Full brew day instructions coming soon!
Brewing beer is an enjoyable process that can be refined over time to create excellent results. While each step can be expanded upon, here are the essential steps to get you started on brewing your own beer:
- Mashing: Mashing is the process of mixing crushed grains with hot water to extract fermentable sugars. This step involves carefully controlling the temperature and duration of the mash to achieve desired flavors and fermentability.
- Boiling: After the mash, the liquid (wort) is transferred to a kettle and brought to a boil. During this stage, hops are added to impart bitterness, flavor, and aroma to the beer. Boiling also helps sanitize the wort and remove unwanted compounds.
- Fermentation: Once the wort is cooled, yeast is added to initiate fermentation. The yeast consumes the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process typically takes one to two weeks, during which time the flavors develop and the beer becomes carbonated.
- Packaging: After fermentation is complete, the beer is ready for packaging. This can involve bottling the beer using sanitized bottles, caps, and a priming sugar solution to naturally carbonate the beer. Alternatively, kegging can be done for carbonated beer using a kegging system and CO2.
While these steps outline the basic brewing process, there is always room for experimentation and improvement. Here are a few additional tips:
- Sanitation is crucial: Ensure that all equipment, including fermenters, airlocks, and utensils, are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized to prevent contamination.
- Temperature control: Maintaining proper temperatures during mashing, fermentation, and storage is essential for achieving desired flavors and preventing off-flavors.
- Recipe development: As you gain experience, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients, hops, malts, and yeast strains to create unique beer recipes tailored to your taste preferences.
- Record keeping: Keeping detailed notes about your brewing process, ingredients, and measurements will help you identify what worked well and what could be improved in future brews.
Remember, brewing beer is a journey, and every brew day is an opportunity to learn and refine your techniques. Enjoy the process, have fun, and don’t hesitate to explore new styles and flavors along the way. Cheers to your brewing adventures!
BREWING APPS & VIRTUAL TOOLS
A successful brew day begins with careful planning and preparation. The key tools in your arsenal are your recipe, instructions, and the use of helpful brewing software like Brewfather. I highly recommend exploring Brewfather and learning how to leverage its features. There is a wealth of resources available online and on YouTube that can guide you in setting up profiles, understanding water chemistry, and utilizing the built-in tools provided by the app.
When starting out, using brewing kits from your local homebrew shop or ordering them online can make your brew day more manageable. These kits typically provide detailed instructions and pre-measured ingredients, simplifying the process for beginners. Additionally, there are several water chemistry calculators and brewing tools available to assist you.
For the purpose of this brew day tutorial, I will be using Brewfather as my demonstration tool. However, I also recommend seeking additional resources from your local brew club, as they can offer valuable insights, tips, and support as you embark on your brewing journey.
By adequately preparing, utilizing helpful resources, and leveraging brewing software like Brewfather, you’ll set yourself up for a smoother and more enjoyable brew day. Remember to keep exploring and learning from the brewing community as you refine your skills and create exceptional beers.
Additional resources from my local brew club.
Choosing the right brewing equipment that suits your needs is crucial. If you opt for the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method, it’s recommended to have a kettle that is at least double the size of your batches. For example, if you’re brewing 5-gallon batches, a 10-gallon kettle would be suitable. While I highly recommend considering an all-in-one system like the Brewzilla, there is nothing wrong with using a BIAB or a Three Vessel propane system. I will probably sound biased towards using Brewfather and a Brewzilla mostly here, however there is no wrong way or preference. Whatever enables you to be as effective as possible on your Homebrew journey.
To determine the best equipment for you, it’s advisable to conduct thorough research online and assess your own needs and preferences. Consider options like a cooler mash tun, a three-vessel system, a BIAB setup, or an all-in-one system. Personally, I’ve used three propane setups, including a three-vessel system, and I’m currently on my second Brewzilla. The joy of brewing lies in the constant experimentation and exploration of different setups.
During the brew day, I will delve into more details about each piece of equipment. However, it’s essential to remember that the best place to start is with what you already have. Utilize the equipment you currently possess to get started on your brewing journey.
Remember, the world of brewing is filled with possibilities and endless fun. As you continue your brewing adventures, feel free to explore different setups, upgrade your equipment, and embrace the excitement of trying new methods and tools.
