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Homebrewing Part 4 – Beginning your brew

Beer_November11_AOver the past few weeks we have been covering brewing at home. The past few articles have covered the ingredients and materials required for brewing, some of which may be hard to find here in Thailand. While it is illegal to brew beer, or make any liquor for that matter, the fines are fairly light. While other countries have seen brewing at home explode in popularity, Thailand hasn’t. That being said, there are people who brew their own beer and it appears that interest is indeed rising.

Over the next few weeks we will look into the actual process of brewing. Because there are three different ways to brew at home (Using a malt-extract kit, partial mash kits and your own ingredients) we will cover each way in a different article.

In this week’s article, we will look into brewing using a malt-extract kit, assuming you have the equipment needed. Once you have your kit, it’s time to start brewing.

Step 1: Boil water

This may sound weird, but boiling water is an important step. You’ll be using this to clean your equipment and to clean or rinse at various parts of the process. To begin with, boil about 4-4.5 gallons of water for at least 10 minutes. Ideally, you should use bottled water because you know it’s clean. If you use tap water, be sure to boil it, let it cool to room temperature and then boil it again.

If you use bottled water, boil it for at least 10 minutes then let it cool to room temperature. Store this in another pot or bucket that you will not be using during the brewing process.

Step 2: Clean and sanitize

This may not seem like an important step, but it is, if any germs or dirt make it into your brew, you could see the batch ruined. It would be a good idea to clean and sanitize everything that will come into contact with the brew ingredients. Here is a list of most common materials that should be cleaned and sanitized:

  • Brewpot
  • Spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Yeast container
  • Fermenter, stopper, lid
  • Airlock
  • Thermometer
  • Funnel
  • Siphon
  • Tubing
  • Bottles

Many brewing stores will sell a sanitizing and cleaning solution that you can use, so, if you pick it up then follow the directions on the bottle or package. If you don’t have any, try cleaning everything first with a mild and unscented dish detergent. Once you have washed everything, rinse it with the water you boiled.

The next step is to sanitize. For those without a solution, try purchasing a food-safe bleach and filling the fermenter bucket (19L bucket) with water and around five tablespoons of the bleach. Soak the equipment in this water for at least 20 minutes, then rinse it with the boiled water. Finally, empty the fermenter and rinse this a few times to ensure all suds and bleach is gone.

Note that some materials like the bottles and tubing won’t be used right away, so you won’t need to sanitize them until just before you use them.

Step 3: Boiling

And now comes the fun stuff! Put your brewpot on the stove and bring 7.5 liters of water to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, pour it into the fermenter bucket, cover it and let it cool. Put the pot back onto the stove and bring 11.5 liters of water to a boil.

Step 4: Yeast

While the water is boiling, take a look a the yeast packet that was included with the kit. There should be instructions either on the package or on the kit as to what you will need to do with it. Some yeast packages – especially dry yeast – will need to be activated. This is done by pouring it into a jar or measuring cup and pouring 1 cup of 35-40 degree water into it. Let it sit covered for around 15 minutes and it should be ready.

Some yeast may need to be primed, this means taking a small amount of sugar and water and boiling it. When it is cooled, pour it into the yeast and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

It is important to look at the instructions here, as some yeast will allow you to use it as it is.

Step 5: Get your water malty

Once the water in the brew pot is boiling turn it off and add the malt extract. Be sure to stir it in and that it is fully mixed, pay close attention to stir the bottom and side of the pot so that there isn’t any malt sticking to the bottom. Once you are sure the malt is mixed, turn the stove back on and continue the boil for the time listed on the kit.

It would be a good idea to increase the temperature slowly, as there is a good chance the malt mixture, or wort, will boil over. As you are bringing the wort to a boil, you should be stirring constantly as this will prevent any malt from settling to the bottom of the pot and caramelizing. Once you reach a steady boil, you can stir it every five minutes or so.

Be sure that no matter what you do, don’t put a lid on the pot during the boil.

Step 6: Hop it

When the wort reaches a steady boil, it’s time to add the hops. Many kits have more than one package of hops. Pay attention to this, as they should be numbered. The first package will be the bittering hops and should be added as soon as the wort is boiling. You will usually need to time the boil for one hour – it will tell you on the package.

The second and possibly third packages of hops are usually flavoring hops and will be added to the wort in the last 15 minutes of the boil. Again, it will say on the kit when they should be added.

Step 7: The hot break

As you boil you will notice that the liquid foams, try your best to keep it from boiling over by either turning the pot down or even spraying a bit of freshwater into the foam. Eventually there will be a time when the wort stops foaming, this is the hot break. Most kits require you to boil about 15 minutes past this stage.

Step 8: Cooling

Once the boil has finished you will need to cool the wort down to room temperature, between 14 and 30 C, as quickly as possible. This can be done by placing the pot in a sink filled with water and ice. When you begin the cool, you can put a lid on the pot to ensure that no contaminants will get in.

Step 9: Fermenting

Once the wort has cooled, pour the yeast into the wort and then pour the wort into the fermentation bucket that contains the water you previously boiled in step 3. For optimal results, try pouring the mixture quickly, so that it slops around in the bucket. This will introduce oxygen which will help improve fermentation.

Once the wort is mixed with the water, put the lid on the fermenter and connect the airlock assembly, ensuring that it is airtight. Store the fermenter in a cool, dark location for around two weeks, or however long the kit’s instructions suggest. In order to have the best fermentation you should keep the fermenter in a steady temperature of around 18-21 C, not more than 24 C.

Step 10: Priming and bottling

After the fermentation has finished it’s time to bottle. The first thing you will need to do is to clean and sanitize the bottling equipment, racking cane, tubing and bottles. Next thing you will need to prime the beer by adding the priming sugar that comes with the kit. Most beginner home brewers will simply add the sugar mixture to the fermentation bucket and gently stir it.

Once the sugar has been mixed in, let it sit for 30 minutes then begin to fill the bottles using either the racking cane and tubing, or by gently pouring it into the bottling bucket (if you purchased it)

Step 11: Store the beer

Once the bottles have been filled, cap them using a capper, and then let the bottles sit for at least two weeks at 18-24 degrees. After the two weeks you should chill one bottle and open it, judging how it tastes. While the beer is probably drinkable at two weeks, you may want to wait a few more weeks before chilling and drinking.

After your first few brews, you can begin to start experimenting, or even trying the next type of brewing!

Wish of the week

Lindemans Kriek
There are so many different kinds of beer out there, and Belgium is widely considered to be one of the front runners when it comes to some great types of beer. One type of beer – Kriek – , popular in the late fall, has created a great amount of debate as to whether it’s actually beer. Despite what some may argue, Kriek is actually beer which has had cherry pits or juice added during the brewing process. This makes a beer that is often sweeter than others, but can also be bitter. If you are looking for something interesting to drink, and love cherries, this is a beer you should try!

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