The Key Ingredients
Before beginning the brewing process, you must first understand the four key ingredients necessary to brew a batch of beer: water, fermentable sugar, hops, and yeast. Each ingredient is integral to the recipe and must be cooked in a certain way to yield a successful batch of brew. Understanding their basic qualities and how each ingredient is meant to react with the others is an important aspect of beer brewing.
Water: Water is the primary ingredient in beer, so it is very important the water tastes good. If the tap water at your house tastes good to you, then it is fine to use for beer brewing. If you don't like the way your tap water tastes, then you can use bottled or distilled water instead. If you use tap water, boil it first to evaporate the chlorine and other chemicals that may interfere with the brewing process. Let the water cool before using.
Fermented Sugar: Malted barley is the ingredient commonly used to fill the sugar quota in a home brew recipe. Some brewers will substitute a percentage of corn, rice, wheat, or other grains to add a lighter flavor to the beer. Beginning brewers should purchase a ready-to-use form of malted barley called malt syrup or malt extract, rather than attempting to malt the grain from scratch, as it is a very complex and touchy process. Using a malt extract will guarantee the fermented sugar is prepared in just the right manner and will act as it needs to throughout the beer brewing process.
Hops: Hops are cone-like flowers found on a hop vine. They lend the bitter flavor to beer that balances out sweetness. Hops also inhibit spoilage and help keep the "head" (the frothy top when a beer is poured) around longer.
Yeast: First things first: Do not use bread yeast for beer brewing! Beer yeast is cultivated especially for use in brewing. There are two broad categories of beer yeast: ale and lager. Ale yeasts are top-fermenting, which means they tend to hang out at the top of the carboy while fermenting and rest at the bottom after the majority of fermenting has occurred. Ale yeasts will not actively ferment below 50 degrees F (20 degrees C). Lager yeasts are bottom-fermenters and are best used at a temperature ranging from 55 degrees F (25 degrees C) down to 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). As their names suggest, the type of yeast used plays an important part in influencing the type of beer that will be made. Do not rely on the yeast to define the beer, however, as all of the ingredients play a part in the taste and type of beer you will create.
Ready to Brew?
We've opted to use a simple ale recipe to guide you through the process. The first cooking step in brewing is to make the wort, a soupy mixture of malt and sugar that is boiled before fermentation. Malt and sugar form the perfect food for yeast to grown in--thus making the all-important process of fermentation possible. All of the ingredients for beer-making can be found at your local brew supply store, or at any number of beer outfitters. Once you've got all the necessary equipment and ingredients, you're ready to begin the beer-making process by properly sanitizing your equipment, making and cooling the wort, fermenting the wort, and bottling your brew.
- 1.5 gallons water
- 6 pounds canned pre-hopped light malt syrup
- 1 ounce hop pellets (choose your flavor)
- Ice poured into a water bath (do not use store-bought ice)
- 3 gallons cool water
- 2 (7-gram) packets ale yeast
- 1 cup warm water (about 90 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
- 3/4 cup liquid corn syrup (or 4 ounces dry corn syrup)
- 1 (4-ounce) container iodine solution
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- A bottle of household bleach or an iodine solution that can be bought at your local home brew shop to sanitize all of your materials or use will be necessary. (Make a bleach disinfecting solution with 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water.) Be sure to rinse the equipment well with boiling water before using it.
Part I: Make and Cool the Wort
Sanitize the pot, stirring spoon and fermenter with the sanitizing solution. Rinse everything in boiling water.
- Bring 1.5 gallons of water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the malt syrup until it dissolves. Do not allow any syrup to stick to the bottom or sides of the pot, as it will burn and taste awful. Return the pot to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil for 50 minutes, stir frequently and watch constantly to prevent boil-overs. If the mixture threatens to boil over, reduce the heat.
- After 50 minutes have elapsed, stir in the hop pellets. Hops will create a foam on the top of the liquid--so if the pot is very full, the hops may cause a boil-over. You want to avoid this at all costs by lowering the heat or spraying the foam down with a water bottle (sanitized, of course). Let the hops cook for 10 to 20 minutes.
- While the wort is being made, prep the yeast by placing 1 packet of yeast in 1 cup of warm water (90 degrees F or 35 degrees C; stir and cover for 10 minutes. If the yeast does not react (form foam), discard the yeast solution and try again with the second yeast packet.
- At about the time hops are added to the wort, you should prepare an ice-cold water bath in either a large sink or tub to quick-cool the wort. Once the wort is finished cooking, float the pot in the water bath. Stir the wort while it is sitting in the bath so that the maximum amount of wort reaches the pot's sides where it can cool quickly. If the water bath heats up, add more ice to keep the water bath cold. It should take approximately 20 minutes to cool the wort to approximately 80 degrees F (27 degrees C).
Part III: Bottle
- Sanitize all of your bottles by soaking them in the sanitizing solution (make sure to hold them under the solution so the water gets inside of the bottles) for 1 hour. Rinse the bottles with boiling water. Also sanitize a small cooking pot, bottling bucket, siphon and racking cane. Follow the instructions that came with the bottle caps to sanitize them. Let everything air dry.
- Combine the corn syrup and 1 cup water in the sanitized cooking pot. Let boil 10 minutes. Pour mixture into the bottling bucket. Be careful not to add too much corn syrup to the bottling bucket, because this will over-carbonate the beer and cause bottles to explode! Place the fermenter full of beer on the kitchen counter and the bottling bucket on the ground below it.
- Attach the racking cane to the siphon. Prepare the siphon by filling it with tap water. Pinch both ends of the siphon to prevent the water from running out. Place one end of the racking cane and siphon into the iodine solution and one end into an empty jar. When the solution has run into the siphon and expelled all of the water into the jar, pinch both ends and let the iodine sit in the siphon for 5 minutes to re-sanitize the siphon. (Resist the temptation to blow into the siphon with your mouth to encourage the flow of iodine solution.)
- Place one end of the sanitized siphon into the fermenter and the other end into the jar; once the beer has begun flowing through the siphon, transfer its end to the bottling bucket. Monitor the speed that the beer transfers into the bottling bucket by pinching and releasing the siphon with your fingers (or use a specialty clamp). The beer should not splash into the bucket; it should gently rush into it. Once all of the beer has been siphoned into the bucket, cover it (with a sanitized cover ) and wait 30 minutes for the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bucket.
- Place the bottling bucket on the counter, attach the siphon and run the other end of the siphon into a bottle. Fill each bottle with beer to 3/4 inch from the top of the bottle. Cap each bottle with the bottle-capper. Check and double-check that the caps are secure.
Sure Signs of Infection:
Keep your eyes peeled for strands of slime in the beer and a milky layer at the top and/or residue bumps clinging to the air space in the bottleneck. If the beer has strands, it most likely has a lacto infection and should be discarded. The milky layer is a sign of a micro-derm infection; this beer should also be discarded.
Age the bottles at room temperature for up to two months, but for at least two weeks, before cracking one open, proposing a toast to yourself and impressing your friends! Ready to try it? Try these recipes:
Want to Save This Article to Your Recipe Box?
It's easy! First, copy the article's web address (Url). Then click My Recipe Box at the top right corner of this page. Click Weblink at the top of your Recipe List and paste the Url in the space provided. (Note: If you get a "Sorry...broken link" message, ignore it! Enter a Weblink Title, click Preview, then Save Weblink. Done!)