- Brew Kettle or ALL Grain Electric System
- Propane & Burner – if not electric
- Mash Method – Bag (BIAB) or Mash Tun (Three Vesel) or Malt Pipe (Electric System)
- Large Spoon/Mash Paddle
- Wort Chiller
- Priming Sugar
- Bottle Capping Tool
- Bottle Caps
- Sanitizer – Starsan
- Bottling Bucket
- Bucket for Sanitizer
- Brew Water
- Ingredients – Yeast, Hops, Grain
- Hops Socks, Hops Spider Optional
OPTIONAL BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT
- Brewfather App with Equipment Profile and recipe created.
- Grain Mill – The brew shop can crush for you.
- Fermentation Chamber
- PH Meter
- Kegging Setup
- Bottle Drying Rack
MY MANY ITERATIONS OF HOMEBREW SETUPS
When starting out, it’s wise to choose a simple recipe for your first brew. A great option is a Smash (Single Malt and Single Hop) beer with minimal hop additions. This choice keeps the ingredients straightforward and allows you to fully explore the unique flavors of individual hops and malts. Alternatively, a simple porter or stout recipe can be an excellent choice as the darker malts can help balance your water profile without the need for additional acid adjustments for pH balance.
To assist you in the brewing process, I highly recommend utilizing the Brewfather app. This app is incredibly useful as it allows you to input your recipe and calculates various parameters for your entire brew day. It helps streamline the brewing process and ensures accuracy in your measurements and calculations.
By starting with a simple recipe and leveraging the features of the Brewfather app, you’ll have a solid foundation for your brewing journey. As you become more comfortable and confident, you can gradually explore more complex recipes and techniques.
Remember, brewing is a learning experience, and each batch offers an opportunity to refine your skills and expand your knowledge. Enjoy the process, have fun experimenting, and savor the joy of creating your own delicious beers.
When it comes to the water you use on brew day, you have several options available. Tap water, spring water, reverse osmosis (RO) water, or any water that tastes good to you can be used in your brewing process. If the water tastes good, chances are it will contribute to the quality of your beer.
If you prefer to start brewing without the complexity of adjusting water chemistry, using spring water can be a suitable choice. It provides a baseline profile that is generally suitable for brewing. However, if you’re ready to delve into water chemistry for the purpose of improving your beer, you can use RO water as a blank canvas and customize it by adding brewing salts.
To optimize your water profile, you can explore having your home water tested and inputting the results into Brewfather as a custom water profile. This allows you to tailor your water composition to match specific beer styles. The Brewfather app is a valuable tool for balancing and adjusting your water profile effectively.
While delving into water chemistry can be complex, there are numerous online resources available for a more in-depth understanding. However, for a basic approach, you can focus on three main salts: Calcium Chloride (CaCl2), Gypsum (CaSO4), and Epsom Salt (MgSO4). These salts can be used to adjust specific ions in your water. Additionally, lactic acid can be used to modify the mash pH as needed.
By utilizing the built-in profiles in Brewfather and considering water chemistry, you are on the right track to brewing great beer. Experiment with different water sources and adjustments over time to discover what works best for your brewing style and preferences.
Remember, water plays a crucial role in the overall flavor and character of your beer. Continuously explore and refine your water management techniques to enhance the quality of your brews.
BREWDAY IS HERE!
After careful planning, it’s time to kickstart the brewing process. Begin by heating the necessary amount of mash water while simultaneously milling your grains and preparing any required water additions. This is where the convenience of using a Brewzilla system shines. Set the desired mash-in temperature on the Gen 4 Brewzilla and add the necessary water additions. With this system, you have the flexibility to fill it with the required water amount and conveniently start the heating process from your phone, whether you’re driving home from work or scheduling it to begin early in the morning before you wake up.
While the water is heating, take the opportunity to mill your grains and prepare a sanitizing solution with Starsan. If you’re using a brew kit purchased from a shop or online, chances are your ingredients are already milled and pre-measured. If not, this is the time to carefully weigh and organize your ingredients for the brew day.
By leveraging the capabilities of the Brewzilla system and preparing your equipment and ingredients in advance, you’ll streamline your brew day and ensure a smooth brewing process.
Heating mash water, crushing grain, weighing and organizing ingredients, adding water adjustments and making a batch of Starsan for brew day illustrated below.
