. I found that I would have to search about and look things up. To be honest, the HomeBrewTalk forums have most all the answers you will need. The only down side is I can’t say I’ve found a single place where they are all grouped together neatly and easily accessible. So I shall endeavor to provide newbies to mead making a reference document. Also, I won’t tell if any experienced mead makers check back as a quick reference either. Categories of Mead There are several different ways that meads can be put in to categories. The simplest way is by what is added. Of course there will be honey and water, but...

Myths and Surprises in Homebrewing

It has been a year since I started brewing my own beer. In that time, I went from extract to all-grain, learned how to keg my beer, built a keezer, bought and used a fermentation chamber, installed an RO filter for water, and learned how to manage water additions, along with a host of other things. I’ve done 24 batches to this point which gives me some measure of experience, but I also remember, vividly, what it was like to be a new brewer. In the interest of giving back, I list these myths and surprises I discovered in my first year of brewing. 1. SURPRISE - Patience Isn’t Just A Virtue, It’s Required If You Want To Brew Great Beer. Everyone starting out is anxious to sample their new baby, but it’s almost always better to wait. I know how hard that is, as I was one of the miscreants sampling beer that hadn’t yet even carbed in the bottle! Lesson learned - it didn’t taste that great! Wait, you will be rewarded! Really. 2. SURPRISE - Green Beer Will Smooth Out, Almost Always...

6 Beginner Beer Recipes and Styles

We find ourselves in a golden era of beer. There are more breweries open in the United States than ever before, with more and more opening every day. Countless styles and amazing quality are at our fingertips, and tips of our tongues, in nearly every city in the country. As homebrewers, this massive quantity of great beer can be inspiring, urging us to follow their lead, try new styles, and better our craft. If I drink a great beer, my first reaction is: How can I brew this? But this immense quality can also be very intimidating. After a failed batch or two (or three), we can easily lose our will to continue. As one friend of mine put it: “With so much great beer, why on earth would I bother trying to make my own?” While it takes perseverance and years of practice to brew those A+ beers consistently, the good news is, that it isn't that difficult to be brewing really good beer at home on a regular basis. In fact, with two very simple rules, the quality of your beer will get...

Brewing With Cherries

There are a few main considerations to be aware of when you decide you’re going to add cherries to your homebrew. The quantity and type of cherries, their condition, and the brewing stage to add the fruit are all important aspects of preparing a delicious final product. What Type of Cherries Should I Use? When deciding what type of cherries to use, remember to keep your final creation in mind. If you prefer the taste of those sugary little red buttons you see on cakes, then buy yourself a big sealed bag of glace cherries. They’re cheap and the whole process of adding a commercial, pre-sanitized food product is much more simple than adding a fresh, harvested fruit. But beware; the fermenting process will remove a lot of the simple sweetness, so you’ll be left with a bitter flavor more like medicine. Having said that, if you enjoy a little sip of cough syrup before bed, buy two big bags of glace cherries. You’ll probably prefer the beer to the medication and I reckon it might help...

Homebrewing Year One: Equipment and Labels

I started homebrewing early in 2016 with no knowledge and with what a store owner told me was "everything I needed." With every batch I brewed, I made mistakes, sought out more advice, and acquired more equipment. Now, after nine batches, I finally feel confident that when I invest time on brew day, I'll end up with something worth drinking and sharing. While I have loved this journey into homebrewing competence, I've also loved making beer labels for each batch. This article presents my year-one journey as captured by the labels I created. 1. Incident With a Siphon Imperial Stout As depicted on this label, I had major struggles with the siphoning on my first batch. I was anxious about ensuring everything that touched the wort was properly sanitized but then the siphon kept jumping out of the fermentation bucket. As I desperately wrestled with the siphon hose as beer ejaculated all over the kitchen, I had to give up on keeping the process clinically clean. So the first additions...

New or Used Fridge for a Fermentation Chamber?

I should probably begin with where I brew, as I believe this has played a huge role in my process. I live and brew in south Mississippi. Our 95 degree heat in the summer provides another challenge in the process of fermenting. I know what you are thinking, “Just put the fermenter in the cool basement and let it bubble away.” That would be an excellent option if we lived in an area where basements were part of every house, but in our piece of the world, the water table is so high that any basement would quickly turn into a very unpleasant, aromatic mildew spa. Much to the chagrin of my wife, my fermenter took up residence in our closet, right next to her clothes of course; and no, I was not using a blow off tube. This is the point in my tale where my version of the events and my wife’s version differ slightly. My version is that the air lock and bung were ever so gently pushed out of the fermenter and my beautiful wort bubbled down the side of the fermenter, leaving a very tiny...
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