Justa Beer Brewing Howto
A fair amount of people have come to ask me to talk with them about just what it takes to brew beer. How much do you need to know, how much do you need to buy, how much work is it, etc.
Since beer-brewing is quite a broad subject that allows a wide array of approaches, processes, techniques and styles, any explanation on the subject often becomes such a large story that it requires keeping notes, online research, showing pictures, etc.
To short-cut this process, I've decided to create this wiki-page in which I hope to provide a concise overview of the beer-brewing process that'll allow someone interested in becoming a brewer to have an idea of what path to follow towards getting their first (and subsequent) brewing-sessions to become a success.
This guide will touch upon a number of topics such as:
- What are the traditional steps and why do they exist
- A walkthrough that covers all the steps in detail and explains how they are normally performed and/or which can be combined, left out or 'faked', if possible.
- What is the chemistry involved in a number of steps in the process and to understand how to put them to your advantage
- Which steps/tools are critical to get right and which of them fall into the class of things that are 'nice to have'.
- Which beer-brewing setups are available at low cost (under €300,- total cost for sure) that'll allow you to do 20-30L batches.
- How to decide on what setup to create for yourself and which considerations are important to consider while brewing on it.
The end-goal is to have someone who's read all the material available below to know just which way of brewing suits him/her and how to go about getting all the materials together to conduct a successful first brew-day.
As a bonus, I'll also be throwing in some of the lessons I've learned regarding how to plan a successful brew-day; ensuring that
- you have everything available at the right time,
- that you know what'll be required ,
- how to plan ahead if steps end up going different from what you expected,
- and to have an overview of what you did so that you are able to document your work and repeat a brew, later.
If you're ready, let's get cracking !
Oh, and to paraphrase a number of wisdoms from great brewmasters:
- Relax, dont worry and have a homebrew. -- Charlez Papazian (The Complete Joy of Homebrewing)
- Whatever you do, it'll always end up becoming a beer. Relax. -- Heard at 'twortwat, brewing assocation.
When we talk about brewing , we often have thoughts and images in our heads involving working with large pots of hot liquids. Hot water used to extract whatever there is to get out of some organic material like leaves, grains, etc.
In general, this fits well with what brewing is when we're discussing the brewing of beer. Except it's good to understand that in beer-making, there's a number of discrete steps involved as opposed to just throwing something in hot water and leaving it there until it's done. In fact, it even comes down to the exact way and form it should be added to the water, including the temperature of both the water and the materials themselves in some cases !
A fly-by overview of the beer-brewing process would be as follows:
- Prepare ingredients (grains, normally) so that the starch inside of it can be dissolved in water.
- Add ingredients to pre-heated water, dissolving starches into the water. This is called 'The Mash'
- Use enzymes (naturally present in the (malted) grains) to turn the starches into sugars. 'Mashing' or 'Maisching'
- Extract the converted sugar-water (Wort) from the mash; filtering through the leftovers of the grain (Grist) and flushing with clean water. This is called 'Lautering'
- Transfer the liquid (Wort) to the boiling-vat (Copper).
- Boil with 'bittering hops' for an hour or more. Produces 'Isomerized Alfa Acids' (aka: bitters)
- During the end of the boil, add flavoring herbs. Also 'finishing hops' that retain their more fragile aromas.
- Cool the wort down to 27°C as rapidly as possible
- Transfer to sanitized brewing vat.
- Pitch (add) the yeast, close vat and oxygenize (shake) the wort.
- Transfer to suitable location, add waterlock, add patience (a few weeks at least).
- Bottle or keg when done.
It is good to state here that this process knows quite some variations, alternative ways of going about certain steps, etc. It is possible to condense it somewhat into an ever shorter description:
- Dissolve starches in water
- Use enzymes to turn starches into sugars
- Boil filtered liquid together with flavorings; different durations for different types of flavors. Total time at least 1 hour.
- Cool liquid down to temperature for adding yeast after transferring to brewing-vat with water-lock.