BIAB OR FULL VOLUME MASH
When brewing beer using the “brew in a bag” method, the mash process involves several key steps. Here’s a general overview:
- Heat water: Start by heating the required amount of water to a specific temperature. This temperature will depend on the style of beer you’re brewing and is typically around 150-156°F (65-69°C).
- Add grains: Once the water reaches the desired temperature, carefully add your crushed grains into a large mesh bag. These grains typically include malted barley and specialty grains, which provide flavor, color, and other characteristics to the beer.
- Steep grains: Lower the bag containing the grains into the hot water, making sure it’s fully submerged. Stir the grains gently to ensure even water contact and prevent clumping. The grains will release their sugars and other soluble components into the water during this steeping process.
- Maintain temperature: It’s essential to maintain the mash temperature within a specific range for a designated period. This is typically around 60-90 minutes, depending on the beer recipe. Insulating the kettle or applying low heat can help maintain the temperature. During this time, enzymes present in the grains convert starches into fermentable sugars.
- Mash out: After the designated mash time, you may perform a mash out step. This involves raising the temperature of the mash to around 168°F (75°C) to denature the enzymes, halting further conversion of starches into sugars. This step helps improve the beer’s overall body and sweetness.
- Remove bag and drain: Once the mash is complete, carefully lift the bag of grains out of the kettle, allowing the excess liquid to drain. Some brewers choose to sparge or rinse the grains with hot water to extract more sugars.
- Boil: Transfer the liquid, known as wort, to a separate kettle for boiling. During this process, hops are added at different intervals to impart bitterness, flavor, and aroma to the beer.
The mash process in brewing beer in a bag allows homebrewers to combine the mashing and lautering steps into one vessel, simplifying the process while still achieving quality results.
TIP: A false bottom can be useful when brewing in a bag to keep the bottom from scorching in the event you need to turn on the burner to heat durning mash. Stainless cooling racks found online make perfect false bottoms for BIAB.
AFTER AN ACCIDENT BURNING MOST OF MY CHEST & STOMACH I DO NOT RECOMMEND PRESSING DOWN ON YOUR BREW BAG TO STRAIN WHILE IT IS RESTING ON YOUR POT/BURNER. I ALWAYS REMOVE AND STRAIN OVER A 5 GALLON FOOD SAFE BUCKET NOW WHEN BIAB.
MASH & SPARGE – BREWZILLA
When brewing with a Brewzilla all-in-one brewing system, the mash process is streamlined and simplified. Here’s an overview of the steps involved:
- Fill the kettle: Start by filling the Brewzilla’s kettle with the desired amount of water. The exact amount will depend on your recipe and the volume of beer you intend to brew.
- Set temperature: Set the temperature on the Brewzilla’s control panel to the desired mash temperature. This temperature will depend on the beer style you’re brewing and is typically around 150-156°F (65-69°C).
- Add grains: Once the desired mash temperature is set, add your crushed grains directly into the kettle. These grains usually include malted barley and specialty grains.
- Mix and recirculate: Stir the grains gently to ensure they are evenly distributed in the kettle. Turn on the recirculation pump, which helps to maintain an even temperature throughout the mash and promotes better extraction of sugars from the grains. The recirculation process involves drawing wort from the bottom of the kettle and pumping it back on top of the grain bed.
- Mash duration: The mash duration will vary depending on your recipe, but it typically ranges from 60-90 minutes. The Brewzilla’s control panel allows you to set a timer to monitor the mash duration accurately.
- Mash out: After the designated mash time, you have the option to perform a mash-out step by raising the temperature to around 168°F (75°C). This helps halt enzymatic activity and prepare the wort for lautering.
- Lautering: Once the mash is complete, the Brewzilla simplifies the lautering process. Activate the pump and set the system to recirculate. The wort will be drawn from the bottom of the kettle, pass through the recirculation arm or filter, and then return to the kettle. This recirculation helps clarify the wort by removing solids and grain particles.
- Remove grains: After the recirculation and clarification process, carefully raise the malt pipe and set heat to boil temperature. Allow the excess liquid to drain from the grains and pour over your sparge water.
- Boil: Transfer the collected wort from the Brewzilla’s kettle to a separate vessel or use the kettle directly for boiling. Add hops at various intervals during the boil to achieve desired bitterness, flavor, and aroma.
