Today I’m going to take you step by step through what to do to make an all grain batch of beer from scratch, assuming that you have a recipe that you would like to brew.
This is the second post in the beer brewing series, you can see the first post The Basics of Home Brewing Equipment here. So go ahead pour yourself a cold one; I’ve already got mine, and lets get started on Brew Day.
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No recipe? There are plenty of online resources for beer recipes from cloning ones you buy in the store imported or domestic and everything in between. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) has a good selection of recipes for both extract and all grain recipes, take a look here. You can also check out Beer Recipes.
Step 1: Heating the Water
First thing is first; you need to heat the water for the mash. This is where the grains will steep in water of a certain temperature for a set amount of time.
How much water do you need? Your recipe should indicate the quantity of water and the temperature for the mash for example, 10.75 lb pale malt 2 row mash at 150ºF (65ºC) mash 60 mins in 1.25 gallons water. As a general rule of thumb, for every pound of grain you will need 1.3 quarts (41.6 fl. oz).
Collect the amount of water you need for the mash and start heating. Use a thermometer to get an accurate read on the temperature. In the picture below I’ve set the thermometer to beep when the right temperature is reached.
Step 2: The Grains
If you order grains for a recipe or buy them from a brew store you usually have the option to have the grains crushed. Grains must be crushed to help with flavor development and the all important alcohol production! If you are part of a brewing circle, someone usually will have a mill and there’s always one home brewer with all the gadgets and gizmos available who’s happy to impart their knowledge.
I have this 2 roller Monster Mill grain mill at Misfit Gardening that I purchased earlier this year from MoreBeer.com. It is easy to put together and easy to use. Simply attach a drill to the arm at the base and let the drill do the work. In a short time your grain is crushed and ready to go!
I got the extension on the feed hopper (the cube on top of the lower inverted triangle) because it allows me to put all of the grain for the batch in the hopper to be milled. I sealed the edges of the sheet metal with some rubber seal because I’m notoriously clumsy.
The width of the roller gap enables you to set how fine or coarse you crush the grain which will impact your brewing efficiency (a.k.a how well you will convert sugar to delicious ethanol). On the Monster Mill you can easily adjust this with the nuts on the outside.
Remember: don’t put oats in the mill as it will mess up the rollers and vacuum up any chaff, husk and dust to keep everything in good working order and hygienic!
Whilst the water for the mash is heating you can prepare the grains by milling them, if you have a complicated historical recipe it isn’t uncommon for multiple mashes.
Here is a picture of some milled grain for a porter recipe I was brewing:
You can see the white innards of the grains now they are crushed.
Step 3: Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
Beer is made using living organisms (yeast) in an environment which is optimal for them to grow. This also means that unwelcome microorganisms can also set up shop in your brewing equipment and spoil your brew. Whilst the water is heating, use a one-step sanitizer such as Star San to sanitize the mash tun, tap/spigot, tubing and false bottom. Sanitize hot water tank, racking canes, tubing and sparging equipment as well. If necessary, rinse the sanitizing fluid off or wipe the excess depending on the manufacturers’ instructions. This will help reduce the likelihood of contamination by other microorganisms.
Step 4: Mash
By now the water should be at the right temperature. Transfer it to the mash tun, carefully it will be hot!
Add in your crushed grain and stir it up really well. Place the lid on top and leave the grains to steep for the intended mash time. Typical mash times are 60 minutes or 90 minutes. I like to move the mash tun to where I will be sparging so the grain bed will settle down and there is minimum moving of insulated coolers filled with liquid and grain.
Step 5: Sparge
Rinsing the grains is the next step in all grain beer brewing. Some water is absorbed by the grain and most recipes will indicate the amount of sparge or strike water and the temperature. Sparging is usually done at a higher temperature than mashing.
I fill a 5 gallon cooler with the hot water for sparging and place it high up so gravity will transfer the water once the racking cane is primed or siphoned.