The Brewzilla all-in-one brewing system simplifies the mashing process by combining the mashing, recirculation, and lautering steps into one unit. It provides precise temperature control and automated recirculation, making it a convenient option for homebrewers.
The boil process is a crucial step in brewing beer that follows the mashing and lautering stages. Here’s an overview of the boil process when brewing beer:
- Gradually heat the wort. It’s important to heat the wort evenly and avoid scorching it. The goal is to reach a rolling boil. I have been skimming any hot break material as the boil begins, however this is optional.
- Boil duration: The duration of the boil can vary depending on the recipe and desired beer style. Typically, the boil lasts for about 60 minutes, but some recipes may call for shorter or longer boil times. During this time, various additions are made to the wort.
- Hop additions: Hops are a fundamental ingredient in beer, providing bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Different hop additions are made at specific times during the boil to achieve desired characteristics. The hops added early in the boil contribute more bitterness, while hops added later contribute more aroma and flavor. On my propane and BIAB setups I typically use a hops spider unless brewing a hazy beet with large hop additions. In my Brewzilla I let the hops go freely in kettle.
- Additional additions: Apart from hops, other ingredients may be added during the boil. This can include adjuncts like spices, herbs, or additional sugars. These additions can enhance the flavor, aroma, or overall character of the beer.
- Cooling: After the desired boil duration, the wort needs to be rapidly cooled to room temperature to prepare for fermentation. This can be achieved using a wort chiller, which circulates cold water through a coil submerged in the wort, or by placing the kettle in an ice bath.
The boil process serves multiple purposes in brewing, including hop utilization, sterilization, and flavor development. It is a critical step that sets the stage for fermentation, where yeast transforms the boiled wort into delicious beer.
The fermentation process is a key step in homebrewing beer that converts the boiled wort into beer by the action of yeast. Here’s an overview of the fermentation process:
- Cooling the wort: After the boil, it’s important to cool the wort to a suitable temperature for fermentation. This is typically around 68-72°F (20-22°C) for ales and lower, around 48-55°F (9-13°C), for lagers. Rapid cooling helps prevent the growth of unwanted microorganisms.
- Transferring to fermenter: Once the wort has reached the desired temperature, transfer it to a sanitized fermenter. This can be a plastic or glass carboy, a stainless steel fermenter, or a food-grade plastic bucket with an airtight lid and an airlock.
- Pitching yeast: Add the appropriate yeast to the fermenter. Yeast is responsible for converting the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Choose a yeast strain suitable for the beer style you’re brewing, such as ale yeast or lager yeast.
- Fermentation: Seal the fermenter with an airlock, which allows carbon dioxide to escape while preventing oxygen and contaminants from entering. Place the fermenter in a controlled environment with a stable temperature. During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various flavor compounds.
- Primary fermentation: The initial phase of fermentation is called primary fermentation. It typically lasts for a few days to a week, during which the yeast actively converts sugars into alcohol. The airlock will show signs of fermentation, such as bubbling or a layer of foam on top of the wort.
- Secondary fermentation (optional): Some brewers choose to transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter after primary fermentation. This step allows for further clarification and maturation of flavors. It’s not always necessary, especially for beers that don’t require extended aging.
- Conditioning: After primary fermentation (and secondary fermentation, if applicable), the beer enters a conditioning phase. This is when the flavors mellow, and the beer becomes smoother. Conditioning can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the beer style and desired characteristics.
- Carbonation: If you prefer carbonated beer, you can add priming sugar or use a carbonation system to introduce carbon dioxide into the beer just before bottling or kegging. The residual yeast will consume the priming sugar, producing carbonation over time.
- Packaging: Once the fermentation and conditioning stages are complete, it’s time to package the beer. This can involve bottling the beer using sanitized bottles, capping them, and allowing them to carbonate, or kegging the beer and dispensing it using a kegging system.
The fermentation process is a fascinating stage in homebrewing where the magic of yeast transforms the wort into beer, creating the unique flavors and aromas that we enjoy.
Bottling beer after fermentation is complete is a common method for packaging homebrewed beer. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to bottle beer:
- Prepare bottles: Start by gathering clean and sanitized bottles suitable for beer storage. Ideally, use amber or dark-colored glass bottles, as they provide better protection against light exposure. Ensure the bottles are free from dirt, residue, and any lingering odors.
- Prepare priming sugar: Priming sugar is used to carbonate the beer in the bottle. Calculate the appropriate amount of priming sugar based on the beer volume and desired carbonation level. Boil the sugar in a small amount of water, then cool and dissolve it completely. Avoid using too much priming sugar to prevent excessive carbonation or bottle explosions.
- Sanitize equipment: Thoroughly sanitize all the equipment involved in the bottling process. This includes the bottling bucket or vessel, siphoning equipment, bottle filler, caps, and any other tools that will come into contact with the beer.
- Transfer the beer: Gently transfer the beer from the fermenter to the sanitized bottling bucket or vessel using a siphoning method. Be cautious not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the fermenter, as you want to leave it behind. Using an auto-siphon or racking cane can make this process easier and minimize the risk of oxidation.
- Add priming sugar: Pour the dissolved priming sugar into the bottling bucket. Stir gently to ensure even distribution of the sugar throughout the beer.
- Bottle filling: Attach the bottle filler to the spigot of the bottling bucket. Fill the bottles one by one, placing the bottle filler at the bottom of each bottle. Depress the bottle filler to start the flow of beer, allowing the beer to fill up to the desired level. As you remove the bottle filler, it will leave the perfect amount of headspace for carbonation and expansion.
- Cap the bottles: Once filled, cap each bottle with sanitized caps. Use a capping tool to seal the caps securely. Ensure that all caps are tightly sealed to prevent air or contaminants from entering the bottles.
- Bottle conditioning: Place the capped bottles in a cool, dark location, such as a cellar or a temperature-controlled room. The beer will undergo bottle conditioning, where the remaining yeast consumes the priming sugar, producing carbon dioxide and carbonating the beer. The time required for bottle conditioning can vary depending on the beer style and desired carbonation level. It typically ranges from one to three weeks.
- Enjoy responsibly: After the recommended bottle conditioning period, the beer should be carbonated and ready to enjoy. Chill the bottles before opening, and pour the beer into a glass, leaving any sediment behind.
Remember to store the bottled beer upright to minimize contact with any sediment that may have settled. Properly stored and handled, your homebrewed beer can provide a rewarding and delicious experience.
Kegging beer is an alternative method to bottling and allows for convenient storage and dispensing of homebrewed beer. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to keg beer after fermentation is complete:
- Prepare the keg: Ensure the keg is clean and sanitized before use. Clean the keg thoroughly, including all parts such as the dip tube, lid, and posts. Sanitize the keg by using a sanitizing solution or following the instructions provided with your chosen sanitizing product.
- Transfer the beer: Gently transfer the beer from the fermenter to the sanitized keg. One common method is to use a siphoning system or an auto-siphon to transfer the beer from the fermenter to the keg, minimizing the introduction of oxygen.
- Carbonate the beer: There are a few ways to carbonate the beer in a keg. One method is to use a CO2 tank and regulator. Connect the CO2 tank to the keg using appropriate tubing and fittings. Set the desired pressure on the regulator (typically around 10-12 psi for most beer styles) and attach it to the gas-in post on the keg. Allow the beer to carbonate for a certain period, usually around 5-7 days, depending on the desired carbonation level and beer style.
- Purge oxygen: Before sealing the keg, it’s important to purge any remaining oxygen from the headspace. This can be done by applying CO2 pressure to the keg and venting the pressure relief valve a few times to release any oxygen or air.
- Seal the keg: Once carbonated and purged of oxygen, seal the keg by attaching the lid securely. Make sure all connections and seals are tight to prevent any gas or liquid leaks.
- Chill the keg: Place the keg in a refrigerator or other suitable cooling environment to chill the beer. Cooling the keg helps with carbonation retention and overall beer quality.
- Dispensing: To dispense the beer from the keg, connect a beer line and appropriate faucet or tap to the liquid-out post on the keg. Ensure all connections are secure and leak-free. Adjust the CO2 pressure as needed to achieve the desired pouring speed and carbonation level. Slowly open the faucet or tap and enjoy your homebrewed beer!
Kegging offers advantages such as ease of storage, reduced oxidation risk, and the ability to control carbonation levels. With proper cleaning, sanitizing, and care, kegged beer can provide a convenient and enjoyable way to serve your homebrew.