In the photograph below, I’m getting up the equipment to sparge the grains. I know it doesn’t look very safe, especially in ice and snow but a little determination and ingenuity is what makes a scientist!
The hot liquor tank is already in position and about to be hooked up to the sparging apparatus behind the mash tun on the table. You will notice a tube from the tap at the base of the mash tun, this is to transfer the liquid directly into the brew pot.
Lots of beer was needed to keep warm on this brew day!
You need to collect the first few quarts from the mash tun. One at a time collect about two quarts into a jug or pitcher then pour back gently, over the back of a large spoon. You will find there is grain left in the jug. Rinse this out and repeat the process until only about 1/4 teaspoon or less of grain remains. The purpose of this step is to flush any bits of grain from the line and under the false bottom. You can then proceed to striking (sparging) the grain.
As I wrote in the first part of this series, you don’t want to disrupt the grain bed during sparging. A gentle flow of water is best. Open the tap from the mash tun and allow the liquid to run into the brew pot then rack the water or pour gently the water for sparging into the mash tun. You will see that the liquid becomes paler throughout the sparging process.
Once you reach 5 gallons in your brew pot, shut off the tap you are ready for the boil.
Step 6: The Boil
Boiling the wort is where the hops are added as well as any other fermentables or adjuncts (such as Irish moss to clear the beer) and flavor amendments.
Heat the wort until it is boiling then the hops additions begin. Have a large metal spoon on hand to stir the wort and reduce boil over.
Hops additions are for bittering (preserving), aroma and flavor. The bittering or preservation hops are added at the very beginning and remain in the wort for the entirety of the boil so that the acids are released into the wort. Aroma and flavor hops are added later or at the end of the boil so that just the oils of the plant are released to give the floral, citrus or herbal flavors and scents associated with that beer.
I use a fine mesh hops bag to add my hops to the wort to keep the beer a bit clearer. I tend to use whole hops loose in the boil.
Prepare your hops by placing in the bags and lining up so you know which bag is due to be added at what time point in the boil. Use a clip or wooden peg on the side of the brew pot to wrap the drawstring around if you don’t want the hops bags all over the brew.
During the boil, you will lose water due to evaporation; a lid will reduce evaporation but may increase the chance of boil over.
Boil the wort according to the recipe, typically 60 minutes. Some old recipes have much longer boils.
Once the time is up, you need to cool the wort as quickly as possible.
Step 7: Cooling the Wort
Cooling down the wort as rapidly as possible enables you to pitch (or add) your yeast much quicker as well as reducing the risk of contamination by other microorganisms.
The quickest method of chilling the wort is to use a wort chiller where cold water flows through the pipe, cooling the wort by conduction. The wort chiller I have can be seen in the picture below.
Step 8: Sanitize Again
Step 9: Transfer to Fermenter
I like to use a racking cane with a tip to reduce the amount of sediment in the fermenter. You can pour the wort from the brew pot and leave the sediment in the pot if you are slow enough.
Transfer the wort into the primary fermenter and top up to 5 gallons with cold water.
Step 10: Aerate that Beer
Good yeast multiplication and subsequent ethanol production relies in part on the proper aeration of the beer. You can place the lid on and rock the fermenter, use an aquarium pump like I do or use a specialized aeration device.
Step 11: Pitch the Yeast
Whether it is from a yeast starter prepared in advance, a cheaty starter, the liquid yeast or a dry yeast sprinkled in, once your wort is at the right temperature for the yeast (see the instructions on the packet), add it to the wort then place the lid or stopper on the vessel and attach the airlock.
Step 12: Ferment
Place the vessel somewhere cool and dark (light can cause oxidation and off notes in the beer) for about a week or until fermentation slows.
If you are interested in home brewing why not leave a comment and let me know how I can help you on your journey to some of the best beer you have ever tasted? If you have any tips to share with me or other readers please share them in the comments or join the Misfit Gardening Community Forum I love reading your ideas, tips and tricks!